Projects

When to take a shortcut

In order to cope with our always-connected, attention-starved lifestyle, many of us rely on shortcuts for various aspects of our lives. We got so good at this that we have shortcuts for almost anything. Want to tie a tie in 5 seconds? No problem. Only got 2 seconds to fold a shirt, we got that covered too.

And we are not just creating shortcuts for physical tasks but also mental ones too. Armed with excellent pattern matching ability afforded by evolution, we rely more and more on our intuition and gut feeling to make decisions.

There is however a dark side to these snap decisions and judgments. We are so good at taking mental shortcuts that at times we may not be aware of it. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell showed us how decisions made intuitively can be biased and misguided. Shortcuts may lead us astray.

Another problem with shortcuts is false proxies. Shortcut involves taking a shorter route to reach our goal. But there are times that we can’t directly measure our progress towards our goal, so we use a proxy instead. The most common false proxy for success is money. So, a shortcut to success may involve getting rich quickly but it may not lead to the paradise we seek.

Shortcuts are great though. They give us more time, which is arguably our most important resource. It’s okay to use a cheat code at times like to skip parts of a game or exploit the situation to get ahead so long we are not doing it at someone’s else expense.

But don’t get too obsessed over shortcuts. There are times where you have to resist the temptation to take the easy way out. After all, the most valuable things in life comes from the time and effort we put into it.

Our lives should not be about seeking the best shortcuts. Shortcuts themselves aren't the goal in the first place. It just gives us more valuable time to spend living the life we want. As they say, it’s the journey not the destination that matters. Shortcuts aren't the destination but merely a tool to get there. And there are some journeys you wouldn't want to skip.

Inspiring Action

For our last Webcamp KK of the year, we decided to round up a bunch of local talents to showcase their work. We had a film-maker, an animator, 2 web developers, a sound engineer and even a prop-maker showing their work and made it the best Webcamp KK, bar none.

Once again, it shows how passion is contagious, inspiring and universal. Seeing others working hard on their passion inspires all of us to do the same. We plan to keep showcasing and featuring local talents from all over Sabah regardless of what industry they are in. There are always something we can learn from each other.

But we wanted something more. A way to inspire more people to take action and do great things. So we created INit.mya platform to inspire others with passion of our local talents. We plan to do monthly webpisodes that features the awesome work of Sabahan. If all goes well, we will have our first episode by the end of January 2013. 

Exciting times are ahead of us. There are a lot work left to be done but this is a start. And of course, as always, this is an effort from the community. We hope you can come check it out and support INit. Let us know if you know of anyone who is doing great things. We would love to feature and promote them.

Nothing inspires us more than seeing local Sabahan making it big. Of course, if you want to meet some of them, join us at our next Webcamp KK and be inspired!

From passion to action

Every month, we organize Webcamp KK where a group of web professionals, designers, developers, photographers, film-makers, animators, entrepreneurs and people who are passionate about web get together to share and learn from each other.

Over the past 15 months, we have a small but passionate core group of members who would meet up despite their busy schedules. We are very grateful to have people who share their knowledge and insights, who volunteer to help organize events and those who show up to give their support.

When asked what is Webcamp KK all about, some would say it's a gathering where people share and learn from one another. Some would see it as a networking platform where you get to meet passionate people from different industry. At times, it might look like a techie meetup or when the stars aligned, a session filled with creative passion and entrepreneurial spirit.

I would instead like to think that Webcamp KK is where people who have passion in their craft come together to share, learn and ultimately collaborate to create awesome work together. A place to nurture raw passion into effective action that impacts everyone.

Transient

This isn't a change in vision or direction for Webcamp KK but rather a confirmation that we are heading towards the right goal. In our last gathering, Team Sprocket and Asgardian School of Art showed us what is possible when your work is driven by passion.

So for the final Webcamp of the year, we will be getting action-takers to showcase their work to inspire us to also act on our passion and work on something great.

I really really love building on the web

You probably have heard this a million times. Follow your passion. You should find out what you are passionate about and do that. I myself blogged about passion quite often.

