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“The tyrrany of qwerty” December 21, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Japan, Personal Blogroll, technology.

Gen has a post titled as above, referencing an article in which he was quoted.

As comments are still broken chez Kanai, I’m got to write about it here. (Gen: hint. ditch MT ;-))

Gen writes:

My quote is:

“To a certain extent, Asia is a slave to the alpha keyboard, [..]”

I’m pretty sure I said qwerty keyboard, but I’ll let Jeff slide 😉

I’d posit that Jeff’s liberal quote is more accurate. It is not really QWERTY that is the problem, as Dvorak or Maltron or any of the other proposed keyboard layouts which also assume alphanumeric requirements are equally “guilty”.

Gen’s quote continues:

“Many input methods for languages like Chinese and Japanese require knowledge of the Roman alphabet to use, which is crazy when you think of it. Imagine if the PC was developed in China and everyone in the rest of the world needed to know Chinese before inputting their own alphabet. Well, that’s the case for a lot of PC users in China and Japan.”

The more important point is this. Japanese input does not _require_ any knowledge of the Roman alphabet. OK, so Gen said “many”, but to ignore the fact that Japanese PCs come as standard with an ability to input text based on the Japanese alphabet is glossing over a not so trivial detail. All common keyboards sold in Japan have letters of the Japanese alphabet assigned in parallel to the alphanumeric markings (and there are plenty of keys to cover the entire Japanese alphabet. Typically the space bar is also shortened to add a few extra buttons to do things like hira/kata switching). You can even buy keyboards with markings which gives more prominence to the Japanese alphabet than the roman alphabet. I bet Gen’s Macbook has a US keyboard…. 🙂

And as for the software side of things, all common OSes understand the key mappings required to type in Japanese. (And creating a new driver for any new input device is trivial)

I know literally just one single person who actually uses Japanese alphabet input in preference to phonetic (roman alphabet) input on their PC, though.

The current Japanese keyboard format is the so-called “old” JIS format, they actually tried to popularise a newer version but they killed that off due to lack of traction….

I guess if we were to design a Japanese keyboard from scratch, would it contain keys in 5 rows rather than 4? (to reflect the traditional set of 5 grouping in the Japanese alphabet) Do we set up the groups right to left in the traditional layout, or do we go for a layout which is closer to the existing JIS layout? Do we even want to bother in the increasingly heterolingual world we live in? Would there be a real productivity increase?

New English language Japan tech blog opens December 14, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Japan.

Asiajin launched yesterday, claiming it the first English language blog written by Japanese authors dedicated to “Web Services/Companies/People Reports from Asia”.

I guess I could claim some obscure niche first for myself too, if I were to insert multiple qualifiers. lol

Anyway, being serious for a moment, I think it is a good thing for the Japanese tech community, providing for overseas exposure, given how little effort is made to address the market outside of Japan by most Japanese emerging tech companies. The fact that one of the co-authors is somewhat of a high profile blogger in Japan might give it a bit of an advantage starting out.

I do hope that the authors whose names are attached to the posts do continue to write their own posts. There are instances of blogs (which shall remain nameless, at least for now) which were originally penned by one person but have (without any disclosure) become group efforts with the owner farming out the writing to ghost writers. Not that the Japanese internet and blogosphere are renowned for their integrity….

I’ll withhold any extensive critique on Asiajin’s content until they hit their stride, but the content available thusfar is ho hum. Not much actual commentary or analysis.

So we now have blognation Japan (although what will happen to that is uncertain, given the recent troubles at blognation HQ) and Asiajin, two different English language perspectives on Japanese tech.

Good luck to them.

Looking back at my original reason for starting this public blog a couple of years ago, I too hoped that I would be able to cover interesting Japanese tech, more than I actually do at present. I guess the bottom line for me was that I found little which was really worthy of exposure.

English language blogs posting “serious” content beyond lightweight (sometimes copyright infringing) content scraped from other sources gives me more material to build on. A part of me hopes these blogs will be positive cheerleader blogs so that I can present an alternative angle…..

