Thursday, December 21, 2006

Real News Precedes The Onion

You have heard of real life imitating the Onion, but have you heard of real life preceding the onion. This bbc news story does : " Indian athlete fails gender test".

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Clark Kent is a Jew

I grew up reading comics and devoured every one I could fine. Even today though the frequency has diminished a lot and I am more discerning about what I read, I still occasionally buy comics. So this post by Stephen Dubner (yes of the Freakonomics fame) was a joyous blast to the past for me :)

Read the article. Teasing excerpt below.

Superman, the first and greatest of the superheroes, was also the most Jewish. He was born into the House of El (“House of God” in Hebrew) on the planet Krypton, which was run by a male council of elders much like the Sanhedrin of ancient Israel. When Krypton was destroyed, Superman mourned its loss much like the Jews mourned the loss of Jerusalem, vowing to keep alive its rituals and language. In time, he learned that a small remnant of Krypton had survived, called Kandor (“here is the generation” in Hebrew). Superman was famous for his red boots, but they were a last-minute change; originally he wore lace-up sandals modeled after Samson’s.

Debate, Deliberate and then Decide

Talking Points,
Last month in Portland, Ore., doctors for the first time transplanted stem cells from aborted fetuses into his head in a desperate bid to reverse, or at least slow, a rare genetic disorder called Batten disease. The so-far incurable condition normally results in blindness and paralysis before death.

Doctors don't know if the neural stem cells taken from fetuses -- donated to a nonprofit medical foundation by women aborting early-stage pregnancies -- will save Daniel's life. But the boy has sufficiently recovered from his 8-hour surgery to be expected to return to his Orange County, Calif., home Friday -- the first day of Hanukkah.

Research opponents argue that beyond their moral opposition, there is the long list of failed fetal tissue transplant experiments -- most notably those involving hundreds of Parkinson's patients over the last decade, none of whom have shown dramatic improvements.
That's why Oregon Health Sciences University researchers have been trying to temper expectations since they first operated on Daniel on Nov. 14, steadfastly refusing to discuss the experiment except for a brief press conference two days after the operation.

''We don't want people thinking this is the best thing since sliced bread,'' said Dr. Robert Steiner, the lead Batten researcher in Portland.

Full article here.

::update:: The BBC speculates on some disturbing developments related to stem cell research.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Do Good courtesy Bristol-Myers Squibb

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Attention Manifesto

We have focused on managing our time. Our opportunity is to focus on how we manage our attention. We are evolving beyond an always-on lifestyle. As we make choices to turn the technology OFF, to give full attention to others in interactions, to block out interruption-free time, and to use the full range of communication tools more appropriately, we will re-orient our trek toward a path of more engaged attention, more fulfilling relationships, and opportunities for the type of reflection that fuels innovation.

Read Kathy Sierra and Linda Stone if you are not convinced.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance

This person is trying to raise support to buy a GulfStream G4SP jet for 6 million so he can travel the world and preach the words of Jesus Christ.

Are you out of your gourd mon!!

You don't have to be a Christian to laugh at the contradictions that are SCREAMING here. (I am a christian btw). This is the sort of stuff that makes the rest of us looking like silent accomplices to blatant racketeering. Sad.. just sad.. :-(

(thanks to Aswin for sending me the link).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cowboys in Manhattan

Friday, November 10, 2006

Impossible is not the same as never been done before

  1. This is great marketing for NorthFace. This is NorthFace doing to running and life/motivating/fitness/inspiration what DeBeers did to Diamonds and Engagement/Marriage/Romance
  2. But it is still very much real and very powerful in its message. Is every man a Dean? No!, But is it good for the country if people watch less TV and do more running, you bet it is.
  3. What do you do if meet your goal of a 50x50x50. Running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, you run a marathon backward, then what? You decide to run from NYC to SF. This is the story of Dean Karnazes.

Blog link here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Kia Austin commercial - 2

What is going on with Capitol Kia in Austin. It has that commercial featuring Bill Dickason. I blogged about it earlier here. Last night, Kim and I saw their ad again and this time the kitten was replaced with a shot of a cow chewing cud contentedly. I am not sure how a contented cow is relevant to me buying Kia but it sure is making the dealership look pretty darn amateurish.

If anybody can point me to a video link of the Kia commercial that would be great :)

Shopping made easy

Riya launched today. Blog post here
This is a really cool technology driven innovation from a company I admire a lot. I have no affliation and do not know anybody at Riya but have thoroughly enjoyed reading Munjal's blog.

Check it out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

If you are a woman who does not like sharing your bathroom with men who claim they are women....

then you probably want to stay away from NYC. From an article in the NY Times (might not be available for viewing without membership by the time you click),

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also agreed last month to let people define their own gender when deciding whether to use the men's or women's bathrooms.

Apparently NYC has taken it upon itself to re decide gender. Some more "thought provoking quotes" from the article.
Joann Prinzivalli, 52, a lawyer for the New York Transgender Rights Organization, a man who has lived as a woman since 2000, without surgery, said the changes amount to progress, a move away from American culture's misguided fixation on genitals as the basis for one's gender identity.

“Its based on an arbitrary distinction that says there are two and only two sexes,” she said. “In reality the diversity of nature is such that there are more than just two, and people who seem to belong to one of the designated sexes may really belong to the other.”


But some psychiatrists said that eliminating identification difficulties for some transgender people also opened the door to unwelcome advances from imposters.

“I’ve already heard of a ‘transgendered’ man who claimed at work to be ‘a woman in a man’s body but a lesbian’ and who had to be expelled from the ladies’ restroom because he was propositioning women there,” Dr. Paul McHugh, a member of the President’s Council of Bioethics and chairman of the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in an e-mail message on the subject. “He saw this as a great injustice in that his behavior was justified in his mind by the idea that the categories he claimed for himself were all ‘official’ and had legal rights attached to them.”


