podcast: DevOps culture and misconceptions

Really enjoyed this background of DevOps as a movement to remove friction from a product idea to a feature making it to the end user.  Not focus just on continuous delivery, not focused on specific tools.  Worth listening to for anyone who cares about how to increase the velocity and quality of software releases


link: Pandora : Drought Radio Station Will Help You Time Your Showers | Burlingame-Hillsborough, CA Patch


Pandora partner with Southern California water district to create a radio station with 5 minute songs
* good way to have sponsored channels for Pandora
* great cause to save water


Tony Tam

I Privé New Summer Dish: Salmon Fiesta dish is as good as it looks


I am a partner at a modern Japanese restaurant in Burlingame, California


Our new Salmon Fiesta dish is as good as it looks. Enjoy six pieces of wild king salmon sashimi wrapped in cucumber and mango, served with sweet vinaigrette. It’s a refreshing and delightful way to begin your dining experience. And if salmon isn’t your favorite fish, the dish is also available with tuna or yellowtail.
Which fish would you try it with?

Tony Tam

Prediction of 2015 bubble and crash: Stock Market explained to my 14 year old daughter

bubble 2015

On August 08, 2015 my wife and I decided to get out of the stock market 75% into bonds.  Leaving 25% in the market.   We made this decision because my daughter will be going to private high school for 4 years and very shortly she will need money for college.

We asked ourselves 3 questions

  1. If the market crashed, would it come back in 4 years in times for college?
  2. If the market did not crash, would the gain outweigh the risk
  3. If we pull out of the market now, do we have enough for college?

I pull up the chart for S&P 500 over the last 20 years and I feel very uncomfortable with the current bubble in tech and the stock market in general.  You can see the 2000, 2005 bubbles compare with the recent highs made in S&P 500.

bubble 2015

Then a week later, when I was looking at my Yahoo Finance app, the YHOO and AAPL stocks showed YHOO at $34.04 and AAPL at $112.08.  my daughter asked me what does the price mean?   I haven’t taken the time to talk with her about stocks and money in general and thought that it was a good chance to do that.

So I explained the price of stock doesn’t mean anything except for those people who bought the stock at a higher or lower price.  The worth of a stock is in it’s Market Cap, which is the price times the number shares.  Based on AAPL’s value, it’s roughly 18 times more valuable than YHOO.  Google is roughly 10 times more valuable.

She asked why don’t people just buy the stock and sell it again immediately.  I pulled up the charts for GOOGLE, YHOO and told her that it’s not possible to know when it’s a good time to sell or buy in the short term.  It’s just like gambling, you cannot tell the future.

Also I told her that working for a company that is publicly traded, like I am for Yahoo, it’s best not to pay attention to the stock price or you will be up for an emotional roller coaster ride.

For example, for GOOG from AUG 2014 to July 2015 the stock was down or just flat and did nothing.  If you were an employee who paid a lot of attention, then you were basically left with zero gain.  Only the recent euphoria did the stock pop.  If you bought Google stock, would you sell at the low, sell at the high or keep it for future gains?

GOOG stock price

The people who buy the stock are mostly in it to make money and do not really care deeply about the product or the work that is done within the company.  So an employee should have the intrinsic motivation for the great work instead of the stock price.

Look at Twitter as another example.  Great product, great engineers.  But now that they are having a crisis because of the CEO stepping down, no user growth and a sinking stock price.  Does that make the work any less valuable and interesting?  Probably not.  But the morale in the company is sinking.  As a public company, the motivations can become too focused on the outside press and the stock price.

I think told her how much my wife and I have saved up for her tuition for college and since she is only 4 years away from college, I told her that I do not want to risk her college fund and I pull 75% of my S&P 500 stock investments into bonds.  I have a feeling that the stock market is heading for a correction of at least 25% to 50% because the ridiculous tech euphoria that is out there.  There are plenty of privately own tech businesses that are burning cash, loosing money and have no viable business plans.  There are people graduating from 8 weeks of tech training classes and getting offer 6 figure salaries.   This is a sign of an over heated market.

