The Question To Fail

A few months ago, I read a twitter of a Korean software engineer who was working in Silicon Valley. He had been in a meetup for college students who were interested in working in Silicon Valley. There was a Q&A session, and he was mad at a question. “Should I be good at English?”

It sounded to me a general question, but he was furious about it. Because he thought it was a question to fail: an excuse for failure. He said he got a lot of the same questions and realized the question turned into a reason for his/her unwillingness; “I cannot speak English as natives anyway, so It must be a waste of time to aim for jobs in Silicon Valley.” In many cases, they even demoralized other ones.

In many media, how to be productive is a popular topic. I believe getting improved and productive make our future brighter. However, sometimes, there are ones who are saying that it is too violent to enforce others to be productive.

I cannot know he or she is burnt out, in a miserable situation that keeps her/him from doing anything but surviving, or it is just a proof of his/her laziness.

But I believe we cannot set our standard to the lower level. It is a way to recession. Politics must care for those who, in a miserable situation, come back to the track, and let others go forward without worrying about the ones behind. I want to stay hungry, stay foolish, and always want to be improved.


Why Bay Area Again

Then, I want to talk about why I’m back to Bay Area. Ten years ago, my SF office closed – when the financial crisis came – and I had to return to Korea. During the last 10 years, I started my own business, had many experiences, exited from the business due to a health issue, then back to an engineer over my forties.

Last year, I was deeply impressed by the book “The New Geography of Jobs” by Enrico Moretti. The book explains why the innovation is the new engine of prosperity. The main idea of the book is there are two sectors of jobs: traded and non-traded sector. “The vast majority of jobs in a majority of jobs in a modern society are in local service,” such as waiters, plumbers, nurses, teachers, and even doctors. They are jobs in the non-traded sector – consumed locally. “By contrast, most jobs in innovative industries belong to the traded sector,” such as software, finance, advertising, agricultural and extractive industries. “The paradox is that while the vast majority of jobs are in the non-traded sector, this sector is not the driver of our prosperity. Instead, our prosperity mainly depends on the traded sector.” Now I’m a software engineer, in an innovation/traded sector and I wanted to be more productive, improved. I decided it is the time to move to the heart of my sector; without question, Silicon Valley.

Bay Area has many pros and cons. The perfect weather is the most precious gift of this area (though the global warming makes some serious effects in these days). My iPhone and Apple Watch now play 100% features: now I can enjoy the integrated networks in the TV app, perfectly working location based reminders, ECG checks and so on. But the living cost is crazy. Yes, there are guns. Though my home is in a relatively safe area, I cannot be a mere spectator of the gun violence any more.

But as a software engineer, I believe this is the best place for me. When I get to any cafe, there are people who talking about innovations and new ideas. Silent guys are immersed into their laptops and making code. This productive tension and atmosphere always makes me thrilled.

Most of all, I don’t have to meet anyone who I don’t like anymore. As the one who own my business, I had to meet many people. Many were nice and good people but there were NOT either. I thought I was good at getting over those people but now it is apparent that they consumed my life.

Now I have a simple goal of my life: be respected by myself and my family. That is the only one thing matters to me. Ironically, I think I get to more open to others’ ideas, because I take it less personally. Only a half year passed after I was back to the Bay, this is the most important thing to me and I want to keep it during the rest of my life.


Should have closed the blog, but..

A month ago, I canceled my WordPress subscription. First of all, I don’t write blog these days. Moreover, if I would write a blog, I thought Medium could be the better place.

However, I renewed the WordPress just a week before the cancelation. The main reason was that I thought I was not ready to show something to others. My blog has been a virtually private space though it has been open to others. I realized I still need a safe place rather than an open stage.

I’ve moved back to US (Palo Alto, CA) after 10 years. Many things have been changed during the last 10 years in Bay Area. The housing, living cost and other everything have been sky-rocketed. But I’m in my optimal state over the last 10 years.

After I came back to an engineer, I have been totally able to manage myself. I don’t have to meet someone I don’t like any more. Now I can focus my energy on what really matters to me.