So don't assume that she is a she or he is a he just based on their prominent anatomical features. Especially if you are in NYC ;-)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Capitol Kia advertisement is broken

Umm.. am I the only one who sees the kitten hissing between the fence posts in the middle of a Kia commercial (saw it on Bravo/Time Warner cable/Austin) . I saw this last night and pointed this out to my wife and she just saw it again now (almost 24hrs later). Hello.. I know you are selling Kia's but that is no reason to let your ad run screwed up :)!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Is this what Detroit should do?

well, they cannot since they never built the prestige to begin with. But here is what got me thinking about this.

First some initial thoughts, from this BW article written in 2000 (bubble days).
Car sales may be sluggish in Europe overall, but German carmakers are gearing up for high times in the ultrapremium niche. Even Volkswagen now wants a piece of the action. The profit margin can be as dreamy as the new models: 30%, six times the industry average.

The article goes on to say
Even with the high margins, the market is so small that the contribution to a carmaker's bottom line is negligible. Analysts estimate that the Maybach, for example, will generate minimal profits for DaimlerChrysler.
So here we are in 2006 and my blog reading today lead me to this,
The star car is their $450,000 SLR McLaren which was beast on the race track (0-60 in about 3.5 secs) of yours truly in the drivers seat. I asked how many they were making of the "limited" release. Given the price tag, I would have assumed a couple hundred cars. They are making 7,000. That's right. They are planning on selling 7,000 $450,000 cars. G
Do the math.... Yup you read it right. If there was no typo in the original blog post, then Mercedes plans on making 3.15 Billion $ from the sale of the SLR Mc Laren. Granted I don't know if this is a 5 year/10 year plan on what... But this translates to 1 Billion $ in profits for Mercedes, conservatively speaking. Heh... so is there a Detroit manufacturer that can ride the Bubble like this? and more importantly what have we learnt from our 2000 experiences?...

Of course we need the gratuitous picture ;)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thank you Hugh

The above art originated from the following post.
Original art work by Hugh Macleod. Art work released by Hugh under the Creative Common License.

Monday, October 30, 2006

You read the darnest thing on blogs these days

This is an excerpt from the blog of Guy Kawasaki (a very original blog btw).
The first step is to recognize who is an asshole. Sutton’s blog cites one method. It’s called the Starbucks Test It goes like this: If you hear someone at Starbucks order a “decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n’-Low and one NutraSweet,” you’re in the presence of an asshole. It’s unlikely that this petty combination is necessarythe person ordering is trying to flex her power because she’s an asshole.
Dang, I love that test. I know it makes me sound like an anti-starbucks elitist. But whatever, these days everybody has an opinion, everybody publishes their opinion and anybody with an opinion is an elitist of some sort.

In other words :) Go read the post here. Thanks Mr Kawasaki.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Business plans need compassion too

I like the idea behind greendimes. They work (constantly they claim) on taking you out of the junk mail life cycle. In addition they plant a tree, for every month you continue to be their customer. Will this make you carbon nuetral, heh I don't think so :) but it does seem like an interesting business model.

Is this a eco-friendly marketing plan?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What if

All the shoe companies decide to fight Zappos at their own game. Why not have retail shoe outlets whose only purpose is to help you (the customer) find your size and check out the look in front of those fabulous full length mirrors. Have you located your shoe of choice? Great here is what you do now.

Next to every shoe rack is a kiosk/browsing station that lets you order the shoe from their online warehouse and at prices that are cheaper or competitive with Zappos. So why not? Yes you do lose customers who desire to walk out of the store with the smell of new leather or suede or whatever composite nasa inspired material in their bag. But do they really want that over the savings they would get if you dropped the rates and deliver the shoes in a couple days.
Can you crunch the numbers and see if the increase in sales (assuming there is an increase in sales) would justify free shipping or two day shipping, etc? Strike a partnership with UPS (almost everybody does these days)
You have increased floor space, more creative ways to use your store so it becomes less of a shoe store and more of a "shoe bar". Give your users an experience.... and let them place their orders whenever they want.

So why not? What do the shoe stores have to lose by trying it out?

Disclaimer: My favourites are Kenneth Cole and Cole Haan. I tried a bunch of others but these fit me the best and I love their style.

Image link from (if I am violating any copyright please let me know and I will remove the image).

We saw "Chalk" last night and it was good!

Go see it.
It is a very funny movie that has 5 real actors in its entire cast. I know because I was at the QandA last night after the movie. The rest are either people with little acting experience or not actors. It has real teachers, real students and employs heavy improvisation. All in all well done. It is humorous but also a revealing documentary on the state of our public school educational system and its effects on the lives of all involved.

Other related bits,
  • Movie details here. This movie website is hosted by Bside which was started by Chris Hyams and also employs a bunch of other smart and cool folks I used to work with. They are doing really good work with their product. Check it out here :).
  • The movie was directed by Mike Akel and I found that one of my friends (Rod Henegar) edited the first movie Mike made. Mike is also close friends with some other friends of mine. Basically Austin is kind of small and you eventually find connections with people :)
  • I am currently with a startup and our goal is to help us (the USA) move away from the school we saw in the movie. One school at a time of course ;-). Nothing like a big goal eh. We are just starting.....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What if the world was reduced to 100 people

Thanks to presentation zen for the link.

Is this an example of a vertical search engine

I am not sure what is going on here. I am talking about the Ms Dewey search engine. Umm.. maybe they should let the user choose the "librarian" and include a Mr Smith to give Ms Dewey company so both men and women can use this search engine.

Is being different all that matters

I checked out the Chipotle website today. It was the topic du jour on wallstrip today. It was an interesting browsing experience. The website is dense but clean and almost sparse. It involves the users in unique ways. I think the live feed of guac being prepared or chicken marinating is very cool :-). I love the amount of interior and exterior design examples on the website. For a Chipotle groupie, I am sure there is plenty to devour on this website.

But is it trying to be too cutting edge and sacrificing some simple usability in the process? Why is there no search feature (esp. given the density of the website). Why is there no site map. I understand that the whole website was built in flash but still... I was curious about who built this website and there was nothing available. I was curious about latest stock performance related news and again bupkis.

