I want to be a Venture Altruist – here’s how I’ll do it.

I want to be a Venture Altruist. If you don’t know what they are, it’s someone who goes around providing improvements to people, companies, organisations, making everyone else rich, for no fee. In return, I build social capital, which I can then spend on helping more people become rich for free.

Why? Because I’m an ideas guy, not an implementation guy. Other people can implement, they can have the riches of their success. But I love to look at a problem, and show people how to fix that.

Great ideas – conference rooms

I’m going to add blog post every now and then with good ideas about a forced topic, and today it’s conference rooms.

First I’ve noticed is making sure that the projector screen is sufficiently dark. Maybe lights could be closer to people in terms of where there heads are so light doesn’t spill out and affect the projector.

I think when something is projected onto a screen, the area of attention is minor, and a lot on the screen is just wasted real estate on context. So if we focus on just the interesting part of the screen and zoom in on that, then people with poor eyesight can see what’s happening.

I think presentations that go over an hour should be broken up. No one can concentrate for that long. Maybe 25 minutes and then a five minute break, enforced by a health and safety policy. I wonder whether it would be more productive.

A surefire way to let business drive IT projects

I’ve been thinking a bit about good methods to help the business (referred to as anyone that’s not IT) drive IT projects.

So far the method I’ve observed goes along the lines of:

1. Define the problem. Sounds like an obvious step, but in IT we’re all too keen to jump to solutions. A problem isn’t that we need an ERP or a CRM system, any more than not having a hamburger is a problem. The real problem is you’re hungry. Or for the first two examples, you want to manage the resources of an organisation efficiently, or you want to track all your interactions with your customers across multiple communication channels and plan marketing campaigns.

With the problem defined we can move on to…

2. Goals. Goals are visionary statements that frame any potential solution. Think of them as solution boundaries, where the solution must sit inside. A solution scope I guess. One could be more concise information for managers. These goals are intangible and immeasurable in the sense that it’s difficult to know if you’ve achieved them, but without them your solution might not fit into the strategic direction of the enterprise. No point coming up with a mobile solution if there’s no need for it.

3. Business objectives. These are finite measurable objectives that sum up how we know the problem has been solved in concrete terms. 100% of senior management reports come from the data warehouse. Customers will be able to purchase items from mobile devices. All absolutely measurable. No ambiguity, not for the business who can say that these objectives if met will meet the current needs of the business, nor for IT and the vendors who have no wriggle room in terms of what they’re delivering at the other side. As you can see, scope at this point if already defined, and while things could change within the boundary, if work doesn’t directly support the solving of the objective then it shouldn’t be in the project.

4. Functional use cases. The creation of these further tighten your scope and clarify exactly how people, process, and technology will change to meet the business objectives. Simple use case diagrams are great for communicating with the business the functions and processes within the solution, and we haven’t even talked any technology yet. After all, the solution could be solved by just a process change. Once all the functional use cases required to meet the business objective have been agreed to by the business, the scope is effectively defined. Then these use cases in the diagram can each be turned into fully dressed use cases with the standard process, exceptions, inputs and outputs, and all information a good use case should have. An example could be Load Information or Create Campaign.

5. Business requirements. With our functionality defined and processes sorted, we can think about what technological requirements are required to achieve the use cases. Creating a campaign will require software that has the ability to create a campaign. But we’re not focusing on a specific technology, and so the business requirements must be technology agnostic, and not just written as a laundry list of features of a particular software suite you have in mind. Because that would still be jumping to a solution ahead of time.

6. Solutions architecture. This really defines the non functional requirements of the solution, and is likely to start formulating a solution to meet the objectives. This would include aspects of solution analysis and design, and takes in the input of business requirements and comes up with a solution design. Sure some of the implementation gaps may not be filed, but by this point in time a solution had now been defined and can be traced all the way back to the problem.

From here there’s the normal software implementation life cycle, including change and release management procedures. By following this process we can ensure that we’re solving business problems in a clearly defined traceable manner that the business can understand and accept.

Unique Japanese Items normally unavailable in New Zealand…

We’ve all seem glimpses of Japanese culture, such as t-shirts with obscure Japanese characters, or visited the couple of Japanese shops in Auckland. But did you know that you can find heaps of unique Japanese items available to buy online? Let’s check out a few.

