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Archive for March, 2009

Breaking News: Chicken Crosses Road!

March 25, 2009 1 comment

[Inspired by the INI version of the story, and Patrix‘s comment on it]

Some Political Reactions

Indian National Congress: The chicken crossed the road to sign the nuclear deal despite all attempts to stop it. It is a great day for India and her chickens.

Bharatiya Janata Party: The chicken crossed the smooth, 4-lane road that was built when we were in power, and Congress has done nothing to improve it. Our IT vision will put every chicken on the information super-highway.

L. K. Advani (on twitter): The chkn Xed the road. LOL.

Varun Gandhi: I will cut that Son of a Hen down if he puts even a toe inside a Hindu’s home. Have you seen their names.. Murg Mussalam.. Scary!

Mayawati: The chicken crossed the road to join BSP. Millions more will follow.

Sonia Gandhi: If elected, I will not eat chicken curry.

Pramod Muthalik: Did you see that? The chicks are now crossing the road on their own! And not wearing anything at all! Indian culture is doomed.

Communist Parties: When we come to power, we will send that capitalist chicken back to where it came from – America. Such unilateral crossings by imperialist powers will not be tolerated.

Some Not-so-political Reactions

Ratan Tata: Did you see how unsafe that was? Soon, the chicken would be able to drive a Nano and cross the road safely.

BCCI: We are shifting the chicken to South Africa; roads are better over there.

Feel free to add your own.

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Categories: Humour, Politics Tags:

Don’t you love targeted advertising?

March 23, 2009 8 comments

Tech-microcelebrity Robert Scoble loves Facebook. Facebook can do no wrong, and Mark Zuckerberg is going to make billions. Wait, make that trillions.

How will he do that via Facebook? Targeted advertising, that’s how:

Yes, we’re having another baby. But look at what did NOT happen on Twitter: not a single diaper company contacted us yet. Not a single maternity clothing company. Not a single car company (yes, we’re going to buy a new one soon). Not a single camera company (already bought a new one for this occassion). Not a single insurance company (I need more). Not a single bank (I need to start saving for another college student). Not a single stroller company (need a new one that can hold two). Not a single vitamin company (Maryam is going through her prenatal vitamins at a good clip). Not a single shoe company (Maryam needs new shoes for pregnancy, and Milan is growing fast too).

That will NOT last. [Scobleizer]

I was actually with him as long as he was talking about why Zuckerberg shouldn’t care about users who whine every time Facebook changes anything. Yes, it is his company and he should run it according to his vision and business plan.

But Scoble lost me when he cribbed about the lack of people shilling their stuff to him on Twitter. Do you know many people this trailblazer follows on Twitter? That would be 81,453, as I am typing this post. Here, see for yourself. Can you imagine the insanity that his Twitter homepage must be? At an extremely conservative estimate of 1 update per day from each of those users, he gets an update every second. And that’s a conservative estimate, mind you. And on top of that cacophony, he actually wants more.

Oh yes, they should be targeted at him. That way he can just see how many people have written specifically to him rather than broadcasting it for everyone. Sure, except that once such targeting becomes possible, every spammer is going to start targeting everyone. Have you seen Gmail’s contextual advertising?

I want targeted ads like I want a targeted bullet in my head. Which is to say, not at all (I want to very clear on this). In my entire online experience, I am yet to click (intentionally) on a single advertisement while looking to buy something. When I want to buy something (online or otherwise), I can search for it myself. Thank you very much.

Now, this is not to say that targeted advertisements can’t make money. They can. They do. There are a lot of people who click on them to find stuff.

But that has got nothing to do with why Zuckerberg should or shouldn’t listen to Facebook users’ complaints about changes in the interface. That’s fairly straightforward. It is his company, and it provides you a free service. You are free to join or leave at your own convenience (the debates about Terms of Use etc. would be relevant to that, naturally). You can whine all you want, but Zuckerberg is under no obligation to explain his business strategy to anyone except his investors.

The problem here is that, as always, Scoble inserts himself into an explanation without any relevance whatsoever. He asserts that people are not going to move away from Facebook because of interface changes. How does he know that?

Oh, wait, they aren’t leaving! How do I know that?

Because my wife Maryam is totally addicted to Facebook. She hasn’t left. She hasn’t slowed down. She just told me she didn’t like the new design and made some noises that she was only going to use the iPhone version (not true in my observations). So, if Zuckerberg didn’t lose Maryam and her friends, he’s safe. He SHOULD NOT LISTEN to those who are saying the new design sucks. [Scobleizer]

It is like he can’t explain anything without making it personal and overshare-y. Damn irritating, and not helpful at all. Writing a blog doesn’t give you a pass on things like that, especially when you deliberately position yourself as a voice of authority on technology. It didn’t even occur to him to wonder about all those potential users who might not even sign-up for Facebook if they hear a lot of stuff about Facebook having a crappy interface. Shouldn’t that sort of “lost” users be considered at least? But serious thinking is difficult to accomplish when you are following more than 80,000 people on Twitter and wondering why nobody is offering you diapers.