Whoever is in charge of these things over at Chipotle,

The website is very cool and unique but make sure it is usable also :).


There are times when Hugh says it best

This is one of those times. Thanks Hugh :)

(image belongs to Hugh and gapingvoid as the (c) clearly states).

Monday, October 02, 2006

I am happier than a wooden spoon at a spelling bee

Apparently we say stuff like where I live :). Props to Scott Adams for today's Dilbert.

Grilled Chicken causes cancer

A US doctors' group has sued seven leading fast-food chains including McDonald's and Burger King over their use of a "dangerous carcinogenic" in grilled chicken.
Aside from McDonald's and Burger King, the chains named in the lawsuit were Chick-fil-A, Chili's, Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse and TGI Friday's.

I love the lack of information apart from the sensational headlines. I am sure the "US doctor's" group sued the fast food chain. Looks like doctors realized that it is easier to file class action law suits to make money rather than pay insanely high insurance and practice the craft of curing people of ailments.

Don't you love good informative educative journalism. Link to the article here (thanks to my brother for the link).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Missing the forest for the trees

O'Reilly released a history of programming languages poster that is worth a glance. Jeff Atwood has some interesting ruminations based on this poster. Fun read, recommended.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to deal with body insecurity the HP way

This is a really stupid move by HP IMHO. More information available at this Signal Vs Noise blog post.

Surprise bonuses

I am a subscriber to Fred Wilson's blog. He is a managing partner in two vc firms in NYC.

I live in Austin and we had ACL festival last weekend. Pretty big deal around this part of the country and for lots of serious music lovers. I did not attend it (apart from a sufjan stevens concert). But last night I scored cool points from the "hip young indie music generation" kind of girl who works at the nearby coffee shop. I asked her about the "nosebleed incident" and she gave me the "you are not all old and out of it" look. So did my wife Kim for that matter. ;-)

How did I know about this? Because Fred posted about this with pictures on his blog (which i started reading because I enjoy educating myself on technology and incubation) here and here. I think it is neat how I know more about my backyard because of a blog written from NYC resident. Good stuff indeed!

Have a fun story to share?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Is there space for you to innovate?

Originally uploaded by
This screen shot seems to say yes. On the left is an ad (courtesy google of course) that to me seems to make no sense given my context as I am reading this page.
Islamic leaders in Turkey are pissed about the Pope's take on jihad and I am offered free dental cleaning in Turkey!?! Go figure....

Keyword matching is not context sensitive advertising. The former is a shotgun approach to the latters rifle approach. I think context sensitive advertising's growth will depend on the innovations we make in the area of semantic web. Till then, rejoice and try to do better than this ;-)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I just read this quote
Blessed with riches and possibilities far beyond anything imagined by ancestors who tilled the unpredictable soil of medieval Europe, modern populations have nonetheless shown a remarkable capacity to feel that neither who they are nor what they have is quite enough
on Chris Yeh's blog (which I came into contact with via the entrepreneur meta blog: My Way).
That is a powerful quote and exactly what I needed to hear today. I love quotes like these which help put things in perspective.

Now regarding the synchronicity part. The above quote is from the book "Status Anxiety" by Alain De Botton who is also famous for "The Consolations of philosophy" and "How Proust can change your life". Interestingly Steve Corell plays a washed out Proust scholar in the movie "Little Miss Sunshine", which I thoroughly enjoyed watching this weekend. Highly recommend the movie. I am getting the book as soon as I finish this post.

Monday, September 11, 2006

This is just Texas we are talking about....

Recap from this weekend,
  • UT football team lost to OSU.
  • Austin resident Andy Roddick lost to Federer in the US Open finals.
  • Dallas Cowboys lost to Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Houston Texans lost to Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Houston Astros lose to Brewers.
  • Dallas Rangers beat Orioles.
and this is just Austin or Texas related news. Now who was telling me we are not a sports obsessed country.....

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It is everyman's story but it still is an incredible story

I am newly married and I am still getting used to this awesome change in my life. I was recently trying to get a feel for how long before I get used to it and then I realised that maybe I got it backwards. The question I need to answer is how can I try to keep it fresh so I never get used to it.

What I am experiencing is not a single, dominating, easily describable change. It is the collection of thousands of little changes, each of which are capable of making me gasp a little with awe. So on those rare occassions when the cumulative effect hits me, the gasp is audible and I am left breathless. Like for instance the thought of sharing a bed every night with the woman I love is a totally incredible feeling. Something I have never experienced before. It has been two weeks butI continue to be amazed at my good fortune. I try to fight that grin of my face when I get up but I cannot and I even dare think that it looks a little smug.

I know that I will get used to this. I know that we will go down the well traversed path of marriage and family like millions of others. I wish there was some way to store and record this memory that is more visceral than the written word. I wish there is some way I can remind myself later how I feel now.

I am not trying to discount the future and I am pretty sure the future is going to bring its own share of experiences. I am just saying that 'now' is pretty incredible and I wish I could record-rewind-play 'now' as often as I want whenever I want to.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is this what self sustaining means

Kiko one of the Web2.0 calendar start ups called it quits recently. Interestingly, they liquidated their assests on eBay; in essence they sold the company on eBay. I guess you could call it staying true to their zeitgeist. They still made real american money on eBay so I assume it all connects with the real world somewhere eventually.

Meet my friend the interaction designer

This is kind of like interlacing your fingers and stretching your hands palm facing outwards so that your fingers do the popping thing.

I just returned from my honeymoon this past weekend (thank you, the wedding was beautiful indeed). Aspen is gorgeous in the summer! I thoroughly enjoyed not having a laptop, having my phone turned off for most of the week and getting my daily news fix courtesy USA Today and the WSJ. It was fantastic! But that was then and this is now. I really don't feel like I have much worth blogging about but I do want to start posting again just to get back in the habit I guess.

