About the Hutong

Sophisticated Chongqing

Hutong Forward
LAX bound for Bangkok and Shanghai
1215 hrs.

My first trip to Chongqing summarily destroyed all of my preconceptions of the central Chinese river terminus.

Instead of an immense but slightly provincial city, I came away after three days with the impression that Chongqing is about as provincial as Hong Kong, and is in many ways a lot more livable than its coastal cousin.

People were fashionable and stylish, at least as much as Beijing. The streets along the river were lined with remarkable restaurants and shopping districts that made Shanghai’s Xintiandi look both quiet and unsophisticated by comparison. The Pedestrian Street between Minzu Road and the Liberation Monument bisected the central business district with a sophistication that rivals Nanjing Road and Wangfujing. And the people have that warmth that seems to come so readily to the people of Sichuan.

I berate myself now for delaying my visit for so long. There really is more to Chongqing than a foggy, overgrown river port, and I suspect that I will be going back again soon.

A Quick Thank You…

…to Michael Galeotto, who was kind enough to include Silicon Hutong in his list of worthy Chinese bridge blogs.

As he notes, and as readers will acknowledge, I don’t post here daily. I figure that my readers, like me, have lots to do and read in their lives, and I try to post here only when I have something to say that I figure is worth reading.

…and to you. For every article I post here, I still spike (reject) two others. I will continue to do that, because I figure it is the least I can do to thank you for eleven years of paying attention to this forum.

A quick note – in order to make this blog available to people in China without a VPN, I will be shifting servers in early April. If you are following siliconhutong.com, you should experience no change. But if you are following me through WordPress.com, please note that you will probably need to change your settings when I make the switch to a wordpress.org-based site.


Update: Added a link to Michael’s post.

Hutong Weekend: Top Ten Signs that it is Time to Leave Foursquare

In the Hutong
Mid-Autumn Festivus
1515 hrs.

After much angst and contemplation recently, I gave up on Foursquare.

I wasn’t stalked, and it has nothing to do with something the company did to offend me. I just woke up one day and realized that I was probably putting a lot more into the service than I was getting out of it, and that of all of my social media outlets, it was giving me the lowest return on my investment.

I do not think I’m alone in this predicament, but as a public service in order to help you assess whether you should give up on the service or stick with it, I have prepared the following list of signs and symptoms indicating that you no longer need Foursquare in your life.

10. You have not earned a new badge in six months, despite regular use.

9. You have not only created a spot for your home, you have checked in there at least 50 times.

8. You realize that do not care where the latest B-grade actor or actress had dinner last night.

7. The highlight of a night out at a new restaurant with your significant other becomes checking in at a new location

6. You keep swapping mayorships at the same half dozen places with the same half dozen people

5. You start asking your spouse to drive so you can do more “drive-by” check-ins.

4. You start doing “drive-by” check-ins – while flying in an aircraft.

3. You stop reading the “specials” because you know you cannot qualify for them.

2. You start wondering when Foursquare is actually going to evolve the experience

And the number one sign that it is time for you to leave Foursquare:

1. You realize that, since you are not Lady Gaga or POTUS, nobody cares where you are at every minute of the day.

The Hutong Around the Web

David is extensively quoted in this AdAge piece by Normandy Madden that discusses the growing trend among multinationals to develop products for China in the PRC, rather than localize current production.

David outlines several reasons behind this trend, but warns it is not for the newly-arrived:

The success stories come from companies who have a decade or more of experience in China and who have taken their lessons to heart. It may be counter-intuitive, but the best way to earn that experience is to test and modify your current offerings in the crucible of the market.

Also on this topic, take a look at this post “Made for China is Nothing New,” responding to a McKinsey article at the Harvard Business Review blog advocating a “create local” strategy.


David is referenced and quoted in Janet Carmosky‘s article in Forbes recently, talking about the coming decline of China as a manufacturing economy.


David was quoted on the prospects for online video in China in a recent article in Knowledge@Wharton, the online business journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

An excerpt:

“What we are looking at [with the IPOs] is not just online sites for videos. We are really looking at the birth of two major, 21st-century international media companies,” says David Wolf, founder and CEO of Wolf Group Asia (WGA), a management advisory firm in Beijing and Los Angeles. “They are going to become large international media companies, [involved in everything] from online delivery to online broadcasting channels.”

Read the article here in English, and here in Chinese.

Back in the Hutong

Just a few quick announcements:

1. I’ve killed the daily summaries with all of my links. It will now post as a single weekly summary on Sundays. Sorry for the inconvenience.

2. I’m back and posting more often for the time being. Feedback is welcome.

3. I am in Beijing for a few months before my next long trip, so give me a shout if you are coming through town.

Around the Hutong This Week

northeast tower of Forbidden City in night light
Image via Wikipedia

Some quick admin notes:

First, I have updated the “About” page. I do much better when I don’t try to be funny. Let me know what I’m not including.

Second, in my effort to keep Silicon Hutong on topic, I have relaunched Peking Review as its own site, with links to books of interest (mostly free e-books available online, and mostly with some China angle) and some thumbnail reviews. I have modest plans for the site, but with a clearer focus it is taking on a healthy life of its own. I’ll still do topical long-form book reviews here as appropriate.

Next, a couple of posts from the Off-Topic Hutong blog – Silicon Hutong Lite:

Time to Rethink Conservatism

Not a City of Airheads

Finally, Dan Harris over at China Law Blog posted a link to our article on Guanxi. The comment string is well worth reading.

