How to scout IT talent in Shanghai

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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 51job.com. Here is the thing with 51job.com. 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

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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.

Favorite podcasts

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What do you listen to when travelling? Some like nothing, some prefer to listen to music, others like to listen to talkshows.

I usually like silence but when I do listen, I usually listen to talkshows. This is a typical habit for driving in the car, but with a smartphone, you can download episodes onto your device and listen on demand. When I have the opportunity, I always listen to the following three podcasts, I don’t think I missed a single of them in the last 2 years – there is always a delayed train or a flight that allows me to keep up. I put them here because I’ve listened to all of them for over two years and I want to support their work:

Radiolab

In terms of quality, radiolab is one of the best out there, they can make you quiet and wonder, sucking you into the most bizarre stories from the most profound people. I bet there goes a lot of research in every show. There are a lot of them and I’d recommend listening to them all![iTunes link]

Planet Money

I started listening to planet Money just after the financial crisis in 2008. It’s an economics podcast, offering surprising angles to day to day news and easy intro metaphors to sometimes difficult financial topics. [iTunes link]

Stuff You Should Know

Stuff you should know is a popular podcast from a less popular website. Chuck and Josh basically do a show-and-tell of a completely random subject every week. They are no experts (and it shows) but the show brings a lot of trivia to you. Great listen when tired. [iTunes link]

Screw Europe’s mainstreet, get clothes from Korea

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I’m not that occupied with fashion but I have two frustrations buying garments in Western Europe; style and the price.

1) Style: I see dull, darkish clothes everywhere… still looks the same as 5 years ago. In Asia (- or megacities?) more fun and extravagant trends come and go…

2) Price: Coming from China, where tailored-coats costs under $100, in Europe the fashion industry’s pricing seems just silly.

With above’s frustration, I thought I would try to place a small order on Korea’s ebay and see what happen. I was stunned by the result!

gMarket offers an English translated website. You can browse garments, shoes, accessories inspired by Korean drama’s or by category.

About my order

Pants, cardigan, blazer and turtleneck all for just $60 dollar. Yep wearing them all at the same time.

Purchasing from different shops, gMarket collected, packed and shipped it to me rather quick. I live roughly 9000km/5000 miles from Korea, placed the order and received it 14 days later.

The quality of stitching and fabric are ok: The pants, cardigan, blazer and turtleneck seem in order. I’m very happy with my order since total costs were $60 dollar. Shipping based on weight was an additional $30.

The only thing is that returning could be a hassle – I got lucky with picking all the sizes correct, but I wouldn’t know where to send it to or how to complain. Another thing is that a non-Korean speaker could have trouble with the colours, which are written in Korean – nothing a dictionary can’t solve though.

For now I won’t have to deal with the shopping streets in Holland. I can’t wait till the day that taobao will start shipping abroad! For now, check out gMarket!

Moving on from Feedburner to Mailchimp

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This post is mostly for the readers who own a blog: Six years ago, I downloaded a copy of wordpress here and connected it to feedburner, sporting that cool badge showing the amount of readers on my website. Feedburner allowed me to see statistics about my readers and offer a service to send emails to my readers with my blogs content.

Today I changed my mind. I’m now sending emails to my subscribed readers over Mailchimp! I’ve used Mailchimp for business reasons and I quite like it! Mailchimp offers beautiful layout templates and you can choose to send a weekly digest email to your readers instead of the noisy daily emails from Feedburner.

For the ones wondering how to move, I’ve used this mailchimp blogpost to accomplish my move.

Quick mac tip: ‘On hover’ translation in OSX

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On hover translation:

You can learn a language from a textbook, but having real conversations speeds up your learning efforts a lot. This is why I decided to change the primary language of my computer to Korean. Now, most websites and programs greet me in Korean, and I read and interact a whole lot more!
However, I noticed that I seldomly look up new words, slowing down my work and thus became frustrated with my latest language experiment.
I found that many of my Korean friends use windows PC’s, which provide real time translation of the word they point at with their mouse. Holy moly, that’s amazing! This is very useful because you read the active word and can see a active translation in a small on-screen widget. You are forced to think in the foreign language first, then you have your dictionary immediately ready to refer to. They tell me they learn English quickly using this system, i’m jealous!
I had been looking for an app for macintosh OSX for some time but without luck, until I came across TranslateIt! today. It’s exactly what I had been looking for! Let me show you an example:
OSX programs including Finder:

and web browsing:

How to set it up:

1. Download and install the translateit! app from their website. (I choose without popular dictionaries)
2. Download a dictionary, i got this one but there are many mentioned on the translateit website. (bottom)

3. locate the downloaded dictionary by clicking ‘dictionary’ -> ‘+’ and then ‘install from local directory’.

