Let's Move Abroad

Hiyo from Bangkok!

The durian season has arrived. My aunt has a durian orchard and loves to bring in durians of different varieties. We fully embrace the opportunity. This is probably the most durian I have ever had in the past 10 years.

I am generally happy, except for one problem. It is also in the middle of a covid outbreak. Eating too much durian can make you sick. When that happens, is it durian or covid? 🤷🏻‍♀️

Let's Move Abroad

On May 1st, ย้ายประเทศกันเถอะ (Let's Move Abroad) Facebook group was created. The group was initially started as a joke. However, it catches on pretty fast among young Thai people. Within three days, 500,000 people have joined. Now, the group has more than one million members.

Image credit: https://www.bbc.com/thai/thailand-56973078

Let's Move Abroad has become a place where people share their experience of living abroad, the pros and cons of living in each country, different ways to move to that country, etc. There are even some free organized language/skill classes to help members.

Why would someone want to leave their own country, casting aside an environment that has formed their identity?

Perhaps, the grass looks greener on the other side. 8.7million Americans live abroad. In 2020, an info website on how to leave the US has seen a 1,605% surge in search for which country to move to. It seems young people in Korea also find their country unbearable.

Or perhaps, people see something wrong (social immobility, inequality, injustice) in their country, find it hard to change the status quo, then decide it is easier to leave?

However, we don't know for sure until we see the data. Immigration is not novel. Our ancestors have moved from one place to another until they land where we are. Given that there is nothing particularly wrong with the place they are staying, how many percentages would move? This could be a fun model to build. If you have a suggestion on where to get the data, let me know!


"Experience is what you got when you didn't get what you wanted" -- Howard Marks

A quote to keep in mind when analysis paralysis stops you from doing something.


  • Hate Tetris If you think your life has gone too well recently, try Hate Tetris. The game intentionally gives you the worst piece at the moment. Just because it can.

  • Have you ever shared an article without reading it? 🙋🏻‍♀️ Facebook is testing out a pop-up that asks you to open an article before sharing it. It is not foolproof. You can choose to continue sharing. Yet, it might work just like how people install a fake webcam in their house to drive burglars away.

  • Nassim Taleb's probability MOOCs. I have only watched just one video so far and like how he explains the concepts. Statistics is one topic I have meant to revisit to truly understand.

Until next time!

The tale of the Chinese farmer

Hiyo from Bangkok!

Can't believe it has been half a year since the last newsletter! After a long hiatus, my typing fingers got itchy again.

Some update. There is a CHI 2021 paper with my name on the author list. Wonder how to give effective design feedback? Try leading with an open-ended question before delivering critical feedback.

Fritz Lekschas and Spyros Ampanavos did most of the heavy lifting. My main contribution was the cartoon illustration. :-D You can read the blog post to learn more.

Now onto some stuff on my mind.

The tale of the Chinese farmer

There is a story about a Chinese farmer. It goes like this.

There was once a Chinese farmer who lived with his son. One day, his horse ran away. His neighbors sympathetically said, "This is really unfortunate". The farmer replied, "Maybe."

The next day, the horse returned with seven more wild horses. The neighbors said, "You are so lucky. Now you have eight horses". The farmer also replied, "Maybe."

The day after, his son was thrown off one of the wild horses and broke his leg. The neighbors felt sorry for him and when to console the old farmer. "What are you going to do? This is really bad." Again, the farmer replied, "Maybe."

Not long after, the military officers came to the village to draft young men into the army. Because the son's leg was broken, he got exempted. The neighbors congratulated the old man, "It turned out to be good fortune after all." The farmer just said "Maybe."

What reminds me of this story? Up to the end of 2020, Thailand had been handling the pandemic well. The number of new patients within the country was low. WHO even featured Thailand in their documentary on successful responses to Covid-19. We were lucky.

Now, in May 2021, hard-hit districts are under lockdown. Schools close. There are about 2,000 new cases each day with rising death counts. Our vaccination is going slowly. We have exceeded our healthcare system's capacity. The recovering economy is taking another dive. We are so unfortunate.

