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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 8, 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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Friday, June 29, 2007

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."


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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 wouldnít 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."

Cool!



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Monday, June 4, 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, 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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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

For my generation, the internet has been life-changing. We know what we missed when we didnít have it. We are completely smitten by new avenues to communicate and collaborate in new ways today. We get excited about YouTube and Flickr and Twitter and rush to try them out. We are buoyant and optimistic about the immense possibilities they bring us. We are so grateful that we can now communicate across geographies and time and are a mere fraction of a megabyte away from anywhere else in the world. For many of us, it's still a tool that's shown us a different way of life.  Assimilating this medium into our lives has given us new options.

For youngsters today, especially teenagers, it isn't an option really - it is their way of life. I keep looking for aha moments from them during my research studies ñ and I donít seem to hear them. They don't take it as seriously as we do. They are not as grateful to it as we are. They do not talk about how cool YouTube is - they just use the services to check out the latest Gwen Stefani video - the video is their point of conversation rather than how cool the service is. When I ask them to imagine life without them, they simply cannot - they know nothing less. They're not delighted by 'free' as we are - growing up with this medium has made them expect it. There are few divisions between the techno haves and have-nots among them, as in our case.

They're tribal and tend to stick to their cliques and look within, safe in the knowledge that they can reach out when required. They don't try to maximize possibilities with the objective of seeing how far they can stretch the medium; even for the more geeky kids, it's a medium where they can express themselves and their creativity - they expect it to deliver on that and are not surprised or in awe that it can. They aren't that tickled when someone says "you're an absolute geek". They don't become geeks like us - they either are or not.

For them the distinction between an offline world and an online world isn't as stark as it is for many of us. For them, it is not transformational or an avenue for self-actualization, as it has become for many of us. Nor is it an empowering medium as it is for us - it's just a way of life.

I wonder if we were children when the internet had arrived .. would we have felt and behaved differently from kids today?


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Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Sunday edition of the Economic Times here in India, has a column by Nandu Pradhan, President and MD, Red Hat, titled Open Source is democratising knowledge. He talks of Linux as an example of the tremendous benefits of collaborative knowledge, shares how Linux is being employed in India, and draws a parallel to its development in India with other traditions of knowledge like yoga and ayurveda - free and open to all. Abundance in its true form!

Some excerpts:

"Enterprises across India have also been quick to realise the benefits of open source despite the enourmous amounts of FUD (fear, uncertainity and doubt) that proprietary vendors have sought to create. Today, enterprises like LIC, IDBI, IRCTC, IndiaBulls, UTI Bank, Canara Bank, CESC and others use Red Hat Enterprise Linux and other open source software to run their mission critical applications. The SMS voting backbone for highly popular TV shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati and Indian Idol also run on Red Hat Enteprise Linux."

"It is no surprise that Linux and open source software have caught on rapidly in India. Our traditions of knowledge like yoga and ayurveda have always been free and open to all. We have successfuly built commercial models have been built on top of free knowledge as can be seen from the proliferation of Ayurvedic spas and the fact that yoga is a $30 billion industry in the US.

Open source proves that the age old adage that we all grow richer by sharing knowledge still holds true in the Internet era. For decision makers who are implementing IT, it is time to take a long hard look at the long term benefits of open source and evaluate the value it provides on servers and desktops."
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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

If you care about Internet Censorship, today's the day to register our protest. Reporters Without Borders urges internet users to join in a 24-hour online demo against internet censorship.

"Everyone is invited to support this struggle by connecting to the Reporters Without Borders website (www.rsf.org) between 11 a.m. (Paris time) on Tuesday, 7 November, and 11 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 November. Each click will help to change the Internet Black Holes map and help to combat censorship. As many people as possible must participate so that this operation can be a success and have an impact on those governments that try to seal off what is meant to be a space where people can express themselves freely."