The Hutong is Moving

Just a quick note to let everyone know that finally, after seven years, Silicon Hutong will be in a place where we can all access the content through a simple “siliconhutong.com” here at WordPress.

In the coming weeks we will be transferring content, and in the meantime will continue to post at our TypePad location.

Let us know what you think!

The Short Game

I am going to start diversifying away from my usual 6002,000 word post length and begin blogging more links and short posts. I’ve spent the last few weeks playing with Tumblr, and I like the short format, but as Will Moss pointed out, there are only so many platforms you can spread yourself across before you start duplicating or diluting your efforts.

But not every idea, insight, or sentiment needs lengthy elaboration, nor can it be distilled into the 140 characters of Twitter. As such, I’m going to add a “short game” to Silicon Hutong. Meanwhile, my Twitter and Tumblr feeds will be moved higher up on the right column.

Let me know what you think. If it doesn’t make sense, or if it is cutting down on the value of Silicon Hutong (or if it is adding value), I would be happy to hear it.

Back in the Hutong Again

Starbucks Pinnacle Plaza

Cloudy with a Chance of Sweatballs

1140 hrs

We’re back in the Hutong after four brutal months, three in Beijing working our collective backsides off, and one visiting family in California in a fruitless attempt to assuage the effects of burnout.

It’s been two months since the last post here, and I have a lot to talk about now, so stay tuned: there is going to be a bit of a deluge in the coming weeks.

TypePad has switched its interface, so you might see some differences in typestyles, graphics, etc.

Silicon Hutong a Must-Read Olympic Blog

In the Hutong

Well, it was looking nice earlier

1612 hrs.

IDG News was good enough to name Silicon Hutong one of the six blogs to read during the Olympics.

Those of you who have followed the Hutong for a while know that we’ve been in a higher gear since mid-May, and we’re going to continue that pace through the Olympics.

If you’re new to the Hutong and you’ve just found us because of the IDG article, welcome to the Hutong. Comments are welcome, as are e-mails and other forms of communication, so don’t be shy.

H’ray – Ecto is Back

Somewhere in Dongcheng
Gridlocked in the Old City

Finally back to using ecto after a long break, caused by issues between movable type, TypePad, and the upgraded ecto software. For those of you who have ever had to maintain a blog using a web interface only, you can imagine what a relief it is to be back to offline blogging.

I’m also looking into how this might help me in my search for a way to stay with TypePad yet increase my accessibility in China. Will keep you posted.

Meantime, if you are a Mac user looking for good offline blogging software, give ecto 3 a look.

WSJ Database Marketing is a Dud

In the Hutong
Digging for my American Chopper DVDs
2127 hrs.

One of the great promises of computer technology was a thing called Database Marketing.

The theory behind database marketing is that a company with which you have a relationship will record information it learns about you and it will send you solicitations that will not only be relevant, but indeed will anticipate what you want.

So much for the theory.

Let’s take, for a moment, the Wall Street Journal. I have had a long and mostly satisfying relationship with the publication for many years. I was one of the early subscribers to the electronic edition, and I’ve maintained that almost consistently since they began offering the service. ($339 per quarter to fly dead trees to my doorstep just seemed like a bad idea all around.)

You’d think they know me by now. They’ve got my billing information. They know where I live in China. They know what I do, how old I am, what I read, what my interests are, what I download, how much I make. They even know I’m a white male.

So when I get an invitation from the WSJ inviting me to a Career Fair (I own my own business, thanks), a “Diversity” career fare, no less (white man I am), in about two weeks at the very-inconvenient-to-me Embassy Suites Hotel Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia, I realize that either Dow Jones is totally incompetent at marketing, since they don’t know the difference between “database marketing” and “SPAM,” or they just don’t care about who I am and don’t care if I know it.

I’m starting to change my mind about Rupert Murdoch and Dow Jones. Surely their database marketing couldn’t get much worse.

Thinking Blogger

In the Hutong
Feeling tagged
1510 hrs.

Kevin Smith over at The Weifang Radish has honored the Hutong with a Thinking Blogger Award.

Having been duly tagged, I am obliged and pleased to designate 5 blogs that make me think. In no particular order, they are:

1. China Law Blog and Dan Harris – Dan understands that the law is supposed to serve business, which already makes him a rarity. The fact that he practices from Seattle and exhibits a deep understanding of China defies my normal characterization that a Chinahand must live in China.

2. Asia Logistics Wrap by Shawn Bielfuss – Shawn is brilliant – should be teaching at Harvard or Wharton – and you benefit from his brilliance without paying the tuition.

3. Imagethief by Will Moss – Incisive social commentary in China delivered by one of the funniest guys I know.

4. Maneuver Marketing Communique by Mike Smock – Mike Smock makes marketing asymmetric: he enables smaller challengers to upend bigger competition. If business is war, Maneuver Marketing is unconventional war.

5. DiligenceChina by Andrew Hupert – It never ceases to amaze me how many companies leave their common sense and their reasonable care behind when it comes to entering China. Andrew is there to remind us, and he does it brilliantly.

Dammit! Somebody else nominate me. I’ve got about 10 more sites…


In the Hutong
Enjoying my use of the TortiseNet
1331 hrs.

Apologies – I’m being lazier about links than I usually am. The net is still so bloody slow it just doesn’t make sense to wrestle with it.

Give me a holler if you need a link to anything.