March 29th, 2004

Living on the edge…


Today is a lousy day: a demo I was doing on some new technology was a disaster. The same setup works fine before the demo but somehow, it just refused to work on the critical moment. And we have some very senior folks within the group! I feel pretty crappy…:-(

This feeling wasn’t really new to me.

Like in 1994, we tried to do a Singapore National Day broadcast using Mbone (multicast) over the Internet. It was really cool and it allows Singaporean (mostly students) overseas to watch it over the Internet! Mbone was a pain to setup and we put the whole thing together in barely 2 weeks. While we send out emails to our users not to flood the bandwidth (we only on 128kbps then) and the local TV crew in place, the video comes out pixelated and audio barely audible. It was a nightmare and we never do it. Yet looking back, this set the stage for the Internet craze1 in Singapore. If nothing else, it gots people thinking about what Internet can do.Or in 1995, I launched the first mail forwarding services in Singapore (2nd in the world after Mengwong’s I put the system together actually in 3 days of non-stop programming (those were the days when you can go without sleep for 72hrs) and launch in 2 weeks. Oh, people love it and start using it! I wish I told them I didn’t use it myself2 because I know it will break…and break it did after a surge of growth after one month. Oh well…

Then in 1998, I put together a demo on Internationalized Domain Names (IDN). People went crazy over it. They love it and want it. I don’t know how to tell them the technology behind is so filmsy3 that I won’t trust it myself. But we went ahead anyway. It works…sometimes. And boy, I have my share of embrassing moments!

So today, I learnt the painful lesson again. That there is a reason why they call it ‘bleeding edge’ because you will bleed!

But I will not back down. For without people like us who dare to challenge the blade, the sharp edges of cutting technologies will not be blunted. It is through our pain that such technologies would one day be commonplace.

1 Singnet was started by Singtel in the same year. In the following year, technet was commericalized to become Pacific Internet and Cyberway, now known as Starhub Internet was launch.

2 It’s only after the complete revamp of the system that I use it for my own emails. And boy, I am glad it still working after nearly 8 years of operation (gosh!) and I still using that email address…

3 Five years today, while IDN isn’t a common place (yet), at least the technology is stable and waiting adoptions. Problems still abound but they are mostly political in nature and less technical. And I am proudly waiting to get my own chinese domain name.

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