Zombie Cows in Vietnam

 

Cows are like zombies. They're everywhere.

Cows are like zombies. They’re everywhere.

A cloud of giant dragonflies descends on the football pitch. Like a football team they work together. Their opponents are the slow bugs that will soon be their afternoon snack. Other animals have made their home at Blue Sky Academy. The call of the hidden night bird. Bats who feed at dusk. Purple and black butterflies as big as your hand flutter from flower to flower in search of precious nectar. Lightning fast lizards who climb the walls like Spiderman. The massive toad that decided to take a break in Nick’s shoe.

I’ve been in Vinh City, Vietnam for 10 days. I live at the school in my own teacher’s dorm. From my bedroom window I can see faraway mountains, an apartment building that’s being built, and farmers working in the field (picture above). There’s a cafe attached to the school called O’Nest (aka The Nest). A group of us played the board-game Taboo last night there. There are weekly movie nights. Kids line up and watch a movie on the projection screen while eating strawberry coconut ice cream. Yesterday I gave an impromptu English lesson to a Vinh City resident. He’d like to learn 10 new English words a day!

The people here are hard working and friendly. Mrs. Hanh is the principal and runs the school. She’s ever vigilant and deeply cares about the school, her staff and her students. Click for a message from her. Lisa works in The Nest. She’s cheerful and also wants to learn English. In a few weeks she’ll be returning to Vinh University. Nick and John are the veteran English teachers here. Nick is from San Diego and John is from Australia.

Here are the 3 most common questions I get from people here:

  • “How old are you?”
  • “Where are you from?”
  • Instead of asking “Are you single?”, they ask “Do you have a family?”

The school grounds are peaceful and a great place for kids to learn. A library (with 10 PC laptops) is across from my room. There’s a playground where kids can run around. Small gardens dot the campus. There’s a pool under construction. It should be done in 45 days. In the center of the campus is the football pitch complete with goals. In the afternoon I play football with my students.

This is just a glimpse at my life here in Vietnam so far. I’m very pleased that I made the decision to come here. I’m happy that I decided to make Vinh City my home-away-from-home. The experiences I’ve had in just 10 days have been incredible. I can’t wait for the next 355 days.

Mountain top temple.

Mountain top temple.

Happiness, wealth, and longevity.

Happiness, wealth, and longevity.

Making new friends.

Making new friends.

The view from my bedroom window.

The view from my bedroom window.

Sean Laurence founded a company at 22, is a former Apple employee and a Startup Institute alumni. After living in Boston for six years he decided to leave the startup scene. The world was calling. Sean answered that call with a move to Vietnam. His BHAG is to dramatically reduce the digital divide. He’s already started by teaching technical and problem-solving skills to the youth of Vietnam. You can read more of what he’s up to at his website or follow him on Twitter at onwithsean.

NoThingsD: Tech Blog Severs Ties with Wall Street Journal. What’s Next?

Journalites no longer.

Journalites no longer.

As reported by Fortune, the influential team behind tech blog AllThingsD — chiefly, Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg — is severing ties with parent company Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, at the end of the year. In addition, Mossberg will cease publishing his column in the newspaper, ending a 20-year tenure at the publication.

One can only speculate about the internal politics that led to the fallout. That said, the announcement leaves the fate of the brand, and the team behind it, in jeopardy, partiularly since Dow Jones will retain the rights to the “AllThingsD” monicker, as Swisher and Mossberg reportedly seek outside capital for what may be a new media venture.

Three predictions on what will happen:

1) Dow Jones will either nominate new leaders from within its organization to run the site, or, more likely, will bring in a well-known outside duo from the blogosphere to take over. It’s difficult to imagine a more coveted position for a tech journalist, but at the same time, when one considers the deep associations between the brand and the two leaders behind it, it’s unclear whether such a strategy would work.

2) Swisher and Mossberg will launch a new tech-focused media site. While traditional, “dead tree” journalism continues to stagnate (as John Oliver quips, citing the recent acquisition of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos during a widespread decline in print circulation, “there are more people buying newspapers than there are people buying newspapers.”), digital media focused on technology, has a proven history of receiving institutional backing — PandoDaily, TechCrunch, GigaOM, and BostInno, among others, stand among the funded.

3) Other tech writers follow suit. A number of the best tech journalists still work for traditional media outlets — Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, for instance — but this needn’t be the case. If the team behind AllThingsD can successfully spin out of their parent company, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started a trend.

For additional coverage, see Matthew Ingram’s coverage on GigaOM.

5 Relatively Easy Ways to Run an Awesome WordPress Site

The wonderful world of blogging.

The wonderful world of blogging.

Running a blog takes work — writing the posts, reaching an audience, installing plugins, etc. — not to mention supporting it with the proper infrastructure. #sfbeta relaunched its website earlier this summer on a WordPress backend, and here’s what we advise so far:

1) Host your site on WPEngine — period.
WPEngine will pre-cache your site for faster load times, auto-update every new version, and run extensive back-end security to prevent hacks and exploits. Trust me, you do NOT want to be alone when your site inevitably gets targeted by some asshat 16-year-old-with-a-laptop in Russia.

2) Choose a responsive theme.
When a theme is “responsive,” that means it renders your content with a UI ideal for the reader’s device — whether a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. There are a bunch of responsive themes for free, and plenty for $10 – $50 on ThemeForest. Mobile and tablet traffic are really, really, really, really important, so don’t burn your potential readership with a rigid theme that renders like crap on half your pageviews.

3) Optimize for social sharing.
I recommend Facebook Comments, a share and tweet button for each post, and Facebook / Twitter widgets that show your follower count. Each of these will increase your traffic and exponentially boost your virality, while making it easy for your audience to share your work.

4) Get in the fast lane.
Optimize for speed and performance. Install a CDN, and make your site as efficient and zippy as possible with plugins suited to the task. Not only will slow pages annoy your users, but they’ll lower your standing with Google.

5) Make your site Google-friendly.
Set up Webmaster Tools and Analytics, and make sure that your sitemap is getting properly indexed. Search is a significant (if not dominant) driver of traffic, and must be accounted for.

Any other tips or tricks? Share them in the comments!