About Contributor

C. Custer

I'm a guy who writes stuff, mostly about technology and video games in China. I also made a documentary film about child trafficking. You can follow me on Twitter as @ChinaGeeks.
Steve Jobs was an incredible businessman whose company ended up very successful (although how much of that was really due to him is up for debate). But I think we should remember he was just one man, and he also did a lot of very foolish things (chief among them his refusal to accept conventional medical treatment for the very treatable cancer that killed him until it was way too late). He was also, by many accounts, kind of an asshole to the people around him. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with being inspired by some of the things he has said, of course. He said some very good things, many of which are mentioned above or in the comments. But especially in the tech industry, sometimes people talk about him with this hero-worshipping tone that I find a little disturbing. Yes, he headed a company that made a lot of money. He also alienated a lot of his closest friends and co-workers, and allowed his stubborn insistence on "following his own path" to shorten his life by (very possibly) decades. What good was all that money to him? Is that really a path other entrepreneurs should aim to walk? I think we can learn one big thing from Jobs: that there's incredible value in polished execution of an idea. Basically none of Apple's big products were actually innovations - they didn't invent the tablet or the smartphone or MP3 player. What they did was recognize that other companies had a good idea executed poorly, and then did it themselves with better execution and much better design and marketing. Especially in Asia, where chances are you're never going to be the first person to have an idea, there's some real value in that. But the fact that he was a great CEO doesn't necessarily mean we should heed his every word or take some of his more broad life advice seriously.

Commented 3 days ago on

Inspirational quotes from Steve Jobs for entrepreneurs
I agree it doesn't make a lot of sense, but that is what happened.

Commented 3 days ago on

Qihoo CEO promises to “f**k back” those who betrayed him after Letv buys stake in Coolpad
Yes. It's worth pointing out that while not much has changed on the legal side of things, anecdotally speaking I think China has become a LOT more accepting of homosexuality over the past decade or so, thanks in part to the internet. I doubt that gay marriage has the kind of widespread support in China that it does in the US, but among China's young, educated, and urban demographic (the people who use all those services) I think it's actually pretty comparable to the US in terms of support.

Commented 4 days ago on

Gay marriage: why are Asian tech companies so silent?
Well, I didn't include this detail in the article because it seemed more in-depth than most people would care about, but that probably happened because Letv actually bought (or has agreed to buy) the shares from a holding company called Data Dreamland which owned the shares, not from Coolpad itself.

Commented 4 days ago on

Qihoo CEO promises to “f**k back” those who betrayed him after Letv buys stake in Coolpad
Yes, but some of the stuff here - like the Taobao driver app market - is pretty easy to confirm on your own. Of course Alibaba is invested in Didi Kuaidi too. That's why the title says "report"; that means it's basically just a summary of the Chinese language info and you can interpret it however you'd like. With that said, it's funny that there wasn't such skepticism from anyone about Uber's "leaked" memo that made all their competitors look like assholes and claimed they were doing a million rides a day in China. That information came from an even more obviously-biased source and yet everyone just seemed to take it at face value....

Commented 1 week ago on

Report: millions of Uber’s China rides are faked
They should use some of this to try to address the massive environmental problems threatening to kills us all sometime in the next few hundred years. $200 billion could get an AWFUL lot done. But they won't.

Commented 2 weeks ago on

Apple has $194B on the balance sheet
Personally I agree, but the search engine gods must be appeased.

Commented 2 weeks ago on

What is Jack Ma’s net worth?
It's all relative!

Commented 2 weeks ago on

What is Jack Ma’s net worth?
Both companies supposedly do checks. But Uber did checks before the rape in India, too, so who knows. I agree incidents like this aren't totally preventable - you can't account for everything - but if you've hired a guy who was in prison two years ago, that's definitely preventable and it shouldn't even be difficult. Having a lot of drivers isn't a valid excuse for doing a poor background check, in my opinion.