Mixi tops 10 million users May 21, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Internet, Japan.
1 comment so far

Mixi announced today that as of the 20th, it has topped 10 million users.

Stats breakdown

  • Gender(PC users)
  • Gender(mobile users)
  • Age(PC)
  • Age(Mobile)

4% of PC users are accessing from outside Japan according to Mixi.

Of course these are registered user numbers, which suffers from things like multiple ids, also seeing a lot more (mostly short-lived) ids being used to promote various sites and schemes, lots more cat and mouse games between the site moderators and people trying to exploit the system.

Event on May 17th – Marc Canter on Digital Lifestyle Aggregation May 7, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Internet, IT.

I thought I had posted a notice about this on my blog previously, but apparently hadn’t so…

An Evening with Marc Canter

In May 2007, Marc Canter, ‘a well-known figure in the sphere of open standards, social networks and blogging’, will visit Japan. Take this opportunity to hear from Marc and mix and mingle with Tokyo’s international internet community.


Digital Lifestyle Aggregation: Portals 2.0 (DLAs)

As the worlds of social networking and blogging become more and more of a commodity, new ‘destination’ sites are arising which provide integrated, aggregated and highly customizable interfaces. These DLAs will bridge the world of PCs, with mobile, gaming and TV. Are they long awaited solution for convergence? What about the battle between the big boys (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, MySpace) and all the smaller players? Will there be any crumbs left on the table – for us?

And what will the global, distributed, decentralized mesh of inter-connected social networking and blogging platforms look like?


Marc Canter is a well-known figure in the sphere of open standards, social networks and blogging. Marc co-founded MacroMind in 1984 and began developing for the newly launched Apple Macintosh. MacroMind became Macromedia in 1991. He was part of the team that created the first multimedia player, the first cross-platform authoring system and the world’s leading multimedia platform. Marc was considered one of the founders of multimedia and has been a speaker, developer and evangelist in the industry for over a decade. Over the years Marc has also traveled worldwide, consulting to global corporations and has written on the multimedia industry and burgeoning world of micro-content publishing and social networking. He is the founder and CEO of Broadband Mechanics (broadbandmechanics.com) a digital lifestyle aggregator (DLA) company. Broadband Mechanics builds tools and environments to enable online communities. (Source: Wikipedia.org)

For Marc’s full profile see en.wikipedia.org…

DATE: 17 May 2007

TIME : 18:30 ’til late (Presentation from 19:00)

COST: 2,000 yen includes light finger food buffet. Drinks pay-as-you-go.

VENUE: The Pink Cow – Great food and drinks
Shibuya, Tokyo

Space is limited so RSVP is required, sign up here. (or send me an email. If you sign up directly, if you would say that you were directed to the event from this blog, it would be appreciated…)

Marc’s reputation precedes him, and I think this would be an extremely worthwhile event for anyone who is doing (or thinking of doing) anything in the area of internet services, with themes such as social networking and micropublishing becoming increasingly de facto features for current and next generation plays in this area.

I’m a vocal proponent of users owning their own data and having the right and ability to do as much with their data as is technically possible. Locking in users by creating technical hurdles to switching seems to be such an authoritarian and shortsighted way of doing things.

Marc appears to take a similar view on these important issues, and when I saw that he was going to be in Tokyo, I suggested that it would be interesting to get him to host an event. Many thanks to Andrew Shuttleworth for taking the initiative to organize the event, and Traci at the Pink Cow for hosting us as always.

I’m going to be there, and hope to see many others there too.

You thought PayPerPost was bad? April 11, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Economy & Business, Japan.

Following up on a post I wrote last November….

CyberBuzz (which I wrote about in the previous post) says they activities are twofold:

  • Advertising focussed on CGM
  • Word of Mouth marketing facilitation

CyberBuzz is an astroturfing agent, plain and simple.

Advertising focussed on CGM? I think they mean Consumer Generated Advertising. Paid shilling.