Here's one of the things you can do to participate:

"1 CYBER-DEMO against "Internet black holes"

Go to www.rsf.org during this 24-hour period, find the list of 13 countries that are Internet enemies and click on an inter-active map of the world to help make the Internet black holes disappear. Each click will help to change the mapís appearance. The aim is to re-establish the Internet in the countries where it is censored, to rebuild it before the 24 hours are over. Every vote will be counted. Every click will help Reporters Without Borders to speak with more force when it condemns the behaviour of those regimes that censor what should an arena for free expression."

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Monday, October 9, 2006

WATblog has a neat write-up on India Web 2.0 sites and companies in their many part series covering social networking, social bookmarking, video sharing, picture sharing, social sharing, events sharing, media or file sharing.

Parts 1-4
Part 5

Other reading/resources on India Web 2.0:

  • Amit Ranjan of Webyantra consistently presents really excellent reviews of Indian Web 2.0 sites
"To summarize - Orkut.com is the most impressive social network in the Indian market currently. With the arrival of Jhoom, Minglebox and Yaari - Orkut is most certain to lose out on its market share as the other 3 will capitalize on their Indian presence and more 'Indianized' marketing. Itís very difficult to choose one over the other amongst Yaari, Jhoom and Minglebox currently - the one with the better clarity, UI, marketing and passion will win. I wont give much of a chance to Fropper despite its marketing muscle - any site that canít think of making money other than charging their users for the basic use, when others are giving it for free does not even deserve to win"

Indians on Orkut are thriving .. I get atleast 6-10 invites to be friend every day, and its almost beginning to feel like spam! Interestingly, I was recently faciliatating an ideation workshop with a traditional FMCG multinational and its ad agency, and at lunch, many of the executives there were talking of 'Orkutting'.
  • Contentsutra among other digital media news, does reviews on new social media sites from India
  • Amit Agarwal at Digital Inspiration keeps an eye on all the developments worldwide in this area - here's one example where he shares a portrait of his son, Google using "Museumr - a Flickr Toy where you pass the URL of the Flickr picture or any photo on the web, choose a Museum Gallery style and the application will create an awesome piece of art displayed in a real museum gallery complete with admiring visitors".
Here's a Flickr Image I've uploaded on Indian Web 2.0 Logos ... inspired by Stabilo Boss's global Web 2.0 logo image. There's a Chinese Web 2.0 logo collection too.

Do let me know if I've missed out Web 2.0 companies/sites in the India logos collection!

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Update: changed the logos a little taking in some recos from my geeky friends.
Any more suggestions?
Update 2:  Read/Write Web has a list of Top Web Applications from India,  compiled by Neeraj  Kumar.

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Sunday, October 8, 2006

"Citizens in Nagpur almost never visit the police station, thanks to Yashasvi Yadav's online complaints system", reports Danish Khan in the Mumbai Mirror, in an article and interview with the Superintendent of Police, Nagpur District, titled Gunning for the Web. Mr. Yadav is the recipient of the IACP/Motorola Webber Seavey Award for innovative policing this year.

The Commissioner of Police has a neat message on the Nagpur Police website :
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I hope one day, this applies to filing FIRs (First Information Reports) too, which can be a really tedious process, and not always effective. Not so long ago, someone bumped into my car from the back, it was entirely his fault. It left a deep scratch on my bumper. If you've been to Mumbai you'll know that its rare to see a car without a scratch, and normally I'd have let it go, but for the fact that the driver of the other car got really aggressive with me and refused to give me his contact details. The local traffic cop refused to help too, allowing the owner of that car to drive off, saying I must go to the nearest police station, and lodge an FIR, if I wanted to get my insurance company to get the expenses from him. It took me 3 hours of waiting at the Gamdevi police station, before an officer attended my query, and another hour before he got all the tedious paper-work done. He didn't so much as glance at the damage on my car before writing out the report.

I wished then, that I could have done this via an online form.


