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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, December 8, 2003

Internet on wheels - extending reach through roadways

Economist.com has an article - Internet, on wheels - which points to a number of projects that are exploiting existing road networks to provide internet services. [link via iWire]

And its happening in India too :

"In India, the government plans to create 30 Bookmobiles of its own, two of which are already on the road. Egypt's Library of Alexandria has outfitted one. And in October, Mr Kahle's Anywhere Books project launched an Internet Bookmobile in Uganda, with the help of funding from the World Bank.

..... But perhaps the cleverest plan to put the internet on wheels comes from India. At ìThe Future in Reviewî, a wide-ranging technology conference held in San Diego earlier this year, Allen Hammond of the World Resources Institute, an environmental think-tank, outlined a cunning scheme to provide e-mail access in rural India using buses. Each bus would be equipped with an e-mail server and a high-power Wi-Fi base-station, with a range of a mile or so. This communicates with nearby computers in homes, schools, offices or post offices, delivering and collecting e-mail wirelessly as the bus drives past, so that there are a handful of deliveries and collections each day. The buses connect to the internet when they reach the depot at the end of the line. Given the reach of the bus network, it is estimated that this approach could provide national e-mail coverage for a paltry $15m. E-mail by busówhy not? "

Whyever not !  Now the government has to bite.

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Meeting Remarkable People

My last post reminded me of many Remarkable People from my online world that i have met with face-to-face in the last couple of months.  All related to the blogworld and the world of online social/business networking- all people who I believe I share interests with, can connect with, and all whom i consider as part of my community. I've already blogged about my meetings with some of them - in my Bay Area Diary series in late October, early November. 

Moving on .... 

A picture named judith.jpgJudith Meskill - i met Judith in Philadelphia.  She was kind enough to drive down (or up - not sure about the geography!) from New Jersey to meet me.  I've known her through interactions we've had through our blogs. And she's a regular visitor at my zonkboard  - we've shared many interesting tidbits there too.  She's extremely eloquent, intelligent and warm.  And we really felt like old friends meeting.  We discussed, among many issues - corporate culture in India - how much it has moved away from our old system of Vedanta and adopted many of the American corporate values - the potential to set up or organise a community of people who believe that social software like blogs can change the way organisations work - and how we share the same sun, moon and stars despite living on opposite sides of the globe !

A picture named london lunch 3.jpgMeeting bloggers in LondonJulian Elve was kind enough to organise a get-together in London - we had lunch together with Flemming Funch who had flown in from the South of France, and his associate Julie Solheim-Roe.  We missed Euan Semple there - next time Euan !  Julian reported right after lunch - and summarized it beautifully :

"I can report another positive example of the transfer of blog-affinity into energy-filled real-life conversations - we ploughed straight in to a whole range of topics, including:

  • Do the bloggers we gravitate to have similar values?
  • The importance of "abundance" thinking in stimulating the open sharing of ideas
  • The way in which young Indians are completely immersed in SMS and IM, email isn't relevant
  • Online journals and the growing emotional openness of young men
  • Different approaches to blog writing
  • Blog writing as meditation
  • Paradigm shifts in the way people inter-relate, including the growth of EBay based businesses
  • How do we get senior generalist managers to engage with online /community software in large organisations? A picture named 1leon1.jpg

In summary - a hugely enjoyable and stimulating couple of hours!"

Leon Benjamin - i think of Leon as one of my first online friends.  Who's always encouraged me to share my thoughts through the networks and blogs.  Leon's a super networker - truly believes in the power of networking - and the philosophy of 'winning by sharing' - is one of the key persons behind Ecademy - and is working on some serious networking stuff  in the areas of travel and tourism and telecommunications.  We met up at a pub - was fun!  Lets hope the tourism boards here and the telcom organizations are listening Leon. 

On my return to India, i met with Rajesh Jain of Emergic - for those who don't know him, he's the person i'd consider as India's best blogger.  Based in Bombay, he's a brilliant entrepreneur, a great visionary and an amazing techie too - made $115m a few years ago selling 'IndiaWorld'.  His current thrust is on providing affordable computing solutions to SMEs and rural India - and he's also very keen on getting corporates to blog as part of a program that changes the way organisations communicate. He's also the guy behind Blogstreet and Info Aggregator.  

