Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 Indianisms that every non-Indian should know

We are a billion strong nation. And a foreign country ruled us for years together and made us learn English. So, we picked it up in our own way. Sprinkling English with words we felt appropriate and accent that came naturally to us. Over the period of time, we went to other countries, we worked to “blend” and sound like them. But then, we still stick to a few of our favorite words, that we refuse to let go. Here is my list of Indian words that I still occasionally use, though I am fully aware that they are wrong.

Passed out – So I passed out of MBA in 2010. When we say “passed out” we actually mean we graduated. If you think that we lost consciousness when we graduated, yeah we were so ecstatic that we really did. So stop smirking there each time when I say I passed out.

Expired – Yeah Indians expire. We don't pass away. We all have an expiry date and when we reach that date we just expire. Yeah, I was not born, I had a date of manufacturing.

Couple of – When I say “I did a couple of presentations” or when I say “I met her a couple of times” it means – I did many presentations and I met her many times. Just because you think couple means twice, doesn't mean that I mean it that way. Even after 100s of emails, it will still remain – I sent him a couple of emails.

Lakhs of – When I say there are lakhs of people in my town. I mean hundreds of thousands of. We measure 100,000 as 1 lakh. So each time I say “lakh” remember – 1 lakh = 0.1 million don't give me that quizzical look.

Prepone – Just because you can postpone meetings, so can I prepone them. What's wrong in it? We think of pone as an event. If I move things beyond pone – I postpone them. So if I bring them before pone, I am preponing them.

How can you think any of this is wrong when 1 in 6 people in the world actually say it?

Sunday, November 13, 2011


When I was young, I had this bad habit of collecting stuff from places I visited. My innocent self felt that they would serve as fond memories of places (or interesting things that I had done) in my older age.

But now that I am old, I have realized that all these trinkets, ticket stubs and maps of places are nothing but an absolute waste of space. Not only do I never open them to “re-live those memories” but also, I have ended up having far too many memories. They now occupy so much space in my cupboard that my present is in danger of lying on the floor.

Every time that I found some interesting collectible, I just dumped it into this area “for staring at it longingly in the future”. The problem with this area was – now I had no clue what was there in it. It had become so unmanageable, that I dreaded to venture into it. Anyway, today I finally dawned my mask and off I ventured where no man has gone before.

Now the place where I live in is generally very humid. So everything that is not touched for a while gets covered in mold-like stuff. I am sure if I decide to sleep for a week doing nothing, I too would be covered by some mold with some mushrooms growing off me. Anyway, after hours of digging around through the fungi covered rubble, I figured that there was not much that I wanted to hold on as memories going forward. The stuff I liked was already damaged, and the rest was not worth keeping. Yeah I know I am cold-hearted, but I figured there was no point keeping them just so that I throw them off later someday (that someday never comes!).

So what was the weird and interesting stuff I held on so long? Lots and lots of refrigerator magnets. I had so many of them that to actually put them all, I would probably have to buy a few fridges. Then there were ticket stubs of amusement park rides, places of interest, bus tickets, train tickets, air tickets, boat tickets etc. And then dozens of press-a-penny souvenirs. I also found a few single chopsticks (mind you – they don’t form a pair!) and a few dozen wine bottle corks (At one point in time – I envisioned myself dabbling in cork-art). If this was not enough I had stones (yeah stones!), dried leaf samples and wilted flower samples! The most interesting bits that I found was – I had a Matryoshka doll that I bought at this fort. Unfortunately as of writing this blog post, I already managed to break the doll into pieces while trying to open her up.

All said and done, I am left with no more memorabilia. Now all I have is fond memories and lots of fungi all over my clothes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Google Platform

I have not signed up for Google+ yet. But the more I think about it, I think Google has really nailed this one super right.


Google+ tightly integrated with Google Chrome, Chromebooks, and +1 API is slowly going to become a platform, an operating system a core of everything that we do online. It is going to be our unique identity across all Google properties and subsequently the internet. And when I think about it,  whether I like it or not Google is still my main point of entry into the big bad world of the internet. And how you ask?

Google Chrome

I start browsing online through my browser – Chrome (I still use Firefox, but considering that 82% of Mozilla’s revenue comes from Google, the browsers are technically “influenced” by Google). The first website I go to is – Gmail (to check my emails) and then chat with anyone who is online on Gtalk. There after I open my Google Reader (to catch up on my daily dose of feed-updates). If I have to search for something I go to Google (images, text, news or whatever!). And anywhere on the internet if I find anything interesting I +1 it.


When I am on the move, I use my phone (I have an Android (Google) based phone). All my contacts are automagically synced with my Google Contacts. Any photos I take are uploaded to Picasa (another Google product). All my meetings and birthday reminders are synchronized with my Google Calendar. I use Google Maps to get directions and when I am bored, I see YouTube videos. If I were in the US, I would be using Google Checkout and Google Music. When I wish to rant about the big bad world I write on Blogger (yeah another Google product) and if you are subscribed to my RSS Feeds or Emails, they are delivered by Feedburner (another Google product). I use Google docs to store all my important documents, and I use Google Finance to keep an eye on all the stocks that I am interested in. The point I am trying to make is – Google products are entrenched in my life everywhere.

And mind you – the main source of Google’s income – 97% (Google Adwords) is neatly embedded in each and everyone of these products and is tracking me and my habits and already providing me relevant advertising and making money. Google Adwords as a third-party plugin is also used on many websites all around the interweb to provide advertisements. With the plugin for the +1 buttons, Google has also started monitoring me at non-Google sites. Now, if Google forces me to have a single identity across all of its own products (it is already doing that – I lost my old Blogger, Feedburner, YouTube accounts) and sooner or later if that identity becomes my g+ login – I end up being a g+ user even if I don't sign up for it explicitly. And that unique g+ identity will be used across the internet by Google.

