Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lytro mighty change the way we take pictures

This is kind of magic. The new camera Lytro takes pictures where everything is in focus, and you can decide later what you want to see blurry and what not. Click anywhere in the picture and wait a moment...

Thats how they say it works:
The light field is a core concept in imaging science, representing fundamentally more powerful data than in regular photographs. The light field fully defines how a scene appears. It is the amount of light traveling in every direction through every point in space – it’s all the light rays in a scene. Conventional cameras cannot record the light field. By substituting powerful software for many of the internal parts of regular cameras, light field processing introduces new capabilities that were never before possible. Sophisticated algorithms use the full light field to unleash new ways to make and view pictures.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Slate Magazine about NGOs - worth reading in Laos as well

I am not a fan of NGOS and do-gooders and I will not become one. Yes, there are some projects doing good and really sustainable work, but they are a minority. Most international organizations wasting time and money. (I actually wonder if there is a statistic about the percentage of GDP of NGO projects what could measure the impact)

A very good insight delivered Slate Magazine with an excellent article.

Some quotes I really liked while consistent with my own observations:

WA says on its website that it works with villagers who "once were forced to roam the forest as hunters and loggers, diminishing Cambodia's environmental heritage, [and who] now have legal jobs as guides and operators of sustainable trekking, mountain-biking, and river boat tours."..."The wholesale destruction of Cambodia's environment is an important issue, but hunting and poaching by people eking out an existence in the forest isn't the problem," says a Western expatriate with extensive experience in land issues. "The primary causes are the government issuing massive land concessions to developers and wide-scale logging."

"The NGOs desperately want access and the basic equation is that the government grants it to them in exchange for their silence about corruption or anything else remotely controversial,"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

About public discussions (aka comments on the internets)

I was recently writing a review about an event, and mentioned that I did not like the final ceremony. Not a big deal, just my opinion. A few days later I received an email from the events organizer, a foreigner. This person was complaining that I was complaining in public, aka on the internets. I was told that they spend a lot of efforts and worked for free. So what?

I am doing Barcamps since 4 years for free, and if you tell me the shirts were shit (what happend in Vietnam), then you are right and I appreciate your help. If you can tell me how to improve the wifi-connecton, I propably ask you to take care of it during the next event.

I think there is a divide since the internet allows everyone to publish. The old thinking, coming from the traditional media, but not limited to it, is about control. We have to control what is published, and everyone is a secret in the first place, and we have to decide what piece of our knowledge is intedend to be received by the public. Diskussion have to be internal, and later will be a statement issued.

The new modern way the internet offered us is different. We know can have a public discussion, we invite others to participate, we ask for beiing juged and critized. This discussion is part of the process, even part of the development of a product or events. Call it agile development, since there are cycles of discussion until we find a solution that works. For the barcamps, open source software, but also topics like photography it works really good. The more people are participating the more the quality can improve.

I remember the days in the Germany based Fotocommunity, when you uploaded a picture and others told you not only if they like it or not, but also how to improve. I learned a lot from that.

If you keep discussions private (in particular for events where you need any help you get), then do not wonder about the outcome. And if you can not except and respect that someone just don't like the event, then you may rethink your understanding of opinion and why control is more important than the outcome and improvement.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The STEPS finals: A contest for young entrepreneurs

STEP finals

When I first saw the World Banks proposal for a Young Entrepreneurship Contest I was quite excited. This is what a country like Laos needs: Young people, motivated to open their own business. Then I read this:

The proposal encourages small size enterprises from various business communities such as handicraft, process foods, agriculture/farming, tourism and other to participate in this exciting event.

So women are good in farming, handicraft, tourism? WTF? Why not engeneering, computer science, investment?

Anyway, at least two teams made it with computer related ideas to the finals, while the others are all related to farming or handicraft. One exception is a wedding service.

So I went to the Culturall Hall this morning an talked to the contestants. Tehy came from Vientiane, Luang Prabang or Champasak. First of all I was surprised about the level of English: Most of them were able to explain me their concept in English. Thumbs up!