Finally she asked me if I was good at picking stocks.  I said I was horrible at picking stocks.  Because it requires high discipline, removing the common human weakness of not wanting to loose money.   That is why I told her I buy the S&P 500.  I told her, I’m pulling out of market based on my own uneasiness with the stock market and that we have to pay for college.

As for all stock market predictions, this a 50/50 gamble.  I could be right or I could be wrong, but I sleep better.

reading: Infrastructure As Code



Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/jedi4ever/code-but-not-as-we-know-it-infrastructure-as-code

Book Preview: http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920039297.do

With Early Release ebooks, you get books in their earliest form—the author’s raw and unedited content as he or she writes—so you can take advantage of these technologies long before the official release of these titles. You’ll also receive updates when significant changes are made, new chapters as they’re written, and the final ebook bundle.

This book explains how to take advantage of technologies like cloud, virtualization, and configuration automation to manage IT infrastructure using tools and practices from software development. These technologies have decoupled infrastructure from the underlying hardware, turning it into data and code. “Infrastructure as Code” has emerged alongside the DevOps movement as a label for approaches that merge concepts like source control systems, Test Driven Development (TDD) and Continuous Integration (CI) with infrastructure management.

Virtualization and cloud make it easy to rapidly expand the size of infrastructure, but the habits and practices we used in the past with hardware-based infrastructure don’t keep up. Teams end up with hundreds of servers, all a bit different, and find themselves unable to fully automate their infrastructure.

The book will go through the challenges and problems created by all these wonderful new tools, and the principles and mindset changes that a team needs to make to use them effectively. It describes patterns, practices, and ideas that have been adopted from software development, especially Agile concepts, and brought into the IT Ops world as part of the DevOps movement. These ways of working have been proven in many organizations, including well known names like Netflix, Amazon, and Etsy, and also in more established organizations including publishers, banks, and even the British government.” – from http://shop.oreilly.com

link: Meet The Operators: Q&A with Christa Quarles, CFO of OpenTable

From conducting Equity Research at Thomas Weisel to entering tech as the CFO of Playdom (which she helped sell to Disney for $760mm), Christa Quarles went on to senior roles at Disney and Nextdoor. She is now the CFO of OpenTable and is in charge of figuring out the strategy for what OpenTable does next after it’s $2.6B sale to Priceline. Christa sat down with Zaw to discuss the ways in which she has shaped the companies that she has been a part of.”


Rosie The Riveter museum in Richmond


“As the U.S. faced a new and daunting challenge of a global war in the 1940s, people on the home front came together as never before. The stories of their struggles, which broke barriers and shaped many of today’s best social innovations, chart a path for new vision today.

Rosie the Riveter is a reminder to all of us to try new things, test our limits, and believe in ourselves and others. These tales of dedication and courage can inspire us!”

image image image – Tony Tam

Living without regrets until our dying days


We will all die one day.  That is the way of life, it’s interesting that even kids realize their parents will die one day and they don’t seem very surprised by that.  It’s an eventual fact all humans accept as part of life.

People often say “live life as if it’s your last”.  I interpret that as live life as you may die any day and you should live your life with no regrets.

– Live life with nothing unsaid to your love ones.  Say “I love you” now.  Say “I am blessed to have you in my life”.  Say “You are good enough as you are”

– Live life with with no regrets.  If you have made mistakes, try as hard as you can to rectify them now or accept that you made mistakes and forgive yourself.  If there is something you have not done yet and you will regret not doing it, tell your love ones that you want to accomplish that before you die and do them together with your love one.

–  Make choices now between what is truly important to you when you are on your death bed.  If you imagine when you are dying, what would you wish to have spent more time on.  Is it work?  Would you want to be leave a legacy of work behind, choose that now.  Is it family and friends?  Would you want to be surrounded by friends and family who all feel like you have spent your best self with them?  Choose them now, don’t tell them when you are dying that you wish you spent more time.  You have the power to make that change, NOW

We are flawed humans, we will make the wrong choices.  Time is also ticking away for all of us. Most of us will likely live until we are 80 years old, some of us unlucky ones will die sooner that others

It’s the choices we make along the way that will define us as the unique individual we all are.

