Show Pause for a Month

We didn't have a topic last week but we did have a fruitful chat. Started with the Women's March, which Umi and Bo participated, to decreasing children population in SF, to the reflection of living in a bubble, to the fact that we've learned design thinking or programming skills but only to make apps that's not solving any problems, etc. It was deep conversation for me personally, and I thought the audio will help me (and you, unknown audience out there) relive the conversation. 

Yet, unfortunately, something went wrong with the recording. We ended up with videos without any sound, which is frustrating. That counted another missing week. In the incoming two weeks, I am going to be in Nepal attending a meditation retreat, which equals to noble silence and electronic devices detox for two weeks (excited and terrified). There goes another two weeks of episodes.

I know we are pretty bad at posting in a timely manner, and I rarely get to know our audience, who's out there listening to us chatting on random stuff. The feeling is not unlike human being's constant questioning of life in space. But anyhow, I feel I need to explain a bit because this show is important and meaningful to me. 

It's not an end, we are just taking a little break. Talk to you soon. 

Episode 29 On-Demand Bicycles in China (ENG)

The English version is here

0:00 We changed our name to Beginner's Mind. The reason will be further explained in another post.

2:00 On-demand bicycles in China is blooming. But first we define the three main concepts, O2O, on-demand services and sharing economy.

12:00 How does the on-demand bicycles work from start to end? And who are the major users?

22:00 What are the main differences among the bikes?

33:00 What are the main pain points of the bikes?

44:00 Will the companies do well in the Bay Area?


Episode 29 On-Demand Bicycles in China (CHI)

It's 2017.

We are back after the long break. This is a special episode, because we recorded twice, one in Chinese and the other in English. It was accidental. We usually spend 10 to 20 minutes running through the key points before the actual recording, so we talk in Chinese and put down some show notes to discuss later. But this time, while we talked about on-demand bicycle startups in China, we just went along. Though we recorded later in English, following loosely the previous structure, we felt the first run has a better flow than the second version. Yet, we think it's important to let non-Chinese speakers understand the craziness and innovation in this business.

So here we are, with two new episodes for the new year!

Chinese Version

Here are the questions we discussed from the very beginning, roughly in this order.

Why does the on-demand bicycle business bloom in China at this point?
How does the government react to this new business?
How did they receive five rounds of investment in one year and why did they need that much money from very early on?
What's the biggest innovation of these bikes?
How do these bikes work? How much do they charge?

What's the difference between the two main competitors, ofo and Mobike?
How do they maintain the bikes on the street?
What are the main differences from a user experience's standpoint?
What are the main use cases for these on-demand bikes?

Technical broken down. The screen was frozen for a while and you can hear it here.
Have they made profit yet? What is the business model in the long run?
How accurate is the GPS on bikes?

It was called bike sharing sometimes, but we think it doesn't belong to sharing economy.

Defining the three terms, sharing economy, O2O and on-demand.
What might be their next step?
What are the oversea markets they are expanding to?

We tried to do the calculation of how many bikes are needed around some of the busiest metro stations in Beijing.

Episode 28 On Cloud Computing

Bo started using AWS cloud service to stream games to his old macbook. The experience was really good and that got him thinking about the cloud computing a lot lately, the opportunities and the problems. For me, it's more like a learning process, to understand the different concepts in cloud computing.

01:00 Long story short, Bo explained how he started streaming games from AWS and got really awesome experiences, which led him to find out new personal cloud computing products like Sixa and Paperspace.

10:00 The differences between SaaS, PaaS, and Iaas, the last of which is what we are going to focus more in this episode. We went further to explain the difference between public cloud and private cloud.

19:00 Will personal cloud computing be widely used in the near future? It depends on various elements, like the speed of the Internet, privacy issue, and other technical issues. On the other hand, to promote a wider adaptation of the technology requires a work-around with existing cloud structures in the companies, and to persuade CTOs or CIOs to buy the product.

