Thursday, October 30, 2008

Web based Money Management : Mint Vs Quicken Online

In this economic downturn situation, managing personal finance become a crucial issue. When the first time setting up accounts in this country, I was facing disparities. Mainly because the financial institution so widely spread, even separate from one another. For example, I have a bank account in Bank of America with an online service. Then I have a credit card from those bank, that hopefully link to my bank account (well, assumed to pay your monthly of CC debt). Instead I have two sets of user account to access both rather than one to review in whole system. This is also happen with Store Cards or Investment Banking. I ended up with list to access each of one.

When we used to live in Singapore, we were virtually having no big problem. We were limit ourselves with one or two banks (including debit and credit card), make life simple as possible. The financial system that Singapore inherited from British's felt seamless, rather smooth transition for me including taxes system etc.

But in States, those system so different. We now have to deal with complex and intertwined system, but also keep conscious about the spending. Overall, the connections was not there. That's why we need integrative money management. How's to simplify view of your personal finance situation.

At first I choose Quicken Online since they're leading in this industry. With monthly cost $2.99 (it's free from October 2008), Quicken answered many problems. My big relieve is I am now able to track down my spending, make database and also feeling in control.

Then a few weeks ago I introduced by Mint, another web based money management. The experience with both (or three actually), with addition Easy View (Yodlee), might give better perspective which one that probably the best for you.

Accounts setting

Quicken Online (QO) is the best in this. It's easy and comprehensive. The only concerned is if you deleted the account, it will not effect straight away. The system record as you put in until few days later. Mint was quite easy but they don't working in the vast financial institution in US. In this case Mint did not recognized the investment account from E*Trade, but indeed on it's bank. But I noticed Mint also having Paypal to record. This is smart when you already open online retail. But for me is useless.


The best thing about web is you can download the file to create database. It's time saver, specially you don't need to type in manually. QO and Mint both can be download into .csv file but only in limited numbers mostly under 100 transactions. This is bit problem as you have to schedule to download for every week or so (depend how's your life style is), and also did not record the cash spending. It does show the ATM withdrawal but ups to you to enter manually some of you add in info. Mint have capability to split the transaction, say you take $100 for cash and using half of it for dining.

But Mint did not record for cheques records. This is the big hole that should be fixed, otherwise the system did not reflect actual spending. I thought I have to report as a bug :) Updating data is also bit concern for Mint. They are bit late for current transaction. Usually takes about a day or two to appear, leaving me to relay on ebank which served better real life data.

Transaction in Details

I have to put attention on this because QO is facing a big big problem with their Auto Category. The system records my pattern based on the card that I've used. Unfortunately the card only show an address rather than the Retail/Restaurant/Cafe. Somehow Quicken did not simplify this information and take the previous similar address to put in same category. I did numbers of time to contact the team and asking help in Forum. But this problem still occur leaving me in desperate effort.

What make this matter because if the transaction wrong (even the amount correct), the database became useless. I will having huge bill of spending in Electronics, while in fact most of it goes to Groceries.

Control the spending

Yes, using Mint and QO give an overview what your spending spree went. This month probably we are bit hit the roof as buying new disk for backup. The pattern can be view as bar chart or pie chart to follow route of categories. Also we can put budget planning for several sectors such as Food and Dining or House Bill. I can reduce my spending in some and also review area that I can scrap altogether. Again it's not save you, but it will give sort of sense of reality. You've probably don't realize how much you've spend until you face the numbers.

Mint and QO able to send alerts for any payment due, for example credit card or utilities bill. It's really good to avoid excessive charge for late payment. Also send SMS/email if you overspending or over your budget or you only got some amount money left in you bank. It can be set, easy to maintain. You've also given a summary weekly, and review your goals. The goal can be anything such as : pay the car or set aside for saving, or reduce eating out :)

Trends Info

The best Mint can offer is Trends, by looking your spending compare to other users by city or states. Example : to see your average house bill to people who living in San Jose or San Francisco. This is great tools, to justify others people pattern. I called this passive interactivity. In some point it can be "gray area" for data sharing, but since it stored anonymously I can predict usability of data getting accurate each time depends of how many users and level of errors.