Paper napkins. We’ve all seen them, we go through them, and then we buy some more. Well how about cloth napkins? That’s right, they’re reusable cloth napkins, good for about five year’s worth of use. And it’s not the same as just any old cloth, it’s got funky patterns, and then special absorbing material on the inside. And sure, while they’re nearly $32 NZD, that’s less than ten packs of the paper napkins, which is less than a year’s use. So if you’re big on saving the environment, these are the thing.

Or, what about Eucalyptus towels. OK, a bit weird, only really heard of cotton being used to make towels. But if you think about it, it makes sense, Eucalyptus is made of fibre, just like cotton, and you could process that fibre into a fabric that you use. Why you’d want to is a bit the same as why you’d want to eat Manuka Honey or use Bamboo Chopping Boards – the reduction of bad things getting near your body. In this case, the towels reduce the amount of bacteria that can hang out on the towel. Pretty good idea, and only $25 NZD.

And where would you be without a Japanese-style face mask. Probably outside of Japan to be honest. Everyone in Japan wears these masks, and not just to stop the infectious air of other people, but also as a courtesy to others to say “hey, I’m feeling a little under the weather, and I’d much rather you not catch this”. Not super stylish to be honest, but could be good if you deal with food or the like. 50 of them for $20 NZD isn’t bad at all.

Or if you’re a fan of spending money on quality goods, how about a $4200 NZD fountain pen? I think one of those items that are wholly unique and really only appreciated by a few. But I mean until now you’d have to go to Japan to get these goods, and now they’re all available online, one click, and done. So do check these items out, at the moment a bit of a deal is going on with cheap shipping at Rakuten to New Zealand.

Understanding the Japanese Lucky Dip Bag

If you’ve ever been to Japan around New Years you’ll see what appears to be a whole bunch of Lucky Dip Bags. The difference between the New Zealand and Japanese versions is mainly to do with price and quality – in New Zealand Lucky Dip bags contain crappy gifts and cost about $5. In Japan, Lucky Bags, or Fukubukuro (福袋, lucky bag, mystery bag) are serious business, with the most expensive bags costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So what do you get? Well, it’s a mystery of course! And yet, it’s not really. I went to an electronics store in Hiroshima once and saw Digital SLR camera Lucky Bags. The bags specified the minimum specifications of the camera, but you didn’t get to choose the brand or model. Rest assured you were more than likely going to get something great and at a heavy discount.

I ended up paying 10,000 yen (roughly $160 NZD) for a Lucky Dip of Japanese clothing worth $600 NZD. Awesome bargains, I ended up getting a puffy jacket, puffy vest, hoodie, beanie, long sleeve shirt and t-shirt. Not a bad haul, though bear in mind that fashion taste in New Zealand is often different from Japanese fashion – while puffy shiny jackets are in vogue in Japan, they certainly are not in New Zealand.

Interested in seeing some examples of lucky dip bags? Check out a collection of lucky bags at Rakuten, Japan’s largest online shopping mall.

Worst NZDating profile ever…

My best suit!G’Day, the name’s Norman, but my friends call me Stormin’ Norman, on account of the two words rhyming somewhat.

I work in the power business, preparing and changing lightbulbs for a living. Not the ones in your house mind you, the ones on the street. We call them fingers, because they stick up through the air giving it a tickle. This time of the year is my business season, it’s the Christmas bulbs that always take up most of my time. Most people tend to think that those coloured bulbs around Christmas must maintain themselves, but it’s actually old Norman and the rest of the Lighting Maintanance team. The coloured bulbs are the worst, because they only get about 2 weeks worth of use throughout Christmas, and then they’re switched off. It means we only have 2 weeks to replace all the faulty ones which is always a pain in the neck. We’ve just done Victoria Street, but I see a few have gone already.

I never really studied, I figure there can’t be that much involved in changing light bulbs, but boy was I wrong. Once I found out about the different types of electricity, and especially things like wattage and ampage, I knew I was in trouble, so I did one of those night courses at the Polytech. It was damn good fun though, made a few good mates within the industry, and I tell ya what, I know my way around some of the more complex lighting transformers these days, such as Dry Type Transfomers, and Oil Cooled Transformers. They’re the ones you have to watch out for, they’re dangerous I tell ya, and old Norm nearly lost a finger or two servicing those puppies.

I’ve been a big Incubis fan since 2000, I was a big fan of them before they became famous, and I’m probably still their biggest fan in New Zealand. I mean everybody these days is all on the Kings of Leon bandwagon, but Incubis could play them into a corner anyday. They really haven’t been big in the last six years or so, but I’m predicting a comeback sooner or later.

