LTU in Japan

For the past four months I have been doing periodic interviews with people involved in the tech industry in Vancouver and BC on my podcast Lining Things Up. So far it has been great, and I have learned a lot about local entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in general. The show (usually) is released every second Thursday.

As I am on an extended stay in Japan, I decided to continue doing the main show but thought it would be interesting to intersperse releases with interviews of tech people based here in Japan. I reached out to a few prominent (English-speaking) members of the tech community and have begun the process. Thus, I am excited to present LTU in Japan.

Lining Things Up in Japan

LTU in Japan will be a short run show and included in the main LTU feed. If you are interested in technology in Japan, have a listen. You will be inspired by the personal stories of the interviewees, and how they got to Japan. You will get some insight on how the tech community works in other parts of the world, and hopefully you will gain some perspective on your own community.

As always, if you have feedback or questions, get in touch via Twitter or email me: chad [at] liningthingsup

A few production notes

For those interested, I have a few comments about producing the new show. First, I conducted the theme music entirely with GarageBand for iPad. It is pretty simple, but amazingly fun. Secondly, the site. I designed the main LTU site to be minimalistic, bright, and mobile friendly. It is a long, single column design that I did in one day. LTUJ is the same but different. Simple, but inverted colors and a wide design. You’ll notice, however, when you resize your browser the interviewee “cards” sort themselves to fit your screen. The ultimate result is that on an iPhone, LTUJ is a long design similar to the regular site. Once again, I whipped this up in a day, by hand using Espresso so forgive any irregularities.

My current podcasts

podcasts 2012

I often talk about all the podcasts I listen to. I thought I would share them for those that are interested.

You can click on the image to enbiggen it. The app I use is Pocket Casts by Shifty Jelly. You can download my OPML file from here.

I grouped all the shows as follows: 5by5 shows; other tech shows; media and geek shows (I still hold out hope for a return); philosophy; “ahem”; football. Within those groups they are somewhat organized by priority. I don’t listen to every single show every week, but the ones at the beginning of each group are a guaranteed listen. I endorse them whole-heartedly.

Altogether I listen to an average of 15-20 hours a week plus or minus what audiobooks I am listening to at the time.

Now that you know what kinds of shows I like, if you have any suggestions let me know!

Mobile operating system market share, Feb 2012 from iCrossing. For comparison, see 2011’s numbers. Some standout numbers:

Japan 2011 > 2012

  • iPhone 58% > 48%
  • Android 23% > 46%
  • WAP 12% > 2%
  • Other 7% > 4%

China 2011 > 2012

  • Nokia 59% > 40%
  • iPhone 11% > 12%
  • Android 3% > 22%
  • Other 27% > 26%

Anecdotal, but per my experience I would think that “Other” in Brazil is eaten up by grey market iPhones.

I drink your milkshake: Thoughts on the Innovator’s Solution

Snorg Tees I Drink Your Milkshake shirt

Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor’s The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth was recommended by Horace Dediu on his show The Critical Path.

On the show Horace often talks about “Jobs to be Done Theory”, or the idea that customers hire a product to do specific job. It is a very useful way of thinking about products and is fleshed out more in this book. Some other particularly interesting topics (to me) covered in the book include:

  • jobs to be done theory
  • the innovator’s dilemma
  • innovation: sustaining vs. disruptive
  • integration vs. modularity (and the transition between the two)
  • commoditization
  • RPV framework: resources, processes, values
  • good money vs. bad money
  • be patient for growth, impatient for profitability

Although the book seems to be directed towards large organizations, there is much in here for startups as well. In fact, Chapter 8’s “Discovery-driven Planning” is basically Eric Ries’s Lean Startup Methodology of experimentation. One bit of advice that seems counter to the current trend of “growth now, business model later” is “be patient for growth, impatient for profit”. This is especially important inside of an organization because your funding can be cut as soon as the parent organization (investors) need to put out fires elsewhere, thereby losing patience with your venture. If you are profitable from early stages, your master’s might be more amenable to let you continue even when they must focus on something else.

