Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I own an eReader now, and it is a ... Nook

Today is my birthday and I got a Nook Simple Touch Reader as the birthday gift. I was asked which model of the eReader I prefer to. After struggling between Nook and the Amazon Kindle, at the end my vote was for the Nook Simple Touch.

The e-Ink technology is fascinating to the really enthusiastic book readers such as myself. Nook Color, despite of its richer services and colorful display, is not a suitable product for the serious book readers. Nook Color is fun and it may be a great gift for kids especially when we want to encourage them to read more. But the device is too heavy to read books heavily. The Nook Simple Touch is very light in weight and it is very comfortable to be hold in hand for long-time (such as consecutively several hours) reading. Furthermore, one must feel painful to read books using Nook Color under the bright lights such as sunshine.

Comparing to choosing between color and the e-Ink black/white, the vote between Nook and Kindle is more tricky. Both of the gadgets are great for reading the electronic books. I was much tempted to buy a Kindle. The books on Amazon are generally cheaper. Moreover, often we can find more user reviews about the books in Amazon. Besides, until now Amazon provides us more choices of the free books that are classic in literature. I must say that currently the free books provided by Barnes & Noble in Nook is significantly less than those provided by Amazon in Kindle on both of the numbers and the quality of the books.

But, I still chose a Nook!

The killer is the store. I do not mean, however, the Barnes & Noble store. What I mean is the store, a physical book store!

A book store is more than where sells books. Otherwise we may certainly replace it with the virtual stores such as Amazon. But a book store is more than selling books.

A book store is a local knowledge hub. A book store is where people are immersed into knowledge, physically! In a book store parents may pass their love of knowledge to the young generation and the children can feel it through the physical experiences. Our world is physical instead of virtual because the physical objects deliver us their embodied message that is beyond what virtual may speak.

I feel grateful that Barnes & Noble seems understand this key difference. Bound with Nook Barnes & Noble designs several in-store features that encourage people going back to their local stores. For example, Barnes & Noble allows every Nook user having one hour per day free reading of the entire Barnes & Noble eBook collections in any of their local stores. Such a feature very well balances the copy right protection and the advertisement of the genuine knowledge products. It is hard for Amazon to provide a similar service in Kindle to compete because Amazon does not have any local store. As the result, it will be equivalent of giving up the copy right protection if Kindle tries to provide a same 1-hour per day free reading service global wide.

Moreover, based on their local stores Barnes & Noble can provide many location-based special Apps in their Nook eReaders that Amazon cannot even dare to match. The recent news that Nook Color first to offer Angry Birds with location-based extras is another great example how Barnes & Noble may eventually defeat Amazon in the field of the electronic book selling.

To the end, virtual is not going to replace the real world unconditionally. The future of our society will be a balance between the digitized and globalized virtual world and the physical and local reality world. Nook is such a product that is originated based on this balance. Therefore, I decided to choose Nook. And I recommend it to all the Thinking Space readers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

About the Rise of the Knowledge Market

Due to the personal schedule I seldom blogged technologically in the recent months. Today, however, an article from Forbes caught my attention and pushed me to blog again. The title of the article is The Rise of the Knowledge Market. The topic represents a very important phenomenon in our modern society. In fact, I believe it is indeed the soul of the ongoing information revolution, which is the greatest event in human society since the industry revolution. The information revolution is fundamentally reconstructing our life in nearly all the levels and all of the aspects.

More than two years ago, for Internet Evolution I wrote an article titled User Generated Content, Revisited. In the article I pointed out a fundamental problem inside the model of Web 2.0---to the content creators UGC (User Generated Content) is about fame generation in contrast to the exchangeable value creation. The success of implementing the social network explained why Web 2.0 rises. The failure of bringing up a system of the individual valuation would be, however, the cause to the sunset of Web 2.0. The next day in Thinking Space, I thus coined the term UGA (User Generated Asset) and emphasized that the Web evolution urged us upgrading UGC production to be UGA production. With such a transition, the Web will evolve from a social playground to be a social marketplace in which people sell and purchase knowledge (more precisely, it shall be some type of the embodied knowledge) from each other. When we come to the Web, we no longer just browse or socialize through the Web. We use the Web building up our mind asset and trading it on the Web.