From their terms of service:

第12条 (禁止事項)

1. 会員は、本サービスの利用に当たって、以下各号の行為又はそのおそれがある行為を行ってはならないものとします。

Article 12 (Prohibitions)

12.1 Members must not:

12.1(1)….Publicize payments received….

So, an astroturfing shop which explicitly bans users from disclosing that they are paid to post. This must surely be worse than Pay Per Post….

CyberBuzz is a 100% owned subsidiary of CyberAgent, which is listed on TSE MOTHERS. It this kind of lack of judgement which gives the internet bubble “successes” a bad name (not to mention the ethical bankrupcy inherent in pretending to be “consumer generated media”). Some people might remember that CyberAgent got blacklisted by Google last March because of their questionable SEO practices.

My previous post mentioned another shill agent called Blomotion, at least that service requires users to display a Blomotion banner on their blog to progress to the more lucrative compensation levels, although personally I wouldn’t settle for anything less than a per post disclosure policy being mandatory for word of mouth “advertising”. I see that CyberAgent and its corporate VC subsidiary are also shareholders in Mobile Factory, who operate Blomotion. Coincidence?

If PayPerPost had stipulated that they required users to keep the financial relationship secret, I wonder how big the whole fuss would have become.

But this is Japan, where the media and advertisers are joined at the hip (mediated by the advertising agencies, of course) so I doubt much of a fuss is going to be made even if this issue become more prominent.

Addendum: I was looking at the Blomotion sign-up page where they have a link to tutorial pages with screenshots of the UI (CyberBuzz is a bit more secretive/user unfriendly). What was interesting was that they have screenshots of how to post a shill post. Requirements include number of words, topics to write about, linking, etc, but most interesting was that they had a “how to tag(link)” tutorial, which shows that the html which users are requested to insert a link to the advertiser, and an image file used for tracking purposes. The image file (http://pv.blomotion.jp/img/pv/entry-pv.gif) is a 1x1pixel transparent (and therefore invisible) image. I had thought that maybe they were using an affiliate advertising like link but this way (which is used often used for cookie tracking), using a direct link to the advertiser’s site, the advertiser gets inbound link love which may in fact be more valuable to them in the long term by boosting their search engine rank than clickthrough traffic that comes to them via the shill post.

I think I like this model even less now, with the smell of dubious SEO practices in the air. I have a strong suspicion that the shill posters may be being misled as to the value the posters are providing (or at least being told only part of the story).

The Digg effect and some additional thoughts on Japan and Racism February 23, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Japan, Society.

Thanks to some link love from my friend Matt, whose post hit the Digg’s World News page and the top page of Digg, the post I wrote on the way the same statistics are described by Japanese and English versions of the same newspaper has been getting a ton of hits. I hope at least a few of them stay around or check in once in a while…..

Whilst Matt’s personal story seems to have struck a chord with Digg readers, I wonder how many of the wider population, especially those who questioned the existence of racism in Japan, were aware of the recent incident where an offensively racist magazine was widely sold in mainstream stores in Japan. (I wrote about that here)
Having read the comments on Digg and on Matt’s site, I would like to point out that I don’t think Matt is the paranoid type who sees a racist motive behind every unpleasant act he is subjected to.

Nor is he a boorish, loud, annoying, Roppongi type gaijin – I’ve observed these types of individuals violating Japanese social protocol (or at least the tradional protocol) many a time, acting like they own the place, and could be said to be responsible for the confrontation to a significant degree. When in Rome…..

Matt isn’t a newbie to Tokyo either.

I know that people like Gen caution reading too much into two random events (Was it my physics teacher who told us you should have 4 data points before attempting to speculate about a trend?). Gen is correct when stating that the comments are indeed a trainwreck. But I personally feel that Matt’s unfortunate experiences are a result of a worrying trend.

For the Japan apologists (and there were plenty of them too), I would like to offer my belief that racism is widespread in Japan, but most of the time it isn’t the kind of overt in-your-face racism which is thankfully less visible than in many countries. It is often a more subtle type of racism, and it is indeed difficult to distinguish between plain unease with dealing with a foreigner, and racism. We don’t have many reports of hanging foreigners by their ankles from a tree, or dragging them behind a pick-up truck, or generally lynching them.

