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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Monday, October 08, 2007

This is my last post on this blog. Radio Userland has served me well since I started blogging in 2003. I will post more details on the transition, at my new blog - for now I just wanted to make this announcement, and provide the new url and feeds.

New Blog URL - http://dinamehta.com/
Subscribe via RSS 2.0 - http://dinamehta.com/feed/
Subscribe via Atom - http://dinamehta.com/feed/atom/
Comments feed - http://dinamehta.com/comments/feed/

The new blog will also be called Conversations with Dina - it's just a new blogging platform - but the same old blog! I do hope you continue reading and feeding it.

My old blog will be archived at its old url (http://radio.weblogs.com/0121664/) and I will keep the archives going. Stuart, who has worked out the platform for Conversations with Dina on Wordpress has done some neato hacks - one that I love a lot is that the search function will not just search the new blog archives, but also my old Radio blog archives. And he has managed to transfer some of my posts over too. That's so cool!!! Lots more needs doing there ... and that will emerge I'm sure.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Its been quiet here too long ....... the result of many many shifts. A new home, getting things to work smoothly, much travelling, transferring from a PC to a Mac, not being able to figure out how to get my Radio blog easily onto a Mac (Paolo has very graciously offered to help after I left a comment at his blog)....

And mosoci β

Mosoci is more than an idea - it is a beta platform, an emergent plan.  It is jazz, bricolage and serious play.  It lets us play a little music where chaos, creativity, diversity and complexity are all welcome.
It fulfils our desires and needs which are driven by the fundamental experiences of our souls, to live and work in an emergent, globally connected community.

What it is not, is a formal traditional organization.  We hope the lifestream we have built at the Mosoci blog demonstrates this.  We want it to be more than just the two of us.  Stuart spells this thought out really well:

"We know we would not be doing this without everyone that has read our blogs over the last few years. Social Media built the platform for our collaboration and the sense that our network and community would support, participate with us and help us grow. Now it is beyond an idea and yet it is still being formulated. We certainly don't want to end up as just the two of us. Today though we are happy to feel like we are in a constant state of beta. That's the zone where it is a real rush.

Thank you for your support, praise and interest. Our blogs and blogging will evolve just like our other social media activities are. For example we are really enjoying bringing our bookmarking into the feed. For now our tweets are there too. That may be overwhelming. Then it may also be helpful. We'll let the readers tell us.

A picture named mosoci2.jpgIt is born out of our curiosity, passion and deep belief in the strength of social technologies to make a real difference, our willingness and drive to share, learn and grow allowed us to experiment with and use those very technologies to communicate and collaborate on several projects over the years. More details from Stuart:

"Much happens today by chance. Things also emerge and we find ways to jump on them and adapt. Over the years Dina and I have enjoyed telling parts of our story. We first met in an online forum. I set her up blogging “Conversations with Dina” with install instructions over an IM chat session, long before voice and video connections were possible. Skype also helped to revolutionize our collaboration and connectivity. Open channels between India and the US made collaboration around Learning Journeys, research, and just links and interests possible. Working in India for most of the last year, attending some conferences together around the world and we knew we were at the point where where 1+1 makes more than two.

Mosoci is the platform of our collaboratory around the interests we love, are passionate about and to reinforce the direction and learning we need to go in. We won’t be successful without our network and our community and the power of social media. Blogs, wikis, forums, twitter, bookmarking have enabled who we are today."

You may ask, what does Mosoci do?  Simply put, a) we immerse ourselves in research and deep dives, b) we facilitate change and help re-frame value for organizations.  The time and opportunity to conduct and deliver research and strategies in new ways is here. We constantly push the boundaries with emerging social tools (blogs, wikis, SMS, RSS, social networks, beta communities), with clients when and as appropriate.  We want to take this practice, this method of working, along with others who are doing some excellent work in this field, to the whole world.

Let's create that map together, in the hope that the map will bring forth the features of the territory.
We want your comments, perspectives, and just plain old honest help and advice to make this a success. We are open to suggestion and really don’t want to stop at just a few of us.

It would be great if you would jump in on the conversation at Mosoci and add Mosoci Feed  to your reader. We'd love your feedback and suggestions.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I will be in the US from July 18th to 27th - am attending meetings in Cambridge MA on the 19th and 23rd. Have some free time over the weekend July 21-22nd. Am meeting up with Yazad who touched base with me on Facebook when I mentioned I was going - and looking forward to meeting him on Sunday. Would love to meet up with bloggers and other folks in the Boston area who are interested in the social media scene or in qualitative research and ethnography or just want to hangout and yak!

I will also be in London for a few days on my way back - July 29-31st where I am going to hangout with friends. Again, would love to meet anyone who's free on those days.

Do drop in a comment here or send me email to dina(dot)mehta(at)gmail(dot)com if you'd like to meet up.

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Had an interesting interaction with an FMCG Client for whom we are setting up some presentations and workshops around how they can take their brands into the social media realm. I sent a client a detailed note on what we could provide, and she forwarded it to one of the marketing guys who felt it is exciting, but perhaps too focussed on blogging and not enough on youtube!

