Sunday, April 18, 2010

CS3216 - Conclusion

I apologize for using such a bland title, but I guess nothing else is quite as direct.

let go over this in chronological order.

First, managing people is the most important thing in a team. In my facebook app assignment, I was (unfortunately) the person with the most software engineering experience, and that wasn't a lot. Grouped with angad, yinchao and liuliu, this turned out to be quite the disaster because we decided to scale back the amount of technologies needed to just sql/javascript/html/fbml. The problem here was that it became too easy, and there isn't enough for people to do. I realized that early, but did little to stop it(partly because i had no idea how to) and the other quickly became dissented, eventually, they dropped.

The next lesson, is not to let self-doubt get you. I am a fairly confident person, and I know my capabilities very well. Never throughout the assignment did I feel that Angand and I were incapable of meeting our targets, but sometimes, just sometimes, there will be these little bit of yourself that asks, "is this really going to work?". The key here is not to just shove these self-dobuts right back to where they came from, that just means they will come back much more strong re the next time. But to answer these doubts with action. If you feel like you may not reach a target in time, you jolly well do something to make sure that doesn't happen. Self-doubt is the worse thing that can happen, since it destroys your morale and self-esteem.

Lesson three, ask questions, stupid or not. If you feel something isn't right, raise the issue until he gets it or you get it. Don't be afraid to ask stupid questions, "if you ask a stupid question, you look stupid for a day. If you don't ask a stupid question, you stay stupid for life." I know a lot of people are still uncomfortable with asking questions, it is obvious that most questions during talks are asked by laurence, tom, john loh, john lewd and adhiraj.

Lesson four, grades don't matter, nobody looks at what grades Mark Zuckerburg got. It really is about ideas and execution. Grades may be a metric used for hiring, but our goal in life isn't to work right?(pls. read Adrian Tan's speech if you have no idea what I'm talking about)

Lesson five is on success, this is actually something I already knew, just reinforced in this module. Success is defined differently by different people, and there are seriously no sure path to success. Some people are satisfied money, others by spiritual enlightenment, even more prefer to pursue interests and be good at it. The key here is to be yourself and not be influenced by other people's success. Look at the entrepreneurs that came to talk to us, everyone of them have a different success story, sometimes even conflicting ones, put them in each others shoes and maybe they will flop and fail miserably. Listen to your heart and be yourself, theres a good chance that you will fail on the first, second, third try, but then again if you try enough times you chance of success will tend to 1.

The most important lesson though, is to not try too hard, which was what prof ben told me after 2 of my teammates dropped. Pushing too hard leaves no room for anything else. There was this concept brought forward by honking writer 黄易, called 遁去的一, basically if you have 50 slots for chairs. If you fill all 50 slots with chairs you lose the ability to change anything, your pattern is stuck. However, if you had 49 chairs in 50 slots, you will have 48! patterns(I hope I remembered by circular permutation formula correctly). Its just like playing poker, obviously there are maximum returns if you go all-in. But you're out of the game totally if you lose, however, just keeping 1 chip alive gives you a(very long) shot at getting back into the game. Something like that. Thats actually reinforced by Randy Paush's speech, you don't really need to go all out to make your dreams, but if you lead your life correctly, you'll find that everything comes together for yourself.

It has been a blast taking CS3216, thanks to all my wonderful classmates, TAs and 1 particularly evil professor. I theresay nothing I do in NUS will come as close as this. I hope all of you guys keep your passion for whatever you are doing, and in the immortal words of a certain prefoessor "do the right thing".


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Network, Grades and Meritocracy

As someone taking CS3103 this sem, which is the nightmare known as networks II. I actually understood quite a bit of the stuff that zit seng was talking about..

Understood, yes.. But how to apply? No idea..

Sigh... Like Prof say, what he's doing is an art, quite hard to learn over 2 hours.

The second part of the lecture is much much more interesting. dealing with meritocracy, one of the 5 cornerstone concepts our wonderful country was built upon.

I don't know why but I felt there was a little contradiction in prof's arguments.