I listened to the audiobook, which was a bit of a slog. You might find the text version a little less… sleep inducing. If you haven’t the time and want to read the Cole’s Notes version, I highly recommend
Derek Sivers’s chapter-by-chapter writeup.

Warner Bros: You are doing it wrong

The wife got me the Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection boxed (17 discs) set for our anniversary. Yes, well, she got me Lord of the Rings for another anniversary, so it is already well established that she married a total geek. Besides, it is a great present and I hope to enjoy all of the films and books with both of my daughters. I know it is only DVD, but I don’t own a BluRay player, and I do everything digital anyways. So I was excited to see that the boxed set included digital downloads! But not so fast… Take a look at this fine print:

DIGITAL COPY: Includes Standard Definition Digital Copy™ of the film with the purchase of this disc. Special Features not included. … Not compatible with iTunes or with Macintosh and iPod devices. Consumer must reside in Japan and have a broadband internet connection and a DVD-ROM drive. * Mobile Requirements: Digital copy access on mobile phones limited to supported phones using Docomo as a mobile service provider. … PC Requirements: Windows® XP Service Pack 2 or later or Windows® Vista or Windows® 7, Internet Explorer® 6.0 or above. Windows Media® Player most recent version, Adobe® Flash® Player most recent version, and Adobe® AIR™ most recent version.

Boy, that last couple of lines is packed full of exciting software that I want to install on my computer [/sarcasm].

Anyways I only have my MacBook Air here in Japan so with no disc drive it doesn’t look like I will be able to get any of the digital versions. Besides, when you go to Warner on Demand Digital copy website there are a number of other restrictions including:

※Digital CopyのダウンロードはInternet Explorerで行ってください。他のブラウザでは正常にライセンスが発行できませんので、ご了承ください。

Yes, digital downloads require Internet Explorer. Apparently they cannot license [the content properly through] other browers thank you for your understanding. (#bullshit)

I know it has all been said before. Hollywood needs to be disrupted, and not just the distribution part of the business. This is such a terrible, terrible experience. I am glad there are alternatives, but it is a sad way to treat paying customers.

Observations on the lack of “free” WiFi in Japan

WiFi Access point ads in Starbucks

Above is pictured a sign at (one of) my local Starbucks. Free WiFi is a rare thing here in Japan, at least in the form it takes in North America. There is no lack of internet access points here, but they require you to be able to login using either your home internet providers credentials, or your mobile phone provider credentials. A third way to gain access is to pay a monthly fee to a WiFi subscription service such as Wifine. None of these options is truly “free” WiFi as known in North America, since the fees for access points are buried in your monthly internet fees. That said, the form of free WiFi that we enjoy at the local café in Vancouver is not necessary here, as most people have some sort of internet provider. Though it does greatly inconvenience travellers such as myself, who have no domestic internet service profile.

It might seem extremely inefficient to serve internet access in this way. Rather than hooking up a WiFi basestation, or getting sponsored free WiFi (as Bell does for Starbucks in Canada), establishments have to make partnerships with a spread of service providers to best serve their customers. It isn’t like they have to setup different WiFi basestations, as logins all seem to be handled through web forms. Still though, it is not as straight forward. There must be some value in the complexity.

It is often said that your ISP knows more about you than Google or Facebook or any other web service. In Japan your internet service provider also knows where and when you are accessing the net when away from your home. It is just like how credit card companies can track your usage and use that information to target campaigns and products. I am not sure if the Japanese ISPs are doing this, but it seems that there is value in gathering this type of information. If they see you are accessing the net mostly in the morning at Starbucks, they could bundle some coupons for breakfast rolls in future promotion.

All this said, I am still boned. As someone outside of the system, my information is not valuable, and thus I do not get the benefit on “free” WiFi in Japan, or any breakfast roll coupons. Not that I am bitter…