WE, FYP, Startup and Halo :D

12 08 2009

Alright! After one month+ of not writing, I’m sure I need to give you guys an explanation for my disappearance on what I’ve been up to. To avoid this article becoming length and boring, I’ll do very very quick point forms.

1) Internship at Waggener Edstrom ends

I spent my term break interning at Waggener Edstrom’s Studio D where I was doing mostly Social Media Marketing and Digital PR. For those of you who are unfamiliar with buzz words, it is planning and conceptualizing digital campaigns for clients to tell the right stories and experiences to the customers. In more simple terms, I have a license to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter all day long 😀

It was a very interesting experience for me because my life activities have been turned over. What do I mean by turned over?

In the past:
During work: Code and develop stuff
After work: Read up on marketing strategies, plan campaigns and brainstorm creative ideas for own projects

At WE:
During work: Read up on marketing strategies, plan campaigns and brainstorm of creative ideas for clients
After work: Code and build my own fun stuff 😀

…and I have to admit I really like the switch in environment. A great company that knows how to recognize and value great talents 🙂

Would really like to thank Melvin for pulling me into the company and exposing me to the PR industry.

The Studio D team and Jen Houston during her visit to WE Singapore
For more personal pictures with the team, check my Facebook ^_~


2) Final Year Project and Startup
It is official now! After a few weeks of indecisiveness and running through various phases of paperwork, I will be working on my own proposed Final Year Project at NUS. I know it is quite a huge risk to take but I believe it is worth a try.

Although the focus still needs refinement, it’ll be about measuring the diffusion of “Word of Mouth” marketing both quantitative and qualitatively on Social Networks. My team and I will be building a youth retail site with an environment that would trigger “Word of Mouth” marketing (hopefully). We will then measure the flow of information about products/brands from one user to another and how recipients act on this information. The platforms we plan to integrate with the site are Facebook and Twitter. This retail site will also be the startup I’m currently working on.

Will update as more things are finalized ^_~.

3) Halo Session with HP’s CTO – Phil McKinney
This Friday I’ll be waking up in the wee hours of the morning (okay its not that bad! just really early for a morning person like me) to attend a video conference at HP’s office with HP’s CTO, Phil McKinney. It will be a roundtable discussion using HP’s Halo technology .

I’m really excited about this event as the topic we will be discussing is Natural User Interfaces! What is Natural User Interfaces (NUI)? In short, it is interfaces that are easy to learn through experience. To put it simply, they are interfaces designed so well that you don’t have to read the manual to learn how to use the device. Unfortunately the only experience I have with NUI is my little, amateur-ish, out of the garage interactive kitchen table. Would be really interesting to hear how the pros go about the innovation process. 😀

Alright that’s about it! Feel free to e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, drop comment if there are any questions you would like me to ask during the discussion with Phil. I know some of you are real experts in this area judging from the e-mails I got on the touch table in the past.

Have a good half week! ^_~

NUS “Facebook” module info session

8 11 2008

Hey guys! Remember all the hype and talk about the new NUS Facebook module(Formal name is CS3216: Software Developing on Evolving Platforms)? Good news is that this module is going to be offered again next semester and applications for it are now open (I’m a tutor for it this time yay! ^_~). We’re going to be having an information session on it coming Monday (10 Nov 2008) to answer all your burning questions about the module, requirements it can fulfill, workload, projects, share our experience, etc so do drop by if you’re interested in finding out more. I wrote an article about my experience with the module but coming semester, I heard that things will be quite different in the sense that we will not only be developing apps for the Facebook platform but also on Microsoft WPF/Silverlight. More info in the mailer below:


Have you dreamed about building your very own cool Facebook app? Here’s your chance to do it!

Building on the success of CS3216 (Facebook@NUS) in AY2007/2008, we will be offering CS3216 again next Semester. CS3216 : Software Development on Evolving Platforms is a 4-MC cross-faculty course offered by the NUS School of Computing. To avoid timetable conflicts for students from other faculties and because we will be inviting external experts to give guest lectures, the lectures and seminars will be held on Monday evenings from 6.30 to 8.30 pm.