So I give you Kevin Cheng. Kevin and I worked together for a few years at Trilogy. I lost contact with him when he moved to UK to pursue a graduate degree in Usability and IxD (apparently that is how you say Interaction Design). I have not done a good job of keeping up with him at least not to the extent I would like to.
I have been following his life from afar and have learnt a lot about interaction design from his blogs and such. It is actually a really fun and curious area of research and impact each of us directly. Have you wondered why Yahoo maps looks the way it does or why the dashboard in your car has the cup holder in that particular spot. It is not random (or it shouldn't be), there are people like Kevin who spend time and energy solving these questions :-). So get to know Kevin,

Kevin's blog
Kevin and Tom's web comic.
Interview with Kevin that gives a little introduction to usability

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ouch! This has to hurt us

I am Indian and like most Indians who live in the US, I have been following the sea change in Indian attitudes, culture, education and life styles avidly although from afar. The past decade has created deep generational chasms that continue to grow wider and the country is trying to come to grips with meritocracy, entrepreneurship, "the world is flat", international visibility, growth, etc. India is currently on the fore front of countries straddling the new economy while trying to preserve cultural heritage and traditional way of living.

The main reason for the paragraph above was to give a context (extremely vague and unspecific as it may be) to the link below.

India was recently ranked 6th in a poll result published by Reuters. The listing is of the most dangerous countries in the world for children. The countries that share this prestigious top 10 list along with us are Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Myanmar, Sudan, Congo, Uganda and Somalia.

So, what can I do to help us get out of this list. I want to help......

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My mind is like UDP

As I was stepping out for lunch from my office, I ran into a lady in the hallway. I say "how are you doing" because I am a pleasant kind of guy and was in an agreeable mood. She was happy with my civility and replied "Great, how are you?".

My response was "Thank you. (uncomfortable long pause) I am good".

Now it is a little deal but I was bemused by my utterances. I clearly said the right stuff but the order was some how reversed when I spoke them and I was not sure why. I am not good at letting things go unresolved in my head. This does not mean that I can explain all events around me, it just means that I have to fool myself into thinking I have a good enough explanation.

So I ended with UDP. UDP stands for User Datagram Protocol. It is a fancy sounding way of describing a low level plumbing on the internet that is used to move your files across computers, etc.

Think of it this way. Assume your text (email, pictures, blog entry, what not) are passengers in this train (UDP).

This train moves all of its passengers from one station to another. Say from your computer to your friend's.

You would think this would be straightforward. Leave station A and pull into station B. Turns out that it is a little more complicated. For efficiency, the instant the passengers are fully loaded. The train is locked and all the carriages are disconnected and hooked to whatever train will take them to station B sooner*. But to retain the illusion, the carriages are all reconnected to resemble the train just before it reaches station B and the passenger disembark. You see where I am going with this....

Anyways, UDP unfortunately does not ensure that the carriages are all reconnected in initial order before the passengers disembark. This leads to some awkward situations such as Don who is ever punctual and was aboard the train 30 mins. before Liz ends up arriving after Liz much to his chagrin.
This is why emails you send to your boss show up out of order and get you fired because he received your expense report before your explanation for why that trip to Vegas was good for the company. And yes, there is a better behaved brother to UDP called TCP who ensures the ordering (this is why web pages load in order**). But that is a discussion for another day.

All I wanted to say is that I think my brain is a slave to efficiency like UDP and so once the actual phrases were figured out, namely "I am good" and "Thank you". They ended up spoken out of order for sake of efficiency. So don't feel sorry for me.

* if no other train leaves sooner then this train leaves with its carriages and carriages from other trains. Yeah this analogy stops working at some point because, well.... it really is more complicated than trains isn't it?

** yes sometimes images load before the text or vice-versa. Well that is because it really is more complicated than toy trains.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

How do you create a market for this

I came across today. They sell sock subscriptions. Yes, you read it right. They let you buy subscriptions which guarantees you new socks on a regulated frequency throughout the year.

How hard (or easy for that matter) is it to change the sock buying behaviour of the american public?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On long tails and long noses

The Wall Street Journal online edition for today has a review of Chris Anderson's new book. The author of this piece raises some hard questions about the connection between long tail theory and profitability. Makes you wonder if some where along the way Mr Anderson stopped bothering to collect data to back facts.

10 things you thought were stupid but wished you had done anyways

I came across this article today about 10 business ideas that sound dumb but appear not to be in retrospect. Your definition of "dumb" notwithstanding it still makes for an interesting read.

My top picks are SantaMail and LaserMonks. My personal favourite is SantaMail, as Hugh MacLeod is wont to say "The market for something to believe in is infinite...". It is a simple concept with clear execution and focuses on building up dreams. Very powerful! :).

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Have you ever forgotten how to give up

This trip to Greece sounds like one of those stories to me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Step outside and take a walk away from your opml

I do not know about you but I routinely open bloglines first thing in the morning. I have my 120 odd feeds to catch up on and I do enjoy well written posts first thing in the morning. Of course the best part of this whole deal is that these feeds are tailored to my tastes and preferences. My opml file reflects my priorities from a professional perspective (if not all my life) rather well.

Sometimes a little too well and that is not so good. I can use technology to try to create a reality in terms of what is important to me instead of letting reality define what is truly important. When push comes to shove reality always wins of course. Health, financial issues, relationship issues, etc., have the ability to bring reality back to the front with jarring abruptness.

I am talking about the other times when the world is going through big and interesting changes and my opml file does not do them justice. I am talking about
  1. A foundation created in the past 20 years. A foundation that doubled in size over the past few days when the world's second richest man decided to help the world's richest man. A foundation that has unprecedented potential in terms of impact across history. Pretty cool eh ;-)
  2. A 40 billion dollar international steel company potentially in the making. Apparently this also signifies a struggle between the old European forces and the new world economy. Forty billion, definitely not chump change.
  3. Japan under threat from N.Korea. Iran says 'whatever' to the west. A long awaited Hamas government in Palestine sits on a powder keg as a rogue group takes an Israeli soldier hostage. Interesting times indeed.
What is your opml file not doing justice to?