40:00 Similar to the success of Slack, the adaptation of personal cloud computing is most likely to start with startups, or teams in big companies. Relating to Joy's experiences in China, we touched a bit on regulatory level.

Episode 27 On Startups in Iceland

Hello, December! We skipped November due to Joy's two-week visit to India, and the holiday season. We've been thinking about this topic for a while, startups in Iceland. There are a lot of interesting things going on in Iceland, besides games and the VR boom.

Three major topics we are covering are: the overall startup environment, the reason behind the startup culture, and moving forward, what's the advantages and disadvantages.

01:00 Online gaming is one of the industries that Iceland is known for, but it's also the ground for startups in fishing, and renewable energy. 

14:00 We spent some time discussing how the geographical and demographic elements are shaping the startup scene in Iceland (as compared to Southeast Asia we talked about before).

26:00 Moving forward, not enough funding resources is definitely one of the disadvantages entrepreneurs in Iceland are facing. 

Episode 26 On Election

The episode was supposed to be about startups in Iceland, which we both have read some fun articles and would like to share our findings. Yet, the election last week struck us so hard that we couldn't avoid. I was quite hesitated to share my thoughts on this topic: it's controversial, complicated, and until this point, I am still trying to figure out what exactly happened. We tried to go beyond our emotions – anger, depress, fear, etc, – and try to reflect on how the result affects us, and what we can learn from it.

01:00 We share about our feelings on this result. Then get into the reflection mode: the electoral college, the voting rates, how Americans exercise their political rights, etc.

11:00 Another main reflection occurs is the feeling that we've been living in the bubble, or tribe, which is constructed by the social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Medium, etc. How this can be changed?

24:00 The election revealed that advanced technology, like machine learning or personalisation, is rapidly changing the way we consume information, as well as the media landscape. And it's going to affect us further in the future. More work can be replaced by machines, and people in the future need to find new ways to create value to get income.

Episode 25 On Weather Apps and Crowdsourcing

Here it comes this time of a year, when temperature drops and layers are put on. We start the conversation with weather, like a lot of conversation goes, then we talk about weather apps, which leads to crowdsourcing and other related products.

01:00 It’s quite surprising that people have made so many different types of weather apps. The ones that caught our attention is Weather Underground, Dark Sky and Poncho. They are adding data collected by amateur meteorologist to the app to provide more accurate prediction. Besides official data and data collected by amateurs, what else can be added for future prediction?

19:00 Other examples of crowdsourcing data, like Waze, Kickstarter, etc. We talked about the caveat of the crowdsourcing data and how people apply it in different areas.

40:00 Can crowdsourcing be scaled to more complicated areas, like healthcare?

Episode 24 On Startups in Southeast Asia

There are a lot of things going on not just in the Bay Area or Beijing, but everywhere is witnessing certain changes brought by new technology, investment, etc. Last episode, we realized the way we consume the overloaded information today limits our reach to things happen in other countries, like Southeast Asia, or Africa. So we decided to do some research and talk about the startup scene in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia and Singapore.

01:00 Why the region is getting attractive to foreign capitals and local startups? We listed some of the main points, including the large and relatively young population, the mobile penetration, the prevalence of English, the geographical difference, digital nomads, etc.

13:00 The region is hot for now, so what might be the hurdles or challenges to run businesses in this area? Joy listed some of the challenges in Indonesia, including language, logistics, banking, etc. all of which is on the infrastructure level. Political environment and regulations is also affecting how far the startups can go.

28:00 There’s concern that foreign investment might be major threat to the thrive of local startups, but it seems it’s not that easy for big tech companies to establish similar success in this market either. The business model applied to the Western markets might not be applicable to Southeast Asia.

36:00 Why knowing what’s going on in this region matters to us? And how about the future of this region?

Episode 23 On Ride-sharing

Hola! Finally updated!

We have been away for more than a month, due to a lot of things, such as Joy has gone for Burning Man for a while, some vacations in between, technical issues, and failed recordings. We did try to talk the last two weeks, but the recording was disappointing, so we decided to postpone the update.