We read each others blogs - and though we are both in Bombay, we'd never connected or met earlier. He wrote to me when he read that i was visiting the US and UK :

"Have a great international trip. Will be following it on your blog. Am envious - would have loved to meet the same people you are meeting!! Since you too are in Mumbai, we should meet when you are back."

We met at his office on my return- and i spent the most fascinating 4 hours there - he shared many of his projects with me.  And more - the little stories, reading references and this neat little site called Living in China - an example of a community that blogs.  We may just join hands in getting corporates to blog in India !   

8:27:17 PM    comment []  trackback []

Social Group Dynamics

I was chatting with a friend this morning.  She's moved to another country and is working there. There are many many Indians in the new place - and a lot of them are in the same industry.  People she has known a little when in India, but perhaps not interacted with very much. Some others she's known well and for long. Some that she did socialise with when in India - others mere acquaintances.

This brings with it a unique problem.  In cases where you move to a different country and know noone - you tend to be and can be, more open to making new social contracts.  You find people with shared affinities and hang out together.  Acceptance in the group is based on shared interests and values.  In this case, where there are many Indians there already, and in the same industry, the groups tend to be more rigid and closed.  Being in a foreign land throws them all together. They form groups and socialise together.  A newcomer tries to break into the group - acceptance is easy on the one hand - you are Indian, you work in the same or allied industry, and you are in the same foreign place.  Yet its more difficult too as you may find you have little shared interest. 

Initially its great. Then the warts start showing up. Another statement my friend made to me - "out here many people make it a habit of ridiculing 'friends' as a course of passing time - this never happened back home - even colleagues at work pass time by ribbing someone - not just as a matter of fun - but intended as mean jibes.  These are the same people that behaved so differently when in India ... "

In a foreign country, it takes time to find your own group ... people you are comfortable with ... you often end up socialising with people you would not have bothered with back home. Its a forced group of sorts and since this group does not have means of any other natural bonding apart from the physical proximity -there are many hidden stresses in these groups, which people try to pass off as humour. But there is a bite to that humour because its not really fun but a matter of ridiculing someone. The common thread that seems to bind the group - in the absence of shared interests or values or topics of discussion is to pick on someone and keep joking - it helps to pass away a few hours. 

Perhaps, gossip and humour take the form of institutionalised safety valves - outlets that are socially acceptable. Territorial or geographic bonds alone can never be as strong as bonds that are emotional, intuitive and tie together people with a shared set of interests and values.

It also made me think of how groups and communities form online. Not necessarily based on geographical proximity - but more on common interests and shared values.

And when the group gets the opportunity to meet face-to-face, it can be like a family reunion, picking up threads so easily in a warm, comfortable and secure environment. In many ways reinforcing and cementing the intuitive relationship.

What do you think ?

5:58:45 PM    comment []  trackback []

Blogs can pay - a PR vehicle ?

Blogging can pay! 

I just landed a project thanks to my blog. The client is in Australia - a company looking for someone to partner a multi-country project in India.

The client googled qualitative researchers in India, found this on the first page :

Conversations with Dina
... products' like 'groups 'n' depths'.". 9:02:36 PM comment [] # trackback
[]. Telling Stories - Are Qualitative Researchers Missing Out ? ...
radio.weblogs.com/0121664/2003/03/25.html - 43k - Cached - Similar pages

... and clicked on the page.  And wrote to me :

"I found your site on the Internet and was wondering if you would be interested in submitting a proposal to work with me on a multi-country project that includes India. It is being conducted on behalf of a major  multi-national. .....I need to work with a competent qualitative moderator in each country. .....Please note it will be competitive and I am obliged to collect three quotes per country."

I quoted for it - and she just confirmed that the project has been awarded to my company! 

How did my blog help ? Here's what i think its done for me :

  • it got me on the first page on Google search for qualitative researchers in India - before i started my blog - neither my name nor my company could ever be found on a google search.  (I've been really lazy about putting up a website for my company - and must now upload my blog to my company site!)
  • it allowed the client to read some of my perspectives on qualitative research - which i believe is more useful than a laundry list provided in 'cold' categories like Tools and Techniques or Types of Research pages of most company websites
  • it also gave the client a more comprehensive understanding of the person behind the company, which in this case, worked to my advantage 

12:04:50 PM    comment []  trackback []