tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:/posts Wesley Zhao 2017-05-25T13:22:08Z tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413752 2011-11-30T16:21:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z 30th post in 30 days

Alright alright. So this is the last post of the 30 posts in 30 day challenge (finally). Unfortunately, it's going to be a little anticlimactic since I don't really have any cool insights for today. Just a run down of some stuff I did today and maybe a little review of the month.

I got to go to a little town in Shanghai today that resembled a Pike Place sort of situation - small little places to shop and eat along a few dense streets and a few bigger restaurants and stores spread throughout. 

I didn't really want to eat anything there. That's when I realized... I don't think I'm that big a fan of Chinese food (wait what). I think there are a few things I really like, that are Chinese (most of which would be considered very 'white' of me to like too), and almost everything else I'm not a big fan of.

On the other hand, when I thought about it I'm pretty much a fan of all American type foods except those which include seafood (I don't like that cooked in any way).

That's my review for the day.

Now as for this month... I think it was a good excercise to write the 30 posts in 30 days. I think there were more platitudes and worthless posts than I wanted to, but I think there were a good number of quality posts too. It definitely made me think a lot more about my days and what I was experiencing. And beyond that, it forced me to do my best to analyze and remember. Normally, I would do something, think of something, then let it slip by. But I think the act of trying to remember "important" things is good. 

What's an experience worth to you if you can't even remember it the next day? Not much. So I'm glad I was able to turn my experiences this month into life lessons more so than I usually would have. 

I probably won't keep up this pace... but hopefully I will blog more now than I used to. Or maybe it will just tail off (actually that is probably what will happen). But I'll do my best to avoid it. Peace out for a few days (probably).

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413757 2011-11-29T17:12:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z Instead of traffic laws, Chinese people protect themselves with hypervigilance

I've been meaning to post something about this since the day I got here, but today's a good day to do it since I don't think there was any big insight for the day.

Here in China, not only is traffic horrendous in it's volume, but also in the amount of hazard it causes. I'm pretty sure traffic laws here are pretty similar to the States, but one thing that is definitely different is the level of obedience. Trying to cross the street here is like playing a real-life game of Frogger, where you only have one life to lose. And that's even when the car traffic light is red, and the pedestrian light is green. Be careful.

Even if a street is one way, do not assume that you should only look down one way before crossing. The saying goes something like "assuming makes an ass out of you and me," but in this case assuming makes you dead. Or at least fatally injured. Cars, bikes, and motorcylces routinely like to go down empty one-ways because it's more convenient for them.

No matter how safe you can assume to be because of whatever rules are in place, throw all those assumptions out of the window. Always keep your head on a swivel when crossing the streets (or walking anywhere near them) here in China.

All this danger aside, I tried to figure out if there was some anomoly here where you would think that this is all dangerous but the accident/fatality rate here is lower. Just like how you would assume that the speed-limitless autobahn would be more dangerous than the streets of the States but accident stats prove otherwise.

I did a little Googling (and some Wikipedia-ing) and found this table of statistics listing nations and their corresponding road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per a year. Turns out...China has a much higher road fatality rate than the United States. According to this Wiki article (and of course you may question its accuracy), in the States we have a rate of 12.3 whereas in China they have a rate of 16.5. 

So, given of course that this information is accurate, not only is the rate higher than the US but I assert that this comparison grossly understates the actual danger on the streets of China. And this is why... the data is based off 'per 100,000 inhabitants' and China is one huge country. BUT in China, the amount of actual traffic is very much concentrated into a very small number of places: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing, and others I may not know about. So the 16.5 number is a diluted number where you have a very high fataility rate in those small areas and almost a rate of 0 in probably the remaining 80% of China. So the streets of Shanghai are much more dangerous on any given day than the streets of the U.S.

But still... how do people manage to stay alive and not have massive traffic crisese everyday? I believe the answer is hypervigiliance.

Where in the US we have laws that keep us wary of what to expect, in China your job is to expect the unexpected. Everyone - drivers, pedestrians, bikers, etc - all know that everyone else will be following whatever rules they want (and often that is no rules). So everybody is hypervigilant, and that is how most people remain in tact.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413760 2011-11-28T16:16:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z Use Python to send real postcards via SendWrite

Not too much to report on China today. Dad went out to visit a friend at a University and I didn't really want to go. So I stayed in and watched some of the iOS tutorials from the Stanford lectures on iTunesU, wrote my first iOS app, and learned how to send a real life postcard using Python.

I used a company called SendWrite to do it. They have docs for CURL and some for Python, but their Python docs called for using APIWithBasicAuth, but I was more familiar with Python's 'requests' library so I decided to go with that and it worked fine.

Here's the Gist of what I did (lulz pun):

And there you have it! The only thing is you have to pay for your cards before you can send them, but other than that you're good to go! Check SendWrite out.

Coming down with a cold... gotta go to bed early. Peace out for now.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413770 2011-11-27T14:11:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z How different is language comprehension and language speaking?

I feel like it's gotta be very different.

The reason I pondered this was because while in China I am pretty fluent in understanding what is being said, but I have a very hard time speaking. I like to think that my accent is pretty good, it's just that a lot of the time I can't think of the words I need to be speaking. But when I hear them, I immediately know that's what I meant.

Similarly, in English I sometimes find myself stumbling as I write or speak when I feel like there's a perfect word for something I'm trying to express but I just can't think of it... I'm not a vocab buff, I don't read books often, and I don't read articles beyond the fold. So there's a reason why I might not have as many words right on the tip of my tongue. But again with these situations, it's similar to my situation in China where I know what I'm trying to say, and I'm pretty sure that I know the word, I just can't say it!

So that got me thinking about how connected those parts of the brain are. Knowing a new second language, and knowing your own language pretty well. I guess it seems pretty obvious that they are exactly the same? But I'm unsure.

Also I sort of feel that the language understanding part of the brain is much different than the language speaking/writing part of the brain. As shown by my lack of ability to proactively use big English words and use many words at all in Chinese when I can understand both perfectly well.

This research article suggests that they are the same part of the brain, but it makes no sense to me.

I'm very interested in how the brain works, how memory is stored and retrieved, etc so someone please enlighten me!

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413775 2011-11-26T15:23:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z From China: All the wrong reasons for being selfless

Guilt & selfishness. From what I've observed, those seem to be the real reasons why many people here may act selfless on certain occassions. 

Firstly, the debate of whether having reasons such as guilt and selfishness are good or bad reasons to be selfless is actually a topic for another post. In that regards, I probably could have chosen a better title for this post, but I wanted it to be catchy. In fact, I will be discussing simply how those are the reasons I've noticed behind some selflessness here and I will not be trying to debate whether those are good or not. The means to an ends thing is a debate that could last 10 posts+.

