Six months in Thailand: a recap and retrospective

It feels like only a short while ago that I was anxiously staring out of the airplane window as we took off from SFO, not knowing when I would be back again. Since then, everything has been moving full speed ahead - so much so that I have neglected to set aside time for self-reflection. In the past I reflect through writing: whether it's synthesizing notes into something I can look back on, or doing what I call brain-chunder - turning my thoughts to ink on paper with minimal concerns for cohesiveness. Prior to my starting this blog, the content I shared online were limited to pictures or short witty statements on my social media accounts. The unexpected move to Bangkok triggered the shift to becoming more vocal about my experiences and self development - in the hopes that what I encounter and learn will be valuable to others in one form or another. So, some thoughts on my time occupiers over the past few months...

Blockchainland

My venture into the world of cryptocurrencies can be best described a stumble into an amusement park where there are no rules, height or age restrictions on the rides. The attractions are endless, and you don't know what to explore first. As a new entrant into the space, you see a map with multiple territories (similar to that of Disneyland) and wonder: should I look at the mines? Should I explore the technological frontiers to scale protocols? Should I look into how to natively value these cryptoassets? Should I build my own token and deploy a MeCoin? Or should I enter the wild west of crypto trading, where each rollercoaster is advertised as rockets to the moon?

Personally, I am most interested in the applications. How will these protocols affect the way we allocate resources and govern ourselves in the future? Today, many of us ask for the wifi password and off we go, access to the world's information on the internet. One day, we could perhaps just as easily offer our unused disk space to a network and get tokens in return for providing file storage, an artist can perhaps plug in to a decentralized network to render 3D animations for a fraction of the time and cost.

What's also interesting is the investment arena. The democratization of venture capital through ICOs and token sales is both exhilarating and exhausting to witness and be a part of. My hope is that regulators can figure out a way to protect the general public from scams while giving enough room for legitimate projects to grow.

I had the chance to attend the  Blockchain World Conference  in December and got to hear from the leading entrepreneurs, engineers, and investors in the field. Pictured is Da Hongfei, founder of NEO speaking about the state of blockchain in China.

I had the chance to attend the Blockchain World Conference in December and got to hear from the leading entrepreneurs, engineers, and investors in the field. Pictured is Da Hongfei, founder of NEO speaking about the state of blockchain in China.

The conversations I've heard on this topic, whether as a participant or listener, has been as eye-opening as much as it was eye-roll-inducing depending on what was being said. When you hear the true believers of this technology justifying their stance, you too are likely to become intrigued in distributed governance and how our access to resources will change with the strides we are making in a movement ignited by Bitcoin. However, it's also understandable why some people walk away when their friends start comparing gains and speculating on the next green spike without knowing what the project is about at all. I promise that there is plenty of intrigue and legitimacy in the cryptosphere beyond the seemingly mindless circle-jerking over double digit greens (but... those gain$ though am I right?)

Sharing is caring

The amount of information out there is dizzying. I wrote the Bitcoin and Ethereum posts to help myself understand them, and at the same time pay the foundational knowledge forward in an absorbable way. I really enjoyed writing them, and the feedback I got reassured that this effort was not in vain - so thank you for the comments and shares!

They took quite a long time to write because I was going back and forth trying to verify my explanations and revalidating my own understanding. It was hard to decide where to stop in terms of information coverage, there was a lot of "well if I'm going to write about X that means I'm assuming they already understand Y, so I better also explain Y just to be safe... but Z is also related to I better mention that as well". How on earth do people write text books?! In the end, I delegated a lot of information to the Further Reading section. The lesson here is that a series of shorter, posts may have been better than one big attempt-at-completeness post. Noted.

I've found podcasts to be a great way to keep up to date with crypto-related trends and outlooks. I published some notes on crypto-investing and on funding, forking on Medium to experiment with the platform. The note taking is fun, and IMO Medium has a great UX, both for content creators and readers... so I'll be sharing more notes there in the future. (an example of how seriously I take my notes... lol)

I also got the chance to give an Ethereum 101 presentation to my colleagues at our company's lunch and learn session, something I really enjoyed and hope to do again. Here is the video recording:

One thing I didn't do so well was keep up the consistency on which I was sharing new content or keep up with the news in a focused way . I was wasting time pondering over how to make it perfect and complete (a case of analysis paralysis), and lost the sense of why I wanted to do it in the first place! To correct this I plan to set clearer priorities and be more iterative in my writing. I have more posts in the pipeline that can hopefully be published in a more bitesized, consistent, focused manner.

Some fun stats provided by Squarespace:

Raw traffic numbers (unique visitor == unique IP address, not necessarily unique person). The site was created around July 20th 2017

Raw traffic numbers (unique visitor == unique IP address, not necessarily unique person). The site was created around July 20th 2017

While the numbers take into account all page views, the breakdown is heavily skewed towards the homepage and the blockchain-related posts.