I had stopped reading him a long time ago. Recently, when I heard that he lost his job, I hoped that may be, just may be, he would do some serious introspection and come back as a better tech journalist.

My hope was misplaced, of course. Here he is, the very next day, talking about how he is being accused of destroying the utility of the social graph (whatever that means) by a Facebook employee. I think I’ll just unsubscribe again.

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Categories: Rant Tags: , ,

A Video Response

March 21, 2009 Leave a comment

The video below is a response to Mere Sajan Hain Us Paar by Confused.

Watch it here, if embedding doesn’t work for you.

Do you know any other songs on the issue of a Sajan being “us paar”? Drop me a comment, or post a video response on your blog and link to Confused and me.

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Categories: Movies Tags: ,

Welcoming Jon Stewart’s New Overlord

March 19, 2009 1 comment

Nandan Nilekani was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Watch the excellent segment for yourself (link via e-mail from a friend).

I’ve tried to type most of the transcript, but it is a rush job. All errors are mine, naturally. Here it is, just for the heck of it.

[Begin Transcript]

JS: My guest tonight, he is co-chair of Infosys technologies Ltd. His new book is called Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation. Please welcome to the programme.. Nandan Nilekani.

JS: Thank you very much for joining us.
NN: Thank you for having me.

JS: The book is called… as worthy for a country of a billion people,
it’s super long. it is a super long book
NN: Yeah, it is long. But I think, you know, in a country as large and
complex as India, you need some time to write.. write everything.

JS: And there is a tremendous breadth. One of the thing that I thought was interesting is.. we’ve always viewed a country of a billion people as a detriment. It’s a burden on a country. You see it as an opportunity, it makes you more vibrant.
NN: Yes, that’s a big change. I think we saw population as a liability, now we see it as an asset. We saw it as a burden, now we see it as Human Capital. And India is going through its demographic dividend. When you have a lot of young people in the working age, that’s a very important time for any country.

JS: What’s the median age? Because it’s a shock.. the media age of India is what?
NN: Uh.. mid to late 20s.

JS: Have they got the show Gossip Girl over there yet? I think it would be very big.
NN: Ya, ya. I’ll tell them.
JS: You should tell them.

JS: The way we look at it in this country is.. we believe either India or China will be our new overlords. Ah.. make your case for India. Why do you think India would be a preferrable overlord for the United States, more than China?
NN: Well, I don’t know about that. But..
JS: Don’t.. don’t be modest. You will be our new overlord.
NN: I don’t think so. But I think India is really a.. it’s a country of a billion people.. it’s democratic, it’s having it’s big election next month with 700 million people voting. It’s a very diverse society, so it’s really a.. it’s a good country, you know. It won’t be an overlord, just a good country in the world.

JS: How can they wrangle 700 million votes? Is the voting process.. it’s
not one Tuesday in November, it’s over a month.
NN: It’s spread over 4 weeks. It starts on April 16th and it’s based entirely on electronic voting machines. Over a million voting machines all over the country. And it’s a huge spectacle.. it’s quite an exciting time in India right now.
JS: Now.. who do you.. lets say an electronic voting machine breaks down in India. Do you call someone in the United States.. at that point, to help you with it.. or..
NN: No, I think there are people locally who can fix it.
JS: But will you be able to understand them? That’s the question. Let me ask you this.. why not just.. why have the elections.. why not just take Barrack Obama? Can’t he just be the President of the World?
NN: Well, I guess you have to be somebody born there.
JS: Oh.. you [not clear]

JS: What do you think is the biggest detriment for India right now? What’s the thing that could be the biggest pitfall may be?
NN: I think the lack of education. Because we have a lot of young people who are not getting good schooling. And that’s going to be the difference between a demographic dividend or a demographic disaster. Getting the education right is going to be the key to the next 20 years.

JS: Do you look at America and as you guys are.. a burgeoning economy stepping into it from.. I guess a more socialist economy to a more capitalist economy.. do you look at us and think.. we are.. we want to go in that direction, or do you look at us and think we would not like to go in that direction? Are we a good example for you to move towards? What have to learned from us?
NN: Well, I think a great example on many counts. An open society, a democracy, a meritocracy.. you know.. all the creativity that you have. But on issues like how we manage global warming, how we manage pensions and health care.. I think there are ways in which we can do it differently as we become a richer nation.
JS: If you figure it out.. will you tell us.. because we would like to know.
NN: I’ll come right here and let you know.

JS: You.. in your business, when you were starting it, did it feel possible to you to transform India? Did India seem ungovernable at that point? Did it seem like you couldn’t transform it?
NN: Well, it was a difficult time and a lot of people tried to dissuade us from starting a company. They all said go to America. But we said we’ll stay in India and create a great company, and that’s what we set out to do in Infosys.