Ways of Save also feeds the info about financial scheme that been offered to make your benefit. In UK this comparison table chart really taken off as been use by Financial Analyst to see which institution that better products for consumer. But in US, with this facility on Mint helps lots for first timer like me :)

Quicken got funny way to organize that withdrawal to saving records as spending. It's really bothered me if I open QO, the front page saying that "I Overspent $$" but in reality I moved to other saving account.

Well, both not perfect and still developing. In my opinion Mint got better grasp for what people wants. Easy to use, interactive and the most important giving people information about situation. How to manage wisely and safely. Just a note : all these services only for US (dunno about Canada). Mint been feeds by Yodlee, who also works with other banks such Wanchovia and HSBC. But the user interfaces is really different. The way of deliver the data to user, Mint got advantages. No wonder it's been praised by WSJ or PC World.

QO try to catch the development of Mint by offered FREE now. If they are not fixed the commons bugs most people like me probably will switch to Mint. For some people it did not change the financial habit, but by having better management it 's the key to survive in this storm.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Town Hall Meeting 2 : biar ngga kalah sama Flyladies

Tepat pukul tujuh acara dibuka. Perkenalan dari Matt yang berisi ucapan selamat datang. Saya lihat kanan kiri kawan moderator yang sebagian udah senior (well...tergantung sih mo dilihat setengah tua atau setengah muda he he he..). Kesan saya kok serius banget sih.

Sebenarnya ini adalah Town Hall yang kedua diadakan di Sunnyvale. Dalam beberapa bulan terakhir yahoo mengadakan acara yang sama di beberapa kota US seperti Chicago, Portland, Atlanta dan Los Angeles. Idenya sendiri adalah untuk mendapatkan masukan langsung dari moderator.

Setelah perkenalan, Matt lantas memberikan video presentasi beberapa groups yang mempunyai dinamisme tinggi. Ada group yang pure hobi seperti responsible coffee hingga group alumni sekolah. Juga disebutkan perjalanan Yahoo Groups sendiri yang hampir sepuluh tahun. (yah walau sedikit banget perkembangannya so far).

Tercatat secara global ada 9 juta groups di yahoo. Dari sekian itu ada satu yang rupanya menarik perhatian yakni Flyladies. Anggota grupnya berjumlah 500ribu, tersebar di 53 negara. Mo tahu ini grup tentang apa? yups jangan pingsan yah, ternyata ini adalah grup perempuan untuk self-organize dan tips membersihkan rumah! Si moderator atau pendiri grup ini Marla Cilley bahkan diundang untuk memberikan kesan tentang grupnya. Dengan menenteng trade mark sulak (baca : pembersih meja) dia menyampaikan dengan penuh antusias. Ohya Marla sendiri menerbitkan buku Body Clutter : Love Your Body, Love Yourself sebagai salah satu NY Times Best Seller. Isinya? he he he apalagi klo bukan bersih2 rumah sambil diet (indeed, 63% orang Amerika tercatat overweight). Mottonya yang terkenal : Are you living in CHAOS? (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) membuat saya terbujuk pengen gabung grupnya.

Kemudian Manajer Yahoo Groups memperkenalkan diri. Leonard ini memberikan beberapa contekan apa aja yang akan ditampilkan di tahun 2009. Perubahan besar yang nampak adalah perbaikan di tiga bidang yakni Contents, Customisation/Control dan bagaimana Growing the Group. Dari ketiganya Contents menduduki perhatian utama dengan penambahan aplikasi berupa Grouplets seperti People Map (lokasi anggota), Jobs (menampilkan iklan lowongan kerjaan) dan atau Classified (iklan). Fungsi ini udah mulai diperkenalkan tepat pada hari Kamis (23 Oct 08) lalu, dalam bentuk Beta. Diluncurkan beberapa jam sebelum Town Hall ini. Sayangnya masih mretheli atau belum integral dengan Groups yang udah ada.

Beberapa hari sebelumnya juga ditampilkan Yahoo Profile Beta. Dulunya sih cuma sederhana, tapi sekarang udah dibuat lebih advanced. Walau sesungguhnya adalah turunan dari Yahoo360 yang sekarang sudah almarhum.

Ada permasalahan besar yang saat ini masih susah ditanggulangi yakni fake identity dan spamming. Dua hal ini memang bikin para moderator pecah kepala. Hampir semua pertanyaan yang diajukan kepada tim yahoo (ditambah Carl Tanner -Senior Manajer Customer Experience alias Ketua CS-nya) ini berkutat pada bagaimana melawan membanjirnya spam (yups perbincangan tentang grouply yang sekarang dedengkot nyepam).