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Saturday, September 23, 2006

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google" - New Scientist - Bruce Sterling. [link via Ethan]

An almost-real, funny-scary take on the internet from the eyes of a "miserably-happy" teenager. Here's an excerpt:

"My Dad - he's still alive, apparently - he sent me an email from China and said I ought to "recruit" Debbie into my "social group dynamics of online identity production". My Dad always talks like that. I haven't seen Dad face-to-face in six years. Look: I am a 17-year-old male, okay? I don't want to send Debbie any hotlinks and digital video. I want to take Debbie out! Maybe we could take some clothes off! But there isn't any "out" for me and Debbie. There isn't any "off", either.

Okay, I admit it: Debbie is insane. The fact that Debbie really likes me, that just proves it. Debbie ACCEPTS this sick state of reality. She EMBRACES it. We are doomed.

Imagine that Debbie and me somehow go out together. We want to network with our peer group, teenager-wise. I need to figure out what's hip and with-it and rebellious, and Debbie needs to know what the other cyber-Goth chicks are wearing. Is that okay? No!

It's not that we can't do it: it's that all our social relations have been reified with a clunky intensity. They're digitized! And the networking hardware and software that pervasively surround us are built and owned by evil, old, rich corporate people! Social-networking systems aren't teenagers! These machines are METHODICALLY KILLING OUR SOULS! If you don't count wall-graffiti (good old spray paint), we have no means to spontaneously express ourselves. We can't "find ourselves" - the market's already found us and filled us with map pins."

Also read Men standing around broken machines by Paul Ford, a short but well-written essay where he goes back to a much-older future:

"I think about the men because there are two futures: the near and wild futureóthe future of Web 2.0, the war on terror, and midterm electionsóthrashing and blind like a baby mouse in the grass. And there is the other, much older future, which is basically an enormous, ever-widening archaeological dig. They're digging up old Roman bones, pilgrim gristle, and mysterious chunks of iron that may have been astrolabes. Shovels in hand, people fall over dead onto the piles of ancient coffeehouse newspapers and loose pioneer trash that they have themselves exhumed. Time passes; it could be a few days or a millennium. Someone digs them up and holds their skull in hand and wonders: what was the dig like then? There is nothing wrong with the newer future. Those who make it work for them will be powerful and rich. But that older future seems to have more room in it for those quiet, dry-eyed men. And I know I want, someday, to join their group as it stands frowning around a steaming car engine, each trying to figure out what went wrong."



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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rediff News has this article on the Honey Bee Network which is focussed on creativity and innovation at the grassroots level.

"A bicycle that can peddle both on water and the road, a motorcycle used to pump out water from deep wells and a cellphone that can switch on electrical appliances within a specific radius! Self-taught mechanics in India are pioneering these and many more. With such inventions, self-taught mechanics or villagers with little or no formal education to their credit are transforming the limited opportunities available to them in remote and rural areas, say experts."Formal and informal science can be linked to create new innovations and transform the opportunities available in rural India," says Anil Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, who has taken upon himself to collect and collate such traditional information scattered all over the country under his Honey Bee network."

You can search their innovation database for more grassroots innovations.

Om Malik makes a point about how technology cannot be an end in itself, in response to the media blitz around Nicholas Negroponte's 100-dollar laptop and the news item that a small village in India got itself a website.

"One gets fairly fed-up reading articles that tout such trivial things like getting a Web site as this great signpost of development or that (falsely) show technology as being the great equalizer and an end in itself. And at the risk of being considered partisan ó towards the Indian bureaucracy, Bill Gates and Intel all rolled into one ó I hold even Nicholas Negroponteís ìOne Laptop per Childî (OLPC) initiative guilty of overemphasizing technology as an end in itself. What is a kid who goes to a school with rampant teacher absenteeism, no infrastructure to speak of ñlike desks, fans or electricity to run those fans ñgoing to do with a laptop?"