I dashed off a response to the person who is leading this effort that she must frame this workshop for her organization, only then can she get buy-in. It is one thing for us as consultants to deliver on the content, but because it is such a new field here, and because of the tremendous hype and buzz around it, there are many misconceptions; the most salient one being that blogs are individual personal spaces.

My response to her:

Please frame the workshop when you send it out internally - some thoughts on that ... assure them we will talk about youtube and many many many more such services like flickr, twitter, podcasting, facebook etc. All these are microblogging applications. And we will do a whole session on facebook - which is the latest 'hottie' and is a platform where users are encouraged not only to create their 'user-generated' content, but also build new applications bottom-up.

I think there is a mismatch here in what your team understands about what blogging is - and what it actually is. Most non-bloggers seem to refer to blogging as merely writing a diary. But that's not complete, nor does it do blogging any justice. Blogging is the act of publishing content online in a space that is yours - usually chronologically ordered. It could be videos, audio, short text messages, photos - all forms of multimedia. It could be in your own space where usually you use a text-driven blogging platform, and to which you can add plugins for a multimedia experience, or it could be within a social network space - like youtube, twitter, etc

So, in the presentation unless they understand what blogging really is - and what influence bloggers have, I think we will be doing the social media space no justice at all. Moreover, it is bloggers that are the early adopters, analysts and consultants in this space --- unless they had built it, it would not exist. Much the same in the potential for products and brands. They are the new influentials - and they have the potential to really evangelize or rant big time.

This is not just an international phenomenon - a recent study in India revealed that 85% of active internet users claimed to read blogs regularly! This is their growing influence. Today most news channels in India have a list of bloggers they call upon on general stories they are covering - to get the buzz on what's going around on the web. When Sunita Williams and her safe return to earth was the big thing on TV, I was asked by a TV Channel to participate in a show on it - I turned it down, as it was not really relevant to either blogging or my areas of interest - but that's a different issue. A lot of civic and political action is now being mobilized through mobile phones and online. Many of these use blogging platforms for their causes, and build large communities around them by taking them into Orkut and Facebook.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Global Voices Online has announced the first five citizen media outreach projects to receive Rising Voices microgrants.

"The overwhelming response is a testament to the global enthusiasm for citizen media that stretches from Southern Chile to rural Nigeria, from a village in Mali without electricity to urban Mongolia; from an orphanage in Ethiopia to a center for disabled HIV/AIDS patients in Kenya. The list goes on and on, but what all of the project proposals have in common is a desire to enable their communities to tell their own stories, to write their own first draft of history, to document their traditions and culture before they are washed away by the tides of globalization."

Congratulations to all those receiving the grant - I really believe this is a huge step for blogging outreach programmes!

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Bloggy thought three. Something I was mulling over for a while, even shared in a completely inarticulate manner with Rajesh yesterday, who by the way awarded me with the Thinking Blogger Award.  He shared with me some links that report on the recent IAMAI Web2.0 conference, with the comment - "am getting a bit restless with marketers"!  Then I got a call from a journalist, who wanted to discuss 'unconferences' - and I took off on her a little and told her how I dislike the term - any activity that is prefaced with an 'un' makes me feel not-so-nice about it.  Anyways, it also reminded me about another phrase or term in the social media realm that I generally dislike ---- user-generated content and I started my rant on her! 

I particularly dislike it when I hear mainstream media and corporate organizations get a high on the phrase 'user-generated content'.  In India, many times, its shortened to UGC (the only UGC I know of is the University Grants Commission!) and it bugs me no end. 

I dislike it, especially when, in the background, I hear their minds ticking away the rupees they can generate, behind all this buzz and excitement around the term.  When they have not really embraced it themselves.

I dislike it when they distance themselves from it - it's something other people -- oops users do.   How many of them have actually generated content themselves?

I am happy with adopting the term when I am talking about content that is created by users of a service - so there is user-generated content on Youtube, or on blogging platforms, or on wikis.  But I dislike it when marketers, PR agencies talk about the 'potential' in harnessing user-generated content for their brands, products and services through advertising messages on the user-generated content spaces or sites, and then believe they are really using social media in their strategies.  Am not knocking advertising based strategies - I just feel they are skimming the surface of the true potential in participating in the conversations, co-creation, community and collaboration that occurs when there is user-generated content.

I think they have it wrong, when they feel that getting onto the user-generated content bandwagon is a quick-fix for their social media strategies. Inherent in the phrase is a division, the notion or assumption of 'us vs them'.  They have got to see themselves as co-participants and partners rather than marketers or advertisers who are 'using' user-generated content as another media opportunity.

I simply loved Toby Bloomberg's rant at Unilever which so well illustrates what I am trying so hard to articulate!

"So I really want to see that ad. I really Need to see that ad. What do I do? Do I search for Lux? Do I go to the Unilever website? Nope. I head for YouTube and sure enough here it is! It's a must watch. Oh and the Unilever Lux site? Good I didn't head that way, my coffee would have turned cold looking for any mention of the campaign. Anyone for integrated marketing?