But Mark Cuban have a different view on all this fuss about passion. He believes instead of following your passion (which you can have many), you should follow your effort, things that you spend most of your time on because time is a resource that you don't own.

by Hugh Macleod
by Hugh Macleod

This makes sense because if you are putting in a lot of time and effort into something, you are definitely passionate about it and most likely you are quite good at it too.  

I took a trip down memory lane and realized that besides sleeping, eating, being lazy and gaming, I've spent quite a significant amount of my life building stuff on the web.

Here's a short summary on some of the fun, failed, lame and stupid stuff that I've built.

Highschool years

  • A browser plugin review site. Back then, browser plugin was the craze.
  • Phrozz.com - Attempted to start a hardware review site with my classmates back then (John & Ed) hoping to get some free hardware.
  • Website for my school (KKHS). Also did a Flash intro (yuck) and interactive flash tutorials. Manage to win 1st for design, 2nd for content in the SabahNet Homepage Competition. First sign?

At college/university

  • dx's playground - Personal site to mess around with PHP. 
  • Website for the college's student government so that I can stay in the hostel.
  • Mamak.phrozz.com - A site for my Warcraft 3 Guild (Mamak). Scraped Blizzard's site for guild members' rank to display on the site. I think it was on Postnuke.
  • My thesis in university was basically building a 'better' CMS (Content Management System)

Entering the workforce

  • My first job introduced me to Coldfusion. Built some HR system and CMS with it. I made a simple framework to make it more bearable.
  • Managed to convince my boss to let me use PHP. Build CMS for clients.
  • Also did some Visual Basic, C# and ASP.net. Decided to go freelance and quit my job.

Flexnode

  • Eventnode - Web app to organize events/outings. My first app built with Ruby on Rails.
  • Reservation system for a resort. My first paid gig for Flexnode.
  • Biznode - Failed attempt to build a project management app like Basecamp.
  • Ravejoint - Managed to convince John to join me and build a food/restaurant review site. Plan was to sell ads from restaurants. Didn't work out.
  • Switched to consulting and built yet another CMS for Freeform. (KLue, Junkonline & Tongue in Chic)
  • Showtimes.my - Our take on how movie showtimes site should be like. Probably our most popular site.
  • Zoecity - Joined a US start-up that is based mostly in Kuala Lumpur. Built a few products ranging from social network to news aggregator to social sharing service.
  • Startnow.com.my - Attempted to build a site for entrepreneurs and action-takers. Another failed attempt. No traction at all. 
  • 2 months contract with Says.my. Awesome company and culture.

I left out a few projects here and there but I think it is safe to say that I'm following my effort and it's definitely my passion too.

I'm not a rockstar web developer by any standards but knowing that this is what I love to do and I'm good enough to make a living out of it, is all that I need to keep going.

I really really love building stuff on the web. What about you? Is your effort inline with your passion?

Keeping it lean

In recent months, I've been reading a couple of really interesting books. They range from Steve Jobs' biography, a book on how to generate your business model, Michael Lewis's Boomerang on the European Sovereign Debt Crisis and the grand design of universe by Stephen Hawking. The book that I've found to be the most insightful and a must-read for entrepreneurs out there is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It's so good that I've put in at the No. 1 spot on my books page.

Transient

The great insight that Eric had about startup was the goal to learn as much as you can in the shortest amount of time possible. You do this by conducting experiments to tests your hypothesis. He called this validated learning.

In the spirit of Lean Startup, we are conducting a simple market survey to gather some information and validate certain assumptions we have for our mobile budgeting app. If you got a few minutes to spare, help us out by completing Budgetarian's survey. Thanks!

Remember remember, the month of November

Back in August, I've mentioned about all the things we've done so far this year, but nothing could have prepared us for the crazy month of November. On November 4th, we had our fourth and biggest Webcamp KK ever. With the support from SATA, we flew in 3 awesome speakers from KL. Premesh Chandran (MalaysiaKini CEO, Allstars.my), Kamal Fariz (Founder of BitfluentFluentspace) and Wu Han (Chief Designer of Mindvalley, Founder of Webcamp KL).