Tony Tam

money makes more money

(repost from 1/9/2007)

I believe I have a healthy relationship with money. I know how to invest my money, I know how to earn money, and most importantly I know how to spend money on the people in my life.

I usually don’t make such bold statements since I’m usually a humble person.

Money in itself is a concept, it’s an enabler. It enables me to support myself and my family. It enables me to show my gratitude to my parents. It enables me help a friend fulfill his dreams of opening a restaurant. It enables my daughter to go to a private school.

It’s painfully obvious to me that many people don’t spend enough energy learning about how to invest their money. What they are missing out is the ability to have money earning more money.

We all work hard for the money, we owe it to ourselves to get educated about how to invest it. Let the money grow by itself.

Next time you hear yourself say: I don’t know how to invest: remember these words: ‘There is no excuse, learn about it. It’s not magic.’

“Pink” College

(old post from 2007)

Kate loves watching Blue’s Clues and especially one episode, “Steve goes to college”. So tonight, instead of reading she wanting me to tell her all about college. I used this perfect timing to tell her about learning and doing well in school.

Kate: “Is there a pink college? I want to go there.”

Me: “Sure I’m sure there are pink colleges. There is a Brown college. If you study really well in school, you can go to any college you want”

Kate: “I hope I study well”

Me: “Yeah, or else you may end up going to a gray and boring college, that won’t be fun”

Kate: “yeah….”

Don’t be that person…

Pencil sketch

Don’t be that person

  • who does not respond to emails
  • who does not respond to feedback
  • who is late to meetings
  • who says he will do something but doesn’t after repeatedly reminded
  • who speaks at a level of detail that is too little or too much in an executive meeting
  • who gets too emotional in a professional setting

(The drawing is a sketch from my daughter for her art class)

Pencil sketch

Making a difference in the large corporate world

While chatting informally with some co-workers, I heard some of them talking about their frustrations about not feeling recognized for their work or working on projects they don’t think makes a difference.

Corporations, which usually mean people in management roles, value those individuals who go beyond doing what they are told to do and look up from their daily work and try to plan for what they want to accomplish in the next 9 months.

As engineers, we are judged on our productivity but more importantly for our potential and influence. For any piece of work we produce, how many other engineers does it influence? Is the engineer helping others to be more productive? Can the engineer take on bigger projects?

When we work on any project, we should ask ourselves what is the BHAG? What is the elevator speech if I happen to be standing next to the CEO and she is asking me what my project is about.

If you are working on a project that you think is not adding a lot of value, finish up the project, document it well and ask to be assign to something else. Better yet, dream up something you are really passionate about, and pitch your idea to as many people as you can.

Cate: Will I hate you when I’m a teenager?

Cate in Paris

The original post was in 2005.

A few days ago, Cate asked “Dad, will I hate you as a teenager?”

I was a bit caught off guard.  I told Cate that it’s possible that when kids grow into their teenage years, their hormones could change, and they are testing the boundaries of being independence. There will be a lot more conflict between the parent and child. However, if we continue to communicate, if I spend quality time with her and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company, I don’t see why it has to be the case that my teenage daughter will hate me.

I did tell her that she might be embarrassed by me since I am very geeky and uncool. This she did laugh at, and agreed.

Life Is.. Work And Love?

Copenhagen train

copenhagen.bike copenhagen.train.2 copenhagen.brompton

(Repost from 2006)

So this film producer and I were chatting on the train back from Copenhagen and we got on the subject of working for Yahoo! and I was telling him about how I got a very unique perspective about the major news events the last 7 years. Almost 100% of the people out there hear about a huge news story and go to the tv or internet and find out more about it.

My job as a news engineer is sort of twisted, when a huge news events happens, my only concern at that moment is not about that news event, how many people died. My concern is about whether we have enough server capacity to handle the news event, what type of news articles are we getting from our wire services, and how to get those stories up to our web servers as soon as possible.