Beberapa hal yang dijanjikan yahoo seperti penambahan storage dari 100MB (hari geneeee..nyimpen berapa poto yaks) ke 100GB adalah cukup menyegarkan. Leonard juga menjanjikan akan dibuat lebih interaktif seperti adanya feeds untuk apa aja yang sedang diobrolin di milis.

Dari pertanyaan para moderator saya menangkap bahwa masih segudang persoalan kecil yang perlu dibenahi. Isu penting seperti perbaikan sistem email sepertinya masih kurang terkejar. Begitu banyaknya keinginan (seperti embeded dengan youtube, YM, website, lebih wiki friendly) menunjukkan perlu dibenahi sistem yang saat ini ada sebelum menerapkan aplikasi baru.Emang penyakitnya yahoo, suka bikin aplikasi baru trus dibiarkan saja tanpa ada maintainance. Adakah yang tahu Shine atau OMG? kalau ngga berarti samaa duong. He he he...

Di akhir acara barulah saya bisa mengenali Jami. Cewek ini saban minggu membuat posting di blog tentang perkembangan tim. Tugasnya malem itu ternyata mengundi kartu. Yang beruntung dapet goodie bag. Yah emang dasar ngga hoki, cuman dapet kenyang sate aja.

Begitu menginjak kaki keluar saya sedikit optimis. Saya tidak meragukan tim yahoo membangun Groups ini lebih serius. Hanya saya masih belum melihat masa depan seperti integrasi dan interaktivitas. Hal yang sangat mendasar dalam menembus persaingan kedepan. Apakah Groups akan bertahan diterjang jejaring social saya tidak tahu. Ada wilayah yang sebenarnya lebih nyaman karena Groups bersifat imel saja. Ada niche yang masih bisa diolah.


Links :

Photos bisa dilihat disini : (sori kagak ada photo saya, kalah ganteng
sama jess) di Flickr Town Hall Sunnyvale 2008

Berikut adalah sumber Yahoo Groups :
Moderator Central
: groups berisi kabar terbaru
Groups Team Blog : lebih extensif tentang perkembangan isu
Product Suggestion Board : jika pengen mengajukan usulan tentang Yahoo
Groups Messeges Boards : forum untuk minta tolong sesama moderator

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Town Hall Meeting 1 : ini toh markasnya yahoo..

Sore, menjelang sunset. (tersesat, saya mengutuk diri sendiri karena ngga checking peta dan bersyukur ada peta kertas).

Yang saya ingat kantor Yahoo terletak dekat lapangan udara militer Moffet, berbatasan dengan Lockheed Martin dan NASA Ames, dua lembaga riset yang mengkhususkan pada hightech. Saya pernah dua kali lewat, satunya karena ngepit di belakang kantor Yahoo yang menghubungkan Alviso - Guadalupe -
Shoreline. Dulunya jalur memanjang ini adalah untuk buangan sampah, namun kemudian dirubah menjadi sistem kanal terusan dan perlindungan binatang liar. Kalau ngepit disini siap2 menikmati 'keharuman' air laut yang tercampur mineral.

Ternyata memakai gps belum tentu bisa (baru saya sadari alamat yahoo ini masuk wilayah militer, jadi belum masuk peta mesin saya). Markas yahoo di Sunnyvale ini sangat strategis. Selain gampang diakses dari San Francisco, juga cuma 25 menit dari San Jose. Sillicon Valley lebih terkenal sebutannya, plus lokasi masing2. Apple di Cupertino, Google di Palo Alto, Adobe dan Ebay di San Jose. Walau sepertinya jauh ternyata cuma berjarak beberapa kilo saja. Bagi yang membaca sejarah Sillicon Valley, tempat ini dimulai dengan Hewlett-Packard hingga muncul Microsoft dan perusahaan chips lainnya. Kalau pengen tahu lebih dalam sejarah Silicon Valley berkunjunglah ke Computer Museum History, yang letaknya bersebelahan dengan kantor Microsoft di Mountain View. (saya kesana ngepit juga, jadi secara geografis ya cuma 40 menitan sepeda santai).