Btw, I purposely did not link to any of the news items. Maybe this will force you to take a stroll away from your blog reader ;-)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Is the rifle better than the shotgun

Rifle is the single shot should work approach, shot gun is the spraying pellets approach. FogBugz and Vault are examples of the rifle approach. Gmail was the rifle approach but the rest of the stuff from Google such as froogle, picasa, gtalk, ... seem to follow the shotgun approach. Now we have Zoho's product suite .. 60 products in 9 years. Is this a pure shot gun play?

I started working on this post a few weeks back and moved away from it. Recently I came across Dead2.0 and this scathing report on Zoho. I am by creation not that scathing or cynical but I sure did enjoy the write up :-)

Maybe this post is just because my intuition is refusing to deal with facts but something about building and releasing 60 products (yes they call them products not features and no apparently there were no acquisitions) over just 9 years seems a little too much to me. Craig talks more sense and reason in his latest post here.

I agree the cost of making mistakes is getting lower but that does not mean we should stop being intentional with our time and effort.

This is all I wanted to say

[This right here i.s. a.l.l. I wanted to say]. Thanks Jeff for putting words to my thought.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Be remarkable or not....

Seth Godin has a few books on it. The purple cow, the big moo, etc. Tom Peters thinks it is inevitably change or die. Guy Kawasaki has his own spin on it. They all speak their own version of the truth.*
They all have very specific ideas on how to build a lasting brand/product/company/legacy.

In the current incarnation of the technology industry it revolves a lot around ajax, folksonomies and few other terms lay people hardly use or think is rather silly**. The term "beta" has been redefined by Google to mean "non supported but feature rich product that will scale very well", specifically in the context of web based software and typically consumer software (as opposed to enterprise software).

This is all good. This is innovation and this is progress that is pushing the industry in new areas. But it is good to keep in mind that the core qualities of "being remarkable", "create/sustain/defend value in your customer's life through your product" and "either adapt to the changing market or die" are not about trying to join the herd and duplicating other's successes. Being remarkable is a lot about purposely not duplicating an older established success mechanism.

The bell curve is a ruthless arbitrator. Hang in there with me as I try to explain my thinking.

The nouveau management thought process is all about value on the edge (which i agree with btw). A lot of the speakers try to steer you away from the fat middle portion of the bell curve where all the products look identical and compete similarly. Seth Godin talks a lot about being bold, taking risks, not being afraid to fail, i.e. being in the 3rd standard deviation set apart from 95% of the population. He is right.

Which is why, it makes it all the more interesting when you run into success stories that fall into the outer 5% of people who are very successful and whose story line does not involve copy, paste and tweak. It does involve being remarkable but in an non obvious way. Here is a story about a single man who built a so-so dating site, watched it take of and is making 5-6 million/year on adwords.
The best part is, his website is not at all hip in the web2.0 sense of stuff. Isn't that sweet? Of course he rode a great wave, so trying to replicate him would be a foolish thing to do and that is exactly the point.

Being remarkable is not about studying remarkable people endlessly. It is about learning enough to realise that being remarkable is a lot about questioning things, taking risks and enjoying the essence of being remarkable more than the success it might bring.

* obviously there are a lot more names such as Tara Hunt, Kathy Sierra, Doc Searls, Umair Haque, Scoble, Jeff Jarvis who all tweak this theme a little differently.

** I work in a non software company and I had a hard time convincing my peers that a serious software could have the name 'wiki'

Thursday, June 15, 2006

If chaotic systems do not produce chaos what good are they?

I believe this is how a niche knowledge sector begins its path towards exclusivity. When a technology breakthrough leads to, a small group of people redefining the meaning of a word(s). Before you know it, the word has a different meaning that has spread through word of mouth communication. By the time the real world gets to hear about it, the space is filled with TLA's(three letter acronyms) and other only-members-of-the-club-dig-it jargon.

Case in point, this company Gainesville, FL working on a chip with reconfigurable circuits. What is so cool you ask,
Existing reconfigurable chips, called field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), contain programmable interconnects that can be rewired to perform different functions. But FPGAs are relatively slow to reconfigure, typically taking milliseconds for each rewiring, or about one million times slower than ChaoLogix's chips
Hey! bang up job. I really hope this works so I can have a toaster that is also a clock/radio/wifi receiver. All right so realistically the technology is far from proven and might not succeed as history can attest to. But to me what is most interesting is the statement below,
The common notion that chaotic systems are unstable and unpredictable is not accurate, says Ditto. Such systems can be extremely sensitive to changes, and it is possible to produce desired states reliably and reproducibly provided you ensure only minor changes are made to the inputs.
Can we maybe call it something other than chaos then?

Note: It turns out that this is a long standing disconnect between the popular usage of the term and its scientific implications. Wikipedia has more on it (as always *smile*)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How often do you question your assumptions

Talk about a marketing nightmare. This article refers to a hunting gathering tribe that lives in the forests of Brazil. They number about 310-350 in population. So far so good, nothing extraordinary here. Then it gets interesting, this is a tribe that does not have numbers in its language, they do not have a system of counting, they do not have a way to distinguish past from future, they always live in the present. Mothers do not pass on fairy tales to children and to me the most fascinating part is that they do not have a creation myth.

For all practical intents and purposes they seem to have curiosity, they just exist. They do not try to learn from their past, they do not seem to plan or build towards their future. Where do they fit in with our world view. Now the assumptions part, I assumed every human being was created with a burning desire to more the exist/survive, I am not sure anymore. Thoughts.... ?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Are you sitting on a market waiting for disruption

It was only a matter of time before the real estate market got shaken up. There has been a lot of interest in it lately. Interesting convergence actually.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner brought it notoriety with their coverage of real estate commission practices in freakanomics. You have companies like one percent realty trying to get rid of the inefficiencies in the market without alienating their brotherhood. You have companies like zillo and zooven try to create user friendly web sites using "web2.0" tricks but not really going all the way.