4. Lastly, change your primary language to korean (한국어) and restart/relogin to your MAC OSX account.
Done!
PS: we are not affiliated by creator of the translatit! program, or the dictionary. We just think it’s awesome!

For online audio distributors: Host your audio on S3 with statistics!

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Image by samwebster (CC,http://www.flickr.com/photos/samwebster/4378872439/)

A quick guide for those distributing large amounts of audio on the Internet: As you know, audio services are great but are also costly. Consider hosting the files yourself on Amazon S3 and potentially save a lot of money. In my case I have sliced next year’s cost by at least 30%. It’s a little bit of a geeky guide but I managed to go through the installation steps myself within one hour. Ofcourse you can leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comment section.

Let’s make it a hypothetical case: I am hosting a podcast called joopspodcast.com – which is entirely about myself LOL. Amazingly I have about 50k downloads a year. We will compare a well known audio hosting service which shall remain unnamed; let’s call it AudioHoster INC. for now, with amazon S3. We compare with S3 because I build some experience with the service and it’s my gut feeling it’s cheaper then hosting it on AudioHoster INC’s servers.

Comparing the two options:

Advantages of using AudioHoster INC.

  1. They take care of your offsite backups (If they are professional service)
  2. Statistics about the users behaviour
  3. Cool flash players for users to play the files with

Advantages of self hosting on S3

  1. Amazon S3 is likely to be cheaper to host
  2. Cost based on actual MB’s served
  3. Able to cancel contract at any time

Thinking about it, I am sure we can offer all 3 advantages of the AudioHoster INC. on our self hosted environment. More about that after the following cost calculation:

Worth the trouble? – cost calulation

Comparing potential cost of both services.

Whilst hosting audio with AudioHoster INC. is great, but I paid €29 a year for a ‘lite’ account which provided me with 4 hours of audio hosting. This was fine at first but within a year we had to move to a premium account – even though this particular audio hosting service was kind enough to sponsor me with a trial of their premium. Premium will be around €79 per year for 12 hours.

Comparing the prices is hard. After all, we suddenly need to pay for the amount of users that download our content per megabyte. All kinds of variables come in to play like the amount of visitors and the amount of data they copy. The only thing one can do is underline that this is a loose calculation on a sunday afternoon and is based on a hypothetical case. But enough data to base our decision on:

Calculating hosting costs for Amazon S3 goes as follows: (cost for total GB hosted + puts = costs). On average, a minute of MP3 (128kbps) is 0.91MB. Amazon charges $0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests. In the case we will host 4 hours (240 min) of audio.

Case 1: 4 hours

We have about 4 hours of audio data with about 50.000 downloads a year:

Total GB of audio: (240 minutes * 0.91 average MB for minute of mp3) = 218MB (0.212 GB)
Hosting costs: 0.218 Total GB of audio * $0.093 price per GB = $0.02 * 12 months = 0.06
Average audio time: 5 min = 4.55 mb. Serving that to 50k people equals 244GB.

Data transfer costs: 243 (estimated MB – free first GB) * 0.120 (from here) = $29.16
Puts: 50000 * ($0.01/10000) = $0.05 * 12 =

Total cost per year: 0.06 (Hosting costs) + 29.16 (Data transfer costs) + 0.6 puts = $29.82

Case 1: 12 hours

We have about 12 hours of audio data with about 100.000 downloads a year.

Total GB of audio: (720 minutes * 0.91 average MB for minute of mp3) = 655MB (0.639 GB)
Hosting costs: 0.639 Total GB of audio * $0.093 price per GB = $0.06 * 12 months = 0.72
Average audio time: 5 min = 4.55 mb. Serving that to 100k people equals 444GB.

Data transfer costs: 443 (estimated MB – free first GB) * 0.120 (from here) = $53.16
Puts: 100000 * ($0.01/10000) = $0.1 * 12 = 1.2

Total cost per year: 0.72 (Hosting costs) + $53.16 (Data transfer costs) + 1.2 (puts) = $65.99

Summing up

As said, AudioHoster INC. charges:
4 hours for €29
12 hours for €79

Hosting on S3
4 hours for €21*
12 hours for €45*
*converted on 21/08/2011 dollar to euro exchange rate

making hosting 4 hours about 74% of AudioHoster INC’s price, 12 hours about 56% of the price.

