/home/dhananjay

A personal take on various topics

India First

I am a gujarat bred, maharastra settled, marathi, hindu, brahman. There. Thats how many people expect me to define myself. Actually thats not accurate, since I have no clue how others expect me to define myself. I never asked them. But looking at many other’s behaviour, I do have suspicions they may choose to define themselves along similar lines. So be it. At least that was my take. But no more. Because such classifications eventually end up isolating, not defining me. I am an Indian. Looking at history of nation states, India is but a recent entrant. For long it was a continuously fickle set of shifting boundaries, changing dynasties and deeply distinct cultures (or subcultures if you will). The british exploited it. Big time. They rode the fissures. They ruled us. And they plundered us. They left. And it seems they took the learnings of that era with them as well. Because I don’t see those learnings around me. 1947 was an experiment. It was an experiment where someone decided to actually form a country called India. They started an experiment to forge a national identity that never existed in the thousands of years of a continuously thriving culture and economy. Thus was born a nation state without any corresponding consistent cultural identity, and a history that documented far more internecine wars than external conflict. A state where the neighbouring household could sometimes be perceived as a far bigger threat than a massive army across the border. A state which basically was given no reason to really survive save one - democracy. 62 years later, this state is starting to move just a little faster. And it is starting to get noticed. But it is like a vehicle from a post apocalypse movie - a torn down vehicle which is powerful but is struggling to move since the friction of its own parts substantially exceeds the friction it really needs to conquer - the one with the road. And its manned by a group of continuously bickering and bitching, rag tag motley crowd, who are paying more attention to who is able to sit more comfortably in the vehicle rather than where and how fast the vehicle is moving. This is the generation I see today. Around me. The midnight’s grandchildren. More than a billion of them. Who basically have been spectacularly unsuccessful at overcoming the same prejudices their parents, grandparents and all other forefathers suffered from. All while cynically attempting to protect the sacred heritage their forefathers left them. Cynically since they disregarded that heritage wherever and whenever necessary - and yet never giving up on the issue when it came to livingroom debates. Back to the nation. We attempted to define a common identity was a strong message from the pulpit. But the subidentities forged from centuries (nay millenia) of continuous history were simply too strong to be messed around with. The stories I’ve heard of the post 47 era were much worse. People wouldn’t sit in the vehicle of someone who belonged to another religion. And they wouldn’t eat the food prepared by someone of a different caste. Some of these have changed for the better. Some haven’t. And some things have gotten worse. The last name of a person is still eagerly requested as a pathway to understand his linguistic, religious and casteist identity. Religious representations in companies are disproportionately high or low compared to the population. The political system is just so full of casteist computations. And both government and private sector are rife with allegations of some particular linguistic group dominating another or hiring more of self. Some localities end up serving as the area where a people of particular language or religion are to be found in far more proportion than local populations. And affirmative action seems to be restricted to a set of historically identified and perpetuated set of people and their offspring - as if diversity management was supposed to be restricted only to those constitutionally identified as economically challenged. And the state doesn’t fall behind. Lack of diversity in the police forces has at times become the bone of contention. We have fissures. Deep fissures. Fissures that splinter us. These fissures are the arcs that are just so easy to exploit. But allow me to be explicit. We are idiots. Idiots for treating these very fissures as walls. Walls that somehow protect us from those beyond. But one thing I must give ourselves credit for. We are not dumb idiots. We are actually smart idiots. We are smart enough to understand that there is a whole ecosystem of vultures out to exploit these fissures. We know these vultures are upto no good. We are smart enough to understand that the only way to defeat these challenges is by overcoming the prejudices, breaking down the inner walls and treating each other as friends. The only thing that makes us idiots is that we believe these behaviour need to be adopted by “everyone else”. I imagine my language, my religion, my caste, my subcaste, my region is under threat by vile, evil, beyond the wall participants. So the assessments I make are convictions and the same by others are prejudices. So the actions I take in forming tighter groups or specifically promoting or supporting people of my ilk is a defensive action while everyone else across the wall who does the same is offensive. We’ve paid some costs for these fissures. We’ve had to deal with severe caste strains in post independence India. We see massive agitations grounding states to a halt for segments of the population to be listed for special constitutionally accorded benefits for the economically deprived. We’ve had to deal with the army marching into strongly fortified sacred religious sites. We’ve seen a communal backlash post a prime minister getting assassinated, the assassination itself being the end result of a long journey that started off with politicians attempting to exploit these very fissures I referred to. We’ve had another prime minister getting assassinated - again as a eventual culmination of a process of attempting to further fan linguistic divisions in foreign lands. We’ve seen a train getting burnt followed by a government abdicating as a state burnt. We’ve seen strong agitations against the inflow of migrants from a neighbouring country. We now see protests against intra India migration, violent incidents to redraw linguistic demographics, and even state legislature members attacking each other for the choice of language used. Notwithstanding the fact that there certainly were some aggrieved parties in each such episode or in the history leading to each such episode - the fact is people on all sides of the table actually believe they were the aggrieved party. A fissure. And common to all these is the cynical exploitation of these fissures. Exploitation which undermines the very principles of equal rights within and across the nation. Exploitation that takes away the very protection from discrimination thats the essence of a vibrant society. Exploitation by those who are supposed to represent us. Those who we call leaders. Those who come to seek our votes. Those who preach holier than thou from the podium. Those very people we shudder to even consider to lead our household. The very ones who we instead elect to our legislatures. They tell us the other castes need to be shown their place. They tell us our religion not the country defines our brotherhood. They tell us our language is under threat. They tell us our state would be so much better but for all the others making it such a bad place. They tell us that to extract our vote. We listen. We see the craftiness. But we are blinded by it. The trap appeals to the emotion even as it dulls the rationality. We actually come under the influence even as we believe others are getting waylaid. We vote. The machiavellian victory is complete. Our loss, invisible behind a smoke and mirrors act. At least for a while. There’s only one way to beat this. There’s only one way to resurrect ourselves. Use the yardstick - India first. For this the most important ingredient is to believe that our identity as Indians dominates and overrides our identities defined by caste, creed, language, religion, region etc. Sure we have a debt to pay to our gods. But I suspect thats an activity thats best left to doing when in heaven. While on earth pay the debt to humanity first in order to get to heaven. Sure we need to protect our language. But do that through supporting its literature, theatre and most importantly using that language at home within the family. Sure our region needs to be supported. So work hard to make the region that much more economically prosperous and pay your taxes diligently. There are ways to support and strengthen all such affiliations without being derisive or divisive. When you form social, professional, or organisational affiliations - encourage diversity and try to find the best Indians you can affiliate with. When you go out to vote - make sure you think of whats right for India. And we will run into those who place their linguistic, religious, regional or casteist affiliations above that of the one with India. Grant and respect the freedom of expression accorded to them, hear them out if unavoidable. But do make sure you exercise your freedom of expression as well, as you greet them - a slight smile even as you politely say - Fuck You.

