Thursday, May 25, 2006

Immigrants and Geography Bee ?

NY Times has a great article on the usefulness of Geography Bee over the more popular Spelling Bee. NY Times articles raises an important point that most of American kids do not look beyond the coasts. This year's winner of the contest is an eighth grader from Illinois, from an immigrant family (Indian in this case). The guys who came in 2nd and 3rd places also happen to be from Immigrant families (Indian again). So just wondering how edgy can, being a child of an Immigrant family, who naturally look beyond the american borders, be? Looking at the winners of the contest, I am tempted to conclude that its pretty big an edge!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Amartya Sen and Tag cloud

Clearly, tag cloud and folksonomy are in vogue. Amartya Sen in his new book, "Violence and Identity" talks about multiple identities of an individual:
The same person can be, without any contradiction, an American citizen, of Caribbean origin, with African ancestry, a Christian, a liberal, a woman, a vegetarian, a long-distance runner, a historian, a schoolteacher, a novelist, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay and lesbian rights, a theatre lover, an environmental activist, a tennis fan, a jazz musician, and someone who is deeply committed to the view that there are intelligent beings in outer space with whom it is extremely urgent to talk (preferably in English).
Wow! Thats a whole bunch of tags. Aren't they? Shashi Tharoor adds an interesting twist in this sunday magazine review of the book. He says that people who realize that they have multiple identities are a minority and not a whole lot of people are going to read this enlightening book. I am not 100% sure about that. But it sounds so true when the word 'context' is thrown in. Most people fail to realize their multiple identities when taken in by a momentary raze of a given context.

Are people using enough of tagging in the online world to use it as an evidence for or against Tharoor's twist? Thats an interesting question to think about. I should log my thoughts on that.

Democratizing or Inventing?

In an article titled 'Inventing Creativity', Ajit Daura thinks that Kaavya Viswanathan is more a victim of a remix culture than the perpetrator of a literary crime. Thats probably true because, at both conscious and subconcsious levels, younger generations at large do not hold any prejudices against remixing. For them it is pretty much 'okay' to remix and its definitely part of the creativity spectrum. This decade may even be called 'the dawn of the remixing age.'

Ajit concludes the essay with this...
...but in the market economy in which we live, Mozartian self-expression seems to be the least important value in a work of art. Is it any wonder that it is cut, copied, remixed and pasted to suit a common denominator of taste and sales?

There, I beg to differ. While it takes a Mozart to bring out a 'Marriage of Figaro', the remixing age and the new digital technologies that facilitate remixing allow many many more 'ordinary folks' to express freely and creatively (though its not authentic always). Remixing is more about democraziting creativity, not just serving to a common denominator.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Proposing using Apple

Apple is posting a time lapsed video of the visitor lines before its new fifth avenue store:

Somebody used this delayed web cast to propose to his girl friend, Uschi Lang :
Now, does that count as graffiti or vandalism? Will apple edit the video, if somebody shows a placard against Bush?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Land for Land?

"Drowned Out" is a documentary about Sardar Sarovar Project on River Narmada of India. It talks about some of the pros of dam which include bringing water to drought stricken villages of Western Gujarat and Rajasthan and one of the largest canal irrigation systems in the world. The cons are the submergence of large number of villages and unfair settlement for displaced people. (Environmental effects of the dam have not been discussed.). Unfair settlement seem to be the heart of the issue. Resettlers were offered good land on paper, but when it came to the efficiency of governments in executing, all the resettlers got were poor weeded lands that had abyssmal returns of crops.

Lets face it. India is a densely populated country. Land is scarce and fair resettlement in land takes extremely efficient and politically willed governments to show any useful results. Keeping the merits and demerits of dam apart for a moment, resettlement of people is a key issue in any mammoth developmental project. It becomes all the more complex, when land is scarce and majority of resettlers are illiterate.

The project's foundation stone was laid in 1961. Planners and builders had two generations of time. Yet, planning seemed to be minimal. Why does resettlement have to be Land for Land? Why not exchange land for vocational skills other than farming? Given a couple of generations of time, people would have smoothly made a transition from agriculture to other occupations. I am sure there would be some such skills that can be learnt in a short time as well. I am wondering if any work has been done in that direction.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Some Interesting Trends

Google Trends lists down the geographical locations where bulk of queries for a particular keyword come from. I tried for to find out the locations for some of these listed below....

  • Software - Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai... (San Francisco at #8)
  • Design - Mumbai, New York, San Francisco, Chicago...
  • Usability - Bangalore, Chennai, Dublin, Austin, Seattle...
  • User Experience - Helsinki, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Sydney, London...
  • Java, J2EE, .Net, Siebel, QA, Oracle, SQL, ASP, VB, Datawarehousing, Biztalk, testing, CMM, Mainframes - Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Delhi in some order
  • Ruby, Python, Ruby on Rails - San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York,
  • Firefox - Munich (followed by 8 cities in Germany), San Francisco at #10
  • Linux - Czech Republic, India, Russia, Norway, Poland, Hungary...
  • Shahrukh - Pakistan, Morocco, India, Peru, Iran, UAE, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, UK
  • Visa - Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Vancouver, Singapore, New York, San Francisco....
  • GRE - Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Austin, Washington, New York, Chicago
  • MBA - India, Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, United States...
  • Islam - Jakarta, Bandung, Kaula Lumpur, Rabat, Cairo, Ankara.... (none of the so-called Breeding grounds in Top 10. Makes sense, because breeding involves certain amount of closed minded ness)
  • Global Warming - Brisbane, Perth, Delhi, Vancouver, Portland, Minneapolis, Washington, New York, San Francisco (DC at #7)
  • Prius - Pleasonton, Los Angeles, Irvine, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Portland...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

iPod and India

I think iPod and iTunes (for that matter, ID3 tag format) are poorly designed for bollywood music for the following reasons...

