Thursday May 29, 2008

Gage in Japan

I guess John Gage was in Japan this week. It would have been great to meet him again and introduce him to some of the communities I'm talking to in Tokyo. Oh, well. Next time, I suppose. Gage is a great guy, and I know it'd be cool to bring all the communities together for a little Gage Gathering.

Thursday May 22, 2008

Japan Needs Engineers

High-Tech Japanese, Running Out of Engineers: "'We don’t need to find jobs,' said Kenta Yaegashi, 24, another electrical engineering senior. 'They find us.' He said his father, also an engineer, was envious of the current sellers' market, much less crowded than the packed field he faced 30 years ago. Even top manufacturers, who once had their pick of elite universities, say they now have to court talent. This means companies must adapt their recruiting pitches to appeal to changing social attitudes." -- New York Times

Good. Companies should have to court talent because that helps promote a cycle of creativity, innovation, and competition. That's the first thing I noticed when I came here. I didn't see a talent market. But if the raw -- and obvious -- shortage of engineers in Japan helps wash out all the old traditional companies that would be wonderful for the future of the Japanese economy. It's good to see innovative companies looking elsewhere for talent, though, as the article cites.

Thursday May 15, 2008

Lionel Lim, Sun Japan President

Earlier today I had the opportunity to meet Lionel Lim, the new president of Sun Japan. I was impressed. His rhetoric was friendly, direct and honest, and he sounded like a guy looking to inspire people to get more innovative and take the opportunities out there. There is huge potential for Sun to gain more share of multiple markets in Japan. Also, as Sun grows in Japan by engaging more partners and customers, we can simultaneously engage more developers and users with more innovative community development operations. We are not doing nearly enough developer outreach in Japan, and I hope that changes because community development is quite literally market development. In fact, there is no distinction whatsoever, and I'd argue this point with just about anyone. So, I'm looking forward to this new leadership. Should be fun. Sun Japan press release in Japanese.

Monday May 12, 2008

Japan Inside China

Very interesting. A little Japanese inside China -- [i18n-discuss] Solaris Teacher Training and Sun University Tour- Dalian. Next time I visit China, I have to spend some time in Dalian to explore this China-Japan connection. I first read about this in a Tom Friedman column, but it's not talked about that much here in Japan. Gotta check it out.

Sunday May 11, 2008


Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?: "Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain. If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don’t set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness." -- New York Times on M. J. Ryan, author of the 2006 book “This Year I Will...”

Take one step at a time. And small steps are best. The tiny, continuous improvements add up, though, and this is actually a very efficient way to just get things done and better in the process. Kaizen.

Monday Apr 28, 2008

Blowing Hot or Cold on Japan

Japan May Escape Recession as Chinese Surge Increases Exports: "Japan's manufacturing sector is actually a showcase for how to implement globalization,'' said Jesper Koll, director of Tantallon Research Japan, a hedge fund. "Whether it's Russia, the Middle East or Latin America, take your pick, Japan's on top of it.'' -- Bloomberg

Good economic news about Japan is rare, but this article above cites the possibility that Japan may dodge a recession (due to the slow down in the US) because some key Japanese industries have diversified into rapidly expanding markets in China and throughout Asia. That's cool. And perhaps other Japanese companies here, and even entire industries, will take a lesson from the manufacturing and auto guys and learn how to be a "showcase for how to implement globalization." We'll see. The results will be obvious either way.

Thursday Apr 03, 2008

Big Decisions

Scott Berkun has a great blog on lessons he's learned from four independent years in the real world. If you are thinking of leaving your job at a big tech vendor and going out on your own, Scott is a great resource to tap. The very first lesson he talks about in his post is "Big decisions divide friends" and that is one bit I certainly agree with. Every word in that paragraph hits home to me regarding my own big decision recently -- moving to Japan. At some point I'll write a lessons learned summary of my experiences in this little adventure, and it will surely surprise some people. Both good and bad. The point, though, is that big changes affect things in surprising ways. From Scott: "I learned the people closest to you, aren’t necessarily your best supporters, and you won't find your true supporters until you make decisions big enough to call them out. If you do something big, you will divide the people in your life in unexpected ways: the truth comes out." Yep.

Wednesday Apr 02, 2008

Opening Japan

Matt Asay explores open source in Japan and concludes that it may be time to give the place a second look -- Open source: Made in Japan? Good post. He points to some excellent examples of open source contributors in Japan and also corporate and government use of open source.

