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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

Thursday, February 16, 2006

One more way mobile social technology is being used to make a difference. BBC News has a report on how folks in distant villages with electricity for two hours a day, in Peru, are being reached through podcasts - a new pilot project is using podcasting to get important agricultural information to farmers.

Some excerpts from the article :

"The farmers do not yet have the means to listen on portable MP3 players. But UK charity Practical Action has married old and new technology to podcast twice-monthly updates to eight information centres in the Cajamarca region.

Expansion hopes : These telecentres, many of which are run on solar power, automatically download the programmes onto CDs to rebroadcast them on local radio stations. The charity has found it effective to distribute audio material to local people, who prefer listening in their own dialect to being sent the written word."

"We are also hoping that the database of podcasts on the internet will be used not just by Peruvian farmers but other farmers in Latin America." The Peru project is currently running on a trial basis, and will be evaluated at the end of March. If the Peruvian podcasts are successful, Practical Action has plans to roll out similar schemes in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. "Our plans are to test out some of the technologies that would enable people to listen to the podcasts on a mobile phone or a PDA, in fact on any device that can play an MP3 file," said Dr David Grimshaw, international team leader on the project."

5:21:25 PM    comment []  trackback []

Just read an interview with Ken Anderson, Manager of People and Practice Research at Intel. Two things he says that struck me as interesting, given that when I go to meetings and say I'm a qualitative researcher and ethnographer, people still wonder what or who an ethnographer is :

"Ethnographers function more as the canary in the coal mines... We're actually better at decreasing the odds of failure than increasing the odds of success. We can say, 'Warning, warning! A 44-inch box is not going to fit in kitchens in China. Don't go there.' We know where people in China feel their technology belongs, because we understand their values about the home. And we also know the physical constraints - you're just not going to fit a 44-inch box anywhere in anybody's kitchen. And if you do, they're not going to care because it's just for display. In urban China right now, technology is all about display. It's not about hiding it in the kitchen."

and ...

"Anderson still disagrees with the suggestion that ethnography ëhas hadí an impact on corporate culture. ëI think ethnography is having an impact on corporate culture. I still go to meetings where people say, 'What is ethnography?' And I go to other meetings where they say, 'Why should we care about how people live their lives?' I think that's still part of the change that's yet to happen.' But the future looks good, both for existing ethnographers and emerging hybrid ethnographer / project managers."

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Just to illustrate the first point he makes, try asking a housewife in a group discussion setting to describe her kitchen and then identify needgaps. And compare that with actually visiting her kitchen, taking photos of it, and then in that context, asking her some questions - its a whole different dimension that is open now. The picture here is from a middle income household I visited in Mumbai on a study. I've added it here with her permission.

5:07:11 PM    comment []  trackback []

I too want to change my blogging platform. This blog is going to be three in March, and it is really time to move. Although I've really enjoyed blogging here till now, and the support I've got from the Userland forum, it is stagnating as a platform. It's sad that very few of the tools that make blogs so rich and yet easy to do, are possible easily with Radio. Just some examples - I want to use Performancing to blog, I want audio and video blog facilities, I want more control over spam in comments and trackbacks.

Three concerns I have about moving - I'll lose all my comments and trackbacks as there seems to be no way of transferring them from Radio - that's a bummer because a lot of value in my posts actually resides in the conversations they evoke. Second - I'll lose permalinks to lots of my posts that have been quoted elsewhere. But its been done by bloggers everywhere - so what the heck. It just means that I have to keep it blogged ! And three - my readers will have to subscribe to new RSS feeds - which in some ways will tell me something about where my blogging is headed.

Its just too hard and too time-consuming for me to take this on myself and hack templates and iron out design issues. I am looking for someone who can set up and design a website for my company and my blog - am not sure which should lead - my leaning is towards my blog somehow :). I have the urls explore-research.com and dinamehta.com which I'd want to use. I'd like to use Wordpress or Movable Type because both seem to offer great flexibility and allow so many features and plugins. I've been playing a lot with MT and Wordpress - I like them both. Has anyone done a comparison between the two ?

My biggest breakthrough was that I was able to export this Radio Userland blog into an MT space, huge thanks to Bob who has shared a step by step procedure to convert from Radio to Wordpress. Once the posts are in MT, it's easy to transfer them to Wordpress.

If you're interested, and are on-the-ball with these technologies, do write to me, or drop in a comment. I've a rough budget for this but would love to have your views on how much I should expect to pay.

1:14:22 PM    comment []  trackback []

This is cool - Adrants reports that the Amsterdam Tourism Board is leveraging bloggers for promotion - its a neat neat idea I think. Is the Indian Tourism Board listening? [thanks Vamsi, for the link].

"We've pretty much stopped with TV ads or radio ads or branded ads. It just wasn't worth it anymore. Online, there are just many more possibilities." That's a refrain we've hearing more on more over the next few years as marketers realize traditional advertising ain't all it's cracked up to be anymore. Amsterdam Tourism Board Internet manager Sebastian Paauw uttered that phrase when commenting on the Board's deal with BlogAds under which the Board, in connection with BlogAds, will send 25 bloggers to Amsterdam in exchange for ad space on their blogs. While the bloggers are not required to write anything about their trip, bloggers being bloggers, there will, no doubt, be a litany of posts covering their escapades during their five day stay."

12:26:05 PM    comment []  trackback []

A picture named astrology4.gif(Image credit here)

I've been telling people that 2006 is going to be a year of change ... I just feel it in my bones. I was chatting with Avi yesterday and made that statement to him. He asked me for my birth date and swept me off on a journey exploring numerology, destiny numbers and yearly cycles. Skeptic I am about all such matters - oooh how I dislike this trend where so many TV serials and artistes are changing their names for 'good karma', and dismiss it as a New Age sort of thing - ironic in some ways as its been around forever. So, I kept making 'errors' in my calculations of destiny numbers and life cycle numbers. Still, Avi pushed his way through and just kept feeding me :). And it was the strangest experience reading through it - it seemed like a real mirror of my life as it has been and is, not an odd shadow in the reflections. And not preachy or judgemental as I had expected either. I got excited by this, was having fun too, and checked out numbers and destinies for some of my family and friends - and it kept getting better.

I guess I won't be dismissing it anymore - I won't let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy either. And nooooo, I'm not about to change the alphabets in my name yet :)

Try it for yourself - its interesting. This is one place that I used to 'figure me out' - look for the links that say Destiny Number and Yearly Life Cycle.

12:15:06 PM    comment []  trackback []