Roadmap to #1

After talking with Pasha last night, I managed to further fine tune the picture of what I want to do with this new site which I will be devoting my entire time andd effort to for the next two years. It is a whole hearted commitment on my part to this idea I have been envisioning for the longest time. The first prototype ( seemed be getting rather popular amongst the locals, as well as nationalities from multiple countries that frequent Singapore.

By November 2010, I will stop all commercial activites relating to providing customized IT solutions to external third parties as well as all social activites that does not lie in the path I decide to thread.

Now what is aims to be a community platform that allows the easy sharing of location based information that will help make exploration fun and easy for travellers in various parts of the world. Being a natural extension to the original vision behind, this platform will be one that is by the people for the people.

One of the main challenges which me and Pasha have identified is the presentation of information of various forms.Thus far these are the types of content objects we have identified:

  • Bus stations
  • Travel routes
  • Accomodation Types
  • Scam and Rip offs
  • Border crossing procedures in remote parts of the world

With no intention to recreate the wheel, I started the initial prototype with the Joomla Content Management System with the use of the JomSocial component.

I envision that the various content objects will be described with the use of XML documents. A modular struture will be enforced. This will allow for easy system extension to accomodate more content object types as the platform progresses to later stages.

One of the main features for the content insertion process will be use wizards. The main intention behind this is to increase usuability for end users. I am currently pondering on how the use of XML could be used to provide a comprehensive description of a wizard content entry process.

A few months ago while I was less occupied, I did create a component for the Joomla 1.5 called the workflow component. It is somewhat similar. However due to sudden increase in commercial activites on my part, this project was left half baked and never released to the open source community. One of the main things I hope to accomplish now is to salvage chunks of the existing codes into this wizard engine I will be building for

Thus far these are my thoughts which I will slowly make reality over the next few weeks.

Progressing onwards to 2011 and beyond

So phase 1 of my plan for this coming 5 years is almost complete. Come September next month, I will proceed to the Silicon Valley in the United States to attend the Techcrunch convention. During this trip I hope to understand what actually goes in the mind of those people there so as to find some clues as to how I should go about phase 2 of my plan.  In the midst of this, I will also take a well deserved break.

Usually at these cross roads  the story of the boy in the book “The Alchemist” come to mind. “Do I stick with what is already safe and known or do I discard whatever material safety I have acquired thus far and set sail instead into unchartered waters. ” This is the one and only question I deliberate upon at these cross roads.

Past occasions of such deliberations always ended the same. With fear in my heart, I cast all I previously acquired to the winds and set sail for the unknown anyway. Some call it a leap of faith or others call it pure simple stupidity. Whichever way you see it, to me it ultimately makes life truly worth living. Fortune favours the bold!

After United States, thank my lucky stars, me and Luke will step into Abu Dhabi to see how life is like in the land of a thousand splendid suns.

In the year 2011, I will fully focus myself on the next phase of my pet project. If done properly and with the proper applications of the knowledge gained and soon to be gain, I should have no problems financing it for the next 5 years to see it achieve the level of growth I have in mind.

The future I envisioned is yet to come, but I can feel that it is just right around the corner just waiting to happen.

Curiosity and interest driven approach towards open source Joomla 1.5 technology and a backward shift

Recently my actions has been driven more by curiosity and interest than monetary purposes. I just splashed USD99 on this Joomla 1.5 component called the JomSocial. At first sight after having it installed on one of my instances, it looks rather promising. I will over the next few days during the weekends go through the documentations of JomSocial to explore the various features they have. Also I will try to see what cross features they have available with other more established Joomla 1.5 components.

The main difference between working on an interest driven project and a monetary driven project is that of the heart and the soul.

