Category Archives: Technology

Deferred Information Consumption

You are sifting through the work emails for the day and somewhere in between is an e-mail about the latest TED talks.

You are tweeting about your company latest feature and see a WIRED article in your stream that you can’t wait to read.

But work calls, so they have to wait.

You either leave the TED email unread, letting it consume prime visual real estate in your inbox. Or you download the video on your Desktop where it will lie for the next several days. You open the article in a browser tab and let it be. Or you bookmark it and then forget all about it.

Our computers have become now the primary device for discovering AND consuming information – be it work or leisure. But how do I reduce this information overload and at least consume it when I want and where I want? One answer: new devices and services that can deliver to those devices. Which is why I love my Kindle and my iPod Touch.

These days when I find an interesting article, I Instapaper it. My Instapaper is set to automatically send new articles to my Kindle at the end of the day, and then I can happily read them in the most important room in my house. TED has this awesome functionality where you can ‘Download a video to iTunes’. Whenever I connect my iPod Touch, it syncs them and then I can watch one of these videos right before I sleep (I wish iTunes had Wi-Fi sync).

So what’s the point? I am making a case for devices that do one thing and one thing well, like a Walkman or a TV. But obviously, that’s not going to be the case – because you know, ‘there’s an app for that’. So what we then need is devices which when doing one thing do it really well. This is a case for full screen immersive experiences. A case against the taskbar that shows which applications are open. A case even against tabbed browsing.

You say that already exists. An iPad. You’re right. It’s just that I realised how much of a disruptive innovation that is. Johnny Ive (a man who vocal chords need to be preserved as much as his right brain) may be overstating the case when he says ‘I don’t have to change myself to fit the product. It fits me.’, but it definitely fits the activity you are trying to do.

But more than letting out some iPad love, this is a case for the missing piece in this puzzle besides discovery and consumption which is delivery.

Something like Instapaper. When combined with Amazon’s WhisperNet it takes no more work that clicking on ‘Read Later’ to get an article to my Kindle.

But what about music? Why can’t a song I discovered on Shazam be delivered to my Sansa Clip?

YouTube videos? Why can’t I just ‘Send to TV’.

So the question is: How might we get to a point where a discovered piece of information or media it can be effortlessly delivered to my ideal consumption device?

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The Personalisation Myth

I come across a lot of websites that have recommendation engines based on your history, or your past purchases or what you favourites are and then they pimp similar stuff back to you. I guess the notion is based on the idea that they can find stuff related to what you ‘like’ and thus not just improve the experience for you, but also increase their sales as you are more likely to make a purchase. Amazon is probably the most shining example of this where the very pristine and fresh home page changes to show what you have browsed before and what you might thus like, with every subsequent visit.

amazon_snapshot

The main area on ‘my’ Amazon.com home page lists 8 main sections. These are ‘Frequently Bought Together’ which shows an image of a book I had looked at earlier today along with two other books, ‘More to Explore’ which also shows a book I looked at recently along with related books, ‘Stay Dry with a New Raincoat’ – which is the one section unrelated to my ‘Amazon Past’, ‘Customer With Similar Searches Purchased’ – which another name for #1 & #2 above. ‘Recommended for you’ which seems to be based on purchase history as it shows an Action Figure I bought for a friend and a Shaver I bought 5 months back. ‘New for You’ which is again a recycled #1. And finally ‘Recommended for you based on your browsing history’ and ‘Inspired by your Wish list’.

A whopping 7 out of 8 sections are ‘personalised’ and pay no attention to stuff which I might want to try out or explore.

I think there are two variants of personalisation: a) Explicit  & b) Implicit. The Explicit variant is more common with personalised homepage service such as Netvibes where I specify what news sources I want to get my news from, my widgets and more. E-commerce sites however, cannot use explicit personalisation – they in turn use my explicit choices – such as a my searches and past purchases to make a guess at what else I might like.

I think the biggest problem with this is that it overlooks the exploratory tendencies in people. I like rock music, I like Bollywood – sure I’d like to explore more of the same, but then sometimes I want to try something completely new – recently a friend introduced me to Jazz – which I thought was pretty interesting too – why couldn’t Amazon recommend something like that? I think often people themselves don’t know what they like and would like to sample something new rather than more of the same.