This module is not your traditional software engineering course. Inspired by The Last Lecture (or “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”), this course is your chance to start realising your dreams today. You will get the chance to show off your creativity to do something different. Be it online games, community service applications or industrial collaboration, you are free to build almost anything under the sun. Some of the cool applications created by students who took this course last semester include:

Farmwars : A brilliantly executed Facebook game that attracted 8,000 players in three months
My Music : A virtual piano that allows Facebook users to compose their favourite tunes.
Get Help! : A joint effort between the students and Sillicon Valley startup, Discoverio to develop an app for market research

See Farm Wars and My Music on local TV here.

Enrollment is open to students of all faculties and students will work in small inter-disciplinary teams to create their killer applications. Programming experience for non-SoC students is not a pre-requisite (since work will be done in teams) and we have had students from FASS, Business (including an MBA student) and Engineering in addition to SoC.

Assessment will be project-based and there will be no examination component. The course will begin with several lectures on the fundamentals of web development. Subsequently, students will work in teams to analyze and critique existing Facebook apps in a series of seminars. Compared to last semester, workload will be reduced and instead of only Facebook, there will be two semi-structured assignments: one on Facebook and one on Microsoft WPF/Silverlight focussing on hybrid apps supporting “disconnected” operation (Microsoft will be providing training and technical support for WPF/Silverlight). For the Final Project, students are free to propose anything they think is “cool” and they will not be limited to Facebook like last semester (though some form of network-based/web application is expected). Students are also welcome to use this opportunity to develop applications that have commercial potential or can be used as entries to Startup@Singapore.

Places for the course will be limited and some places will be reserved for non-SoC students. Also, like last semester, the places will not be assigned by CORS bidding. Instead, interested students are to submit a personal statement (with their matriculation number clearly stated) to cs3216-staff@googlegroups.com latest by 15 December 2008. Students will be informed by 26 December 2008 if they are offered a place in the upcoming offering of the new course (and students will automatically be pre-registered for CS3216 on CORS if their bid to take the class is successful).

The personal statement should address the following questions:

Why do you want to take the module?
Describe your background and explain how do you think you can contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of the module and to the team projects.
EITHER (i) Describe a cool Facebook app that you *really* want to build. Explain why you think your app is really cool; OR (ii) Describe a business/project that you want to start. Explain how you think taking CS3216 will help you.
Students should probably throw in a resume or portfolio of sorts if they feel that it would be helpful in demonstrating that they have what it takes to succeed in this course. Students who want to be considered for the class as designers should most definitely submit a portfolio of their artistic works as well.

To help students decide if they should sign up for the module, an information session will be held at 5 pm on 10 November 2008 (Monday) in Seminar Room 2 (COM1/204). Interested students are welcome to come learn more about the course. Do check out the module homepage at http://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~cs3216 or check out last year’s course report at http://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~cs3216/report-CS3216.pdf. Also, perhaps join the Course Facebook Group at: http://mit.facebook.com/group.php?gid=14275350327 and ask former students about the course?

This is your chance to let your imagination run wild and do something cool — and add “Facebook and Silverlight Developer” to your resume while you’re at it! 🙂 Questions? Please send email to cs3216-staff@googlegroups.com.

ASEANpreneurs: Network for student entrepreneurs

19 05 2008

ASEANpreneurs Logo

Hey guys! Just got a request to blog about this from my friends. It is about the launch of ASEANpreneurs, a new network created specially for student entrepreneurs from the ASEAN region. I was in the founding committee a few months back but had to leave due to overwhelming commitments. If you want to meet other student entrepreneurs from the ASEAN region, do attend their launch and check out what this network is up to! ^_~

Here’s a quick introduction:
The ASEANpreneurs Youth Leaders’ Network is a student organisation dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the ASEAN region. It will serve as a platform for the youth to interact, share knowledge and ideas and collaborate on various projects which may be beneficial to the ASEAN countries and economies. This will be facilitated by means of an online portal.