The original topic was Joy’s flight experience from China to US, and US back to China, what have changed, what can be changed, etc. Later we realised it would be better if we focus on one specific part of the travel experience, so we ended up with the ride-sharing experience in China and US, and how two products, Didi and Uber, offer different experiences. It’s also a timely topic since Uber exited China few months ago. We made comparison between  regional and international business model. For us, this is a good start after a long break, and we hope you enjoy it as well.

01:00 Start from new proposal in Shanghai and Beijing on regulating the ride-sharing services in China. Drivers are required to have local residential identification to drive for Didi or Uber-like service. And extends the discussion into some features of how didi works in China.

17:00 Discuss the different experiences that Didi and Uber offer. Didi provides more transportation services like taxi, carpool, designated drivers, etc., while Uber focuses mainly on ride-sharing. Didi designed more features specifically for local market while Uber offers the same experience worldwide.

24:00 Digress a bit to talk about emerging market, like Indonesia and India. We came to the realisation that information in these countries are quite invisible to us because of increasing personalised or tailored information service.

36:00 Bo speaks from a passenger’s perspective and talks about which service makes more sense to him. It’s surprising that there are only few companies provide local services internationally.

48:00 We talk about the latest Uber pass in San Francisco. And wind back to the comparison between regional and international businesses from the perspectives of a designer and an engineer. 


Episode 22 On Losing Phones

Have you ever lost your phone somehow? And have you ever gotten your lost phone back? I have experienced lost my phone on a cab and got it back in about an hour by using “Find My Phone” feature. It was the most emotional hour I have ever experienced and we decided to talk about this experience in depth.

01:00 My first-time ever almost 10-min monologue, without any interruption by Bo :P We also talked about keeping chat history. I have been keeping my chat history on Wechat for a long time and it will kill me if I lost it.

10:00 We started to analyze what terrifies me most, losing the phone itself, losing my private data, or losing the record and files on the phone. There are three buttons (sound an alert, lock your phone and erase your data) on the Find My Phone app and it’s interesting how people under different scenarios use the three features differently.

22:00 While iOS users enjoy the benefits of Find My Phone app, Android users seem a bit helpless when scenarios like the above occurs.

38:00 We get into serious debate whether Apple should backup the phone before user erase their data on the phone.

50:00 How can people keep track of other things in their lives, like your wallet, a jacket, etc. ? And Bo talked about the new gadget he got for his other belongings, TrackR.

Episode 21 On Platforms

By the end of last episode, we were talking about Pokemon Go as a platform. The idea got both of us excited and we realized there are more we would like to explore. The keyword is platform. It’s like the word “location” to real estate agent as to the tech world today.

00:00 What is Pokemon Go providing or generating as a platform? How is it different comparing to Facebook? Facebook is considered a gigantic platform that hosts social interactions, connections, news, ads, games, etc. It has been taking our attention for such a long time. If Pokemon Go evolves the way like Facebook –– carefully craft everything to grab people’s attention and keep them on the platform, what will it be like?

20:00 Will Pokemon Go last as a game if it’s not adding more features to make it beyond a game?

30:00 We kept saying “platform”, but what exactly is “platform”? Bo gives his definition: (1) high engagement; (2) a lot of users; (3) the service itself is free, but it generates profits from services sit on top of it. We also make comparisons between the platform thinking in China and in the Bay Area. We talked about common platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and also examples like Home Depot, the home improvement retailer in the States, and Haier, the once biggest home appliances company in China.

51:00 And whenever we talk about platform, one name is often mentioned: Wechat. When I think about platforms in China, usually I mean all those feature-compact and all-look-alike e-commmerce or service apps in my phone.