Unfortunately, pretty much all services – from the Pandora’s to the Last.fm of the world empower only incremental exploration by showing related stuff, but haven’t cracked the question of how to encourage people to try out something radically different.

Another issue is the assumption that I want to buy everything I searched for (Personalisation at Amazon appears to based on favourites, past purchases and searches of which the last seems the most unreliable to me). A friend of mine once asked me to buy a Belly Dancing DVD for her, next I know I have 4 other similar titles showing up in ‘You Might Also Like…’ on Amazon! I think search related recommendations are best served on the Search Result pages – which provide related results within that context.

I really wish Amazon would stop deciding my future based on my past, or at least not all of it.

Postscript: Apparently an old report called ‘Beyond the personalisation myth’ published in 2003 (damn they used the same title!) seems to make a similar case based on more extensive research: :  Personalising Web sites ‘wastes money’.

Broadband Problems in India

I have been wanting to do a post on what plagues broadband in India for a while – a problem which is probably among the biggest hindrances to the growth of Internet businesses in India.

The latest issue of Businessworld addresses this topic in an article aptly call ‘the Hindu speed of Internet access’. (:D)

A birdie once told me that it had got something to do with VSNL and their monopolistic methods, however, Businessworld lists the following chief reasons for the state of broadband in India (which as per the fraudy definition for India is upwards of 256 kbps, while for the rest of the world upwards of 2 mbps).

a) Evidently the biggest deterrent has been the cost of the last mile (laying down optic fibre to reach the end customer), which is ‘as high as 90 per cent of the total cost of wireline’ to the telecom operators and the government has refused unbundling (access to the last mile network of the largest landline operator, BSNL, to private players.) Also see: An article in Hindu about the same issue and a very good read on Wikipedia about the the last mile – it even plagues the US.

b) The profits from the mobile business are high and the costs low compared to broadband and thus there is no incentive for Telecom companies to push broadband. Businessworld suggests that the answer might be allowing non-telecom players to offer the last mile pretty much like ISPs offer their services.

c)  An alternative solution would be to get the last mile problem solved via WiMax and although companies such as BSNL/MTNL and Bharti have done trials, the rollout has been stuck because India is still to release spectrum. [I don’t fully understand the spectrum issue – in another post maybe]

d) Costs: Retail Broadband costs in India are 5 times those in Japan and Korea. In my perspective that’s only half the story because what’s worse is that downloads are charged for. A 2 mbps BSNL connection has monthly rental of Rs. 3300 and a download limit of only 20gb!

 

The article paints a rather bleak picture indeed for businesses ranging from e-learning to e-governance, and of course e-commerce.

 

Oh, and that doesn’t stop the government from doing a good PR job. They proudly announced 2007 to be the year of the broadband (and have failed to notice that it is coming to a close). Plus stories abound about how we will get free 2 mbps internet by 2009 – “All citizens to receive complementary 2 mbps internet.”

 

We live in hope.

On Music: DRM (or the lack thereof)

Well, looks like a letter from Steve Jobs is worth a a million consumers’ requests. In a landmark announcement today EMI and Apple have agreed to sell non-DRMed music through the iTunes store. This is literally a game-changing, paradigm-shifting, earth-shattering decision. Some details here and here.

In my last post on Music, I had said that I “hope that India might set a different yet successful example” by selling non DRM’ed music online. But now since it is too late to set an example, at least it can follow suit?

I had this post half written – I am so glad that I am rewriting about the DRM debate in the past tense.

Instead of delving into the topic myself, let me just point out some useful links. You can read the Wikipedia entry on DRM here , Nick Carr observes here how DRM is much less about copyright protection and much more a business strategy – also points out some early EMI attempts to sell DRM free music. Bravo EMI! Mike Arrington directs us to a story where a Music Tax was being recommended as an alternative to DRM. Ha! Though this might not be all that outrageous. In Korea subscription music is a successful business model.

A campaign in the 1980s against Home Taping as it amounted to copyright infringement here. Spoofs on the campaign logo should make for good T-Shirt material.
The original logo.