The most memorable time was sept. 11 when David Filo calmly asked me how we could satisfy infinite demand for news? I remember that day well, because I felt my blood was cold, not because of the event but my mind was completely focused, I was in the moment, trying to solve that one particular problem David posed for me.

I’ve often written about how lucky I am to be working for Yahoo! How I am part of a team here at Yahoo! News who touch the lives of more than 30 million users every month. If I infer from our data, over 7 years, what we’ve done here at Yahoo! News has touched the lives of over 100 million users. How many people have that opportunity to work in a job where that little bit of cyber dust gets distributed from your fingers tips to that many users? I count my blessings.

Now back to the film producer: he looked at me and said that he is very happy for me. For finding that peace, able to look back at my career and reflect on what I’ve accomplished.

He said “Life is really just about 2 things. Work and Love” I infer from what he said: work is how you fit into this world and how you define yourself. Love is what’s in your heart and what’s in your soul. I got slightly wet at the corner of my eyes as I think about whether I’ve given my love from my heart and from my soul. Most probably not.. more to work on.

Corporate Efficiency : “Humans Are The Problem”

I sometimes say in jest that in the corporate world the “humans are the problem”. Communication, expectation and difference in perspectives are some of what causes executions of projects to not work.

This is a response to frustrations expressed by people on my team that “other” people are doing things the “wrong” way. I find it fascinating there are such divergent views of the same project. Thus happens often when a project spans across multiple teams and multiple timezones. Also when team members play very well defined roles, it may be difficult to see gaps which don’t fit these roles.

For example, when a customer reports an issue, and he has already done a lot of troubleshooting on his own but has hit a wall. He reports a ticket as a bug, with very cryptic message such as “feature X” is not working. His expectation here is that someone will respond in less than 24 hours and maybe even provide a fix for the problem. The team that is assigned the ticket 1) may not be the right team 2) may be fully committed to other tasks 3) may not be looking at incoming requests on a regular basis. In a scrum environment, the team also is highly incentivized to deliver what they started the sprint with and ignore all incoming request unless it’s a spike item.

The original ticket may not even get looked at for 2 days. Meanwhile the customer is frustrated with lack of confirmation. This is when there may be a start of escalations to various management and eventually the original team will have to spend time looking at the item anyways, but precious time will have been wasted on escalations.

Humans are inherently flawed in the way we perceive the world. We can only see the world in a limited number of perspectives. In the corporate world, that often is the perspective of our well defined role. When we can see more than one perspective and if we do this for a small amount of time everyday, it goes a long way to solving and filling the gaps in expectations, having empathy for the person on the other side of the team boundary and the other side of the world if that person is in another timezone.

A corporation is a mini version of everyday interaction in our personal life. When we think there are problems, it usually means “humans are the problem”. Which to me means: we should look to ourselves to see what we can do personally to change and fix the problem.


Family Portrait From 1975 in Hunan, China

tam family
Tam family 1975

I grew up in communist China from 1970 to 1979 before coming to the United States. This photo is a rare photo of our family together.  This is the time when China just opened their immigration policy to allow people to leave China.

My mom was a pediatrician, my dad was an architect. I have fond memories of a community who worked hard, all paid equal amounts (around $75 a year) and surround by people who were liked minded.

My vivid memories before I was 9 years old were

  • walking to get breakfast with food ration tickets
  • getting up early for a morning run with all my classmates at the crack of dawn
  • doing morning exercise routines and eye exercises to keep our eyes healthy
  • raising silk worms
  • trying my first cigarette and choking and swearing I would never again
  • huddle together with the family to try a rare pot of molasses and twirling it with chopsticks
  • waiting for my dad to come back after a 3 month business trips, he was gone most of the time
  • eating roasted hot peppers that my sister gave me as a prank
  • cheering my sister on as she competed in jump rope competition
  • getting my first red scarf after being induced into the little red army while holding the little red book of Mao
  • making our annual coal blocks to burn in our cooking stove using a metal stamping tool
  • huddle together with others in a dorm to watch the only TV in the whole building
  • bringing empty toothpaste tubes to trade for candy
  • bring a bowl of rice to a cart outside to get pop rice
  • reading Chinese hand written letters in cursive from my relatives
  • watching my dad do Chinese calligraphy
  • looking at the hand drawn architecture plans my father finished that night
  • running away from boarding school and crying until my parents took me out
  • head lice, falling down into a sewer, falling flat on my back from an elephant shaped slide
  • sleeping on bamboo beds and my mom fanning me to sleep

