Tallink Taxi – Service Matters

Just this week a new cab company launched in Tallinn. I’ve been quite happy with the one I (infrequently) use, but last night just thought I’d give them a try. And was in awe.

New bright yellow car, filled with shiny new gadgets, a big screen GPS, etc. Well, that’s what you get when you buy a whole fleet in 2008 and everyone else on the market has been around for 10 years plus.

But what was really special was the service. How often have you heard lines like these in a cab, anywhere in the world?

  • Sir, would you fancy listening to radio on the way this evening?
  • What would be your radio station preference?
  • How are you doing on cash? Just let me know if you need to stop by an ATM, but we do accept credit cards too, of course.
  • I haven’t been to your area often, so to aid my service with next customers, which would you say would be the most convenient ATM to stop by on the way there, if anyone needed to?
  • Thanks for riding with me, hope to see you again soon!

It was so different, polite and genuinely caring that I’m almost a little bit afraid to call 1921 again – maybe it was just this one guy… But I sincerely hope this meant that a newcomer to what seems to be a crowded market actually nailed what will make a difference.

Ingenious Motivator for Tech Investments

Had a pleasure to meet Harry Jaako, the Honorary Consul of Estonia in Vancouver, but also the Co-CEO of Discovery Capital, a venture capital firm operating in British Columbia.

He shared a very interesting and bold incentive concept that the British Columbia (not even the whole Canada) government has introduced to motivate private investments in small technology startups. Per every dollar invested, the government will pay you 30% back at once. The conditions include holding your investment(s) for five years minimum and a yearly cap of 200,000 CAD total.

So in other words, when you invest 10,000 CAD in a software startup, you get a 10,000 CAD share of equity for the price of 7,000. Or, as an alternative scenario, a private investor can keep investing their capital gained from a previous exit at a rate of 200,000 CAD per year, taking an annual cashback of 60,000 CAD out for their own living expenses as opposed to paying themselves salary.

This scheme is applicable to both direct investments and private investors participating in VC funds, such as the ones Discovery builds.

The results? The district of 4 million people that has been heavy on mining and forestry industries now hosts 70,000 people in tech sector (that’s almost 10x more than Estonia, half the size; comparable to Czech Republic – but their total population is 10M), 8 locally focussed VC funds (larger ones with 500M CAD funds), 8000 mostly small and medium tech companies…

I just love the simplicity as well as braveness of this lever and can only imagine the type of political opposition introducing it could have caused.

I wish Estonian government would spend some time seeking out similar ideas from the world… and implementing the best ones fast.

Apple/Yahoo’s Flashback from 11th Century

Yahoo weather on iPhone: Tartu is still called Yuryev?!
This is an actual screenshot of an attempt to get a weather report for Tartu, Estonia on my iPhone, using the standard Weather app, powered by Yahoo data.
What’s the joke?
Yes, the city of Tartu used to be called Yuryev at some point. Namely between 1030 and 1061 when Prince of Kiev, Yaroslav I the Wise burnt down the wooden fortification dating back to 7th century and built his own.
Just checked, Yahoo! Weather on the web has the up-to-date name. So apparently it takes a tunnel through Apple to get medieval.

Rahulolev station.ee kasutaja

Olen nüüd vast kuu aega kasutanud news.station.ee ja blogs.station.ee teenuseid ja väga rahul. Miks?

  • NEWS.station avalehe valik näidata enam kui neljas või kuues kanalis kajastatud lugu aitab kiiresti pildi ette saada hetkel “kuumadest” teemadest
  • Konkreetse teema vaade võiks olla iga meediahuvilise sagedane tööriist, et näha kuidas praktiliselt sünnib uudis. Näiteks nagu selles juhuslikus näites, kus Postimees on kirjutanud uudise valmis juba siis kui Äripäev alles toore pressiteate veebi paneb. Ja Päevaleht on pea poolteist tundi maas.
  • Station teeb suurepärast tööd eestikeelsest tekstist organisatsioonide ja inimeste pärisnimede tuvastamisel. Näiteks, mida kirjutatakse Eesti lehtedes Skype kohta või allakirjutanust.
  • Mistahes võtmesõnaotsingu peale on võimalik tellida endale RSS-voog (nt Skype-teemaline siin). Selline ülimalt lihtne lahendus astub kõvasti kandadele senistele meediamonitooringu teenuse pakkujatele ja ilmselt sisaldab koos lisaväärtusteenustega (nt tänasest rohkem reaalajas indekseerimine) vihjeid, kust Station raha võiks teenima hakata.
  • Mistahes teema juures näidatavad seotud isikud ja organisatsioonid tõesti hakkuvadki teemaga. Ja näitavad teinekord päris huvitavaid “kes kellega käib” või “… äri ajab” seoseid.
  • Inimeste ja organisatsioonide edetabelid annavad ülevaate, kes hetkel sündmuste keerises on (või kelle PR-meeskond enim hoos).

Kõik ülaltoodu toimib kenasti ka kõigi Eesti blogide sisu analüüsil – asenda vaid news. URLi ees blogs.station.ee vastu. Lisaks arvutatakse Technorati eeskujul kohalike blogide neile viitamiste hulgal põhinevat “autoriteetsust“. Ja ma ei näe põhjust, miks tulevikus ei võiks katta ka teisi sotsiaalse meedia liike – (erialased) foorumid, sotsiaalvõrgustikud. Ja kindlasti ootaks ka NEWS.stationisse juurde kanaleid, mida nishimaid seda parem – Delfist ja Maalehest maakonnalehtedeni.