A Contentsutra article that says digital music in India has surpassed physical music sales. Digital music here refers to mobile music like ringtones which amount for a whopping 88% if the industry’s revenues. I find that VERY hard to digest.

My (Pondi’s Book of Business Ideas) solution to this issue was to have a flexible conditional DRM. The prime purpose of DRM is to stop illegal sharing. However, sharing is the most potent form of word-of-mouth marketing for the music business and by preventing sharing moderately popular and upcoming artists would lose a lot of their audience. Thus my solution was that when a song was new and not selling as much – it should be sold DRM free, and as it rises up the popularity charts, a DRM can be applied. Anyway, I am assuming that ab to na raha baans so no need to bajao the bansuri (Eggxactly)

Some articles on alternative music models trying to find a middle ground between copy protection, consumer rights and commerce are here, here and here. Amie’s Street was the most interesting among these where they sold DRM-free music for free! (Actually, as a song rose the popularity charts its price increased based on consumers recommendations – “RECs”)

I think music should always be Accessible (a music store can be found on every nook and corner in India and online music will be available wherever there is Internet access), Platform-independent (the CDs and cassettes I used to buy worked on all CD players/Cassette players. Digital music has the chance of taking that a step further – playable on music players, CD players and mobile phones) and Shareable (Music is so much more fun when you share it with your friends. I miss the mixed tape bonding days of my younger years. Living on borrowed music till you could save enough to buy the original CD full with album artwork and more.)

Also a round-up on what exists in India right now, at least what I could find.

Online Music Store(s)

Soundbuzz(Site does not open in Firefox.): Windows Media DRMed music. Hindi songs from Rs. 9 upwards. If you an Airtel broadband customer, you can buy music by logging into your Airtel account and it would be billed to you at the end of the month.

Social Networking Services

Saffron Connect (A site trying to be everything to everyone)
Mosh.in

IndianPad.com Audio (Streaming music as well as downloads posted by members)

Music Downloads within a specific Genre

RSJ Online (Some real good stuff here)

Streaming Music

Split Magazine (Indian Rock and Independent Music)

Radioverve (Indian Rock and Independent Music)

MusicIndiaOnline (Bollywood, Indipop and Regional)

Raaga.com

DesiHits (US based, Punju, Bollywood and Desi). Have VC backing as well.

Cleaning Up

Another let-me-clear-out-my-drafts post.

Of half-baked notions conceived during periods of unforeseen stupidity, Of iceberg-tip ideas that could have become revolutionary thought pieces, Of extended ramblings that are now reduced to mere twitters,but of course, to to make way for more.

Basically, blog posts I had planned to write but now the events around which these ideas had formed have faded in my memory – so a few words on each (which after having written the post, I realise are not that few).

Rumors:

It is interesting to reflect on how Rumors are the social equivalent of a biological virus. How they spread like there is no tomorrow. How they distort truth to a point where it is often difficult to differentiate what the truth really was – and yet they are often but a reflection of the truth. How they never die out. How a rumor can often destroy the life and reputation of some people – never to be universally redeemed. Perhaps I should read this or something similar some day.

Can an author’s characters convincingly express views contrary to his/her own?

What was I going to write here? I have put God’s Debris as a reference. I didn’t read the entire book, but it is basically a discourse between two people about God. Maybe somewhere I felt that the discussion was futile, because even though the characters are countering each other’s point of view, one of them were stating arguments as if they were meant to be refuted. Thus the author’s point of view prevails, even with a character who is trying to state the opposite – he is but a creation of the author. I might be wrong here. Scott Adams even states in the book’s introduction: “You won’t discover my opinions by reading my fiction” – and I would expect a man with Scott’s intelligence and humor to be capable of creating a completely independent character. Perhaps I need more evidence – or maybe read the entire book.

On Jargon: How it creeps into your worldview and everyday conversation unbeknownst to you. Often you only realise much later that you are using words and phrases which even you don’t fully understand – yet base your decisions upon them.

One of the interesting ones I can remember is ‘ Value Addition’. A colleague from my previous job use to keep mouthing this (so did I, I think) – “I am leaving this job, there is no value addition”. Another favorite – the world over is – Web 2.0. This is worth reading by the way.