I found Matt's blog being discussed on the Tokyo Linux User Group list -- [tlug] "Open source: Made in Japan?" blog -- today where Curt Sampson was talking about the language/culture barriers in Japan and also how Japan is home to more NetBSD developers than any country outside the United States. I didn't know that, but I'm not surprised I didn't know since Japan is a country absolutely determined to down play its role in just about everything possible. It's exactly the opposite behavior of the United States, which tends to over play its hand in just about everything possible.

Anyway, I agree about the language/cultural barriers. They are big. Generally, I find very few in the west interested in software development taking place in Japan, and I also find very little interest here in exploring anything outside of Japan. It goes both ways. It's tough to look inside, and very few here are looking outside. There are obvious exceptions, of course, but I've been quite surprised by the size of the east/west divide for a market so big. See Matt's blog for the exceptions, by the way, which are all very encouraging.

I think similar issues were present in China, as well, but recently when I go to China and visit the universities I find the students much more willing to learn from and engage with the west. They are loud and enthusiastic and bold. I'm no expert on China, and I could be seeing only one part of that market because they have so many students in computer programs now, but it seems to me that the trends are clear and distinction with Japan is now very big. Whereas the language/cultural barriers here in Japan are the same as always (and I can find no one to dispute that), they seem to be going away in China.

Another factor for Japan may be that this market is mature and expensive and suffers from under exposure because massive attention and resources are flying to China and India because those guys are rapidly emerging and sucking up all the publicity. I was also thinking that some of this may be just a mis-understanding since the west and east view "community" and "contribution" and "individual motivation" somewhat differently. Who knows. Some good opinions on the Tlug list, too. Check out the thread.

Also, Matt mentioned Ruby. Very cool community. I was so impressed with the Ruby community a while back. Here are all my blogs on Ruby. And Matt mentions the Japanese government getting involved in open source, too. Well, they are also exploring OpenSolaris (here, here, here). Oh, one more thing: the Japan portal for OpenSolaris is our #1 portal by far in terms of total page views hitting the site. But, man, the Spanish are catching up jet fast! :)

Friday Mar 21, 2008

University of Tokyo and Sun

Seems the University of Tokyo and Sun are teaming up for some joint research projects on high performance computing and web-based programming languages. See Sun press release for details in Japanese and English.

Thursday Mar 20, 2008

Toyota: Don't Measure Against Rivals

Toyota finds success is a bitter-sweet pill: "From the moment he took the helm in 2005, [Toyota Motor Corp President Katsuaki] Watanabe has made it his mission to discourage employees from measuring Toyota against rivals but rather against a lofty goal: developing a dream car that 'cleans the air, doesn't cause accidents, makes drivers healthier and can go around the world on one tank of fuel. We have a long way to go,' he said." -- Reuters

Agree 100%. You can't win in the long run by playing defense and getting distracted by reacting to a competitor.

Sunday Feb 17, 2008

More on Cross Culture Engineering

Serkan Toto has a nice review of the event the other night -- Report: Cross-cultural IT and web engineer party in Tokyo. Looking forward to the next one.

Monday Feb 11, 2008

Too Early

The delivery guy came to pick up some stuff early this morning. Too early. This is typical. But this time he was so early we weren't ready, and we had to send him away and have him return later. So, he said he'd do some other things and return at 12 noon. To me 12 noon means12 noon give or take five minutes before or after. Or just 12:00 pm is fine, too. But this is Japan, and time is different here. So, what time did he return? 11:30 am. Early again. Typical. I expected this, of course, so we were ready this time. But I have to wonder. This desire to be hyper efficient to provide extreme service by being too early actually leads to inefficiency. And it's potentially dangerous, too. My delivery dude, after all, had to make two trips, right? That's not efficient. I certainly appreciate the intent, though. Anyway, after we set the delivery guy free, we started walking out to the store -- where we were promptly almost run over by a pizza delivery guy flying by on his jet-fast, three-wheel motor scooter. Rushing to be early, I'm sure. These guys nearly clip me at least once a week. I wonder what a death here and there does to their on-time- delivery rating?

Friday Feb 01, 2008

Quiet Construction

I watched this construction site for about 15 minutes today. I used to be in construction, so I always stop and notice any site I come across. The sequence of events always fascinates me. What strikes me about Japanese construction sites is that they are especially clean, extremely organized, and pretty well contained. But even more interesting is that they are generally very quiet. You hear hammers and equipment, sure, but no radios blasting, no screaming and yelling, and really very little conversation. I always try to figure out how the guys communicate. I mean, I`ve never been on a quiet construction site in my life. Here, they are all over the place. Amazing.