Why Every Twitter Power User Should Use Friendfeed?

That does sound counterintuitive indeed. But here’s why as you twitter more, using friendfeed is only going to help you get better at it.

Brief Introduction

Friendfeed is a lifestreaming service. You create an account and link it to many other of your information sources eg. your blog, your twitter account, delicious, flickr, google reader etc. This is called your feed. Anytime you post a blog entry, bookmark on delicious, post a photo to flickr, or share a post on google reader, friendfeed’s watching you. It pulls it all together into one feed - your friendfeed. Friendfeed has a similar subscription model like twitter as well. You subscribe to your friend’s friendfeed. You now start getting their unified feeds getting streamed into your home page on friendfeed. So how does using friendfeed help ?

Friendlists

Friendfeed gives you three friendlists - Personal, Professional and Favorites in addition to the default Home list. You can create additional friendlists. eg. I create lists like interesting, geeks, social-media etc. etc. The people I would generally like to monitor, I put them in my Home list. In addition people whose tweets/feed items I don’t want to miss - I put them in the Favorites list. In addition, I classify people into other lists based on my preferred categories for following. Now I know that even when I am back to my computer after a long time away, I can still follow my favourites by clicking on the Favorites group. People I may choose to follow only infrequently, I can move to a list different from the home feed. Use it whichever way you want. A little experimenting and you’ll be on your way.

Twitter Integration

If you are a power twitter user, the first thing you would want to do is link your twitter account. This is bidirectional. All your tweets will appear in most cases near instantaneously on your feed as well. In your settings panel there’s a link called “Twitter Publishing Preferences”. Click on that and that will allow you to have the entries in your friendfeed getting posted to twitter as well. Make sure to tick the checkbox ”Link to source site instead of FriendFeed conversation (does not apply to comments)”. This will ensure that whatever gets tweeted to from friendfeed will not point back to the friendfeed entry but to the source entry instead. You can also selectively choose the feed items that you would like to push to twitter. Now anything you tweet is pulled into friendfeed and anything you post to friendfeed (and the entries it pulls in from other sources as well) are pushed into twitter. Sometimes all you’ve to do is to just click an hyperlink to tweet it (eg. Like). These are the things you no longer need to explicitly tweet (assuming you’ve set up the integration and the feed into twitter).
  • Interesting Pages : Use the Friendfeed bookmarklet to mark the pages you like. They now find their way to twitter.
  • Bookmarked Pages : Friendfeed will pull your entries from delicious and push them into twitter.
  • Pages in your RSS feeds : Just share them on google reader and they will be soon tweeted to your friends.
  • Photos : Just post the photos to flickr and your followers on twitter will know
  • Interesting messages : Just click ‘Like’ against the same on Friendfeed. This is similar to retweeting
Come to think of it - isn’t it a reasonably large proportion of your tweets ? Notice the pattern ? You are doing your actions right at the source. You now no longer need to come to twitter, typing a message, adding a URL and then tweeting it - its all automatic.

Not all my twitter friends have an account on friendfeed

For starters you can have friendfeed scan your twitter friends to check if they are on friendfeed and you can start following them immediately. There are some who may not be on friendfeed. There’s a solution there too. Add that person as an imaginary friend, and against that imaginary friend set up his various streams (eg. twitter, blog, delicious etc.). You’re ready to go. Note having a friendfeed account helps all your other friends too since they do not need to create and maintain an imaginary account for you. If you are not on their must follow list, they just might choose not to spend that effort.