Finally Redfin decided to bite the bullet and challenge the brotherhood. It is covered in this write up by mister web2.0 himself (sorry for the sarcasm *grin*). Some of the quotes are interesting, for instance...
Everything isn’t rosy for Redfin, though. They’ve been operating in Seattle for a number of years and have numerous war stories to tell about threats, stalkings and other disturbing behavior towards their employees and some customers from, apparently, angry real estate professionals. Hopefully things won’t get out of hand as they continue to disrupt this stubbornly inefficient market.

This stinks of "last resort" behavior from a caged beast. Whatever happens to Redfin, the real estate agents better wake up and realise that things will never be the same again and as a prospective home buyer all I have to say to that is Amen :-)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You got them trapped so what do you do

Continuing my theme of Time Warner posts. I realized that every time I powered my DVR it always tuned to channel 3, i.e. the Time Warner channel. This was not something I could customize. In other words they have it rigged (see comments) set up so that every one of their subscribers saw their channel the first thing on powering the box by default.
I don't know their subscription size but this is a pretty sweet marketing channel. So what do they do with it....


All I see are insipid and uninspiring spots for TW digital phones and cable installation. TW seems to view this as just another way to plug their own services and products and not really as a revenue stream. I think they are missing big time. What would you do?....
[follow up]
Kim pointed out to me that this can be changed. Makes me question even more on what can TW do to prevent its subscribers from moving away from that default channel.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Do not do this with your company.

I live in Austin and we have been experiencing harsh weather for the past few weeks. This past Thursday, the city took a beating and large parts of the city lost power. My Time Warner DVR decided to join the party. The box would reboot itself spontaneously without warning (sometimes during the last few minutes of the 4th qtr of a spurs or suns game).
I moved recently and so I am a new subscriber. They have already had to come in and change the box once because of hardware failure. The only options I get are either drive over to the time warner office myself and swap the box or wait for a phone call and leave work in the middle of whatever you are doing to let the time warner rep. in to swap the boxes. This would be the second replacement within 20 days.
Given that my only cable choices are time warner or "no" cable. I get the feeling time warner really does not care if its customer service policy makes the customers life easy or hard. Anyways I was annoyed and ranting about the bad effects of a local monopoly till this morning....

Derrick was the time warner representative who stopped by today. Derrick is good at what he does. Amongst the other problems, the remote had been misconfigured by the previous agent. I did not know this and so when I said the remote was malfunctioning, he (Derrick) diagnosed the problem. Not only did he fix it but when he realised I was curious, he actually walked me through what he did and told me how I can do it myself if I wanted to. It was not rocket science but good customer service, the ability to listen and respond as necessary. I was not so mad at time warner any more.

So I ask Derrick if there is a quick and easy way for me to give positive feedback to his supervisor at time warner. Guess what, call the customer service line and wait for 19minutes before you can talk to someone. Are you kidding me!?! Timewarner is burning good will created by awesome field people like Derrick. What are you doing with your front line people?

To recap
  • Do not abuse your monopoly to create unfriedly and obstructive customer service policies.
  • Enable your good customer facing employees to make a difference and do not hold them back.
So, how is your company being run?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Caring 101

Do you want to enjoy what you do? Do you remember any of the fire brand idealism and vision you started out with?
It is good to mature and grow with time but not necessarily good to stop believeing that you can change the world. One of my favourite quotes is from Gandhi who said, "you start by being the change you want to see in the world".

(thanks to flickr and dan taylor for sharing the image)

Returning to reality, I am a fan of Kathy Sierra and I higly recommend reading both these posts from her. Read it, chew on it, distill it and then see if you can apply it.

And remember, it's almost never about making them more of an expert on your tool, it's about helping them get really good at whatever it is they do with your tool. Nikon's tutorials aren't about making camera experts, they're making photography experts.

So... it's time to let that go. You're not keeping up. I'm not keeping up. And neither is anyone else. At least not in everything. Sure, you'll find the guy who is absolutely cutting-edge up to date on some technology, software upgrade, language beta, whatever. But when you start feeling inferior about it, just think to yourself, "Yeah, but I bet he thinks Weezer is still a cool new band..."

I try not to just plug other posts with no purpose but these are well worth your time. Trust me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Does the long tail affect me? (Part 2)

The quick answer Y.E.S Part of the trick here is to realize that the long tail cuts horizontally. It is not tied to a single industry or a specific kind of product.
I wrote about what the long tail (is) and how it is actively affecting us in the last post. I want to get into "so why do I have to give a rats rear end" in this post.

  • Do you feel like you speak a language that the rest of the world does not?
  • Do you feel like you could learn better if only your teachers can present the subject differently?
  • Do you feel like you know the exact couch you want in your living room but are constrained by the availability at your local jim's hardware and the cost of a custom made couch?
  • Do you feel like you know the exact guy/girl right for you but that everybody you have met so far is messed up somehow?

Well, the long tail is your answer. Except for the last question, there you are screwed and need to grow up (sorry about that).

The long tail makes is possible for you to be exposed to alternatives other than what you are used to seeing. It is not a panacea but it is giving power back to the buyer in a way not seen in a while. As seth says
All as a way of telling you that an epidemic of amnesia is sweeping our land. Armed with a blog and a following (I have 2,000 [or 2 million] daily readers... wait till they hear about this!), or with a frequent purchaser card or even just a credit card, millions of customers are now your most powerful customers. And as powerful customers, they want you to know, to recognize and to reward them for their power. If you don't know 'who they are', they're going to hit the road. Angrily.

For instance, I am a big fan of passion and not giving up on your dreams and I keep trying a lot, failing a lot and try some more. So, I am a big fan of hugh's work . That lead me to a lot of places and amongst them thingamy. I had a online meeting with Sig yesterday and we had a good time (at least I think so, he might think differently). The cost was the time invested on both our parts (the most expensive thing). We use skype and vnc and had a great meeting. I am not yet sure if thingamy is the right tool for me. But I will tell you this, I am sold on his passion for thingamy and for creating a new idea. In fact so much that I want to make this work for him. I want to find ways to be an end user for his product without compromising on my responsibility for my company. I would like us to have a customer like me (hubris aside)....

