7 Things I’ve Learnt at BarCamp Malaysia

These are the seven stuff of thoughts I’ve picked up at the awesome BarCamp Malaysia, which was held on July 26th – July 27th 2008 in Kuala Lumpur.

1. Put on your Platform shoes and Widgeo.us!

Co-founders Chua U-Zyn (Twitter @uzyn) and Ridzuan Ashim (Twitter @ridz84) showcased Widgeo.us. They also announced the opening up its developers platform, in the form of REST API.

Basically, Widgeo.us is trying to bridge islands of communication tools on platform. It aims to help users to “deliver the right message to the right person and the right tool at the right way” (ripped from slide).

Benefits for users include access to favorite applications, information on demand, contact manager, centralized contact information, and ability to filter who, how and when receive information (for example, you can define your message from Friend A on your Twitter but Friend B’s message send to your email.

I’ve tried its Weather application by Direct Message Widgeo.us via Twitter. The result, delivered to my Twitter:

wdg Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur 2008-07-27 11:00:00 0000 [Current Conditions] Mostly Cloudy 28 °C [Forecasts] Today Chance of Storm High: 29 °C Low: 23 °C Mon Cloudy High: 33 °C Low: 22 °C Tue Cloudy High: 33 °C Low: 24 °C

For developers, it enables rapid deployment, support for multiple communication channels (eg. MSN Messenger, Twitter), applications portability, and widgetize applications for embedding.

Currently, channels supported are MSN Messenger, Twitter and Widgeo.us; planning to extend to Facebook Chat and Google GTalk soon. They are not moving into the social networking space. So, friend list comes from users. Widgeo.us is a fun platform to play with. I’ve tried its available applications, namely weather, dictionary and chat room.

Widgeo.us Hackathon is a contest to get developers cool applications on Widgeo.us platform. Contest ends August 31 2008. I shall blog more on Widgeo.us very soon.

2. The Sound of Music 2.0

Attended Music 2.0 session by Nazrul Kamaruddin (Twitter @nazroll). Nazrul has worked with several local artistes. He defined Music 2.0 as self-generated music. He explained the various avenues on how artists can leverage various 2.0 tools to market their music and brand themselves. He used Radiohead as an example, on how the band bypass record label and go direct to its fans (customers).

Nazrul underscored the importance for artistes to nurture community around their music. Why community? Nazrul explained the purposes of community building are (1) interest generation, (2) interaction with fans, and (3) sharing thoughs, sharing experiences with fans and (4) grow fan-base. In short, Nazrul said “music that spreads, wins!”

He mentioned about the release of name-your-name In Rainbow. He quoted a quote by the website, boingboing:

This is major, and it’s such a slap in the record industry’s face. An unsigned superband, treating loyal fans and customers like loyal fans and customers instead of thieves – what a revolutionary concept!

He also mentioned about Radiohead’s Nude Re/Mix, where the band let its fans to sample music from its song.

Some of the cool websites he mentioned, which are useful for artistes are:

  • CD Baby – Musician mail 5 CDs and CD Baby digitize the works. Each CD is sold at $35; artiste keeps a whopping 91% of the sales and CD Baby keeps the remaining. Malaysian artiste SevenCollar T-Shirt used this site.
  • AmieStreet – Selling independent music with dynamic pricing (depending on popularity). A song start as ‘free’; with three recommendations, the value of the song will increase by 1 cent; the maximum limit for each song is 98 cents.
  • The Hype Machine – Digg for music blogs with link to songs and Internet radio.

On why Malaysian music sites (eg. Musicanteen.com) are not sustainable, Nazrul said it’s because these sites are transferring old practices online; the sites lacked personalization and interaction with its users. Another is its unappealing pricing and also partly due to wrong timing.

(A little diversion: Naz mentioned three major music labels in Malaysia, namely Universal Music, Warner/ Sony-BMG and EMI; only Universal Music is doing well a.k.a. making money).

3. Video Overlay to Monetize Online Video

The presentation by UrekaLabs attracted quite an interest, packed room and lots of interactions. Roni Mustapha (Twitter @ronshah), CEO of the company, presented on why monetizing of videos is the way forward. Although YouTube nominated online video, it only contributed tiny sum to Google’s revenue (YouTube projected to make US$200 million in 2008).

