Forget about Kickstarter, try IndieGoGo in Canada UK Australia Asia?

Thursday, 16 February, 2012

Sept 24, 2013 update: Kickstarter has finally launched in Canada earlier this year and you can find some Canadian projects here.

July 15, 2015 update: Since my 2013 update, I’ve used Indiegogo and like it. Worth investigate it for yourself and decide for yourself if it is a good enough crowdfunding site for your use.


After waiting for close to three years and trying to push a little, I am giving up on the idea of waiting for Kickstarter to come to Canada! Unfortunately, no more illusion for me. Kickstarter’s inaction/inability to find an alternative payment solution for Canada or non-US countries is inexcusable and can only be put as they don’t give a beep. To them, US is a big enough market for them to serve? After three years of waiting, I’ve given up caring. Quoting Kickstarter’s FAQ (emphasis added)

Am I eligible to start a Kickstarter project?

To be eligible to start a Kickstarter project, you need to satisfy the requirements of Amazon Payments:

Be a permanent US resident and at least 18 years of age with a Social Security Number (or EIN), a US bank account, US address, US state-issued ID (driver’s license), and major US credit or debit card.”

I am NOT paid by IndieGoGo to write this article! Judging from IndieGoGo‘s press articles and mention, they seem to be legit (I don’t know). A local friend has used IndieGoGo and I haven’t seen any complain from him.

I am sadden to write this article but then again, three years of Kickstarter inaction is inexcusable, enough is enough.

Can you share your experiences using IndieGoGo?

If you have used IndieGoGo to raise funds, can you please share your experiences good and bad? Both good or bad experiences are very much welcomed at this point. May be take a look of projects on IndieGoGo. And if they are worthy of your support, give them a try and let us know how things go? And if you are going to use IndieGoGo to raise funds, tell us how successful (or not) your experiences are.

P.S. To be fair, Kickstarter is doing good for permanent US resident. Even though I love my US friends, I just think Kickstarter sucks in helping projects initiated by non-US citizens around the world.

Google bought Zagat restaurant Survey

Friday, 9 September, 2011

Official Google blog entry about Google buying Zagat Survey, “Google just got ZAGAT Rated!

NYT Dealbook, Sept 8, 2011, “In a Twist, Google Reviews Zagat, and Decides to Bite

Google+ Impressions, Predictions, and Forecasts

Wednesday, 27 July, 2011

Google+ logo

Initial Google+ Impressions

On June 30, 2011, only 2 days after the launch of Google+, my friend Garry and I were chatting about his 3D TV (I mentioned I would wait for glasses-free 3D TVs after chatting with Tom, NFB Chair). I answered yes when Garry asked me if I had heard of Google+. I told him I was wasn’t that excited about Google+ after wasting my time and was disappointed by Google Wave and Buzz. At the same time, I wasn’t totally dismissive and asked my friend to play with Google+ some more and tell me how he thinks about the tool.

Eight days later on July 8th, after reading some more positive press and my friend’s Eva’s positive experiences with it, I turned around and ask Garry and Eva for an Google+ invite. And I officially joined on July 9th cautiously. You see, Buzz gave me such a bad taste, that I told it to buzz off!

Current Google+ Impressions

I have now been using Google+ about over two weeks. I can now say I’ve been really impressed with what I see and what it can do for me as a **tool**. To me, Google+ is a powerful tool to learn and to use to achieve things. (more on the “things” in future postings)

Sure, there are still many different problems or enhancements to be made but it is a tool that I have confidently included in my toolbox.

As an aside, I never quite see Facebook as a “tool” to me, not like Google+ is a tool to me.

Predictions & Forecasts

There are people/technologists/journalists who can’t help themselves but give lots of Google+ predictions or forecasts. I can’t and won’t give you predictions or forecasts. If you can or are willing to predict & forecast how a one month old baby will grow up to be like a few years down the road, you are much “smarter” and “braver” than I am.