Gedung Yahoo ada beberapa dalam satu kompleks. Letaknya nyempil. Ya situ2 saja. Saya hitung ada lima. Jadi pantas sekali kalau Jami, si pengundang mengirim imel berikut instruksi lengkap. Gedung sebelah mana, masuk lewat mana, parkir dimana, naik lift pencet tombol apa, ruang sebelah mana. Walah segitunyah...

Untunglah ada penunjuk balon warna ungu dan putih. Ungu? ah ya September lalu yahoo meluncurkan imej baru yang lebih hip dan fungky yakni Start Wearing Purple. So official color identity yahoo sekarang adalah si ungu :)

Gedung yang saya tuju ini bentuknya seperti L dengan kaca hijau yang nampak di kejauhan. Walau hanya 4 lantai tapi cukup mendominasi sekitarnya. Sesuai petunjuk saya mengikuti dengan santun. Lapor penjaga, parkir di lantai paling atas, kemudian masuk gedung C yang ternyata membawa saya ke kantin yang ukurannya luas banget. Acara Town Hall Meeting ini dirancang informal, jadi pas banget kalau di kantin he he he...Karena udah sore, sebagian besar
pekerja yahoo sudah pulang. Jadi kantin selayaknya seperti ditinggalkan. Hanya di sudutnya terdapat panggung kecil, dengan layar TV. Hmm bakalan ada presentasi juga nih.

Begitu datang saya disambut cewek cakep dikasih macem2 di bagian registrasi. Dari kuesioner hingga buku catatan. Melihat makanan terhidang, saya sikat dulu. Ada sate ayam ditambah kecap encer dikasih daun mint. Lha kok ada kue dikasih pernik-pernik ungu. Ck ck ck...

Sambil makan saya ngobrol dengan sesama moderator yang datang duluan dan beberapa staf yahoo. Saya incer engineer, tapi malah dengan Annie yang mendesain UI (user interface) di yahoogroups. Disusul Jess yang mengerjakan tampilan baru yahoo groups. Dia ngga mau membocorkan apa aja yang bakal disampaikan bos-nya Leonard. Sekalian saya sampaikan beberapa butir usulan feedback. Seorang moderator samping saya ternyata datang dari India. Kebetulan sedang mampir di Bay Area katanya. Groupnya ini mungkin sama umurnya dengan yahoo, yakni berdiri sejak 1998.

Ada sekitar 40 orang yang bekerja penuh membenahi yahoo groups, tapi hanya dua orang yang sering berkomunikasi. Yakni Jami dan Leonard. Itupun dimulai sekitar setahun lalu. Jadi saya berharap besar bisa mengetahui jeroan di dalam yahoo, apa aja yang mereka kerjakan, paling tidak diberi contekan tentang visi mereka kedepan.

Links :
Kampanye Ungu
Blog update Tim Yahoo Groups
Computer History Museum

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bandara Lukla di antara jejeran Himalaya

Kabar jatuhnya pesawat Twin Otter Yeti Airlines di bandara Lukla hari ini (8 Oct 2008) membuat saya tersekat. Delapan belas orang meninggal termasuk beberapa calon trekker Everest area. Tercatat 12 orang dari negara Jerman dan 2 orang Australia berikut penumpang lokal dan kru pesawat. Pesawat kecil ini jatuh kemudian mengalami kebakaran ketika mencoba mendarat di bandara mungil tepat di punggung pegunungan daerah Khumbu, Himalaya Nepal. Cuaca buruk menjadi alasan utama, terutama kabut tebal yang acap menjadi penyebab.

Siapapun akan menahan nafas jika akan mendarat disini. Lukla adalah pintu gerbang bagi yang ingin menjajal puncak Everest dari sisi Nepal, dan juga bagi yang sekedar ingin trekking hingga Base Camp. Jaraknya sekitar 80 miles (129km) dari ibukota Kathmandu dan sekitar 40 miles (64.5km) dari gunung tertinggi dunia itu. Yang bikin miris adalah pada ketinggian 2,860 m, kemiringannya yang hampir 20% panjang hanya 527m dan lebar 20m ditambahi kabut tebal yang selalu datang membuat kombinasi yang berbahaya. Bandara Lukla merupakan warisan dari perlombaan menaklukan Everest pada awal ekplorasi di abad 20. Ketika Hillary dan Tenzing membawa bendera GB ke puncak (1953), bandara ini kemudian mengalami perubahan besar setelah program pembangunan sekolah di daerah terpencil. Sebuah program yang dilaksanakan Hillary sebagai wujud terimakasih untuk penduduk Himalaya.