Blogs (a part of the Long tail saga) attract the right kind of people to your product/idea/vision. It is a better lead filter than the best automated marketing tool you got.

So, what is your product? What do you have to say about it? Why do you love it? Why do you think it will really change the world? .......


(thanks for letting me link to this hugh)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Does the long tail affect me? (Part 1)

This post will be a brief and non-academic introduction to the long tail. We will then look into how it affects you.

Nerdy definition (thanks of course to wikipedia).

The phrase The Long Tail (as a proper noun with capitalized letters) was first coined by Chris Anderson in a 2004 article in Wired magazine [1] to describe certain business and economic models such as or Netflix. The term long tail is also generally used in statistics, often applied in relation to wealth distributions or vocabulary use.

It is a soft corollary to the pareto distribution. In simpler terms, if you think of the x-axis on the graph above as representing the different products and the y-axis as quantities of the product sold. The long tail says that the products in the brown portion of the curve sell a lot and the products in the yellow portion of the curve sell very small individual quantities. What is interesting is that the yellow portion extends for a while (a long while). If we can keep selling products from the yellow portion cheaply, the cumulative revenue from the yellow portion will eventually start to match and rival the revenue from the brown portion of the curve.

In other words, hot wheels are amongst the top 10 hottest selling toys in terms of revenue. On the other hand you also have the "The Gauss Rifle" (i am not even sure if this technically a toy). I am guessing you are lucky if you can sell 5 of these a year. The challenge till recently was how to make a profitable business selling stuff like the gauss rifle.

In other words till recently (amazon, netflix, ebay.. came along) we did not know how to develop, market and distribute the long tail end of the product space without incurring losses.

Then came rss, peer production, blogging and as we all know by now a means for the mavens and connectors to reach widely and make their influence felt in a powerful way. Highly recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell's tipping point for more on how mavens and connectors are changing the world.

Quick definitions:

maven: A maven (also mavin or mayvin) is an expert in a particular field, usually one who is self-appointed and who seeks to pass his knowledge on to others.
Those with wide social circles. They are the "hubs" of the human social network and responsible for the small world phenomenon.

So, now we have an easy way to search for information, publish information and spread expertise in a cost effective manner that was not possible before. This is mainly thanks to the community effect which brings economies of scale to a long tail marketplace.

So the main costs now are manufacturing costs, support and shipping costs. Companies like Amazon, eBay are making the storage costs negligible using economies of scale. With marketing costs continuing to go down, the possibility that a viable business can be established using the long tail is starting to look more and more likely.

So what next,

  1. Think about this and send me your comments. These are thoughts of mine and obviously not scientifc thesis. Think about what this means to your life (social and professional). I will talk about how it affects my life in the next post.
  2. If you want a more detailed thought provoking academic treatment of the subject, read Umair Haque's latest entry.
The genius of these models is that they tap the space where expertise and heterogeneous production preferences intersect - something that almost never happens in firms, despite big bonuses, nasty bosses, and the other nice things about the rat race.

If the above statement looks like something that makes you get excited about the future, read the entire post and get rolling. Have a great weekend, I am going to be here !!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Customer Service: Learn by living

I stopped by my usual breakfast taco joint en route to work this morning. I was distracted, peeved (some _dude_ cut me off in traffic) and lost in thought as I walked up to the sales counter. The young man behind it goes "Morning Amar, your day of to a good start?". It shook me up in a good way, I was honestly pleased that some one who knew me by name cared enough to ask me how I was doing. It was enough to change my disposition and make me smile. What was strange was that I did not know his name and I normally know the names of the sales people I interact with. It is simple basic stuff, that we all know about but that we so often forget.

(Thanks to leilei2006 for making this photo public on flickr.)

On the other hand, I have to get my car inspected from my insurance so they can give me an estimate on the hail damage done to my car. As I was setting up an appointment, the claims person says "you know there is more hail forecasted for tonight". It just occurred to me, wouldn't it be cool if you can sms all your clients this information before hand so I can find a safe spot for my car and save both of us money. The technology is there, if airlines can sms flight info. to me, my insurance company can sms weather warning to me. That would be a neat way to differentiate yourself from your competition. So why not do it?

It is because not all companies are like Toyota. It is because once a company reaches a certain size ideas are squashed under process and paper work. It is because ennui and adhering to standards replace innovation and true customer satisfaction. How is your company doing? What are you doing to change it? Oh yes process is not always bad.

p.s I recently read a post about Toyota's management style where production line workers are given lots of freedom to innovate and how it is considered an honour if an engineer can spend time on the production line. If you know what I am talking about, please consider sending me the link :)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Repeat and then tatoo on your forehead

This little nugget is from one of Seth Godin's recent blog posts. It is worth repeating every morning.

This is scary. It's really scary to turn down most (the average) of what comes your way and hold out for the remarkable opportunities. Scary to quit your job at an average company doing average work just because you know that if you stay, you'll end up just like them. Scary to go way out on an edge and intentionally make what you do unattractive to some.

Which is why it's such a great opportunity.

I am struggling through this and I think it is normal to struggle. We veer away from average, we veer away from the cliched and move towards the edge because we realize that something within us is pushing us to take the risk. Something that clearly states that life is worth pursuing not just plain existing, worth making a difference and worth taking the risks to really find out what it looks like to pursue your dreams if failure was removed from the set of outcomes.

The reality sets in, we crave security, dependability, purchasing power, status and comfort and..... We forget that we decided that all of those were open to negotiation when we walked away from average. It is good to read statements like the above and remember why you set out to do what you are doing (assuming you have walked away from average).

In the sermon today, the senior pastor at my church was talking about "suffering with contentment" and that really struck a chord. No one promised that following (the right) dreams will be easy or necessarily rewarding but the promise is that it will be fulfilling. Where are you at?