And Atanu Dey has a requiem for the One Laptop Per Child project in India [link via Ethan] where he says:

"Spending a few hundred million dollars will help some children, and also enrich the manufacturers of the laptops (Chinese manufacturing), and all the middle-layers that will be invovled in the selling, maintenance, and support. Compare that to the alternative use of the same money.

Tens of millions of children donít go to school, and of the many who do, they end up in schools that lack blackboards and in some cases even chalk. Government schoolsóespecially in rural areasóare plagued with teacher absenteeism. The schools lack even the most rudimentary of facilities such as toilets (the lack of which is a major barrier to girl children.) Attention and funds need to be directed to those issues first before one starts buying laptops by the millions."

I think grassroots innovations are great when entry barriers to using them are low, and they tap real and relevant human needs that are culturally relevant and economically viable. Moreover, in the case of the Hansdehar website, its an experiment I'd love to follow, and see what transformations it makes in the lives of the villagers, whether it really gets picked up by other villages as a tool to better their lives, whether villages then will form communities and interact with each other in a manner that brings about social and economic change.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I've been helping organize content at BlogCamp India 2006. It's on September 9-10 in Chennai. Here's what its all about:

A picture named blogcamp india.gifBlogging is more than just a tool for online communication. For bloggers and blog readers, it represents a way of life where open communication, dialogue, feedback and collaboration enrich content, helping us forge professional and personal relationships. From encouraging government transparency, blogging about children, discussions on economics, sharing poetry and literature, ribtickling humour, online activism, movie reviews to Sunday musings, the tool has changed lives for all those who use it and rely on it for opinion, information, entertainment and business.

Because blogging has influenced each individual at so many different levels, the theme of the BlogCamp in Chennai is going to be "Living The Blog"

We hope to provide a forum where bloggers can share their stories and be inspired by innovative and successful blogging experiences. In the spirit of blogging and no barriers interaction, the two-day event will be in an "unconference mode". Participants will have the choice of simultaneous workshops and sessions that will be held in small groups and use relatively informal ways of engaging each other, in conversations around the various themes.

While Kiruba, Syed and their young team of Chennai bloggers have been doing a great job of getting the logistics out, creating a lot of buzz around the event, setting up the website and getting sponsors, Neha and I are working on the scheduling of sessions and content .. please do go over to this page and add/edit/modify things that make for a better event given the heterogeneity in the list of participants who are at different stages of blogging experience. Also, if there are topics you wish to cover, apart from the ones I am sharing below, do add them in here. It is really vital that every participant takes the onus of ensuring they get the opportunity to share and speak around their interest area -- so I urge those interested, even if you are planning to participate remotely, do do do go on over and make BlogCamp yours.

Some of the themes around which sessions will be slotted that have emerged so far are:

* Blogging and Governance - how blogs are being used to provide assistance during times of crisis, uncovering potential crimes, activities, taking on the government, etc.
* Blogging and Entrepreneurship - Many professionals are using blogs to change their world. Here we talk about how blogging can work towards career development and related areas. Also, professional blogging, where people are beginning to actually experience that blogs can pay!
* Corporate Blogging - Many corporates have started blogging, making them closer to customers. We ask you to share your stories on why you are incorporating blogs in your products and media strategies.
* Getting Geeky - the art and science of blogging - how to go about it, tips and tricks of trade and taking blogging to the next level. * Blogging and community - as a tool for action, collective or distributed, as a binding force, as a way for individuals to contribute, and to get back something.
* Blogging as New Media - as blogging goes mainstream, it complements journalism. Why traditional media should care about blogging as a form of citizen journalism.
* Blogging as a Hobby - how blogs help you in showcasing your talents and skills, in sharing your deep thoughts.

