I'm a little embarassed that the hottest IPOs and the most dynamic companies in the country's fledgling technology economy are based around games. For example read these paragraphs from MSN money:
"NetEase.com Inc., a Beijing-based online gaming and e-commerce company posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter results Thursday, prompting two analyst upgrades and a 14 percent gain in its shares on Friday."
"Another large online gaming company, Shanghai-based The9 Ltd., also posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, but the results failed to impress investors. Following an after-hours spike in the company's American depositary shares that evening, the stock has more or less leveled off and was recently up just 11 cents at $21.21 on the Nasdaq."
"Going with the pack, Baidu.com Inc., a large Chinese-language search engine, also posted fourth-quarter results above consensus targets. The Beijing-based company said Tuesday it earned 9 cents per share, 2 cents above average analyst estimates."
"Sina Corp., a Shanghai-based operator of Chinese-language Web portals, bucked the upward trend and posted a 21 percent drop in its fourth-quarter profit Wednesday, as revenue fell 9 percent. The results were a penny below consensus estimates, and the company's first-quarter outlook also fell short of expectations."
So two of the top companies are in gaming and are trading on the Nasdaq. The other cool tech companies are e-commerce and in search, respectively. On top of the stories of kids in Korea and China living generally unhealthy lives cooped up in internet cafes or in their bedrooms spending at least 16 hours a day playing these things, it leads me to believe Asians are succeptible to these things. What is it, the gambling gene? Is there a certain percentage of Asians that have a gene that makes World of Warcraft like crack to them? How about that kid that killed himself because his game character died or something like that?
I think in terms of character building, Asian cultures fail in many ways. Music, sports, and being social on real terms are just as essential as being successful or having stable careers in medicine, business, law, computers, etc. There definitely needs to be some changes in philosophy.
So this post was meant to go before my prior post on etech, but I thought there was some great stuff on George Dyson I promised myself I'd make notes about.
As the industry's see and be seen pow-wow for alpha geeks and hacks alike, I feel a little out of place because I'm coming to this as a representative from the Research Board --the most corporate of the corporate member-driven research organization. On my right in the hallway pontifications Clay Shirky, the usability and on-line community guru at NYU's TPI lab and a friend of my colleague George Scriban. One of the brightest guys in the field and a fantastic speaker as evidenced from his keynote talk yesterday (Wednesday) in the main convention hall. So far during the convention I've managed to rub elbows with Bruce Sterling of Wired fame, Scott Rosenberg of founder of Salon, Ray Ozzie of Microsoft, Jeff Han of the NYU media lab (creator of the multi-touchpoint interface), and Jon Udell of Infoworld. Its a little disconcerting realizing the different kind of dynamic these new media titans interact, as I come from a world where alpha is based on personality, looks, and being outgoing, rather than your ability to be nerdier, snarky, and a more popular blog than your neighbor. At the same time, this is not a conference that hubs around the vendors but rather the attendees and the speakers.
On to themes. I would say the theme this year is scarcity, but not the conventional economic definition of scarcity wrapped around the concept of finite resources or commodities such as corn, oil, or gold. The answer is in two parts and each of the two parts are both humdrum and surprising. Time is very scarce, we all know that. It is scarce because there are only 24 hours a day, 8 of which we are sleeping. We also live only a short time on this earth, so we we can only accomplish so much. What goes hand in hand and perhaps doesn't factor into the daily lifestyle calculations is the scarcity of our own attention spans. It goes without upgrade, without hack, without mechanical means of augmentation.
So while last year's O'Reilly Conference focused on the how RSS, AJAX, and Mashups are evolving into a platform of platforms, where the evolution of how people communication, collaborate, and share has changed because of the kinds of web applications that are evolving - i.e. people are dictating how apps should conform to them rather than how people can conform to the apps. This year, pundits explored how with the bombardment of information and means of interacting proliferates further, and as devices follow the well connected executive everywhere he or she goes whether he likes it or not, the barrage of data begins to mean less without some means of focusing the information.
Linda Stone gave a great talk about how data is easy to find. But the daily struggle, as data becomes easier to store and retrieve, is how data ceases to be useful unless it is codified and relevant. The chain goes something like this: data becomes information becomes knowledge becomes understanding becomes wisdom. Wisdom is attained when data, information, and knowledge becomes assimilated into one's understanding and once that is attained sprinkled with the fairy dust that is context, experience, insight that only time can provide. The arguement of what each of these words becomes semantic very fast, but the principle that data is simply an isolated rudimentary unit while wisdom is rich with context and insight should paint a picture that plagues people and enterprises alike -- as a society we are information rich, but wisdom poor. Wisdom is the ether upon which decisions should and ought to be made.
With that said, I will go into further detail about the specific sessions later. Don't let me forget to blog about George Dyson's session on the origin of the computer along with its cousin the atomic bomb (Von Neuman and his capricious posse at Princeton). Also lets not forget the great sessions by Clay Shirky and Jon Udell.