Regarding mobile messaging, Sillicon Valley is starting to play catch-up

Silicon Valley pay attention: these following products are challenging the status quo. Whatsapp and Instagram or even social network sites can probably learn a lot just by looking at some of their functions. They are so good that I wonder if they might actually one day be able to become international platforms.

Find new friends close by, a feature instagram doesn't have.

Wechat has a facebook like wall where you can create a profile. But also allows you to find strangers around your house.

Kakaotalk also offers free calling (skype), scheduling meetings with your chat group and voting.

Kakaotalk also offers free calling, scheduling meetings with your chat group and voting.


Kakaotalk has 106 million users worldwide. It is the main distributor/publisher in Korea with a number of games in the top 10, with a collective $311 million in revenue during the first half of 2013 alone. They innovate with virtual goods but the platform also allows m-commerce, for example, you can buy a coffee at a starbucks for a friend.


Wechat is the fifth most used app worldwide with 400 million users, with 100 million international users, it evolved from a Chinese whatsapp to Whatsapp, Instagram and a dating site combined. The dating aspect (picture) became clear to me once I clicked ‘discover friends near by’ throwing back a list of wechat users within 100 meters from me, a feature which I haven’t seen on any other platform. Interestingly enough, you can link your bank account to Mobile payments and recently they added paid access to diary entries of celebrities. Talking about a paywall…


Kakaotalk and Wechat started with a messaging app just a year ago, but have transformed into platforms they can monetize. This is something instagram, Vine or even Twitter haven’t achieved. This is where silicon valley is starting to play catch-up regarding social applications.

Weixin | iOS & Android

Kakaotalk | iOS & Android

Try them out for yourself!

You can find me at:

Wechat Kakao
photo kakao


Shanghai: Guyi garden and tea city

747 - arrival with KLM

Did Shanghai Change over the last year?

To celebrate my exact one year return to Holland I decided to go to Shanghai and see what had changed over there. Upon arrival (Again, our KLM flight didn’t dock at Pudong) I decided to take the bus to the city. A lot of people ask me if I think the city changed during the last year. I met quite a few expats that were let go over the last year or had trouble keeping their jobs. I also noticed more south Europeans trying their luck in this euphoric city. Construction is still going on, with expanding highways, railways and many new malls opening. On a side note, travelling outside the city, including Sheshan, I still noticed those huge apartment blocks are still largely vacant. The restaurant prices had risen over the year, some over 30%. Contrary of what I read online, I noticed most (rich) Chinese still carry iPhones. Xiaomi is gaining popularity. Anyway, I was here as a tourist so I wanted to share a two destinations with you:

Guyi garden

Entrance of Guyi garden 古猗园

Entrance of Guyi garden 古猗园

A Shanghai friend offered to take me to one of his favourite gardens. Together we drove to Nanxiang, just out of town. There lies the Guyi garden, which is over 500 years old. I did visit Chinese gardens in the past but this one seemed a lot less busy and was quite big.

Guyi King lotus

Guyi King lotus

Enjoy the serenity of the garden and have a seat. You will notice all the little details of the garden. Very neat. We left and ate some xiaolongbao just outside the garden.

The garden is located in Nanxiang town, about 20km outside Shanghai. Here is a wiki page with information: Guyi garden.

On the way back to Shanghai, at 20km distance, the new Shanghai Tower was already visible

On the way back to Shanghai, at 20km distance, the new Shanghai Tower was already visible

Tianshan Tea city

Another great destination is the tea city at Zhongshan lu in Shanghai. While we were living in Shanghai, we got used to drinking loose leaf tea. My wife used to buy all our tea at a particular shop inside this tea city. We were almost running out. Visiting our regular shop resulted in a hour long tea sampling session. I brought home yellow, white and jasmin tea.

Tianshan tea city entrance

Tianshan tea city entrance

Chinese tea culture

Chinese tea culture

Swimming in Shanghai: Maya Playa water park


For a bit of holiday feeling, I’ve visited the new Maya Playa water park in Sheshan town, Shanghai (上海玛雅海滩水公园). Proclaiming to have over 30 rides for visitors to enjoy. It was a lot. They feature a lazy river, steep slides and bigger slides that you take by boat. The water park is huge and there are also slides for kids.

maya_playa_sliderI really, really had a fun time there. There are some great slides and just looking at people picking up surfing was a lot of fun as people cheered for the ones staying on the board for over one minute.

