Category Archives: Daily Updates

Things I learnt running Vulcan Post

So for those who know, I have been running Vulcan Post for quite some time now, since August 2013. Here’s what we have achieved so far:

  • Over 1,500,000 people around the world has read Vulcan Post.
  • On average, we have 200,000 unique readers per month.
  • We are averaging 5 – 6 articles consistently per day.
  • We have grown to almost 30 writers, mostly contributors. We are planning our expansion to Malaysia now, and exploring new product offerings for our readers.
  • We have shot 5 episodes of Vulcan TV so far, on track to hit our planned 10 episodes by end of the year.

Really excited to share that we have managed and built all of this organically, in just 9 months.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt:

Consistency

Consistency is underrated. It’s similar to being disciplined in things you do. For Vulcan Post, since I started it, I told myself and the team that no matter what, every single day we must keep our article quantity consistent. We are now averaging 5 – 6 articles per day, published every hour from 10.30am. We want to hit the ideal number of 8-10 articles.

Consistency means that readers can expect new content every time they come in. For example: if a reader is having lunch at 1pm, he can expect to read 3 new articles on Vulcan Post that day (10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm). This is very important in instilling reader’s loyalty and building return traffic. For Vulcan Post, 1 out of 4 of our readers are returning readers.

So how do we build consistency in the team? We schedule them in advance. What this means is that for all our articles tomorrow, we have all of them scheduled tonight, one day in advance. This ensures that we have our articles and content ready for publishing the next day. So everyday, we have time to look for new topic and write new articles without fighting against time or worry if we haven’t hit our quota of the day.

Of course, this takes a lot of discipline.

Content Partnership & Brand Equity

For Vulcan Post, we are excited to be working alongside some great partners such as Yahoo Singapore, Coconuts Singapore, Evernote, Facebook, The Smart Local, Twenty First Tech and many more. We are also fortunate that companies open their door for us to feature their office space and speak to their executives for Vulcan TV, our official video channel.

These partnerships are important because they attract other brands to come work together with us. As we help build up their brand equity through our distribution channel, they also build up our brand equity.

80 – 20 Rule

The 80 – 20 Rule holds true for us as well: 80 per cent of our traffic comes of 20 per cent of our content. We generally follow the 80 – 20 rule:

  • 80% of our stories are news and opinion pieces, 20% of our stories are buzzfeed-ish articles
  • 80% of our content follows the editorial strategy we set out for Vulcan Post, 20% of our content are fresh new content we experiment with
  • 80% of our traffic are generated by 20% of our writers
  • 80% of our content are produced in house, 20% of our content are from content partners and guest posts

The question then is, how do we identify the 20% of the things that matter (which brings in 80% of the results)?

Experimentation

I am a big fan of experimentation, and all writers have full flexibility to explore the topics and content they love. Want to do a movie review? Go ahead. Tech round up? Done that. Things you didnt know about a country? Works well. If it doesnt work, we kill it. That’s the only way we know what content may stick and what may not.

This goes in line with the 80 – 20 rule. Constant experimentation ensures that the chances of you discovering the 20% of the things that matter (which brings in 80% of the results) are significantly higher.

The same goes for writers. We are also fortunate to have a lot of people who wants to contribute on Vulcan Post. Over the past 2 weeks, we have about 7-10 people emailing us to see if they could join our team. We are keen to take them in, because again, that is the only way we discover great talents. (Of course, this causes a new set of problem, which i might share in another article).

Hardest to manage: Human

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learnt and is learning is this: human is the hardest to manage. Different expectation, different opinions, group think.

Motivation

One of the most important about running Vulcan Network is to constantly motivate myself and be really disciplined. As i am the one setting the milestones and timeline for the whole company, everything can crumble if I am not disciplined enough to keep things running.

It has been quite a lonely journey so far, but there’s no turning back. I wont lie and say that there werent time that I doubt myself and what I am doing, or whether I am making the right decisions. There are definitely time where I wake up and wonder what am I doing. But of course, more importantly, I have to trust myself to be able to brush it off and just get back to work. 🙂

What’s next

Vulcan Network, started in September 2013, aspires to be a company managing a few business portfolios. Vulcan Post was never the end game. It’s not big enough.