But the twitter web api / tweetdeck gives me a way to scan replies/references to me on twitter and create search streams

Fear not - that has a solution too. Run the search on twitter (for replies/references use ”@twitter_user_id” as the search string. You will see a RSS feed corresponding to that search. Now take that rss feed and plug it into another imaginary account as an RSS feed, and all the search results will now be visible on your home feed (or in the group feed wherever you’ve associated that imaginary user).

Other services

Well, as an example I cited your blog, delicious account, and google reader account as information sources. Friendfeed supports tons of them. So the integration into twitter can be extended to (amongst many other possibilities)
  • Tumbles into tumblr
  • Stumbles on StumbleUpon
  • Books you recommended on GoodReads or LibraryThing
  • Pages you dugg on digg
  • Posts you voted up on reddit
  • Any other status messages you posted to facebook or brightkite
  • Music on iLike or Last.fm
  • Comments on backtype, disqus or intensedebate
  • Videos you posted on vimeo or youtube
  • Presentations you posted to slideshare
  • Events you posted to Upcoming
  • Any other RSS feed you may want to send out to the twitterverse

Thats quite a bit. What else ?

You can click on the best of day / week / month to find entries made by your friends which were liked the most. And if you are into cyberstalking, you can really get a virtually realtime capability by creating an imaginary friend and then linking it to all the services you want to follow for him/her (I know I am being mean - but what the heck - friendfeed pulls in only the publicly available information)

I am now getting greedy. Sure there’s nothing more

Hmm .. you can create groups and subscribe to them along with many other friends. Any specific focused topics you are likely to get into that you don’t want to bother a large part of your followers with ? Don’t send the messages to your default feed - send them to the group. Now these will only get delivered to the friendfeed users subscribed to the group and your twitter followers can have a easier time because you don’t suddenly flood their twitstream with (in their perception) arcane / irrelevant stuff. And have you ever irritated your facebook friends by streaming your tweets into facebook just because you didn’t want to enter status updates twice ? Well now you can stream facebook into friendfeed into twitter. So if you want the update to be in both twitter and facebook, just enter it in facebook, and if you would like to see it in twitter alone of the two, enter it in either friendfeed or twitter. So get cracking - create a friendfeed account. If you are not too sure who to subscribe to, I’m a nice person to follow. On both twitter and friendfeed, I maintain two personas. d7y (twitter, friendfeed) is the personal and free wheeling side of me, while dnene (twitter, friendfeed) focuses on programming, software design and architecture aspects. See you on friendfeed and twitter simultaneously.

The Fallacy of Inappropriate Metrics - Sensex and the Union Budget

This is the image of the floor of Lok Sabha.The Bombay Stock Exchange in India.

The Indian Union Budget for 2009 was presented earlier today by the finance minister. The stock market wasn’t pleased. The sensex fell 869.65 points. Oh the horror of it - the twitterverse had everyone tweeting about the sensex fall. And there were quite a few tweets citing the sensex drop as the evidence of a poor budget. We live in the times of haste, and that includes hasty judgement. This substantially increases the value of information thats immediately available, compared to that which might be available a little later. And what is more realtime than a feed, which is supposed to reflect the collective rational reaction based on sound market principles. Call it a metric, a soundbyte, an available topic to expound upon - the sensex is the favourite metric of every budget day. And it is so rationally driven, that even as last year or so as the economy grew by about 6%, the Sensex slipped from 21000 to 8000. The fact is the sensex is correlated with the economy - but only in the long term. Thats at least over a 3 year, and more likely a minimum 5 year period. In the short term it does not demonstrate sound rational collectivisim - it reflects the collective hopes, fears, exhilaration and panic. And that gets even more acute as you start measuring it over a shorter interval. So the Sensex movement over a few hours today ended up being interpreted as a judgement on the budget by the hoi polloi brought up on instant news, feedback and measurable metrics - where immediate measurability takes far more precedence over accuracy of the target value being measured - the quality of the budget. So why did the sensex plumment ? Apparently lack of FDI relaxations and high fiscal deficit. And why so ? I would submit it is likely because of two reasons : a) Restructuring, privatisation, and increased FDI lead to a substantial growth in investment momentum driven by sentiment including increased FII driven liquidity. This is expected to lead to increase in stock prices over the next few days / weeks or months. That the budget is a reflection of a thought process, which is meant to enhance the economy over the next few years notwithstanding. Afterall isn’t the sensex likely to stay flat (or perhaps even dip), if hypothetically the government presented a plan, which everyone had a high confidence in, but would boost the economy big big time - but only after 5 years. Afterall the Sensex is driven by the technicals of the next one to three months and not by the fundamentals of the next 5 years. b) Its also likely that many would’ve taken a position in advance betting on the sensex shooting up even at the slightest industry friendly purring noises made by the government. But when that did not happen, these positions would need to be quickly unwound. And unwinding in haste takes no prisoners. In which case the sensex movement was being driven more by the bets being placed in the past rather than the strategies being rolled out for the future. Whichever way you look at it, the Sensex given its short term focus, especially based on technicals is a poor proxy for the quality of the budget. But the media, having found it a favourite metric to keep on quoting, year on year after each budget, have erased that distinction in the readers and viewers mind. Little surprise many were expressing horror at such a poor budget which made the sensex plummet. And was the budget poor ? Far from it, the budget was one of the most consistent continuations of the governments articulated approach. For those who chose to follow the Finance Minister’s statements, it would be obvious that it was consistent with the goals that were laid out. Get out of the 6+% growth slot and into the 9% slot. Thats the priority. And everything else could follow in due course. The massive increase in expenditure was exactly what the industry was demanding. This was essentially a stimulus budget. Which is why the industrialists were sombrely defending the 6.8% deficit as not inappropriate in the current circumstances, even as the brokers were expressing disappointment. Maybe this budget was not imaginative - but imagination is not a necessary attribute towards a successful budget. And this budget stayed true to the stated government approach of inclusive growth, which is what the government had promised the nation - something the markets had completely forgot about in its euphoria and anticipation. Basically the markets did not account for the possibility that the government might actually keep its promise. The sensex just reflects a few hours of sentiment - not the quality of the budget, especially not in the short term. So to those who panned the budget, I would suggest the following - take the time to read the budget, reflect on it. Think about whether it is consistent with what the government promised the electorate. And if you still believe the budget sucks - by all means pan it, just don’t use the Sensex as the means to do so. And where is the sensex likely to go from here ? it might shoot up tomorrow itself, or it may decide that the party is over and take the flat route. But if the companies find that the demand expansion driven by the stimulus is starting to influence the corporate growth and profitability substantially, the sensex is likely to be far above today morning levels by the time the next budget is presented in 8 months.