If you are not offended by Hugh Macleod's cards, this one is dead on :) link

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The story of the project management tool

It began with this young man whose dream was to work in a Florida orange grove. When he got his job at the orange grove, he was amazed at the sophistication and complexity there. Since it was a fairly large grove providing fresh oranges to large corporations such as Tropicannot they had lot of automating and processes.

They used big project management tools that were supposed to help stay on top of everything orangey. The seeding, planting, nurturing, harvesting, packaging, shipping, invoicing, customer satisfaction, inventory management, selling more oranges, raising the price of oranges, hiring the folks passionate about orange, seeing if oranges were help make money, etc. You get the idea.

Now obviously the project management tool did not actually do any of these tasks. What it did was give a way of staying on top what tasks needed to done and if anybody was ever going to get around to doing them. Then there were the smart people who had the scary ABM degrees and whose specialty was using these tools. They knew nothing about oranges and lot of them did not even drink orange juice or grape fruit juice (gasp!), they drank perrier but here they were.

Eventually the young man got disillusioned with the giant orange farming industry. He also noticed that a lot of these project management tools took so much time that it was hard to say if the shipment to Tropicannot was not delayed because of the time spent on the cumbersome project management tools.

He was lost for a while. Then he ran into some friends who were running a small family farm. They had clear goals of supplying to the local community and helping people eat healthy organic food. Most importantly they were passionate about their farm and enjoyed each others company. The young man started working with them. Over time their produce caught the attention on a broader scale and they had to start thinking about growing their farming operation to meet the demand. They looked towards the young man and said, you have experience from the large orange grove. You can take care of it.

And so here we are... a lot of the project management tools do not care about the needs or the size or the current status of the farm and cannot start small/simple and grow as the farm's needs grow. They all assume you want to solve giant problems and have lots of people with AMB's to look busy with the complicated tools. The young man searched a bit and found a few tools that he hopes will help out. This is the beginning of his story. be continued....

oh and the tools so far are
  1. basecamp (not working out for us r.i.p basecamp *sniff*)
  2. fogbugz
  3. projectpipe

about the "staying small" part in the title

what I mean is
and so on, etc. In other words, I am not against success. If these links don't make sense, drop me a comment and we can talk.


Interesting observation/comment from umair haque on the present U.S job situation. For those of you not familiar with him, his political bias is pretty clear in his posts. So apply your own filter. This line in his commentary caught my attention,
It's difficult to see a future for the middle and working classes.

Note that most of this is a classic case of saving capitalism from the capitalists. The gains in this case (as has been very nicely documented in the last year or so) are being appropriated not just by capital, but by the few at the very top of the capital food chain - most of whom see absolutely nothing wrong with this picture.
Hysterical reaction aside, there is some value in looking at the numbers and pondering them. Read more about umair's comments here and the actual news item here.

I will keep my blog posts clear of political bias by choice. So these posts are meant to be purely informational in nature.

What is in a name

Apparently a lot more than is obvious. Google recently went from being "doggy"/"old hound" in China to "Gu Ge" (pronounced "goo-guh") which is translated as "song of the harvest of grain". CNN money speculates that Baidu was getting more market share in China because Chinese people don't like to consult "doggy" for questions. Maybe the song of harvest will change things...

Moral of the story: People don't like to ask doggy questions. If you were looking for a more profound revelation on naming strategies, read Seth Godin's blog :).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How much will you pay to kiss your S.O

My fiance agreed to pay the 15$ that the Indian government will impose on us if we are found kissing in public. So I guess I am safe after all ;-)

Kim and I were in India a few weeks back visiting my parents in Madras and my mom was insistent that we try to curb our PDA (Public Display of Affection). I thought she was exaggerating.
Apparently she wasn't according to this news item.

would you like to rent clothes for day trips

I have always wondered if I can make a business renting business (casual) outfits to business travellers. I remember from my consultant days that the prospect of flying with just my laptop and no baggage for a day/two day trip sounded like heaven.
Very much like hertz but instead you rent outfits on your way out of the airport and drop them back in on the way back. Assume that all the usual jazz is thrown in, your profile is available and you have to place your order 24 hrs in advance, etc. I figured that clothing is too personal and people would be uncomfortable "borrowing" clothes. (apart from the basic issues such as is it economically viable to be able to use clothes like this, etc).

But recently I was at a wedding and complemented a friend of mine on the slacks he was wearing. It turns out that he got those on eBay. Today i came across this article on "car sharing" in Europe.

Maybe it is not such a bad idea after all....

p.s springwise and its sister website are very cool portals. enjoy and No! i am not a fan of bright orange suits.

how do you market a new form of marketing

Just read an Interesting thread on how hard changing archetypes is (thanks to Seth Godin for the post on archetypes). This is about how Tara offended an independant artist while trying to plug pinko marketing. :Thread here:

why am I switching free blog providers.

I have a blog on wordpress and I am not happy with my blog on wordpress. I think I have learnt from my mistakes so hopefully things will be more focused this time. My main challenge was around picking the "categories" I want to blog on, naming them appropriately and having the discipline to stick with them. I came across a israeli vc's blog today and in the introduction to it she clearly stated the categories she will be blogging on and I felt it was time to take another shot.
The other reason being that wordpress is very flexible but also overly complicated and I could not control the rendering and the face of my blog and it frustrated me.

So here we go, my take on the categories I want to be posting on
  1. entrepreneurship and technology.
  2. Education. I recently started working with an educational startup.
  3. Blogging, pinko marketing, impact of progress on our life.
  4. Getting things done related stuff.
  5. ajax, blogging and web2.0 related changes.
  6. Thoughts on simplifying life.
This is not to say I am great at any of this stuff. These items occupy a lot of my time so it is fair that I spend time talking about these. If you want to read up on these items, I recommend the following blogs:
Phew, a long list :). I still keep my old blog here. At least until blogger lets me import old posts.