Once the sessions are more or less frozen, we'll set up a page there for volunteering to be Session Coordinators ... who will then take full responsibility for their session in terms of :
- who the speakers are
- how much time each one speaks
- coordinating with the speakers and scheduling the session
- how to engage others in the discussion
- tying back to the basic theme
- logistics and requirements
- assigning someone to whiteboard or blog or wikify all the discussions that ensued

Some folks have been pinging me for details on how to register, what it costs etc ... so here are some clarifications and pointers to relevant pages on the wiki. There should be a page up soon for recommended accomodation for those travelling to Chennai for the event. To register, go here and add your name. The cost is Rs.300 for both days (less than 7 USD). More details on who's attending, FAQs. A Flickr group has been set up too for BlogCamp06 - hope to see tons of photos from the event there!

Stuff that needs clarity and working on urgently:
  • The wiki is a little messy and disorganised - we need a wiki gardener ... Peter???
  • Outstation participants need help in figuring out accomodation options
  • How is the Rs.300 going to be collected? Will this be at the venue during registration?
  • What's the action on setting up a live audio stream or an IRC channel that will enable participation from those who can't physically be there?
Blogcamp
Blogcamp India


7:54:54 PM    comment []  trackback []

Friday, June 16, 2006

This is the last in the series of Cultural Insights for doing business in India. Just wanted to say these observations are based on learnings over 18 years of doing qualitative research in India. It's interesting to see how some things have changed, while others remain constant, over generations.

Part 4. Technology Perspectives

  • Technology adoption doesn't always follow trends in the West
    • India is leapfrogging the PC stage - cell phones are becoming our gateway to the internet
    • From no cameras to cam phones - digital cameras are being squeezed out
  • 4.5 million cell phones are added every month, 95 million subscribers in March 2006, 200 million projected in 2010; landlines a little over 50 million
  • Most turn off power to hardware when not in use to save electricity, and avoid power surges due to fluctuations. Less of an 'always on' perspective in India.
  • Belief that cost of technology is dropping - so no point planning purchase in advance.
  • Little DIY - cheap service is available
  • Assembled goods and second hand goods are freely available from the grey market
A picture named tech1.JPG
  • Upgrading is not a natural habit - the average consumer is not tech savvy, and technology products are usually used until they break. (Exception being cell phones, esp.among youngsters as they can be a status symbol).
  • Upgrading often needs to be driven by buy-back/replacement schemes offered by
  • Choice of brand and model often made by price/discounts/deals
  • Celebrity endorsements rampant for tech products - playing on image and low role of product or features
A picture named tech2.JPG
  • Trend towards 'all-in-one' gadgets - e.g. cell phone + camera + mp3 player. PCs play multiple roles, for instance as the household DVD player, communication medium, gaming system, etc.
  • Trend towards laptops which is the fastest growing segment - costs dropping, mobility, status associations are key drivers.

The complete series:

Part 1. Culture of Business, Service and Consumption
Part 2. Attitude towards Rules and Regulations
Part 3. Value for Money Equations
Part 4. Technology Perspectives

Many thanks - to all those who have commented and linked to this series of posts - I love the conversations around these issues - keep them coming - and I will add my two-cents shortly!

Tags: ,
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Monday, June 12, 2006

Just discovered Hole-in-the-Wall Education.
A picture named Holeinthewall.jpg

"Forget about the $100 laptop- how about free?

Free access to computers is what Sugata Mitra, physicist and chief scientist with India's international software giant NIIT Ltd. wants for India's 200 million children. That's why he started an Internet learning experiment called Hole-in-the-Wall, where he embedded a kiosk housing high-speed touch-screen computers into the wall that separates the company's headquarters from New Delhi's biggest slum, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

A picture named hitw.jpgThat was in 1999 and since then Mitra has installed more then 150 computers - with keyboards, touch pads, and Web cameras - in some 50 locations from New Delhi slums to points in rural India.