Why I Was Disappointed With Pune Blogcamp 2

I had a funny feeling as I was getting to leave the blogcamp. A feeling of incompleteness. A feeling that something had gone inconsistent with my expectations. A feeling of disappointment. Maybe it was unreal expectations. After all this was the first blogcamp I had attended. But it certainly wasn’t the first conference I had attended. Soon after I expressed that feeling of disappointment, I did get a few DMs n tweets wondering why. Sure seemed like I was one of the less excited people at the end of the blogcamp - a small minority perhaps. But there was an event, an event which I decided I had to act upon and express. For no other reason, but that it was the right thing to do. And if I ruffle any feathers along the way, so be it - with one caveat. I still think the unorganisers did a tremendous job of just putting the act together and providing a platform for so many people to come together and interact. Nothing I mention is meant to replace or override my deep appreciation and gratitude towards the unorganisers for that. I am certain there were other positives as well, but when you are writing a rant, its important to focus on the rant. So here were some issues that contributed to my disappointment at the blogcamp.
  • Understanding of Audience segmentation : To me for any event of this size, the audience is the king. The organisation of the sessions needs to be conducted towards maximising the audience value. There existed segments of diversity in the audience here. Part of that diversity actually already showed itself up in a thread prior to the blogcamp on the post Why you should attend BlogCampPune - 2. Some bloggers were already less than keen to attend a blogcamp. In general, I have gathered that there seem to be three primary blogger profiles. The expressionists focus on blogs as a vehicle for their creativity and expression. The amateur enthusiast value drivers focus on treating a blog as a vehicle to provide a substantial value to their audience and often end up classifying themselves into specific niches to be able to maximise that value. Finally there are those who treat blogs as a vehicle of commerce. There was no apparent attention to any of this segmentation. And as any person especially with a marketing background will tell you - segmentation is critical, to be able to provide maximum value. I have to be speculating here, but I felt this camp could’ve been run better if this segmentation had been addressed. Have global discussions spanning all, followed by birds of feather separation. Separate threads running for each segment of the audience. It would still not provide the maximum potential value for each audience member, but certainly would at least contribute to optimisation. Due to lack of concrete data, I am going to proceed on an uninformed conclusion. That the audience (there were 125+ of them) was predominantly non commercial in focus and was there to learn how to make their blog content superior. Blog marketing, page views, SEO was not at the top of their priorities. And yet the first two talks in the primary room devoted extensive attention and time to these topics. I have no issue with the topics, but given my uninformed conclusion, I just thought that it was a poor fit for the large audience.
  • Logistics and Infrastructure : While SICSR is a great patron of local events, one has to understand that its architecture is not particularly suited for Open Space based events. Two classrooms - one large and one small with small exit points don’t allow for easy movement of people. So attempting to conduct a set of sessions based on Open Space Technology (something I shall question later) in that architecture was definitely something to ponder upon. This was not an insignificant issue. It was an important issue which led to a substantial dilution of one set of sessions and a suboptimisation of the net result whichever way one looked at it. Instead this very architecture could’ve been leveraged by focusing on conducting separate session threads, each collectively addressing a different audience segment. An opportunity that was missed. There was also another way to segment in this case. The projector in the second room did not work with many laptops due to a faulty cable. One could’ve classified the presentations as “projected” and “non projected” thus helping reduce the substantial downtime in booting up each individual talk. But that was not to be either.
  • Time Management : A fair amount of time was spent upfront in every blogger introducing himself at some length. I think thats a great idea for a group of say 25 bloggers. But in a group of 125+ people the rule no. 3 in the Barcamp rules should’ve gotten applied - only 3 word intros. There was even a amusing situation I saw of one presentation extending itself with no intervention from the unorganisers, and finally one of the audience actually started playing the ringtone from his mobile just to hurry up the closure. If that was an isolated session it wouldn’t have been important. But combined with the fact that there was no segmentation based on audience interest, along with the fact that simultaneous presentations were scheduled with parallel time slots, and one of the two rooms started to be behind schedule, meant people’s planned juggling between the rooms also went for a toss. I for example had to leave before Navin’s presentation ended and had to miss Vishal and Sandy’s presentations, as the other room was apparently on schedule and I had to reach there well in time to prepare for my presentation and then struggle with the faulty cable for a long time. I don’t know if that disruption happened for others or not.
To me personally the biggest factors for my disappointment were :
  • The lack of focused threads (BOF) meant that I ended up attending the commercial / success focused presentations and missing the content or blogging experience focused presentations eg Sandy’s.