In the backdrop, my parents did struggled with their friends who were re-educated and committed suicide under enormous pressure from cultural revolution.  As a kid, the events of the cultural revolution just seem to be normal events that I hear my parents talk about.  They ultimately made a choice that my sister and I didn’t have a future in China and were able to come to the US through immigration because my grandmother was here since the 1960’s.

Visit With Passionate People


I was visiting this jewelry store in Rome by a very famous jewelry maker Diego Percossi Papi (exibition). The shop is tiny and I was a bit intimidated since the jewelry were all well over $1,000. I looked into the shop for a good 5 minutes until the owner/designer buzzed me in and told me to look around.

We got talking about jewelry and he pulled out his custom jewelry that he was making for his clients. He told me he’s been making jewelry for 40 years. He usually takes a sentimental piece of stone from a client and he’ll design something custom. Each piece takes him about 1 hour to sketch and 18 hours to make. I ended up asking him to take a photo with me.. I was in love with a $1,600 diamond/ruby ring. Maybe next time I go back to Rome, I’ll have something made for me.

Passion plus longevity is such a rare thing. I think it must be such a gift to have passion for something and be able to do it for 40 years. I hope my little fingers and eyes can survive for another 30 years so that I can still type for Y!

Listening to: Public Shaming in the Age of Social Media

In 2013, public relations executive Justine Sacco tweeted an offensive AIDS joke before boarding a flight to South Africa. By the time she landed, she had been denounced around the world, and lost her job soon after. Did Sacco deserve her public humiliation? Or was she yet another victim of social media shaming and a growing “culture of outrage”? Journalist Jon Ronson examines these questions in his new book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.”

* Duration 51:45, Play Position: 9:39

* Published 4/10/15 12:15:10 PM

* Episode Download Link: http://podcastdownload.npr.org/anon.npr-podcasts/podcast/151/510075/398825275/KQED_398825275.mp3?orgId=151&e=398825275&d=3120&ft=pod&f=510075

* Show Notes: http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201504100900?pid=RD19

* Podcast Feed: KQED FM KQED s Forum Podcast (http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast.php?id=510075)

Android Development: Troubleshooting Nested Fragment

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 9.27.54 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 9.27.54 AM

I am working on an Android app which takes the menu data from Locu.com API display the dinner, drink, dessert menu and allows a customer to add items they are interested in into a ‘cart’ for the wait staff to look at and discuss the item the customers are interested in.

I’m using the project as a learning experience.  In the last week I was struggling with getting Android Fragments to work properly because I have nest Fragments.  The app has a main Activity, with a tab viewer, 3 Fragments and Fragments inside those 3 Fragments.   My app would often crash when I swipe back and forth and it looked to me like the Fragment::onCreateView() was called multiple times which was what the Fragment lifecycle was suppose to do.

I traced this down to the Android core code dealing with Fragments and thought maybe the problem is with the v4 API.

I have tried these 3 routes and I’ve finally found the fix this morning

  1. Replace the default Android Tab layout with PagerSlidingTabStrip ref: Android Guides from CodePath
  2. Use code to create the Fragment instead of using layouts, this didn’t work either
  3. Finally from this stackOverflow article (link), a gem that mentions Nested Fragments are support now at version 4.2+ Android SDK http://developer.android.com/about/versions/android-4.2.html#NestedFragments

What I’ve learned

  1. StackOverflow is very useful but there are conflicting answers
  2. The Android SDK is complex because there are so many backward versions, but having the Android source code to step through is invaluable. Also the main documentation did not talk about Nested Fragments being supported.
  3. Having Gradle to manage dependencies is fantastic

When I’ve found things to be useful, I have been adding the to my bit.ly Android bundle

link: Your kids will not be grateful until they are 30 years old. NYTimes: All Parents Are Cowards

This article reminds me of how I felt as a single parent with Cate.  Scared, protective and constantly worried.  As she is heading to highschool, I wish to teach her to be independent, free thinker, know to fail and recover.  For other parents, this article is a great read amd a reminder that being a parent is a thankless job, but that is circle of life.

