25% into 2014 – Reading, Life, and Work


March is over in a day and I’m yet to finish my Philippines trip report from late last year.  It is long overdue, but nonetheless I’m still working on it and will finish it soon. I’m currently working on writing up several posts about language, life, sugar, and work.  All unique, yet interesting topics.

This year has been relatively relaxed.  I’ve been focusing a lot on my hobbies outside of “work”, reading a fair amount, and spending more time with local friends since I’ve been in Bangkok.  It is nice to stay in 1 spot for more than a couple months, but it also builds more drive to explore more places.  I think it is important to sit back at home and reflect every so often.  Otherwise you’ll become overwhelmed and unable to truly accept the experiences that you’ve had, often without even knowing it.

Good reads/videos for the month:

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Mar 31st, 2014 | Filed under Adventures

Inside the Online Ad Market – WhatRunsWhere

During the first quarter of 2011, 1.11 trillion ad impressions were shown in the US alone.  An impression is when an ad is shown on a page. Everytime someone loads a webpage and an ad loads, that counts as an impression for that ad. 1.11 trillion in the US alone! And that data is 3 years old so it is surely much larger today. People involved in the online marketing/advertising world are quite aware of the size of this market, it’s insanely rapid growth, and most importantly its potential.  3 billion more people are expected to be using the internet in the next 6-7 years as people in undeveloped countries get internet access.  The data doesn’t lie, and to anyone not aware of how big it is, I’d advise reading into it a bit.  I always laugh when I talk to a random person about what I do and how 99% of people insist they’ve never clicked an ad on Facebook or elsewhere.

Facebook generates billions of dollars each year from clicks alone, so no doubt many many people click ads.  And from the perspective of an advertiser like myself, an ideal ad is an ad which is user doesn’t know it is an ad.  Most people who browse the web would be suprised at how many ads there actually are, how often they actually do click them, and how much influence the advertising market has over the actions you take online.

With this said, the point of this post is to discuss a bit about WhatRunsWhere (WRW), which is a online ad intelligence tool.  Essentially it crawls the web similar to how Google searches the web, but WRW crawls the web for banner ads.  It then monitors how long ads are shown, where they are shown, who the advert is bought through, etc.  Other companies who want to buy advertising can use this data to find out which banner ads are performing best, where they are shown, etc.  It provides very valuable data that can be used to help media buyers (people who buy adverts online) scale out their advertising campaigns, get ideas from the best performing ads, and give insights into what websites are likely to perform for them.

You can search by advertiser (such as Coke), by keywords (such as drinks, or puzzles), or by publisher.  I did a keyword search for “amazon” and you can see below it shows all the ads related to “amazon”.  You can also pick between 5 different ad sizes, and text ads:

AmazonBanners

From there, you can click on individual banners and it will provide even more insight, such as:

  • How long the banner has been running
  • The traffic sources this ad is being run through (such as Adwords, direct buy, etc.)
  • The placements of this ad (what sites this ad is shown), along with the duration for each placement
  • The countries it is shown on in each placement, and the duration
  • The ad server running the ad
  • The destination URL/landing page of the banner

You basically get all of data of the advert, aside from its click through rate.  You can heavily use this data to your advantage.  For example, if an ad has been running for many months on a single placement, there is a good chance the advert is performing well for the advertiser.  Below is quick screenshot of the detail page of a banner:

amazondetail

 

There is a massive amount of data here, and what I’ve wrote only scratches the service.  Note that there is also WRW for mobile, where you can gather data on mobile adverts. Luckily, you can checkout all the features of WRW essentially for free using their 30 day, $1 trial.  Use for 1 month for $1, and you can cancel anytime.  If you’re a media buyer, want to see what your competition is advertising, want to get ideas from well-performing ads, learn from brand advertisers, or just want to explore the massive online advertising market, check it out.

Click here and Signup!