Construction Construction

Construction Construction

Solaris Leading in Japan

"Our focus on Solaris 10 is really paying off big time. If we look at the number of downloads, it's very impressive. We see one of the highest downloads of Solaris in the world, in terms of geography, from Japan." -- Denis Heraud, President, Asia Pacific, quoted in the Singapore Business Times, Jan 31st, 2008 (sorry, no link, it's paid). "The fact that Sun has been engaging on the open source approach to the market is really putting Sun in a strong position. I think that the success we have worldwide and in APJ [Asia Pacific, Japan] is very much linked with this adoption of Solaris 10."


Sunday Jan 27, 2008

Japan: Time to Change?

Japan and its GDP: "It's really no wonder we're having a hard time getting attention in Japan." -- Joi Ito

I agree. And these trends argue for sweeping changes in Japan. I mean, really. If not now, when? I would love to hear anyone argue that nothing ought to change on this island. To me, all of these global economic trends are wonderful opportunities for the Japanese to grow in new ways. Bottom line: Japan will change or it will be changed. Period.

Friday Jan 25, 2008

The Cleaning Lady in the Boys Room

Why is it that every time I go to the bathroom at work the cleaning lady comes in to empty the garbage and tidy up a  bit? And why is it that every time I go the the pool I see the cleaning lady cleaning the men's room with 20 naked men walking around? I don't get this. Is there a cleaning man in the girls room across the hall?

Thursday Jan 24, 2008

Stuck on a Train

It took about 2 hours to get home tonight. It's a 40 minute trip. Gigantic delays due to "personal injury" as they say here in Japan. That generally means someone jumped. Suicide. It happens all too often here. Very sad. But who knows the real reason. The point is that I was stuck on a slow moving train that eventually just stopped. And there I was. Me and hundreds of Japanese. Waiting. And standing, of course. It was rush hour. Fortunately, I had my phone and some reading material (I was reading about Bernanke and his Federal Reserve, believe it or not). From time to time I peeked at the women on my right since she was watching TV on her cell phone. Nice reception. And the guy on my left was watching TV on his phone, too. I need sound to keep my attention, though, so I couldn't follow it. Not that I could follow much of the Japanese, anyway. And others were just reading or sleeping. One guy was studying Korean. Beautiful typography in his textbook.

But what got me was the silence. We all just stood there. There was very little talking and no complaining. Yet there were hundreds of people stuck together quite literally inches apart. Some people called home to say, "Go ahead and eat dinner," and such, and I was able to pick up bits and pieces of various conversations. But when people talked on their phones, they got off the train and stood on the platform and cupped their hands over their mouths. The two girls behind me were talking a bit, but they clearly knew each other. Other than that, it was dead quiet. Total silence. For 2 hours. Amazing.

Monday Jan 14, 2008

A Closed Network

Decline in Japanese students abroad cause for concern -- "As the number of Japanese students in the United States decreases, the number of Chinese, South Korean and Indian students is surging." -- Kyodo News

This article articulates a trend that can only lead to one result: the further isolation of a closed network.

Sunday Jan 13, 2008

China and India Pressing Japan

Losing an Edge, Japanese Envy India’s Schools -- "While China has stirred more concern here as a political and economic challenger, India has emerged as the country to beat in a more benign rivalry over education. In part, this reflects China’s image in Japan as a cheap manufacturer and technological imitator. But India’s success in software development, Internet businesses and knowledge-intensive industries in which Japan has failed to make inroads has set off more than a tinge of envy." -- New York Times

Very interesting article about many Japanese coming to grips with the reality that China and India are moving much, much faster, and leaving Japan behind. To compete in the future -- a global future -- Japanese education will have to change rather significantly. This piece focuses on Indian education techniques in Japan. English, computers, math, and science are big parts of it, too. Japan is absolutely a country that loves fads. But I hope this is not a fad. The more diversity and global awareness here the better.

Rich in Rare Metals

Japan has world's biggest 'urban mines' -- "The total volume of metal resources, including gold and silver, that are used in electrical appliances and electronics in Japan is the world's largest, surpassing natural metal reserves held by each major mineral-producing country." -- Associated Press

This doesn`t surprise me at all. The place is totally wired with all sorts of funky electrical gadgets. Even the toilets are plugged in. In fact, I can operate all the features of my toilet from the other room with a convenient wireless handset. Now, the fact that my toilet has features and has to be plugged in is nuts enough, but the wireless bit takes the whole experience to an entirely new level. And my bath? Well, it talks to me. In Japanese, of course. At least that one is not wireless. Yet.


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