NYTimes: All Parents Are Cowards

Return on investment of online marketing for restaurants using Yelp, Yahoo, Google, Facebook

I Privé

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.34.08 PM

In helping my friend’s modern Japanese I Privé raise awareness, we decided to try to pay for marketing on Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, Google.  Here is what I’ve learned about the effectiveness of these companies.  Keep in mind that is this my owner personal experience and not based on a large marketing budget and only apply to a small restaurant.

When we think about marketing, it’s not just about driving people to visit the restaurant, it’s also about building a relationship over the long term so that we can communicate with current and potential customers.  The return on investment focused on long term relationship as well as sustained value.


Yelp is the first platform most people think of when they want to find a new restaurant. When we started the restaurant, we agreed that building a good reputation on Yelp is the primary focus.  To do that, we have to focus on awesome food and great service and the Yelp ratings should take care of itself.  We also agreed that we have to be listening and responding to any negative feedback and act on them.

We did pay Yelp for advertising in one of his previous restaurants and noted that the ROI for paying removing competitor ads, hosting a video, pay for view ads for similar restaurants was about $3 / click to our page.   We thought that was not worth paying for.  The main reason was that for a new restaurant, we wanted to build a good reputation on Yelp rather than just driving traffic.  So we decided to pay $0 on Yelp but focused a lot of time responding to customer.

We do love Yelp’s transactional business model.  The integration with Locu for $20/ month.  The integration with online reservation with seatme.com for $99/month.   These services are well worth the money.  I did an analysis of Opentable, the cost would have been about 8 times the rate of seatme.com.  We had the luxury of too many people wanting to get in, so we didn’t need the exposure of Opentable for immediate term traffic.

Future: We spend 50% our time focused on paying attention to Yelp and responding to our customers.  We would love to integrate with Eat24 as well once the pricing model looks better.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.17.36 AM


When we looked at our referral data for our website http://iprivesake.com/, Yahoo and Bing combined to have < 1% of referral.  We decided to first focused on improving our SEO and make sure when users looked for ‘i prive’ they would find us.  We worked on this for 3 months, even thought the current search for ‘i prive’ still has a suggestion for ‘in private’, our website appears to be #2 in the search result.

At the 3rd month of opening, we decided to spend buying native ads on Yahoo Gemini.  The Gemini ads appear on mobile, desktop and search on yahoo.com and other *.yahoo.com sites.  To my surprise, we saw a 0.07% click through rate.  While that doesn’t sound like a lot, the CPC was $0.48 which is almost 6 times better than Yelp.  (While the CPC on Yelp is higher, I do agree the quality of the acquisition is way better on Yelp because people are looking to each that day or that week)

I also love the Yelp check in deals, because we get to see how many people checked in for the deal and how many redeemed.

Future: We decided to continue to buy ads on Yahoo in order to build brand awareness and expand our reach.  There are some drawbacks in the granularity of the demographics and geolocations we can target to.  It’s at the DMA level and not on the city level.


We bought Google Ad words ads which would show our ads on affiliates and on Google search for certain keywords.  Very surprisingly, the Google Ad Words was not very cost effective.  We had a CPC of almost $1.11.   We were getting 40% of our web traffic from google.com, without paying them anything.  They did a great job of refreshing their index and our SEO worked really well.