Ketika penerbangan saya dibatalkan karena faktor cuaca saya menggerutu. Sudah check in dan lewat pemeriksaan segala, plus gotong2 barang. Satu jam ditambah 2 jam menunggu kabar apakah kabut menghilang. Hingga pukul 10 pagi jelaslah bahwa kami batal terbang. Reputasi penerbangan ini yang sangat temperamental disertai layanan yang 'seadanya' membuat kesabaran ekstra. Peringatan pertama yang saya hadapi di Everest Trekking adalah bakal menemui ujian sabar di penerbangan Lukla. Jelas ini disampaikan Stan Armington di buku LP. Tenang...sabar...sabar. Masih ada hari esok.

Pagi berikutnya barulah kami bisa mendapat tiket. Jangan ditanya gimana caranya. Pokoknya maen gontok2an dengan operator trekking yang besar. Maklum dengan independen membuat kami kudu bawa beban sendiri, termasuk alat2. Terbang dengan Twin Otter menuju Lukla adalah pengalaman yang tak terlupakan. Walau hanya sekitar 40-45menit tetapi penuh dengan view menakjubkan. Jika bisa, cobalah pilih kursi di sebelah kiri. Hampir semua jejeran gunung terlihat jelas : Lhotse, Makalu, Everest.

Karena kecil Twin Otter biasanya hanya ada pilot, co pilot dan satu kru yang duduk paling belakang. Pramugari cantik ini menggunakan pakaian tradisional penduduk suku di Himalaya seperti celemek dengan warna cerah. Mukanya yang lebih putih pucat menunjukkan ia dari suku
Gurung atau Tamang. Jarak antara pilot dan penumpang hanya sedepa, membuat kita bisa tahu apa yang sedang dilakukan kru. Tidak banyak pelayanan makanan, hanya beberapa kembang gula yang jika dikulum amat membantu mengurangi efek blok di telinga karena high altitute.

Penerbangan hanya bisa dilakukan pagi hari mulai pukul 7 hingga maksimum pukul 12. Jadi begitu cuaca baik, bergegas penerbangan ke Lukla jadi supersibuk. Dalam satu jam bisa 2-3 pesawat, baik take off dan landing. Beruntung kami dapet pukul 9, setelah gagal mendapatkan paling pagi.

Dalam 40 menit itu antara cemas, exciting dan keingin tahuan bercampur menjadi satu. Saya ini termasuk takut terbang. Ingatan saya selalu kepada Louise dan Belinda Hillary (istri dan putri bungsu Sir Hillary) yang tewas dalam kecelakaan pesawat di Kathmandu menuju Lukla tahun 1975. Deru-nya yang memekakan telinga dan guncangannya membuat konsentrasi pecah. Seorang kawan seperjalanan dari Inggris membilang, "Have a fun". (Yang saya kutuk habis karena tentu ia melihat wajah saya yang pucat). Tapi begitu pemandangan jejeran gunung Khumbu di depan mata, rasa takut tadi menguap entah kemana. Berganti wow, ah, dan decak kagum. Kabut rupanya menyembunyikan gunung dalam pelukannya, membuat kita yang berada di udara menikmati bentuk gagahnya.

Tigapuluh lima menit kemudian, sang pilot memulai atraksi landing. Bandara Lukla terlihat jelas, ia kemudian menambah kekuatan mencapai ketinggian 3000an kaki. Dari jauh, bandara kecil yang sudah di aspal ini terlihat lurus saja, tepat di bibir tebing. Saya ngga berani melihat, pandangan saya alihkan ke kanan kiri sembari menggengam kursi menggumam doa. Penumpang yang lain bersikap sama, kecuali satu orang di belakang yang menikmati tidurnya sedari take off di Kathmandu. Seat belt dikencangkan walau dari bentuknya saya sangsi bisa menyelamatkan saya. Deru pesawat makin kencang membuat saya menyesali kenapa ngga minta kapas penutup telinga.

Begitu menyentuh aspal, saya lega. Twin Otter sedikit berguncang hingga stabil menuju sudut parkiran yang hanya bisa menanmpung empat pesawat. Dua orang kawan penumpang dari Jerman bertepuk tangan sembari membilang, "What a skill". Meski pucat, saya setuju sepenuhnya.

