Interviewed by TigerPrises/ArcticStartup

Talked to Toivo Tänavsuu last week on what’s happening at Skype, how is the labour market looking and how do we relate to the broader technology startup scene in Estonia. The video inteview was publised on TigerPrises and ArcticStartup.


Interview with Sten Tamkivi from Skype from Toivo Tänavsuu on Vimeo.


Migration Misery: Feedburner becomes Google

Google started this year with aggressively reviewing its product portfolio. A number of services were announced to be shut down recently. That’s fine, times are tough. And even if they were not – I still admire the decisiveness of any large product company to occasionally merge similar things and kill the ones that haven’t gained traction. I’ve had to make a few of those decisions myself and they are never easy.

So when logging in to FeedBurner a week ago they proposed they merge my feeds into my Google account, it really wasn’t a surprise. After all FeedBurner had been already acquired by Google last June and something had to happen some day.

These sort of transitions are bound to introduce glitches, too. So I didn’t feel like bitching at once, but give it some time. Now, a week after the transition this is becoming a textbook example of how not to merge products if you are not ready.

This is what I as a long time user am struggling with still today, 7 days after:

  • I used to be a paid customer for premium stats services of FeedBurner. It seems for the part they now killed because of the overlap with Google Analytics – makes sense. However, nowhere in the process have I learned what happened to my credit relationship, will I continue to be charged or not. Not even a note in the lines of “thanks for your business, now we’re free”, if that is the case.
  • The RSS subscribers count for this blog, for example, fell from 271 to 128. It was supposed to “get adjusted in a week”, which it has not. And guess what seems to be the issue – the RSS reader type that seems to have vanished from the stats is… Google Reader
  • I have been splicing public bookmarks into my feed via del.icio.us. This does not work any more. When I go to feedburner.google.com settings, the configuration data is still there, but re-saving it displays an error message of “username stent doesn’t exist on del.icio.us”. Which is not true, of course.
  • Splicing photos from my Flickr feed does not work either, automatically that is. I get a one time effect of images import by going to settings and re-saving the Flickr configuration. But the next time I upload something to Flickr, no automatic feedburner splicing occurs.
  • I often peek at blog stats from my iPhone. iPhone does not support Flash. Thus FeedBurner used to be a well-suited alternative to full Google Analytics to understand how things are trending, which referrals actively generate traffic, etc. Now, not only is GA Flash-centric enough that you can’t even select a report date without it (and I’m yet to see a decent iPhone app for this), they have moved the new FeedBurner to partial Flash too…
  • Even if it was a geeky and technical service, I’ve always loved FeedBurner’s philosophy, brand and language they talk to me in. So I sort of feel I owe them some and have spent a few evening hours trying to get the above feedback back to them. No such luck, virtually responseless Google Feedburner help group is all there is.

Apologies to all subscribers who are missing content or – I really don’t know – are seeing any other technical difficulties with this feed.


A few more seats at ArcticEvening

As Jüri announced last week, ArcticStartup.com‘s ArcticEvening event is coming to Tallinn next Wednesday, Jan 28th, at Von Krahl. In cooperation with OpenCoffee Tallinn and Connect Estonia.

As the initially planned 100 seats filled up really quickly, the organizers increased it to 150. And at the time I’m writing this, there are some 28 still left. So sign up now, if you missed from the first batch.

I will be there sitting in a panel with Allan and Taneli Tikka from RunToShop. Looking forward to the pitches from two Estonian and two Finnish startups.


China Is Larger Than Germany

“Well, duh”, you might say, but actually until recently it was not. GDP-wise that is. Based on 2007 numbers, the top economies in the world were:

  1. the US of A, $13.8 trillion
  2. Japan, $4.38 trillion
  3. China, $3.38 trillion
  4. Germany, $3.32 trillion

Media coverage around this change has a lot of interesting facts, worth reading Bloomberg and Washington Post for example:

China’s economy is 70 times bigger than when leader Deng Xiaoping ditched hard-line Communist policies in favor of free- market reforms in 1978.

China also has a big stake in the U.S. economy, holding $652.9 billion of U.S. Treasuries.

Since introducing free-market policies, China has lifted 300 million citizens out of poverty, according to the United Nations

Global interests spanning African oilfields and South American mines are encouraging China to add to its military might.

