Wednesday Aug 22, 2007

India: Code For Freedom

Sun in India has started a coding contest for university students -- Sun Code for Freedom. The contest is designed to increase participation in open source and encourage academic developers to contribute code to OpenSolaris, Project GlassFish, NetBeans, Apache Derby, and Open Portal. Actually, this program could really help facilitate new developer relationships across all these projects in India, and that's really cool. I see the Bangalore OpenSolaris User Group already getting involved, as I'm sure the other user groups in India will as well.

Also, the announcement has generated some press coverage in India, too -- Sun wants Indian contribution to open source: "This contest is about creating opportunities for students in India to learn more about open source technology and it is a unique contest in India," said Anil Gupta, vice president, India Engineering Centre, Sun Microsystems. "It is unique in combination in three ways: It offers an opportunity to students to work on real source code, real problem and make a real difference. We provide support to help them contribute to open source and we are offering this across the wide spectrum of technology from open source to applications."

Friday Aug 03, 2007

Japan Shrinking?

Japan's population shrinks again, but births up: "Japan's population has been shrinking since 2005, and the government has forecast its population will fall to 60 million -- half its current size -- by 2100 unless it can persuade citizens to have more children." -- AFP

Cool. At 60 million at least I'll be able to get a seat on the train.

Tuesday Jul 17, 2007

Chinese Internet Demographics

China to overtake US in number of Internet users in 2009: "There are now an estimated 137 million Internet users in China, and that number has been growing by 18 percent since 2004 until it picked up even more steam in 2006, going up to 23 percent. The United States has 165 million Internet users, according to Pew, with 25 million of those users being aged 12-17. At the current rate of growth in China, the number of Chinese web surfers will surpass the number of American users some time in 2009, and it will continue to rise sharply afterward. With more than half of Americans already online, China's growth over the next 10 years will easily dwarf that of the United States." -- Jeremy Reimer

It will be wild to experience how these demographics change the Internet. And China, too.

Thursday Jul 12, 2007

India OpenSolaris Portal Opens

The India OpenSolaris Community opened their portal today: http://in.opensolaris.org/. Very cool. That makes five portals open and about seven to go. See the portal project for more information and the i18n list for discussions. Also, all of my blogs about the portals are tagged here.

Monday Jul 09, 2007

China: The Future of Innovation?

The United States of Technology?: "My own best guess is that the next great hotbed for tech innovation will be China. It is steadily tightening the rules for software intellectual property protection. And a raft of amazingly fast-growing Internet businesses have already arisen, including portals Sina.net and Sohu, search engine Baidu, game company Shanda, auctioneer Alibaba, and communications and gaming pioneer Tencent. Some number their customers in the hundreds of millions." -- David Kirkpatrick, Fortune

In terms of scale, I find that last sentence almost incomprehensible. And it will be pretty wild watching the Chinese tech industry deal with numbers like that.

Japan: "A Clear Standout"

Asia's Skyscraper Economies Hit a Glass Ceiling: "These should be heady days in Tokyo. One reminder of that came in a recent survey by the Economist Group, which declared Japan the world's most innovative nation. The rankings were calculated by comparing the number of patents per million of population for 82 nations. Japan was a clear standout. Yet China is getting most of the attention in Asia, followed closely by India. Japan needs to work harder to remind investors it's recovering, something to which Asia's traditional growth engine isn't accustomed. Tokyo is a cautionary tale. It boasts some of the best infrastructure anywhere, globally dominant companies, a highly educated labor force and prints Asia's only truly international currency. Yet Japan's failure to internationalize its markets means its appeal trails that of Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul." -- William Pesek, Bloomberg

That summary seems pretty accurate from almost everything I've heard about the business of Japan. Very interesting piece in Bloomberg here. Some Asian markets are booming, but there are just as many warning signs for challenges ahead -- and most seem to be focused on Japan. The study that Pesek refers to is from the Economist Intelligence Unit and concludes in part that "Japan, Switzerland, the US, and Sweden are the world’s top four innovators among the 82 economies."

Friday Jul 06, 2007

Asia: The Future of Development?