Questions To Ponder
Does a marketing campaign have to be "social" to be successful?
Is traditional advertising dead?
Is there room in the proverbial marketing mix for the good old 60 second TV spot?

Diva Marketing Thoughts
Marketing 101 tells us to hang where our customers hang. For some the "tube" means television and for others it means YouTube. And for many people it means Both

While there were quite a few Neon Girl videos on YouTube, I didn't notice a Unilever Neo Girl YouTube Channel. Unilever you missed an opportunity. Actually you missed several. Never too late to get into the game. Would be a good idea to consider especially if a sequel is in the works. Work it right and you might have the next Lonely Girl."

Bonus link: Here's Jon Udell on why he dislikes the term per se.

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Bloggy thought two. It's not worth it, if it's not searchable. Robert Scoble and Steve Rubel seem to feel so. Am actually feeling the contrary only because of my recent experiences with Facebook and Twitter. The other day, I was chatting with a young friend who is 18, and he told me a few things around Facebook. His dashboard and homepage is Facebook - all his social interactions happen around it, along with a few IM clients. He doesn't really use email very much. And most pertinent to this post, was his comment that he was disturbed that his whole family including aunts and grand-aunts could 'peep' into his entire life. In fact, it was so funny when he related a story about how an aunt actually sent his grandma some pictures of girls who wanted to 'marry' him. He's now got most of his family on 'limited' profile -- but his friends have full access to him!

I still believe that what you write or say or show on the web is there for everyone to see, read or hear, and I like that openness and transparency of the web. Still I am enjoying the levels of privacy that Facebook offers me. When I blog, I do sometimes (not when I am feeling particularly ranty) wonder whether what I write will come back to bite me some day or how people will view me as a result of what I write. I do feel more 'responsible' about what views I share on my blog - perhaps this happens when you have been blogging since 2003 and when your blog becomes your single-point public profile, for the whole world to see - family, friends, clients, potential clients etc.

But on spaces like Facebook and Twitter, I feel so much more comfort - I can rant, I can be silly, throw some food at a friend, hug someone else, share when I am upset or ecstatic. I don't ever 'think' too much when I am on Facebook - my mode is a more feely one. It's more about me and who I am. And less about my thoughts on a particular subject and less of the 'Dina' I want to project or promote or share around what I do.

I loved this comment at Steve Rubel's post by Ryan McKegney - it resonates:

"As Steve points out above, there are advantages to having a walled garden. In real life, I have a public and private life, but because of Google and the general openness of the web, the balance between public and private online is out of whack. The existing "private web" (IMs, email) has been largely static for the last half decade, but if it chooses to be, Facebook could be the next evolution of the private web. Facebook isn't just a walled garden, it is MY walled garden."

3:31:29 PM    comment []  trackback []

I was driving back from a meeting when I had a few bloggy thoughts ... long drives in traffic and beating rain tend to do that to me! It was a good meeting - regular (I actually said that!!!) qualitative research project among IT students and professionals to understand motivations that drive them to join certain sorts of organizations in a highly competitive field, to figure out a strategy to draw them to my Client's organization. As we were discussing the research, I suddenly felt - wow - this is the perfect case for a social media / new media strategy ---- you have young professionals, in the IT industry, probably heavy users of the internet, a captive target audience that must be familiar with blogs, social networking sites, youtube and the like! When you think of motivations and drivers for this segment, how can you not think of The Influentials, who help them frame their opinions. Am waiting eagerly for my copy which is winging its way here currently. It would be neat to figure out who or what they are in the project I am doing. So somewhere midway in discussing sample definitions, I broke away and asked my client - do you have a social media or blogging strategy - you need one! She was interested I think, particularly since one of her marketing objectives is to build a powerful corporate identity in order to attract the best talent.

Now am hoping it's a qualitative research +++ project!!  Am beginning to believe any organization or brand that is targeting an audience that is 'online' must have a social media strategy.  Social media is in-your-face today, no web user or surfer can really escape it.  

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Monday, June 18, 2007

The Indian Express reports that a couple of Israeli geeks have set up a low-cost wi-fi network in Dharamshala, spread over 70 acres, more than 7,000 ft above sea level.

"Thirty-eight-year old David's technological expertise and perhaps even nimble athleticism (courtesy his Mossad training) proved useful in setting up the network in the mountainous terrain. Antennae were erected in the most unlikely places (in one case the tower was painted with the insignia 'Om' and served as the spire of a local temple), the Linksys routers were re-engineered to make them power-efficient(most of them run on solar energy) and the towers were made "monkey resistant" after it was found that the primates found perverse pleasure in dangling from them.

Other "sabotage" bids were similarly thwarted. There was one last year in the form of a Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDSA) on the website of the Tibetan Technology Centre. Says Ginguld: "It is difficult to pinpoint who did it but it started after an extensive series of scans which happened somewhere in China. The same URLs were loaded to access the database repeatedly..." In a written reply to The Sunday Express, the Chinese Embassy said it was "unaware of any such thing".