1. Songs from Bollywood (and other industries like Tollywood, Kollywood...) have atleast two artists or more aptly atleast two 'playback singers'. ID3v2 and iPod work well when there is a single artist. Multiple artists fragment the song collection into larger number of artist categories. For example, there are numerous songs sung solo by Kishore Kumar as well as with Lata Mageshkar and Asha Bhosle together or separately. iPod classifies these songs under the following categories:
  • 'Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar',
  • 'Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle',
  • 'Kishore Kumar'.
  • or even 'Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar'
While the listener may always recall it as a Kishore Kumar number. Needless to say, best sold albums by AR Rahman have atleast four artists a song. One needs further ehtnographic research to determine how bollywood music is classified and thought about in listerners' hearts and minds.

2. Playback singers (artist in iTunes) are different from the composer by rule. More importantly, the name of the movie's superstar is prominent keyword in people's minds more than artist or composer. They are known popularly as Shahrukh's song, Rajnikanth's song, Amitabh's song, Chiranjeevi's song etc. iTunes or iPod doesnt even account for this factor which is inherent to bollywood music.

3. Some of the info fields in ID3v2 like Genre have no relevance for mainstream bollywood music. Its all the same: 'filmi music'.

4. Neither CDDB nor Indian recording companies or any othermajor online Indian music websites have a consistent spelling for the artists. You get to see about six different spellings ...'AR Rahman', 'A.R. Rahman', 'AR. Rahman', 'AR Rehman', 'Rehman AR', 'AR. Rehman' get the picture.

5. In India, one gets to buy all the 6 tracks of an album for 99c (INR 44.5).

A bigger question is.....Isnt India a Tier-3-4 market at the bottom the pyramid? Immense commodification of music CDs and abysmally low prices of them at less than a dollar are the very proofs.

Isnt iPod and iTunes a Tier-1 product or one that encourges and thrives on Long Tail ?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

35% stolen!

BBC reports that 35% of produced power is being stolen in Delhi resulting in an acute power shortage and long power cuts. So when governments cannot plan for increased installed capacity, cannot do good law enforcement in tackling stealing power....what do they do? They draft 'guidelines' for saving power. What do those guidelines sound like? "Government offices must switch off air-conditioners after 1830 and shopping malls across the city will have to shut at 1730." So people who pay for the power have to voluntarily shutdown at insane timings, so that people who steal can do it the royal way! And when leaders like Naidu reform power sector, whats he rewarded with? A terrible defeat at polls. Way to Go!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rising Gas Price

Carpooling and driving less are the lowest hanging fruit in the battle against rising gas prices say experts. In the lieu, two major issues immigration and rising gas prices, its useful to note that carpooling is pretty much the way of life for many immigrants. Its an inherent cultural advantage to these people as its okay to rub shoulder to shoulder in the countries (Mexico, China, India...) where they come from.

Minority Report ?

Police predict crimes over Myspace. Minority Report doesnt seem too far. Does it?

IITians contest Tamil Nadu Elections

Here is a little TV interview with Santana Vasudevan Krishnan, an IITian contesting in the state polls this year:

"Getting inspired by Rang De Basanti is one thing...while doing it is another thing...", reads the newsreader. How sad the movie that's mentioned is Rang De Basanti and NOT Yuva. North Indians and North Indian media are often like CNN. They dont see the world beyond them.

But the news reader had all the perfect questions and Santana Vasudevan Krishnan didnt have any good answers.

"Why should people vote you when you dont have a film or political background? You might appeal to middle class, but they are usually not the people who vote. So whats the point of your contesting?" on and so forth ....asked the news reader. All perfect questions given the fact that majority of voters dont even know what IIT stands for, both metaphorically as well as literally.

"We are different", started Santana Vasudevan Krishnan. For a moment, all I could recall was the ULTI cliched film interviews and opening ceremonies on Gemini and Teja TV.

A simple litmus test: How many bollywood/tollywood/kollywood movies have a character from IIT? I am not talking about the 'hero', try to recall an IITian character atleast some where in the background. "English August" is all I can think of. What does it prove? IIT doesnt sell movies. Forget politics and votes.

The strongest weapon at the disposal of Santana Vasudevan Krishnan is Innovation, in my opinion. Innovation in terms of a totally different approach to marketing politics, usage of with loosely coupled social technology like cell phones and an ant colony of passive student volunteers....etc...etc...I am not talking about Chandrababu Naidu kind of of hi-fi babudom, but instead: innovation at grass roots level with the least usage of resources....appealing not just to the intellect and rational part of the voters.

Well, you might have understood that I dont have any of the answers or any precise approach guidelines. But I can say this with conviction, "Think Different" is what an IITian can do and what a traditional politician cannot do. And there lies the edge, not the usual super appealing brand image IIT. "Know the audience and act accordingly", it usually works.