And speaking of the future. If both China and US were both to keep their average growth rates, it would take 18 years to change the top spot. However, in the ongoing recession the curves will start changing:

China is one of the few major economies that is on track to have positive GDP growth this year. Merrill Lynch calculates that China will have a GDP growth of 8 percent as compared with a 2.8 percent decline for the United States, a 1.3 percent decline for Japan and a 0.6 percent decline for the European Union.

Under these circumstances, we’re rather talking about a decade?

If you are interested in this power play, I recommend reading the ChinAfrica post from last summer. Or even just see the foreign exchange reserves graph from there.


Green Cars and Economic Stimuli

Heard on the morning news that the German $66B economic stimulus package passed today also includes a measure to encourage people replace their cars. It is sort of understandable as a short term measure, as their economy is quite reliant on the infamous German car makers who, of course, are looking at a bleak 2009. Still if you think of, say, a few million germans rushing to buy new cars and dump their (probably well-running) existing ones — doesn’t sound that reasonable from long term environmental damage point of view.

I looked it up, and it comes out that…

Other measures include a 2,500 euro payment for drivers who buy a new low- emission car.

Now, depending on what “low emission” means in this case the measure could work either way – for German manufacturers or for the environment. For some reason I doubt that these two goals could be obviously achieved together, or at least perceptionally “green” and “german” are not the first semantic associations that pop into mind as a bundle when thinking about cars…

Toyota announced their new Prius yesterday. Looking slightly better (but not beautiful), adding a few interesting innovations (such as solar-paneled moonroof that generates power for the ventilation on hot days) and less than 5l/100km (50mpg) fuel consumption it is a worthy upgrade to what has already been a great if somewhat quirky car till now.

Toyota basically owns the hybrid car market, claiming 91% market share in Europe in 2006. So putting one and one together – to what extent will the German government be supporting the Japanese economy instead of their own with their new car purchase support measure?


Blogimispõhimõtted

Villu küsis mult sama küsimuse, mis Telleriltki (ja ilmselt mitte ainult):

[15:44:41] Villu Arak: Räägin lähiajal korporatiivblogimise vallas ringikompavatele inimestele blogimise rõõmudest. Tahaks pisut tsiteerida tarku inimesi oma jutu kõrvale – olgu siis nimeliselt või anonüümselt. Kuna sa oled aktiivne blogiserverite bittidega täitja, mõtsin uurida, millised on nt. sinu 3 tipmist blogimisräkitiga seotud põhimõtet või käsku, mida sa ise kirjutades teadlikult või alateadlikult järgid.

Esimese hooga tulid sellised mõtted:

  • Internetist ei saa midagi kustutada.
  • Blogis ei saa öelda midagi, mida ei oleks valmis ka Päevalehe või New York Timesi esikaanel ütlema.
  • Anonüümsust ei ole tegelikult olemas, seetõttu teen elu lihtsamaks ja kirjutangi oma nime all.

Ja siis on veel üks fundamentaalne teema, mida kirjutades teadvustan, aga ei oska päris nii kompaktse reeglinimekirjana sõnastada. Blogisid on põhimõtteliselt kahte sorti: need mis räägivad kirjutajast ja need, mis lugejatest. Minu jaoks on see teine zhanr olulisem, kuidagi mõjutada ümbritsevat maailma, ühiskonda. Jagada kogemusi ja ideid või diskuteerida teiste omade üle. Panna lugejaid nende endi elule teisiti vaatama, õnnelikumal juhul ka seda kuidagi paremaks või lihtsamaks muutes. Seega, kui ma siin blogis ka kirjutan endast, siis ainult sellise nurga alt, millest teise eesmärgi jaoks mingit kasu võiks olla. “Sügasin kassi. Siis käsin poes. Tõnu helistas ka. Õlu oli soe.” ei kvalifitseeru. Mõni veider mobiilne olustikupilt argielust ehk küll, aga need kolisin flickr‘isse ära.


Swedbank, ambitsioonid ja innovatsioon

Loen eilsest Eesti Ekspressist ja imestan:

Sulev Vedler: Eesti tahab saada teadmistepõhise majandusega arenenud riigiks.

Priit Perens, Swedbank Eesti juht: Kõrgtehnoloogiline tootmine on eesmärgina hästi ilus ja sümpaatne. Aga see ei ole see asi, millega me majanduse vee peale toome.
Enamik inimesi teeb meil suhteliselt lihtsaid asju.[…]
Esiteks, me ei konkureeri hiinlastega. Me konkureerime Soome, Rootsi, Saksa tööjõuga. Meie keskmine palk on nende keskmisest täna vaid 20-30 protsenti. Seal on ruumi minna veel küll ja küll.
Oluline on, et kui sa teed keskmise tehnoloogilise tasemega toodangut, teed seda hästi ja oled valmis tegema väikesi partiisid, siis oled edukas.