Further reviews on WRW:
FinchSells WRW Review
Convert2Media WRW Review
PPC.BZ WRW Review

 

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Mar 4th, 2014 | Filed under Adventures

Penang and the Perhentian Islands

Mosque in Georgetown in Penang

Mosque in Georgetown in Penang

I just got back from a quick 1 week trip to Malaysia with my friend Richard. It was more a vacation, but also to satisfy my visa requirements. Our original plan was to train from Bangkok down south, but since we realized the night before that the train was fully booked, we booked a flight directly to Penang. On the plane, we met an American guy who was also traveling to the same place, and we decided to hop on the bus together. He was an interesting guy, who had spent the last 5 years living in Burma working for an NGO. He had just finished his contract and was in the process of getting a new contract, so he was also traveling a bit in the meantime. After leaving the airport, we hopped on a bus for about 45 minutes to head north to Georgetown. In Georgetown we walked through the small streets and came across a neat little hostel, where we would stay for the next couple nights.

After checking in, we walked more around Georgetown – it isn’t too big, but quite diverse. There are a lot of interesting buildings and landmarks that show the history and culture of the area. We ate some excellent Indian food for dinner in “little India”. The next day we walked north west for a few hours exploring the northern part of Penang. We were planning on walking to Bayu Ferringhi (main beach attraction in Penang), but we realized later that it was much much further than we thought. So from where we were we caught a bus, which took about 20 minutes. On the bus we met a women who lived in Penang, though she was originally from Scotland. She had lived all over the world for the last 40 years, running a company that manages government foreign aide such that the money doesn’t get wasted in corruption. Very friendly and interesting lady.

Once in the Bayu Ferringhi area, we walked around “Long Beach”, which was empty, and the sand was very rough. The waters were also very rough, and looked quite dirty.  There were condos and hotels everywhere. We went into the first restaurant we could find along the beach (there weren’t many open), and relaxed there for a few hours. We ate lunch, had some drinks, and played some chess. Around sundown we headed back toward our hostel in Georgetown. This night was the big celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year, so the bus had quite a few Chinese Malaysians on it. Once back at the hostel, it was nice to relax and sit down after a long day of walking. By bed time, the fireworks were still being lit off, literally outside our window, so I just put my earphones in and fell asleep, while others went out on the roof to watch the fireworks.

Looking north west from Georgetown in Penang

Looking north west from Georgetown in Penang

The next day we woke, walked 20 minutes east to the ferry port where we could purchase train tickets that left from Butterworth (closest Malaysian mainland city). We wanted to book our train back to Bangkok since it was full before (from Bangkok > Butterworth) – we wanted to experience what the 23 hour train offered. So we bought those for a week later, then walked back to the hostel, grabbed a few things, and walked to the Express bus office about 10 minutes away. They offered bus services all over Malaysia and southern Thailand. We booked an overnight bus, leaving at 9pm this day, which would take us to Kuala Besut, arriving at 4am. While withdrawing money from the ATM next store, we met a Swiss-German girl (living in Zurich) who was having issues with the ATM. So together we went to another ATM to get money. It turns out she was interested in chess (the Zurich Challenge just happened in Zurich – with the top chess players in the world). So after getting our money, Richard, her (Evelyn), and I went and played chess for a few hours. Toward the evening we packed up our stuff, and went to buy another bus ticket for Evelyn, then she packed up her stuff, and we all headed out to dinner. Taylor, the American who lived in Burma, scoped out a good Indian place and we ate there. The food portions were much smaller, but it still tasted excellent. After that, Taylor headed to another place to eat, and the 3 of us caught a bus south to the bus station. We arrived about 30 minutes early, so we grabbed some water and snacks. By 8:50pm we were on the bus.

Penang was highly overrated.  While Georgetown was a nice area, and the entire northern part of Penang was lined with condos overlooking the water, the beaches were terrible, and I couldn’t quite understand why there was so much rave about Penang, or why so many condos were built there.  I guess some people like it, but it was not at all what I expected, and I wouldn’t go back.