Episode 20 On Pokemon Go

For two weeks, everyone has been talking about it. Pokemon Go swept the world and created buzz that none has done so far. Bo has been playing it in San Francisco for a while and is addicted to it. For me, although the game is still not available in China, I am able to witness friends around me trying every possible means to reach out to the game, especially engineers, who created easy-access location-simulator-loaded versions for people in China to feel the game. We talk from our different experiences and reflect on this pokemania that we are all experiencing.

00:00 It seems hard not to notice Pokemon GO around you. The players show up like mobs on the streets, into the shops, or by the Ocean Beach in the middle of night. All those seem suggest it’s location not AR made Pokemon Go this popular today. And speaking of location, it reminds me of two things: Ingress and Foursquare. Ingress, created by Niantic Lab, is a location-based game prior to Pokemon Go. The two share a lot in common as in game mechanics and business model, but Ingress didn’t get that much attention and active players.

18:00 Though Pokemon Go as an app works terribly sometimes, it doesn’t stop people from using it. This reminds us of earlier version of Facebook, Twitter, etc. –– great products that didn’t look perfect from the very beginning, but there’s something unique about these addicting products. And also we talk about the business model of Pokemon Go and how it’s similar to Foursquare.

38:00 Everyone has also been asking the question: how far is Pokemon Go going? The question itself makes us think that in the future, Pokemon Go is going to be part of people’s life. It becomes a local-related platform that will support a lot more social interaction.

Episode 19 On Live Streaming and Live Broadcasting

I saw this middle-aged man using a live broadcasting app on the bus one day, and it got me thinking: why do people watch strangers talk, eat, or sing all day? Why it has become so popular in China as well as in the States? That was the beginning of the topic, live broadcasting. Bo is really serious about the two definition: live broadcasting and live streaming. You will know more in the end.

01:00 Our talk starts from a video on Vice. The video is only available in Chinese, but the gist of it is the economy of beauty or live broadcasting in China. It has become full-fledged streamlined business, running by agencies and online platforms. From there, we discuss the notion of live broadcasting, and the multiple format and diverse content on live broadcasting platforms.

11:00 It seems the content on Chinese live broadcasting apps is more general, while the western ones is more focused, like Twitch for gaming, live coding, etc. Yet, the connection between the genre of the content and the platform is not as deep as I thought.

17:00 The economy of gifting on live broadcasting: we compared the different business models between Twitch and Chinese live broadcasting apps.

22:00 We try to differentiate live broadcasting and live streaming. Then we got into serious discussion of the ethics of live broadcasting, which relates closely to what happened lately in the US.

38:00 I asked Bo again to clarify the two concept: live streaming and live broadcasting. And also why does it matter?


Episode 18 On Information Triage and Wearables

In last episode, we ended our talk with a new topic: how wearables are helping users to better manage information? How do people feel about wearables that are always on? We continued the discussion this time.

Sometimes I feel the talk we are doing here is not about getting the answer to questions, but instead generating more questions from the talk. If you share similar interests in whatever we are talking about, feel free to share your thoughts with us.

01:00 Bo got his first Echo last Tuesday, and he’s been using it for a week. The first part is like a how to use Echo for dummies. Another interesting question came up is about how voice assistant like Alexa will be able to create some type of “TL;DL” of podcast.

15:00 How do people process information? Or narrow it down a bit, how do people prioritize information? For Bo, the solution is using Apple Watch to help him set the boundaries of notifications. What interests me most is the idea of watch face switch. What if the face switch relates to mode switch, setting different scenarios for notifications?

36:00 As I read somewhere in the news that kids are competing their parents’ attention with mobile phones, that worries me. And thus we have the discussion whether wearables are taking people away from pocket computers, which might be some improvement.

46:00 What do you think about wearables that are always on? Now that we have smart phones on 24/7, it seems we are so used to have all these gadgets around us without thinking about how they’ve been listening to us and collecting data all the time.

Episode 17 On IM and “Pocket Computer”

Apologies for skipping one week. We actually recorded the talk, but it didn’t go well. We had a fight, because of lack of preparation and miscommunication. The talk has always been casual conversation between two friends, but knowing there are actual listeners makes us feel stressful. We both get more concerned about whom we are talking to and how listeners are going to understand the show. Still, we are going to be who we are and talk about what interest us, but we do need to spend more time for preparation and setup better structures of the talk. We are working on it!