It seems to me, as benefits are marginal on 4 hours but at 12 hours become worth while. Guess our trouble become valid after about that time. SInce I passed 4 hours i’m gonna say: screw AudioHoster INC. for now and we will set it up ourselves on S3.

How to do this?

Before we start, make sure to check at least the following isn’t a problem for you:

  1. Credit card for subscribing to S3
  2. basic knowledge about Linux
  3. For statistics, we need install rights on a (linux) webserver. In my case I used an ubuntu server, the one that hosts joopspodcast.

So, we setup S3 but we don’t stop there. We want to install the domain’s DNS for better URLS, and add statistics to keep a close eye on potential costs and visitor data. We then covered most of the advantages of using a subscription service. Perhaps some other day I will add how to add cool web players.

For joopspodcast.com, I want to host the files in a subdomain called media.joopspodcast.com, not in amazon’s created URL’s. Why? Two reasons: People linking to your files link to your domain, which equals increased pagerank. Secondly, the amazon URL’s are super long and hard to remember!

Setting up Amazon S3

  1. Navigate to https://console.aws.amazon.com/s3/home?
  2. Sign up/login to the S3 service
  3. Create a so called ‘bucket’ – you NEED give it your full intended URL in my case: ‘media.joopspodcast.com’
  4. Copy your podcast files onto your bucket. You can use the online version but I used transmit (mac).

Setting up DNS

  1. Navigate to your domains DNS panel.
  2. Add a CNAME. In my case: Recordname ‘media’ value “http://media.joopspodcast.com.s3.amazonaws.com.)
    (don’t forget the dot at the end and if you are an European user, use s3-external-3.amazonaws.com. instead)

Now everything in the bucket http://media.joopspodcast.com.s3.amazonaws.com can be addressed with your new shortURL media.joopspodcast.com.

Setting up analytics

  1. Go to your webserver and install AWStats I also installed freegeoIP tools to track where people came from (guide)
  2. Install Johan Steen’s get-aws-logs.py script (link)
  3. Configure according to Johan Steen’s recommendations (link)
  4. Some pointers that got me further were:
    S3 AWStats LogFormat
    LogFile="/var/log/apache2/media.joopspodcast.com.log"
    LogFormat="%other %extra1 %time1 %host %logname %other %method %url %otherquot %code %extra2 %bytesd %other %extra3 %extra4 %refererquot %uaquot %other"

Offsite backup

Will happen on my own terms. Usually before I upload audio files I will make a backup and save it within my document backup environment. Offsite backup arranged!

Credits:

Thanks to Carlton with help setting up S3 DNS: http://carltonbale.com/how-to-alias-a-domain-name-or-sub-domain-to-amazon-s3
Johan with help getting analytics logs imported: http://wpstorm.net/2010/11/aws-s3-logs-boto-python/ http://wpstorm.net/2011/01/awstats-amazon-s3-cloudfront/

Gokohai Shabu Shabu

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I’d like to tell you about a Japanese hotpot restaurant in Shanghai called Gokohai. While Gokohai seems like just another ‘all you can eat’ location in Shanghai, it has been a red wire through our life here in Shanghai. First time we visited, about one year ago I was invited by a colleague. We came there for the reason to eat as much as we could. (how romantic), he, in his terms went there before to over-eat with his hardworking bikepolo friends.

No one leaves unsatisfied with YY5 Asahi draft beers and YY88 gets you a ticket to unlimited beef piled in mountainous form. Besides the food, you eat in private in your personal room (tatami) The taste and the service was so good that we kept on coming back.

It wasn’t the first Shabu Shabu restaurant I have visited. In contrary, in the past years I have build up quite a list of favorite Shabu Shabu restaurants. But this particular one is different. Not only did we not get kicked out at closing time, the waitress kept being friendly every time we visit. When my family or friends come by, we couldn’t resist taking them to this place. And each of them enjoyed it too the max.