Secondly, by "certain occasions" I am most specifically referring to dining experiences I've had while here. Similar things about selflessness can probably be extrapolated, but most of my 'evidence' will come from experiences I've had at famly meals.

Now to begin.

It is very common, that when out (or in) at a family (or even friends) breakfast/lunch/dinner, you will see others passing the plate to someone else first. Very forcefully. In a way that goes beyond what you will see in American politeness. 

For instance, today my Dad and I had lunch with his friends. When a plate of shrimp came out, my Dad insited his friend have the first take. Where upon his friend insisted, again quite forcefully, that my Dad have the first take. This went back and forth as voices raised until one person was able to outpower the other person (literally in a physical manner) in taking a spoon and shoveling some of it on to the other's plate. This is just one specific instance, but I could go on and on about other occasions of something exactly like this happening (including several more from the same meal). And I guaruntee anyone you ask who lives/lived/visited China will tell you the same.

This would at first seem to be an act of selflessness.

Another example (from the same plate). As the plate of shrimp was being devoured and only a few bits were left, they again fought over who would have the last bit. Again it became a physical fight. I even found myself engaging in such odd rituals with a plate of beef and me giving some of the last bits (with my chopsticks) to my Dad.

This would, also, at first seem to be an act of selflessness.

Now let me explain the motivations for such selflessness. People in China are taught that these are the right things to do. From very young (and I can speak to this from first-hand experience) you are taught to ALWAYS let your 'guests' eat first and NEVER be so greedy as to finish off  a plate. And it's grilled and grilled into you. The origins of these ideals are very selfless. In that you should treat guests well, and that you shouldn't be greedy. But because these ideals are forced down your throat, instead of Chinese people doing them because they are simply selfless (as such rituals intend), they do them because if they don't then they feel guilty. 

Beyond that conclusion making a lot of sense, I have two further pieces of evidence for this. As I mentioned earlier, I caught myself in the act of following such rituals when deciding to forcefully put some last bits of beef on my Dad's plate. After the fact, I thought about why I did that. I realized it was becuase I felt that I was eating too much of it, and I would feel badly if my Dad hadn't got to try any because of me. So that's straight up some guilt. And it was selfish because I wanted to rid myself of the guilt, and by giving some beef to my Dad I was able to do that. For self-satisfaction.

Another thing is noticing, time after time, people offering something on a plate to someone else, either waiting until they accept the offer or until that person decides to forcefully place the food on the other's plate, and then immediately going in and taking some for themselves. I saw this several times today and will see it more in the future (as I stay here in China). I cannot attest to exactly what these people are thinking when they do this, but I will make an educated guess. They would feel guilty for eating more off that plate, and therefore make someone else take some first (and act as if it was their duty to do so), and relieve that guilt to be able to take some for themselves and enjoy it comfortably.

So these so-called selfless traditions you will find in dining out, and in other situations where courtesy is often extended, have now become just a way for people to rid themselves of guilt. And that is selfish. 

Disclaimer though: I do feel like I see some people act truly out of selflessness. And especially when it comes to the older generation (i.e. observing the actions of my grandparents), I feel like when they make courteous gestures they do it because they are just being sefless and really care, rather than for other reasons. And again, I fall victim to this too.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413778 2011-11-25T15:45:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Saw behind the Great Wall... didn't like the brainwashing

In China they now have a huge graduation-like celebration for you when you turn 18 and when you graduate. Cap, gowns, and everything. A huge ordeal. Since they can't throw those huge ordeals for every single individual in high school, they group birthdays togethers by months or so to get a large enough group that it makes sense to spend all the time/money into throwing that event.

I was told earlier this week when I arrived in Shanghai, that my cousin was to have hers! I was excited to go. Still excited as I walked into her auditorium and took my seat, I finally got a little dissapointed as it started. It was person after person, speech after speech. Admittedly, I drifted off a little at one point. 

As an American-born Chinese with only a few years of Chinese school under my belt at the ages of 5-7, I could still pick up enough words to get the general gist of what was going on. After giving listening a try, that's when I started to get intrigued again...

I started really paying attention to what they were talking about and I heard them emphasize family, country, and traditions. OK, well that wasn't too troubling..

But then... all the newly crowned 18-year-olds stood up and began speaking an oath. From what I heard (and confirmed with my Dad sitting next to me) part of their oath was a long pledge to remain true, loyal, and supportive to the Communist party. 

Then, surely enough, one-by-one cohorts within the 18-year-old class started screaming out oaths in synch with each other. Practiced, rehearsed, brain-washed. All the good bits. It felt really reminiscent to the Hitler Youth videos I see on Youtube.

And this was all supposed to be a celebration of the kids turning the ripe age of 18. But I couldn't stop picturing in my head a room full of top Chinese officials saying, "Hmm... OK we how can we brainwash these kids?"

"I have some great tactics we can use. Saw Germany use them successfully."

"Ok... now how do we get use them without being too open and getting criticized?"

"Hmm.. oh. Let's bring it to every school. Have a 'celebration' and do it then! And how can they criticize when we block ALL the things. lulz."


Oh right. That's the other thing. Along with the brainwashing, even if someone cared enough to talk about it they can't! All major social networks are blocked and the only one allowed (Weibo) is highly regulated by the Chinese government! 

It was really hard for me to see all that happening and realizing they couldn't do much about it. Noone could really get their voice heard that effectively even if they wanted too. I'm sure many people have thought about it, but realized rallying would be really tough.

And I talked to my Dad about it and he agreed the celebration was clearly a ruse to mask the brainwashing of these kids. And when I told him to bring it up with my Uncle, my Uncle agreed too but was very hesistant when talking about it. Not normally a shy person, he seemed that way when we brought it up.

My guess on it is that they've realized how badly the Chinese government is forcing their hand into their lives and how they have almost no say in it. So it's tough to face that fact, and easier to just try to pretend it's not happening. 

My dad told me a lot of Chinese are sympathetic to the censorship and brainwashing, because they feel it's the only way to main peace with such a large amount of people. Not only did I tell my Dad that's BS and that maybe the government should just act in the way that would not inspire riots, but also mentioned that it could clearly be a symptom of Stockhold Sydrome.

Anyways, today was a very eye opening experience. I'm really unsure about what it will take to fix these issues in China. Or if they ever will be fixed.

I told my Dad it's going to take a Ghandi of China - someone who can inspire a mass following, but who is not in it for the power. Because if someone likes power too much and gets traction, then it will just be another oppressive government taking over the old oppresive government.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413784 2011-11-24T17:03:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z How does China's Great Firewall work?

I thought it was pretty simple... until I got here. I figured that when an ISP received a request for a blocked domain or domains with specific key words, that it would stop there and no response (or a bad response) would be sent back. And then with search result blocking (on Google specifically) I thought that if there was a blocked search result, Google would still return a page with unblocked links with a "Results have been blocked" type message. Boy... I think I underestimated the Chinese Government.