Some observations: One business wants to grow mushrooms on large scale. I like it, since I think Laos needs more businesses who think big rather than family business. The same goes for a salad producer, who goes on step further and showed a concept of plastic tubes where he can grow the salad. 350 Kilo a month is the expected production. Another woman wants to make organic fertilizer: She wants to collect wet garbage from the market, feed this to earth worms and they produce the fertilizer then. She had the best marketing concept in my opinion.

There were more than 20 booths, and I did not count the handicraft ones - they were too many.

STEP finals

What my concern is: although the business ideas wasn't bad for most of them, nearly all of them are entering a existing market with partly strong competition (e.g. silk or handicrafts). And most of them are focussing on the Lao market, what is also wrong, since this market is too small. Laos needs to export goods, and therefore it needs middle size businesses who are able to compete in markets of the neighboring countries. Vietnam is better in silk and Thailand is better in handicraft, while China already imports cheap vegetables.

I will update this blogpost with the winner later, but at least it was a good start for entrepreneurs. I hope this spirit last longer than the competition.

Some more pictures here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This English thing

I am a late English speaker and far from perfect. I learned English in school, but never used until until I started traveling with my wife. Ask my friend Wolfgang about my English speaking skills when we traveled along the East coast. I could not see the need to speak.

Only when I got more in touch with different cultures and languages I never even heard of (like Laotian), I started to realize why English is so important: It establishes a communication. And it is the beginning of learning from each other.

Most people who refuse to learn English say that they do not want to follow the American dictate. They don't have too (although they drink Coke and eat burgers and use mobile phones). First there is a reason why it is called English, and second, we just use the language, we do not adapt to the culture (that's why I am very bad in idioms).

Yes, Lao brings me even more insight. That's why I am trying to learn the language. But English is an easy start for all of us. Instead of complaining that a language is taking over we should see the huge advantage that we are able to communicate, to understand each other and to learn from each other.

Just some thoughts...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tiger Beer Battle of the Bands finals: And the winner is Babyrock

It was like the good old days back in Germany when I went with friends to certain rock music contests, but this time it was Laos. The Tiger Beer Battle of the Bands is a highly professional organized and executed event. These guys really know what to do and how. So big applause for the Tiger Beer team please (in particular the guy who was responsible for the sounds: great job, even the acoustics are not that easy in the Budo stadium).

Babyrock performance at Tiger Beer Battle of the Bands

So all bands did a great performance, but some did better. Babyrock was the favorite already, and they brought again a huge fan group, so no wonder they won at the end. But they actually can do better than they did yesterday, and my advice is: don"t stop improving, and figure out why cover songs sound way better than your own.

Rock music has to be loud, but there is a difference between loud and noisy. You could here that clearly yesterday when bands performed cover songs and when they played their own. Whats up and Zombie were performed clearly and good.

When Deep Heart performed, it was actually below their capability: Screaming isn't singing, and if every artist in the band want's to get the same level of volume, it will end up in a messy soup of noise. And Ning Nöng is a good singer, and her band can play well, so it was just not a good arrangement.

Babyrock did well with starting their performance with traditional Lao instrument and song, and also with some drum solo of her singer. Well arranged, well planned, the victory well deserved.

The surprise for me were Dominoes: Great performance, good singing, well played, the bassist was my favorite at the evening; This band should be watched, they have a great future.

So the overall experience: Please do it again!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Baan Tonmali Cake Cafe

What I really really liked in Vietnam were the many tiny cute coffee shops. I am not talking about the street stalls with a small plastic chair. I mean the fancy hidden ones, in small streets nobody knows, like Yeu, where a popular singer was performing regularly. These coffee shops were visited by young Vietnamese people, many of them couples try to get out of their homes to get a bit of intimacy.

Now we have something similar in Vientiane. Yesterday opened the Baan Tonmali Cake Cafe, a small cute shop near the Lao Top College. They are targeting "Filmmakers and photographers" so you can imagine who the customers are. Expect a creative community, an well decorated place, good coffee an nice talks.

Maybe a new podcast from Asia

Just hear what I recorded today (a new coffee shop in town and another idea)

The intro is from The Cells, a popular band in Laos..