JS: They say that if you walk in Bangalore and if you say I am going to see Nandan, they.. people know you are.. Nandan.. like Madonna! In Bangalore.. which is.. I don’t know.. 3 million.. 2..
NN: Six million.
JS: Six million.. uh.. I was only counting half. But.. you are a great source of pride.. by doing that.. I mean it took a great deal of fortitude and guts to make that decision.
NN: Yeah, because when we.. we were 7 of us, and we started with nothing.. 250 dollars, and it was just a vision of what we could do that led us to do that.

JS: Now, where do you see the future of technology? Is that going to be.. to integrate that into education.. because the book is not just about technology.. it takes on from feudalism to secularism.. I mean it really.. the breadth of it is astonishing.
NN: Yeah.. I think technology is an important part. But, there is no substitute for good teachers, and teachers coming to work and stuff like that. So, technology is only an enabler. Fundamentally, you have to get the governance right to make education work.

JS: Now, you’re friends with.. uh.. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. And he wrote the book, The World is Flat, it’s about globalization. It turns out that’s your phrase!
NN: Well, it happened in my office in Bangalore when we talked about what was happening in the world. And I told him how the world was getting levelled with.. level playing field with technology, and that led him to.. inspired him to write the book, The World is Flat.
JS: When you saw his book come out with the title The World is Flat, did you think to yourself, may be I should walk across it and kick his ass for some royalties.. cross it and get some royalties back.
NN: No.. no.. no. I think he has been a great friend and, you know, he.. he really put me on the..
JS: Can I say something..?
NN: Ya..
JS: You are a very kind and lovely man. I welcome you as my new overlord.
NN: Thank you.

[End Transcript]

So, there you go. Nandan Nilekani is Jon Stewart’s new Overlord! As for you, dear reader, I am not going anywhere.

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Whoa, Varun!

March 18, 2009 4 comments

Varun Gandhi, we hardly knew ye. What’s going on? You need to do some Super Brain Yoga (video link).

But seriously, I agree with Retributions regarding what the BJP needs to do now:

If the charges against junior Gandhi are proven, then BJP should have no hesitation in dropping him from its candidate list. After all, even BJP leaders have  strongly condemned his remarks. Surely, they should have no problems in taking the next logical step.

In recent days, BJP has been repeatedly embarrassed by people who claim they owe allegiance to the same ideology. In each such case, BJP has claimed that it has no association with such people. Well, that may be true. But in this particular case, Varun Gandhi is the official candidate of the party. By dropping him, BJP will prove its detractors wrong who claim that while  the party condemns the likes of Muthalik, it tacitly endorses them. [Retributions]

The only minor correction I would make is that this hot potato should be dropped without waiting for charges to be proven. The video evidence looks rather solid (search YouTube for plenty of copies). By taking action now, the Party can claim the moral high ground and then take other parties to task over their shortcomings. Waiting for proof is a good thing for the legal system, not for political parties fighting a PR battle.

This other observation, also on INI platform, by Offstumped is beyond my understanding:

It should not baffle anyone that Varun Gandhi should play the victimhood card in an election, after all playing victim has been the trademark of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in soliciting votes starting with Indira Gandhi’s victimhood to Sonia Gandhi’s second sacrifice. [Offstumped]

Uh, what? That doesn’t make sense at all. The kind of victimhood card Varun Gandhi was caught playing is actually the trademark of the extreme Right (read: some sections of BJP) in India.

Unlike Offstumped, I don’t find it “heartening to note that both Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain have been fielded to disown Varun Gandhi’s remarks” either. If the BJP thinks that Muslims will only listen to Muslim leaders, how is it any different from the rest of the political parties? Fielding Muslim members of the party to defend it against charges of being anti-Muslim is actually quite communal in itself, and puts the party right where it doesn’t want to be – in the company of other communal parties. It might just be the street-smart thing to do, but surely it is not something “heartening”!

The issue should have been clarified either at the level of the projected Parliamentary leader, or at the level of the Party President, and action taken at the earliest without waiting for Election Commission’s decision. It could still be win-win for BJP if action is taken now.

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Categories: Politics Tags: ,

Latest Meme!

March 18, 2009 4 comments

Try this funny and awesome game:

Your spy name: Take the word “Agent” and add the first 3 digits of your social security number to the end. (Feel free to also add your CC verification code to make it even more awesome!)

Your movie star name: Take your middle name and then add your mother’s maiden name to the end of it.

Your robot name: Alternate your initials and the middle digits of your social security. (Think C3P0!) You can make this even funner by adding your birth year at the end to give it that retro sci-fi feel.

Your porn star name: Take the name of the street that you live on, add the last 4 numbers of your SSN, your 5 most recent passwords, and your first pet’s name. Is that right on or what?? [TTOB]

Post your results in comments!

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Categories: Humour Tags: , ,

America’s Problem

March 10, 2009 4 comments

Americans just can’t do Maths. Dollars, cents… it is all the same to them. Watch:

Watch it here, if embedding doesn’t work.

No wonder there is a financial crisis. More outsourcing to India, I say.

In case you think this was just a prank and it could never really happen, read the comments over at YouTube (about 6000 of them, as I am posting this).

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Categories: Humour Tags: ,