Did Thailand's prior success contribute to our failure to control the outbreak? Did we get too confident and neglect other preventive measures while we have Covid-10 under control?

Maybe the best time to prepare for unfortunate turns of events is when things are going well.

Maybe the best time to hope for a better future is when things are at their worst.


A Quote

"The best way to complain is to make things better." -- Seth Godin

Fun finds

Until next time!

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Cost-based vs value-based pricing

Hiyo from Bangkok!

A few yays in the past weeks. Yay, US election! Yay, vaccines! Keep them coming. :)

Cost-based vs. value-based pricing

I saw this tweet on pricing machine learning products. The gist is that the current pricing focuses more on the cost of the products than the value it generates for the customers. For example, pricing based on the model's size instead of the value the customers will get from using the model.

Pricing your products based on the value the customers received sounds like common sense. After all, people don't buy things to pay sellers. They buy things to satisfy their needs. We buy a painting based on how much we value, not how many hours the artist spent painting it.

Yet, the cost-based model is prevalent. Many freelancers bill their customers by hours (cost). Taxi drivers charge their passengers based on the distance.

One rationale for cost-based pricing is its simplicity. In many cases, it is easier to measure cost than value. Hours worked, prices of ingredients, distance driven are easy to quantify. Customer's revenue from the graphic work, the satisfaction from trying the dishes, and the value of making the trip on time are not. Plus, you can, to a certain degree, make sure that you will make some profit as long as you charge more than it costs you.

However, with the cost-based prices, the best offers undercharge. Why would you want to set the price lower if your customers (buyers, employers, etc.) are willing to pay more for the higher quality of your work/products/services?

Is your pricing (salary, the price per unit, tiered subscription fees) based on costs or values? If it is based on cost, is there a way to shift to the value-based model to capture more from what you do?

Parents bully me (父母欺负我) in a parallel universe

A ROFL sketch comedy by Salmon House. It peeks into a parallel universe where parents encourage their children to pursue a career in what they love instead of what society considers prestigious. There are no English subtitles yet. Here is one with Chinese subs.

Not sure folks with a western upbringing would get it. I vaguely recall an iconic scene in a movie where a father smashes his son's guitar into pieces because the son doesn’t want to become a doctor. Not in this one. (Poor David! lol see 1:40).

"Parents bully me" comes from a tale of a spoiled son of a rich merchant. His parents loved him and made sure that he had everything he ever wanted. They never forced him to study or work. After his parents passed away, the son who didn't know how to work spent all the money and became a beggar. When people asked why he became a beggar, the son decried that his parents bullied him.

In the modern world context, some parents push their children to pursue stable, prestigious careers, regardless of their children's preference. Hence, the classic scenario where children were forced to study when they don’t want to.

The comedy sketch asks, what if they switch the roles? Here, the parents want their children to pursue the dream while they sneak around pursuing traditional career paths. It might actually become the norms in the next decades. Who knows? :-)

Fun finds

  • Debit card for gamers Mythra launches a debit card targeting gamers. It sports in-product gamification systems too.

  • Moving a building One way is to give it some legs. I wonder whether they got inspired by Howl's Moving Castle.

  • Ipaidabribe A website where you can report paying a bribe (or not paying a bribe). The incidents will be reported to the media and government officials.

Until next time!

UIST + CSCW in 5 decades

Hiyo from Bangkok!
Hope that this reaches you well. I have been on hiatus for the past few weeks, taking some time off to think. I didn’t find the answer so I am back to writing lol.

UIST + CSCW 2020

I attended two virtual conferences: UIST and CSCW last week. Both are major conferences in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). UIST features cool gadgets and systems while CSCW shows work on supporting people to work together (the early work of Google doc was presented here).

One highlight is the UIST + CSCW shared session, hosted by Michael Bernstein, where you get to see the development of the field from different decades dating back to the nascent of the communities. Here is my (very) rough summary.