Here are the things I've tried to reach unsuccessfully:

  • Google sites (sites.google.com)
  • Google Docs
  • Google.com (.com.hk is OK)
  • Youtube
  • Hulu
  • Posterous
  • Blogspot
  • Twitter
  • Any Google search page when searching for anything containing "facebook"

On certain VPN's and certain proxies I am still unable to access almost all of those sites as well. That tells me, either I am completely oblivious to how proxies/VPN's work or that the censorship here is much more sophisticated than I thought.

How did I know I was successfully connected to a VPN/Proxy? Well besides being prompted for credentials and then getting a response that said credentials OK, I also used a tool to figure out my public IP. I google'd What's My IP before using any VPN's or Proxies and kept that page up, and after connecting to a VPN or going through a proxy I figured out what my IP was again. Each time, the public IP my browser showed me was different, but without any VPN/proxy the IP was the same. So this told me I was accessing the internet through a different server. And in addition to that, I used a tool to verify that those new IP's originated from somewhere within the U.S.

So what happened when trying to access the internet through VPN's and Proxies? Well to be clear I tried, unsucessfully of course, to get around the Great Firewall with an NYU VPN, Home server VPN, UPenn VPN, and NYU Proxy. Again each verified that I was using it's public IP when accessing the internet. And so this is what would happen: Google.com would work...sometimes Hulu would work... but none of the other blocked sites I mentioned above would work.

Why is it that certain sites would work, but most of them would not EVEN if I was tunnelling to the internet via a non-China computer?? Does China have different tiers of censorship and know which sites are the highest priority to block and then let people easily access other  certain blocked sites?

How does that work??

The other thing was that whenever I typed in any "Facebook" related query to Google.com (or .hk) the response would get blocked. And then I would be unable to access Google for another 5 minutes or so while any other unblocked site would work fine. What is that magic??

And to clarify... by "blocked" I mean I would get a response from Chrome saying that Chrome could not connect, but when I opened up any other site (mostly Hacker News) in a new tab it would render just fine.

In the end, a certain VPN (GoTrusted) did end up working for me. You have to pay, but I am currently on a 7 day free trial. Yay!

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413791 2011-11-23T15:43:05Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Proud to be frugal I didn't really consciously think about it until today, but there can be a lot of pride in being frugal. It struck me today when we were at my grandparents' place and they were talking about how they never buy new clothes and will always wait for one of their kids (e.g. my Dad) to bring back old clothes that their kids (e.g. me) grew out of. 

After keying in on that, I could hear over and over how proud they were at being so frugal. But I imagine, that their frugality really came out of necessity rather than a desire. It was a principle adopted into their lives based off a need rather than want. Or maybe it wasn't them, but their parents. But somewhere down the line, I am 100% certain that frugality was essential to survival.

But now it has become a badge of pride that they wear, my Dad wears, and I see myself adorning on occasion as well. Now that I think about it, though, it makes sense. It's never fun to be the victim of circumstance (i.e. frugality due to necessity). So turn it into a game, or something you pride yourself in, and it becomes now a factor of your life that you control. 

It's a great coping mechanism. But also I do honestly think it's a great principle to have (but that may just be generations of Zhao frugality in my blood talking). I think being frugal is great. It discourages waste, and we all know the world could use a lot more of that. As I addressed in a previous post, being frugal is absolutely wonderful as long as it doesn't impose too much upon your happiness. And if you were raised frugal, most likely it will not.

So sitting there listening to my grandparents go on and on about how they never have to spend any money really made me appreciate the origin of my frugality. Because somewhere down the line someone in my family really had to be frugal just to survive, I now have this great principle that will keep me from spending beyond my means and being a resource-waster. And I'm proud of it.
tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413792 2011-11-23T01:02:35Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Great to see family This is serious post #1 coming from behind the Great Firewall of China. Hopefully, I don't say anything too incriminating and get my blog blocked!

We got in late last night around 10PM local time in Shanghai and was picked up by my Uncle (Dad's side). We then drove to my Grandparents' place (Dad's side again) and said hi. I think I underestimated how good it felt to be with family. I'm not much for get-togethers and such and so I was not necessarily that excited to head to China. But, for some reason, it felt really good to see family who I haven't seen in 5 years or more.

I haven't really been in contact with them since the last time I was back, so maybe it was just the feeling of, "Oh, I remember you. We had a connection once." Or maybe there is just something grander to be said about family. Hopefully it's the latter, but the former wouldn't be too surprising.

Today we're headed to see more family and revisit my Dad's parents.

More posts about China to come.
tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413800 2011-11-22T18:10:23Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z test post does this work?? China is blocking my access to posterous, so I'm testing if emailing post@posterous.com will work. 

I'm dying and I can't lose to Dan Shipper!!!

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413803 2011-11-21T20:51:57Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z RFS: A food/drink inventory tracker for homes

There's a startup/web app out there that I really wish existed: some sort of food/drink inventory tracker for my home. I think this will actually solve a pain that a lot of people have.

Pain: Wanting to know if you have a certain food/ingredient in your home, expiring food and the waste that comes with it, and being consious about food spending.

Demographic: Mostly families of 4+ (and especially those who shop at Costco or Sam's Club).

Well at least I know I have the aforementioned pain and that I fit the aformementioned demographic.

My family often buys food in bulk from Costco and often times we don't need all that food. This leads to a lot of waste and overspending. 

I think that an app that lets you track all the food items you buy, the date of purchase, and the expiration dates, would solve those problems. Ideally something that lets you take a picture of a receipt, enter in some expiration dates manually, then keeps it all in a nice database for you would be awesome. It would be even greater if on the app you can search for food/drink by tags/keywords and there would be a dynamically updated list on the side of "food expiring in the next 5 days" and "food that you bought a long time ago." In addition to all this, the app could recommend ways to serve the food/ingredients based off what is available, time of day, and the season.

Overall I think there is a lot of cool stuff here! And along with that, I believe that tracking all this will make people more consious of their food spending and will therefore result in spending less. 

The hardest part here is figuring out how the receipt-picture-taking would work exactly, and getting people to enter in dates manually. And also getting people to update what they just ate/used so that the food can be removed from the database or at least updated.

If someone makes this/figures it out let me know! My family could really use it.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413813 2011-11-21T05:02:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Leaving for China tomorrow

Great food! Great (cheap) shopping! All my family! But no (real) internet. And an ocean away from the United States.

I think there's going to be a lot to enjoy while I'm there but I don't think I will be able to hold back my FOMO. What could I be doing (productive or not) if I was back in the US??

A lot of my meetings, calls to potential customers, deals with potential partners, and probably more will be put on hold for the most part due to the time zone difference and the fact that I will not be physically present. It's probably a bad sign that I'm young and stressing over little things like this. I really should be thinking about how much I will be able to enjoy my trip back to Shanghai (haven't been back to see my extended family in probably over 5 years).