For hobbies, I’m a big fan of Asian Geography. Man, what a far out place that is, with plaes like Bhutan, and Tibet, it’s just a world away from Anglesea Street! I once caught the express train from Beijing to Lhasa, in Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The train’s amazing, it’s built on a bed of permafrost, so they need to heat and cool parts of the track to make sure that it’s not affected by the constant thawing of refreezing of those bits of the track. You’ll need a permit to get in though, and if you’re my lucky lady, then I’ll be able to help out.

Hamilton to Osaka – A comparison of airlines

Interested in Japan? Thinking about going on a holiday? Well let’s look at the total cost for various airlines to get from Hamilton New Zealand, to Osaka Japan.

To summarise, Jetstar is the cheapest with around @ $1080, Air Asia @ $1743 with the core flight between Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur being only 31% of the total fare, and Air New Zealand at $1936.

A couple of caveats before we start, we’re assuming one 20Kg bag to be checked in. We’ll try to compare as similar as possible, but there are always differences, i.e. whether you choose to buy a meal or not on a low cost carrier. We’ll be looking at the total return fare from Hamilton New Zealand to Osaka Japan, including getting to major airports, i.e. Auckland and Tokyo. I’ll pick the lowest cost mean where available. We’re looking at a travel period of one week in May 2011.

First off is Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand has a flight between Auckland and Osaka for $1932. For your money you’re getting:

  1. 23Kg checked in luggage;
  2. 7Kg carry on luggage;
  3. Meals;
  4. Video entertainment;
  5. 11 hours, and 35 minutes flight from Auckland to Osaka;
  6. Choose your own seat;
  7. Blanket.

We’ll also have to get to Auckland from Hamilton, so add another $34 for the Intercity bus from Hamilton to Auckland International Airport.

All up you’re looking at $1936 with Air New Zealand.

Next is Jetstar.

Jetstar charge $847. For your money you’re getting:

  1. 7Kg carry on luggage;
  2. $10 credit card fee included;
  3. A 17 hour journey, including a stop in the Gold Coast.

Optional extras include:

  1. 20Kg of checked luggage (an additional $91.24);
  2. Choose your seats (an additional $8 if you didn’t purchase the luggage option above);
  3. Food for $70;
  4. Entertainment for $24;
  5. Comfort pack $14;

Which add up to roughly $199 worth of other things if you want them. Don’t forget the $34 to go from Hamilton to Auckland.

All up you’re looking at $881 (by yourself with 7kg of luggage) or $1080 (with roughly the same extras as Air New Zealand) with Jetstar.

Air Asia X

Welcome Air Asia to New Zealand! First there’s $34 to get from Hamilton to Auckland Airport, and then $158 with Jetstar to go from Auckland to Christchurch with bags (and two hours of your time).

Air Asia charge $429 to go from Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur (including credit card fee), with the following extras available:

  • 20Kg of luggage for $40;
  • Comfort kit for $20;
  • Meals for $34;
  • Pick a seat for $20;

So now you’re in Kuala Lumpur for $429 (for yourself and 7Kg) or $543. At the moment there’s no connecting transfer between Christchurch and Tokyo, so you’ll have to book another flight. Air Asia charges $780 for a flight with luggage and meals from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo Haneda Airport. And then it’s $228 (and three hours) to catch the train from Tokyo to Osaka.

All up, you’re paying $1743 with Air Asia.

So to summarise, Jetstar is the cheapest with around @ $1080, Air Asia @ $1743 with the core flight between Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur being only 31% of the total fare, and Air New Zealand at $1936.

Air New Zealand was most expensive, but least amount of hassle, with a direct flight. Jetstar offers similar levels of service, but a connection at Gold Coast, for about half the price. Air Asia was super cheap from Christchuch to Kuala Lumpur, but the costs went up getting from Auckland to Christchurch, Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo, and Tokyo to Osaka by Bullet Train.

AirAsia.com launches flights Christchurch to Paris for $1336 return!