The spread of the racist ideology is, I believe, also on the increase. I certainly sense a swing to the right in the general tone of political and media debate, and with Japan having plenty of issues with its neighbours (N Korea, the Chinese red peril jeopardising the Japanese economy, etc), it is just too easy to crank up the nationalist line, scream for a renewed sense of patriotism, and generally point the fingers of blame at outsiders. Japan is facing a difficult future, and not much has been done to prepare for it. Politicians and bureaucrats are getting ready to blame anyone but themselves for when things get rough.

I would not underestimate the level to which the general Japanese population values/believes in the racial and cultural homogeneity of its nation (or the belief that such a phenomenon exists). Such beliefs must inherently be due to a belief system which ascribes superiority to certain races ahead of others, or to racial purity at the very least. Such beliefs are fundamentally racist, therefore it must be concluded that racist beliefs are widespread in Japan. I think this used to be seen as an old fashioned belief, and had hoped that it was consigned to the rubbish bin of history, but it seems to have made a comeback.

Most Japanese are well aware that discussing such beliefs is not PC, and mostly shy away from discussing this topic outside closed circles of intimate friends and family, and only the most combative actually state their position to a foreigner. Many Japanese actively avoid conflict, much more so than Americans or many Europeans in my experience, and those ill at ease with foreigners are statistically less likely to stray into a foreigner’s path, especially if said foreigner hangs out in well known foreigner hangouts. (Such hangouts are signposted in ink which is visible only to the Japanese eye, so that people who don’t like foreigners can avoid) The fact is that a person’s experience can differ widely depending on the kind of lifestyle you choose to lead during your period in Japan, in the same way that a foreigner’s impression of the USA might differ widely depending on where they spent their time.

Of course, there are plenty of people who like the foreign visitors to our country, and treat visitors with equal respect.
Then there are those who seem to have a problem with their own national/racial identity and aspire to be something they are not….

To discriminate against someone (including yourself) based on some characteristic which the subject has no control over seems to be rather pathetic. [But if that discrimination is due to a flawed logic process due to the inherent lack of intellectual capacity in an individual, would I be discriminating against the intellectually challenged? Hmmm….. Perhaps, but I don’t think it requires any significant intellectual powers given that untainted kindergarten children can appreciate the wrongness of discrimination when explained to them at a level they can understand]

Final note: Yes, I’m fully aware that Japan doesn’t have a monopoly on racism, having been subjected to my fair share of unpleasant incidents in various countries around the globe. That doesn’t make racism right, nor this discussion any less valid just because it doesn’t address the situation found elsewhere.

Japanese version of CoComment December 22, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Internet, Japan, VC.

A:CEuro notes that CoComment has raised $1.5M from Netage Capital Partners, the Japanese VC which was one of the main investors in Mixi. $1.5M for a 40% stage seems very reasonable (heh, understatement) to me. I doubt you could drive such a bargain with a Japanese IT start-up these days.

(The value proposition here is that CoComment takes (at least a proportion of) pageviews away from the site that the comment was originally posted on, by scraping the content from the marked threads, and diverts eyeballs to the CoComment site which then can be monetized. Basically a blogosphere impression hijacking engine :-))

Netage launched a Japanese version of CoComment at the end of November (although much of the site is still unlocalised, which might hinder users).  It is part of Netage’s Saaf portal which gets nil points for originality, featuring Digg and del.icio.us feature ripoffs. (even in Japan there were companies like Hatena doing most of what Netage is doing here a long time ago)

The CoComment investment will probably be matched to the Trend Match advertising engine (or some other ad engine) to monetize pageviews I guess.

I’ve been using CoComment for a while and find it handy to track comments, especially if you are a Firefox user.