Berita lengkap: Everest plane crash kills 18, including German and
Australian tourists di Times Online

Buku Lonely Planet Trekking in Nepal Himalaya 8th Edition oleh Stan
Armington $13.59

Airlines yang melayani Kathmandu-Lukla
Royal Nepal Airlines
Yeti Airlines
Agni Air (frekuensinya jarang)

Harga tiket one way Kathmandu-Lukla US$92 (beli lewat agen di

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pulau Nias : another episode

Diana -my sis should be graduated this month but on my surprise she decided to pursue bigger dream. Landed a project for two month in Nias -a tiny island off Sumatra. From her story everything sounded serendipity. Read the ads in Kompas, applying in person, did few tests and here she's go.

Not attending graduation day might a choice for her, but she said, "graduation only once but this job might one in a life time".

Three years ago I was there. A beautiful place, serene, peaceful with so much things to do. I love the people, landscape, seafood, even ammonia smell from rubber. Diana might be goes to different side of Nias. I was in Sirombu, east part the island while she might goes to Lahewa.

This is my survival guide tips for her :

Only ferry and flight from Merpati that connect this island to Sumatra. Binaka is the small airport about 20 minutes drive from Gunung Sitoli -the biggest town. It takes about 40minutes or less fly the straits from Polonia Medan to Binaka. Ferry links to Sibolga which run every night except Sunday. Road is badly damaged by earthquake, and the contour of this island make the journey quite bumpy. Angkot and small bus were common. From Gunung Sitoli to Sirombu cost around Rp 50,000 for 4 hours, similar if taking minibus to Teluk Dalam or Lagundri. I don't know about Lahewa but I'm sure there would be services there. The Bus Terminal not really descriptive, just go to main road and ask people.

Weather and temperature
Mainly humid and extremely hot during the day. It can reach 40C on the shore area. Drink plenty water, keep in a shade, use suncream if you want.

Money, wartel or warnet and stuff
There's ATM machine in Gunung Sitoli but not in other places. So get the cash as many as you want (not too much), buy some noddle sarimi or any food for pleasure. Prices can be quite expensive compared to Medan. Wartel (phone booth) and warnet (internet cafe) were not many. Mobilephone (hape) are everywhere, so get prepaid Medan number to call home. Internet not really sure. When I was there barely go this connection, hopefully you've got better services.

Bank : Bank Sumut (Jl Hatta) , BRI (Jl Imam Bonjol)
Post Office : (Jl Gomo & Jl Hatta)
Hospital (Jl Cipto M Kusumo)

Water and Food
Water is a major problem in Nias. The water table was really low in the shore but can be really deep in the hills area. To find drinking water is a challenge. I suggest to boil water first, make a cup of tea of coffee or just pop in warung to buy teh botol or fanta. Don't drink ice cube because it can be from raw water. Water bottle is OK but it can be expensive there.
Most of restaurant serving Padang food with options on the table. I think you have enough training Padang food since I always brought my lunch package when home from work. Seafood is the easiest source of food. Try to get fresh and ask people to cook for you. It can be very good value as the fish really cheap. Salted fish mainly sold in the local market along with other vegetables. If you want experience basic cooking, try them. I love ikan asin!

Others food is local fruit. It can be durian (yeeeeah!), really cheap and meaty. Also jambu air or anything you grab from. The soil in this area not really well developed. Most of trees grow smaller than in the lands. I found choco, paddy, rubber tree and Cassava (ketela pohon) including ketela rambat. Not many kinds vegetables but enough for daily intake.

People and what they're doing
Most of people really friendly. Mainly they are came from Medan while the native Nias lives on the North side of island (I thought you will get closer with them since you will in Lahewa territory). They are farmer, teacher, self employed mainly on industry or agriculture.
Tourism only thrive in Teluk Dalam area (South) due the surfers hunting the massive wave from Indian Ocean. If you got time, just pop there. But the best is visiting traditional house in Gomo area (Tundrumbaho, Lahusa Idanotae, and Tetegewo village). Access to these place can be difficult so ask someone you know (locally) to take you with motorcycle.

The famous village is Bawomataluo where the tradition of lompat batu (stone jumping) existed. The location is 15km from Teluk Dalam. Another is Hilisimaetano where 100 more traditional house and lompat batu. I did not have a chance to see the house, that's why I am so envious if you will able to reach them. Please..