Till now we have no idea who have been listening to our podcast, we want to thank you for the attention, and we hope to hear from you for any feedback.

1:00 We start slowly by talking about Slack has been down for a while and people complained about it on Twitter. Bo’s company has been using Slack and it works pretty well for a 60-person company. In China, most companies communicate over Wechat groups. It’s interesting to see some new mobile apps have designed hidden surprises for users, like Slack and Snapchat.

9:00 The problem this time that we are interested in is working IMs (instant messenger) has been blurring the lines between work and life. We are receiving emails or work-related notifications 24-hour a day. Bo thinks it’s not because of the IMs, but because of the smartphones, or pocket computers, as Bo spontaneously coined the word.

16:00 We dive into some features in IMs that make us stressful, like “typing”, “have seen the message”, etc.

32:00 While it’s quite common for users from the West and the East to have multiple IMs installed on their phone, users in China seem rely mainly on Wechat for communication for social and for work. This might be because of the heavy-feature nature of apps from Asia. We side-tracked a bit and discuss the cost of living in the Bay Area and Beijing.

50:00 As we returned to our topic, we also realize how it relates to wearable, a topic that Bo has always enthusiastic about. We discuss the notion of information triage and wearables that are always on, which we will talk more about in the next episode.

Episode 16 On Coffeeshops and Co-working Space

We were out for two weeks, mainly because of technical issue. Last week, it took us half an hour to start the conversation. By the time we started to talk, we both felt exhausted because of the on-and-off calls. It was frustrating and discouraging. So we continue the conversation about coffee shop this week.

01:00 How do you like coffee shops? They are part of our lives, and we are curious about coffee shops as a product. Why has it been so popular internationally, and how is it going to evolve into the future? We discuss the topic from the location, the interaction in the coffee shop, etc.

17:00 “The future of coffee shops might still be coffee shops. The new future space is actually co-working space”, according to Joy. Coworking space is mainly about the network and supporting infrastructure. And there’s more connection between coffee shop and co-working space –– Starbucks has great potential in becoming the giant network of coworking space.

36:00 If Starbucks expand their business into coworking space, how does it work? How do they make money? Bo said, by renting out lockers instead of charging customers by the space they are taking. The reason that Bo thinks Starbucks can be coworking space is that they offer good experience for customers, which is essential for coworking space. Then we got into this really interesting question as to the globalization of coffee shop –– why it became global trend that people start hanging out in coffee shops nowadays?

49:00 So would the next trend of globalization is the co-working space?

Episode 15 On Content Monetization

Have you ever tipped someone on the Internet, for an article you read, or for an answer you get? For me, it’s always interesting why people pay for the content, while majority of the information on the Internet is free, Wikipedia, Quora, or articles on New York Times, Buzzfeed, you name it. So what we are actually paying for? What do you think about the tipping model?

01:00 Have you heard about Jelly? It’s a platform that you can ask questions anonymously, and get answers from users on the platform. The company brand the product as the new way of search on mobile. We started with Jelly, the online Q&A platform, and then slowly get into the topic of content monetization. Bo talks about his main point: nothing on the Internet is free. We talked about soft advertisement, sponsored content, Instagram and Medium.

24:00 An interesting feature that I’ve been interested in is tipping articles on Wechat. I am interested in why people decide to tip articles they read, and how people feel about paying for information on the Internet. Bo explains the rationale behind it in his nerdy way – calculate how much every minute worths when you read the article if you decide to tip something online.

40:00 Another perspective that I am interested in is paying to get answers online. Products like this includes Quora’s new feature: Knowledge Prize.