In the latter, there is always someone breathing down your neck, crazy deadlines to meet, the need to manage customer expectations so that interest of stakeholders are not compromised. high blood pressure often results. The downside risk is significant in the event of mismanagement in terms of additional cost incurred due to scope creeping by clients or misinterpretion by the technical team.  The upside rewards and capped. Do your job well or totally screw it up, the budget made available by the client is still the same. Haha, like Garis once said ” get bought, get used, and get discarded just like a bloody condom!”

In the former, I am free to explore any possibilities I can envision and things are pretty much dictated by my imagination with no strict deadlines whateverso. I can choose either to rise to great heights or crash and burn, all for the sake of fun and adventure, without the need to be answerable to anyone. The downside risk is ultimately determined by me (time and money), while the upside potential is remains hitherto undiscovered!

Also in terms of the long run, when we are looking at buidling up the volume of passive income, the former is the area to look at. Already a few of my sites are generating income of a comfortable level. Once it hits critical mass, I will do away with the latter option of selling my time to others for the sake of building their sites.

Taking one more step backwards, I am now spending less time ultilizing the skill set I acquired in university (that of programming and software architecturing) and more time ultilizing the skill set I acquired while I was back in junior college (that of reading financial statements and analyzing GDPs). Surprisingly the staff at the various banks have been very helpful in providing me with the information I need. I am also spending more time now receiving instructions from my dad on a daily basis for another skill set I have been thinking of acquiring for a while now. It seems he does know me very well and started imparting all the knowledge he acquired over the years in this field before I even asked! More than that, it seems I have already crossed path with the people of whom knowledge I need.

Talking about the alignment of stars!

I thank my lucky star

Just a few evenings ago after devouring this most valuable book by Robert Kiyosaki (Rich dad’s prophesy) which I happened to pick up free of charge from this stack of soon to be discarded books, I decided to sit down and sort out all the financial statements for all my current on going projects. All these projects were in the healthy range in terms of cash flow, however none of them were profitable.

“How so?” one upon hearing this might ask me, being  seriously puzzled ” didn’t you made money and now have more cash in your pocket? ”

“Yes I did have cash in my pocket after being engaged in the these projects. However my profit from these projects is still zero. ”

“Huh. I still don’t get you? ”

“The cash receipts for these projects are called wages, not profit. Profit is the premium derived after deducting all expenses incurred in the process of finishing the project, in which cash includes wage expenses as well. ”

Wages is an exchange of per unit time of effort for per unit quantity of money, one only has 24 hours per day. Thus one can make so much of one’s time for money. If one is satisfied sticking with this business model of exchanging per unit time of effort for per unit time of money, one can simply forget the idea of his bank account hitting the range of millions in this life time.

Like Johnson said last year “bro don’t waste your time with being a self employed, build a proper business model. You techies are talented people when it come to machines. However when it comes to money, you have no idea what the hell is happening!”

I thought I understood him then. However that understanding was still too superficial.

After receiving an advice by Peter, an in depth study of a classical doctrine and the chance encounter of a serious bottleneck, I finally saw the lights.

Peter’s advice “don’t try to do everything yourself, free up your own time, get an expert who is more capable than you to handle what needs to be handled, then you can handle more.”

The truth in the classical doctrine called the book of changes (I Ching) states, do not compete in terms of wisdom with the wise, do not compete in terms of capability with the capable, but rather acknowledge their strengths and humbly seek their assistance in your cause.

The bottleneck when a prolonged through put of more than 24 hours worth of effort per day was required was really the catalyst.

Thinking back to my days in the army, in the university as well as till just a few months ago, this character of mine was the perfect individual belonging to the S category defined as the self-employed in Robert Kiyosaki’s cash flow quadrant.

In his book, Robert states people belonging to the S category, in contrast to people belonging to the E (employees) category who are just concerned about job security, are the perfect individual’s to be assigned a task and given full autonomy. Being self driven and highly motivated by nature, you can rest assured they will accomplish their mission. However such are not people you can hope to keep in your company for long, since what they seek in contrast to Es, is independence instead of job security. They will more likely leave an organization in seeking a path of their own interest instead of stay due to high levels of wages.