  • I felt a strong focus on marketing, pageviews, SEO etc. in Ankesh, Ankur and Jim Karter’s presentation - focus I thought was perhaps not why a majority of the audience had come there. I heard Navin articulate reader value and content. (I missed Meeta’s presentation entirely and Aditto’s partially). But what came across as the overriding impression was that there was a big imbalance between, the % speakers focused on blog success through tactics (SEO, Marketing) and those on content and readers vis. a vis. the same percentage spread from an audience interest perspective. I must admit that I enjoyed Jim’s presentation thoroughly as a manager and not as a blogger - at the clean and incisive way of approaching blogging as a commercial enterprise. However this was also the strongest element in my disappointment - that blogging is being viewed at so very commercially. I have sufficient commercial considerations in my daily activities. It was just completely disappointing to see bloggers discuss pageviews, clicks and SEO as the goal and content as the vehicle to reach the goal, with value to readers being just the necessary component for the ecosystem. Raised in me exactly the same cynicism that I have such an abundance of, when I come across managers discuss a P&L as the goal, with the commercial offerings as a vehicle to reach the goal, and customers being a necessary participant in the ecosystem. I shall leave the reader to decide where the cart is and where the horse lies.
  • The changing rules had me confused. I first prepared for a half an hour presentation, then changed it due to an apparent statement in the media that no presentation would be allowed to go beyond 10 minutes only to find again that the time slots were 30 minutes. Add to that the necessity of having to leave an interesting presentation and struggle with the setup for some time. (I really detest ever keeping an audience waiting for more than a minute - seems like I ended up keeping them waiting for ages). I am not quite sure what exactly the rules were as far as the presentation time slots was concerned.
Trigger I did refer to the fact that there was an event that happened which actually triggered this response. It was the publication of this ”Post BlogCamp Pune Self-Analysis kit” (especially starting with slide 13). So I did the self analysis. And I did not restrict my analysis to self - I pulled in the whole blogcamp and the notion of blogcamp and the rules around a blogcamp and Open Space Technologies. I did an analysis on the whole set. Barcamp, Blogcamp, Open Spaces are all new terms for me. But when I am faced with “Laws”, the first thing I generally do is to try to do my homework. So I decided to explore these laws on Wikipedia. Turns out the four rules and law of two feet are an essential tenet of the Open Space Technology. Also turns out Open Spaces help especially in the following context as per Wikipedia :
Proponents[who?] claim that OST suits groups of any size; groups ranging from five to several thousand participants have used it. According to its proponents[who?], it works best under the following conditions: 1. the topic of the meeting involves a real business issue (however one defines “business”) 2. the participants really care about that issue 3. the issue has so much complexity that no single person or small group can fully understand it 4. the issue requires highly diverse skills and people for a successful resolution 5. the participants have genuine passion about the issue; which can often include conflict (compare criterion 2) 6. the issue requires immediate action (a “decision time of yesterday”)
Aside: Incidentally a nice example of what could be an application of Open Spaces is the elaborate description of process of formalising the constitution of Mars in the Mars Trilogy by Kim Robinson. The entire sequence is built around attempting to formulate the constitution of Mars using a very large number of participants (unlike the committee driven formulation of the Indian constitution). I would highly recommend the trilogy not just to those who like science fiction, but also to those who are excited by political dynamics.
There was no issue that required immediate action here in the blogcamp per se, that we had to focus on. There was no decision we had to reach. So was this a completely inappropriate choice? Not really. Unconferences share many characteristics of Open Spaces, and BarCamp introduces a further variation. Interestingly the page on Barcamp states (emphasis mine)
FooCamps and BarCamps are based on a simplified variation of Open Space Technology (OST), leaving out some key elements like the 4 principles and the Law of the Two Feet but maintaining the self-organizing character of OST.
Now I am confused - are the 4 principles and the law of 2 feet applicable to bar camps ? Apparently those are the Laws we should’ve remembered while conducting the self analysis. And theres one more set of rules for a Barcamp. This includes the 3 word introduction as one of the rules. It also states “Presentations will go on as long as they have to or until they run into another presentation slot.” I would interpret that as stating that presentations should get terminated once a time slot is over. And while a time slot is flexible, that it varies between 10 minutes and 30 minutes is inconveniencing to say the least. So exactly what are the rules and the Law here ? I’m confused. And with regards to moving around etc. may I suggest the architecture of the location simply wasn’t the most conducive. If I may put forth the thought that under a classroom situation, it might just be better to move around the speakers and their time slots to suit the audience rather than expecting the audience to move around. So next time we have a bar/blog camp, am I likely to refrain from attending it ? Far from it, I would like to see if I can contribute positively. But not as an unorganiser. As an organiser. There are some situations and contexts where the highly unstructured plays work. And there are some where they don’t. The important thing is to not focus on the structure of the event - focus on the value to the attendees. 125 people for 6 hours is 750 person hours of attention. Its important to use it most effectively. Suggestion Next time we hold a barcamp / blogcamp, lets take cognisance of at least two factors. If it is a classroom structure lets adapt to it. And if the audience is diverse, lets work to figure out how it can be segmented and Birds of a Feather colocated. And finally lets understand the audience a bit better and encourage content which satisfies their needs and tickles their imagination in appropriately proportional terms. And lets have rules. We need rules. But if the audience isn’t satisfied, lets screw the rules and service the audience. And if you are wondering where audience entered the barcamp vocabulary - when you have 100+ attendees and about 10 speakers, it means you have a 90+ audience at the minimum. Not what barcamps were perhaps designed for.