“What really matters to me” I want to put down about those things. But I realized Medium is too open space to me. So, I’m back to this place. I’d like to realize my old resolution again – write down an article every week. I’m not sure I can make it this time, but I will try and find a way for it.

anime, life

Takako Ohta 35th Anniversary Live

In my last business trip to Tokyo, I couldn’t buy a flight ticket for my schedule. So, I had to take a plane for three days ahead of my original plan. It was a rainy Sunday morning when I got to the Haneda airport. I took on a limousine bus to my hotel, opened my iPhone and launched Twitter out of my habit. At the very moment, my eyes lit upon a tweet of Takako Ohta about her 35th anniversary live concert.

img_6510Takako Ohta is a Japanese voice actress and singer who is famous for Creamy Mami. I can count three animes of my early days that changed my life into an ot… anime mania: Pastel Yumi, Creamy Mami, and Kimagure Orange Road.

I had known about the live several months ago, but I thought that I couldn’t make it, and almost forgot about it. But when I saw the tweet and found that it was the day, I felt it was a kind of destiny. I went to the live house and asked whether the day ticket was available; the answer was they could know at the open time (6pm). After I dropped by the Hinamatsuri exhibition, JoJo exhibition and Ueno gallery, I returned to the site. There are tens of audience were lined up, and I asked for the ticket again. Luckily enough, I could grab a canceled one.



Creamy Mami(魔法の天使クリィミーマミ), which first aired in 1983. I watched in Korea in 1987. The Korean version had different character names and songs. I watched the original version when I was at college and deeply impressed. It was the first magical girl anime series of Studio Pierrot, and it is two years before Jem (1985, I love it also).


It was an ordinary small basement hall; I guess the capacity was 50-70 persons. I think I could be considered a young in the audience. However, the passion and the mood in the hall was beyond comparison.

I never imagined I could listen ‘パジャマのままで (Staying in My Pajamas)’ or ‘BIN KANルージュ (BIN KAN Rouge)’ live in my life. It was an accident, but the accident was one of my happiest hours this year. To have good memories that I can enjoy with, it is the most valuable thing in my life.

anime, life

Exhibition: Hinamatsuri

Although I have not done the last cour anime wrap-up, (and I’m not sure I can do that…) I can tell one thing. My best pick of the previous cour is “Hinamatsuri.”

And I got to know there is a small exhibition for Hinamatsuri in Harajuku, Tokyo from a Twitter message of TT. (Takako Tanaka, She is the heroine Hina’s character voice, and to tell the truth, her first job was my last game ‘Sid Story’ when she is in the training school. She is always passionate and diligent, and I like her acting very much.)


It is hard to find the entrance.

I was there last week. It was a small space, but you can see many cuts, character designs, continuities, merchandises and so on. Moreover, everything is free to take pictures. I think it is a brilliant move because it will make viral more easily.


There are some exhibition-limited goods such as the lovely rubber key holders. The host said to me that it was tough to develop and manufacture this product. I also never have seen this kind of product before.


The exhibition will be until this Thursday (Sep 27th). The place is Harajuku ACG_Labo. It is a little hard to find the entrance because the building has many entrances on both side of roads, but it is a small building, and I bet you can see the right one anyway. If you enter from the wrong side, you should go up the stairs and exit to the opposite side of the road, and then you can find the right door.

This is the wrong side. If you take the left-side stairs, you can go out to the right side of the road.



The Game We Should Fight

Yang Wenli won his every battle. It was because he never fought any battle that he would lose. But there was no easy one in his victories. Many times, especially nowadays, we always consider cost-effectiveness for everything. The one who takes bold challenges is regarded as an inferior one.

As I updated in my last posting, Miyu Takeuchi has failed to debut in her last competition. A lot of nosy parkers say that it is because she clung to the main vocal position that requested her insanely challenging high-tone voice. They’re saying that if she took the safer position and evaded from the controversy, she might be able to make her debut. If she took the easy way and won the place, I might be happy with her win. However, Miyu took the other way, and now she comes to the one who has my full respect.