One of their major flaws which prevents them from advancing into the B quadrant (business owners) is their inherent urge to do everything themselves, their need to be perfectionist. It is a flaw, I deeply understand and has been a weakness that I had been constantly trying to keep in check.

Now that I finally see th light, it is time to finish the last part of my business model I have been building over the last 2 years. To accomplish this, I will need to take all the task this position of mine is handling and write them down in strict standard operating procedures. Once done, I will need to source for a few talents that belongs nicely to the E quadrant in terms of mentality to fulfill the roles I crafted.

In a nut shell, I will need to craft carefully the algorithm that dictates the roles of the business analyst, the project manager and the sales manager to handle the all aspects of the operations. Thereafter, I shall step out of this system that I have so nicely crafted and monitor its functioning from outside.

Meanwhile since my time will be freed up by then, I will direct my resources and funds into the crafting of the next business model and go through the process of building my next money making machine.

Haha. I am a most fortunate person indeed. It seems like everytime when I am in need of something, whatever I seek will always land right in my lap.

Tactics that salesman uses all the time that totally annoys me

Normal salesman always attempt to appeal to the emotive side of my decision making process (which I leave at home while at work) when I specifically instruct them to come present and just stick with the technical details.

The most recent one just took place this evening. Dad had bought some policy on my behalf years ago and since he is now planning his retirement he was hoping that I took over the financing of this policy. I asked him for the details however he had no idea what it was, thus it happened that we arranged for the insurance agent to come present herself.

Question number one what is my ROI?

Huh? ROI?

Yes. The interest rate per year for this account?

Oh. Sorry but due to regulations by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, we are not allowed to guarantee any interest yearly rates. However, this funds has been performing quite well and will definitely continue to perform well till your age of 55.

Ok then. What kind of portfolio is this fund used for maintaining?

Loans and financing of business operations, stocks and bonds.

Ok then.

I smiled at the back of my mind thinking “so basically the shit that is happening back room is masked from us and we are presented instead with a number that is written on paper.”

One experience like which got me into some really serious shit last year was more than enough. I have no inclinations to repeat that shit again.

I continued pounding the figures away on my excel sheet while she tried to distract me from my excel sheet.

Viola, I got the figures I wanted and it didn’t seem all that good to me. I finally focused my entire attention on her.

But your dad bought this for you, it is a gift from him. You should treat this as a gift and accept it, continue financing it.

Oh yeah, I replied once again smiling merrily,  my dad is a good person. I respect him for that.

She smiled back too, thinking she finally managed to re-secure the deal once again.

So how do I close this account?

She got shocked. Why?

It is just 3% per year barely even enough to cover our inflation rate, I can get more somewhere else.

Ok then, maybe you should return this gift to your dad.

Yes I must.

Suddenly she focused her entire attention on my dad and brought out this new stack of paper about some new scheme which my dad so happened to qualify for.

“Mr Teh….”

“Thanks for your advice. I will consider it. My son should keep this funds for it.”

“Nope, dad buy your long dream about boat. You are retired now. ”

End of scenario…..

Start of next scenario…..

More capable salesman will come forth with a more logical looking proposal.

And here we have with us a product that will guarantee you lose your fats in no time. Here on this banner is one of our success stories. This person lost 19kg in 6 months out of which 70% are fat.

Wow. I am so impressed. He does look better after that. But wait what happened to that other 30%?

The salesman was momentarily caught off guard.


Oh man. 19kg * 30% =  5.7kg of something else that is not constituted by fats. Muscle mass? That is a lot of muscles too lose in just 6 months. Are you sure this drug of yours is safe.

End of next scenario…..

More capable salesman are like the 3 accursed witches in William Shakespear’s McBeth. They always tell the truth. Their truths are always so logical too. However it is just half truths.