Apple's App Store is a great example of UGA production. When the developers create a third-party App and sell it through the App Store, Apple actually provides these developers a way of embodying their knowledge and selling the embodiment through the platform it designs. The success of Apple and its App Store has demonstrated us the power of the UGA business.

But the model of App Store is not even close to the ultimate vision of the UGA production. Right now one must first of all be a professional software developer so that he can take the advantage of this UGA business. Otherwise, the UGA business is simply an illusion no matter how creative a thinker he is or how compelling his mind truly may be. The model must be improved and simplified! By doing so successfully, a tremendous power of production will be released from people and a new golden time of the global business comes. Without a question the world will then be out of the recession.

Another related recent news is J.K. Rowling's decision that she will sell her electronic books directly to the readers but bypassing all the publishers. Although J.K. Rowling is likely too famous to be a typical example for the discussion of the UGA business, this decision is a sign showing the broken of the traditional knowledge trading business models, gradually but indefinitely. In tradition one have to be VERY much knowledgeable in order to earn the eligibility of entering the knowledge market. With the evolution of the Web, however, such a barrier is loosening and eventually it is going to be torn down.

As Jennifer said in her Forbes article, one may start to trade his limited knowledge as long as their is a buyer. The reason? The advancement of the Web has significantly lowered the cost of embodying human's knowledge and making it exchangeable.

This is the trend for the new-generation Web business! And this is where the Web is evolving toward at present.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fire, Flood, and God

During the last week, we have seen wild fire and severe flood in varied places of United States. My family lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona. In the past two weeks, the town was nearly surrounded by wild fire. The mountains were smoking. Dozens of houses were burned down due to the fire. When facing such a devastating situation, we often ask---why? How could all these natural disasters happen if God is merciful?

I do not know the answer. But I do know God love us. If we had not have damaged the environment we live, if we had not have made so much hatred and so many barriers among the people, many of these natural disasters must not have happened, or at least must not have been caused so much trouble in our society. If there is no God, we must not have been survived.

Isaiah 1:9

Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.

In Chinese Translation (以赛亚书 1)

9 若不是万军之耶和华给我们稍留余种,我们早已像所多玛、蛾摩拉的样子了。

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Be Lively

1 Corinthians (9:20-21)

And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law.

In Chinese Translation (歌林多前書 9)

20 向猶太人,我就作猶太人,為要得猶太人;向律法以下的人,我雖不在律法以下,還是作律法以下的人,為要得律法以下的人。
21 向沒有律法的人,我就作沒有律法的人,為要得沒有律法的人;其實我在 神面前,不是沒有律法;在基督面前,正在律法之下。

Recently I talked about Gospel with another Christian. He has strong faith. Moreover, he is very strict on many rules written in the Bible and even on the ones that are not explicitly written in the Bible but (according to him) can be logically derived based on the Bible. In some sense, I admire him for he can keep on holding some rules that few people may ever hold. And all of these rules are good, or at least moral to the common sense. At the same time, however, I feel a little bit concern because many nonbelievers feel uneasy being with him and thus his behavior becomes an obstacle for himself to reach more people.

I believe that God has given different goals for different people to accomplish HIS plan. The brother may be asked by God to be a model of live morality from whom we may witness the purity of God. Surely the reason could be like this. But I still want to share some of my taken by reading the Bible. That is, many times the Words of God are lively, which means that it is not always in the same form of display thought the spirit never changes even a little bit.