Since I was visiting in the last weekend of their summer season it was very quiet in the park. As in, one hour in I’ve met all the other visitors that day. The park is build for thousands so you can imagine, there was no line at all at any of the rides for me.

bodysurfing at maya playa shanghaiEven though the park is just a few months old, it did look old. I’m not doubting the water quality but more how everything from the paint to the buildings already looks a bit worn out. It was a bit dirty.

At a certain time there was an entertainment show. A few dancers on the main square dancing to some songs and a very loud announcer.

Entrance was 150 RMB, 50 RMB for the locker, which includes 30 RMB deposit. Then they also charge 20 RMB for a boat. Lunch was about 30 RMB, KFC style burger with french fries. I couldn’t find any coffee or icecream sales point.

How to get there: Take subway line 9 to Sheshan station (佘山站) and then I got a taxi there, on the way back I found that there seems to be a free shuttle service as well. Check out their website:


I forced myself to run in 2008 to get in shape for a fun run. I didn’t like it at all. However, soon I enlisted in a half marathon and the habit of training and running a few kilometers stuck to me. Runs that stand out are the Marathon in Seoul [1], Shanghai [1] [2], and small runs on holiday in Hong Kong and San Francisco. After arrival in a different country, running can be a great way to get over a jet lag and to explore the area around your hotel.

Back home, I’ve made it a habit to run a few kilometers every weekend. I don’t necessarily join big events but run because I like it. Especially early Sunday mornings; as there aren’t that many people out yet and I found a perfect round from my house straight to a river dike (I am in the Netherlands after all). Looking over the Lek river in either sunny, stormy or rainy weather is always serene experience.

When I finished my Sunday jogging session today I noticed that I’ve already logged a moderate 800km on dailymile. I haven’t logged all my runs on this site, but try to do so to keep track of my progress. It’s fun to see those numbers accumulate over time. Find me here.

logged 800km with dailymile. They provide some nice captions as well.

Logged 800km, or calories equal to 300 donuts with dailymile.

How to scout IT talent in Shanghai

IMG_4926So you setup shop in Shanghai and started to look around to extend your web-development team? A recurring question I’ve received is how we used to spot talent in Shanghai. We started by looking at the universities but ended up hiring over 10 people with the experiences below.

1. Not so good: visiting universities at random:

On a Friday afternoon in 2010, I walked into the East China Normal University in Shanghai. I explained the guards that I was starting a company and had the desire to meet some graduate IT students. Surprisingly, I was let through. Two finance students showed me around. They were interested in my intentions but couldn’t help me more then point me to the software development building. I was let inside but there were barely any students outside the library. And the ones inside looked too busy to be disturbed. The only thing that didn’t make that trip a total failure is that I could leave my flyers on the canteen wall. However, in the following week, not one call came in. (A seperate story is how we came back to the very same uni to find great interns later) I had to find another way.

2. Better: seeking students online

Back in the office the next week, I ousted my frustrations to a friend in HR. She pointed me to a recruitment network called Here is the thing with First off, it’s in Chinese but that shouldn’t hold you back. The other: most employers pay to create a company profile and a job profile and sit back while the applicants sign up. I made that mistake as well. The amount of time spent going through resume’s was enormous and I didn’t find any good applicants. Instead, I found a liking in the resume search bar. I was looking for a javascript frontend developer and was able to find a long list by narrowing down to our area in Shanghai and adding JS related terms (Like jQuery etc) into the searchbar. I then went over the remaining list and invited every candidate by telephone. This often resulted in a language/communication problem but when I did a follow up with a SMS in English I always got an answer. I usually setup interviews at coffee-shops and such. Be aware, like in every interview worldwide, that some might exaggerate their credentials. Mostly a gut driven decision to hire someone in the end I would say.

3. Best: Networking

The first team members joined with the 51job method. I then had less trouble finding additional candidates. Because I could speak out about the additional member that we needed and that would often lead to a trusted employee vouching for a friend, they usually came with a great addition to the team. At that point the company grew and we had enough Chinese employees and HR staff to take care of the remaining searches, I was just involved when we interviewed the IT related staff.