I will do my best to enjoy it, but also will try my best to get as much work done overseas as I can. I'll also be going through some iOS dev stuff (just installed VMware image of Mac OS onto my Thinkpad) and CSS/design learning during my free time.  Overall I think (and I hope) the trip will be productive.

Either way, I'll still have to keep up this blog until November 30.. though it seems Dan Shipper has fallen off the face of the planet :).

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413814 2011-11-20T06:49:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Attending college right after high school is generally a bad idea

I have a feeling that most "kids" in college are not particularly sure of what they want to study in school or what they want to do when they get out of school (if someone has evidence to prove this, or otherwise please share). Given this assumption, I think that it makes even more sense to take a couple years off before you go to college. But even if this assumption is not true, I still think it makes a lot of sense to not go to college right away after high school. Let me tackle this both ways.

First, given that most kids are not particularly sure what they want to study or do it makes sense to take some time between high school and college so you can figure stuff out. I'm a proponent of being able to take time off, in this case, to explore different interests and career paths or just to party and hang around.

I think it's obvious why taking time off to explore different interests and career paths would be valuable for someone who is not sure of what they want to do. Through experience, someone can figure out what practical things they are good at, what they don't enjoy, and hopefully what they do really enjoy. So ideally, someone who takes time off after high school will go through these motions and get a better sense of the direction they want their lives to take, so when you go back to school you know what you need to focus in on. But in all liklihood, if you let a teenager loose they probably won't do the responsible thing. So let me explain why I also think it's important to take time off even if it's to party/chill out.

After taking it easy and partying for a while, a kid will probably wise up and realize that life is not that simple and will start to take more responsibility and go down the path I mentioned in my last paragraph. If a kid is never able to realize this after partying for a long long time, they probably would never have been able to get that beaten into them through being in the academic system for 4 extra years anyways. I personally know several kids that are really wasting their time in college, so I will extrapolate that there are millions of other students doing this whom I will never know. I define waste as: partying way too much, attending classes only on occasion (or not at all), and/or taking classes just for the sake of taking classes (and not because they are interesting or valuable in any way). These goof-offs are better off goofing-off while not in college. Doing this while in college is a waste of time, money, and a valuable opportunity. A parent will often say something like, "Stop partying and wasting your time! Trust me I know what's best, and what's best is focusing on school work."

Well as it turns out, parents and adults generally do know what they're talking about, but it's hard for us kids to see that as immature creatures. We listen and remember lessons better by learning from our own mistakes and making the decisions ourselves. So even though you Moms and Dads of the world are usually right, we probably won't listen and will go with our own gut. Why not let us go with our own gut, even if that gut says to party? Just make sure we're not in college while we're doing it. Let us waste our time when that time isn't worth $40K+ a year and wait for us to wise up, figure out what we want, and go back to school if we so please.

College can be extremely valuable. You have a wealth of resources from your classmates, to your esteemed/experienced professors, to the great choices of classes and extracirriculars. People would be able to attain much more value out of these resources if they knew exactly what they were trying to get out of them and if people weren't too busy being distracted by other goof-offy things. Therefore to me, it makes a lot of sense that someone who doesn't have it completely figure out yet should take some time to goof off and figure it out before they go to college and extract every dollar of value they can out of the resources there. It'd be much more efficient that way. For very similar reasons, someone who does know what they want to do should also take time off between high school and college.

Now given my first assumption was wrong, if kids did know what they wanted to learn/do they should still be expected to take time off between high school and college. The first obvious thing is that people often think they want to do something before they actually do it. So taking time off gives those people a chance to try it out, and really figure out if they want to do it. If they really did want to do it, well nothing is lost because at least you get some valuable experience out of it. If it turns out that the person didn't end up actually liking what they thought they would like, well then they just saved a lot of time and money figuring it out before they went to college.

There is a less obvious reason for why someone should take time off if that person already knows what they want to do with their life and that thing has a high liklihood of not changing. Let's say I know that I want to be a programmer. Taking time off to try to do that and getting some experience will still be extremely valuable for me because 1) I'll figure out what parts of programming I really enjoy and 2) which parts I really suck at. Knowing both these things will help me extract more value out of college. I will be able to choose which classes to take, professors to talk to, people to interact with based off what I know my particular fancy is and based off what I know I need to learn more about and get better at.

All of these reasons I mentioned about why taking time off between high school and college is good revolve around extracting the most out of college as possible. This should tell you that I am not actually against college and higher education, I am just for a different approach then what is traditionally acceptable. As I mentioned, I believe college has several great resources for people and that everyone should recognize it. The only thing is, I believe that you should optimize your time in college. And I think that for everyone, no matter what your case is, you can optimize your time there by first taking some time off between graduating high school and going to college.

I think that going to college is still generally a good thing so it should still be commonplace for people to attend college. I am just proposing people shift their views about how fast the turnover should be between a student exiting high school and entering college.

Would definitely love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413825 2011-11-19T07:26:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z RIP 1983 BMW 320i

Rest in peace, friend. Today we officially (sort of) say goodbye to a very (very) old friend - let me clarify that he is very very old, but has not been my friend for that long of a time. 

While trying to install a new battery into the 1983 BMW 320i sitting in front of my garage, my friend and I heard a *thunk*. We thought nothing of it, until we walked around the car a few minutes later and noticed the exhaust pipes and muffler had fallen off the car... There they were just rusted off this masterpiece BMW.

Given I hadn't driven this car for a while, and it was only given to us recently, I was still hoping there was some chance to breathe life into it. My friend really needed a car and didn't want to spend much, so I was planning on giving it to him practically for free! 1) I get to help a friend out and 2) I get to vicariously live through someone who gets to drive that sweet BMW on a daily basis.

It just ended up needing too much fixing, and it probably wasn't worth it. At 260K miles, we knew we had to replace the battery, the alternator, and now also the muffler/exhaust pipes. Now this is what we found after just extremely basic inspection. I imagine if we looked any further, there were probably other parts that needed fixing or tuning up. In fact, I could easily imaginge my buddy driving down the highway and not realize that he had been losing bits and parts every so mile or so until he ended up home with nothing but two wheels and his comfy seat.

It was the right decision though to say, you know what there's too much risk involved and already a lot of money I'd have to up front for a crappy car. So I would have walked away too. But now, I have to either find a super passionate car-fixer-upper, or donate this guy/gal.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413834 2011-11-18T06:42:00Z 2016-01-21T05:23:15Z Frugality vs Stinginess

There's a fine line between being stingy and being frugal. You can choose to not waste money - that's frugal - or you can choose to hoard your cash - that's stingy. It's such a fine line because what counts as a 'waste' and 'basic necessity' is often subjective and very open to debate.