Quick Tutorial on Collective Liveblogging Using Friendfeed

Why ? Setting up a friendfeed room for collective liveblogging serves many purposes : a. Provides realtime feedback to the livebloggers at the event from other livebloggers at the event on the same page (without having to subscribe to each of their feeds). Makes collective realtime liveblogging feasible. b. Provides external followers a single URL to be able to view all liveblogs. I think they can even stream the feed to gtalk etc. c. Provides both attendees and external followers to comment on the liveblogging stream in realtime against the original post/tweet For Pune Blogcamp 2 I’ve set up the friendfeed room as http://friendfeed.com/pune-blogcamp-2-liveblog But I use twitter for live blogging : No probs - all the stuff you liveblog here can be fed to your twitter account as well. Your twitter followers will continue to receive these streams as well. How ? Here’s how :
  1. Get a friendfeed account if you don’t have one at http://friendfeed.com. If you use a separate liveblogging account for twitter, may I suggest you create a separate friendfeed account too ?
  2. Login to friendfeed and goto http://friendfeed.com/pune-blogcamp-2-liveblog
  3. Now do you see the Subscribe link in a blue bar at the top left just below the pune blogcamp icon ? Click it to subscribe. (If you see Unsubscribe it means you’re already subscribed - don’t click that)
  4. If you’re going to stream to twitter too, do you see the checkbox just below the text area between “Cc:” and “Twitter” ? Select it. It will pop up a new window for OAuth (ie. to set up the authorisation for your friendfeed posts to get automatically tweeted to your twitter account). Enter your twitter login credentials (userid / password) here and click allow.
Thats it you’re setup. Now just post whatever you want in the message box / text area. If you’re streaming to twitter pay attention to the no. of characters (they shouldn’t go beyond 140). The count of characters appears just before the Cc: text after you start typing in a message. Even in case you exceed the 140 char limit, the tweet will have a link to a friendfeed page containing the full text (I think thats how it will work for photographs too). Update: If posting to twitter as well, PuneTech Liveblogging suggests its best to restrict yourself to 122 chars to account for the additional chars used by friendfeed url. And if you want to post photos or other files, right below the message box you see hyperlinks to photos and files. Use them. Now you can post to friendfeed, watch everyone else’s posts show up on the same page and your posts will get automatically tweeted to the twitter account if you set it up and have the check box against twitter on.