When Less is More: Really? I actually thought like that – the endless multitasker? I have mentioned Jharkhand. I had been to Jharkhand in June 2005 for a 5 week long internship at an NGO called Pradan. In the din of city life I have almost forgotten what it was like to be there.

I just remembered how there was a lot less available to do there. No TV, No Internet. One English newspaper (HT) and two-three magazines at most (Businessworld/Outlook). And of course, my market research project at Pradan. But because I had less things to do I did them well.

For the first time in my life, I read newspapers cover to cover every day. From being completely illiterate about Politics, I picked up on a few stories because I followed them everyday. Which made me realise how you make sense of things not from the point go – but incrementally bit-by-bit. To learn something you don’t need to start over (Oh! let me reach back into history and learn all about this before I start with the new stuff) but by plunging into the present process and sticking with it.

I also mentioned Mamta didi – a one woman army with the confidence and audacity to change the world. I must go there again someday. I miss you Saroj da, Nitin, Vikas, Bharat – and I feel sad that I have not kept in touch. I miss Lucky Dhaba. I miss the Papdi Chaat at Chaibasa. I miss my journey’s on rickety buses with Sudoku puzzles for company.

I recently read about the Less is More school of thought here. The article is somewhat half-baked though – not something I expect of Seth Godin. There was an importance difference in Jharkhand though – there was less to do by design and not by choice.

But if you really want to know what it is like – leave everything and elope to some distant village – maybe to work with a grassroots NGO. You will exhibit withdrawal symptoms at first but the trip will be completely worth it.

Technology at the speed of thought.

There times when you think – how cool it would be if a certain electronic gadget existed.

So for example, how cool it would be if I had a phone which could wirelessly send out audio (via bluetooth) and my bluetooth-enabled car stereo would play it for me.

Or how cool it would be if I could make VoIP calls (such as through Skype/Gizmo) over the high speed internet connection on my phone.

Or how cool it would be if, combining the above two I could listen to millions of internet radio stations in my car

Or HCIWB if I had a transparent non-intrusive display on my windscreen which would display news via RSS feeds, song lyrics and more.

‘Technology @ the speed of Thought’ is a concept that basically says this: Now that the whole world is connected through the internet, a simple Google search will reveal that such technology already exists – either someone somewhere is working on it, or it is ready to go mainstream, or someone has already identified the possible issues with such a technology and those are to be resolved. Thus as you have thought about a certain piece technology there is a very high probability that it exists already. For the first one see here, here and here. Also a cool ad for the Rokr E6 here (just in case you haven’t already)

As you can see some ideas which I had wished for about an year back are already mainstream.

Crystallizing Ideas: Basically there are so many things and ideas you think about/know about/have an intuitive sense of – but it become more tangible when someone says it. Sometimes it gives a framework to your thoughts. Sometimes makes you aware of a connetion between notions which you hadn’t thought of. It brings a clarity which you had failed to achieve. The one I can think of is the cowardice and wisdom wala funda which I had read about in Foucault’s Pendulum and had blogged about it earlier.

Amused Apathy: I have mentioned these: Bombing in Sarojini Nagar, Riots in Gujarat, Earthquake in J&K. Perhaps I should add the death of an IITD professor at IISc. Tragedies happens all the time. So what’s new?

What they often talk about alongside tragedies is Courage – how people put their grief behind and moved on. I often wonder what it really is, especially for the bystanders like you and me: Is is relief – that it didn’t happen to us?, is it apathy – just shrug/nod and go back to work? Or is it some demented sadistic pleasure manifested as mild amusement?

Also see Schadenfreude. Alok Rai – I am fortunate to have been taught by you – I think I learnt this word in your Modern Fiction class. And the Wikipedia entry reminds me – I must do a post on words which have no English equivalent yet represent a significant emotion/feeling – kinda feeds back into the Crystallizing Ideas sub-post. Also highlights the importance of names.

If you actually got down to the end of this post – I must say I am extremely grateful – my fundas are not valued everywhere.

HOW TO: Use the internet

Yeah, yeah – go ahead – call me a pretentious prick.

Truth is, most of us don’t really ‘use’ the internet. We all check mail, IM/Orkut and Google when we are looking for a piece of information, but for most that is where the use of the internet ends.