What you know, won’t kill you
What you know you don’t know, might kill you
What you don’t know you don’t know, that will definitely kill you!  (the black swan)

Thankfully most cases presented by capable salesman fall into the 2nd group (What you know you don’t know, might kill you) if you bother to spend time to sort through the whole logic of things.

I thank my stars for the instructions I have received thus far as well as for the instructions I have yet received through all the people I met and yet to meet. Each of them bring to me in their own ways some really valuable teachings whether they are consciously aware of it or not. It is always there right in front of your eyes if you just bother to spend time to put the pieces together.

Life is great and always an adventure!

Puzzling discrepancy between current stock price of shares and actual value reflected in the financial statements

Dad has been rather laid back of late and it seems it will only get worst with him in the midst of his self declared retirement. Most afternoons would see him sitting in front of the television with the Teletext switched on and him monitoring the stock prices of a few stocks he has in his portfolio.

It seems whenever any of these companies send their quarterly financial report to him, he would just take them and throw them away without even once glancing at them. Always he would state proudly that he is only interested if they send him dividends and not trash like this.

It sounded extremely worrying to me. So apparently he is buying shares of companies without actually understanding the happenings within these companies ( as per reflected in their quarterly financial statements). That is not really investing isn’t it, it sounds more  like playing the Russian roulette in this case with his retirement money. Utter non-sense!

Thus today I went and took a look at the stocks he had been monitoring. Thankfully these companies being public listed have their financial statements (balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements) made easily available over the internet. Also even more thankfully being a graduate from the last batch of the commerce from Saint Andrew’s Junior college, having been thorough grilled in the matters of accounting and book keeping, I could at least understand somewhat the statements made available to me.

Reading through the statements, I have on a few occasions found something really puzzling. Why are current share prices higher than their net asset values as per indicated in the respective companies balance sheet? Perhaps the difference could be explained by the fact that these financial statements are outdated by 3 months or so. However such an explanation can be considered as the main cause of this difference, especially in cases whereby the share price is up to two times higher than net asset value (obviously these company can’t be performing that exceptionally well in this bearish market). Another plausible cause might be wanton speculation by investors. Well then, what goes up must come down. We will just have to wait till the next crisis comes along before share prices begin to return to earth from mars.

The Mulberry Plant from London

It was late at night. My brother is now in Germany and Pasha is sitting in his room chatting happily with Masha over skype. I have offered to put him up at my place since he is having some problems with accomodation ever since coming back from his trip around Southeast Asia.

He seems happy now. I am glad he finally recovered from this really bad situation he was in last year. Some times the only paths represented in front of you are shitty ones, so regardless of which path you take you will still need to thread through shit. Yes, threading through shit is always inevitable at some point in your life, however much you attempt to avoid. This is Karma, predestined to happen and written in the stars.

I took my cup of water and looked out of my window at the mulberry plant growing from the pot. This was one of the very few things I brought back from my pilgrimage to the west in 2008. How I came to possess this plant was a really intriguing. It is the result of a whole series of coincidences that occurred that spanned across the entire length of the silk road.

Also I could have just happily sipped my tea, puffed on my cigarette while sitting in the garden behind of Sian’s house and simply ignored it when Sian was working at uprooting the entire root network of this mulberry plant. However, there was something about Sian’s complaint about this particular that told me, this was something I need to bring back to Singapore.

I still remember how she said it “oh, this is a mulberry plant. It grows all over the place like a weed, once it gets into your garden you will have a seriously tough time clearing it out. Try as you might to clear it out, if you didn’t do a proper job and happened to leave even just one inch of root lying somewhere it will all grow back suddenly. Plus the thorns are really sharp and hard.”

Since its migration from London to Singapore, this plant had died and resurrected multiple times over. Each time it would grow and take up the entire expanse of space made available to it. Each time towards the end of each phase some shit will happen in the environment and kill off its entire network of leaves. Each time we define the end of each phase by bringing out the scissors and trimming all the dead ends away. Each time without fail it will grow back still.Each time it grew back, its roots and hold on the soil became stronger and more deeply entrenched than the previous time, with more thorns to protect its main stem system.