To end this article, let me use two of my favourite forecast-related quotes by Edgar R. Fiedler from my quotes I love collection,

The herd instinct among forecasters makes sheep look like independent thinkers.” and;

If you have to forecast, forecast often.

More user created Harry Potter in Pottermore – Coming in October 2011

Sunday, 3 July, 2011

Pottermore - by J.K. Rowling

Thanks J.K. This looks cool and very promising. Especially this bit,

“… so Pottermore will be built, in part, by you, the reader”.

I am very excited by what Pottermore can potentially achieve. Now, I have zero inside knowledge of the project but I will try to share with you my thought and ideas on how Pottermore could and should be built. Some cool things can be done? What fun ideas are possible. To start, here are a few random rough ideas.

1) As a design goal, Pottermore should be created with users of all ages and level of sophistications in mind.

Meaning something for younger players to “just play with” and very easy to customize, to create their own special world. And at the same time, also powerful enough for sophisticated users to seriously play to create new “things” (see below).

(side note: The Pottermore design team should help guide the fans away from simply recreating what they have seen in the movies. But it is really up to the fans.)

2) On a small scale, allow sophisticated fans to “create” the look & feel of all notable objects and items in the Harry Potter world (including all the magical objects). Allow the framework for sophisticated fans to “create” their own “enchanted coins” for example.

3) On a bigger scale, allow fans as cooperative community to create all the notable places in the Potter world, rooms, streets, alley, etc together as a team via the site. May be there can be a place where interested fans can come together to help “build” the dinning hall in Hogwarts.

4) Allow enough flexibility, so the popular rendering (look & feel) of an item can be voted upon by members. Very importantly, each and every individual fan created items should be accessible (by links or “ids”) so fans can create their own specialized version of Pottermore experiences and simply see and experience a “popular” version.

5) A fan should be able to “share” her/his Pottermore customization (whatever she/he chooses for the total look and feel) so her/his friends or others in the community can “see” it and then customize base on it. I think it is important and nice to give credit to everyone that help in the process, may be attach these credits/thanks for help in the system somehow.

6) The designers of Pottermore should keep an open mind as they design the systems because, to make Pottermore a success, the system needs to be flexible enough to change and grow with the imagination of the fans.

I look forward to seeing and learning more Pottermore. I hope I will be positively wowed and won’t be disappointed. Will see about that.

[HT Kevin Roberts]

Alice Schroeder: Hollywood Model Could Create New Stars in R&D

Wednesday, 29 June, 2011

As usual, Alice’s Bloomberg column is a good read. Check out her new article, “Hollywood Model Could Create New Stars in R&D“.

Wikipedia, Happy 10th Birthday!

Thursday, 13 January, 2011


I like Wikipedia and have used it quite often to lookup info and learn about things. And when I write articles, I try to provide relevant links (often from Wikipedia) so my readers can dig deeper and learn more if they wish.

It is Wikipedia 10th anniversary this Saturday, Jan 15th, 2011. If you haven’t used Wikipedia before, give it a try. If you have used Wikipedia, why don’t you try to help a little. Next time when you have a chance, why don’t you add some useful information or fix a problem you see in an Wikipedia article. Over the years, I have added various pieces of useful information, fixed different errors, and even created a few new entries. If I can do it, I am sure you can do it too.

Wikipedia, Happy 10th Birthday!

Also check out,

* UK Guardian, “Wikipedia at 10: a web pioneer worth defending“, by Sue Gardner, Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation,

* The Atlantic, “All-Star Thinkers on Wikipedia’s 10th Anniversary

* NYT, “Wikipedia Marks 10 Years of Edit-It-Yourself

* MSNBC, “53 percent of Americans use Wikiped

Life In A Day – Ridley Scott & Kevin Macdonald Want Your YouTube Moments (July 24, 2010)

Wednesday, 7 July, 2010

Ridley Scott Wants Your YouTube Moments

Pick a day. Ask people to record what’s going on in their lives – getting a haircut, having a birthday party, taking a nap, whatever – and post the video on YouTube. Turn the footage into a feature-length documentary.