Schools, hospitals and other NGOs have benefited immensely from the service, though the network's limited bandwidth means it is not accessible to individuals and laptop-carrying tourists. Says Dawa Tsering of the Tibetan Medical Institute: "Our earlier connection would break down frequently and wouldn’t be repaired for long durations. The connectivity now is more or less uninterrupted." While the vision of BPO centres coming up in the region might be a bit too romantic, the network is being used to promote trade. Dolma Kyap of Norbulingka Art Institute says they offer Tibetan art works like Thangka painting and statutes for sale on the Net. But what Ginguld is particularly thrilled by is the sight of children using the network. "Computer labs in Indian schools have lots of computers but no internet connection, which is akin to having a sleek car without petrol. Today when I see 10-year-olds logging on to sites like hi5, chatting with people, I realise we are on the right path," he says."


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Monday, June 11, 2007

OMG this is soooo funny - a supermarket going web 2.0!! Thanks Toby.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Refuses to block Orkut under political pressure!

A picture named no.jpg
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The New York Times had similar thoughts. Check out this really neat article there on how a daughter is pissed off because her mum gets a Facebook!

"But after receiving a follow-up threat from my daughter ("unfriend paige right now. im serious. i dont care if they request you. say no. i will be soo mad if you dont unfriend paige right now. actually"), I started worrying that allowing parents in would backfire on Facebook."

While I wonder about how the younger generation will react as more of us 'oldies' go in there, I must say I am really having a blast at facebook. After a long time, a social networking site has really drawn me in. Along with a few others, I thought I had reached the limit way back in 2003, when there was this mad scramble to invite all your friends to every new social networking site that came about. This time, when I got my own Facebook, I find myself behaving differently. I find I am not inviting all my friends in there, or sending out one of those blanket join me at facebook sort of message to everyone. I find a lot of my family, old and young, in India and abroad, are in there and we're having fun peeking into each others' lives and reconnecting in ways we haven't done via email or even chat. Many of my close blogging buddies are in there too - and I am enjoying learning about so many new facets of their lives with applications like Trip, Last.fm, Ask a question, books, movies, photos etc.

Facebook also lets me feel I own my own page there - something Ryze lost a long while ago with its new UI. Stuart had expressed this feeling so eloquently then:


no sense of art in a place where artisans play
no sense of personality in a realm of personalities.
no sense of canvas when everyone paints
no sense of action when everyone chatters
no sense of our place just structured space."

"The new stuff? Says RYZE first --- ME second. What was the brief? Oh probably make the community more professional looking. You have any recommendations? Is there a strategy? Is there a business model? Ryze could have had it all."

Facebook today offers me that sense of art where artisans play, that sense of personality, that canvas for me and my friends to colour on, that sense of my space (pun intended!). And its all happening in my time at ease, without that pressure to be really active on it that there was while many of us were indulging in some Serious Play at other networks.

Tags: Facebook, social networking, social networks, social media

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Google is not merely moving towards "owning" the internet, its also beginning to "own" me.I had a friend over this weekend, and I was setting up a blog for her on Blogger. I had to sign out of my Blogger account to set her up. During the process, I wanted to check my mail, and clicked on my Gmail tab in my browser - and I was shocked to see that it opened up her Gmail account instead. Should have expected it - its logical - but it disturbed me. It's convenient, it's quick - but I want the controls and the ability to decide which ones I want auto signins for and which ones not.

Say, if I have Google Reader running - and I have signed out of Gmail -- if someone else tries to log into their Gmail account - they can read my mail. Or if they want to check their scraps on Orkut - they get to see mine instead. Google Maps can show pictures of your front door and look through your window - very cool - yes - but it makes me uncomfortable too. Although I need not worry as I live in a city where its going to be very difficult to get everything 'on a map' as there is so much chaos in the planning.
They have my presence info (limited tho) through Gmail and Gtalk, they have my social network on Orkut, they dish up ads in my Gmail which make me feel a little uneasy about privacy. I have been doing many studies recently with youth, and when I ask them how they use the internet - the response is Googling, Orkutting (note - not search and social networking) and chatting - Gtalk hasn't yet managed to become a verb!

In countries like India however, where for the large part, computers are shared at work and home - this could become a problem. Not everyone has the know-how or the presence of mind to set up different logins and user accounts at boot up.

Look at Google's acquisition over the years - they are buying up the best really. And our lives are enriched and simpler as a result. I love using many of these and it makes my life better. But yesterday's experience with setting up my friend's blog got me thinking in the longer term - and I kept pondering over - what cost?

Eric Schmidt , Google's CEO was quoted in FT. Do I really want my computer to tell me what I should do tomorrow, or what job I should take?

Asked how Google might look in five years' time, Mr Schmidt said: "We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation.
The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'"

See this video, although a little dated - it looks forward to a Google world in 2014 - EPIC. Robin Good has a transcript:

"On Sunday, March 9 2014, Googlezon unleashes EPIC.

Welcome to our world.

The 'Evolving Personalized Information Construct' is the system by which our sprawling, chaotic mediascape is filtered, ordered and delivered. Everyone contributes now - from blog entries, to phone-cam images, to video reports, to full investigations. Many people get paid too - a tiny cut of Googlezon's immense advertising revenue, proportional to the popularity of their contributions.