Now looking out the window still, I thought to myself, this was indeed a very fitting item to have brought back from my pilgrimage westwards.

Some how my game got switched

After some changes to the existing business processes within my company, I soon realized that I have more time on hand now to ponder and consider the deployment of manpower available at hand.

My chief concern now is not getting the work done myself but coming up with a logical and structured method to explain to my collaborators the kind of work that needs to be done. Metaphorically speaking, it is somewhat similar to writing a program that instructs people clearly and concisely what they need to achieve for each particular task assigned to them. Its like playing command and conquer all over again. You have troops available at hand. If you have them deployed wrongly, they get wiped out and the enemy will soon be at the gates. However if the deployment is done properly, the enemy will have problems stepping out of their own gates!

Funny, all along I had this notion in my mind that I play this game of life in the fashion of Baldur’s Gate or Diablo. It is a super cool way to live life. Just go explore what is around in search of quests and vanquish monsters encountered during the adventure, helped some times by Non-player charaters (NPC) of course. Now suddenly, it seems some bloody joker removed Baldur’s Gate or Diablo and inserted command and conquer in its place. I can no longer be  myself  concerned about finishing a quest, it became a huge campaign.

Counting off hand, I have unknowingly increased the team I am managing at the moment to 11 people split into different groups, each group concerned with the accomplishment of a single quest. Thanks to the possibilities that arose due to the flat world I am getting quite an interesting team. Lets see the head counts thus far:

2 Russians
1 Ukrainians
2 Indians
3 Singaporeans
2 Filipinos
1 American

Blame this on my novelty seeking spirit, but I am absolutely curious which other nationalities will I have the opportunity to collaborate with in the near future…

Inheritance of will

I was working the entire afternoon at the Great World City on this Father’s day. It was the launch of DBS’s EduSmart insurance scheme. I was dressed as the Judge while Dylan was dressed as the astronaut. The place was full of parents with children. It was expected. After all the edusmart insurance scheme was mainly targeted at young parents with children of pre-school age.

I was chatting with some of the kids and was asking about their dreams. What did they really wanted to become when they grew up. Apparently their dreams were mainly restricted to what professions they would like to enter into during their adult life. Lawyers, teachers, detectives, judges, car racers, astronauts! (at least 2 of these were high enough on the outrageous , and must be applauded on and strongly encouraged!)

Seeing these kids with their future with endless possibilities open before them, I had at the back of my mind some thoughts. How many of them will actually achieve their dreams and live the life they want? How many of them will eventually choose to give up their dreams as they go along in their lives and go for second best?

As one ventures further along one’s path in life seeking one’s dream, circumstances will happen. Some doors of opportunity will open and others will close. It almost feels like a game of deal or no deal. In this hypothetical game as each door closes, the  possibilities available becomes more and more limited. One is mentally breaks somewhere along the way and decides to come to a compromise and go for second best.

In the real world however, the rules of this hypothetical game does not necessarily apply. Till the time of one’s death, the possibilities available will be limitless! There are multiple doors leading to the same intended path. One need not feel despair if one such door closes. All that is necessary is to seek the next door that leads to the same path.

One thing I fear most for these kids that I had the chance to come in contact with today is that some day their parents or the social system in which we live in today might fail them and that they be mislead to believe that the hypothetical rules of deal or no deal actually applies to real life too. Johnson my cousin has one extremely nice phrase to describe this sickness that I have just described “THE SINS OF FATHERS”.

The sins of fathers is when the previous generation in an attempt to protect the younger generation from harm attempts to inculcate values that are already outdated and in some circumstances extremely harmful. These values are based on the norms perceived to work for the prior generation which might actually be very true back in the old days, however no longer applicable due to the rapid changes happening in this century of ours.