Vulcan Post was started because I wanted to start a product company, but i didn’t know what it was yet. What i do know is this: for the company that I am trying to build, I would need a distribution channel for it. But that should not be an excuse for me to not do anything about it, hence Vulcan Post was started. Vulcan TV and a few other products came along after that.

Here’s the different business units under Vulcan Network:

  1. Vulcan Post: Our main distribution channel. This is where people discover us. We report on Internet Lifestyle news, and we are writing for the mass public, people who are curious about technology.
  2. Vulcan TV: Our video channel. This is where we highlight the great companies and culture behind popular Internet websites. So far we have featured Viddsee, TripAdvisor, Zalora, Facebook and Groupon. There are three segments: Interview with an executive about company and vision, Interview with an employee about office culture, and then an office tour. I am very bullish about Vulcan TV and video being a better medium for story telling, and definitely excited to push this further.
  3. Vulcan DigestOur official weekly newsletter. We have almost 2000 subscribers now using Vulcan Digest to keep updated with our news on Vulcan Post and Vulcan TV.
  4. Vulcan PrintOur e book division. It was a side project I did last year. We will be converting some of our best stories on Vulcan Post to e-books too from time to time.
  5. Vulcan ConsultancyOur consulting arm, which we are working alongside some great clients on website development, mobile app development, digital marketing and PR consultancy.
  6. Vulcan: The content recommendation engine we are working on. The Outbrain of Southeast Asia. This is what’s gonna determine where we will be at in the next 5 years. This is our trump card.

Cant wait to:

  • Increase our daily article numbers to 8 per day on Vulcan Post!
  • Finish shooting 10 – 12 videos for Vulcan TV this year!
  • Start working on our second ebook for Vulcan Print!
  • Reveal our key clients for Vulcan Consultancy!
  • Launch Vulcan and grow it!
  • Cant wait for our growth the next 9 months!

Is it too much? Some might argue so.

To me, it is very manageable: all 6 items are necessary, and they are interconnected with one another. They power each other. In fact, we are thinking of possibly including another Vulcan brand, but that might stretch our resources too thin. If you were to break down each item to its individual time resources needed, you would quickly realize that it is very manageable.

And I still have time to write this blog post too. 🙂

 

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Got cited on Wikipedia!

So someone decided to link one of my previous post about N-House to NUS’s Wikipedia page, as a citation!

I swear, its not me, and I’ve only found out about it 10 minutes ago when I was checking my site’s linkback on Alexa.

Very very cool. Whoever it is, thanks!

NHouse Wikipedia

wikipedia citation

Here’s my original blogpost: Why you should stay in N-House.

Which makes me wonder, how do you add citations to Wikipedia? And is there a QC process to check the validity of my original blogpost? For all you know, there might be misinformation in my previous post (which Im sure there are not because I was part of the original team which ran it).

Change is the only constant

Been quiet for the past few months on my end. A lot of things change.

Before I dwell into that, one of the things which I did last week was that I deleted my Facebook mobile app.

There were two main reasons i did that: Facebook became too irrelevant to me. It was/is full of news that doesnt concern me. I was contemplating deleting my whole account but I had too much memories and recollections on Facebook which I would love to keep and show it to my kids in the future (if Facebook is still around).

The second reason was that, with Facebook, I was consuming content produced by other people. I love quotes. Came across one recently which echoed deeply within me: How much time are you spending consuming things that other people create versus spending time creating your own stuffs?

It opened my eyes. Deleting my Facebook mobile app was like unshackling myself to my mobile phone whenever im not in front of the laptop or when Im on the move. I suddenly had more time to observe people, look at my surroundings, as well as spending some time thinking. I suddenly had way less reasons to pay attention to my phone.

It feels good.

So that’s the minor change in lifestyle.

One of the things I did also was tendering my notice to e27, a company that i believe in. Next week will be my last day with the company I spent my last 2 years at. Why? I needed some time off to explore. I think it’s also time for me to move on and try out something while I can.