Membership is open to all ASEAN universities and their students. There will be an annual exchange programme for which top entrepreneurial students will be either nominated by their universities/ clubs or through self-nominations. We hope this exchange or a conference will be hosted on a rotational basis among the ASEAN countries. Throughout the year, projects will be initiated and undertaken by ASEANpreneurs to tackle problems in their own countries or to promote cooperation between the countries – as a commitment to the network and to further economic integration of ASEAN.

Date: 21 May 2008 (Wednesday)

Time: 11.00am – 1.00pm (Registration starts at 10.00am)

Venue: Hon Sui Sen Auditorium,
NUS Business School
1 Business Link
Singapore 117592

Attire: Smart Casual

Register online here.

The NUS Facebook Module: A student’s perspective

6 05 2008

Facebook logoExams have just come to an end for me today! (Woohoo! FINALLY!). It has definitely been an interesting semester with me being in the pioneer group of 2 subjects, one of which is the famous Facebook module. Reflecting on all that’s happened in the past 5 months, I thought some of you might be interested on how the Facebook module went considering the many pre-semester “speculations” about it. So here’s a quick write-up of my experience and thoughts. All comments and questions are welcomed! 😀
Quick introduction (skip if you already know what the module is about…)
For starters, the official name of the module is CS3216: Software Development on Evolving Platforms. The main objective of the module wasn’t so much to teach students how to create Facebook applications but rather to learn how to use Application Programming Interfaces(APIs) of various web platforms (Friendster, Open Social) to create applications. As Facebook is one of the rapidly growing platforms among students in Singapore, it became the choice of this module. Class is very small with a total head count of 51 students from various faculties (including Law). For more info, read the official introduction here.
The class structure…
Many thought that non-computing/engineering students won’t be able to contribute much as they can’t code but this turned out to be quite different because of the way the class is structured. The assignments are very open ended with only minimal requirements. By requirements, I don’t mean concrete things like “Your application must be a wall that people can scribble on” but rather “Your application should allow interaction between users and those interactions should be visible to others“.

Grading for the assignments is not based on technical aspects alone either with 70% awarded for meeting stated requirements and 30% for creativity (Final project is FREE FOR ALL with no requirements). Hence having a team with technical prowess alone is not enough to do well in this module. It takes a combination of various skill sets like creative-thinking, design, marketing and coding which gave room for everyone to contribute in their own respect.
Opportunity to explore
To be honest, I didn’t do much coding even though I am a Computing student (I hate coding!! ^^;;). I contributed more in terms of idea-generation, conceptualization, user interface and incentive design. The way the class was structured allowed me and I believe others to really focus our skills in where our interests truly were and take the leap to try out new things. For example, I got a first hand experience at game architecture and mechanics design which was waaay more brain-draining than I expected. (If I’m not wrong, some musically-inclined people got to show their composition skills as well)

However not everyone had the opportunity to delve deeper into their interests. I know a few who wanted to improve their PHP coding skills but as there was a shortage of talent (e.g: design), they ended up doing what they do best for the benefit of the team. I guess I was lucky to be in teams where both my interests and skills were complementary to the rest of my team members.
Do what you like for homework
Yea!! This is the part I can’t stop loving. I used to complain and whine about how university assignments take up so much time that I hardly have any left to work on my own ideas. This module was an opening for me. Due to the open-ended nature of the assignments, we could literally do ANYTHING we wanted for homework. From the list of applications created for the final project, one can see that majority of the class’ interest lied in games (guess it goes with the class being composed of more guys than girls). How many modules allow you to work on your dream idea and earn credits for it? 😀

Some cool games: Farm Wars 2, Ant Rush, Alt Real and Law School (Haha the concept behind Law School is interesting.)

Exposure exposure exposure…
I’d say that the learning curve is extremely steep for this module not in the technical sense but in the post-production segment. Being on Facebook, most of our applications are exposed to the public and hence there is a lot of work to be done once user feedback and statistics start trickling in. I find myself spending more time cracking my head on how to convert user feedbacks into changes that lead to improved user experiences than development. Of course this is not a bad thing because how often do you get to show your homework to the world and know what people think of it? This is definitely one of the most practical module I’ve taken at NUS thus far.