In my case internet is a chronic condition now – fortunately or unfortunately. I probably spend atleast 50% of my time on the internet.

So from a diseased man – here’s a bunch of top-of-the-mind things which can be useful to everyone – both to be more productive through the internet and to use the internet more productively. Long post – apologies.

1. RSS Feeds: Ever noticed these icons on a lot of sites? Or maybe these: . Wondered what they were? Until I had used RSS feeds, I found these intimidating at worst and intriguing at best. A preliminary investigation would not reveal much except that they stood for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ (Wha?)

All that changed when I hit upon a nifty website called Netvibes, where I really saw how RSS feeds work. To understand RSS consider Google News: If you break it down, it has some content (headlines + corresponding news stories) and some formatting (the Google logo and the colors). What RSS does is that it helps you separate content from design and in turn makes that content portable – thus I can access the content (as a Google news RSS feed) from a different platform (typically a feed reader like Netvibes).

As an example, look at this page from my Netvibes account. Some blogs which I otherwise used to read on their respective URLs – now appear all in place – always updated – and allowing me greater choice and flexibility.

Netvibes Page

So, while they may look a little geeky to the uninitiated, trust me RSS Feeds are the most amazing way to get content and information you consume from a wide variety of sources in the most efficient way.

[ A thought: There are reasons why RSS has not hit the mainstream – a) RSS links break the traditional weblink behaviour. When I click on a link I expect to be “taken” somewhere – not reach a rather intimidating page which looks like this . This is changing with ‘Subscribe’ links which redirect to a bunch of readers – but still exist on a fairly large number of sites b) No easy way of embedding an RSS feed onto my blog or website – like the way I would with a YouTube video. I think that would be quite cool.]

2. Google Cache: You googled for a page. It exists in the search results but you get a ‘Page Not Found’ error upon clicking the link. Did you ever notice the Cached link at the bottom of a search result? That is where Google will give you a snapshot of the page when it indexed it.

I remember using it to find Thomas Cook contact details in Delhi when the site was down.

Search the Cache specifically by doing cache:URL (Remember you can only search website URLs though – not keywords.)

3. Use Firefox: Firefox is a browser which can truly help you use the internet more productively. I love Firefox for three main reasons: a) Tabbed browsing: It decreases clutter on the taskbar and keeps things organised b)The Search Box: An easily extensible search box which lets me search Google, Wikipedia, IMdB, Dictionary.com (and anything else you want) without actually going to the websites. c) Extensions: Small tools which extend the utility of your web browser. If you know about them > please recommend some cool ones to me, if you don’t, trust me once you have started using them, there is no way you will ever think twice about using Firefox. Two of my favorites are the Down Them All! – a download manager and Screengrab – a useful alternative to Print Screen.

[Bonus: Keyboard Shortcuts for Firefox. “Ctrl + Left-Click”: Opens a link in a new tab; “Ctrl+Tab” and “Ctrl + Shift + Tab”: Move between different tabs; “Ctrl + L”: Go to the address bar; “Alt + Down Arrow” in the search box: Lists all available search engines.]

[On IE7: By the way IE7 has copiously copied from Firefox – so for those who have moved to IE7 you pretty much have all of the above. The Extensions are called Add-Ons but for some reason don’t work as well. I couldn’t get the IE web developer toolbar to work and FlashGet – a download manager -doesn’t work very well either.]

4. Use Wikipedia Better: You’re sniggering aren’t you? Who doesn’t use Wikipedia?
Everyone does, but there is a lot of concern over the autheticity of the information – and it is quite valid. There are several incidents to support this concern. Then you have school kids referring to Wikipedia for practically everything – which can be a bad trend especially if they don’t realise that some of that information might be incorrect.

So, what do you do? Read intelligently and read critically. a) Let Wikipedia be your first port of call, get a primer and then check out the associated links on Wikipedia or Google b) A quick look at the Discussion page often tells you what’s going on with an article.

5. Amazon Search Inside!: There are so many books I wish to read – but that will never come true, because of a) too little time and b) limited availability. For those of you who don’t know this, you can read book excerpts for tons of books on Amazon – a good 5-10 pages for most books. Makes it easy for you to separate the wheat from the chaff and get a “quickie” for books you probably won’t be able to read. Here’s an excerpt from Fooled by Randomness – an absolute must-read.