It was a very hard decision for me to make. Everyone around me thinks that Im enjoying my job (thanks to Facebook) and Im sticking around e27 for long. While that’s true, I am motivated by challenges and I need to get my basic means taken take of, so that I can focus.

I remembered Brian Wong, founder of kiip mentioning this: How do you get your employees to give in their 110% to the company? Take away all their worries.

While I have a lot more I want to do for e27, i had to make the decision to move on because I was constantly worrying about things outside work.

So what’s next? I’ll leave that to my next blogpost on what I am working on and which company I am joining (or you can ping me personally :p). I am actually very excited for it.

Other than that, I’ve also moved out from my house into a whole new group of housemates. The new place is cheaper, and comes at the cost of a further distance away from town. My new roommate is awesome. At age 24, he runs his own software development firm, with a handful of employees under him. The company is also generating a healthy revenue last FY. Moving into the new place allows me to be more motivated by him (he works until 5am in the morning!), and potentially working with him on future projects.

As the new place is located further away from town, I now have about 1 – 2 hours of free time when I commute from one location to another. Because of that, i’ve decided to start reading again. Currently reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (a gift by Marvin!), and man it is an inspiring read.

So yes, all of these happened in the past 2 weeks: I moved out (change of lifestyle), I tendered my notice (change of career) and to top it off, I made the decision to move on from someone I hold very very dearly to. And I have to admit, it was very hard for me to have all these happen to me in the past 2 weeks.

It was overwhelming. I genuinely felt scared for the first time in my life.

This is the time I wish I have a brother.

But I also realized that this is part and parcel of life, and that, change is the only constant.

Actionable goals

With the abundance of digital distractions, there is so much stuffs one can do and achieve. So one has to prioritize.

What happens after prioritizing? What happens after you identify which task/goal you should focus first? Set actionable goals.

Too often people around me says: I think that will work. I agree that we should do this. I think I want to be a designer. But all of these are unactionable. These carries no weight at all, during discussions or meetings. Actionable goals are specific things that you can do and action on to achieve whatever you want to achieve.

“I think that will work”. Whats actionable:
+ How should we do it?
+ Who should do it?

Another important thing to fulfill the criteria of whether an item is actionable is setting the timeframe: By when should it be done.

Personal example: I want to learn how to publish an eBook (Unactionable). Whats actionable:
+ How to publish: Google it (10-15 minutes tops)
+ Choose, download and install a publishing too. (5 minutes)
+ Decide what topic to publish, and then start working on it.

It is only by setting actionable goals and constantly asking yourself, what you can (and need) to do right now, that one is able to make full use of his/her time. This also avoids lying to ourselves that we have a long to do list and we are productive. Actionable goals breaks down an (what seem to be an) enormous goal into small little parts, and this greatly reduces the initial inertia you need to get started.

getting started

An Open Letter

This is an open letter to my cofounders, my cofounders to be, my colleagues, my colleagues to be, my partners, and all my awesome friends.

This is our time.

With the advancement of technology and access to the internet, everything that we need to build the things that we want has never been so easily accessible before. New applications and technologies are built everyday and things which were once hard to be built which needed deep knowledge of how the different web technologies work are now easily accessible. There is an app for everything. However, just as every tools needs a master craftsperson to use it, it is up to us to leverage all these abundant resources. This is our time to use them to equip ourselves and prepare for opportunities that might knock on our doors soon.

“This is our time. Until that time stops – for one of us, for both – it is our time. Now. Will you waste it, because you are afraid?”
― Diana GabaldonDrums of Autumn

Why should we care?

Because we are more empowered than ever before to make things happen, the only time in our life that we can focus and do the things which matters, for the ones we care, for our family, and for the society. We only have 60-70 years of our life, and do we want to live our life 30 years from now regretting that we did not try harder when we were in our prime time? If there is a time where we can make this happen, the time is now, because as we grow older, we will be bogged down with responsibilities such as family commitments. We should care because we are capable of making an impact to the ones that matters to us, to make a change and contribute to the society, and to make meaning to our lives.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

What we have to do?