I had during today’s publicity event came across a few kids in their early stage of adolescent who gave me this very worrying response to my question “I don’t know!” Obviously something must have killed their dreams somewhere along the way between their times of early childhood and now. With no more dreams these young individuals are now cast away without any true sense of direction for their own lives.

I really wanted to grab and shake them hard then screaming right into their face these words “recall what your dreams are! Don’t let them die in some metaphysical graveyard! Fight for it! Bring it to reality! So what if society says it is not possible! So what if your parents tell you it is not practical. There is never any need to compromise! Put everything that is in your path out of the way and your dreams will definitely come true one day. Even if not, to die trying will really make this life of yours one that was really worth living!” But of course, I didn’t. Their choice of path is theirs to make.

In a sense one has to be extremely selfish and machiavellic a person to follow a path totally according to one’s desire which somewhat explains for the anger, frustration and utter helplessness sometimes felt by my parents and my love ones (or rather ex-love ones before they finally shed one tear too much). Somehow, I could not help myself , attempts to have me shackled with those invisible chains called relationships will always invoke in me either of the following three. Physical aggression, physiological aggression or simply out right rebellion. My will is my own. I was somewhat amazed that Win managed to decipher this from just reading my palm one night when we were out clubbing in Clark Quay. “My way or the high way” he concluded. Which is very true to my beliefs of life. After all, I have but an estimated 42 years of time left, I have no time to waste on making compromises.

Adjustment in style of communication

I few days ago I hit a wall in terms of communications and faced communications breakdown with one of my colleagues. I was cracking my head thinking of a solution to this problem when I suddenly recalled one of the modules I took back in the National University of Singapore which had to do with International communications (by the way my colleague is from another culture).

The lecturer during one session showed us pictorial representations of how people from different cultures tend to adopt certain styles of communicate. Of course being unable to relate to it back then, I simply discarded it out of my mind shortly after I saw it.

Having traveled through a few territories since then, I had an inkling idea how people from those parts of the world communicate. However, the communication style of people not belonging to that group was still somewhat foreign to me. I had no idea what to expect.

In this scenario, I could have, had I been more observant to what was happening around me. On a few prior occasions I had the chance to observe the style of communication from quite a few other colleagues belonging to the same territories.  I attribute this fault of mine to the fact that during those occasions I was on the receiving end of the message and not the transmitting end of the communications channel.

At the back of my mind during those occasions though, I always wondered to myself how come they have this tendency to keep repeating themselves on a point over and over again. And thus it came to pass that this exception came and hit me in the face resulting in the subsequent communications breakdown.

At first I felt extremely frustrated and being extremely puzzled why my messages were not getting through. I decided to take a break. I proceeded to east coast beach. I sat there staring at the clouds and listening to the crashing of waves for hours all the way till sunset. I was feeling somewhat refreshed and relaxed by then. It was during then that the pictorial representations shown to us by the lecturer years back flashed across my mind.

What this pictorial representations synthesized in my mind then was my recollection of my time back  in 2001 when I was working as an administrator in the Singapore Armed Forces under two Defense Science Technology Association Officers. They were dealing with contractors all the time and quite a few contractors were from the same territory as my colleague. Amazingly, they were displaying the same style of communications as those group I had the chance to work with. Somehow, back then I always found it unsettling to be on the receiving end of this style of communication where a point that has been stated gets emphasized and re-emphasized from multiple different angles till the extent all possible angles are exhausted.

Right there then on the beach with the sun setting in the west, realization dawned on me. I was too self centered. How could I expect everyone to come all the way to accommodate my style of communication (sad to say it is a a subconscious tendency we Singaporeans all have to varying degrees).

As the saying goes “If the mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain. ”

Thus I decided right there and then, I will go to the mountain. Thus I did. Slowly but surely I see improvements happening with communications between the both of us. However, I strongly believe there is still lots of room for improvements, I am still in the midst of finding the path to the foot of the mountain.