As Paul the Apostle wrote in the 1 Corinthians Chapter 9, he actively adjusted himself to be the different types of people who followed different customs so that he might approach different audience and shared the Gospel with them. There were indeed no laws on the earth that may limit him. But only the laws of heaven he never betrayed. The reason that Paul could do like that was because he was even willing to be separated from God only if such a self-sacrifice might save a man.

God's Words are lively. If the earth itself may not last forever, why shall we stick ourselves to the laws that are in the form of the earth? What we do need to keep is the spirit of the laws, which belongs to our holy father in heaven. If eating pork may save a man, don't you eat it in order to help a brother?

May the blessing from Lord Jesus Christ to all the readers of this blog in the following week!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

No word from God will ever fail

Luke (1:37)

For no word from God will ever fail.

In Chinese Translation (路加福音 1)

37 因为出于 神的话,没有一句不带能力的。

Or it is said: For no word from God shall be void of power. This is the God we trust and follow. None of HIS words will come back without being fulfilled. Few of us, however, truly have the faith on this fact.

Many times we worry. We worry about money, living condition, relationship with friends and relatives, and many other things. There is indeed, however, only one thing that truly we must worry. It is our relation to Jesus. Once we solve this relation well, the solutions to everything else simply follow and are accomplished.

On earth we may have many accomplishments. In reality, however, none are done by ourselves. Unless God gives us the opportunity and creates us the environment so that we may accomplish, we may have nothing done no matter how hard we work.

But still, many people just believe themselves. So God allows them working hard to get their temporary rewards, which must vanish with the end of their life.

To me and my family, however, we follow Jesus. Our awards are from HIM and HIM only. May all the people who follow Jesus be blessed, because it is true that with God nothing is impossible!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Surrender the blessing back to God

1 Samuel (1:27-18)

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." And she worshiped the Lord there.

In Chinese Translation (撒母耳记上 1)

27 我祈求为要得这孩子,耶和华已将我所求的赐给我了。
28 所以我将这孩子归与耶和华,使他终身归与耶和华。”于是在那里敬拜耶和华。

When Hannah pleaded to God for a child, God answered. After she received the blessing, however, she surrendered it back to the God who gave. That child was Samuel, one of the greatest prophets in the Bible.

We often ask for help from God when we get trouble or face difficulty. We, however, seldom think how we should do if God granted us what we asked.

Such a question might sound strange. If that is what I looked for and God answered, why should I give it up when finally it seems my dream comes true?

One might ask such a question because he does not yet know which one is more precious---the dream or the one who can realize any dream. If we still stay in the stage that the dream of myself is more important and more precious, we have missed the real value of the world. The one who can realize dream is always bigger than any dream, no matter how much valuable the dream means to us. When Hannah gave her most precious holding back to God, God blessed her more than she asked at the beginning.

There is a secret of our God. HE is absolutely willing to bless us in abundance. What prevents HIM from doing so is our unwillingness of surrendering ourselves. When we still love the feeling of ourselves much more than HIM, HE cannot give us such an abundance because the cost for the gifts is nothing but love! The more love you have, the more abundant God can give to you. The more love you have, the more gifts from God you can hold.

Hannah knew it. Hence God might bless her more than she asked. May all of us had faith like Hannah, be the holders of God's most precious gifts!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

How to kill idealism

June 4th has been a remarkable date of China since 1989.

During the past two decades, in China we have witnessed the death of idealism nationwide among more than a billion people. The substitution is the extreme materialism. One must not have genuine thoughts other than making money. Even the idealistic communism is dead. The remaining is the materialistic communism, which is closer to capitalism than the idealistic communism. The value of many idealistic accomplishments such as morality and self-discipline thus decreases rapidly. A representative example is the rapid prevalence of the cat theory by Deng Xiaoping (the primary architect of China's economic reform) that declares "do not care if the cat is black or white, what matters is it catches mice". In the other words, the only factor that matters in our life is which brings the material outcome.