Comparing g+ to any other social-networking website is doing grave injustice to it. Its not “just” a social-network. It is more like your identity online. Google can simple make g+ the underlying thread (platform) connecting all of these properties (which it is already doing) and in no time it not only has a well established social-network but also a super engaged community using it. The friendly bar that you are seeing on all your Google properties these days is a sign of that community that is going to come (and have you noticed that the “Logoff” option is neatly tucked away).

Google Bar

To give an analogy to things that you do on Facebook today here is how I think it would pan out: All my current contacts in Google (and Android) will automagically get into different circles of my g+ identity. That takes care of the biggest obstacle for a social networking website – making people signup! Facebook photos (the biggest source of photos on the planet now) will be competing with Picasa. Picasa is already tightly integrated with GMail and my Desktop (I am sure a few of you have used the Windows based Picasa which actually scans my entire hard-drive and recognizes my friends from long lost photos). Integrate that with Google+ and I am sure it will go a long way. My +1s will come on your g+ timelines and that will compete with Facebook Like. All the current hullabaloo about social search will be taken care of by the +1 buttons as well. So the URLs that have been +1ed by your friends would appear higher in your search results. Also Facebook chat has a formidable competitor in GTalk. And messaging is best handled by GMail already. Finally, all the feeds that I liked on Google Reader are now necessarily +1ed and can also be shared in my g+ circles.

The few things that Google is left to develop in g+ is Social games (I am sure they are working on it) and have a vibrant third party developer community on it (this rant kind of talks in detail about it!). g+ could also become the singular platform for commenting (like Disqus!) on Blogger, YouTube and on blogs hosted through Wordpress, Typepad etc through a plugin and its pretty much all the identity I need anywhere. Google Checkout and g+ will aid in tracking my buying behaviour as well.

Chrome could then be further tweaked to save my browsing profile attached to my g+ profile. So even before I get onto the internet, I would login to g+ to get the right set of features in my browser, and possibly start browsing from the point where I last left off when I closed my chrome browser. Android and g+ will also make a superb combination – with me being in a position to share specific location based updates with circles of friends on g+ that I choose to.

Emails still are our favourite mode of communication. Also Google docs is awesome for collaboration. Google Calendar + Google Maps + Google Hangout will make arranging events easier! Top that up with Google sites, Blogger and Reader, I think g+ is so far ahead in this game that it is not really competing with anyone. And don't forget the fact that Google has lots of cash on hand. Any property that it buys next will also be deeply integrated into this g+ platform.

Finally, Google is making g+ available for Google Apps for Business. This would mark the first entry of a social-networking platform into business (Yeah Salesforce.com chatter was technically the first, but I have never used it). Having g+ across an organization tightly integrated with its email (GMail) and document sharing platform (Docs) will do wonders to the socially active  employees.

The question of monetization without being evil remains. That is a tricky bit I am not sure how Google is going to handle. However, monetization through advertising is one thing that Google can do and is better at, than any other social networking website. Sorry for this long rant. I have been reading a lot of blogs about the imminent death of g+, and I thought I need to voice my thoughts somewhere!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Procedural Problem

A security guard at the entrance to an organization that I know of, is expected to check each individual’s bag while that person leaves the premises. The checking is done in order to deter people from stealing things from the premises.

Now, if the firm is engaged in the business of software services, the only “thing” of value that an employee can probably steal on her way out is electronic data/ software/ source code. So the security guard has been given strict instructions to check for electronic data storage devices that are easily visible – CD/DVDs, USB data sticks and Mass storage devices.

Most organizations in India employ the services of a third party contractor for security services. This means that the security guard at the entrance, is a low-paid not-so-techno-savvy individual. As taught in the rule book, she routinely and religiously checks for the artefacts that I mentioned above. And since she is a low-paid employee – she dares not to question the senior management of the company on their way out.

This to me, looks like an elaborate security theatre. The numerous obvious flaws in the system are laughable. Here is a simple list that I could conjure, but I am sure an evil minded civilian can probably come up with a lot more:

  • An average smartphone these days has an internal memory of 16 GB. However, phones are still assumed to be only used to make phone calls
  • Memory cards, data cards, and other esoteric looking data storage devices do not raise a suspicion
  • The average employee that is checked is always the low level employee. The worst offense that she can do probably is take her own code home. This offense is less damaging to the organization than the senior management employee leaking confidential financial and or strategy numbers to the competitors
  • Company laptops are not considered as mass storage devices. So you can easily carry GBs of data home through them and you will not be questioned. Mind you – all employees are Administrators of their laptops and can easily transfer data out of them

All said and done, we still go through the same mindless routine everyday. And this routine is not just restricted to this organization. An average person with a car, going to a mall or an public place in India is faced with a similar ordeal. Private security guards at parking lot entrances will make you open your car’s boot to check for explosive devices.

Without questioning their competence at detecting bombs “visually” (I am sure that's a herculean feat) I still have not figured out what they actually look for. I have had suitcases, boxes and other potentially suspicious articles in my boot, and have been let off without ever being questioned. And the explosives in the boot concept is so strictly followed that you can have anything else looking fairly suspicious anywhere else in your car, and the security guard wont be alarmed. This fairly useless routine has already been gamed once and we still continue going through it. My car has been through the atrocities so many times, that these days my boot’s pneumatic pistons (that hold it open) refuse to operate.

I am no security expert, but I am sure there are better ways to handle such threats. I would love to quote Bruce Schneier here – “And if I were investing in security, I would invest in intelligence and investigation. The best time to combat terrorism is before the terrorist tries to get on an airplane”.