Ping, ping, ping, it’s 22:45 and I keep getting notifications. Emails, Facebook-messages. The whatever Slack named their diarrhoea.
It’s 22:45 and Sunday. I needed to catch up with work so I sat down in front of the screen in super-efficient power-through-emails mode. Music usually helps: Infected Mushrooms cancels out everything while I write code. Radiohead helps to bring out my creative spirit.
And two and two always makes a five
It’s the devil’s way now
There is no way out
Thinking about it, when was the last time I’ve listened to an entire album in one sitting? From the beginning, to the very end, waiting for the hidden track after the 8-minute silence. I don’t even know when was the last time I could listen through one single song without interruption.
If there’s nothing going on outside, I’d go ahead and interrupt myself.
Ping, ping, ping, Slack won’t shut up.
One more ping I hear and I’ll throw my laptop through the closed window.
You can scream and you can shout
It is too late now
Because you’re not there
Being in the mobile software business in US or Europe, you might think that visiting an all-electronics fair in China is simply irrelevant. But it’s not.
This is a sneak peek into your future
Not exactly the future of high-end technology though. At least the products showcased on the Hong Kong Electronics Fair would definitely not receive a standing ovation on an Apple keynote.
Most of the products and services here are of a significantly lower quality than what you see on the upper shelves in those electronics supermarkets in the US or Europe. Apart from the really big brands, the few exceptions won’t be amazing either – more like, well, decent.
I still think this is a great opportunity to look into the future:
The Asian region already accounts for 45% of all internet users globally. The next boom is coming soon as the penetration rate slowly reaches the US levels.
These people tend to use low-end smartphones to access the internet, and the devices on the fair will meet a need on – among others – the humongous Indian or Russian market.
Still think it’s irrelevant? It isn’t: it’s a safe bet that Google went back to support 512MB devices with Android KitKat just to fulfil the need of these markets.
Asian companies are not only manufacturers anymore, but also creative drivers with a huge market. As more and more products emerge, they will have an ever bigger impact on what services and devices we’ll see in the next years.
Insights from the fair for 2014
To start with the easy-to-guess ones, it’s no wonder that compact cameras and camcorders are nowhere to be found: most of these functionalities are already replaced by the features of the smartphones. Action cameras are still fine, but dedicated GPS and personal navigation tools are also gone.
Phones and tablets are blooming. I did hold five perfect iPad mini replicas in my hand, and tried dozens of other phones and tablets. Android seems to run on almost everything, even on portable wifi routers or mini USB computers.
The wearable accessories wave shows no signs of calming either. There are smart watches, fitness bands and some sort of smart glass-looking things. This still feels being an early stage here, with most of the showcased products lacking a strong use case just yet.
Smart homes, offices and class rooms are hip. Home sound systems even more: wireless speakers and headphones are everywhere – some with Bluetooth, some with AirPlay and some also with added NFC support. There seems to be a hipster-driven turntable comeback as well. (Hell yeah!)
My favourite tool, a 2-in-1 shower radio with built-in torch, shows that Asian inventors are unstoppable.
Can I get in? Can I get in for free?
Yes. Most probably, yes.
I was lucky enough to be invited by one of my clients, but everyone with a trading company can simply register online. As far as I know, if you do it quite in advance you can get tickets for free. The standard price is not high either though: 100 HDK – about £9 – will buy you access for the two visitor’s days.
Scams & pitfalls in China and lessons from Apple’s supply chain
For those of us who are unexperienced with the Chinese market just yet, the free seminars are an excellent opportunity to catch up. On these one hour long lessons you can learn quite a lot, from avoiding scams to negotiation techniques with Chinese partners.
Choosing the right supplier can make or break your business. It’s well known that Apple has over 150 suppliers – the biggest being Foxconn, employing over 250,000 in China alone and running the operations like clockwork. Foxconn then also has about 500 suppliers on behalf of Apple. Imagine the negotiation and management power they need to run a manufacturing monster this size. So these talks are indeed pretty useful.