EPIC produces a custom contents package for each user, using his choices, his consumption habits, his interests, his demographics, his social network - to shape the product. A new generation of freelance editors has sprung up, people who sell their ability to connect, filter and prioritize the contents of EPIC.

We all subscribe to many Editors; EPIC allows us to mix and match their choices however we like. At its best, edited for the savviest readers, EPIC is a summary of the world - deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything ever available before."

With the recent acquisition of Feedburner, Google just bought over access to not just us, but our readers as well. They even acquire the internet in year 2017!!

Google has my past, and it's rapidly 'taking over' my future. My actions today, in the present, are building the tracks for that future. A dystopian Brave New World, or Utopia?

Should I really care? Does it bother you at all?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

A picture named thought.jpg"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A reminder to reflect more on 'Who I Am' rather than on 'What I Do'. What I do brings me success and recognition, both hugely motivating, but is it significant to who I am? Doing often makes me wear masks, which put me in my comfort zone - being rarely does.

Who I am is often defined by others, who I am is how others see me. What I do is what people see and how they put it all together is to them who I am. But to be.... just be... is just being true to yourself.

We often do what we think is expected because of who we think we are. Which is again perhaps in line with Cooley's Looking - Glass Self phenomenon which suggests that "a person views himself or herself through others' perceptions in society and in turn gains identity. Identity, or self, is the result of the concept in which we learn to see ourselves as others do (Yeung, et al. 2003)"

And when we let ourselves 'be', it really can be so easy and is fun too. I want to learn to feel this difference and not just view myself through reflections in others' mirrors. Really listen, understand the balance between the two, and learn to navigate the streams that let us flow from one to the other.

[Image sent to me last year by a friend - its titled 'Thought']

[Afterthought - I think I need a holiday :):):)]

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

So everyone is talking of Facebook.  My Twitter is abuzz with it. My aggregator is bursting with blog posts around it.    The social media blogworld is freaking out in it.  Even my 79 year old aunt who sent me an add as friend invite!  Reminds me of the old days when we all moved from one social networking site to another.  This one's different of course - its more than small pieces loosely joined and the potential is immense with the opening up of their platform.  Widgets and plugins around VOIP, presence, twitter, music, video being created with a frenzy. A great platform play.  I like this play - although I haven't done much with it yet.

Still, I can't help wondering, with all the attention it's getting and with this invasion of geeks, social media analysts and older folk like me, how the youth on Facebook are going to react!   Ironically, they are the 'older' Facebook users - we are the newbies. Will they see us as an intrusion?  Will they build their own walls now that it's less of a gated community?  What might those walls be? Will they revolt, as they did last September when they felt their privacy was compromised by the addition of new features?
Their definitions of what's public and what's private is different from ours.  Will the more geeky among them, who would like to build on the platform read the fine print and get put off?  Will the opportunity for marketing and advertising that it's going to encourage put them off? Or will they embrace this change and build their own worlds on the platform? Will there be a massive shift from Orkut and MySpace into Facebook?

Hmmmm.  Interesting to see how this one progresses.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Peter informs the Blogger's Collective about a series of protests against the arrest of an art student and suspension of the dean of MS University all over the country.  Here are details on the incident. 

By now, you would have read, heard or seen the news of the arrest of a student, Chandra Mohan, and the suspension of the dean of Maharaja Sayajirao University's Fine Arts faculty in Baroda, Prof. Shivaji Panikker. (For those who haven't, please catch up through the press links below.)

A simultaneous all-India public protest will take place on 14th May, at 6 p.m.  The Mumbai protest wil be in front of Jehangir Art Gallery. Those attending are requested to wear black and/or white.

Protests in other cities:

Date and time for all: 14th May, 6p.m .
New Delhi - Rabindra Bhavan
Mumbai - Jehangir Gallery
Vishakapatnam - Faculty of Fine Arts, Andhra University
Cochin - Kashi Art Café
Hyderabad - Fine Arts, S N School, University of Hyderabad
Bangalore - M G Road, opposite Gandhi statue
Santiniketan - Kala Bhavan
Guwahati - Press Club

Unfortunately, I'm in groups at that same time so won't be able to attend, but I urge those of you who are appalled at the incident to go there and lend your voice.  Even if you aren't technically an 'artist'.  This is yet another form of suppressing our freedom of expression, it is an assault on our creativity, another crude and vicious attempt at politics taking over our educational system - and we should fight against it. Am sick of all this moral policing - putting an art student in jail, charging him with non-bailable offenses - come on, we're going backwards here. Who decides what crosses the boundaries of "outrage" in all these moral policing cases like what happened recently with Orkut and blogs?  Why are those that attack an institute free? Do we take it all quietly?  And its so ironic really, when so many of our ancient temples, manuscripts, sculptures and paintings depict erotica  so overtly - even in the context of Hindu Gods and Goddesses which I have seen. 

I like Ranjit Hoskote's perspective on this:

"It appears that the champions of a resurgent Hindu identity are acutely embarrassed by the presence of the erotic at the centre of Hindu sacred art. As they may well be, for the roots of Hindutva do not lie in Hinduism. Rather, they lie in a crude mixture of German romanticism, Victorian puritanism and Nazi methodology.