Great news for New Zealand, AirAsia.com have launched fares from Christchurch, with these sorts of regular return prices:

  • Christchurch – Paris: $1336 NZD
  • Christchurch – Mumbai: $942 NZD
  • Christchurch – Bali: $560 NZD
  • Christchurch – Jakarta: $606 NZD
  • Christchurch – Medan: $507 NZD
  • Christchurch – Kuala Lumpur: $423 NZD
  • Christchurch – Taipei: $755 NZD
  • Christchurch – Bangkok: $597 NZD
  • Christchurch – London: $1567 NZD

Though there are some additional costs you may be used to getting for free:

  • Comfort Kit – $10 NZD
  • 15Kg baggage – $15 NZD
  • 20Kg baggage – $20 NZD
  • 25Kg baggage – $35 NZD
  • 30Kg baggage – $55 NZD
  • Meal – $25 NZD
  • Pick your seat – $10 NZD
  • Pick your seat with extra legroom – $45 NZD
  • Credit Card Fee – $12 NZD

So really when you see those $1336 fares to Paris, include 20Kg worth of baggage both ways, meals on all four flights, your seat on all four flights, and the credit card fee, and you’re looking at $1528 NZD.

Or you could book the next available flight on Cathy Pacific for say, $2223 NZD. Only $695 cheaper…

However, there are always some other caveats to think about:

  • These flights are from Christchurch. Great if you live there. If you don’t, then you’ll have to get there. $158 NZD with Jetstar from Auckland;
  • The flights land at Paris Orly Airport, however that’s only €9.85 and 40 minutes of your life.

To summarise, great deals Air Asia, welcome to New Zealand, can’t wait to travel with you!

TechCrunch Elevator Pitch review: 123ContactForm.com

Today we’re reviewing the Elevator Pitch review for 123ContactForm.com. The pitch is as below:

From what I’ve understood, 123ContactForm.com allows you to create forms easily online. These forms are then submitted to either yourself, or Google Checkout or Paypal. The forms have a bit of logic within them to display different fields, or send to different people based on rules created.

Personally – I’m not wowed to be honest. I mean forms have been around the Internet for quite some time, and I haven’t really seen demand for a form builder online yet, so I doubt there’s an untapped demand for this application. I’m not saying that I think the site will not be successful, but the idea didn’t ‘pop’ to me.

The pitch video felt a little unprofessional via the use of 1px line drawings. Using a pencil-type brush would have looked a lot better and given a hand-made, yet professional appeal.

I give the idea a four out of ten. Some potential, but needs to be refined.

The final full day in Waikiki on the Screamer!

Today was the final full day we’ve had in Waikiki. It’s hard to imagine that we’ve been here since last Friday night, but I think that time plays tricks on you when you’re on holiday. On the one hand time moves quickly because you’re not really keeping a track of what day it is, it’s just another day of holiday, and eventually they all run out. On the other hand, time moves slowly because you cram in so much different sights and experiences each day, as compared to a normal working week back home. Literally a month can go by and I’m not even aware of it, because nothing different or exciting happens, really just another day at work…

Anyways, today was the final day of shopping and activities. For shopping, we decided we needed another suitcase so we headed to Walmart, home of low low prices. We ended up buying a pack of three suitcases for $29 because it was cheaper than buying one duffel bag for $39. I don’t understand how prices work here. All I wanted was one suitcase. for $49 I could have bought five. Anyways, we also decided to buy a few ticky-tacky gifts for people. Keyrings and Macadamia Nuts for everybody! You’re all lucky. Turns out you can get six boxes of Hawaiian Host Caramel Chocolate Macadamia Nuts for $12USD. That’s damn good value considering one box in New Zealand is worth $10. I also tried to purchase things that looked interesting like Pringles Pizza, Cheese, and Baked Potato flavours, Twinkies, and Kathryn bought some Poptarts.

Next, it was a quick dash home, and then I caught the bus to do the Screamer. The Screamer is like the Shotover Jet, but for Waikiki. It does the same sort of thing, goes fast, spins, gets you wet, for an hour for $30USD. It was really good fun, but I do wish that I had done para-sailing instead. There’s always a regret when travelling. When I was in Tokyo I should have done this faux Japanese news and weather show, where you’re greenscreened into the show. Here, I regret not para-sailing. Or shark-diving.

Anyways, the Screamer provides you with a great view of Waikiki and the weather was simply amazing. It probably wasn’t the best trip to take the digital camera on, considering you get saturated with sea water, and the camera did get wet, but I did managed to get some pretty sweet video.

After that it was dinner at IHOP. I bought ‘Big’ Country Fried Steak. Turns out that means Schnitzel coated in a KFC-like material, and then covered in a white sauce. It was super average. Sure the ‘Steak’ may be larger than my hand span, but it just wasn’t very tasty. IHOP, awful.