Üritan nüüd nuputada, kas tuleks meelde mõni riik, mille “majandus on toodud vee peale” “lihtsate tegevustega”, millega tegeleb “enamik inimesi”? Ja kuidas täpselt otsustab üks miljoniline linn-riik Euroopa perifeerias, et ignoreerib globaliseerumist kui sellist ja valib endale “konkurentideks” sobivad 2-3 kõrgema elustandardiga riiki kuskilt füüsilisest lähedusest. Ja siis valib nendega võistlemise pikaajaliseks strateegiaks hinnadumpingu, seejuures ignoreerides kõiki teisi konkurente, eriti Aasiat? Ja “keskmise tasemega toodang” “väikestes partiides” edukriteeriumitena?

Ilusat innovatsiooniaastat teilegi, kallis Swedbank! Ja edu sellise “visiooniga” Eesti kasumlikul finantseerimisel ka kümne aasta pärast.


Skype 4.0 Beta 3 – UPDATED

Skype launched the third beta version of the new and shiny 4.0 client for Windows in December. I missed reblogging the news here, but you can read from the source what Mike said about Beta 3 on Skype Blogs. In a nutshell, the History is back, a new Bandwidth Manager improves your audio and video call quality and the look of the whole client skin has been refreshed.

If you did not get it then, then today is a great day to download, as we’ve followed with a beta 3 hotfix release that makes it even better quality-wise.

Read also my past posts on Beta 1 and Beta 2 on why it is worth to upgrade to Skype 4.0.

And, as always, your continued feedback is much appreciated by the 4.0 team at Skype.


Tired of Steve Jobs Health “Reports”

Well, ever since Steve Jobs went skinny (again, that is), the global Apple community and both new and old media have been nuts about speculations around his health.

During the holidays it was quite funny to see a classic butterfly effect in action when Ross and Robert Scoble were… buying yogurt in Palo Alto. “Confirmed: Steve is healthy!” went from a casual comment of the yogurt counter employee to Chinese tech news in just a matter of hours.

Yesterday I was occasionally peeking on a real-time feed by macrumorslive.com covering the MacWorld ’09 Keynote (which was not delivered by Steve any more, as you know). Less than 30 minutes into the session a screaming “STEVE JOBS JUST DIED” note was inserted into the feed – here’s a screenshot:

Unbelievably sick hack into MacWorld Keynote feed

It took the editors 3 minutes to figure out their system had been penetrated and retract the “news” (but they could not delete it). Then the hackers went over the top spamming with new messages and eventually the whole site was taken down.

As MacRumors is probably one of the most heavily used outlets for non-official Apple coverage, I can only imagine the tweets and posts on the friendfeeds and facebooks of this world that could have been triggered by the naive among readers in those brief minutes. No, I’m not even going to research for this.

I think it would have been wise for Steve had broken his typical radio silence before he finally did to avoid or just to respond early to speculations. Even though no person is really obliged to comment on the matters as private as their health, this rumor mill has become much more unhealthy than it’s subject. Just a few words at the right time direct from the source could have stopped the madness before it begun. A great PR case study in the age of unstoppable instant social media.

I hope Steve has many long and fruitful years ahead of him. And so does Apple, and all the other talented people working there. And the “fanboys” let them to enjoy their ride.


2008 Travel Report

Looking back at 2008 I discovered that it was a quiet one — travel-wise that is. Mostly I have to thank Etta for her appearance in May and becoming a good excuse for some no-fly-zone right before and paternity leave after, running into the summer.

  • Number of business trips: ~15
  • Flight legs: ~32 (+ 3 international trains)
  • Days away from home: ~67
    • London: 41 days (including one almost-a-month with whole family again)
    • Luxembourg: 11 days
    • San Jose / San Francisco: 7 days
    • Prague: 3 days
    • Brussels: 2 days
    • Paris, Athens, Helsinki: 1 day each (the latter only due to a canceled flight)

All-in-all, I was away 30% less and took almost 50% less flights than the year before. More video calls, logistical efficiency and less carbon footprint…

It was really nice to spend most of vacation time in Estonia, adding just over a week in Italy (first time there, btw) with two more flights. I am a bit sad not to make it over to Asia this year, those trips have always been a delight, especially Tokyo.

See also: 2006, 2007 travel summaries