What happens next? Will the champions of Hindutva go around the country destroying temple murals, breaking down monuments, and burning manuscripts and folios?"

For those who aren't aware of the incident, Amit, who believes
"isn’t a Hindu then entitled to say that his religious feelings are offended by Hindutva? Huh? points to many resources on this matter in a blog post so aptly titled Fascism in Baroda:

"The matter is being followed at Art Concerns, who have a detailed chronology of events up here. Do also read what Ranjit Hoskote, Gulammohammed Sheikh and Johny ML have to say, as well as this piece by Abhijeet Tamhane. Peter Griffin has more links here, as well as details of a public protest I intend to be part of in Mumbai."

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Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm going live on CNN-IBN in half an hour, at 8.30 pm.  They're doing a show on how a community on Orkut is helping in collecting aid for an ailing lyricist.  They've asked me to comment on the positive aspects of social networking.  I hope we don't go thru the usual pros and cons of social networks, an angle most channels approach the issue from.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I've been using Twitter a lot again recently. And yesterday, when Jace wondered "Twitter. Jaiku. Twitter. Jaiku. What to use?" I found myself thinking about why I tend to be in Twitter more than Jaiku. I know Jaiku is better 'loaded' but I feel I lose the real flow in conversation there as the updates are all jumbled up with updates from blogs, flickr accounts, bookmarks and newsreaders. I feel comfort with Twitter that I don't with Jaiku. Difficult to express why - just that there is comfort in its simplicity. A cappella versus symphony. Sandwich and coffee versus a full-course meal (how often do we have the latter!). Dal-chawal versus biryani.

What metaphors would you use for comparing your Twitter and Jaiku experiences?

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The view from my new place - is on the 16th floor and I have spent all afternoon looking out at city life. I had to drown the sounds of construction and traffic out though - Glenn Frey did well with Strange Weather!

A picture named Dina697.jpg

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Monday, April 30, 2007

a publication? a tool? a social tool? a conversation? a community space? guess again ---- it's a person! Jeremy Wagstaff makes a simple statement on blogs:

"A blog isn't a publication. It's a person"

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Here's an excerpt from an article I did for Tehelka's special on youth and the internet, on much urging from Shivam, who put an apt title to it - The Mirror of Change - This is Who We are Becoming.

"For those completely immersed in virtual worlds such as Second Life, the seduction of intimacy combined with anonymity does not mean they do not share the joys and sorrows of their real worlds. My bet is that they do. "Pet", a very close friend and a colleague who worked with a team of online volunteers when the tsunami struck in December 2004, got me looking at Second Life with new eyes. He had been feeling trapped in his body for a long time, and when he got onto Second Life, it helped him become more comfortable with his feelings that he was a woman trapped in a man's body. The beauty is that Second Life was a tool for "Pet"to figure out who she really is and how to work it out for real. Today, she has friends not only in Second Life, but also in her physical world with whom she can be herself. "Pet" has shared so much of her period of transition and angst with me, that I feel I know her intimately. Being a geek, she also helps me with my websites. I trust her as she trusts me. I know she is very real - there is nothing 'virtual' about her, even though I have never met her.

While I may never have seen or met "Pet", there is depth in our friendship, and solidity. I know, for some people, that is hard to accept. I'm often asked questions like, how can you feel connected to someone you've never met? How can you trust someone you've never seen? These concerns are understandable given the newness of this medium and the flow that determines these sorts of relationships. Oh there are dangers too - the pretence borne out of anonymity, the addictions, the spam and scams, the paedophiles, the pornography. And still, when I meet up with blog buddies all over the world, how can I explain the amazing level of comfort I feel!

I single out blogs here as throwing up a whole different social system than do virtual worlds and social networking sites. Detractors say, online you can be whoever you want to be and nobody cares. That may be correct, yet, if you try and fake things too hard, you most always are found out, and can be verbally beaten. My belief is that people tend to act more like themselves online than they like to admit. It is much more difficult to hide away who you are when you are blogging. I've found myself revealing things on my blog about myself that I would find difficult to talk about face-to-face. Ugly things too.A picture named tehel.jpg

And yet, I found myself trusting myself as I began trusting people I met through this medium. There is a fine line between the public, private and secret self, and the boundaries blur sometimes. At others there is a conscious effort to keep them apart. In a physical world, our lives are compartmentalized, you have different sets of friends for different needs, and meet in different physical spaces as a result. My blog is one space where I connect with friends, potential clients, strangers, acquaintances, even spammers and trolls. It is entirely up to me what I want to share of me and when, at my blog. And, I have found, the more I share, the more others do. It's just an extension of basic human needs for connection and community."

This issue is carrying a special on youth and the internet. I see some bloggers I know like Dilip, Rashmi, Neha, Patrix and Shivam of course, who have made some neat contributions there - and as I glanced through the articles, I felt Shivam's done a good job of getting a mix that does not perpetuate stereotypes the media usually portrays netizens to be.