Minu esimene RSS-lugeja oli kunagi kodumaine FeedReader, millelt tänaseks olen kolinud veebipõhise Google Readeri peale, et oma infole eri kohtadest ja seadmetelt ligi saada. Aga mul on väga hea meel, et Toomas ja co on oma FeedReaderi loomise käigus tekkinud suurepärased teadmised sisuagregatsioonist samuti edukalt veebi kolinud. Ahjaa, nad peavad blogi ka.

Estonian – the Most Insignificant Language?

Some while ago an online media outlet ran a poll, asking the readers where do they think Estonian language falls among the languages of this world by “usefulness”. Many Estonian-speakers do tend to think that a million speakers means… nothing. That the language is on the verge of going distinct. About 2/3rds of answers ranked the language to the bottom third of worlds’ 6000 languages.

There was a linguistics forum in April that surfaced some interesting data of the contrary, which I thought are worth sharing… in English as well:

  • By the speaker count, Estonian ranks at 274th place out of 6000
  • Higher education is available in just 100 languages in the world (including Estonian). 30 in Europe and just 3 out of the hundreds of African languages.
  • There are about 200 countries in the world, where state language is the same as majority of population’s mother tongue.
  • Estonian ranks among top 30 IT-languages. For example, Microsoft products have been localized to 35 (Skype is available in 28), including Estonian.
  • Human to computer speech synthesis exists for 25 languages, Estonian included.

(source: Sirje Kiin at Eesti Ekspress)

So, we’re well alive and kicking in that weird and complicated tongue. Good to know, even when the reality of globalizing world has brought the dire need for becoming an English bilingual to communicate and ultimately succeed. I will keep blogging in both.

Skype’i uue CEO esimene intervjuu

Skype “uus” (hakkab juba kaks kuud täis saama varsti, tegelikult) pealik Josh andis oma esimese intervjuu selles rollis Eesti Ekspressile.

Soovitan lugeda neil, kes segaduses iga Skype-uudise juurde kuuluvatest kommentaari-teadjameeste juttudest, et Skype on valmis ja seal enam midagi teha ei ole, kolib Eestist minema Indiasse, palkab siin ainult odavat orjatööjõudu, ei kasva enam, ei ole rahaliselt edukas jne jne.

Ja nagu ikka, on eestlasena aeg-ajalt huvitav ja alati kasulik mõne kaugemalt tulnu pilgu läbi siinset elu näha.

Video Call with Her Majesty

Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
Just finished a video call with Her Majesty [Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_of_the_Netherlands).
She was visiting Skype Tallinn office as part of her state visit to Estonia. I was babysitting at home. One of these physical location misses when [Skype](http://skype.com) really becomes handy.
Also, [Etta](http://gustavpaul.tamkivi.com/2008/05/11/eriti-uusi-sunnipaevi/) joined the ranks of the babies worldwide who have had their first video call while less than 10 days old.

Numbers to Prove How Much I Love Skype Chats

Played around with some simple queries in my active Skype chats database, which weighs 215MB in plain text and has data since May 16th 2006. Probably I did a computer migration around then and earlier history (since I started using an early beta of Skype in mid-2003) is buried somewhere in backups.

Found out that I have sent 59709 and received 273715 messages during this time. And respectively 27389 outbound and 140505 inbound messages in the year of 2007. That’s an average of 75 / 385 messages per calendar day. I don’t even want to think if these numbers were my e-mail traffic…

I also found out that a week of vacation has a 5x lowering impact on my Skype communications – 132 messages out /1980 in last 7 days, versus a random weekly sample from a month ago 587 out / 2658 in.

And I also found out that my SQL skills have gone really, really rusty even compared to the mediocre level they used to be at.

Kuidas jõuda mugava E-Eestini? (ehk nimeseikluste lõpetuseks)

Möödunudnädalane postitus lapsele interneti vahendusel nime panemisest tekitas uskumatult palju tähelepanu ja vastukaja.

Siinse tagasihoidliku blogi puhul on 500 unikaalset lugejat ühe sissekande kohta päris märkimisväärne tulemus. Kui aga püstitatud teema korjab üles peavoolu-meedia (nagu seekord EPL), siis lisandub lugejaid tuhandeid. Ehk siis veelkord näide sellest, kuidas meediapiirid hägustuvad.

Tahaksin tänada ja tunnustada RISO pealikku Margus Püüat kes EPL loo kommentaarides võttis vaevaks ausalt ja otsekoheselt, oma pärisnime alt ja õige meiliaadressiga teemat kommenteerida. See tekitas veel mõtteid:

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Surnult sündinud laps?

Avastasin üllatusega, et vastsündinud lapsele interneti vahendusel nime panemine on mõnevõrra kõrgema barjääriga tegevus kui loodus sellesama lapse saamisel ette seab.

Perekonnaseisuamet (nagu see maja seal Pärnu maanteel) on vist kohaliku tähtsusega asutus? Teen närvid kõvaks, et taas kord läbida tallinn.ee lootusetult haiget navigatsioonipuud. Sünni registreerimise lehel räägitakse paberist ja kohaleilmumisest, ei sobi. Täpsemat lugemist pakkuvalt Perekonnaseisuameti veebilehel on sisu sama meeleolukas nagu aadressikuju: http://www.tallinn.ee/g4253s505

[loe edasi…]

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