Several years ago, I met with a very memorable quote in a book “Economics of Almost Everything.” Although I cannot remember the exact wording (and the original quote was in Korean), it said that “Not every win and lose is the same. What we have to aim for is a very close win from our full/best effort. Only the one who can accept the aching last-one-step defeat can learn from the failure.” We might always get A+ if we always take the elementary school math exams. But it does not give us any true information about ourselves. We can know about ourselves only with eternal battles, and the most informative one is from the close win or the imminent failure.

Miyu announced that she’s going to graduate(leave) from AKB48 and find a way as a solo artist. I’m impressed with her choice to make her way, and I wish my best to her way from now on; hope she has found a meaningful answer from the last choice.


Saving Private Miyu

Miyu Takeuchi (Miyu for short) is a Japanese singer and a member of AKB48 – an idol girl group. Her debut was in 2009, and it was the start of the golden era of AKB48. But she couldn’t get much attention. Although we don’t know, it might be partly because of her introverted personality, or her artistic nature might not fit the culture of AKB48. AKB48 has a ranking system she couldn’t have taken place inside the cut 100. And she is now participating in Produce48 in Korea.

Produce48 is a competitive audition TV show in Korea. 48 girls from Korea and 48 girls from Japan fall over one another. Only 12 girls are selected for a new project idol group and two and a half year of the contract is guaranteed. The Korean members are idol apprentices who belong to their own agencies, and The Japanese members belong to AKB48 and its related groups.

The Beginning

The first show was aired on June 15th, 2018. I was moved by Miyu’s voice when she performed ‘Dancing Hero,’ and I was impressed when I got to know that she arranged the original song by herself. Crucially, my pick was set for her when I knew about her journal for ‘The Attorney’ – the movie about the (tragic) former Korean president Roh – which was written two years ago. She started the competition from the 39th place and went up to rank 8 at the EP3.

Once the affinity is set to a specific pick in this kind of survival show, it is usually getting reinforced by itself as time goes by. So, I was really shocked when I found Miyu fell to rank 30, which was the edge elimination line of the episode (EP8). I didn’t believe that the producer did not like her, but her airtime share was pretty limited in the show, and it made her difficult to appeal her attractiveness. I wanted to do something to support her, and I got to realize that I’m working in an ad tech company.

Moloco, Inc.

After leaving the gaming industry last year due to my medical issue, I had taken a recuperation, and I started a new career as a software engineer at Moloco, Inc. Moloco is an ad-tech startup that turns big data into ad performance using machine learning. We recently closed the series B, and we were selected for a Mobile LUMAscape company 2018. Our HQ is in Palo Alto, CA., and we have offices in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Seoul, and Singapore.

The recent online/mobile advertisement is no more mere selling/buying ads from a site (publisher). Many parts are automated, and there are ad exchanges (just like the stock exchange) where the bidding for an ad-spot (inventory) should be done in realtime: within 100ms (1/10 second). One of our business roles is DSP (Demand-Side Platform), we provide the real-time bidding for every ad impression (means that an ad is presented to a user) and machine-learning-optimized targeting/pricing with our advertisers. We can handle more than 600,000 bid requests per second, and we process more than 40 billion bids per day, the number is getting increasing fast day by day. We generate more than 100TB of new data daily, and we use the accumulated data for training our ML (Machine Learning) models. Many ad tech companies are saying ML and AI, but we are one of the very few companies in the world which can provide the impression-level ML/AI optimization. My colleague Haden has made a presentation about our infrastructure at Google Next 2018 conference, it is good to watch if you have an interest in it.

A world-best online advertisement infrastructure was at my disposal, with my overflowing passion, and maybe enough… pocket money. So, I decided to run an online campaign for Miyu by myself. We usually do not accept ad campaigns from an individual, so it was not a usual case in my company. I got approval for this campaign as my own personal project in a condition that I would handle whole technical and operational issues; of course the whole budget on me.