Developer Population to Reach 19 Million by 2010 -- "By 2010, 43% of all developers will be found in the APAC region. That is an 83% increase from 2006, compared to just a 15% increase in North America for the same period." -- Evans Data

Thursday Jul 05, 2007

India: "Top Level Talent"

Is globalization starting to level the playing field? Perhaps in some segments of some markets it is. Check out these few paragraphs from a long piece in the Wall Street Journal -- Some in Silicon Valley begin to sour on India: A few bring jobs back as pay of top engineers in Bangalore Skyrockets:

\*\*\*
Several years on, the forces of globalization are starting to even things out between the U.S. and India, in sophisticated technology work. As more U.S. tech companies poured in, they soaked up the pool of high-end engineers qualified to work at global companies, belying the notion of an unlimited supply of top Indian engineering talent. In a 2005 study, McKinsey & Co. estimated that just a quarter of India's computer engineers had the language proficiency, cultural fit and practical skills to work at multinational companies.


The result is increasing competition for the most skilled Indian computer engineers and a narrowing U.S.-India gap in their compensation. India's software-and-service association puts wage inflation in its industry at 10% to 15% a year. Some tech executives say it's closer to 50%. In the U.S., wage inflation in the software sector is under 3%, according to Moody's Economy.com.

Rafiq Dossani, a scholar at Stanford University's Asia-Pacific Research Center who recently studied the Indian market, found that while most Indian technology workers' wages remain low -- an average $5,000 a year for a new engineer with little experience -- the experienced engineers Silicon Valley companies covet can now cost $60,000 to $100,000 a year. "For the top-level talent, there's an equalization," he says.

That means that for a large swath of Silicon Valley -- start-ups and midsize companies that do sophisticated tech work -- India is no longer the premier outsourcing destination. While such companies make up just a fraction of India's outsourcing work, they had been an early catalyst for the growth of India's information-technology business and helped the country attract other outsourcing clients. Their rethinking of India raises red flags for the country.
\*\*\*


So, the article seems to be articulating the position that maybe India is not the best place to grab your cheap labor anymore because the cost of top engineering talent is rising. Oops. Sorry, Silicon Valley. A funny thing happened along the way of globalization -- a new market was created and its beginning to assert itself. Better look elsewhere for your outsourcing needs. And the article points out that this is actually the case. Vietnam and the Philippines are now hot for cheap tech labor.

Don't get me wrong. This article is a pretty fair piece. I'm only criticizing mildly. But my perspective has changed significantly, and I read stuff like this very differently now. Ok, so wages of top engineers in Bangalore are rising, and as a result, some tech firms in the Bay Area are looking elsewhere to save some cash. Fine. That's part of globalization. But why is that considered a "red flag" for India? Why can't it simultaneously be considered a "green flag" demonstrating the growth and increased value of the top engineering talent in India? That's exactly how an American would view it had we been discussing Silicon Valley. But I don't see that context expressed in this article. It's all one way -- saving expenses by outsourcing in far away places so one side benefits. But you can look at it another way. Since these Indian engineers are worth more they must be putting out better stuff, so what new innovations will they create in the future that will transform India's economy and make it even more competitive? Isn't that a perfectly reasonable perspective as well?

Wednesday Jul 04, 2007

Asian Blog Minefields

Navigating Asia's Minefields in Corporate Blogging -- "Regional companies are looking to multinationals such as Sun Microsystems as they set policies about what employees can -- and can't -- say on the Net." -- BusinessWeek.

Interesting that Sun is getting a lot of attention here in Asia for the company's global blogging efforts. Sun Japan itself has about 40 bloggers (which I list in my right nav bar), and some of them are pretty highly ranked and well known throughout Japan. It's a very bloggie company here in Tokyo.

Sunday Jul 01, 2007

Japan: Aizu University Photos

I went with the Sun Japan team to the University of Aizu this weekend for a series of hands-on workshops and presentations on Java and OpenSolaris and an OpenSolaris install-fest with the latest Solaris Express Developer Edition. Schedule in Japanese and English. I also had a chance to play around with the very cool new Sun Ray Notebook (article in Japanese), which I think would work quite well right here in my apartment (hint, hint). 135 photos on flickr and below ...

OpenSolaris & Java at Aizu

TOP: LEFT TO RIGHT: Miki Matsui, Masaki Katakai, Takayuki Okazaki, Akira Ohsone, Takanobu Masuzuki, Nobuchika Kobayashi, Satoshi Kawai, Shingo Takamatsu. BOTTOM: LEFT TO RIGHT: Hiroaki Nozaki, Kazuya Kawahara, Fumihiko Iwabuchi, Kenji Funasaki, Mitsuru Sasanuma.

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Sun Japan article on the trip here.

Thursday Jun 28, 2007

Leaving Asia Behind?

