The last year we have been travelling a lot. We have visited Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, The Netherlands and Spain and even managed to stay a few months in our home country Denmark as well. In that time things have been crazy busy (but then again – everybody seems busy these days to a point where it doesn’t mean anything to say you’re busy).
Travelling takes a lot of time, but we have also found time to start up our own business, Monzoom, doing consultant work for a couple of Danish companies (e.g. internationally known Danish toy company known for “blocks” – you know who I mean, right?) and we have found time to make our first product xiive. I’m really scratching my own itch with xiive – it’s a social media filtering site with special emphasis on how much a topic is mentioned (seen over time) and comparing these numbers with those of other topics.
There are already many such sites, but the special thing about xiive is that we did not follow the traditional model of letting the user choose x topics (usually 3) to track in private. We have chosen instead to make all the data public so it can be shared, embedded, compared and discussed.
We are currently in private beta, and I can’t wait to show the site to the world. You can sign up for an invite here if you want, but I have to warn you – we don’t really like those “viral” beta invite sites, so you will not get in front of the line by inviting your friends. We think you should only call on your social network if you really mean it and not to get special treatment.
Today we launched a new landing page and I think it is quite the improvement, but you be the judge of that. Here is the old landing page and the new landing page:
Right now we sit in a hotel apartment in Bangkok (no flood in sight here, but some areas are badly hit). We have just been in southern Thailand for a month and we are going to stay in Bangkok for a month and then go home to Denmark for Christmas.
Life is good!
If you are looking for a new business model for your project? You have a great idea for a site, but no idea how to monitize it?
You could of course be traditional and offer an ad-based freemium-model like spotify.com with a sidedish of premium service. That have been done many times, but it is more flexible than the even more traditional model where you just let your users pay.
Maybe you could offer a free service and use it to gather large amounts of data and sell them like Patientslikeme.com? Or simply take a commision (or a posting fee) for facilitating contact/services to/from other companies like flattr.com, airbnb.com or GroupOn.com?
There is also a model where you let your customers pay what they want (encouraged by an anchor price of what other users have paid) and even let the users decide how much of the money that should go to charity. An example of this model can be found at humblebundle.com.
Or if your main product is free, how about “in-app”-sales like Haypi Kingdom or my favorite example Farmville – and if you want the user to loose track of the “real-world cost” then make your own monitary system.
If you want your users to create something of value, then make a platform that lets them co-create and get a share in the profit like Quicky.com. Helping other creative people monitize their ideas – that’s a great business model! Almost a meta business model.
Source: These was all picked from the presentation below; “10 business models that rocked 2010″
Less is more. That was my big lesson in 2010. I used to have clutter, mess, piles and heaps of stuff – in my home and in my office. Now my things fit into a suitcase and a backpack. I can’t buy things that I am not willing to carry with me every day, so I never shop anymore except to replace other things. Material things has never meant less to me than they do now.
It reminds me of the saying; “If you own more than seven things, the things will own you”. The simplification I have done in my life really feels like freedom. I can honestly say that I don’t miss any of my stuff. Back home we had a “game room” with several XBoxes, a Wii and a Playstation as well as a home movie theatre; I loved it and spent a lot of time there, and I really thought I would miss it, but I don’t. What I miss from back home are the people; friends, colleagues and family, but actually I speak more to my close family now than I did, when I lived less than 100 kilometers away from them (thank you, Skype).
Money has never been a big thing for me and that is probably because I have just been lucky to be able to make a fine living for doing what I love. The IT-business is a generous place to be. Now I think even less about it and also spend much less. Living in Asia can be cheap even while enjoying some luxury. Cutting down on our spending also have the nice side effect that we don’t have to work as many hours on profitable projects and can devote more time for pet projects, sightseeing or just each other.
Some days I wake up and I can’t believe, how lucky I am, thinking that this can’t last. But I just can’t stay worried; the sun is shining and I just keep telling myself: Don’t worry – be happy.
We Danes are known for our happiness being listed as the happiest people in the world several times by OECD, the reason often cited (by Americans) is that we expect less from life. I don’t think that is the true answer; we expect a lot from life just not only material things. We value life experiences and quality over quantity, and right now I’m taking that to an extreme and loving every minute of it.