Another element that my professor and teaching assistants have been working hard on was getting exposure for our work and skills among business people. There were many sessions where we could meet with company CEOs, form potential partnerships and showcase our work to them. Even though not many teams took up the deals offered during the company pitching session, it resulted in a few interesting outcomes:

MTV MyCribs which is a Facebook version of yes, MTV Cribs haha.
RateMyTurban, Facebook version of RateMyTurban.com.

(And of course not forgetting the free lance project opportunities out there from the exposure…)
Lastly, is this module for everyone?
The workload was definitely heavy towards the 2nd half of the semester when all the other module deadlines started clumping up leaving most of us with sleepless nights. With 3 assignments, 1 application seminar presentation and 1 final project, I have to say it was quite a handful for many to handle including myself but most of us pulled through in the end. Then again, the module is still new and many things are being changed as more feedback is provided. I heard that the next time this module is offered, the workload will be 2 assignments and 1 final project and they will be less open-ended (and it’ll be using Adobe AIR? Cool!). To tell you the truth, MOST OF US stressed ourselves out not because the module was hard but rather because we had high standards to meet set by our classmates. After seeing stunning applications created in Assignment 2, most of us tried to create even better quality work for Assignment 3 which burnt out a lot of us.

Personally, I think the module is more oriented for students who love a challenging and risky but creative environment. With no bell curve, no exams and open-ended assignments, brute hard work is not going to help much in this module without the passion and creativity for your projects. The module’s focus is not about creating viral Facebook applications with 100K users(but of course if you do I’m pretty sure you’ll definitely get an A) but more on helping students learn be it in terms of coding, design or even communication. Hence I believe students who like to explore new things and challenge themselves in a rather open environment focused on practicalities will be well suited for this module. 😀

Note: If you want to check out all the applications created for the final project, go here.

The Prosperity Garden!

11 02 2008

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t been updating much. Before I know it, its been almost a whole month since I wrote anything. Yup, I’ve been busy with school work, particularly with my assignments for this module I’m taking at NUS called CS3216: Software Development on Evolving Platforms. To spare you the jargon, its a module where we develop Facebook applications for homework. Even though its been consuming a lot of my time, its the most fun module I’ve taken at NUS so far.

So what is The Prosperity Garden? It is a Facebook application my group and I developed as homework for our 2nd assignment (and also my first publicly released Facebook app). The theme for the assignment was “The Wall” but we didn’t want to make a variation of typical walls that never fail to make your profile look cluttered. We wanted to create a “wall” that profile owners could customize and call their own which was neat, flexible and interactive. Hence, we came up with the concept of a garden which friends could decorate with a gift everytime they sent you a message. At the same time, profile owners can choose to rearrange the gifts they receive so as to decorate their garden to their tastes and liking. And! Since CNY was around the corner, we decided to create a “Prosperity Garden” filled with auspicious CNY items which you could give your friends like ang pows (red packets with money), gold ingots, red lotus flower, firecrackers and etc.

The learning experience was definitely much more fun when we started getting feedback from users, (We got a few initial users who stared at the app and didn’t know what the app was for despite the instructions!), but I’ll save it for another blog post. In the meantime, do check out the app and feel free to drop me any comments / e-mails on feedback, bugs, errors, or even suggestions to further improve the app! ^_~

P.S: I do accept requests for specific gifts to be included in the app, like a blooded dagger for your enemies hehe!! Just send me a request and I’ll illustrate one for the app!

Tony Blair shares personal stories in NUS

10 11 2007

Tony Blair NUS

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a talk by Tony Blair! It was a public lecture held at the University Cultural Centre on “The Crisis in Global Governance: Challenges & Solutions”. I was really excited when I received the invitation. Although some say you could easily watch videos of him online, seeing him in person was really an experience in itself.

As expected, the delivery of his speech was flawless; very personal and engaging. What I liked most about it was how he slipped in snippets of his personal life, experience and political jokes (which was more of a highlight than the core topic). If you read some journals on Global Governance, you would have heard 70% of his speech. Hence, I will be writing more about the personal things he shared.

Technology is a DEMON
Blair started off by speaking about his “tech-savvy”ness. It seems, believe it or not, he has never written an e-mail or used a cell phone before his resignation. All of us were amused to hear this coming from the former leader of one of the world’s most developed nations! He only got himself acquainted with a cell phone a month after leaving office. One can only imagine the amount of pampering he got from his assistants.