Search actively

The key takeaway I learned is to not wait for applicants to react to your job profiles. It’s way better to seek them out and the 51job website has helped me tremendously with this. At the time I tried finding team members at university, I had a wrong approach. A better way would have been to get in touch with the professors first before visiting (I learned that afterwards). Once you have a bit of a network, it’s easier to find people through your existing employees!

Reading /r/worldnews

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 14.16.04

I just created the feed and the first three articles come from three different countries.

Here is a RSS feed to the /r/worldnews sorted on ‘top today’ with a mod for direct access to the source. This feed will offer you a balanced overview of the news around the world.

Unbalanced worldnews views

Why? I try to keep up with a view of current events around the world. I’ve tried them all. From watching Bloomberg’s ‘first up Asia’ religiously, subscribing to the International Herald Tribune to reading Xinhua and Al Jazeera onine. I’ve even tried watching the Dutch ‘world’ news.

However, there is always a clear hidden agenda behind the news sources – which becomes clear when reading for example rightwing, or Chinese perspective on common matters, reading a single source could hide part or an entire story. Besides, I don’t want to spent a lot of times reading and comparing news because I consider reading news to be a distraction. I do want to stay up to date with current events.

Reddit – Wisdom of the crowds

This is why I am proposing to read my world news filtered through community site Reddit. Even though Reddit’s /r/worldnews is tainted with censorship accusements, it’s 4 million (largely American) users crowd voted news overview provide me with a balanced overview of today’s happenings.

The original concepts of news democratization, where all users are allowed to upload and vote on news, make sure you get a equal overview.

RSS feed

Simply add it to your RSS reader of choice and stay up to date. Yes it’s 2013 and I’m still consuming my news through RSS. I just created the feed and the first three articles come from three different countries.

You can find the feed here: /r/worldnews just load that into feedly and you are set.

From SVN to Gitlab on RHEL6

Edit: This howto isn’t finished. I was able to import SVN but didn’t get the repository to appear in Gitlab.

There is a certain SVN project that i’ve moved to gitlab over the weekend. It started with installing the RHEL6 environment, moving all the revisions there with gitlab and then setting up svn-git.



Since it was the first time I was installing gitlab, I looked online for a howto guide. I stumbled upon the automatic script by mattias-ohlsson which didn’t work so well for me. The automated script kept returning error messages regarding an outdated ruby version, which my sudo user indeed was having. I didn’t want to wrap my head around that misery and instead made use of these directions made by Torey Maerz. I didn’t run the script automatically but triggered each command manually. Some notes:

At one point whilst compiling the bundles for gitlabhq, I got into trouble because I had no pg_config, instead installed postgresql-devel.x86_64 and after that the package compiled correctly.

Then passenger came with the directives:

LoadModule passenger_module /usr/local/rvm/gems/ruby-1.9.3-p448/gems/passenger-4.0.10/buildout/apache2/
PassengerRoot /usr/local/rvm/gems/ruby-1.9.3-p448/gems/passenger-4.0.10
PassengerDefaultRuby /usr/local/rvm/wrappers/ruby-1.9.3-p448/ruby

So I put these in my httpd server, together with the directive to turn se_linux off. Yes naughty.
setenforce 0

and then setup my virtual host as follows. Be sure to use a real domainname, as I had trouble getting gitlab to work on an IP.

<VirtualHost *:4000>
  ServerName <domainname.tld>
  # !!! Be sure to point DocumentRoot to 'public'!
  DocumentRoot /var/www/gitlabhq/public
  <Directory /var/www/gitlabhq/public>
     # This relaxes Apache security settings.
     AllowOverride all
     # MultiViews must be turned off.
     Options -MultiViews

Now we adjust the username and password, be sure to do so. That ‘5iveL!fe’ password is floating all over the internet.


Login to the RHEL6 machine and import the svn-git:
install svn-git
yum install ruby rubygems
gem install svn2git

Next is the svn2git import. The followin command was rambling for about 6 hours for a 10 Gb repository. I’d recommend executing the svn2git command with the ‘time’ flag. I also had to ‘nohup’ the command to safely execute on my wifi connection.

time svn2git http://<domain><reponame>  -v --username joop

If you run into an error “the variable $u was not defined“, don’t worry I solved mine with this this fix. It seems like a harmless patch.

Then you can import your project into gitlab using:
1. Copy bare repositories to /home/git/repositories
2. Run bundle exec rake gitlab:import:repos RAILS_ENV=production