The day after, John and I joined Sabah Got Ideas, a pitching competition organized by SATA. This was the Kota Kinabalu District level and we finished second to enter the finals. 2 weeks later, at the finals, the unthinkable happened. We managed to finish in the top 6 for 20k.

Our pitch was about a mobile budgeting app dubbed 'Wife in your pocket'. For all the insights and lessons we learned, check out my previous post on how to craft a memorable pitch.

Then on the final weekend of November, an old friend of mine, Edham Arief together with the support of Sabah Computer Society organized our first ever Hackathon in KK. We were tasked to build a working application in 24 hours. Our team (John , Isaac and I) finished first with the app (CityQuest) that rewards you for exploring the city.

To end the month with a bang, on the last day of November, we attended the Sabah ICT Month Gala Night to receive the prizes for Sabah Got Ideas and Hackathon. Crazy month indeed...

Web Design 101

Even though I spend most of my professional career as a software developer, I do have interest in web design. I have also done some design work for clients and Flexnode's own sites. Since I couldn't get someone else to present at Webcamp KK so I decided to try it myself. Here are the slides and a ton of useful links for web design. I'm glad I decided to do this because of the sheer amount of things I've learned in the process. Hopefully, you'll find something useful here.

The year so far

After about 8 months into this year (2011), it feels that we at Flexnode did a lot of stuff but yet seems like we aren't really moving forward. Here's a short recap for 2011 so far.

  • StartNOW - We envisioned it to be an online community for entrepreneurs, visionaries and action takers. Maybe the features on the site is too confusing or doesn't fit the target audience. Or could be that we need to find ways to seed content to the site and make it useful. Right now, the site is practically dead. For now we are trying to form an offline community first and see what's needed there.
  • Showtimes.my - So far, it's been a rather good year for our movie showtimes site. We added a mobile version and favourite cinemas feature.
  • Showtimes.my iPhone app - We spent a few months getting into iOS development to try to build an iPhone version of Showtimes. We got a prototype built but it's still very far from what we have planned it to be. So meanwhile, we made a mobile site first.
  • Ok.Bah.my - This is more like a pet project to mimic lolcats. The idea is basically to seed the site with funny pics that aims to cheer you up if you are having a bad day. Haven't really put much effort into promoting it yet. Might pivot into something else.
  • Webcamp KK - As mentioned above, we figured we needed to form an offline community to find out more about how it works and what it needs. The first Webcamp was awesome and hopefully we can keep this up. It's nice to have a local support group for web enthusiasts in Kota Kinabalu.
  • Idea on Permission Marketing - Back in July, we pitched this idea at NINA (incubator/startup event) here in Kota Kinabalu. Our aim was really to gain more experience in pitching our ideas. It was a good try and we are currently considering whether to pursue the idea or not.
  • Revamp Flexnode.com - All this while we never had a proper company site so this year we took some time to put one up that is at least presentable.

There's still 4 months left before the year is over and hopefully there will be more awesome stuff in store for us. The next 2 months will be exciting as we are going to work with a client in KL on an interesting project.

How's the year been treating you so far?

Webcamp KK

Last night, we had our very first Webcamp KK and surprisingly about 30 people attended.  Although mostly dominated by developers and programmers, we had some photographers, designers, bloggers and marketers in the mix. My hope is that eventually we will be able get a better mix of web professionals together to share and create awesome stuff. For those who missed the event, check out the slides:-

View more presentations from edthix

I consider this event a success and hopefully we will be able to keep the momentum going. As I said to attendees of Webcamp, I want everyone to gather together to not just share their knowledge or expertise but also lend their hand in creating and building awesome work/projects. I hope it will be more than just a gathering but also a catalyst for cool and exciting projects between the community.

If you are interested in Webcamp KK, check out our Facebook group. Webcamp KK will be held on the first Tuesday of every month. Come join us!