Crazy? Maybe. But Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) and Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”) are sure giving it a try.

“Life in a Day” is a global experiment in user-generated filmmaking, an increasingly hot area on the Web. A similar project is underway involving Lionsgate and Massify, a social network for digital content creators. Mass Animation is an upstart that is trying, with some success, to make animated films by tapping the Facebook community.

Ridley Scott on Life In A Day. Pick up a digital camera and just do it.

Kevin Macdonald on Life In A Day.

Calgarians/Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (Economist: Harper goes prorogue & Canada without Parliament – Halted in mid-debate)

Friday, 8 January, 2010

Calgarians Against Proroguing ParliamentCanadians Against Proroguing Parliament

Calgarians Against Proroguing ParliamentCanadians Against Proroguing Parliament

Here is a photo my hand-delivered letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. I’ve included the text here for the record.

Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper re his decision to prorogue Parliament

Jan 7, 2010

Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

I am deeply saddened as a Canadian, as a Calgarian, and as someone living in your riding for years to see you’ve chosen to suspend democracy and Parliament (prorogue Parliament).

As a trained economist and as Prime Minister of Canada, I trust you are a reader of the internationally respected and independent “The Economist“. Let me quote from its Jan 7th article “Canada without Parliament – Halted in mid-debate” (emphasis added),

THE timing said everything. Stephen Harper, the prime minister, chose December 30th, the day five Canadians were killed in Afghanistan and when the public and the media were further distracted by the announcement of the country’s all-important Olympic ice-hockey team, to let his spokesman reveal that Parliament would remain closed until March 3rd, instead of returning as usual, after its Christmas break, in the last week of January.”

I have highlighted various parts of The Economist article and attached to this letter with added notes for your reading pleasure.

As a Calgarian and Canadian, I see it as my duty and responsibility to rally on 23rd January, 2010 alongside my fellow Canadians from sea to sea to protest your action to prorogue the Parliament.

Allow me to quote “The  Economist” once more,

The danger in allowing the prime minister to end discussion any time he chooses is that it makes Parliament accountable to him rather than the other way around. […]

Whether Mr Harper gets away with his innovative use of prime ministerial powers depends largely on whether the protest spreads and can be sustained until Parliament reconvenes in March. Mr Harper is doubtless counting on the Winter Olympics to reinforce Canadians’ familiar political complacency. But he has given the opposition, which is divided and fumbling, an opportunity. It is now up to it to show that Canada cannot afford a part-time Parliament that sits only at the prime minister’s pleasure.

For the sake of democracy and our shared love of Canada, I hope Canadians will rise up to protest and to rally until you realize you were wrong.

Mr. Prime Minister, you’ve exercised your power, at all cost, to shutdown the Parliament. It leaves me no choice but to protest and rally along my fellow Canadians on 23rd January, 2010 and take necessary and sustaining peaceful actions until our democracy is restored.

Yours truly,

Kempton Lam

Calgary, SW

P.S. I hope you will forgive me in not able to spend more time in writing a more forceful and better-crafted letter as I do have others things to attend to.

[rewrite — P.S. I hope you will forgive me in not able to spend more time in writing a more forceful and better-crafted letter as I do have to work, unlike you and your privileged colleagues can prorogue your work.]

P.P.S. I’ve also enclosed a highlighted copy of The Economist’s “Harper goes prorogue – Parliamentary scrutiny may be tedious, but democracies cannot afford to dispense with it” for your reading pleasure.


Jan 24th Update (not part of my letter):

I enclosed the “Harper goes prorogue” article and highlighted it. Including this section,
CANADIAN ministers, it seems, are a bunch of Gerald Fords. Like the American president, who could not walk and chew gum at the same time, they cannot, apparently, cope with Parliament’s deliberations while dealing with the country’s economic troubles and the challenge of hosting the Winter Olympic games. This was the argument put forward by the spokesman for Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister, after his boss on December 30th abruptly suspended, or “prorogued”, Canada’s Parliament until March 3rd.”