80's - Irene Greif and Wendy Mackay walked us through the early years. The 1980s is the time where we have published work that looks into the theories of human and computer interaction.

90's - Jonathan Grudin and Hiroshi Ishii selected featured work from the 1990s. The decade is represented by work on collaborative writing, collaborative filtering (think Netflix and its recommendation), awareness of others, tangible interface, etc. An influential paper Beyond being there posted a challenge to the community to go beyond replicating face-to-face interactions.

2000's - Karrie Karahalios and Meredith Ringel Morris talked about research in the 2000s. We see multi-touch form-factors for co-located collaboration, mobile devices as platforms for interaction and collaboration, crowdsourcing, Feed UX (Twitter), Facebook and social computing.

2010's - Niki Kittur and Jaime Teevan defined the 2010’s as the decade of fragmented intelligence. Research explores ideas where people can work from any time anywhere. Intelligence is divided into smaller components that make a complex structure and can be reused. The communities also explore AI systems that learn from humans.

Shameless plug: I also spied my work on collaborative ideation here. Can’t believe it has been 5 years already!

Upcoming: 2020-2029
The research communities have become more concerned with their societal impact. When Amy Zhang and Niloufar Salehi asked twitter "What do you think will be the biggest challenges for social system design in the next decade?", here are the 3 main concerns that pop up.

  1. How can we engage with human and societal values (like democracy, agency, privacy, inclusivity, sustainability, etc.) more directly in our research questions?

  2. What are our unique opportunities to provide broader impacts as researchers, in the face of dominant industry social systems?

  3. How should we reconsider our current approach to conducting and evaluating systems research and what we encourage and reward as a community?

I am excited to see what to come in the next decade!

All images above are quick screenshots from the talk. You can watch the full presentation here.

Papers from UIST and CSCW 2020 are available for the public for 2 weeks. Check them out before they are gone. If you feel lazy, I am making a list of papers to read and will share my notes later. :-)


  • The importance of stupidity in scientific research. To make progress in science, you need to get comfortable with feeling stupid. Feeling stupid is an indicator that you are growing and learning what you didn't know before. I think it is not only true in science but in other domains such as politics as well.

  • Hyakushokuya is a Japanese restaurant that sells only 100 servings a day. The owner wants to create a workplace where employees can go home early. By limiting the number of servings per day, the amount of work is predictable and employees can go home as early as 3 pm. The customers get delicious meals at a reasonable price. A sustainable business model that puts people first in the industry where employees are overworked. You can read their story (in Thai) here.

Until next time!

Black-shirt problem

Hiyo from Bangkok!

It has been raining every day here for the past week. I love lazy rainy days when you can lie down and listening to the rain while reading a good book.

And the smell of the rain! I just learned that there is a term for it. Petrichor, the earthy scent that comes with rain, is a molecule called Geosmin created by certain bacteria. Pretty cool, eh?

Black-shirt problem

Black shirts are good for concealing stains. When you don't want to appear dirty, black is preferable to white. This is why, on the day that I paint or cook, I tend to wear dark colors. I also like to buy things in darker colors because they don't seem to get dirty as easily.

In fact, black shirts do get dirty just like their white counterparts. They are just better at concealing them. In a way, it is harder to properly clean black garments because you can't spot the stain as easily.

I once spent half a day debugging a tiny little mistake in a codebase. It reminded me of the black-shirt problem. Perhaps, the right way to build things is to make the mistakes stand out rather than to hide them.


My favorite Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s quotes:

"When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one's ability to persuade." -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." --Justice [[Ruth Bader Ginsburg]] #Quotes

We can measure one's worth by seeing how much light they shine for others. RBG was a giant lighthouse.


  • Samsung held Out of the Box competition asking how to repurpose unused television box. The winner makes endangered-animal-shaped furniture out of cardboard boxes. Pretty cool!

  • Michael Sandel on the flaws of meritocracy. How might we create a society that is equal not only in power of consumption but also in dignity?

Until next time!

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