That’s it for now.

Old Whine on New Bloggle

(I am allowed the use of imaginary words as and when befitting. See blog URL)

Remember how I pledged to get my drafts out faster than I can write new ones? Well that hasn’t happened as yet, but I keep trying. Atleast I am blogging more regularly (T~30 days) than I did (T~300 days). So another strategy is to blog multiple items together as against blog each one separately. I have picked 2 for this one which were still lying around in my Blogger account – completely unrelated, the only denominator is that unka number pehle aa gaya, and I had something written down already.

1. The Problem with Sony

Sometime back I attended a Group Discussion at an ad firm to help support a pitch they were making to Sony, for their forthcoming MP3 player launch in India. Obviously, a lot of comparisons were made between the iPod and a Sony MP3 player. The thing is I had nothing good to say about Sony MP3 players. First off there were too many of them – several undifferentiated, tacky, yet expensive models, preventing any one from becoming big. Second, what I hated most was how late they were in endorsing mp3, meanwhile continuing to stuff down prorietary ATRAC3 down our throats. As a result, the hallowed Walkman is now dead (except perhaps the brand being reinvented with Sony Ericsson mobile phones.)

Then I thought, did something go wrong with Sony? I mean the Walkman, the PS, the PS2, most things Sony have been great products to use and irresistible to own. When did they start going wrong and why?

And I realised that they had taken their copy protection, anti piracy antics a bit too far. One of the key strategies which Sony adopts to achieve this is by create proprietary formats around their products. While this makes a lot of economic sense to them, several these eventually gets phased out, but nor before customers have spent a lot of money on the trusted Sony brand.
There is the MD, rendered obsolete by the death of line-in recording of audio. There is the UMD, especially UMD movies, only playable on the PSP – which has no TV Out, plus it is a closed format so that no one can put their movie collection on their PSP (alternative being an obscenely expensive 2gb Mem Stick Duo). (Aside: I recently learnt that now you can buy ready to plug and play PSP ISOs from Palika on a 2 gb mem stick for 2.5k – as long as you have firmware 2.71)

Now stepping back for a few bird’s eye view thoughts. You’d say this debate on proprietary formats is a much larger one, and Sony alone can’t be blamed. Why – even the iPOD uses a proprietary AAC format. Well, agreed that it does, but it never prevented you from playing MP3s, from day one. Infact it even allows you to burn a CD from the AACs, and then who is stopping you from converting it back to MP3? In the whole piracy debate (which by the way is a long one, so I shall not get into it in this post), I think Apple is one company which has struck the right balance. It has built in a set of filters which would deter most, while vella people looking for a workaround – like me – can do what they want, which they would have done or tried anyway with any other format. Plus, it addresses important gaps – so, for example, the iPOD video has a TV Out. Stopping Piracy does not mean strangling usability. And in my view, it is very often the Sony experience which can become limiting. I shall leave it at that right now.

2. Smoking – Risk Death for the Life
As I said, two completely unrelated posts :). Smoking. At one point in time, one of my favorite topics. It used to be a pet hate. I have lived through an annoyed dad , embarassed but relenting friends (Me: Yaar, meri gaadi main smoke mat karo), amused women (Me: You smoke? I think it is disgusting!), shocked/angry strangers (Me: This is a public place sir, can you please not smoke?), the works.
Not so much anymore. I am still a non-smoker but over the years I have come to accept it, thanks to most of my friends being smokers. I can now survive living in a passive smoking cloud. I have had a pseudo-cool-smoker phase when after I had had exactly one puff of ganja in Goa, I came up with the very pretentious “I only smoke marijuana!”, which I used to say as if it was the most original thing in the world :)). I have also had some of my demented mental states where I have smoked a whole cigarette or two.