Jan 9th Update (not part of my letter):

Concerned Canadians: Please join the anti-prorogation Facebook group.

Calgary rally: Please also join Calgarians Against Proroguing Parliament where Calgarians are organizing a rally on Jan 23rd, 2010 together with Canadians from across the country.

Links to rallies in other Canadian cities: See this Facebook event

$289 and $100 Prizes

Monday, 30 November, 2009

Dec 9th Update: I’ve made a correction to “Prize offered by” in the $289 Prize. My apologies to GASARCH and thanks for pointing out my mistake.


Two Computational Complexity Prizes/Challenges

Note: I don’t know if these prizes have been claimed already. And if you think the challenges are dead easy, then your solutions are most likely wrong. :)


A $289 Prize

Prize offered by: GASARCH Stephen Fenner, Charles Glover and Semmy Purewal

Posted on: Nov 30, 2009

Challenge Description:The 17×17 challenge. Worth $289. This is not a joke.

Dec 2, 2009 update: More comments on people’s comments posted here.


A $100 Prize

Prize offered by: Mark Braverman, Stephen Cook, Pierre McKenzie, Rahul Santhanam, Dustin Wehr

Posted on: Aug 27, 2009

Challenge Description: Slides for talk “Branching Programs: Avoiding Barriers (PostScript .ps file)”, presented Aug 27, 2009 at the Barriers Workshop in Princeton. See the last slide for a $100 Prize offer.” [via my former professor Prof. Stephen A. Cook’s website]

Designing Obama – The Book

Friday, 30 October, 2009

The crowd-funded Designing Obama – The Book. Check out their Kick Starter funding page with video. (Note: They’ve already met their funding goal of $65,000 with 1,074 backers.)

A word about crowd-funding, it is not just about money (although it is about the money). It is about the connections that people have with the project they care about.

It is about the people, each and every single one of them, making something possible.

They, through their individual small “pledges”, make a project (a book, a song, a film, a creative endeavour) possible.

They create.

P.S. A great way of funding, I hope something like this will launch in Canada soon. Currently according to their site, “Due to current Amazon Payments policy, projects can only be started by people or entities with a U.S. address and bank account.”

[via BMD]

A picture of some other Kick Starter projects.

Kickstarter-funded projects

Netflix Prize – The Ensemble interview

Wednesday, 29 July, 2009

There are two teams that beat the 10% improvement goal set by the Netflix Prize – million dollar challenge. Tonight, I had the great pleasure to chat with four members of The Ensemble team. Thanks to Lester Mackey, Joe Sill, Ces Bertino, and Bo Yang for a wonderful chat. (note: links from team bio page)

It will take me some time to process the audio recording, research and write up this interview. I will try to post it soon. Stay tune.

Here is a link to a New York Times article, “Netflix Competitors Learn the Power of Teamwork

Here is Lester’s recount the “Final Submission Countdown“.

Netflix Prize Winning Teams

Monday, 27 July, 2009

July 29, 2009 Update: Here is “The Ensemble“‘ team official account of their “Final Submission Countdown“. And I am giving up the dangerous business of predicting the winner of the million dollar prize. :)  I better let the people who pay that million decide. :)

Plus I am going to interview team members of “The Ensemble“‘ team and I want to hear from them first hand.

At the end of the day, as I wrote before, both BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos and The Ensemble are winners to me. I will leave the money decision to Netflix. :)


Notes & Corrections,

  • According to the Netflix Prize Rules, there is only a single one million dollar prize.
  • As announced by Netflix, “There are submissions from two teams that meet the minimum requirements for the Grand Prize. We are contacting the lead team and we will report, as soon as possible, when and if we have a verified winner for the Grand Prize.”
  • “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos” team has been contacted by Netflix and is presumed to be the winner upon verification by Netflix. (Sorry my mistakes to report “The Ensemble” team as the winner.)
  • Take a look of the post “By a nose… or is it a hair…” to read an official account of the BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos team experience.