He then moved on to talk about how technology is globalizing the world to a stage where a small incident happening across the world can have a future effect on his country and whether we like it or not, we are all “globalizers” by default. (This reminds me of the book “The World is Flat”).

Some leadership points…
Following from the above, a leader must be able to see this future effect and implement quick measures to counter it, which he uses to justify his decision on Iraq. Bush and him believed that if Saddam continued to be in power, both their countries will soon face serious negative effects which he did not define.

He then highlighted how leaders have to make unpopular decisions which may at times seem rash, for a future benefit that is not currently evident. He references this with the university fee hike incident that almost cost him his job. The rational is he saw a future where US universities would be overtaking UK universities in being world leaders unless a fee hike was implemented to improve facilities, research and the infrastructure. Looking at the world university rankings, guess he was right.

My summary: Good leaders are able to connect seemingly unrelated dots to weave a web of the future.

Politicians lie more than we think!
Another personal story he shared was about “something” he always wanted to do but couldn’t until his resignation. Every time new buzz words are introduced, he has a very short time frame to understand them. Sometimes before he is able to do so he gets questions where he has to respond in a manner that shows he understands it. For the first time in 8 years, he got a phone call where someone said “Such such and such, these are the statistics, what do you think?” and he could sincerely respond “I don’t know”. He was overjoyed at being able to do this, showing how much politicians lie!

A particularly interesting phrase he mentioned (which will be my favourite for a long time) goes:

“Politicians are only telling you the truth when they tell you something you don’t want to hear. They do this because an alternative explanation would make them look stupid”.

My friend’s immediate response: “No wonder Bush always sound stupid”.

The birth of his son
Tony Blair is the first British prime minister to have a son born during his term in 150 years. When the announcement of his wife being pregnant was made, the whole country brewed with excitement. He then said “Sometimes it makes you wonder what the previous prime ministers of the past 150 years were doing”.

Apart from the British, one guy (I forgot who) in Northern Ireland was excited about this news as well. During a meeting there, he pulled Blair aside and asked “Oh! Its wonderful that you’re having a child. What’s the child’s name going to be?”. Blair answered “Well, if its a boy, I’ll name him after my dad. If its a girl, I’ll name her ____”.

At the same meeting a year later, Blair noticed the guy had a VERY nice tan, one which you can’t get in Northern Ireland. Blair approached him and asked “Wow, that’s a nice tan you got there! Where did you get it?” and the reply was “Well, the bookmakers were offering a lot for the name of the child”. Blair’s response? “………………”

From politician to idealist
One of the changes I noticed in Blair’s speech was how the statements he make now are more idealistic and sincere. His solutions to the challenges of Global Governance are great solutions which we hope will happen, but know may not be possible when implemented because of the numerous problems that will crop up.

For example, during the Q&A session, he was posed a question on how to resolve the Palestine–Israel conflict. According to him, to effectively resolve this, governments of both countries need to sit down together and come up with a compromise which both sides are willing to agree with.

He believes that there are people in both countries who want to resolve this age-old conflict and move on to more bigger plans. In fact, he believes that Israel is not so concerned about land ownership but rather the level of Israel’s security. His proposed solution is for Palestine to build up the infrastructure of the city while Israel simultaneously implements measures to address security concerns.

To many, this is an impossible solution as these 2 countries have been fighting for a dream they have believed in for ages. Asking them to make a compromise would be hitting a brick wall. Then again, there have been seemingly outrageous ideals of the past which have lead to positive outcomes. Hence, I’d disagree with those who say that Blair’s proposals are impossible until we try them out.

As said by Anatole France (1844 – 1924):

To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.

Overall, his speech left me on an extremely inspired and delighted note. He is a truly great public speaker who gets his message through with simplicity, clarity and effortless engagement. 🙂

Thank you to my university for inviting Tony Blair to speak and for opening up this rare opportunity to students! I heard that it costs quite a bit to get him. (Rumours are, US$500K). Am definitely looking forward to hearing his future speeches. 🙂