1) He has reached the apex of the academic system through his mad studying abilities

2) He believes grades don't matter, except for the first job.

3) He hires people based on grades first, ability second.

So can we conclude that

1) Regardless how good one is in his respective field, we still need decent grades? Like how our athletes need certain grades to enter a SPORTS school.

2) Our first job will determine our second job, our third job, up till the point you decide that being hired isn't worth the time and make your own living. So then your grades will affect your first job, which then cascades down. Eg. If I have straight Bs and end up in a semi-decent job in a semi-decent company, as opposed to getting straight As and ending up in the same job in an excellent company, then the difference in prospects is still huge regardless of personal abilities.

What I feel is that, although our system is still meritocratic somewhat, it is only based on the academic skill, someone NOT a government scholar will never rise up to ministerial level.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Making up for lost groud...

So I promised to write something regarding the VC lecture, but apparently my procrastination got the better of me..

In retrospect, now is probably a much better time to reflect on the lessons I learnt from the VC team, considering now is when I actually have to factor in so many issues with team dynamics.

First and most important lesson, recognize your limits. There are some things in life that are impossible, eg. Marrying Keira Knightley. However, most other things in life are not difficult, give some effort and time. Correction, given ENOUGH effort and time.
In a project scope with very limited time and when members have limited technical skills, clamping the feature creep is crucial to the final success. The problem with VC is that they keep coming up with new and cool features that end up requiring repeatedly rebooting the project from step 1.

Second lesson draws directly from the first, the team morale will suffer if there are too many functions that cannot be implemented, or when they have to frequently restart at square 1.

So that brings me to my third lesson, iterative design, which all of you reading this already know. Start small, always make something deployable, and then slowly expand. Even if you have to rewrite everything to incorporate an extra feature. You still have a working version deployed that you can fallback on.

Thats all for now. Stay tuned for the next installment on google wave.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Settling old debts

So I need to do either a blog post on microsoft guy or VC..


Actually, its going to be: why I'd rather blog about VC over microsoft guy, then I'll write another post on what I learnt from VC.

Now.. Back to Chewy, first impression he gives me is that he's a salesman, and not just any salesman, but a pyramid scheme salesman, don't ask me why, it's just a gut feeling.

His lesson of "other people are not the same as you are" is not anything groundbreaking or new. He just packaged it nicely with his stand up comedian act. Lets look at things from a different perspective.

When microsoft just entered china, they sold their chinese products with similar prices with that of their american counterparts. Guess what, you could buy a full copy of windows 7 for 4 RMB, fully cracked, bugless, guaranteed to work, and a much better 1 to 1 product exchange service microsoft ever imagined. Needless to say, Microsoft got owned, and they adapted, to significantly reducing their prices to levels affordable to the chinese public, but setting the language packs to chinese only(meaning you were stuck with win7 that said 我的电脑 and you can't change it to My Computer), this was prolly to ensure others won't exploit the price difference and sell them overseas.

Guess what, it still didnt work.

So what does this tell us? Other people are NOT the same as you are. What works in the states and europe will not work in a completely different demographic. Well we get that. So whats the point of complaining that marketeers are not putting in effort???

/aside What is a Marketeer??? Is it like a musketeer? Except with a marker? /end-aside

I'm pretty damn sure there have been companies that have tried lowering prices aggressively to try to get an edge in the market, someone would have tried something already if something is wrong. Either that or it just didn't work. Yes, I agree if you wanted to beat the field you need to do something special. But hey, I sure as hell don't see microsoft doing anything agressive with their marketing strategy..

I understand that coming back from the states, he must be really bewildered by how our market works, but here's something you need to learn from bush. You canNOT force what works for you down other people's throats! Bush tried that with his version of freedom and democracy and justice and tried shoving it all in one go down Iraq and Afghanistan. Guess what, it DIDNT work. So you don't get to take whatever "aggressive marketing strategy" you have to asia and come and judge us. Because you have no idea how the population here think and live.

Remember, others are different from you.