The people of a nation needs to be materialistic in order to execute the daily business. The people of a nation, however, must also have be idealistic so that they know the real value for which they work. Someone says that nobody eats morality. Without the value of morality, however, there is no healthy human society. Idealism is mankind's self-motivation to foster the glue of healthy human society. While it is materialism that motivates people higher rate of production, it is idealism that keeps humans be a coherent society rather than many self-interest groups.

In 1989, Chinese people promoted a greater demand of idealism that threatened the leadership of the mean-time government. In order to get rid of this threat, the Chinese leadership board took the worst action by unlimited exaggerating the value of material in every aspect of human society. Therefore, the correctness of any action becomes no longer judged by the truth (which is an idealistic concept) but by the its material consequence (which is a materialistic concept). We have to say that the Chinese leadership board were very smart because they immediately figured out the best way of solving the problem. Such a knowledge is probably the worst heritage in China's multi-thousand-year history. But it works. It killed, again, the idealism in China among at least a generation of people.

After twenty years, it is hard to blame too much on either the students' or the government's decisions in the spring of 1989 in China. Both sides have their arguments and both sides had made a few bad decisions. The worst of all, however, is the government's promotion of the extreme materialism after the tragedy because it hurts and will continue hurt China for many generations. Probably in the sense of truth, June 4th, 1989 was indeed a battle between the idealism and the materialism more than any other contrasts.

Something ended in June 4th, 1989. Something began in June 4th, 1989. I felt sad about all people who were killed or suffered by that tragedy, no matter they belonged to the side of students or the side of government. They should not die for just few person's ambition.

Friday, June 03, 2011 and some of my take

A recent initiation by the three leading search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) made people excited, especially to the Semantic Web community. The initiation,, is a loose standard that declares supporting a common vocabulary for struct data markup on web pages. I simply type some of my take on this announcement.

First, it reveals the difficulty faced by the traditional search engines to further improve the quality of Web search. With the advance of the Web technology, webmasters inject richer content and more variety in data layout structure. It significantly increases the difficulty of the high-quality web crawling and thus the efficiency of Web search. The apply of the various SEO tricks increases not only the load of the webmasters but also the load of Web sense disambiguation. This new announcement simply shows that such a problem has been so severe that these major Web search players have to sit together and figure out a common platform to solve it for the sake of everybody.

Second, it is unusual for us seeing the three rivals sitting together so peacefully, especially between Google and Microsoft in the field of Web search, in the recent few years. If I use the eye as a historian to look at this unusual case, I would make a brutal claim that it is the sign that the peak of the glory of the traditional Web search engines (certainly including Google) has been passed. From now on, they can only walk downhill. Typically, the reach of a critical standard in a field represents the complete mature of the field. After the complete mature, the only thing left is decaying gradually.

Third, this method is not the ultimate solution. Certainly, however, the adoption of may ease the problem at some level. But it will not hold for long time. The real problem beneath is the debate whether machines can truly replace humans in answering genuine questions. Most of the regular questions, such as what will be the weather in Philadelphia next Wednesday, are certainly answerable through the optimization of the automated Web search methods. The others, such as what should I do when visiting Philadelphia, are essentially not answerable by machines because the understanding of "I" is so profound that even humans may not really know each other. To this type of questions, social search is not the solution either. We need some totally new invention to address them. The traditional search engines can only help us to the certain point and such a point has already been very close to us. The initiation of may lay that landmark 1000 miles further. But that is all about it.

The last but not the least, it is not such an exciting news to the Semantic Web community. By, the big three formally claims the support to microdata instead of RDF/RDFa. To the non-technicians, they may not feel much about the difference. To the Semantic Web technicians, however, it is a major loss because from now on more swing players are going to leave the more complicated RDF behind their back and embrace the simpler (of course less powerful, however) microdata. It is a major loss for competing into the field of real economy. Maybe eventually RDF may still win the battle. But it will take more years. And, everybody knows, timing to a Web technology is very critical!