Archive for March, 2008


Support the Earth Hour!

Today shut all your non-essential electrical appliances between 8pm and 9pm and save the Earth, or at least a few watts of electricity. WWF is asking for your support of the Earth Hour. World over lighting for major architectural symbols will be switched off.
Remember however minor effect this might bring on the earth’s future, its important symbolically. Show your support for saving energy and saving our future! Follow and convince others to follow!
Of course there are a few who want you to do the opposite.
Israel celebrated Earth Hour on the 27th and Google Israel went black in it’s support. Picture from Techcrunch below.
Black Google
I think we might get to see a black Google too or atleast a new doodle.
Update: For all BITSians, some of us gathering in SAC amphitheater, today at 8PM. Join us! As Keki says, there’ll be ‘A candle light, acoustic jam and a heavy verbal jam.’

Urban India’s problems and my essay

The past week I spent a lot of time completing my essay for World Bank’s essay competition. The incentive for writing a great essay was very enticing, trip to Cape Town for the ABCDE conference. The topic of the essay was “What can you do to shape the city of your dreams?”In the start I was pretty focussed on working hard to become a finalist. But midway through the week, when I was researching up on stats and policies, I realized there was hardly anything I knew about urban India and the situation. And then after a little demotivation from the essay site, which estimated about 3000 entires for 8 finalist spots, I spent more time on reading articles and lesser time on writing the essay. In the end I did submit the essay, but I’ve learned so much about Urban India. I cannot the publish the essay here until they declare the finalists, so if you want it, then ask me for it.

For the essay I sourced a lot of my stats and ideas from Janaagraha’s website. Janaagraha is an organization based in Bangalore which is doing remarkable work in uplifting Bangalore’s development and increase awareness among it’s citizens. Bangalore is a great example of what’s going wrong in today’s urban population. A lot of Bangalore’s citizens are immigrants, who hardly care about what growth happens in the city, since they never actually adopt it as home. So there’s no participation in local governance or no effort put in increasing infrastructural development. Mumbai has 7 million people living in slums in the worst possible hygienic conditions and with minimal infrastructure. We’ll probably run out freshwater for cities by 2025. And already there’s not enough water for people in the metros.

I was truly surprised reading the passionate articles by Ramesh Ramnathan, founder of Janaagraha. I always knew rural India was in a horrific conditions and it’s important to urbanize them soon. But hey our cities are just as bad. Unplanned growth and low spending on infrastructure had to catch up with our cities. As I see from the examples of Bangalore and Hyderabad, the states are working extra hard to get foreign investment—-> Jobs—->More money to invest locally. Is foreign investment really the solution? The domestic savings in Indian banks is about USD 500 billion. MFs and others will add a few more billions. If there was a way to direct some parts of this money into local growth it could work wonders.With 50% of India’s population under the age of 25, the onus is truly on us to change things around here…

I wonder how do we start that? Is there any blog or website by Indian youth focussing on such issues? Maybe we should start one. Opinions please!


Facebook is a fad!

I’m just amazed at the growth of Facebook. I’m amazed, because my experience on facebook has been far from perfect and so has been for lots of my friends. So when I see so many more people joining Facebook and hear about VCs excited about funding Facebook apps, I’m truly surprised. Every time I login, I feel overwhelmed with useless information from my network, thrust right on my face. I see I have some 400 requests to join applications and 20 notifications. And most notifications are from my application gung-ho friends. I don’t know what do with such useless information, noise.

Looking around in my network, I see my Indian friends adding applications at a mad pace. Friends from the US, use it for uploading photos and European ones to post bookmarks, videos, music, etc. So I wonder, is anybody really networking or interacting meaningfully? Could this probably be a Facebook strategy? Turn Facebook into an online place to hangout, alone? I can already see that happening with the Facebook application development frenzy. Right now I see people having most fun are the programmers, even more than the users. In stark comparison, consider the Apple iPhone. The platform is still closed, and wisely so. Because Apple doesn’t want the user’s experience to be compromised or less than perfect. It certainly isn’t because Apple is monopolistic.

Social networking? I’ve hardly ever used Facebook for messaging anybody. Once when I decided to say Hi to people, I was banned from messaging for a day after 10 messages. Facebook warned me, “Please do not use messages like e-mail or IM.” or something like that. Other ways I can connect to my friends or strangers is by ‘Poking them’, writing on a public wall or using non-verbal third party applications like superpoke, etc. It’s surprising Facebook wants to limit the only way of private and verbal communication between people. Why? Would I really poke a total stranger in the real life? Throw sheep at them? There’s no real world equivalent of Facebook interactions, which makes it a little hard for me to understand.