The maximum range I could get for the popular content data was just for the past 31 days unfortunately. I would have liked to see the past year's data.

The maximum range I could get for the popular content data was just for the past 31 days unfortunately. I would have liked to see the past year's data.

Another interesting stat - locations of site visitors...

Top 10 locations of site visitors for the past year (beginning July 2017)

Top 10 locations of site visitors for the past year (beginning July 2017)

I'm extremely glad that I chose Squarespace as an initial form for this site. I want to be able to collect this data and create this type of visualization when I develop it from scratch... but how or in what manner or if it's even possible remains to be explored.

LIFE & WORK

I found the transition to Thailand to be more mentally taxing than initially anticipated: from the traffic congestion and noise pollution in the city, to finding my footing in professional life, to the challenge of adapting my hobbies to what this place has to offer. One of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area was its landscape: the Berkeley hills, Karl, the blue-green-blue of the Pacific ocean and the California sky separated by the hills of Marin county... Outdoor running and hikes were very important therapeutic pastimes to me - and those scenic routes are hard to get over. Though Bangkok has its own set of charms, the metropolis has little to offer in terms of hills and greenery. Pattaya has been the go-to weekend escape, with the added bonus of some golf.

Excuse the attire

Excuse the attire

I was also spoiled by the music scene in California and the sheer frequency and ease with which I could go see artists I like. When will I get to bring a blanket and a bottle of wine up a hill with a group of friends to see Twenty One Pilots, Ed Sheeran, and Radiohead again? Having said that, I'm nevertheless enjoying my exposure to Thai music now. Many of the local bars here have live bands that perform on most nights. One thing I've noticed is that the crowd here is much more into singing along than back in SF, giving bars a mini concert atmosphere which is really great. I also went to my first Thai music festival last month in Khao Yai. A good meal was 40 THB and a litre of whiskey soda was 300 THB (around $1.5 and $10 respectively)! Though an unfair comparison, I couldn't help but think back to the $11 fries and $14 glasses of mixed drinks at Coachella. 

That iPhone 10 camera...

That iPhone 10 camera...

One thing I was anxious about was the accessibility of the vinyl record market in Thailand. Back in the US, I would make trips to dig crates in flea markets and record stores in SF and the East Bay every weekend. I made an ambitious wishlist on Discogs that grew faster than the rate at which records were being checked off. Fortunately, Fortune Town in Rama 9 has an entire floor of audiophile shops and record stores with a wide selection of jazz, rock, and oldies music. In fact, record collectors scene here seems quite active. There was a Seasons of Sound music festival in early October and I found some albums that I had been digging for for a while. The selection here contains significantly more Japanese pressings than that in the States, while hip-hop and European dance/house records are harder to come by. With everything that has been going on I haven't had the chance to visit other recommended stores outside Fortune Town yet, that will change soon!

My first scores in Bangkok, from the Seasons of Sounds festival at Fortune Town - that Moody Blues!

My first scores in Bangkok, from the Seasons of Sounds festival at Fortune Town - that Moody Blues!

Thanks to sheer coincidence I was able to find a place in which I could grow my career in Bangkok rather quickly, despite the fact that my momentum in SF was literally halted by a computerized lottery pick. Bangkok is ThoughtWorks' youngest office (out of 40+ worldwide), with some exciting plans for the year ahead. As an Operations Associate I have been involved in recruiting, admin, people operations, and marketing... a role with wider scope and more autonomy than anything I've done previously. The talented team, coupled with a culture that fosters knowledge sharing outside of day-to-day work is awesome - I got to do a presentation on Ethereum!! Despite having learned a lot over the past few months, there is plenty of room to grow and thankfully, freedom to do so in ways that works best. We organized our first event for Quality Analysts in October, went to the Agile Tour, and held an interactive puzzle at our Code Mania booth that sparked many conversations. It's been interesting to see the contrast between the developer community in SF and in Thailand from a recruiter's perspective. I'll save my thoughts on that for another post.

The first and only picture of me at the office.

The first and only picture of me at the office.

year of the dog

I don't have bullet pointed New Years Resolutions per se, but rather some overarching goals and a board of smaller tasks that contribute to them (using a free account on https://kanbantool.com/). Admittedly with the transition, my time management and priorities over the past few months have been less than optimal and even counterproductive at times. The remedy to this was to lay everything out on the table, step back, and identify where there is bullshit that needs pruning. It's hard to believe we're already almost a month in to 2018 but I am looking forward to seeing what this year has in store in terms of new challenges, successes, failures, relationships, adventures, and the never-ending effort to make sense of all of it. Cheers 🐕