Here are a few things for consideration when talking about being frugal versus being stingy.

Choosing a living space. It can be argued that for your place of inhabitance, all you need is space to sleep, eat, and shower, and that's that. I think that may be true for some people, but for many people having the basic minumums could be a hinderance on productivity and happiness. I think that for what I know about myself, I can be perfectly content with just enough room for an air mattress, and some space to set up my laptop and a couple of plates for food and food I consumed the days before (since I refuse to clean up often). The thing is not everyone can live like this. Some people genuinely will become unproductive or demoralized without a certain level of comfort met. You have to decide if you still want to work with those people - if you do, you have to learn that this means you can't try to force them to be too 'stingy' - or if you want to find people like you. So being "frugal" or "stingy" in this case is just what the level of comfort someone must have before their mood or work is impacted. Again for me personally, my frugal tends to be a lot of other people's stingy. I'm okay with very very basic needs.

What to eat. Again, this is not cut and dry. You can decide to feed yourself the basic nutritional needs and could consider that frugal. But almost everyone else would find that stingy. I actually have found that empiracally, I do get a happiness boost if I eat good food over just basic cheap food. Being full is important, first of all, but being satisified can be just as important. It's all about morale, I suppose. Being frugal here is just trying to buy groceries on sale as often as possible and planning ahead, while stingy would be just always buying the dirst-cheapest thing available.

What office supplies to get. There are some clearer measurable metrics here, so this is probably the most objective out of the three. I think you could clearly measure productivity boosts that an extra monitor provides, or a separate keyboard/mouse, or even quality pens/pencils. I would say with office supplies, it can be good to spend some money here. Obviously, don't go buying huge monitors for everyone and their mothers, but make sure you don't limit your productivity by not having something you need. Being frugal here, I would say is just trying to get the best deals for the things you need. Being stingy would be telling everyone that just a laptop is enough and to go with Toshiba or something ridiculous like that. 

Overall I think being frugal means, spend the least amount of money possible so that you can be productive without thinking about what else you might need or having things get in the way. Being stingy would cause you to really be worn down by the environment. That would be bad.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413839 2011-11-17T06:27:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Always find a key take away

I think it was JBiebs that introduced this principle to me first. I was back at Penn last year and we were having lunch. I was asking him for advice on what classes to take and how to get the most out of him. Something that stuck with me was what he said about how he always makes sure he has at least one key take away from the classes that he takes. One sentence that summarizes the most important concept he learned. 

A few reasons I think this is a good concept to apply to several things are that 1) it really makes your brain reprocess the information that was thrown at you and that itself helps you retain information better, 2) because it's one sentence it's even more likely that you'll remember it, and 3) because of 1 and 2 you're likely to really have gained value from that one class or whatever.

Today I had several meetings in a row and decided that I might try using this "find a key take away" thing to see if it does any good. Immediately I found myself really thinking about the conversations I had more than I normally did. Usually I would forget most of the notes that I took. In addition, being able to synthesize it I am now able to really internalize the lessons and advice that was given to me. I think this is something I am going to continue doing.

And this shouldn't only apply to meetings with people who offer advice and guidance. But it can be used on a daily basis for all tasks. After you do some Google-fu for research, after you read an article on Hacker News, or after you finish trying to figure out what way to design your next batch of code. Next time I'm going to use this method and figure out how much it will improve my life and the amount I learn and retain what I learn. My hypothesis is that it will be really beneficial.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413844 2011-11-16T06:39:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Patent Trolls

Patent trolls are lame. Same with trademark trolls. And other trolls that just frustrate and waste the time of startups. Today I spoke with a startup that wasted valuable time and money fending off a pesky trademark troll. What a waste! But what else could they do?

I think Google was right in adopting the motto "don't be evil" because it really make sense for the technology world (and really the world as a whole).

It seems so simple, yet it's not common practice not be evil. I think the good thing about laws are that they establish somewhat of a boundary of no matter what you absolutely cannot be THIS bad or you will be punished but the issue with them is that many people (including myself) decide that "rules are meant to be broken" and there is no perfect rule that is not exploitable. So people will typically either exploit rules to exploit them, or people are genuinely a little evil but sensible just enough to not want to get arrested or sued themselves.

This general attitude of "but I'm not breaking the law" is what I find annoying and useless. Being good is not just being loyal to the PoPo but loyal to generally having a good moral compass. Now that is VERY subjective but I think there are a lot of things people can generally agree are good and bad. And also, more often than not, perpatraters who claim they know no better, really know the difference between 'evil' and 'good' and decide to be 'evil' because it's legal.

In general the law should not be your moral compass. 1) because the law can be wrong sometimes and 2) the law is just the boundary case of what is absolutely unnacceptable. I'm sure there are a lot of exceptions to this, but I make it simple for myself so it's just how I see things. Certain things are right and certain things are not.

For instance patent trolling is wrong. A patent is a legitimate way to encourage innovation, so don't use it to hinder it. Someone who just squats on patents and tries to debunk any somewhat successful person from building something awesome (or just wasting their time/resources) is evil in my book. Or at least not good. 

I know this is kind of a ramble. But it kind of makes sense.

TL;DR - don't be evil. 

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413845 2011-11-15T06:02:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z A constant of sports and startups - always fail at full speed

This is a post that I've been meaning to write for a long time and I probably won't do justice to. So look forward to me rewriting it in the future :). But a valuable lesson that has (literally) been beaten into my brain since I started playing football in 3rd grade is always go full speed

Some of the more obvious safety beneftis of this is when you slow down or hesistate in football, you tend to be more prone to twisting your ankle or falling the wrong way and hurting your wrist/fingers. Also when tackling, when you slow down your opponent always seems to be able to knock the wind out of you that much easier. I can't explain how this works scientifically, but empirically I've noticed these things during my 10 years of playing time. 

And beyond just avoiding injury or getting pounded by a huge lineman, there seems to be a clear mental benefit in failing at full speed as well. Your body tends to remember the decision it makes, and it was right, it will repeat it. If it was wrong, it will avoid it. Again I have no scientific way to explain this, but I'll give this one my best shot.

I attribute this phenomenon to muscle memory. As an athlete, you will find yourself doing a lot of tedious drills. The point of this is to gain muscle memory for the basic skills you need for whatever sport and position. That's why drills tend to be easy, then hard, then easy, then hard, etc. Because you usually will build muscle memory for somehting very basic, move on, get used io it, then it becomes basic to you, and you have to move on, and etc. My observation is that drilling tends to be very effective, and my hypothesis is because it banks on muscle memory (which for many people is very effective). A lot of math people to do it too (I know b/c I used to be a mathlete). In school, we get drilled on fractions, times tables, etc. This is all because muscle memory is great for a quick and reflexive response.

