Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Will Facebook Die?

Sean Parker: You know what's cooler than a million dollars?

Eduardo Saverin: You?

Sean Parker: A billion dollars.

I recently watched the movie The Social Network and thoroughly enjoyed it. It also forced me to think about the social networking sites once again (previous post). I also recently came across this video on facebook which cribbed about the numerous facebook cliché.

The awesome run of facebook has inspired many a budding entrepreneurs and nerdy programmers. However, is facebook merely enjoying its honeymoon period, is something which I ponder upon often. We Indians are very familiar with orkut. Orkut was the facebook of yesteryears. However, it is approaching its termination at a fast pace. There are multiple reasons suggested by people about the orkut debacle. Some point out the flaws in its security and privacy settings. Some other argue that it was facebook which killed orkut. For me I believe it was the latter which forced me into shifting from one to the other.

But over the past few months I have started getting ‘bored’ of facebook. After having used facebook for some time, I have started identifying a pattern in the way people post stuff and react to it. There would be the usual videos running around. Then there would be these status messages about life, love, exams, music, friends, picnic, something being awesome, something being sucky, beatles, tendulkar, girls, rajnikanth, alcohol, college, football, placements, birthdays, miss you, love you, sitcoms, congratulations, cricket, etc. There would be these fortune cookies, horoscopes, ask a psychic, which bitsian insect are you and hell lot of other quizzes and apps which become really annoying.  Every person makes it a point to meddle around with his relationship status. Well I think you can see the video which I mentioned before to get an idea of what I am saying.

The point is that Facebook has become predictable. The number of things which can be seen on your wall are a subset of a very small universal set. My wall looks more and more like a notice board nowadays. The reason behind this sudden decline in interest is simple. The universal set was always small. If at all, it has just grown and not shrunk (facebook is trying really hard). Initially, it was the “sense of wonder” which had gripped us when we first came across social networking. The idea of having the power to create one’s own image in a virtual world was the driving force. However, once the image has been formed now, the whole idea looks lame.

So where are things heading to? Facebook is coming up with a new unified messaging product (more). is going to be the newest entrant in the email industry. This clearly shows that facebook is now tilting towards a tried and tested internet product, Email. It has to leverage the 500 million user base, before they get really bored with it, and has to make itself an inevitable part of its user’s life ( which its current product doesn’t seem to do; at least not for me).

Taking another view to the whole discussion, let us assume a scenario where Zuckerburg would have remained less ambitious and would have settled for the millions (instead of billions). This would have meant that Facebook would have still run on a university based networking model. Although the revenue would have been way lower than what it is currently, it would have been assured of a loyal user base (college kids are passionate about anything related to their college; try me) and a sustained growth. Eventually, Facebook and other social networking sites would primarily cater to the demographic age group of 15 – 25 year old people. Taking this into consideration, the previous facebook model doesn’t look that bad after all.

My suggestion to Zuckerburg would be to take the “God wants you to know” quiz. I heard it is awesome.

Image courtesy:
Quote courtesy:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Misfit Ministers, Vision less Ministries and a Stunted Growth

A. Raja is either a big crook or has some misplaced nerves in his cranium. There have been reports which have claimed that he has cost a damage to the exchequer worth Rs 1,60,000 crores. To give you a contrast, the official figure of CWG budget is Rs 15,000 crores, i.e. 9.375 % of the damage which Raja cost. So, if Raja had not done this, we could have hosted CWG 10 more times in 10 different cities or could have fed millions, or could have reduced our fiscal deficit  by a considerable margin.

It is so disheartening to see that even after such serious allegations; A Raja still thrives as a minister in the centre. This can be directly attributed to the multi – party coalition government evil.

A look at A Raja’s profile would tell you that he studied law and is an advocate by profession. Now this is where I lose track; He was apparently made a minister because of the ‘dalit’ tag which he carries with him. I fail to understand that why a ministry like the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was allotted to a person who is an advocate. India is a world leader in information and technology and has the second largest mobile phone subscriber base. This field is undergoing immense changes which could be calculated on a per minute basis and the financial matters associated with these industries are unique and has no precedence in any other industry.  It would have done a world of good if we had an engineer or an economist or at least a person who knew what spectrum meant, to have been running the ministry.

So the question remains; what criteria decide the person for a portfolio. I understand that portfolios are distributed among allies. But, can’t a party decide whether there is someone from their party who is ‘capable’ to handle a particular ministry. Why does the Indian democracy see the allotment of portfolios as a reward to one’s political achievements? I’m sure DMK could have found an able candidate from its party(or at least from their supporters) who would have met the criteria I mentioned before. But Mr. Karunanidhi was more interested in gratifying his own family and his immediate political crutches. This is a trend which could be seen across all parties irrespective of their ideologies.

Another thing worth noticing is the preferential treatment given to different ministries. India would not have seen many law ministers who had an engineering background, or a Hindu Minister heading the ministry of minority affairs or an urban technocrat running the rural development ministry. However when it comes to ministries like IT & communication or health etc people seem to relax the allotment sensibilities.

