ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Opportunity to experiment

Kuensel's website has been down for a couple of days now... There are various interesting questions to ask about newspapers' online presence. One that is of special importance in Bhutan is the relation to print sales. After all, circulation seems to be the magic word for newspapers, in terms of ad revenues.

To look at the full half of the phop, this website blackout is an opportunity for Kuensel as well as for its competing newspapers to explore the effect of the online newspaper's availability on sales of print copies. This is what we statisticians call a "natural experiment".

Here are questions that I'd explore if I were Kuensel:

  • How are sales of Kuensel's print version affected on the days when the website is down? (look at the numbers, but also take into account factors like day-of-week and past sales)
  • How are sales affected after the website comes back up?
  • How sensitive are my online readers to such blackouts? (a survey and forum would give some ideas)
As a competing newspaper, I'd ask the following:
  • How are the sales of my print newspaper affected on days when is down? (maybe people who go rushing for a Kuensel copy already buy other papers at the same time)
  • How is traffic to my own website affected on days when is down?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blogging Business (K2 #19)

Question of the Week
I heard from a friend that when you maintain a blog, and lots of people visit your blog, you get paid. If this is the case, who pays you? He also told me that the larger the number of people visiting my blog the more money I get. How does this work?
- Pem Tshering, DHI

Dear Pem,

Your friend is right. You can earn some tiru by placing online advertisements on your blog. When readers visit your website to read your posts, a few of them might click on an online ad. For every ad click, an advertiser will pay you a few ngultrums. This is called pay-per-click. The more visitors you have, the more ad clicks. The more clicks, the more money...

I will shortly explain how to place these ads. But first, one piece of advice: Don't turn in your resignation letter just yet! Indeed, the idea of making a living as a blogger may seem attractive: you wake up in the morning, update your blog while sipping some suja, and then enjoy the rest of the leisurely day as thousands of ngultrums keep pouring into your bank account. The harsh reality, however, is that very few people can actually make a living by blogging. Why? First, most blogs see very few visitors. Second, only a small percentage of the visitors will actually click on ads. And lastly, each click will usually earn only a few ngultrums.

That being said, if you run a popular blog, you might want to give it a shot. Who knows - it might pay pay for a plate of momos every now and then. I recommend hosting your blog for free on, the most popular blogging platform in Bhutan. After signing into your blog, click "Monetize" in the blog's settings, and just follow the instructions. As part of of the setup, you will be asked to sign up for AdSense, a Google service that automatically displays various ads on your blog. When a visitor clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays Google, from which Google will give you a cut (that's basically how Google makes its fortune!). Once your total earnings reach $100, Google will send you a cheque (make sure your bank accepts US cheques).

Some people try to cheat by repeatedly clicking on ads on their own website, or asking their friends to do that for them. This is called click fraud. In addition to being in violation of Google's policy and causing bad karma, this practice will most likely be detected by Google, and your account will be blocked forever.

Last but not least: It's easy to get distracted by all this ad business, but it's usually not worth it. Save your energy and focus on writing great blog posts that your readers will enjoy. That's the real reward!

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Your money or your card!

A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from a representative of Druk PNB. Apparently, I forgot my ATM card at the machine (again!), and a dear soul found it and returned it to the branch. So first, thanks to the anonymous and honest finder, and thanks to PNB for giving me a call.

Now here is where it gets even better. When I went to pick up my card from the ATM section, I spoke with the person in charge, and suggested a small improvement to prevent such customer forgetfulness in the future: Usually, the ATM machine spits out the cash first and the card later. After taking the money, some absent-minded people (like myself) just leave, with the card still deep inside the machine. But if you reverse the order - spit out the card first, and only dispense the money once the card is taken - the problem is solved.

Lo and behold: PNB took my suggestion seriously. I recently withdrew some cash from the machine. After confirming the amount, the card was ejected, and the machine started beeping and flashing until I grabbed my card. Only then did it dispense the cash.

Hopefully I will now remember to wait for the cash...

Do you know Tashi Kelson Tobgay?

Madrid: A different kind of Prado
If so, please give him a call to let him know that his account has been hacked. I just got the following phishing mail from Tobgay's account.

Subject: Emergency Please!!!From: Tashi Kelson
Hope you get this on time, sorry I didn't inform you about my trip in Spain for a Program, I'm presently in Madrid and am having some difficulties here because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept. presently i have limited access to internet, I will like you to assist me with a loan of (1500 EURO) to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home.
I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively, I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with, I'll Refund the money back to you as soon as I return, let me know if you can be of any help. I don't have a phone where I can be reached. Please let me know immediately.
Best Regards

This is (yet again) a reminder to all: Choose a strong password, or your account will be eventually hacked.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A cream-free country?