This is why making mistakes (or failing) at full speed is important. Because failing at full speed enough times, will make you instincly know that it's the wrong thing. It means that you will be able to make the right decision faster, because your brain has been trained to see what's wrong. Maybe you won't instinctly know what's right but you'll instincly know what's wrong and if you fail enough times, logic says you'll eliminate all wrong options and therefore you will know what's right afterall. That's right there is an argument to fail fast. So you can get to the right option faster.

But just like with sports/math/whatever, some people "get it" faster than others. And some people develop that instinct after shorter periods of times than others. It really just depends on how smart you are, and after a certain point that is probably out of your control.

So segue into startups and real life... the more you make business decisions at full speed, the more likely that if it was the wrong decision, or a mistake, you'll build the instinct to avoid it.

The thing people end up doing wrong is overthinking and taking too much time on decisions. You'll never be able to internalize that decision process unless you're a super genius (which some entrepreneurs might be). So think about it, and go for it. This is why VC's encourage companies to go after high stakes really quickly. I think it's not only because that's how fund math works, but because it's how great companies are built.

And this principle of failing at full speed applies to life too! Try it next time, smarty! When you're lost and you have to decide to turn right, or turn left... next time don't think too much about it and just go for it. It will be better for you in the long run. Trust me.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413852 2011-11-14T05:50:00Z 2017-05-25T13:22:08Z How to hack several systems - all you need is a gmail address

So there is a simple hack you can use almost all across the web that I only recently found monetary value for. You can tell me what you think the ethics of it are, but let me first explain to you what I'm talking about. To participate in this, all you need is a Gmail address.

What I found out a long time ago from a friend is that Gmail has 'dot blindness,' or in other words wesley.zhao@gmail.com is functionally the same as wesleyzhao@gmaill.com, w.e.s.l.e.y.zhao@gmail.com, and wesleyzh.ao@gmail.com (etc..). If you send an email to any one of those email addresses, they will end up in your inbox (assuming that's your username).

Now the big question is...how can I use this new found knowledge to my advantage? Simple. First case is with Twitter. As someone who builds web apps now and then, I also like to get Twitter handles for those projects on occasion. Twitter doesn't allow you to sign up multiple accounts on the same email address (very similar to almost every single service out there which requires an email on sign-up) because usually that's the unique identifier in their records database. With this cool dot blindness knowledge, you can know sign up an infinite amount of accounts using just one Gmail account with varying numbers of dots. And as I breifly mentioned earlier, this can be applied to almost every single web service that requires an email and you would like to have multiple accounts for whatever reason.

Now the second way that I've found use for this, that also has some monetary value, is the new Red Robin Royalty Card promotion. If you get a loyalty (or royalty) card from them, you get a free appetizer within 15 days of registration, and a free burger on your birthday. All you need is an (unique) email! Well... needless to say. I may have found my way to several free appetizers and free burgers on consecutive months. You figure out how I did it. Should be easy if you've been paying attention.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413744 2011-11-13T07:41:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z Wake on LAN (WOL) stopped working randomly [FIX]

Recently I set up a server on my dinsasoar home computer that nobody used. I loaded Nginx onto it was able to successfully set up some secure SSH on it. I was pretty excited, and will definitely write a post about that later.

One of the things that I tried to do was set up Wake-on-LAN. This is a feature that lets you basically send a TCP packet to a computer (must be connected over ethernet because it targets IP and MAC address) and then it wakes up the computer from a shut-down state. 

So I ran into an issue that I eventually found a solution to. My WOL feature for my home nginx server wasn't working after it had just worked. I fiugred out why thanks to this post:


Apparently if you don't shut down the computer cleanly (e.g. you are forced to hold the power button) something gets fuxed up and doesn't work.

After I turned it back on, and shut it down cleanly. All was god.

WOL setup is pretty simple though to begin with.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413747 2011-11-12T06:35:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z The more crowded the restaurant the better the food

Or at least you would think. Ajay and I got into that discussion today as we were trying to decide which Taqueria to go to near my Dad's South San Francisco pad. We ended up choosing La Taqueria Menudo thanks to Yelp.

But as we were walking the streets we passed by several empty spots and a few more crowded places. We immediately casted off the empty spots as must-suck's and kept our eye open for places with a crowd. After a second though, I was a little hesitant about my logic. 

I started to recall experiences where a place was super-hyped, filled with lots of people, but I was a little dissappointed by the food. So I began to think to myself, how good of a predictor is crowdedness for the quality of food at a restaurant.

From my research (aka digging through memories of food experiences), I think that usually when I get a great meal the place is pretty packed. I've had experiences in spots where I've had to wait long lines and ended up with not-super-impressive food, but usually something made up for it like the story behind the place, the decor, or the location. The food, though, was never bad. I would just be dissappointed because I expected better.

However... on the other hand of that. I definitely can recall eating crappy food at empty places. Thinking to myself, "ah yeah that's a gem." But turns out it wouldn't be a gem... just a poorly maintained space. 

I think in general the following things are true (in general!):

- When you find yourself eating great food, you probably have a good amount of company.

- When you find yourself eating alone, the food is probably not going to be great and you need to find a friend.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413750 2011-11-11T06:19:02Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z TIL What a Pump and Dump is

I was reading Hacker News a couple days back and saw this post from a guy that he was being pushed stock for a video company that was completely illegitimate. 

TL;DR the company claims that they will help stream HD videos to devices with slower internet connections (e.g. a mobile phone) by using their special software which reduces the size of a currently compressed video to around 10x less. And the guy who wrote the post, took one of their sample videos on their website and realized they just used simple encoding and slowed the frame rate of the video from normal 24/30 fps to about 6 fps...

So this guy was seeing the company, Raystream, have it's penny stock shoot up several fold and had no idea why. Well my friends... it turns out they have a name for that sort of thing: a pump and dump.

Admittedly I don't really have a great handle of exactly what it is and how it works, since everything I learned about a pump and dump I learned from watching the videos here, but here is what I've gathered.

Organizations with newsletters, or just random people, with lots of money and no morals, will spend millions of dollars working to publicize a stock thats worth a few cents. They will get sales people to make calls, post ads on financial newsletters, and basically pull all the stops so they can get a huge volume of this cheap (and completely worthless stock) sold and raise the prices.

Usually the price will spike up for about 3 days (that's usually the max it will last) sometimes from 2 cents to 2 dollars (for those who can't do math that's a 10,000% increase btw) and then come crashing down. It sucks for the people who got in late, but is hugely successful for those who got in early (the promoters and some other lucky few) and those who were able to by the few shorts available.

So just watch out for those. But if you see one of these pump and dump's happening, you think it's still going to go up, and you're willing to take the risk, you could make a lot of money. But if you time it wrong... you're toast.




tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413751 2011-11-10T01:55:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z Any smart person can code: How to go from a manual task, to an automated program

My goal in this post is to give to any programmer who has a friend that wants to learn to code, or any person who wants to teach themselves to code, the proper tools/perspective to take the first step.