Commented 2 weeks ago on

Rape on a Chinese ridesharing app: why Didi and Uber should be worried
I have a feeling the Last Guardian is going to be a huge disappointment when it comes out. Six years of hype is a lot to live up to, and that trailer made me a lot LESS excited about the game than I had been, for a couple reasons. The camera control looked horrible. Hard to know if it's pre-programmed or manual, but in a platforming game that's a huge deal, and when the camera is whipping around so much that the protagonist is practically falling off of things in an E3 demo, that's not a great sign for what the actual UX is going to be like. Similarly, the puzzle design looks like of unintuitive. In that bit at the end, for example, rolling the log towards Trico seems like the last thing you'd want to do - the platform is about to collapse and moving a heavy log further out is only going to increase the pressure that's destabilizing it. A log can also roll, and it seems like rather than be held in place by a small vase, you'd expect it to just slip and roll off the platform as soon as Trico puts any weight on it, considering the platform is already angled down. Sure, much more unrealistic things happen in games all the time - my point is just that if that's indicative of the game's puzzles, they may be frustrating. That one would have been easy to solve because there's basically nothing the player COULD do except move the vase. But in a tougher situation with more variables, finding the solution is going to drive people nuts if the solutions are - like this one - kind of illogical. I have my concerns about Shenmue, too. The budget for the original Shenmue (adjusted for inflation) was $67 million. Shenmue II seems to have cost about $70M to make. They're going to make this one with a $2M Kickstarter? Granted, I'm sure they'll raise more than the $2M minimum, but still...AAA game development has only gotten more expensive, and $2M seems tiny. And the highest stretch goal is only $4M....how realistic is it really to produce a true Shenmue sequel on this budget. As for the others: sequel, sequel, remake...yawn. Recore looks potentially interesting, but it could also be very generic - we haven't seen enough of it yet to really know.

Commented 2 weeks ago on

6 of the most interesting games from today’s E3
True...but that "other" also includes all the other Chinese competitors too (51yongche, yidao yongche, etc), and my guess is that it's mostly actual taxi apps - as in apps people use to take book official taxis. Uber has definitely grown since Q3 2014 and it could be doing 1M rides a day, but it still seems pretty high to me.

Commented 2 weeks ago on

1M rides a day? Questions about Uber’s growth claims in China
Nobody (except Uber) actually knows...

Commented 3 weeks ago on

1M rides a day? Questions about Uber’s growth claims in China
I agree. Soli is also arguably more intuitive. Not that touchscreen controls are hard, but they do require us to interpret visual information (like a picture of a dial) and then map the physical movement we'd make in the 3D world onto a 2D interface. With something like Soli, you just need to make the same movement. I guess it's abstracted a little because there's no touch feedback, but still, these motions - like twisting knobs - are things we are doing basically from birth (my daughter is 5 months old and is already doing it). Plus it allows for greater scale. Part of the reason I think bigscreen "smart" devices haven't really taken off is that they're awkward: touch gestures get weird on a 52" TV or a Microsoft surface where you're reaching all over the place trying to reach things. But with an interface like this, you can do this kind of thing: https://youtu.be/7SFeCgoep1c?t=27s That kind of display doesn't work with touch and it's kind of awkward even with a mouse since you have to cover so much screen real estate. But with something like Soli (and head tracking) it would be totally doable.

Commented 3 weeks ago on

If Google’s Project Soli is a reality, it will be mind blowing
We'll try!

Commented 3 weeks ago on

TiA podcast episode 7: Khailee Ng from 500 Startups
I don't think it means there's a bubble necessarily. I doubt this is only a recent phenomenon. I suspect startup founders have been doing this basically since forever.

Commented 3 weeks ago on

Is there something very wrong with the tech startup industry?
I think it's definitely true that there are plenty of founders who bend the truth a bit to make their companies look good. But in the long run I don't think it's that big an issue - those companies, and the investors who were tricked by them, will fail. As they should! Meanwhile the companies that have something real and don't have to hide behind made-up stats should do fine.

Commented 3 weeks ago on

Is there something very wrong with the tech startup industry?
Well it isn't making a profit (https://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=momo) but it is losing money at a significantly lower rate than it used to be.

Commented 3 weeks ago on

The evolution of China’s dating apps
I see that you have gone and added commas in all the spots that I'd been referring to
I genuinely haven't edited the post at all, including the one spot I found where a comma was missing (I had meant to, but after rereading the post and replying to your comment this morning I got distracted by a news story and never ended up getting back to edit it). The post as it exists now is exactly what you read before making your first comment. With regard to your first point, that's not an element of site style, just a personal choice. I tend to use commas when the quote is shorter, so if the quote had just been "We didn't invite you," I probably would have used a comma. It's not something I think about consciously but some Googling just now seems to indicate it's a fairly common approach. Your second point, I think, is fair. I doubt many people would actually have trouble understanding the sentence, but it could certainly have been phrased more clearly.