Seth Godin says this: Pick yourself. If you want to start a movement, start it. If you want to publish a book, publish it. It is up to us to be focused, and believe in the things we do, and make them happen. But we have to be fast, because time slips by second by second, minute by minute as we procrastinate, and it is yet another weekend today. We have to be focused. We have to want it bad enough. Because there are a lot of amazing people out there making it happen right now as you read this, and they are hungry and motivated. We have to be willing to sacrifice the comfort, security, uncertainty, because success seems to be a matter of holding on when others have forsaken you and when other have given up. We have to be constantly moving forward bit by bit everyday.

“Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.” 
― Seth Godin

This is our time. Lets work together, and make things happen.

This represents a personal opinion and if you have read this far, you should follow me on Twitter. Also, always love to help and grab coffee with anyone!

Near Future

Came across an article on Hacker News titled This is 2016, not 2012. A very good read summarizing what is happening and what will be happening in the near future. Basically, what the article says is that, with the huge hype towards programming where everyone is starting to learn programming, coined as the literacy of the 21st century, soon, there will be a lot of people with basic/elementary programming skills.

So what then, will be the demanded skills? They say, when everyone starts to come onboard, you know you are too late onto the bandwagon.

Nonetheless, I still think that digitization will only get more and more integrated into our lives, and you need hardcore programmers to support that and make that work. So in order to be really good and to stand out, one should focus only on one aspect and specialize in one skill. Either front end, or back end, or dealing with clouding.

If you are interested in the article, which is a super good read, here you go:

Her eyebrows knot themselves. A pencil grates back and forth on her legal pad. Scratch. Scratch. My back itches; a tiny incessant itch that demands more attention with each passing second. Should I itch it? 

Better wait. 

I can hear the sound of a clock ticking somewhere else in the office. Tick. Tick. Tick. I’m still wondering whether I should scratch my back.

“Can you describe any relevant background experience you have for the position?” Her eyebrows unknot themselves expectantly.

“Well, I’ve been programming since I was 10 years old,” I start.

“What languages?” She cuts me off before I can finish.

“Started in Basic, but I’ve done Java, C, C++, and a lot of web stuff: Rails, Python, Javascript. You name it.”

“It says here you went to the University of Pennsylvania for undergrad. Were you an engineer there?”

“No I actually studied Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, but I did take some computer sciences classes there.” Fuck. I look like an asshole.

“Which classes?” She retorts. Eyebrows slightly furrowed.

I list a few of them that I can remember. Mostly intro ones. I didn’t go to them very much.

“I see,” she says. Her pencil hovers over the pad again.

“But I did do a lot of programming in school,” I start. If she marks her pad one more time I’m done for. “Freshman year I started a website with some friends called WhereMyFriends.Be. We got over 40,000 signups. That was in Mashable. I also interviewed at Y Combinator. Then sophomore year I built a site called DomainPolish and sold it in a few months. That was in TheNextWeb. And then I created Airtime for Email with a few friends. I’m not sure if you took a look at the articles I attached with my resume. We raised a bunch of money, and we were profitable. Eventually we had to shut it down but it was a great experience.” At this point she must know that I’m well qualified for this job.

She clears her throat and puts the pencil down.

“Dan, can I be honest with you about this position?” She glances up at me with a concerned look on her face.

“Of course.”

“I applaud your entrepreneurial initiative, I really do. In fact three of my coworkers ran funded companies as well so I understand what kind of drive and dedication it takes to do something like that,” she starts in.

“And I see that you also have some technical experience. But this position requires more than just web-development skills. The problems we’re working on involve in-depth data analysis that require an extensive math and algorithms background. Most of the people applying studied computer science in school and have relevant work experience in that area. Can you point to any experience in that area?”

“Not specifically, but I mean I’m sure I can learn on the fly,” I reply sheepishly. At this point anything I say is like spitting into a hurricane.

“Believe me I’m sure you could. A few years ago building an app or a website was enough to get you a job at a lot of different companies. But it’s not like that anymore. We just have too many qualified candidates to take a chance on someone with limited in-depth technical experience. This is 2016 not 2012.”

The pencil hovers over the pad again. Scratch.