In my opinion, every smart person has the ability to code. It's just a matter of doing 2 things: learning what kind of things are possible with code and then learn the syntax to execute those things. That being said, that can still be a tremendous hurdle. Though overcoming the syntactical barrier is probably easiest, because it has become a simple matter of Googling something like:

How to split a string in python

Or basically how do I do x task in y language.

The bigger challenge is figuring out what x task needs to be if you're unfamiliar with programming and don't know what it can do. Now my proposition is that the challenge is not as big as it seems, and there is a simple way to over come it. All you have to do is tell the person to be so overly consious of the actions they take when completing a task, that they would be able to write down each step, give it to 1000 idiots, and have said idiots complete the task with a 100% success rate.

Tell them to dig deep and remember what every good science teacher they hard harked on: create a flawless and fool-proof procedure for your experiment (or task rather). Being able to do this, helps you overcome that first barrier of figuring out what procedures code can do and that you can Google the syntax for.

Let me show you an example. Let's figure out how we would do this for a task that's trivial for experienced programmers, but not-so-trivial for a beginner. 

Task: given a text file with student scores, figure out the final letter grade each student deserves.

Here's the text file:

Now let's just think out loud, not as programmers, but as humans. How would we do this? We know already that we need to first open the file, figure out which scores belong to which kid, add those scores up, find the average, then based off that average assign the kid a letter grade.

Now we can break this down even further.

  1. Open a text file called student_scores.txt

  2. Read the first line of text for the first kid

  3. Figure out the name of the first kid is Joe

  4. Add every test score of Joe's up, and divide it by the total number of test scores

  5. Take that number and assign it a letter grade

  6. Repeat steps 3 - 5 for Kim, Alex, and Sam.

And to break it down further so that it comes closer and closer to pseudo-code and something Google-able, you have to keep asking "How do you do step x" until you can't be any more specific. For instance I'd ask for step 3: how do you know the kid in the line is Joe? For step 4: How do you know what in that line is a test score? For step 5: How do you know what letter grade to assign it? For step 6: How do you repeat it for the three other kids?

The answers will get you a more broken down procedure like this:

  1. Open a text file called student_scores.txt

  2. Read the first line of text for the first kid

  3. Take the word that comes before the ":" (colon) character and that is the name of the first kid.

  4 a. Take the sum of all the numbers separated by commas

  4 b. Divide that sum by the total numbers separated by commas

  5 a. If that average score is greater than or equal to 90, assign the person an "A"

  5 b. Otherwise, if the score is greater than or equal to 80, assign the person a "B"

  5 c. Otherwise ...etc...

  6 a. Skip the next line in the text file.

  6 b. Starting with the line after that, repeat steps 3 through 5.

  7. Repeat step 6 until there are no more lines in the text file.

Now it just takes a little more guidance and a little more asking "how" to turn all that into perfectly good pseudo-code that a noob can go Google and find that syntax for the language they want to use.

And since every smart person is going to be able to write a good scientific procedure, every smart person is going to be able to get the hang of thinking through tasks like a coder, which means every smart person is going to be able to write pseudo-code. And since they are smart, they will also be able to figure out how to Google that to figure out exactly how to do it in their language :). There, problem solved. Now go help all your friends become programmers!

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413755 2011-11-09T05:41:51Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z The Google OAuth Playground - finally a glimpse of hope for the OAuth nightmare

I'm not sure about everyone, but I personally have a lot of issues with OAuth based authentication in API's, especially when there are no high level libraries (which is true for Tumblr). And I know from first hand experience that dealing with Tumblr's API, where they tell you auth is OAuth based and that's about all, it gets a little confusing when you don't understand exactly how everything works. My experience with authing with Facebook and LinkedIn have been pretty good since they will walk you through how to do it and even add some abstraction for OAuth in their libraries.

But for all the slightly-confused devs out there who aren't that familiar with OAuth, Google has launched an OAuth Playground. Here you can play around with calling for authorization tokens, access tokens, request tokens, whatever other tokens, and all for whatever API you want. They have some pre-loaded ones, but you can copy paste your own in. This will let you learn through experience how the whole OAuth process works (with all the back and forth calling/requesting) and let you do some test runs on whichever API you plan on using for your next project!

I am definitely going to use this for whenever I have my next project that requires OAuth authentication. Since I am much more of a learn-by-doing than learn-by-reading, I think this will help educate me for all future projects too.

Here is the article from Hacker News where I found the OAuth playground: Google Launches OAuth 2.0 Playground.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413763 2011-11-08T03:20:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:52Z Be extremely attentive to your first users

This post is mostly a reflection of the great points from this post: It’s the CEO’s job to email the first 1000 signups.

I'm going to try to tell you the points that I got most from that post from memory, and try to avoid looking back on it. The reason being that I would assume the points that resonated the most with me, I would remember.

So the post highlights two major rules when sending your emails out to your 1000 signups:

  1. Actually do it manually.
  2. Don't be pushy.

The point of doing it manually is that you get the opportunity to personalize each email and you completely avoid the probability of messing up the first/last name in some mass mailing thing. The first 1000 or so sign ups are going to be some of the most important customers (reasons I'll get to later), and so it's crucial that you treat them as such and devote personal time to each one.

The point of not being pushy really has to do with, respect the person's time because they're doing you a favor for signing up. Don't make the email long and boring to read, and don't push any surveys on to the person. Say "Hi" and let them know you're available for help/suggestions. That's that. 

And the biggest reason, which I gleaned from the post, for sticking to these rules in your email is that your biggest evangalists/fans will probably come from your first 1000 or so sign ups. So use the email as an opportunity to both identify those fan boy/girls and to not piss any of them off. The ones who respond with suggestions, questions, and excitement, are the ones you should keep track of, pay special attention to, and follow up with.

I imagine there are several startups which were able to really gain a lot of value and traction from the amount of passion the first couple evangalizing customers had. One that immediately comes to mind is Mint.com's success with a small marketing budget. They were able to really get their first customers involved, keep them happy/excited, and really use that to their advantage in growing so quickly. Many startups have probably been able to get some virality from this and it's something I look to do on my next startup.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413771 2011-11-07T03:52:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z What the Node

I personally don't see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Node. I admit it's a pretty cool concept, and from looking at some benchmarks it is admittedly pretty fast as well. But are the performance beneftits so significant that it can really make or break a product?

I recently wrote a post about Why you should never worry about scalability (at least in the beginning) which referenced the Hustler's Manifesto. This post falls along the same lines in the realization that you should really spend your time focusing on building a great product that people find valuable (hopefully enough to give you a buck or so).