Map showing Penang relative to Perhentian Islands

Map showing Penang relative to Perhentian Islands

The next day we arrived in Kuala Besut around 4am, and a woman approached us telling us to follow her to buy ferry tickets. So we went to her place and found several other people at her office buying ferry tickets as well. She said buy now, and at 7am the ferry would leave. The ferry would take us from Kuala Besut to the Perhentian Islands. Around 6am, we walked to the only cafe that was open and had some coffee and a bite to eat while we waited for the ferry. 15 minutes before the ferry left we walked back to the port, and got onto the boat. It was hardly a ferry, more so just a speedboat. It took about 30 minutes to get to the islands. It first stopped at the big island and dropped a few people off, then headed to the smaller island and the rest of us got off.

The beach was quite empty at 7:30am. Not only had the peak season not begun, everyone was mostly asleep. We found a nice cheap place right along the beach, and then took a short nap. We then woke, we grabbed some food and drinks, and walked to Long Beach (15 minute walk through the jungle to the other side of the island) to relax.  In the afternoon/evening, we met some fellow travelers, had some great discussions, and had a few drinks.

Arriving at the Perhentian Islands - water looks turquoise though it is crystal clear.

Arriving at the Perhentian Islands – water looks turquoise though it is crystal clear.

The next day we spent snorkeling.  It started at 10:30am, and finished around 3pm.  5 of us were on the boat – an older Italian couple, Evelyn, Richard, and me.  There were 5 points we would visit: Turtle Point, Shark Point, Coral Point, Light House, and Romantic Beach.  I had average expectations, but this trip ended up being incredible.  At Turtle Point, we saw at least 3 giant turtles, probably a good meter wide.  The thing about the Perhentian Islands is that the water is crystal clear, so we were snorkeling and could dive down and swim with these turtles.  After that stop for 30 minutes, we went to Shark Point, and saw at least 5 different sharks, the biggest being probably 2 meters long.  They tended to stay along the coastline, and the water wasn’t too deep, so you could get pretty close to them.  It was fascinating.  Coral Point and Romantic Beach were just icing on the cake – Coral point has lots of really cool fish, coral, and exotic plants.  Romantic Beach was a small beach in an isolated part of the island where you could snorkel around – apparently there were baby sting rays around there but I wasn’t able to see any.

In the evening a group of us made a bonfire on the vacant Long Beach, and we had some more great conversations, and listened to some music (someone had a guitar).  The sound of the waves was also very nice.  A few us skinny dipped, which was nice since it was reasonably warm and the water didn’t feel too cold.  The following day most of the group we were hanging out with went kayaking around the island, but I felt just like realxing.  So after waking, I sat and talked with a few friends still around until they left at 4pm, and from then I browsed the web, and ate some excellent food.  I also captured a few nice pictures of the beach.  It was really a relaxing day of doing nothing but thinking.  In the late evening the entire group grabbed dinner and had many more drinks.  A local was playing the guitar and singing some beautiful stuff. It was a good way to cap our last night.

Can't complain about beach sunsets like this

Can’t complain about beach sunsets like this

The next day, we woke late, ate, and caught the noon ferry (ferries leave at 8am, noon, and 4pm) back to Kuala Besut.  The bus from Kuala Besut to Butterworth left once a day at 8pm, so we were left with 7 hours in Kuala Besut. When we arrived, we found a cafe and ate some excellent buffet food, and drank some much needed water. After a good meal, we found some shade, and napped. After a couple hours there, we moved to some benches that were covered and much more comfortable. Somehow a couple hours later my face was completely burned, even though I made it a full week in intense sun without getting burnt.  There must have been some UV reflection as I was in the shade the entire time. Disappointing to say the least.

