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Overlord Broadcast #4

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment

cattle-class

Dear Sheeple,

In what universe is the Indian “common man” privileged enough to travel “cattle class” by air? Given the extent of poverty in India, any Indian who travels by air is not “common man” in any sense. He is middle class, of course.

And while you create a brouhaha about nothing, the real “common man” is struggling for “do waqt ki roti“. He has no time to waste on appreciating your austerity drives.

Do everyone a favour and shut up. That’s an austerity drive we can all support.

Yours truly,

Overlord

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Modi Thwarts Congress’ Bid to Rig EVMs!

September 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I guess that’s the sort of headline that might run in the minds of some folks when they read about the Gujarat bypoll results.

BJP trounced Congress winning five out of seven seats – including Congress bastions like Jasdan and Chotila – raising its tally in the 182-member assembly from 117 to 121. The saffron party, however, lost Kodinar and Dhoraji. What makes BJP’s revenge sweeter is the fact that Congress had won six out of these seven seats in 2007. [TOI]

Please note that out of the 7 seats for which polls were held, as many as 6 were with Congress just a couple of years ago.

Of course, if you are a committed conspiracy nut, you could also just assume that the Congress did not rig these elections precisely so that they could neutralise people like you (the world revolves arounds you, isn’t that how you’ve always felt?) – and then rig the next election – the one that really matters!

Related posts: May 17, May 19 (long post on EVMs), September 9

Overlord Broadcast #3

June 9, 2009 8 comments

Dear Facebook Users,

Everyone knows what day of the week it is. Stop updating “What’s on your mind?” with “Uff.. Monday again :(“, “Friday! Yay.com!” and other such inanities.

It is bad enough that Monday has to happen every week. Nobody needs reminders for this. Especially if you start moaning about it on Sunday itself and ruin the day for those who are trying to ignore Monday for as long as they can. Ditto about Fridays. Yes, most of us are looking forward to the end of the week. But you don’t have to add to the agony of the wait with some variation of “Can’t wait for weekend to start”.

Seriously, just stop it already.

Yours truly,

Overlord

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Overlord Broadcast #2

May 18, 2009 3 comments

Dear BJP,

While you recover from a crushing defeat and go into introspective mode, try to stay away from blogs written by supposedly pro-BJP bloggers. They are full of advice, and god-damn it, they’ll give it to you.

With a handful of notable exceptions (you might still want to read Offstumped, but avoid his comment feed), most of these bloggers have no clue whatsoever about the elections, campaigning, and ground realities.

With hardly any exception, they were euphoric till about 8:52 AM IST on May 16 (mainstream media changed tune a few minutes before that). Seriously, of all kinds of political analysts, bloggers were the last to get the memo on this election’s results.

In fact, here is a rule of thumb: If a post mentions any of the following words, just close the browser and take a short walk outside:

  • Obama
  • Internet
  • Social Media
  • Twitter
  • Blogs/Bloggers
  • Website
  • Congress
  • Sonia/Rahul Gandhi

That’s just a sample and it is not an absolute rule, but I can’t do the heavy lifting for you. God helps those who help themselves, etc. Just avoid blogs, and listen to your MPs and your cadre instead.

Yours truly,

Overlord

PS: I know that I am giving you advice via a blog too, but I am hoping that you’ll stop reading from NOW!

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Overlord Broadcast #1

May 17, 2009 2 comments

Dear Conspiracy Theorist NRIs,

The Indian Electronic Voting Machines are different from American EVMs in many, many ways. It is my sincere hope that you’ll keep that in mind in future and refrain from making statements to the effect of “OMG, they are both electronic and hence both can be hacked” or “OMG, the party I support in internet forums has lost, so the electronic voting machines must have been hacked – just like in the USA, where I live”.

Regardless of whether the Indian EVMs were, or can be, hacked, there are no relevant parallels between the two situations.

Seriously, it is fucking irritating.

Yours truly,

Overlord

Further reading:

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Trendwatch: Hitler’s Rising Popularity

April 28, 2009 Leave a comment

UK’s Telegraph reports that business students in India are snapping up copies of Hitler‘s autobiography Mein Kampf. An excerpt from the story filed by Monty Munford:

Booksellers told The Daily Telegraph that while it is regarded in most countries as a ‘Nazi Bible’, in India it is considered a management guide in the mould of Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese”.

Sales of the book over the last six months topped 10,000 in New Delhi alone, according to leading stores, who said it appeared to be becoming more popular with every year.

Several said the surge in sales was due to demand from students who see it as a self-improvement and management strategy guide for aspiring business leaders, and who were happy to cite it as an inspiration. [Telegraph]

Did you notice something? “Booksellers told”, “according to leading stores”, and “several said”. Where are the authentic sources?

The report does quote two of the six publishers who publish Mein Kampf in India, but no retailers are quoted. Nor are any students who have actually purchased the book. While trying to explain the “trend”, a professor of Philosophy from a university in Nagaland is quoted (who seems to have a political thesis to push) but no professors from business schools are quoted even though their students are the ones who are reportedly causing the apparent “surge in sales”. There aren’t any quotes from professors based in New Delhi either, where more than 10,000 copies of the book were sold in 6 months last year (no publisher would inflate sales numbers for one of its own books, right?).

So there you have it: no quotes from booksellers, no quotes from book-buyers, no quotes from relevant professors, and no authentic data either. Even the anecdotal evidence is unsatisfactory.

This is not to say that the book doesn’t do well in India. I have seen copies on pavement stalls in Delhi for as long as I can remember. Never noticed it in a “leading” store though. If we were to go by shaky anecdotal evidence alone, since that seems to be the standard employed by Telegraph, then the book has always been mildly successful in India: those pavement sellers can’t afford to stock books that don’t do well, can they?

The Overlord Verdict: Fake Trend. There is probably no real “surge” in sales, and the book is not read widely either. In fact, I am yet to meet anyone who claims to have read it, leave alone find it inspiring (this is not to say that such people don’t exist, just that I am yet to run into one). Don’t buy the book, read its Wikipedia entry instead (if you are really curious).

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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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