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MapMyName is a project started by a couple of students, who are aiming to assess how many people use the internet all over the world. They hope to achieve this within a month by spreading the mapmyname meme. Brave attempt!!

Currently, I'm the only user from Mumbai listed on there - and I think the only one from India too.

Spread the word by clicking here to map your name! Link via Euan who tweeted about it on Twitter.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sachi and Lee LeFever are doing a series of "paperworks" educational videos. From Lee's email:

"In my opinion, RSS has been too geeky for too long. I have friends who use the web as much as I do and have no clue about RSS. It's a minor travesty. To help remedy this situation, Sachi and I created a video called "RSS in Plain English" that is aimed at turning-on the non-geeks of the world. It's in a format we call "paperwork" - I think you'll see what that means. We're just getting started and hoping that you can help spread the word (it just went live couple of hours ago). Obviously, there is room for improvement - any feedback is welcome. We're planning to do more paperwork videos as part of The Common Craft Show."

And it is! Even my mum would get it. Watch it here.

I'd love to see something similar on ROI of blogging - its a concept I find most difficult to communicate to organizations and I do believe a Paperworks demo will be great!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

According to a report by Accenture, the media and entertainment industry feels user-generated content is the top threat to their businesses:

"NEW YORK; April 16, 2007 -Media and entertainment executives see the growing ability and eagerness of individuals to create their own content as one of the biggest threats to their business, according to results of a survey released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

In its annual survey of senior executives in the media and entertainment industry, Accenture examined the growth strategies of companies across the landscape of advertising, film, music, publishing, radio, the Internet, videogames and television.

More than half (57 percent) of the respondents identified the rapid growth of user-generated content - which includes amateur digital videos, podcasts, mobile phone photography, wikis and social-media blogs -- as one of the top three challenges they face today. In addition, more than two-thirds (70 percent) of respondents said they believe that social media, one of the largest segments of user-generated content, will continue to grow, compared with only 3 percent of respondents who said they view social media as a fad.

"This is just the beginning for a rapidly changing landscape where the media content environment grows more fractious and the user gains more control and power," said Gavin Mann, digital media lead for Accenture’s Media & Entertainment practice. "Traditional, established content providers will have to adapt and develop new business and monetization models in order to keep revenue streams flowing. The key to success will be identifying new forms of content that can complement their traditional strengths."

The new landscape offers opportunities as well as challenges, according to the study, as two-thirds (68 percent) of the respondents said they believe that within three years their businesses will be making money on user-generated content. Sixty-two percent said they believe their companies will make money through advertising and sponsorships of social media. Other sources of profits cited were subscriptions (21 percent) and pay-per-play offerings (18 percent). However, a quarter (24 percent) of respondents said they do not yet know how their businesses will profit from user-generated content.

The study included interviews with industry giants like Roger Faxon, chief executive of EMI Music Publishing; Leslie Moonves, chief executive of CBS; Doug Neil, senior vice president of digital marketing for Universal Studios; and Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP Group PLC."

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Heh .. Johnnie .. I'm with you in feeling ranty! As a response to this, a stopcyberbullying community is nice, comments policies and guidelines are ok if you believe you need them, but a Bloggers Code of Conduct???

What will it achieve - perhaps nothing. What will you do if someone violates the bloggers code of conduct - delete their comments, report them - that's something you can do without such a formal code isn't it? Who will enforce this Code of Conduct across blogs? Will bloggers that do not share this 'code of conduct' be ostracized? Will not this 'moral' responsibility grow to have legal ramifications? Will spammers and trolls and death threat issuers from non-US countries be prosecuted? Will you be able to stop them? Will you only encourage people to look for different and more sophisticated ways of piling on their vile - it is after all a human condition, and not a blog condition.

It seems to me, culturally, it is a very North-American thing to think up. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love some aspects of North America and have met some of the finest folks there - but this operating out of 'fear' is one aspect I have written about earlier, that I find goes beyond protection. Perhaps it's the phrasing of it that gets to me - 'Code of Conduct' implies rules and regulations, implicit in this is that there is only one way ahead. I don't like that.
It will make us guard our words. It will give credence to the power games played out in the blogworld by providing yet another weapon to divide those who have it and those who don't. It will foster a culture of fear. In the worst case, it will breed litigation, insurance, liability.

Why formalize something we're doing anyways - if you're proud of your space (your blog in this case) you'll protect it the way you feel best. Banning anonymous comments for instance, is a personal choice - in my case, I have deleted comments that are vulgar, lewd and allude to physical threats. The others, I prefer to debate with. If others do not wish to, ignore them or take the 'fight' to your space, or theirs. There is a strong self-regulating aspect to this medium, and the recent events are proof, with different angles and facets to the story emerging.

My biggest fear in having a 'formal' code of conduct is it will take some of the 'human' out of the blog. It will raise entry barriers to participate in blog conversations, where few exist. It may even force more bloggers to shut down all conversations in comments, because a few are violating their freedom to comment. It will defeat the self-regulatory and self-correcting nature of this medium. One of the delights of blogging is it so reflects human behaviour - it gives us the space to share freely our humility, our pride and our infallibilities, our opinions and counterpoints, our failures and successes, our rituals and dreams, our conflicts and resolutions. It lets us debate and converse with others freely and intuitively. It may reflect our professional views, but it is as far from 'corporatization' as any medium is today. Will not shared standards and practice bring about 'corporatization' in some form or other?