The way A Raja has handled his ministry; it has reiterated the fact that we need specialist ministers. We need ministers who have the ability to conceive visions for their respective ministry.

If we could somehow get the first cabinet of our country, which had people like Nehru, Sardar Patel, Ambedkar etc. who were people with conviction and a master of their own fields, back into the present India, we could achieve more… much more. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What if Obama led India and Manmohan Singh led USA

The Indian media is going gaga over the Obama visit. And over a few dances and town hall meeting with students, Obama sure has won some hearts. I happen to see the arrival of Air force one on Delhi airport live on TV. It was really heartwarming to see the way Barack Obama and Dr. Manmohan Singh greeted each other with a hug.

It is really surprising to see the various similarities which Obama and Dr. Singh share. Obama was raised by a single mother, most part of his life whereas Dr. Singh lost his mother and was raised by his grandmother. Obama had to move to Indonesia when he was quiet young. Similarly, Dr. Singh moved to India after the partition. Both studied in one of the best universities in the world, Dr. Singh in Oxford and Cambridge and Obama studied in Columbia and Harvard. Both had no political involvement till quiet later in their life. They both have served as professors some point in their career.

However this is where the similarities end; Obama being one of the best orators of all time and Singh being one of the best economists. This made me realize the irony in the history. The United States of America is going through probably the worst economic crisis since its independence. However, when Obama was running for President, recession was yet to haunt his country and he mesmerized his country and the rest of the world with “Yes We Can”. His ideas promised to take US to another level. But lady luck was against him and his country and from the day he was sworn in, he has been on a damage control of biggest magnitude.
On the other hand, India is on the verge of something exciting. “Change” is the buzz word here; where all the ingredients of a financial, social and Cultural Revolution are on the platter. Dr. Singh can in a sense be called the architect of modern India ( I might be biased). However, given his age and his serene mildness at dealing with things, it might be better if we have a younger extrovert leader at place. BTW Prime Minister in Waiting( conditions apply), Rahul Gandhi is just 9 years younger to Obama.

This takes me to a hypothetical world. A world where Obama leads India and Dr. Singh leads the United States. It was Dr. Singh who got India out of bankruptcy (ya, the whole country) two decades ago (more in one of my previous post). His wisdom with financial matters has a proven track record. USA currently needs a leader like him who could orchestrate a comeback for them. On the other hand, it would be so great to hear someone tell the rich and the poor, the farmers and the IT professional, the slum dwellers and Mukesh Ambani, and the whole country, “Yes we can”. A leader like Obama could work wonders to our country.

Irony, my friend. 

(Photo Courtsey: AFP and AP)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Asian Games 2010, Guangzhou

The Asian Games 2010 is almost a week away and we are yet to hear much about it. One might say that this is the Chinese way of doing things. Is it just me or is that Guangzhou doesn’t ring a bell other than the recent references to the Asian Games. Somehow, I thought Bangalore is a global city and would have felt surprised if someone from outside India would have shown unfamiliarity with its name. However on a closer look (googling), I found that Guangzhou is double the size of Bangalore and its economy ten times .

This Asian Games is slated to be the biggest ever. ‘Ever’ ,both in past and future because of some restructuring initiated by Olympic Council of Asia.

Given below is a head to head comparison with our own Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Commonwealth Games 2010
Asian Games 2010

Delhi, India

Quick Facts:
  • Capital of India
  • Second largest city of the country.
  • Population – 12.25 million ( excluding NCR)
  • GDP of city - US$24.5 billion

Guangzhou, China

Quick Facts:
  • One of the Five National Central Cities.
  • Third largest city of the country.
  • Population – 10.33 million
  • GDP of city - US $133.5 billion

Official Estimate – US$ 2.6 billion
Unofficial Speculation – US$ 6.8 billion

Official Estimate – US$ 17 billion
272 events in 21 categories

476 events in 42 categories ( Higher than Beijing Olympics which had 302 events in 28 categories)

No. of Countries
No. of Athletes

Main Stadium – Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium. In total 12 competition venues.
53 Competition Venues
Baton/Torch Relay
Travelled 70 nations of the commonwealth and the whole of India.

Expected to travel 21 cities in Guangdong province and 2 cities off Guangdong province.

Major Controversies
  • Expenditure Explosion
  • Child Labor and other issues.
  • Collapse of hanging bridge.
  • Game’s village Hygiene prior to the event
  • Ticketing irregularities

  • Air Quality

(Government control over the local media prevents many exposures)

Credits: Wikipedia 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife

This is the debut novel of Audrey Niffenegger. This has been adapted as a movie as well. The whole book uses a beautiful alternating first person narration. It’s a story about a couple Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. The major theme of the story runs around the chaos and romance caused by the genetic disorder which Henry suffers from, which makes him time travel.


Most of the part of the novel is set in the last 3 decades of 20th century. The major selling point of the novel is the non linear flow of events. The author had a daunting task of making the story make sense to the reader and she succeeded in it. The story also makes references to real life incidents like the 9/11 attacks. In all, it is a love story of a young girl and an adult man and also a love story of a young man and a young lady. The catch being that the male and female were the same in both.