The overnight bus was interesting – about 3 hours into the trip the bus stopped at a bus station, which is normal.  The driver came and told us to get out and switch buses.  So we go over to the bus he points at, and they tell us to go back to the other.  They then tell us to wait there for 15 minutes for another bus.  So I go to the toilet, and as I return they are ready to leave telling me they have been waiting for 5 minutes and were going to leave if I didn’t show soon.  Nonetheless, we got on that bus and made it to Butterworth a few hours later at around 4am.  When we arrived in Butterworth, we walked around the area looking for a place to sleep.  There weren’t many options so we laid on some benches next to a bus stop.  However, the mosquitos were everywhere so we just decided to head back to a cafe we saw open earlier (probably the only thing open within a couple miles).  We went in there and it was full of people watching a Manchester United football match.  We grabbed some awesome breakfast and coffee, and relaxed while we got online.

The place closed around 7am, and around that time we headed back toward the bus station.  We relaxed around the food court there, then went to check out the train station a couple hours early.  When we arrived there in the morning (the bus dropped us near there), it was all closed and appeared under construction.  When we checked again, the office was open and a few others were waiting there.  An older couple from Australia talked with us, and the man came with us to pickup some lunch.  It was excellent food.  After lunch, we grabbed some drinks and boarded the train (at 2:45pm), which would take 23 hours to Bangkok.

The trip back went smooth.  We had to get off at the border for immigration, and while there I ate dinner at the food court.  After that stop, the train extended a couple cars and added a restaurant.  The rest of the night was spent talking and cubing with Richard over a bottle of whiskey.  We slept around 1am, and woke around 11am.  We arrived into Bangkok around 12:20pm.

Once again another great trip.  While it was short, we knew it was more of a vacation than anything.  It was the first trip in awhile where I didn’t bring my laptop.  It was nice to have a break, but at the same time, it is nice to be back.   My next trip outside Thailand will be in 2-3 months when my brother and his friends visit from the US. In the meantime I plan to do some traveling around Thailand and do a bit of scuba diving.

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Feb 24th, 2014 | Filed under Adventures, Thailand

Updates, Copters, and Good Reads

The first month of 2014 is over, and I hope you’ve all been making the most of it. 2014 for me so far has been quite relaxing, but also insightful.  I’m had a lot of time to think, learn, and enjoy time with friends.  My good friend from the US moved out to Thailand in early January, and the month has mostly been filled with great nights, and relaxing days.  While I’ve taken a small break from “work”, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working on my hobbies, and coming up with ideas and plans for the future.

I returned from a month in the Philippines last month, and am still working on the trip report for that.  Shortly after I moved to a new place nearby that was a bit bigger, though still very reasonably priced. I’ve been settling into it nicely.  In February we were planning on spending a month in India, but those plans fell through as one of our friends couldn’t make it.  Due to my visa situation, we decided to postpone a longer trip for a couple months and instead do a week trip to Malaysia.  A break from the city always clears and opens your mind a bit.  I’m hoping to hit the wilderness soon and perhaps camp some national parks.

I’ve added a “resources” page to this blog.  Just contains many of the things I enjoy and use, and that you may find useful as well.  If you have use something that you think I’d find useful or be interested in, please let me know.  I’m constantly looking for more tools and things to read that provide valuable insight.

New RC Copter

I recently came across a new remote controlled quadcopter, called the Phantom 2 Vision.  It is one of the first affordable, easy to use copter that you can do amazing things with.  Checkout this video below:

Richard Barrow, an expat living in Bangkok, has been using one and posting pictures on ThailandfromAbove.com.  Checkout the about page for more info.  I expect these to sell very very well and allow people to capture some amazing things.  I’m considering getting one – the only thing stopping me is that it won’t be that easy to travel with.

Good Reads Lately:

And not a read, but a link to Kiva. Lend money to Kiva so undeveloped countries can grow – lend money to growing entrepreneurs. It’s free, and easy. Make a difference here.

Keep learning, keep meeting new people, keep getting better. Enjoy.

 

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Jan 30th, 2014 | Filed under Adventures, Thailand