Future: For restaurants, Google Ad Words would drive clicks, but I cannot retain a long term relationship with the customers after that first click.  We decided to stop and just pay attention to continue to improve our SEO and also the integration with Google+ into the search results is effective for coupon promotions.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.14.43 PM


I am not a personal user of Facebook, but I was surprised at how well Facebook marketing was.  For a CPC of about $0.77, I’m able to get a Facebook like.  From that point on, I’m able to market to about 10% of the audience via free news feed.  Then I can boost my feed post to about 4,000 people for about $50.00.  This is great to keep people engage on a weekly basis as well as do one time promotions of coupons.

Future: The bulk of marketing dollars will go into gaining Facebook likes for the next 6 months as well as posting photos to keep users engaged.  Also it seems like people don’t really mind when we post about 1 photo a day.  It’s not like email spam, because you can ignore the news feed posts.

I Privé Facebook
I Privé Facebook


From the beginning, my vision is to build a relationship with customers.   Customers who subscribed to our email list will only get 1 email per month, never more than that.  We get almost 250% better open rates than the industry norm.  It’s a great way to build a long term communication channel with our customers.  Email coupon campaigns have proven to be hugely effective.

Future: I think we continue to keep up our part of the bargain, never spam our customers and we built the email list.  We are growing about 50% a month here, so it’s worth to keep on investing.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.15.37 PM



What surprised me is how ineffective Google campaigns are.   Facebook demographic targeting, the real time feedback about how effective each ad is really has pushed Facebook forward and convinced me to open up most of our marketing budget.  Yelp’s checkin deals are effective as well for restaurants.  Ultimately, we want to own the relationship with our customers, so the most valuable marketing is our email database.  And the surprising dark horse has been Yahoo Gemini ads.

Re: HTML5 Dev Conf: JavaScript Programming Style and Your Brain with Douglas Crockford

Watch his talk on YouTube

  1. Programming is one of the hardest things humans do
  2. Programming uses Head and Gut, we don’t really know how we do it
  3. JavaScript: Good Parts. Bad Parts.  It was done in 10 days and released to the wild
  4. JSLint : defines and professional subset of JavaScript
  5. JSLint will hut your feelings
  6. Example: braces should be consistent.  Javascript forces on the right because there are cases (return statement that forces this)
  7. We are constantly making mistakes, this is why rational people don’t do programming
  8. “That hardly ever happens”, is another way of saying “It happens”
  9. A good style can help produce better programs. Style should not be about personal perference and self expression

link: 12 Books That Every Leader Should Read


01+01(Photo from my restaurant I Privé)

I listened to Bob Sutton’s podcast on Scaling Excellence Successfully podcast fro the Center for Social Innovation podcast at Stanford

I checked out his blog and found a list of books he recommends.  I’ve put To Sell is Human, By Dan Pink. in my SF library queue.  (I removed the referral code from the link)

Check out his blog

Find that one true sport you love

Tony at Yahoo Google badminton tournament

Tony at Badminton Tournament

In high school I played badminton for 4 years. I liked the sport, but did not love it.

When I went to UC Berkeley, I join the badminton club and we trained and competed against other colleges. We would travel both days on weekends, come back as a team, have dinner together and laugh about the tournaments. I played singles, doubles and mixed doubles. My feet would often have blisters and when my parents were shocked to see how much pain I was in, I told them I barely feel them during the games.

I truely loved the game. I setup practice nets in the garage and practiced serving hundreds of birdies a night.

The sport was the one ‘class’ that I truly look forward to.

After college, I dreamed about badminton, but because of work, having my child, Cate and being depressed, I was not able to play for 10 years.

When the wave of badminton gyms open up in 2006, I signed up with 3 coaches and they taught me and trained me for 4 hours each week. I biked to my sessions in Menlo Park, I would take public transportation for 3 hours to get to my sessions. I played tournaments. I was truly happy.

Today, I am able to spare time to play badminton at least once a week. When I am playing, I feel like the luckiest person. I have a sport I truely love, I am very good at it. Mostly importantly, I can walk to any gym in any country and talk badminton and build small relationships with my fellow badminton players. When I visited Bangalore, Malaysia, Seattle, China and Taiwan, I often walk up to people and just play pick up games.