Commented 3 weeks ago on

Huawei’s PR fail highlights wrongheaded approach for China’s tech giants
A lot of good points raised in this article, although I think the idea that the Western media only reports about China's internet in the context of censorship is a bit of a straw man; there are lots of mainstream media outlets that have written about the Chinese government's increasing active participation on the web, both in terms of spreading its own agenda at home and abroad and in terms of it being more responsive to online complaints. (Although I think we should be careful not to overstate the significance of that responsiveness- as you say, at this stage it's mostly paying lip service. Massive public outcry still tends to lead to lots of deleted comments far more often than it leads to any actual change). It's probably also worth nothing this isn't a new phenomenon at all. China's government has been doing the same thing with its traditional media outlets for years: they're censored for the public, but authorities also get access to uncensored reports about things like protests so that they can gauge their responses based at least in part on public perception. The internet allows this to happen much more quickly and directly, of course, but I think the basic principle is the same. Essentially, we're just talking about a few different kinds of tools the government can use for the purposes of control. Censorship: information control to keep potentially "harmful" info away from the public Engagement: public opinion "massaging" (or propaganda) to influence the public perception of government policy Monitoring: data collection and sentiment analysis to determine the public perception, which might inform either an actual response or a change in the the way engagement or censorship are being used with regard to the issue in question.

Commented 3 weeks ago on

We need to change the way we talk about China’s internet
I will trust private money more than institutional money too.
A fair point; the issue is mostly that the private money isn't always there. China's startup scene looks amazing now because it's in a boom cycle and anyone with half a brain and an idea can raise money easily. But even just a few years ago it was way, way harder to find early-stage funding and support in China. And if this boom is actually a bubble and it bursts, we could well be headed back to those days - lots of conservative, cautious investors who don't want to get onboard anything before a series B or C. That's where the government support programs would be helpful.

Commented 3 weeks ago on

To build a tech startup ecosystem, China should look to Singapore
I can't imagine government policy is one of those aspects though, is it?

Commented 3 weeks ago on

To build a tech startup ecosystem, China should look to Singapore
Feel free to point out any errors you noticed. As someone who's been a professional editor for the past half-decade, I spotted one missing comma on my reread, but no punctuation or grammar errors. (I suppose you could consider the use of - instead of the em dash an error, but that's part of our site style).

Commented 3 weeks ago on

Huawei’s PR fail highlights wrongheaded approach for China’s tech giants
Baidu has lots of money to throw around ;)

Commented 4 weeks ago on

Chinese public transit wifi app nets $16M+ series A backed by Baidu
I haven't seen any indications of that. My hunch is that probably foreign airlines would still need MIIT approval if they're flying over Chinese airspace or accessing Chinese satellites, but I could be wrong about that. I am quite certain the Great Firewall will still be active on Chinese flights, though.

Commented 1 month ago on

China approves wifi in the sky, opens the door for in-flight internet
I wouldn't be so sure about the no-phone thing. On the test planes with wifi systems phones were still banned I believe - you could only access the web via a laptop. But maybe they'll change that now, I'm not sure. I hope so.

Commented 1 month ago on

China approves wifi in the sky, opens the door for in-flight internet
Well, this particular instance was Beijing municipal authorities. But given that the national minister of transit has said the private car model will never be legal, it seems to also be the case nationally.

Commented 1 month ago on

Beijing tells Didi Kuaidi its private car services are illegal
If I need to get stuff done, the music gets turned off. I just find it to be a distraction when writing.

Commented 1 month ago on

What music do you listen to when you need to get stuff done?
Thanks for your feedback. We're not too worried about length one way or the other right now as we're still just figuring out the best approach and format. With that said though, personally most of the podcasts I listen to frequently clock in at around an hour. I think longer shows can work as long as you change topics frequently so that you're not just talking about the same thing for 60 minutes.

Commented 1 month ago on

Tech in Asia podcast episode 5: big investments, bigger burn rates
It's definitely possible. Pay will probably vary a LOT depending on what startup you choose and what growth stage they're at, though.

Commented 1 month ago on

What’s it like to work at a startup in SEA as a foreigner? [Ask TIA]