Mitra hopes that widespread implementation of these kiosks could bring India's poorest group of children into the digital age. It's amazing how quickly the children pick up the skills they need to operate and learn from computers, Mitra says. Within nine months, the boys and girls achieve, "the proficiency level equivalent to the skills of most modern office workers." ZDNet Education

Pictures are from the hiwel website and here's a detailed interview with Dr Sugata Mitra, Chief Scientist, at India's National Institute of Information Technology.



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Tuesday, June 6, 2006

I found this neat site that compiles statistics on India, called NeonCarrot:

"Following are various stats, facts and figures on telecommunication and the internet in India , picked out of newspapers (mainly Hindustan Times), magazines (mainly India Today), the BBC and various sources on the web. These figures are not meant to be comprehensive lists, but rather statistical trivia or factual snippets. For basic general facts and figures about India as well as several Indian states, please see the Quick Reference popups on the right hand side of this page, or go to the main page of India statistics, facts and figures . For a full list of links to our statistics pages, see the About India index or the bottom of the right navigation bar on this page."

There's a whole section on Indian Telecom and IT sectors - some Internet figures with source are:

- * number of Internet users in India: 2004: 25 million -- Nov 2005: 38.5 million [HT, Jan 2006]
- * number of internet subscribers in India: 6.13 million [IndiaDaily; Jan 2006]
- * Broadband subscribers in India: 835,000 [IndiaDaily; Jan 2006]
- * target of high-speed Internet users by end of 2005: 3 million (not achieved) [IndiaDaily; Jan 2006]
- * price for BB (available from): 199 Rs per month [HT; Jan 2006]
- * previous numbers of Internet users in India: 1992: 1,000 -- 1995: 250,000 -- 1999: 2.8 mil -- 2000: 5.0 mil [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * Internet users per 100 inhabitants: 2004: 1.5 [GTF; 2005]
- * Internet users per 100 inhabitants: 2001: 0.68 [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * number of travel related web searches by Indians during xmas & New Year period 2005: 8 million, estimate [Business Standard, Dec 2005]
- * percentage of Internet users who access government services via internet: 2001: 22 % -- 2002: 31 % [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * PC availability per 100 inhabitants in 2004: 1.2 [GTF; 2005]
- * number of computers in India: 1992: 0.4 mil -- 1995: 1.2 mil -- 1999: 3.3 mil -- 2000: 4.6 mil [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * number of internet cafes in India: 105,000 [ConSu; Nov 2005]
- * number of jobs created in Internet cafes: 600,000 estimate [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * annual growth in cybercafe market in India: 45 % (average over past 5 years) [ConSu; Nov 2005]
- * estimated number of computerised bank branches: 12,000 (out of a total of 45,000) [v2020; Apr 2003]



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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All things Web 2.0 - a huge huge list of Web 2.0 applications running into hundreds.They are categorized under:

Audio, Blog2Pod, Blogging, Bookmarking, Browser, Calender, Chat, Collaboration, Collect, Comix, Communication, Community, CRM, Debase, Design, Dictionary, Ecommerce, Economy, Elearning, Email, Filesharing, Financials, Fun, Gambling, Games, Hosting, Identity, Images, Imaging, Jobs, Knowledge, Lists, Mapping, Marketing, Memo, Multimedia, News, Office, OS, Outlook, Personal Manufacturing, Polls, Porn, Portals, Powerpoint, Projects, Publishing, Read, RSS, Scheduling, Search, Software, Stats, Tagging, Task Manager, Text, Text2Speech, Time Management, Track&Trace, Video, Voice2Mail, Voicemail, Web2Feed, WiFi, Wiki, Wishlist, Word, Write.

Wow... I am humbled ... I knew of less than 50% of these. [link via gapingvoid]




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Monday, March 13, 2006

Kiruba announces BarCampChennai. Check out the Wiki on BarCampChennai for all details.