Now we got to the point that the waitress recognizes us (actually, mostly because of our Japanese friend) and gives us splendid treatment. Last time it was my birthday and we were overloaded with presents. We received free wine, fish and gifts so i almost feel obliged to keep on coming and write this post of praise. Hah.
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  • Look at me, so stoked with my birthday presents
  • Gokohai
    Address: 1720 Huaihai Zhong Lu,
    淮海中路1720号 Vicinity: French Concession Directions: near Wuxing Lu
    近吴兴路 Contact:
    6471-7657
    Open: 12pm-2pm, 5pm-12am Price: Y100-Y199

    There are more locations including Gubei road etc.

    Chongming island offers park/camping outside Shanghai

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    today we visited the Dong Ping national park just outside of Shanghai. I’m sure this island will be the next hot spot for Shanghai (and China) travelers and company outings; Why?

    It’s green, featured great (clean) facilities and we received friendly service for a good price. A quiet forest with lakes, but also activities like rock climbing, gocarts racing, BBQ, horse riding etc. and camping area’s. We spent our day walking around the park. It’s not all peaches and cream, don’t expect offroad tracks (I did), it’s all asphalt route, besides this, the project manager made sure that the visitors know their Chinese sing alongs, but more about that, first the location:



    How we got there:

    • Ferry
      We took the traditional ferry from Wusong Port in the early morning (accesable by Metro). you don’t have to buy a ticket in advance. There are two ferry’s going there (well today), one at 7 and one at 8:10. We took the one at 7 and were at the Chong Ming park one hour later. Address of the port: No.100, Songpu Road, Baoshan District (021-56671202), or see the map below.
    • Bus
      However, these days the island is also available through a bridge just outside Shanghai. But we wanted to take the ferry as we were traveling light. Total duration about one hour. We took the bus back at the end of the day and spent about 1.5 hours, but ended up in the center at the Shanghai Circus.




    We were a bit shocked of the 70 RMB entrance price. Wasn’t sure to expect a funpark or a national park. Upon entrance of the park, we saw loads of Chinese renting bikes, which all rode off to the actual funpark (o really?!) which was just a few km away. We decided to walk instead and try to avoid all the hectic (which was the point of going there in the first place). We stumbled upon a teahouse where we basically spent the morning trying tea and enjoying the sun, which just started to break through. After that, we got a bit hungry so we wondered off again.

    Oh, I mentioned the music right? The project manager indeed made sure that people can sing along with today’s popsongs. Every few meters there is a speaker featuring the tunes. At one point there were game sounds and explosions.

    After about 2km, I smelled the hint of meat being roasted. Unaware of this, I told Suna it would be awesome to do a barbecue that day, but I honestly I didn’t expect the serviced barbecue in the park. It was well done, area’s for camping (20rmb for 1 tent) and chalet style houses where we could rent a barbecue and buy some meat. We kicked back with a beer and watched Chinese schoolkids play games in the grass.
    At the teahouse drinking tea and relaxing in the sun.

    Serviced barbeque. Rent a BBQ for 30 rmb and order the meat on location.

    How to go to Hong Kong via Shenzhen

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    I spent some time relaxing and buying clothes in Hong Kong yesterday. Previously, when I visit HK whilst being in mainland, I would fly to HK airport but recently I found out it is much cheaper through Shenzhen. I saved half of my travel expenses. If you are not interested in saving money at the cost of time (or like to see beautiful HK airport), this guide is not useful for you.

    I bought my plane ticket one day before my trip. The 900 RMB flight to Shenzhen was much cheaper then the 2200 RMB flight to HK. I was flying from Shanghai, but also from Beijing, Chengdu etc. this should be cheaper. You land in Shenzhen, take the bus, change bus at the border and arrive in the heart of HK city.

    The route:

    Shenzhen airport

    When I landed in Shenzhen, I found the bus companies selling tickets at the exit of the arrival hall. Bus rates varies from 100 to 150 RMB. There is also option to take the turbojet boat. I would advice to take the elements bus company. They have options to drive directly to Kowloon, central (100 RMB) or Kings Cross. Total driving time: 1.5 hours.

    Crossing the border
    Passing the customs is a breeze, you exit the bus, just follow the customs tunnel and enter the bus on the opposite end. Both sides I was surprised it was not so busy. It took me about 15 minutes to pass. Note that mainland residents still need a HK/Macau entry visa to cross the border.

    Arrival in HK and the way back to Shenzhen
    I decide to get of at Central and take the metro from there. When I wanted to go back, I took the metro to metro stop ‘Kowloon’. Get of at exit c2 and find the elements bus terminal.