Less IS more.
Reading through the YOW! 2010 conference program I was reminded of the rallying cry “more cowbell”. The evening keynote on the first day, 50 in 50 by Guy Steele and Richard Gabriel, really brings back memories. I first saw this keynote a few years ago at JAOO Aarhus 2008 and I was in awe of the artful presentation of so many programming languages! It’s not every day you see Guy Steele rapping.
Fortunately it was taped and the video is here:
How many of the programming languages did you know?
When we found out that my dad was going to spend his Christmas in Thailand, we immediately jumped in; suddenly we had an opportunity to see some family even though we were so far away from home.
My dad has a house in Sangkha where he and his thai wife along with her family are staying while in Thailand. Sangkha is a small city located quite close to the Cambodian border – almost 500 km east of Bangkok, so going there takes most of a day. We decided to go by bus and didn’t regret it.
There is at least three kinds of busses between the east and west; A very cheap one which features only natural air-conditioning (all windows opened), a relatively cheap one, which does have real air-conditing but not really anything else, and then the expensive one which has both air-conditioning, onboard toilet and where food and drinks are served by a nice thai girl in uniform.
We took the latter one and it made the trip a breeze. Once there we booked a room at a nice motel close to my dads house. The room was quite spacious with hot shower, fridge, king bed and very cheap; 350 baht pr. night (about 65 DKK or 12 USD).
Before we went, we’d already talked about making a traditional Danish Christmas dinner and in one of the big Bangkokian malls we’d found red cabbage in a jar and brought along – and my dad had already purchased a duck, which left us only with one problem – how to cook it? Normally in Denmark the duck is roasted in an oven, but at my dads house there were only two gas cookers and a small open barbecue. So we went to Surin – a larger city only 45 km from Sangkha to look for duck-roasting-appliances.
Unfortunatly we were unable to find one of those half-sphere charcoal grills – we’ve been using those for ducks with great success before. Instead we settled on a big bowl-like owen which we quickly christened ‘Otto’ – I think it was the brand name, but we used it in lack of better term. It works almost like a convection oven except the heat comes from the lid and it only barely fits a whole duck. It ended up working very well – since the heat came from above, and the rest of Otto is really just a bowl, it leaves plenty of room for the juices to gather at the bottom; a good basis for the traditional Christmas gravy.
The traditional Danish Christmas dinner dessert is risalamande/ris à l’amande - not nearly as french as it sounds but very good. The basis of this dessert is rice overcooked in milk. Now we could have chosen to cook the rice in a pot as we’d normally do it in Denmark, but since rice cookers are so widely used here, we opted to use that instead, not really knowing if it would work. It turned out to work beautifully; a typically problem when cooking this dish is that the rice and milk quickly get burned on the bottom of the pot – the rice cooker on the other hand is build for this, and as soon as the rice is boiled, it changes to keeping-it-hot-mode which turned out to be a perfect temperature.
After all the eating, my dad surprised us when he dug out a Christmas tree for us to dance around (probably one of the weirdest Danish Christmas traditions). The Thai part of the family even joined us, and politely hummed along to our Danish Christmas songs.
The Christmas celebration turned out to be much more fun and traditional than we could have hoped for; before even going to Thailand, we’d talked about how Christmas would be with an average temperature of 25 degrees and how we would miss the family and the food. But to us it turned out to be a very good Christmas – although next year I think we’ll spend it in Denmark and maybe go for the warmer territories between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Merry Christmas everyone and a happy New Year.
Going out for lunch one day a couple a weeks ago we noticed that there were a lot more people out on the streets including a lot of street vendors selling flower arrangements with candles. The restaurant we had lunch at was in the Emporium Shopping center with a view out over Benchasiri Park and from there we could see that the park was especially busy that day. Deciding to investigate we visited the park and we certainly didn’t regret that decision.
In the park there were several families and couples that were there to let a flower arrangement float on the lake dominating the park. Very beautiful.
It turns out the ritual is part of a celebration called Loy Krathong. To cite one of the sources I could find explaining it:
People look forward to going out and launching Krathongs together to predict their romance future by the direction the Krathongs float. However, this season is also good for strengthening relationship in the family.
The floating of a Krathong is signifies floating away ill fortune as well as expressing apologies to Khongkha or Ganga, the River Goddess.