UrekaLabs has an interesting idea on how to monetize money from user-generated videos. It uses pattern-recognition technology to superimpose ‘ads’ on objects displaying on video.

UrekaLabs started in January 2 2008; obtained MDeC’s Pre-seed fund. The project started as development of interior design application. After listening to Vint Cerf during the recent WCIT 2008, the team decided to repositioned its product. Vint Cerf mentioned about ways for YouTube to generate income, which is click-able objects on video that can open up opportunities for advertisements. Its still in developmental stage.

Someone from the audience said that the pattern-recognition is not the ‘secret sauce’ of UrekaLabs. It will be its inventory of ads, which enables amateur video makers to monetize their works.

4. Looking Inside Firefox Extensions and Theme

It’s my first time getting the opportunity to peek inside Firefox Extensions and Theme. The tag-team of Perry Loh (Twitter @skeevs) and Lim Chee Aun (Twitter @cheeaun). Perry Loh developed Fownce, a Firefox extension for Pownce (microblog). The extension allows users to post links and messages from browser directly to Pownce. You can also post highlighted text.

Perry described the Development Environment for Firefox – DOM Inspector, Venkman (Javascript debugger), Extension Developer’s Extension and IDE (Notepad, SPKet IDE, XULbooster plugin). “.xpi” is extension of the Extension (nice one). He went on to explain how the pieces of Firefox architecture are pieced together – metadata, UI + code, localization, icons+styles.

Lim Chee Aun is one of the well-known themers of Firefox. He created Phoenity theme; his current project is Phoenity Aura. He started working on theme since 2002, during the time of Phoenix version 0.1. Inside the ‘.jar’ theme file are chrome.jar, chrome.manifest, install.rdf, icon.png and preview.png.

According to Chee Aun, developing Firefox theme is like developing webpage. However, he said “it is easy to create theme, but it’s hard to maintain one.” Something worth noting. (You can find Chee Aun’s slides here)

5. Understanding the Mind of VCs

This session is one of the two conversational-type sessions (the other one is next). This session is by Dr Bernard Leong (twitter @bleongcw) of Thymos Capital, a venture capitalist from Singapore. William Du of Ingenious Haus Sdn Bhd, a venture capital firm in Kuala Lumpur, share his thoughts from the Malaysian perspective. The session is divided into three topics, namely Invest, Value and Fund with scenarios from Malaysia and Singapore.

Invest Funds in Malaysia are for late and Pre-IPO stages and less for early seed. According to William, key consideration is ‘will customer pay?’.

Bernard focuses on seed / prototype stage with investment size of S$55,000. Thymos can be considered as business incubator. Big foreign venture capitalists in Singapore like Walden International, IDG (South East Asia) adn BAF Spectrum tend to focus on growth and pre-IPO companies.

Disbursement method works better compared to re-imbursement. In Malaysia, pre-seed fund by MDeC is on quarterly disbursement and Cradle fund , compared to Cradle fund. Can this be the reason why more prefer MDeC fund?

Value How to value company? For pre-IPO company, there will be evaluation of historical past three years performance and projection of next three years. Growth stage is similar to Pre-IPO, except historical performance may not be available. So, the focus is more on projected cashflow for the next 3 to 5 years. For seed stage, it’s more about determining the stake in exchange for the amount of money needed by the company to grow to the next level.

According to Bernard, sometimes entrepreneurs value their companies too high. His rules of thumb: after three negotiations and if no deal is reached, he will terminate negotiation. Ideally, he prefer to work with entrepreneurs with working experiences. He cited two of his portfolio companies, Eteract and iHipo.

Fund According to Bernard, a survey done in Singapore found that 50% of entrepreneurs get money from family and friends during early stage and 17% from VCs.

There is also a mention that condition of expenditure shouldn’t be imposed, as its an impediment. In the case of Singapore, Bernard said its early fund capped company founder’s salary at S$600.