50:00 We also look into the subscription model vs pay by each piece of content, like membership on Spotify vs buying individual song on iTunes. And we reached the conclusion for this episode: when looking at content monetization on the Internet, one should go beyond the content itself, but think about the cost of the content producer, the server, and etc. Those are what we are actually paying for on the Internet.


Episode 14 On Warby Parker and Casper

Warby Parker is an online eyeglasses retailer, and was named as the most innovative company in the past years by Forbes. Casper creates award-winning mattress for the decade and also new ways to deliver and sell mattress, renewing the traditional industry. We like both companies a lot. Bo is a loyal customer to both companies too. He bought the mattress and a pair of glasses, and talked about them all the time. It’s a fun talk, as we started from this two companies and extending into other topics.


1:00 Instead of calling Warby Parker one of the most innovative companies of the decade, Bo thinks its business model is similar to old-style mail-order catalogue model.

10:00 As I was researching on the two companies, I came across Amazon’s retail shop in Seattle. We discussed if there’s any connection between this move and the two companies.

17:00 Bo points out one thing the two companies share is how they address privacy. Trying out eyewear and trying out mattress are something pretty private. People would like to try by themselves instead of being exposed in the public to feel how the glasses look on them, or how the mattress feels.

22:00 Then the topic extends to subscription model. We try to draw the comparison between some monthly clothes subscription model to Warby Parker.

32:00 At some point, we digress and start talking about Wikipedia, because Bo think Wikipedia has not been mentioned enough lately. It's interesting to think about this question: if you can re-innovate wikipedia to make it more modern, what will you do?

43:00 If Wikipedia exists as a non-profit organization is based on the assumption that information is free on the Internet, then why there's a new trend coming up that people have to pay for information on Quora or Facebook?


Episode 13 Santa’s Little Helper –– On Chatbots

Everyone is talking about chatbots lately, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. We’ve looked into this realm since last year, so we think maybe it’s a good time to revisit the topic.

1:00 Why all of a sudden does it become so popular? Facebook, Microsoft and Wechat all have started to become a platform of chatbots. To some extent, they are like the new little “Internet sitting on top of the Internet”. Partially it’s because of mobile as the new form factor and new way to interact.

13:00 The limited screen space seems the main limitation from a designer perspective. But chatbots are not limited to text messages, sending videos, or sending red pockets on wechat can also be considered as bots.

25:00 Still, as there are more and more bots coming up, there remains the question: how do you find out what bots to follow? Bo compared that to the history of website and google, saying it’s going over the same cycle.

34:00 When talking about conversational design, one thing that we haven’t talked about is voice. It’s interesting and seems have a lot more potential in interaction. Another approach in built-in search on mobile is through keyboard, like Slash and Input. Besides sending out silly gifs, people can also search videos or location right in the input area. Though it takes some time to switch between keyboards.

44:00 How about Luka? We’ve noticed Luka since it first launched last year. And we noticed they’ve pivoted a bit lately after another round of investment. It’s still a bit premature at this point. I got lost and not knowing what to do while trying the app.

Episode 12 On Snapchat

Bo has been talking a lot of good things about Snapchat. I never understood that until I start using it. I learned to use Snapchat for a week. It was fun, but also confusing. That’s how we start the conversation.

0:00 How does Snapchat actually work? I learn to add friend on it, or to watch live event, but still it’s confusing to use it. Bo draws the comparison between Snapchat and the old Facebook when news feed was not live.

13:00 The main difference between Snapchat and Facebook is about the time. Snapchat is more like day-to-day conversation, in which you say something, and it disappear. While on Facebook, it’s like a digital gallery that stores everything you post. We talk about the editorial or curation on Snapchat.

28:00 Another thing about Snapchat is how casual users communicate with others, like how I text message with my friend, or how Everlane communicate with their customers.

33:00 Bo emphasizes that what makes Snapchat unique is that it captures people’s attention. He shares his experience after watching the interactive film, the Room.

43:00 Why is there only handful of channels in Discover? Why doesn’t it provide personalized channels like other services do? Is it good design or bad design? We had a fight over this topic.