However, it will be interesting to see how the blogosphere dynamic evolves, NRI published a report on the state of the blogosphere in Japan (article here in Japanese) where they pointed out that of approx 10Million bloggers in Japan, only about 10% actively comment or trackback. I don’t think that there will be much change in the proportion of bloggers who actively link and comment, but I guess that such bloggers do spend much more time on their PCs, which may be a plus for advertisers. However, at the same time my gut feeling is that the more PC-centric a person’s lifestyle is, the less they actually click through CPC ad links. I certainly don’t click on many ads at all….

Female VC bloggers (and international VC bloggers too) December 1, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Language, VC.
1 comment so far

Matt Marshall at VentureBeat reckons you can count the number of female VC bloggers on one hand.
This list compiled by female VC blogger Christine Herron would suggest otherwise.

But coming (at last) to the point which triggered this post, as usual with all these lists, it is anglophone-centric (anglophone-specific?).

There is a VC bloggers list out there compiled by Jeffrey Stewart, which lists a total of 103 VC bloggers.

Kudos to Christine and Jeffrey for taking the time and making the effort to compile the lists, but the English language accounts for less than 40% of the blogosphere according to the latest Technorati data as of October 2006 (if anything, I would hypothesise that the shares for English and Japanese are over emphasised at the expense of other languages due to Technorati’s emphasis on these two languages – Technorati hails from California, and Japan is home to its only foreign outpost, although China is apparently in the works), and there are venture capitalists the world over.

(Of course, the VC industry is a heavily internationalised one, however there are healthy VC markets in many non-English speaking markets, and if VCs are blogging to raise their profile with potential investees, it is often more advantageous to blog in the local language)

With regards to female Japanese bloggers, my colleague blogs here (she is the Chairperson of the selection committee of the Japanese chapter of the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year thingie), and an ex-colleague who moved to another VC firm also has a blog here (she doesn’t blog much since her move, maybe there is a stricter policy regarding these things at her new firm. There are moves to tighten up blogging policies here too, which I personally feel would be counterproductive…), for starters. I think there are probably at least half a dozen Japanese VCs who blog regularly, and more if you count those who post their thoughts on Mixi or some other “closed” SNS.

[Mental note: Compile a list of Japanese VC bloggers…]

The power of the blogosphere – 40% off all wine and champagne (UK only) December 1, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in blogosphere, Food and Drink, Internet.
1 comment so far

Talk about a cliche’d title. [shudder]

Anyway, the story: Stormhoek, the South African winery, advertises a “private sale” at Threshers, the UK offie. The offer? 40% off all in stock wine and champagne (up to a total purchase of 500 pounds) at their stores. Yes, all wine and champagne, not just Stormhoek, although I’m sure Stormhoek wouldn’t mind people buying a bottle or two of their product within that 500 pound budget….

[Update: For the lingustically challenged 😉

Offie = off license = liquor store or whatever non-English people call them

“Off license” comes from the fact that these stores have a license to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises]

[Click here to download the Threshers coupon….. ]

Stormhoek has got pretty widespread recognition on the blogosphere due to the efforts of Hugh Mcleod (I’m sure virtually everyone has seen the wicked (not in the evil sense) – and sometimes profound – drawings he does), and is one model of how to do Marketing2.0 (or whatever…) in the age of the blogosphere. Hugh has got a lot of visitors to his site too, and word about the sale is spreading quickly.

Yes, it is very interesting from an academic perspective, power of the blogosphere, viral marketing, blah blah blah, but way more important, 40% OFF ALL WINE AND CHAMPAGNE!!!! It would be crazy not to take advantage of this offer if you live in the UK or are planning to visit before December 10th (and drink wine or champagne…).

I’m pretty sure that this cheaper than buying at the airport Duty Free….

As luck would happen, I’m flying over there tomorrow. We’ll see how well Threshers are stocked up….

They must have one or two bottles of decent wines in stock in one or other of their stores…. Their website is loading slooooowly today, the marketing virus spreads…

And Threshers haven’t spent a penny for this marketing effort (you do have to give an email address, but you can always use the one you give out to marketers and the like – the one you never use except for when you sign up for things).

Sure, margins are slashed, but it’s the holiday season. Early Xmas present for all UK boozers.

I’m sure the other offies are feeling the hurt right about now….