Interesting article in the reg about cultural issues dividing open source communities. Here's the article (in bold) and my comments spread throughout:


Open source 'leaving Asia behind'
By Bryan Betts
Novell veep warns of collaborative culture clash

The open source community risks leaving Asian users and developers behind,


I think that's probably a bit of an over statement, don't you? It's clear that Asia in general is behind the West in this area, but who the heck is racing? Now that open source has gone mainstream in many Western markets, some of the leaders in some of the communities are starting to sound like this all happened over night (and by implication others are "behind"). It didn't. It took decades even in the supposedly more enlightened West. Also, I bet some Asian communities come up to speed on open source faster than some in the West realize, and I bet these new Asian communities will start to express open source development methodologies in different and interesting ways. So much of the rhetoric from the U.S. and Europe is like this, though. It's patronizing. Many times it's not intended as such, but it is nonetheless.


thanks to cultural differences


This is true. And these differences are nothing short of gigantic -- especially comparing East Asia with the West. And then when you add language to that mix, it only magnifies the challenge. It's huge. However, with some focused effort, these differences can be mitigated to a certain degree. It takes time, though, and you have to want to overcome the problem and find the middle ground. I find a lot of people on both sides generally pretty ignorant about the issue, though. In other words, a lot of people see communication issues as relatively minor, when in reality I think it's so much bigger than anyone realizes. Also, many people on both sides can appear totally genuine, but it's clear that they are oftentimes locked behind cultural and/or language walls -- East or West -- and can't really see the other guy's perspective.


and western business's tendency to treat programmers there as code monkeys rather than software designers, a senior Novell staffer has warned.

Kurt Garloff, the company's global product opportunities veep, said that while open source communities regard criticism as constructive, others see it as insulting. Speaking at the start of the company's Hackweek in Germany, he argued that software companies need to find ways to mitigate the sometimes confrontational nature of open source development, if Asian developers are not to be excluded.


I have many examples of people from Korea, Japan, and China who view the OpenSolaris community as too hostile to engage with. Others here have said the same about some parts of the Linux community in the U.S. Some of this is true, of course, but some of it is an over-reaction as well. So, I'd generally agree with this point. Though I must admit, I've never heard the term "code monkey" before. It doesn't surprise me, though.

But even when you remove obviously bad behavior, the larger -- and much more important -- issue is that some of these cultures simply communicate differently. And very differently at that. It really is that simple. And hard. The West can't expect the East to adopt the open source culture from San Francisco or Portland or somewhere, and the East has to open up to new ways of communicating online as well. There is more than enough room for both sides to move to the center.


"If you look at the open source mailing lists to see where the posts come from, it is almost exclusively white males, from Europe, including Eastern Europe and Russia now, and North America, plus some from South America," he said.


Sure. I agree. But there are other lists here in Asia where various Asian communities communicate quite well. We have to stop thinking about "the open source mailing lists" as one set of lists. There are many sets of lists for many communities and they are spread out all over the world. Also, the implication here is that there is one open source community. There isn't. The open source "community" is actually a community of communities. And although open source types recognize that obvious fact, they don't then factor in open source communities of communities across cultural and language barriers. Also, the very terms "open source" and "free" and "community" may mean something in Boston but I'm not sure it means quite the same thing in Tokyo or Beijing. In fact, I rarely talk about "community" here like I used to talk about it in San Francisco. Concepts change when expressed in different languages. Sometimes dramatically.


"The absence of countries such as Japan is striking.


Why is this striking? It's easily explained, actually, but the statement itself demonstrates a clear lack of knowledge about the Japanese market and culture. Look, some aspects of Japanese business are so utterly closed they make Microsoft look open. No question about it. There is a lot of old and traditional companies here. But guess what: there are a lot of traditionalists in London, New York, Los Angeles and even in the oh-so-too-cool San Francisco Bay Area. Also, I'm starting to get to know some of the guys in the Mozilla, Linux, Ruby, and PostgreSQL communities here in Tokyo, and they are remarkably open even by the artificially imposed Western standards. I still think they can be better connected to the West, but at least some of these communities demonstrate that Japan is not as monolithic as it may appear from the outside. In fact, the Ruby conference here recently literally blew me away and surely ranks right up there with the very best open source conferences I've ever seen. It was clearly a community event. But I've seen the other extreme as well. If you show up in Tokyo or Seoul or Beijing and do some sort of controlled corporate event, then sure, all the cool guys go away or get quiet. This is a predictable as the sun rising, by the way.


"Open feedback is OK culturally in Western Europe but a big problem in Japan - for example, open criticism can be seen there as a big shame on you. I do hope it doesn't keep them on the margins of open source - we are trying to create awareness of these issues."