Religions and Cultures
This island divided by two religions : Islam and Christian. The native Nias mostly Christian since they were been reached first time by misionary in early Dutch colonialism in Sumatra. People in there really tolerant and respect you whatever you're religion is.
The only cultures remains might be in the traditional villages. Some house build in compound made from wood and roof from coconut leaves. While in Gunung Sitoli mostly concrete building (most been destroyed by earthquake but in the remote area still really traditional). The Nias languange is different with Sumatran. Try to learn local language, that's can be useful if you lost or getting know with Nias people.
As I said, some area still have strong believe in myth and even paranormal world. Respect anything they suggest such as don't go alone at night or brought something during travel. People in Nias always want their friend comfortable. Be nice and be local.

One of Niasan said that this Island seemed forgotten. So remote, so difficult to reach. But believe me you will missed Nias lots. It's always a beauty in anywhere we lives.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fighting Copyright issue with Blogger (Blogspot)

In the past three weeks I’ve been deal with infringement copyright issues in Indobackpacker. Two blogs eventually taking contents from mailing list, put on their own blog. One of those even created auto feed posting which once the email system appeared on the mailing list it will also posting on this blog.

Some mailing list said that Moderator and Owner have a right to publish discussion on the forum to open public. In my opinion, they’re only responsible for distribution but not the contents. Since Indobackpacker is fully moderated, it should be known that these are NOT similar kind of censorship. Mainly to reduce amount of dodgy viral email and spam, Moderator are taking action against this type of email. We also try to introduce member become more prone what they’ve been doing, including posting email in groups, which have member around 7,200. If you want to post something that you don’t know where it came from or don’t know is it true or rubbish, don’t do it.

This message becomes clear when it comes to copyright. When I heard about one of the moderator at Forum Pembaca Kompas been interviewed by police regarding the contents, I become more aware that people in Indonesia even don’t really understand how the mailing list works. Including copyright issues and whose has responsibility for distribution outside the mailing list.

The case I brought to Blogspot apparently little bit complicated. The mailing list hosted in Yahoo Groups, while this guy obviously have blog on Blogger, which is now part of Google. I thought it’s going to be a long winding road, especially the case related with Indonesians. But I strongly believe that I got a good case since both provider Google and Yahoo using US Digital Millennium Copyright Act as their based of Term of Services.

Blogspot known for not so responsive regarding contents or infringement copyright. The worst about this is Blogspot become easy to be capitalize since integrated nicely with Google Adsense. Some young lad living in students fees with no money but able to set up blog, and then He/She will fill the contents with anything he/she can find. Including copy paste from others blogs, or just copied from mailing list for the sake of so called traffic. The more you’ve put the contents (God’s know where it came from) the more Google picked as the search engine and the more you get traffic and dollars. I called this as one of Google paradox. They are turned to be blind.

One case that created anger among Indonesians was when a blog called preaching full of hate toward Indonesians. (It was indicated that’s came from Malaysia because using Melayu). The reactions even severe. Indonesians created a massive viral campaign to flag this account, notify Blogspot and then successfully take it down offline. In Indobackpacker's case I chose not going to do the same way. I want exercise my right and Blogspot’s response due this particular rare complaints. (Most of Indonesia blogger who been copied paste preferred keep silent or grudgingly blamed the provider).

On the 16 September 2008, I wrote complaint to Google Legal Support, Blogger DMCA Complaints with mail. Google want paper mail or fax rather than email possibly because they’ve need original signature. But before I took that action, I tried to contact the blog by leaving comments three times, giving 3x24 hours rest and extra two days to think again. During that period she/he stop the feeding from mailing list but keep the posting (emails) as long as 2008 calendar. In total about 4200 posting.

On 26 September 2008, Google received my complaint, logged it and said will looking on the case closely. Four days later, they sent email said that those account been taking down. I don’t know if Google removed the blog or also terminate the account completely since she/he got several other with typical copied paste contents.

Learning this, I confident that if your writing or photos been copied paste without consent, you got right to complaint. This is a good precedent that even the platform different (Yahoo to Blogspot), it did not make those culprit get away easily. Even if you act as individual you still have a change to exercise your right.

May be I am not taking the Wisdom of Crowds, but yes this is works.

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