Anyway, this is not about smoking or why I hate it, its me ruminating upon smoking as a social phenomena. So the top-x format again (whenever you are struggling to write coherent prose/ running short of time, it is your best way out):
1. A person and his/her cigarette is a self contained system. Ever been to a coffee shop or restaurant all by yourself? Personally, I get conscious and resort to reading a book/playing with my cellphone/acting like I am expecting someone to seem occupied. Now picture the another person but with a smoke. They never seem out of place, on the other hand they seem rather distuinguished and content.
2. Smoking is a very effective means of social bonding. ‘Got a light?/Got a smoke?’ This is probably one of the most commonplace bonding call s between smokers. And, as far as I have seen it works really well.

Also, (I can’t remember much of it now) Malcolm Gladwell has done some good analysis of the Smoking phenomena in his book ‘The Tipping Point’. (Aside: By the way, Malcolm Gladwell seems a lot less impressive after you have read Freakonomics – both books have parts where they analyse why crime fell in New York in the Nineties, and boy how wrong Gladwell is – typical case of confusing correlation with causation).

Blogging from Writely

By the way, I love Writely as a Blogging tool. It is way cleaner and way faster than blogging from my WordPress Dashboard (and obviously both are better than the useless Blogger Post writing Text Box – dunno about Blogger Beta though). My drafts are organised a lot better, and once I am done posting I just archive the document. Also, I can publish the document as a standalone HTML document – which I can then link to from my blog – like I did with my Foucault Pendulum excerpt.

Compare that with Windows Live Writer, which I downloaded today – after entering my WordPress account details, it has been ‘Analysing list of weblogs..’ for the past hour and a half.

I guess the minor hiccups with Writely are that images are not published (for WordPress) and the not-so-visible HTML tags (They are all ‘br’ tags in instead of ‘p’ tags). Also, I cannot assign categories as yet, but ab Chhappar-faadh-ke-maangna to unfair ho jayega.

Let it go

This one is about this random fatta I had come up with sometime back, which I will unleash right here, right now. I have a feeling I am going to read this after some time and laugh at myself.

Diversion: Two Things
But before that, two things. First I think the content organisation on my posts is terrible. No titles or images to break the flow and make it more readable. All my posts look like a keede-makode-crawling all over. Am writing this, just to remind me of the same. I will try a few things with every post. This one for example has titles.

Second thing – a technology question. Can one blog through SMS? I was driving to Delhi, stuck in a traffic jam averaging speeds of 4kmph (as is rule these days), my mind wandering all over the place, when I decided that the fatta, which I am going to reveal shortly, is worth blogging about. But I didn’t want to wait till I got back home (yes, Blogging is that addictive). How cool would it be if I could blog right there in the middle of the traffic through my phone?

There are tools which exist which let you blog if you have GPRS enabled on your phone (Cool Bhartiya start-up called Link’n’Surf, which, by the way, lets you do a lot more than just post to blogs), and my techie-Bhaai (tB) pointed out another tool to me which he used on his (ahem ahem) O2 XDA (Obviously, I am looking for a lesser-mortal enabler tool). tB tells me it’s possible, so I will just wait for someone to make it.

The Fatta
Now the Fatta. Turn away.

No? Well okay here goes.

Whenever I am feeling sad, depressed or just plain irritated – it often seems like there are tens of reasons which are contributing to that state of mind, and I can never quite get around it sometimes. I have realised over time that, in truth every time, there is just one overriding reason. Always one. All other reasons are extraneous and have been dug up around that one reason. The first issue is often that I fail to acknowledge or accept it. It seems so trivial and inane (say a stranger making a stray comment, which really hit me at the time), or something so uncharacteristic of myself (the character which I have in my head), I keep pushing it down and try to deal with the more actionable extraneous reasons to solve the problem. The other issue is that even if I know what the reason is, it is impossible to resolve, contributing further to my chagrin.

What do I do? I let go. It doesnt work all the time, but I have been trying. Sometimes it is a lot more difficult to be honest to myself. Sometimes it just works if you make fun yourself out loud. But I have to give it a shot. Then there are the ones I can’t deal with – the real annoying ones which leave me with regret and nothing more. I file them away to worry about later – most fade away, others just become easier to deal with. Filing away sounds pretty difficult yeah? I thought so too. A long time back I had read Gone with the Wind, and Scarlett O’ Hara kept using this phrase “I shan’t think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow”. I always thought that it really was just a meaningless statement – after all, how can you think about thoughts another day – they will come to you as and when they want. But it’s true – you really just have to try. I Googled to get the exact phrase, and somewhere someone had used the ‘Scarlett O’ Hara syndrome’ to refer to procastination. Recognise that this is the exact opposite of that. You file away hindering thoughts for later, so that you can deal with the important task at hand now.