The Preparation

I had to establish the seed user profile for the campaign. Although I cannot disclose the details, I intentionally made it to target audiences who were not used to this competition and the idol cultures, but who still enjoyed TV and entertainment (so-called … muggles) in Korea (the voting was available only in Korea). I thought that there would be a very high possibility that the idol fans already had solid picks for their own. With the seed profile, I could establish an initial lift model for campaigns and made it optimized by our most basic CTR(click-through-rate) ML model. While I ran the campaign, I checked some major communities for the competition, but I could find only several mentions about this campaign. Considering the amount of the whole impression, I think the original intention was successfully fulfilled.

The First Run


First, I wanted to promote Miyu’s story to others. I don’t have any creative (images, videos and so on) for the campaign, I should prepare them by myself. I asked one of my colleagues to make some banners at the expense of my word to participate in Alcatraz Classic… together next year (Are sharks over there?…).
And I needed a landing (where to redirect users when they click the ad), and I made a landing with a Youtube video – not of mine, but I believed it was very touching, and it described the best of her story.

m3_r1I started the ad on Aug 6. After three days run, the total impressions (the number of exposure of the ad) were 470,887, and there are 14,977 clicks. The CTR(click through rate = clicks/impressions) was started from 2.6% for the first day, and our CTR optimization logic worked well and then finally it was 3.1% (accumulated) on Aug 8. During the period, the view count of the Youtube video was grown up by 9,152. Admittedly, it is hard to tell that the increased number was all from the ad, but I think it actually worked positively for the purpose: to propagate her story.

The Second Run with a video creative

Although I thought the first run was successful, there were some limitations. Most of all, the banner ad has inherently very limited story-telling. One video is usually better than tens of images in these days, so I decided to make a video creative by myself. For a video ad, there is a 30 sec limitation in many ad-exchanges. I set the central theme with the mention of her at the second elimination stage (at EP5), and made a 24 seconds cut.

With a video creative ready, I could provide the video, native, and MRAID type of ads. As the video told her story in itself, I could have a chance to land users to the voting site directly.

m3_r2The ad was run from Aug 9, and the total impression was 2,108,695, and there were 86,681 clicks. Although I cannot tell that the all 86,681 users (there might be duplicated numbers, but we usually do not provide the same type of ads to the same user) make a vote for her, the final CTR went up to 4.1%, and I think it was a very successful campaign.

The Re-engagement

m3_r3After launching the video campaigns, I thought that it would be preferable to make another campaign that only re-targeted users who already reacted (clicked) to the previous ads. So, I made one for it.

The result was awe-inspiring. It was only two days run, but there were 81,590 impressions and 10,978 clicks, which means that the CTR was remarkably 13.5%. Because every user had a new vote every day in this competition, I found that the reengagement campaign was another useful tool.

The Result

Finally, during the campaign, there were 2,811,927 impressions and 119,396 clicks over all campaigns. I believe that no one merely thinks that there were 119,396 votes for her. Many might just look over the video or might touch the ad by mistake. However, with my best knowledge from the past experiences, I think it was a very successful campaign; at least I was truly delighted with it.

Although it is hard to disclose the budget that I spent, I can tell that it should be only a fraction of the cost of the billboards ads in the subway stations. I understand that it (the billboard) has a meaning as a monument or a tribute. However, I believe that the strategic thinking and the measurable method are the more critical factors in this type of voting competitions.

And do you want to know the result? Miyu proceeded to the final live stage by ranking 6! (from 30th, 24 ranks up) I’m really pleased with it. I wish my best for her, and I’m really happy to be able to enjoy her one more and final stage.

(Update) The Final Note

At the final stage yesterday (Aug. 31), she couldn’t make her debut. I’m so sorry about it but it is only the competition that ended. It is my greatest pleasure to get to know her this time, and I will support her until her journey continues. I fully appreciate her with the good memories this summer. Lastly, I want to introduce her Youtube channel. (Someday, I want to listen she covers some pleasant songs, something like ‘Kimagure Romantic (気まぐれロマンティック)’)


P.S.: JY sucks.