Yah, that "shame" bit is so overblown. Someone is reading too many old sociality textbooks from the 1950s. Just like the myth of "the Japanese (and Chinese and Koreans) don't ask questions at conferences. These are all generalizations that get in the way of understanding.

Sure, many of the gigantic Japanese companies are conservative and pretty traditional places. But the radicals and innovators are out there, and they are happy to engage. Finding them takes a little effort, though. At Sun, some of the guys here put on a monthly event called Developers' Lounge. At first glance it's just a party, but when you hang out longer you find that it's an amazing communications mechanism. Lots of communities from Tokyo all gather in this little club and drink and eat and swap stories and basically do as series of rapid-fire lightening talks about projects they are working on. Very simple. But every time I go there I have the impression I'm at OSCON or something. No difference. Other than it's in Japanese. And it ends on time, too. :) Ruby gave me this exact same impression.

So, there are clear examples to contradict some of the thoughts in this article, but I think that the scale of the communities in the West are so much larger that we can't even see the guys in the East. In terms of scale, I bet India and China change that. Not in the short term, but over the longer term. Also, the last time I was in China some reporters were asking me how China can contribute to open source. I said I have no clue. Who am I, I thought. You tell me. You know best. The only thing I can say is to learn what the West has done and then express that in a Chinese way and take the concepts to new levels. But don't just follow the Americans or the Europeans because they were first. Do something different with what's already been done and let the West learn from that. And around we go. Seems to me that would be a great contribution. Same goes for Japan. Same for Korea. India. Etc.


He suggested that while Asian cultures are evolving and opening up to constructive criticism, one option for now might be for open source companies to create less free-wheeling and more protected environments for would-be developers to collaborate in.

"The second angle is that the open source community needs to adapt and become less confrontational," he said, adding that the language of on-line discussion can discourage western newcomers as well.


I agree with this. Although I live in Tokyo, I was born in New York and the rhetoric I see in many Western open source communities is a total turn off. This "open constructive criticism" bit is not a license to be obnoxious or rude or to attack people online. Yet I see it every day and people keep saying its ok. It's not.

The previous point, however, I don't agree with at all. The bit about creating "less free-wheeling and more protected environments" and all that. That's so overtly patronizing I can't believe it was even suggested. The West should be less confrontational not to better engage with the East but because it's simply the right thing to do to engage with everyone. And I hope Asian communities reject the idea of being protected. It's silly. Instead, why not try understanding the Asian communities. Why not even try to facilitate the creation of new Asia-specific communities (whatever technology, whatever country) where people interact in their own way, not in some manufactured and protected American or European way. And then why not create connections to those communities, so entire communities can interact via specific people who are bilingual and who understand the cultural differences? This already happens today, by the way.


"In countries such as India and China there's an additional problem," he continued. "Their education system trains them to do software manufacturing - the straightforward but tedious work of implementing specifications - rather than software engineering, and that's how western outsourcers use them.


I'm not sure about India in this case. I've heard otherwise, actually, but I'm not really that aware of the India market. I hope to change that this year, though. However, I think this is probably more true of Japan and China. And it's tough to even compare Japan, Korea, and China due to the differences in scale, language, and culture. I just don't know very much about the universities in these areas, but these points are critical so I'm looking forward to getting involved.


"Software engineering is an art, it's a fundamentally different mindset to software manufacturing."


Ah, yes the "art" bit. Therefore, the implication is, it's better. Perhaps. I'm not convinced. I have heard this from time to time from Japanese and American/European developers and administrators here, but I really have no direct knowledge about it yet.


He added, "I can certainly see people being afraid of the low-cost economies, but the bigger loss is for the whole world, if it doesn't use developers from all cultures to develop code."


I'm not sure what the "afraid of low-cost economies" is all about, but all this makes my life quite interesting right about now.  Fascinating issues. And issues that will not go away any time soon. In fact, as open source engineering and community development methodologies grows into new areas, it will be really interesting to see how new people implement the concepts. It will be just as interesting to see all the new leaders emerge, too ...

Friday Apr 20, 2007

Language and Globalization

Interesting. In a world of billions of people, companies are still having a hard time hiring -- Where Are All The Workers? Companies worldwide are suddenly scrambling to manage a labor crunch. It seems as we globalize, technical skills are critical to remain competitive. But just as important are those skills involving language and communication. Don't you agree? The issue comes up in this article but only way at the end.
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