Node.js may be a great thing to learn far far down the line, when you begin to think about handling loads of millions and millions of people at the time. But most of the Node.js hype I hear is not from developers planning on working at big companies, or developers already working at those big companies, but rather potential startup founders/technical founders. Hm, now that's a little odd to me.

I agree that thinking ahead is great and that sometimes it's fun to try new things as a technologist (I find myself falling in this bucket), but startup founders and technologists should be more hyped about what the big markets to attack or what problems they just heard some consumers crying about. I think that Node is cool and should be looked at, but I just think that there is too much buzz right now in porportion to how valuable it is to the crowd talking about it.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413782 2011-11-06T05:00:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z Why you should never worry about scalability (in the beginning)

I really began consiouly thinking about my own nerdy process after reading The Hustler's Manifesto  - TLDR; 1) don't test all your code, 2) stop being such a nerd, 3) take ownership of all your features.

I realized that I easily fell into the traps of 2 & 3 of the manifesto in that (2) even though I'm not the smartest nor most experienced nerd, I love figuring out what's best practice, what little things I can do to tweak to make things more efficient, and generally geeking out. And (3) thinking about cool other features to code up, because I love coding, rather than figuring out how valuable the current implented features are by getting measurable metrics.

I talked to fellow nerd Arthur Chang (Fanvibe/BeRecruited) about it, we discussed it, and I concluded that you should never worry about scalability (at least not in the beginning). It's a waste of time.

Well... actually that line is a little sensationalized. What I really mean is it is usually more harmful than helpful to worry about the little nerdy things in the beginning. The reason is because most problems that you will try to tackle and find a solution for, will only present themselves as real problems if you suddenly get a lot of traction and scale/efficiency really begins to make a difference.

And in the case that things break.. well then you are probably in a good position. With those types of problems, you can probably go out and raise money. And with that money you can go out and hire people to work out those problems while you continue to focus on the vision of your product!

So basically, when the nerd within begins to spend that extra second worrying about efficiency remember that your time is better spent working on getting your product built and distributed. Because most likely there will never even be a sign of a problem - in which case if you spent time working on solving that problem you wasted your time - but if there is a problem then you are ready to raise money to find someone to spend the time solving that problem.

There are definitely plenty of exceptions to this, but I feel that generally following this works. You should definitely make sure there are no gaping wholes in what you're building but don't worry too much about it! Though... do what I say and not as I do. As I will probably fall into this trap.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413787 2011-11-04T08:58:28Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z WePay's (YC S09) Bill Clerico On Millionaire Matchmaker [HD Video]

So I was supposed to go to sleep to get ready for another day of waking up early to cold call coaches... but I couldn't resist.

Here's the video of Bill Clerico of WePay (YC S'09) on Millionaire Matchmaker getting stuck in the friend zone ;). I did my best to get all the parts with him, and leave the rest out.

I do it for the lulz.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413795 2011-11-04T05:40:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z How an hour of trolling helped me get over 3,000 users

Over 2,000 3,000 people have downloaded a chrome extension I built in less than an hour. I do it for the lulz.

I'm both a little upset and super happy about this right meow. A little upset because usually after putting a lot more effort in coming up with an ambitious idea and a lot more time into building it, I get either similar or worse results. Super happy, because I'm incredibly delighted at how many people I've made smile with my Facebook Me-Gusta Chrome Extension!

It all started with my love for /r/f7u12. And one afternoon, I searched 'Me gusta' on Facebook just for the heck of it and came up with this Facebook page: Change the "like" button to "Me Gusta" for a day.

As soon as I saw this, I LOFLMAO'd (lulzd on the floor laughing my arse off). I immediately pictured what it would be like and lulz'd again. 

And then... I realized... Wait. I can make this happen. And that's when pigs began to fly.

I used what I learned from building a really basic chrome extension to make my dreams into reality. A little over an hour later, a star was born.

Anyone who downloaded my chrome extension, could now navigate to Facebook and see all the "Like" buttons turn into a Me Gusta face with the text "Me Gusta" next to it!! TROLOLOL. :).

I really only built it for my own amusement (and believe me, I was amused) and shared it with just some friends on Facebook. I let it just simmer for about a month and then I checked in on my extension and WOAH.

The WOAH in the analytics

That big spike you see is a result of someone posting a screenshot on /r/funny and someone noticed their "Like" button actually said "Me Gusta." The author of the post (thanks NotANoveltyUser) was asked how s/he did it and they posted the url to my extension!! That spike in users also got my extension featured on the "Fun" Chrome extension section (though not above the fold).


The reddit post, and subsequent comment

And the rest is history :). So basically it turns out that if you build something for fun or personal fulfillment, you sometimes end up with a really cool result. And the moral of the story is, if you do it for the lulz, people will lulz with you.

tag:wesleyzhao.com,2013:Post/413806 2011-11-03T05:41:00Z 2013-10-08T16:50:53Z How Paul Graham's essay on wealth got me to learn how to code, then got me an interview with the man himself

My sister went to Wharton and she became a banker, and when I began my first year there that's what I thought I was going to be too. Albeit, my sister has since come to her senses and now is out of that game (congrats Linda!).

I thought going into banking would be a pretty safe track for me. I knew I wanted to start a company one day, but I wasn't sure I would be able to if I didn't have any money. At that time, I also had no idea how angel investing or VC money worked so I really thought that putting up my own capital was the only way. My plan was to get into banking, like all the other Whartonintes, get a sizable nest egg, then go and start a kickass company. Boy was I delusional.

But today, I potentially would have been that same delusional future MBA-er if it wasn't for this Paul Graham article - "How to Make Wealth". (BTW since that title is in quotes, does the period go after or before it?).

Well it was really a series of events and the first domino was Ajay getting me to read this essay. Ajay had always been a little more in tune with the tech scene than I was. He constantly tried to get me to read TechCrunch, told me about things like Y Combinator, and sent links my way. It wasn't until one bored hour during Thanksgiving Break of 2010 did I finally give in. 

I read that PG article and, wow, it blew my mind. It was then that I started to think about the possibilities of starting a startup, and how inherently good that would be for the world and for myself. The article is a fairly long read and PG covers a lot from how wealth is not conserved but can be created, how good startups are just 40 years of hard work concentrated into 5, how providing something that people want is wealth, etc etc. 

This really began to shape my philosophy on how the world should work.

After reading that essay, I began reading more essays. After break, I went back to school and heard about several Wharton startups making some big exits and creating a lot of wealth (Milo, InviteMedia, Quidsi). I was bombarded with the perfect storm of startup tech news and success.

And that's when I forced myself to learn how to code and build web apps. During Winter Break, Ajay and I taught ourselves web dev and we built our first couple of apps. Before we knew it, we we got a viral success on CNN/Mashable. And before we knew it, again, we were getting interviewed by the man himself, PG. It's been a roller coaster ride, and it all began with a new found perspective on wealth. 

I highly recommend you read that essay. One of my favorites.