Aside 1
I had written the above Fatta entirely in Second Person first. I decided to rewrite some of it in First Person. Took a lot more effort. Looking within is more difficult than looking without.

Aside 2
Guess this post would have been a *bit* long for blogging over SMS.

The fading glory of the RAZR V3i

Oh how I coveted that thing! That object of desire dressed beautifully in black – surely it was created by some divine design. It belonged to someone else, yet I would steal glances at it from across the table.

Finally I gave in. I bought myself a brand new Motorola RAZR. I had decided that I would wait for the V3i to arrive on the scene, with its sexy gun metal finish, 1.2 mp camera and iTunes. Plus it came with a 256 mb microSD card. All that for a mere 14,500. Yeah, I know its 10,500 now, but even then it felt like more than VFM.

The headphones were nice, I could put music on to it through iTunes, not as convenient as using Windows Explorer like I did with my N-Gage, but not too bad either. The sound quality was good. It did not scratch easily, which was quite something considering the last gadget I bought before that was the iPod Nano. I could put animated .gifs as screensavers – nice. Some minor problems did surface, like it would hang up a on a few occasions, and the voice quality was not as great as my N-Gage, but that was okay – it looked so damned neat.

After a point I came up with an corny analogy – The Moto RAZR V3i is like a really hot girl friend – she is dumb, demanding and a pain to deal with, but you take it all in your stride because she is so damned hot (I am just going by what Bollywood movies has taught me).

Times have changed and somehow that analogy does ring so true any more. When every third guy (and girl) in the country start seeing the same hot babe, where’s the novelty? Now I have just have a phone – called the MotoRAZR – oh you have one too? Thought so.

Now I would give you a list of reasons why you should not buy the the MotoRAZR, starting now.

1. It’s has an MP3 player with iTunes. Great, except that putting music on that phone is the most infuriating thing on this planet. For starters it is USB 1.0 and works like USB 0.3, it takes forever to put one song on it. Plus you cannot put music on it from another computer. If you do, first it will delete all the songs you have, because you see, it can be associated with only one iTunes library. BS. Plus, even with that one iTunes library, what happens if you removed a song from your library? Plug in your phone and it gets deleted too – it needs to be ‘updated’! To prevent that you have to uncheck some minuscule check boxes next to the song. Compare that to my N-Gage – agreed it looked like an elephant ear, did not have the best sound in the world, but not only could I put music on it easily, I could put it in any damned folder and it would find it.

2. 1.2 megapixel camera. Ha! Good Luck Photoshopping what most likely are the darkest photos clicked ever, even in broad sunlight – and they all look a bit yellowish and hazy. On the bright side you can probably pass it off as a vintage snap.

3. It hangs up. All the time. Not because I do anything wrong, but because I try to answer a call when the clamshell is open. It hangs, I have to close it and wait for 2 minutes while it recuperates and then wait for the person to call me again. Nice touch.

4. The voice quality just plain sucks. It is slightly better than the sound quality I got from my N-Gage when I was holding it reverse and speaking into the speaker (I had not understood the elephant ear dynamics then).

5. It cannot search through your phone book in real time. Now is that stone age or is that stone age? I have to type a few letters and then say Search. Did you just type ‘Sa’ and you have several contacts starting with those two letters? What would you do if you were Nokia – you would add another letter. What do you do if you were the MotoRAZR? You would type S-a-whatever again and press Search. Still didn’t find it? Type away some more baby.

6. Call me finicky, but could they have picked an uglier font?

Alas, I can’t afford a new phone anytime soon. So will have to make do with it for now. Maybe when we are alone, away from this RAZR infested world, we can reminisce about the good old times.

Update : The RAZR Gods don’t like me anymore. Within four days of me writing this post, my RAZR  stopped working, just like that! The other culprit could be myself, also known as the Sweatman – this phone might have succumbed to the same fate as my earlier phones. Better check the Warranty quick.