Are you a government? Copy this event!
The Hong Kong Electronics Fair is the world’s biggest expo of the kind. It’s also something more: a 5-story example of how governments can support local businesses.
The event is organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the international marketing arm for Hong Kong-based traders, manufacturers and service providers. The fact that they have 40 offices operating worldwide shows that they are serious about their mission, to create opportunities for the region’s small and medium-sized enterprises.
With the fair, electronics manufacturers and their distributors have a controlled and comfortable environment to find each other. More than 4,000 exhibitors from 30 countries are showcasing their wares, and have the opportunity to close the sale right on the spot.
How awesome would it be to have something similar for your business, right?
How taking short-time projects will make you a better developer, and how managers should hire those brains to give a long lasting boost to the software team.
Being a good developer doesn’t end with having a deep understanding in the technologies and languages you use. It goes even further than knowing the ins-and-outs of the tools, patterns and algorithms you utilise on a daily basis. To be a great developer you have to constantly research, and adapt the new solutions and technologies others invented.
So if you are programming Java websites since university, the least you should do is writing some Android apps on the side. It might be the same language and tools, but you will surely end up looking into some UI/UX stuff that will broaden your mind and skill set.
Corporates have a good reason to keep programmers dumb
Experimenting with new technologies is not what usually happens within corporates though. Engineers are paid to provide a solution that works, within the shortest time frame and with the most certainty that the software will not break. Not exactly the best place to be creative and invent new stuff.
This is one of the key factors for most of the workplaces not using the latest software or technologies: implementing those takes time, and sure: why would they bother updating something that worked just as fine before? It may be totally understandable, but that’s how you end up with software running on Java 1.5 and office documents written with Office 2007.
Reading Hacker News? Come on. Xkcd, maybe, if it was fun.
Start small, start quick
It’s very usual to get comfortable after having the same job for years. Showing up at work just a bit late, having a long coffee break in the kitchen, starting the morning with Facebook and Twitter – and at the same time, feeling more and more tired of work
This industry has a crazy pace though and having an up-to-date knowledge doesn’t come easy. It’s already hard enough to predict which technologies will stick in the long term. Who could tell if it’s better to start with iOS or Ruby now? How many months before Nokia was going down did Symbian developers start looking into Windows Mobile code? (I actually know this last one: two.)
Cash in for what you learned
Committing for something completely new would be too much of an investment, and perhaps not very wise either. First, it’s hard to find the time in the evenings and weekends to learn. Second, with those few projects you can launch, or the 1-2 years of experience you may gain, you will probably look at a lower salary level than at your current workplace with 2+.
There is a way to learn some new tricks quickly though. They say that the only way you can get better in chess is to play with someone who is better than you – and the same rule applies very well in the field of programming too.
Good enough reason to be in the market for short-time projects. If you change your jobs every 6-12 months, you will be introduced to many more projects and even more people, exposed to new technologies on a daily basis. All of this you can learn from, and the new stuff will look great in your CV.
And a great CV eventually leads to a fat pay check.
Managers, this is what you do
If you are leading a software department, now you think you shouldn’t keep the employees for too long with the company. This is hardly the case. All you need to do is to hire some developers for a few months, every now and then.
They don’t even need to be the best fit for a project. The more experience a programmer has with other technologies the better, but the main thing to make sure about is that during the project, the outsiders should be well integrated within the team.
Almost only tech magazines and marketing bloggers keep filling up my RSS reader – this is the time of year when one better reads books than news: the silly season.
The US expression refers better to the fact that during these few weeks in the end of Summer, not many important things are happening out there: in the “slow news season” the Parliament, the courts – and actually almost everyone – is spending holidays.
Here in Germany, the name of the silly season is “Saure-Gurken-Zeit”, which would be something like cucumber-time or pickles-time in English. This expression originally referred to the time of year when only a few types of food is available – a great metafore to the lack of newsworthy.