In some sense, both BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos and The Ensemble are winners because both teams passed the seemingly impossible test of 10% improvement. And I know I have lots to learn from their experiences and insights.

FDIC Legacy Loans Program – Public Comments

Friday, 3 April, 2009

The FDIC and US Treasury are listening. I hope they will learn something from these inputs. In fact, I have suggested to my two economists friends to share their comments and ideas.

Following are excerpted from FDIC,

The FDIC and the Treasury recently announced that they will establish the Legacy Loans Program to remove troubled loans and other assets from banks. This program is necessary because uncertainty about the value of these assets makes it difficult for banks to raise capital and secure stable funding to support lending to households and businesses. All FDIC-insured depository institutions will be eligible to participate in the program.

Comments on the Legacy Loans Program may be submitted until April 10, 2009.

Reimagining the Wheels – Translation by SpeakLike

Wednesday, 8 October, 2008

In this Reimagining the Wheels article, I will spotlight on a cool translation service that I’ve come across call SpeakLike. Here is how the company explains its own technologies (emphasis added),

SpeakLike’s Human Assisted Language brings human understanding to translation this way: You send your text, a human translator checks and corrects the machine-translated text in real-time, then the people you are talking with see it in their own languages, quickly and correctly.

Because SpeakLike seamlessly integrates automated and human translation, you’re able to chat right away, without needing to set up costly, time-consuming conference calls as you do using traditional interpreting services. And SpeakLike finally gives you a real alternative to ‘free’ machine-based translation, which is highly inaccurate and often results in costly mistakes.

With innovative technology backed by the human touch of SpeakLike, you’ll be part of a world where people who speak different languages speak one language: SpeakLike.

I first heard of SpeakLike after its CTO Graham Neumann demonstrating it at Demo Camp Calgary #10. After watching Graham’s demo video, I sensed their web-based translation technology involving human translators can be potentially promising.

So I reached out to Graham and we set up a time this past Monday and chatted extensively about their technologies and some challenges I saw. You can take a look of a brief demo video here.

The following are my brief impressions,

  1. I see interesting potentials (which is why I include it in my Reimagining the Wheels series) together with some challenges as well.
  2. It is nice to know that SpeakLike has paying customers already and they are happy with the services.
  3. Based on a very brief chat, Graham seems to be laying the technological foundation well and making it scalable. Although I haven’t dig deep but I think Graham’s prior experience should lead to a well architected software framework.
  4. At the same time, I see human resources (good communities of translators) being may be the more fundamental part to the success of SpeakLike. And I think more work needs to be done in this area.
  5. In some sense (this may sound strange coming from someone who is a trained computer scientist), the cool technologies are really nice but others can copy it given time and effort. I would argue that the more durable competitive advantage will be the people in a cohesive and thriving translator communities that SpeakLike will need to work hard in building. And this may be harder to build and maintain than the community of photographers in the case of iStockphoto.

I have been fascinated with English/Chinese written and simultaneous verbal translation since the 80s. To me, correct and usable communication is the key to human exchanges and smooth business transactions. And to translate something well is definitely part “science” and part “art”.

Over the years, I have seen some poorly written English business emails by educated Chinese workers in mainland China. So I think there is a potential market in China (if the price is right and the service is good). The potential is there but the challenge is to tap into these needs and approach it with understanding of the Chinese market.

As I wrote in this August 2006 blog entry, I saw machine translation being provided by the likes of Babel Fish and Google Translate as being inadequate. In fact, if I were less generous, I might argue that these “translations” actually do a disservice unless the users are heavily discounting the validity of the machine translated text like me.

Unfortunately, I doubt that many people are as careful as I am and many may give too much trust to these machine translated text. I heard that SpeakLike uses machine translator as a starting point. While I understand the desire for lower cost, at the same time, I worry about the potentially inaccurate or poor quality results being used as a starting point for SpeakLike human translator. The best chef in the world can’t cook good food from spoiled ingredients. It is hard to judge without more data. It will definitely be fun to dig deeper.