A picture named barcamp chennai.jpg"BarCamp is an ad-hoc unconference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction. The two day BarCampChennai focusses on Web 2.0 and Next Generation Internet. It takes place on April 8th and 9th (Saturday and Sunday)
. It's an open, welcoming, once-a-year event for geeks to camp out for a couple days with wifi and smash their brains together."

This time I am going :). I thought I'd bring in a slightly non-geeky perspective and engage in a conversation around how you can build Brand 2.0 on the web. Will share my presentation here when done. Initial thoughts as a starting point for a conversation ...

How does a world of rapidly evolving social media affect your organization's brand strategies and values? Organizations large and small, public and private - continue to extrapolate this year's brand plan and fail to recognize and adapt quickly enough to market changes impacting future strategy. Brand strategy tools must be rethought. From blogs to podcasting - social networking sites to Google Adsense - participation, economics and structure of media and communication is being reinvented.

The brand no longer lives with consumers and marketers alone. In the experience economy the Brand is the nexus of a new connectivity between employee and customer, organization and stakeholders, evangelists and community. There is a third space that is evolving - the social web. It is changing how we 'consume' brands and promises.

Tags :
For Technorati - BarCampChennai,
For Flickr - BarCampChennai
For del.icio.us - BarCampChennai


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Thursday, March 9, 2006

Two sets of interesting figures that caught my eye:

From i4d online :

According to a survey conducted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) there are estimated 4.6 million Internet users who are banking online now, and this number is expected to grow to 16 million plus by 2007-08.

This includes both mobile and online banking. The full research report is available here, absolutely free.

A headline at a post at ContentSutra, which is fast becoming my favourite resource on the digital media space in India, states that "CDMA Subscribers In India Touch 19 Million In February; GSM + CDMA = 82.21 Million As Of Today". More details here.

And this bit of news ... nothing like a bit of competition to spur better offerings and services .... "The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has today recommended number portability for mobile subscribers. This is expected to bring about more competition among the mobile operators since customers do not have to worry about changing their numbers as they move from one operator to the other." [via ContentSutra]



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Friday, March 3, 2006

Last weekend at Khandala, there were many birds in the trees that I couldn't recognise and put a label to.   I wished my dad was there - he probably knows every species. As I was about to doze off this afternoon, I remembered one such bird I did manage to capture in a not-so-clear photograph.

A picture named small bird2.jpg

Made me think, and I know it might sound crazy, but what fun if I could place an image or audio clip into a search box, which returned a whole host of links (like they do with text) that matched the image or audio clip. Is anything like this available today - i just read about Podzinger ... interesting ... but this is different. 

Hmmm.



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Thursday, March 2, 2006

Notable quotes on youth lives online :

"My generation draws the Internet as a cloud that connects everyone; the younger generation experiences it as oxygen that supports their digital lives." [Kevin Marks, epeus epigone blog, via Susan Mernit]

"The young will read anything on the internet. More so, they get their information from their peers rather than from the press. That means from blogs. These blogs may not be objective bastions of news reportage, but they do speak to the youth in a way few mediums ever do. Itís like learning about the world or the country from oneís buddies." [Sushila Ravindranath, Newindpress, link via Sambharmafia]

"Many teens are frustrated by the press' account of their behavior, but they have no voice. They are frustrated by their parents' fear, but they have no power. Parents are scared, and their fear is misguided. There are more actions against minors in San Francisco on a daily basis than there have ever been in the 3-year history of MySpace. More and more cases are failing to pan out. Yet, there are more kids on MySpace than in any single state. I wish i knew how to reach out to parents and say, "It's OK... your kids will be OK... just teach them trust and love." In statistical terms, MySpace is safer than going to school. It is safer than being in a car with your parents. It is safer than going to the mall. And yet, we are more scared because we don't understand it and we're afraid. This makes me so sad because this kind of fear is anxiety producing and culturally dangerous. :-(" [danah boyd in an insighful post about the recent controversy around the disappearance of two young girls, being linked wrongly to MySpace]



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