There's my long rant! Unlike Johnnie's pithy post.


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Thursday, March 29, 2007

A picture named shubs.jpgI've known Shubhangi for almost 15 years. We worked in the same company then. We still do. She's been my mainstay at Explore Research and Consultancy, ever since she came on board way back in 1999. I've never known her to panic, feel out of control and never once has she met any of my requests (however absurd they may seem) with anything less than a smile and a "we can do it". She makes my life so easy really.

Tremendously talented and always looking out for something new to do - yeah - she does yoga, is a full-time mum, rides bikes, paints Tanjore paintings, is an expert in Japanese - and now a fantastic photographer. Match that with her deep understanding of humanity, her strong sense of what's right and not, her ability to question life and you find a precious gem. She has her feet firmly on the ground - and a heart of gold.

Recently, she discovered Flickr - go check out her awesome pictures there - each one has such depth and tells a story. The image in this post is by her - and one that I feel reflects who she is perfectly. She's also discovering the joys in sharing herself as she has so quickly built a community around her images. And now she's blogging and learning the ropes - I am so thrilled about this - welcome huggggggs Shubs. For long, I have felt she hides herself away - not anymore I hope :)

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I am shocked at the venom and death threats against Kathy Sierra - it is sick, mean, even anarchical and evil, totally unethical. My first reaction was disgust and dismay and I have the greatest sympathy for what she is going through - but I find myself as appalled at the knee-jerk reaction of hate going around about a set of people implicated in her post - its not doing much good I'm afraid. Truly *Evil* minds whoever they are in this case, feed on such things.

I feel Mitch Ratcliffe's post is a really balanced take on the whole thing, especially this from Mitch - "We are further from that moment of truth now, however, because the silence of mock outrage reigns."

There are many conflicting thoughts in me right now around this issue. The woman in me is enraged at what Kathy is going through - and yet am not sure its a 'woman' thing at all. Lots of the American blogworld , esp at the A-list level, is fairly obsessed by how few women are really respected in Tech - this is evident by the endless debates on inviting women speakers at conferences. And yet, apart from BlogHer I don't see much happening to change this, as I see the same set of women speaking over and over again. The outrage against what's happened to her, is possibly greater because Kathy happens to be a woman. Are we perpetuating this gender divide by making it a woman thing - am not sure.

As a blogger, and one who has been around since 2003 this sort of stuff has been around. [link via Doc Searls]. Hate is just simply bad. Cyber bullying is bad. That's what we need to address. Whether against victim or accused (note here - I make a distinction between accused and convicted). Whether its against an A-lister or a Z-lister. Whether against man or woman. Its a reflection of a society gone badly wrong. Only the social system within which it exists can correct itself. In this case, blogs. Blogs and bloggers often reflect mob-like mentalities - some call it the echo chamber - and while there are many positive aspects of this - we must guard against the negatives.

I've had all sorts of threats and quite a bit of hate mail - I found the best thing is to simply ignore it and it usually goes away. I'm glad Kathy brought it out in the open though, its an issue that needs to be debated and addressed - and still I wish she hadn't made those really serious and clear accusations against specific individuals until after all the investigations by the authorities were done. Blogs are so powerful and the internet is an unforgiving place - entire reputations can be ruined thus.

We had an incident, not half as offensive as this, but the fallout was pretty severe, in the Indian Blogosphere - where a guy who was plagiarizing content from blogs was really beaten up by Indian bloggers - and I got tons of really bad hate mail for calling it Mob Justice and a witch hunt - although I will say this once more, that I would never condone plagiarism. - check the comments out there - these are only those that I let through. There were tons of mail and other comments that crossed my line of acceptability and were really lewd, hateful and full of threats. I ignored them and deleted them. And they went away.

Censorship and more regulation is not the answer - has it ever really worked where the internet is concerned? Andy Carvin has called for a Stop Cyberbullying Day. That's the sort of action that makes sense.

Kathy Sierra's an amazing blogger. I hope this horrific nightmare passes quickly for her . I do hope her  real 'attacker' is caught and is punished.  I also hope she gets back to blogging and shares as openly, the results of the investigation. Her silence will not do much good. Her voice is important for the blog world. Even half-way around the world in India.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Just as I am dealing with the final stages of buying an apartment - all the paperwork just drives me nuts, my Skype buddy, Morris Rolland, who I haven't chatted with for ages, sends me this thought in the form of verse today:

Reclusion, Late Summer

To this place of retreat
the world does not follow;
but many old ailments
heal here.

I polish words
of old poems;
view mountains,
and sleep outside my hut.

Colored clouds
cross the setting sun;
cicadas ring
in the leaves of trees.

With this
my heart again knows happiness;
and who would have thought it,
without wine or money.

Yao Ho (fl. 831)

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