Finally, to be fair with SpeakLike, they are still a very young company and I don’t think the challenges they have are unsolvable. Given time, I look forward to improved and better translation results.

Here is a YouTube video of CEO Sandy explaining SpeakLike at DEMO 2008.

Here is a YouTube video of CTO Graham talking about SpeakLike at DEMO 2008.

Akoha Live at TechCrunch50 – Playing games to make the world better place?

Thursday, 11 September, 2008

Playing games to make the world better place? Check out my friend Austin’s presentation at TechCrunch50. I am watching it right now. Looks great and fascinating. Check out Akoha’s website.


Just finished watching. For entrepreneurs in the startup mode, check out how Austin addresses some of the panel questions.

Some coverage in CNet and Montreal Gazette.

Links for 2007-11-23

Friday, 23 November, 2007
  1. Very insightful John Doerr (VC and Google board member) video interview
  2. Tom Evslin’s video chat from Fall 2007 VON discussing The Third Stage of the VoIP Rocket that Never Fired.
  3. Nov. 21, 2007 Jean Chretien interview on CBC National
  4. Hacking a Soda Machine (video) – It also gets you thinking about security
  5. Tara Hunt open sourcing her book research (video one)
  6. Viddler as a way to post video (under 500MB) that allows timed tags and timed comments.
  7. Startup Weekend Common Misconceptions
  8. Microsoft, Google and Yahoo Acquisitions Compared
  9. Map Kiosks in Beijing
  10. My Cup Noodle Factory (in Japanese) to create your own personalized cup noodle – see pictures here, here, here, and a photos collection here.
  11. What’s wrong with qualitative research?
  12. CBC’s Marketplace on ISP Speed Claims (with video)

Information R/evolution

Saturday, 20 October, 2007

Calling myself an ideas Revolutionary, I have a special affinity with the word “Revolution” and the play on words of “R/evolution” (see the letter “R” of “Revolution” in my logo).

So here is a neat video on the revolutionary change in information. Enjoy. [via Michael Geist]

Scholarpedia – free peer reviewed encyclopedia

Wednesday, 3 October, 2007

Scholarpedia seems interesting and worth checking out if you need the extra added precision and confidence. [K: I started looking at it from Prof. Hinton’s entry on Boltzmann Machine, referenced in his team’s solution to Netflix $1 million Prize]

Here are a few words from Scholarpedia’s main page,

Welcome to Scholarpedia, the free peer reviewed encyclopedia written by scholars from all around the world.

Scholarpedia feels and looks like Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Indeed, both are powered by the same program – MediaWiki. Both allow visitors to review and modify articles simply by clicking on the edit this article link.

However, Scholarpedia differs from Wikipedia in some very important ways:

  • Each article is written by an expert (invited or elected by the public).
  • Each article is anonymously peer reviewed to ensure accurate and reliable information.
  • Each article has a curator – typically its author — who is responsible for its content.
  • Any modification of the article needs to be approved by the curator before it appears in the final, approved version.

A closer look at the Netflix $1 million Prize

Wednesday, 3 October, 2007

I’ve heard about the Netflix million dollar prize for a while now but I only pay attention to it after I read the article “Million Dollar Baby” in this month’s UT magazine. I guess seeing UT CS prof. Hinton and his grad students in the top 10 (based on Oct 3rd ranking, #7 team name “ML@UToronto A“) makes it a fun sport for me to watch.

Check out Prof. Hinton’s home page for technical papers like this paper in PDF.

Freed and unlocked iPhone

Saturday, 25 August, 2007

What a great job that George Hotz and his team has done in unlocking the iPhone. You can follow the step by step instructions here (one post at a time). The following is a video clip of George being interviewed on CNBC.

Since George is going to attend Rochester Institute of Technology, looks like he may have a chance to meet Steve Wozniak on Oct 6, 2007 when Woz speaks there. Knowing the fun loving and geek Woz by reputation (his book and video interviews), I think Woz and George will have a lot of fun chatting. Here are two interviews of Woz, one by Charlie Rose and one by Guy Kawasaki.

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