First Two Days With a Netbook

So its been only a couple of days as I write this since I got myself a netbook. I must admit, in a way it was an impulse purchase (not in the conventional sense). I had gone to the store to get a new notebook. But as I browsed around the shelves, a few netbooks really caught my eye. And as I really kind of gave them a thorough look around, found myself getting increasingly attracted towards buying one of them. Of course a friend who I work with quite regularly had got one for himself a month ago, and that jealousy factor of seeing him lug around fewer kilograms each time had already injected the initial curiosity in me towards a netbook. Reviewing the multiple models on offer. So there were multiple models around. HP, Acer, Lenovo and Dell. Acer was ruled out due to my prior experiences with them. They had once refused to support me on an office server which was showing high temperature readings on a CentOS linux citing the fact that their hardware does not state Linux as a supported platform. They were of course right, but refuse to even make a decent attempt to support me since I use linux – and there’s a good likelihood I will move you to the bottom of my list. HP has an apparent problem. The netbooks I have seen have a proprietary display adapter which requires a proprietary cord to hook up to an external monitor. Now it is quite likely that ever so frequently you’ll hook up your notebook to a projector – and lugging around an extra cord (and paying perhaps premium price for the same) is quite avoidable. Finally I was left with a 12” Dell and a 10” Lenovo IdeaPad. After a careful 10 minutes of thought I decided that for a netbook – smaller was better. Moreover the S10-2 IdeaPad looked a lot nicer to me (not that the Dell one was a particularly bad looking one). A 90 minutes long activation period Anyways after I paid for the IdeaPad, the store associate told me that he would need to activate it (I didn’t understand why, but gave in with good humour). Big problem. The ideapad just kept on starting itself, doing some funny stuff in auto run procedures (including freezing the keyboard and the mouse for extended intervals) and then restarting itself repeatedly. This probably went on for almost an hour and a half, of which half the time was spent in the system backing itself up. That was really frustrating, but I couldn’t get upset at the store staff since it was clearly beyond their control – thats the way Lenovo had designed things and there was no way around it. However they certainly could’ve helped by upfront telling me about the activation time before I paid up. Although I was a little free that day, what if I wasn’t ? It would be terrible to be caught in situation where you had to wait an additional unbudgeted 90 minutes. Installing Linux The activation time created one more issue. Usually once I bring home a new PC, I repartition it in the first few minutes, reduce the windows partition size (or remove it entirely), and reinstall windows followed by linux. But this extra 90 mins of activation was really something I didn’t want to spend time on again in case I repartitioned the disk. So the only way out was to repartition a live windows installation. I had read earlier about gparted having the capabilities to do so, so quickly pulled out my ubuntu live cd. Suddenly the realisation set in that there was no optical disk. CDs are useless with a netbook. The only reasonable choices are either external disks or USB keys. So now the hunt began for the smallest linux installer I could download and install on a pen drive. Soon I had located and downloaded a 100MB file containing the PuppyLinux iso. But you can’t quite copy an iso onto a usb key. So located another tool for the same UNetBootIn, which allowed me to copy the iso and explode it onto a bootable USB. Next step was to enable the netbook to boot of a USB key by modifying the bios settings and I was in business. Popped in the pen drive, booted the machine, downsized the main Windows partition (C drive). But wait – I got into another problem. There were three partitions on the disk, of which two were primary and one was extended. So given the fact that I could introduce only 1 more primary partition and no more extended partitions I was in trouble because the minimum Linux installation requires at least two partitions (one for swap). So I went ahead and downsized the extended partition to create a 2G space for the swap. Downloaded and installed the ubuntu iso onto the USB this time, and soon enough - I had a brand new Ubuntu installed. (Of course I had to spend a few hours waiting for the Ubuntu iso to be downloaded since I did not have the CD for the latest version). So a few hours after coming back from the store, Ubuntu 9.04 was running on a Netbook. Experiences My first task was to work on a planned presentation, Much of my presentation, I had worked on on a different machine, and copied it over to the netbook after it was setup. I must confess, the keyboard size is actually a lot less constraining than it first appears. But there are two situations where it does hurt. When you are attempting to write a lot of stuff rapidly (as I am doing this at the moment) or as you are filling out some fields in an HTML form. For some curious inexplicable reason, I end up fat fingering HTML fields quite often and since passwords usually present themselves as HTML form fields, I have had much more than my fair share of incorrect logins on web applications in the past two days. However in all other situations, I was able to use the keyboard comfortably. Another potential issue is the display size. This is indeed a constraint initially. But after a little while you get kind of used to it. (at least if you are using Firefox or OpenOffice kind of applications). Another problem is the display resolution. It has a non standard aspect ratio. My netbook has a display resolution set to 1024*600. However the non standard resolution created issues when I attached an external projector and turned on the dual (extended) monitor mode. Ubuntu got completely confused. I had configured the two monitors side by side with the projector set to 1024*768 mode. The vertical heights 600 and 768 confused ubuntu leading to a highly difficult to use OS rendering of the applications (in hindsight, I could’ve explicitly configured the projector to 800*600 and it could probably have worked). Anyways, I then laid out the dual screen configuration in a vertically stacked mode. Now that the horizontal length of 1024 was consistent across both the displays, the configuration just worked like a dream. I could now have the presentation open on the netbook in a notes view and the actual presentation running on the second monitor (projector). It was wonderful except for the fact that when I actually attempted to redo the configuration when I was called upon to present, I couldn’t quite easily configure it correctly in the minute long duration that I attempted to configure it. In hindsight, it makes sense to practice the dual screen configuration a few times, since the configuration is only possible after you attach an external monitor cord, and it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time working on the configuration when the audience is waiting for you to present. During the meetings itself, the netbook was quite functional. Browsing, switching wireless access points, taking notes etc, all worked like a dream. One hardly realises the constraints at this point in time (since you are not intensely working on the computer but using it as an adjunct to your primary activities of participating in the meeting. However if you are attempting to write out a long document (as I do right now), please be prepared to grant yourself far more fat fingering leeway since one does tend to make many more mistakes using a netbook keyboard. On the go One place I enjoyed the netbook was on the airport and in the air. It starts up real fast (for the simple reason I run linux). The real pleasure is when you have to move from your seat to get a coffee or use airport facilities. Its just a snap to quickly push it to an hibernate mode, slide it so conveniently into your bag, come back after a few minutes, quickly slide it out of your bag, unhibernate, and you are ready to go. In the air again it is quite easy to use. Once the doors are closed, you can quickly hibernate, wait for the seat belt light to be turned off, and quickly resume again. I really used to find working on the notebook in transit a really onerous task. Lugging a few kilograms, taking it in and out of your bag, opening and closing the large brick just seems a lot more onerous. So I had given up using notebooks on flights, but am using this one quite happily. The gentleman sitting ahead of me right now obviously has had a long day and has extended his seat backwards to the fullest extent allowing for a much reduced space on my tray table. But this netbook isn’t worried – its still ensconsed itself quite happily, and I can work with the base fully supported by the tray table and the screen at 90 degrees to the base (with a notebook, either the base has to be overhanging the tray table or the display turned towards an inconvenient acute angle. Well connected Note that you do get some extras in a netbook as well. An important one among them is the built in bluetooth support. So synchronisation between your computer and mobile just became easier. Moreover I imagine it might be quite feasible to use your mobile for wireless internet and hook it up to your netbook through bluetooth. No extra dongles, no extra cables to carry. If you are an infrequent outdoor wireless user (not including the typical areas which have wireless lan support such as airports or cafes), the netbook might just make it more convenient to check your email or write a liveblog even as your mobile sits comfortably in your pocket. This gets even easier in many geographies since many netbooks support 3G and WiMax out of the box. Summary So how would I summarise my experiences at the end of the day (actually 2 days now) ? It gets an absolute A+ for doing anything on the go. It also gets an A+ for presenting, since the small size does make it convenient. Its great for meetings too. Extended use without a mouse however is terribly painful, since the trackpad is really very difficult to use (due to the size). I can also imagine this being a great liveblogging accessory, and it’ll probably work well for blogging too, since it allows you to spend your time in transit in doing work you enjoy (eg writing out a blog post). And if you want a headturner, macbook is no longer the only choice. However don’t expect it to replace your desktop especially if you are a programmer or a graphic designer. Don’t make your first machine the netbook. There are many situations where having a notebook / desktop is much better eg. programming. The display size, and propensity to fat finger that sucks make it hard for programming. Moreover these machines are likely to be underpowered especially if you like to run application servers etc. However you could use it for occasional programming with some inconvenience. Another area where it is unlikely to be of much use is if you are into 3D modeling or graphic design. This display size simply isn’t going to work. If you are an executive on the go working with Outlook, Powerpoint, Word, Excel n Firefox primarily, you are quite likely to like it. The impression of it being underpowered is just that – an impression. The netbook feels real zippy in the applications I just listed, even if you have all of them open at the same time. FWIW, I wrote out this entire long post in the aircraft – 2.5 pages in an hour. I am really happy with the choice at this stage, and I do hope the propensity to fat finger does come down over time. On the whole if I was to travel back 2 days in time, and put myself back into the position where I made an impulse purchase of a netbook instead of a notebook, would I purchase the netbook again ? You bet I would.