6. Jumping the Shark with Meng Wong

Meng Wong (twitter @mengwong), a successful Singapore enterpreneur based in Silicon Valley, held another open session. It’s a good participative session, which explore what’s next. Meng Wong wrote:

$1,000 + Brains = IPO

(Author’s note: Kevin Rose started Digg.com with $1,200 and an insight about the future of news)

It’s an interesting metaphor to describe the uniqueness of software business. With minimal investment plus brains, wealth can be generated. It’s different from the industrial age. As it is becoming easier and cheaper to make interesting things, ideas commoditization follows. Meng Wong asked, is the age of innovation is going to be over soon?

However, he also mentioned that failure usually is the outcome of failure of imagination. To expand the horizon of possibilities, he asked everyone to think of innovative endeavor as inventing ‘magic.’

Some cool areas of applications that surfaced during the discussion, namely location-based services, OpenID, sensory interface augmentation and geriatic computing.

As his last word, Meng Wong asked participants to “let’s think of magic, let’s go implement it.” Good stuff!

7. Web 2.0 Around the World

“Interesting Web 2.0/Mobile Services Around the World” by Preetam Rai (twitter @preetamrai) is one of my favorite sessions at BarCamp Malaysia. It’s almost a tour de force for global web 2.0 initiatives. Most of these initiatives are not mentioned in ‘mainstream’ tech news sites.

Here are the list of websites:

Social Networks
Naijapals Nigeria Social networking site
SMS GupShup India SMS-based social network
Babytree China For parents to share baby pictures, tips, etc
Mixi Japan No. 1 social network in Japan.
FaceMyanmar Myanmar Facebook-rip. It’s a “social utility that connects you with the people around you.” Sounds familiar?
Qatar Living Qatar User-generated content related to living in Qatar for those who are living or interested of living in Qatar
Babatang China Social network to find people who live your same block or area
E-xecutive Russia Social network targeted at executives in Russia
nvivo.es Spain Social network for music bands and their fans
Podaj Poland Book social network; online book organizer, book exchange, book borrowing
Niconicodouga Japan Japanese Youtube with mostly Japanese materials.
Bongoza Tasmania Search engine for blogs in Tanzania
Bongoza Africa Aggregating African blogs with Digg-like rating
Kizasi Japan Crawl Japanese blogs for words and connotations and usage patterns to list current frequently used words. Yahoo! Japan bought 5% of Kizasi.
Kizasi Japan Crawl Japanese blogs for words and connotations and usage patterns to list current frequently used words. Yahoo! Japan bought 5% of Kizasi.
Minna No Topics Japan Digg-clone by Yahoo! Japan
Chodientsu Vietnam Social network based on products / combination of eBay and social networks
PhunuNet Vietnam Social network for Vietnamese ladies.
ljplus.ru Russia LiveJournal community in Russia
Tossi South Korea Mobile-centric social network offered by SK Telecom. It create daily ‘contest’ for its users. For example, take a picture of the sky. Users upload photo to Tossi via MMS. Winners get free mobile coupons.
Springleap South Africa Social network for t-shirt designers
YeeYan China A community of translators and content consumers – translating contents from Chinese to English, vice-versa
MeetPretty China For ladies to talk about cosmetics and rate personal beauty products
Redbus India Online bus ticket booking website.
Artpoli South Korea For artists to showcase and sell their works; for collectors to buy them.
Kazi560 Kenya SMS job alerts. Users subscribe to job keywords eg. ‘accountant’ and will be charged when receiving an SMS with job information.
Joblet Japan Post up your job ads for free. Then, the ads will appear in websites/blogs related to the job profile. You pay a fee for each qualified candidates.
Ogywawa Singapore Buy drinks for someone and they can redeem at participating outlets.
Trivop France Offers videos of hotels for travelers to see before they make their bookings.
ChinesePod China Offer simple lessons to converse in Chinese.
soZiety Europe Social network to learn new languages and also, to teach others.
Rockbird Japan Mobile transcoding website
SynthaSite US Website builder
Check*Pad Japan GTD (Getting Things Done) application for mobile
SynthaSite US Task management application for iPhone and iPod Touch
Meet-me Japan Japanese alternative to Second Life.
Bedpost n/a Your sex-life personal online journal.

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