I wonder if Facebook is even thinking about user experience. They must be worried more about monetizing the amount of traffic they are recieving. To me Facebook looks like a site, which got lucky. I’ve never read a single article which tries explaining Facebook’s success only on the terms of it’s usefullness or strength of the plaform. The previous generation investors are astounded by the growth as are the bloggers and reporters. And it’s solely on the merit of it’s growth that everybody is calling it the future.

Here are the reasons why I think Facebook is quite easily replaceable or, honestly, sucks:

1. People are not on Facebook interacting with friends:

The interaction is more with the external applications. So really there’s barrier to exit and move to a better site. People will walk when time comes.

2. Addition of features uncontrolled:
The features are nearly completely customizable and dependent on external developers. So not everybody’s experience is similarly good or pleasing. Even a little control on quality of applications being hosted would have done. Letting applications run wild solely on the merit of popularity is a bad way. I’m unhappy and so are people around me. I presume there are others too.

3. Limited networking:
Why can I see people only in my network? Why can I be a part of a single network only? Not very comfortable.

4. Mostly juvenile:
There are just youth on the site. Can hardly be used for professional networking, not when people can’t even see your about me. And there’s a limited way of using the personal messaging tool.

5. Little scope for marketers:

Yes I keep hearing that the information trove about, what a particular demographic likes or is doing is priceless. But it’s also private. And with Facebook’s history of not respecting privacy and the retaliation of users after that, I hardly think it’s a great place to advertise. There surely are much better places for contextual and demographic targeted advertisements.

The next SNS(Social Networking Site) that comes along will have a tough time getting the users, but there’s surely still place for a better SNS. Soon when our generation is in 30’s, there’ll be a better site for the younger generation. So comparing Facebook with Google, who’s place in the world is without generation divide and will probably be so for a really long time, sounds ridiculous to me.

My personal favourite SNS is without doubt LinkedIn. It’s meager, but it’s comfortable. Maybe they should make it a little more fun place.

I remember reading on Techcrunch about a Google project in Carnegie Mellon for designing a new SNS, but can’t find the link anymore. Somebody please point me to it.


Crack, smack and magic mushrooms

During Apogee me and Rachit did a quiz on narcotics, drugs and other banned intoxicants. We were quite lazy to set too many questions, so we made it a written quiz. Most of the quiz is quite workoutable (without google!).

The highest score was 28 out of 42.

Below is the ppt of the quiz.

Because of this Apogee I’m finally debt free! Thanks to money from three quizzes.

I went on stage for BOB(Brain of BITS), again (and for the last time 😦 ) and walked back empty handed, again. In my defence, the stage was undoubtedly, the most competitive possible. It was the second time on stage for three of us (Arvind, King and I) and third time for Pallavi. Rachit and Thiru (finally!) were the ‘newbies’. The quiz was really Arvind, Thiru and Pallavi’s style, which meant tons of trivia. There were hardly any workoutable ones 😦 . Most of us fell asleep half way through, while Pallavi and Arvind fought it out neck-to-neck till Arvind’s victory.


In hyd for summer!

My summer plans are kind of concrete now. I’ll be in Hyderabad interning at Intellecap through the E4SI program. Exciting internship in an exciting city, yay! Last summer was a real nightmare in Chennai and I’m truly hoping(begging) for a much more productive and enjoyable summer.

Looking forward to meeting people in Hyd and working on new projects. If any of you will be in Hyd too, lets meet up. And if you have a place to accommodate me.


Blast from the past

The past week’s been great and I met two of my oldest classmates from school, who had come to BITS for presenting papers and robots. Meeting and remembering the old stuff was like opening up a time-capsule, and finding all those once mundane things, now priceless. I realized I had forgotten so many things about school and myself. Here’s a picture of my first standard class photo taken in 1992, when I was 5 years old. Amazingly I remember the names of about 90% of the people in the photo and in touch with at least 50% of them!
1st std pic

Yes, I’m the guy with the spectacles! I’ve been wearing them since 1992!


First post on Webyantra

I just posted my first review on Webyantra. Not my best work on a not so great web app, but nevertheless read it!

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