Pune Mirror Feature on Twitter

Pune Mirror ran a fairly comprehensive feature on twitter today on the centrespread by @vedaaggarwal. It included quotes by @sahilk and myself (@d7y and @dnene). I found it flattering since I came out sounding far more cogent and articulate than in real life. Since I couldn’t find a online version of the article, I put up a scanned copy of the same. Unfortunately the scan contains only a small portion of the full centrespread dedicated to the twitter feature. So go pick up the copy while you can to read the remainder. And thanks to Pune Mirror in advance for not objecting to my publishing the scanned writeup (since I didn’t seek their permission in advance thats the least I could do :) ). And if they do come up with an online version of their feature, I shall certainly link to it as well. Click on the thumbnail below to get the readable medium resolution picture. Note that it is about 2Mb so could take some time to download. [caption id=”attachment_330” align=”alignnone” width=”300” caption=”Pune Mirror writeup on twitter”]Pune Mirror writeup on twitter[/caption]

Humour : Reading a Tag List as Statements

Just realised reading a tag list as a set of statements can give some hilarious (and corny) results. Here’s a quick example from the most searched tags section of Pune Mirror Pune Mirror most searched tags

Here’s how I end up reading the same :

  • Pune sex Hospital Jobs
  • IT women rape issue
  • Gadkari Party website girl
  • Woman kill MIT
  • Oil Surfing dance festival
  • Mobile indian traffic murder girls
  • Police tender arrested India Tata nude female
  • Mumbai report dreams wine
  • Firodiya Land Marathon software
  • Auto cancer dogs Infosys
  • Energy games love Rohit Parties
  • Rahman water married money music
  • Workshop death driving kids

Star Wars : Darth Bane : Path of Destruction - a View Into the Dark Side

[caption id=”” align=”alignleft” width=”162” caption=”Book Cover : Path of Destruction”]Book Cover : Path of Destruction[/caption] Just finished reading Star Wars : Darth Bane : Path of Destruction. Interesting book. Not because there is anything great about the writing style, or the story telling or even the plot. In fact it is quite ordinary on those fronts. However its one of the few books I’ve read where the protagonist is an evil character. The book talks about the emergence of a new Sith Dark Lord - Darth Bane, and focuses on his transition from a miner into a Darth. We are all products of our experiences and the choices we make and the interesting aspect of this book, is how the protagonist makes the choices towards the dark side. The interesting aspect that comes out of this book is that there is a clinical logic to the “dark side” as well. Its that logic one should read this book for. It makes a case for greed, ambition, cunningness, deception, dominance. But there is no value judgement. Its just portrayed very very clinically. That aspect of the logic also goes on to denigrate honour, integrity and a variety of the other “good” attributes our parents taught us. At the end of the day given its clinicalness, it could tempt you into believing that the light and dark (as in dark side) are simply labels and not judgements - might as well have been red and blue. Each one of us has elements of the light and dark in us. We get surprised when we find incompatible elements in the people we deal with and can’t understand them. This book shows us the logic in why some of the people act differently and how they possibly might be thinking. Understanding that could help us feel less surprised at times. Therein lies the strength of the book. That is why I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.