In case you haven't noticed, a serious crisis is looming in Bhutan: The country has run out of milk cream. It is virtually impossible to find Amul Fresh Cream - Bhutan's main source of milk cream - in the last few weeks. All Thimphu shops are out of stock on this item, and there are reports of similar shortages in other dzongkhags. The situation is so dire, in fact, that bakeries and hotels are removing items from their menus. The fabulous Big Bakery at Kawajangsa, for example, is no longer selling their heavenly summertime panna cota (we were lucky to have tasted it just before the crisis started).

A few questions that have been troubling me recently:
  1. What is the cause of this shortage? I've asked a few people around town, but nobody seems to know. 
  2. Does it make sense for Amul's "Fresh Cream", a product that sits on the shelf for months, to be called "Fresh Cream"?
  3. Is there any business opportunity for a local creamery in Bhutan?
  4. Most importantly: Is it possible to prepare panna cota without cream?
Please let me know if you happen to have any answers.

Until the shops start re-stocking the item, we can always sing along with the commercial:
Ek do teen, Amul Fresh Cream!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Business Opportunities Corner: Expanding the definition of "momo"

Tired of the usual cheese and beef momos? If you're lucky, you might get hold of the excellent Haapi hoentoe (Haa momos). But what about other fillings? In my last trip to Hyderabad, India, I discovered that Indians have taken the momo concept one step further. After a day of hesitation, I approached the momo stand, took a deep breath and ordered paneer momos and... chocolate momos! Although the thought is shocking, the momos were very tasty. The menu description was quite poetic and contained plenty of repeated letters:
Sinfully rich dark chocolate and cashew crumble swirled into one luscious warrmmm mooooolten mouthfullll - It's to die for!!
 Is this the next business idea for Bhutanese entrepreneurs?

"It's to die for!!"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Searching for Information (K2 #18)

Question of the Week
I was searching for the 2010 cordyceps auction results on the MoAF website but to no avail. I know it's there. Why can't I find it?
-- P. Y., Bhumthang

Dear P.Y.,
Finding information is sometimes harder than finding cordyceps... I went in search of your lost page and eventually found it ( How did I find it? I first tried navigating the website (, but that was too complicated. I then searched for cordyceps auction 2010 using the site's own search function, but I got back a "No posts found" message. The websites of the various government agencies host plenty of useful and interesting content, but the information often resides in PDF, Excel and Word files. Unfortunately, the website's own search function does not search these files. My solution is to resort to a good old friend: Google. When you search using Google (, it searches for your keywords also within files. If you’d like to restrict your search to a particular website, say, MoAF, you can use the special keyword "site". You do this by adding to your search query. I entered cordyceps auction 2010 in the Google search bar and found the PDF file that contained the auction results. You can of course replace with any other website. You can also try replacing with to search in all of Bhutan's government websites, or even site:bt to search all websites ending in .bt.

Tip of the Week
Have you ever received emails from friends who lost their wallet while travelling in Bangkok or London (or some other exotic destination), and are pleading to send them money by wire transfer? Before you run to the bank, give your friend a call, and you'll most likely discover that s/he's still here in Bhutan. Here's what happened: A hacker broke into your friend's account and sent the fraud email to the entire contact list, hoping to get rich by all these wire transfers.
To prevent someone from hacking into your own account, the single most important defence is selecting a password which will be hard for the hacker to guess. There are a few ways to choose passwords that are both strong and easy to remember. Here is one:
  • Choose a name or phrase that is least 8 characters long. You can choose a village name, your favourite football team, or any other phrase that will be easy for you to remember.
  • Now take the phrase and substitute some of the letters with symbols. It makes sense to substitute "i" with "!", "s" with "quot;, the letter "o" with the digit "0" etc. 
That's it! Here an example: If I start with the phrase, after substitution it will become th!mphutech.c0m, which will be my password. This password is virtually impossible to break (unless I foolishly publish it in a national newspaper...)

Friday, July 1, 2011

SSEASR conference is on, website is off

No mountains here!
RUB is hosting the 4th SSEASR conference on "Mountains in the Religions of South and Southeast Asia: Place, Culture, and Power". The conference started yesterday and will go on during this weekend.
The conference title seemed interesting, so I went online to find out the program. The official website is Unfortunately  the site is down  - just when you need it (see photo). According to Google, which keeps snapshots of many webpages, it was up only a few days ago and so I was able to find an copy of the SSEASR's home page from last Sunday, but not a lot of information is there. I also found this nice "call for papers" poster, but it doesn't contain the program. If you happen to have an online copy of the conference program, please let me know.