I hope my daughter also is so lucky to have a sport she truly loves, and is good at. No matter how hard other parts of life get, she will know she has something she loves to fallback on.

Face to face meetings: when they are useful

burlingame tree

I’ve struggled with having too many meetings where I didn’t find them useful, but I felt that there is 10 minutes of useful information so I go to get that info.

This particular week, I’ve had several useful meetings. The 3 attributes of these meetings that made them particularly productive are

1) They are 30 minutes so it forces us to get to the point
2) It’s not one way sharing of information, rather it was setting context and then a lot of discussion and answering questions. In the end, both sides ended up getting what they wanted.
3) The right people was in the room, there is no “I’ll ask this other person later”

Before paying for recurring service, know how they make money

Grill oysters from I Privé

I am in a position to evaluate different point of sale systems for a restaurant I’m invested in (I Privé).  There are 3 different business models I have seen.

  1. Take a percentage of every credit card transaction, give away the hardware
  2. Hosted software, charge a recurring monthly fee per hardware device
  3. Sell one time hardware, one time license fee per device and optional support control monthly.

Let’s assume the restaurant makes $1 million in revenue, needed 3 POS systems, 5 mobile devices.

For option #1, that comes to $20,000 in costs.

For option #2, it comes to about $300 / month, $3,600 / month

For option #3, it comes down to $7,000 in one time equipment and $600 / year.

Over 10 years, $200,000 vs $43,200 vs $7,200

A quick back of the envelope calculation, tells me to go for #3, assuming all things being equal. Of course #1, #2 do look like they have more functionality and more extensibility.  And #1 and #2 also look like they are heavily staff, with ambitions to go public.  I don’t blame them since the revenue growth would be very high, but at the cost of the restaurant business.

Having the hunger to standout

tony yahoo anniversary

Out of a team of 10 people, how do you standout without making others look bad?

Figure out what is the BHAG. Out of the 10 features, bugs, on the list of todo, what are the most important pieces that move the needle?

Write down all your ideas about improving, developing those 2 things.

Ask to take ownership and responsibilty.

Look at them, rank them, carry them with you and work on them everyday.

Anything great worth doing is worth doing (almost) every day

2014-11-28 13.29.05

If you want to start doing something and improve and do it really well, I suggest you do it everyday. Even if it is only 10 minutes a day, find some time to do it. 10 minutes a day, 365 a year is 3650 minutes a year, almost 60 hours.

You will find that once you build up this habbit, it’s hard to even stop doing it.. You will get better at whatever it is you do.

Savor the moment

I’ve noticed that when I received really good news such as a pay raise, a promotion, really great results from a test (in college). The happiness level rises up for a very short time (less than 1 hour), then my emotion tappers off back to what it was before.

This could be the way my brain is wired. I tend to dwell on the negative, or what I could be doing better.

To try to reverse not savoring the moment, I try to remind myself to ride the high of the good news for at least a week. This works very well and helps me to be grateful for the good news and builds up my resilience for the bad news when and if it ever comes.

Spending time on things that matter

Christmas ornaments

When you decide on what to spend your time on at work, try to spend your time that you can actually make a big impact. Otherwise in today’s corporate world, you don’t get credit or acknowledgement on it.

Either decide not to work on it, or if you decide to spend X% of time on it, do an awesome job at it.

We all multitask and work on multiple things, try to trim those that you cannot give full attention to.

Back of the envelope calculation

Embrace the fact that you won’t get the exact number right.

But make sure to get the order of magnitude correct. Should you be getting 50, 500, 5000, 50,000 customers?

If you get 30,000 page views, 6,000 clicks and 50 customers what that’s a good marketing return on investment?

Once you have mastered being able to do quick < 5 mins back of the envelope calculations, the you can make decisions faster and more accurately

On passion

When you are working on something time passes by without you knowing it.

When you start creating a list of things that you want to continue improving and you’re actually getting them done.

Whenever you have a free moment when you’re thinking about it or doing something for it.

You wish you have more time to continue working on it.

You are very lucky to be passionate about something.