Realising that this ritual would be even more beautiful at night we returned to the park after dark. The crowd didn’t disappoint us – they launched thousands of “Krathongs” (as the floating flower arrangements are called).
To add to our blog post series about fun machines in Lego (Turing, most useless, 3D-printer and so on) here is a video of the antikythera mechanism built in Lego – that is the functionality is simulated with a machine built in Lego, but it certainly doesn’t look like the original.
If you don’t remember what the antikythera mechanism is then let wikipedia enlighten you:
“The Antikythera mechanism … is an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was recovered in 1900–01 from the Antikythera wreck, but its complexity and significance were not understood until decades later. It is now thought to have been built about 150–100 BCE. The degree of mechanical sophistication is comparable to late medieval Swiss watchmaking. Technological artifacts of similar complexity and workmanship did not reappear until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks appeared in Europe.“
The modern version is explained in this video:
A really really old computer rebuilt in Lego – what’s not to like?
Saigon in southern Vietnam is a very different from Hanoi in the northern parts of Vietnam. Where Hanoi is busy, smelly og too crowded, Saigon is busy, much cleaner and with space on the sidewalk for people walking (but occasionally also for people on motorbikes, so watch out).
We stayed at a great hotel in the center of town called Le Duy. We quickly found a restaurant street thanks to our Lonely planet iPhone app for Saigon; Ho Chi Minh City Guide. What a useful app! It really helped us a lot. It has a “near by”-function that shows you where you are and how far away points of interest like landmarks, shopping and restaurants are. Very useful.
Our first trip out of our hotel room to find some food, was a great success for the food but we did get caught in the rain. What we didn’t know was that the rain is a daily event in this city – we bought umbrellas the next day and brought them with us for the rest of our stay. The daily rain is not really a problem if you come prepared except for the wet shoes – they don’t dry up before the next shower.
On our second night in Saigon we went to find a good restaurant, but they were all full, noisy and not very cosy, so it was quite difficult. Then we stumbled on an Indian restaurant that was completely dark and looked really good with lots of candles and no noise. It was empty and looked closed but the staff was outside trying to get people in, so we decided to try it out. When we were reading through the menu at candlelight we realised that there was a power blackout going on. Fortunately the kitchen didn’t need power to make great food – we could see the high flames coming from the small kitchen in the back of the restaurant. It ended up being a nice experience though at one point the waiter tried to create a little ambiance by playing music from his mobile phone. That seemed a bit surreal.
Saigon is a beautiful city especially the many cloud formations. This photo is one of my favorites (and yes, we did play a little with the colors):
The biggest difference between the Saigon and Hanoi is the traffic. I have already described the traffic in Hanoi and what a nightmare it is. The traffic in Saigon is much easier to handle because it is more structured and because there is room for pedestrians on the sidewalk instead of forcing them out on the street. Well, the traffic is still pretty bad but we learned a lot about handling it in Hanoi. The trick is to just walk, keep a steady pace, be predictable and use the pedestrian crossings where ever you can find one.
We truly loved Saigon and I think it is a place I could live. Other people seems to think so too because we met a lot of expats. The food is great, the traffic seems ok, the weather is great when it is not raining, everything is very cheap and the people seem friendly enough. It is possible to live in this city using very little money and I actually felt a little bad about paying so little for great things like backpacks, drinks and food. We didn’t have many days in Saigon, but that’s ok, because I know we are coming back one day.
I just want to share this short video we made showing the Hanoi traffic.
After crossing that street successfully (which we did on several occasions) you get a feeling of accomplishment and we celebrated by going into a nearby cafe, sit down and calm our nerves every time.
I don’t know how it works – but it works.
As so many other turists visiting Hanoi we also booked a cruise in Ha Long Bay. Beautiful and tranquil Ha Long Bay. After a few days in Hanoi you really long for a relaxing and most importantly quiet oasis and that is exactly what Ha Long Bay is.
There is not much to tell about the cruise as we really just relaxed a lot and ate some really fresh seafood. We saw a stalactite cave and some friendly monkeys and that was it.
To sum it up here are some pictures. It was a bit misty (even foggy at times) so the pictures are not as colorful as they could be.