Henry DeTamble suffers from a rare genetic disorder which takes him into an involuntary (sometimes voluntary) time travel. The disorder showed itself up for the first time when he met with an accident in which his mother died. After this he had been time travelling over the years to known and unknown places in known and unknown times. In one of his time travels he meets his future wife in her childhood time. One major roadblock in time travelling was that whenever he time travelled and reached a destination, he would always be naked. So when he met young Clare, he asked her to get clothes for him. She fascinated him so much that he visited her often.

After a brief lull of a couple of years, Clare meets younger Detamble in a natural chronological event. The story keeps on making switches from one time to the other and narration switches from Henry to Clare but the general flow of the story matches Clare’s life.

What follows this is a chaotic love affair between Henry and Clare, marred by complications like abortions, scandals etc.


The author has succeeded in blending two completely different genre, science fiction and romance, in a graceful manner. Her take on time travel actually makes the story devoid of paradoxes which plague time travel theories. Her use of multiple first person narration gives the story two strong characters to delve upon. The story is like two threads entangled all over each other; the chords representing the life of Clare and Henry. By the end of the story, the two threads get disentangled and everything starts making sense. The success of the story lies in its narration style. It is a compelling read.


The book lacks a definite storyline. Initial part of the story is interesting till the point where reader gets to understand the concept but after that the story lacks a definite sense of direction. The love story becomes over frustrating with repeated incidents of abortions and several other things.


To learn more about the rating, refer to this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dr. Manmohan Singh - A Role Model



(Chamber of Admissions Dean, BITS Pilani. )

Enter Prof. X, Prof. Y, Prof. Z, STUDENT

Prof. Y: Tell us someone whom you consider a role model.

(Awkward silence)

STUDENT: (Nervous) Pardon?

Prof. X: Who is your role model?

STUDENT: Lalu Prasad Yadav.

(Thunder strikes in the distance. Curtains dance under the influence of wind gushing in through the windows. )

Prof. Z: What?

Prof. Y: What?

Prof. X: What?

(Student scratches his head. Bites his finger. Swallows the bile juice back. Hopes to get swallowed by the earth.)

It was one of those few moments when I could hear myself speak; when suddenly my mouth was no longer under my control. The interview was for selection of top 20 candidates for applying in the prestigious Aditya Birla Scholarship (the interview was conducted due to the ambiguity of status of ranking of board toppers in the application process). Here in front of me were some of the most reputed professors of the institute and I had to justify in the next few seconds as to why I considered Lalu as my role model. I took a deep breath and conjured an answer. I told them about seeing a documentary on Lalu which showed how he rose from being the son of a farmer to becoming the railway minister of India. This reply did keep them from probing me further; however I had stumped myself for sure. No offence Lalu, but you are not good enough to be my role model. That day marked the beginning of my silent leisurely quest on finding a role model.

Over the past few years nobody seemed to fill that spot. I had nightmares of being asked the same question again in some interview. However, over the past few days, I found my answer in the form of Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Till a little time back I used to consider him Sonia’s side-kick. A puppet Prime Minister. I had heard about his stint in the finance ministry in the early 90s however it never caught my attention much. However my recent penchant for knowledge, soul searching and random wikiing during my practice school semester made me stumble across the Wikipedia entry on economic crisis which India faced in the early 90s and the start of liberalization.

Let me tell you the story of India. A story of rags to possible riches.

Just before Manmohan Singh took charge of country’s wallet, Republic of India was on the brink of bankruptcy. The fiscal deficit was as high as 12.7% of the GDP. Our foreign reserves were barely enough to pay for 3 weeks’ worth of imports. A timely intervention of IMF (in lieu of gold) saved our neck. In return for 67 tons(!!!!) of gold, we received a loan of $2.2 billion. The then government, led by Chandrashekhar, which took the loans and sold everything we had, lost its power in the center within few months. The elections took place in the month of May and June 1991 which was marred by the death of Rajiv Gandhi after the first round of polling. The congress won the elections and Narsimha Rao was brought back in the party from a near retirement. He became the Prime Minister of India amidst the death of Rajiv Gandhi and a crippled economy.

This was the point where Narsimha Rao took a brave decision of keeping the seat of finance minister out of the hand of any political big shot. He requested IG Patel, ex-governer of RBI and the then director of London School of Economics and Political Science to take over the finance ministry. But he declined. He chose Dr. Manmohan Singh as his next option. When he offered this post to Dr. Singh, he was surprised and confused at the same time. His colleagues tried convincing him that the prime minister is looking for a future scapegoat. In an interview he once said:

“I'd held all the top civil service jobs, but here was an opportunity to play a political role, and there was an odd chance that we would make a success of it, in which case I would have a footnote in India's history. If I fail, that's of no great consequence. And who fails if India wins?”

He took over as the finance minister of India on 21 June 1991. He had a task of a surgeon who had to treat a patient’s abdomen which had been messed up by a novice intern. However he took it up as a challenge and an excuse for change.

He initiated a shift in the economy from a Nehruvian Socialism to a Pro Capitalist philosophy. License Raj was given a pink slip. The government decided to gradually move out from businesses where it was unnecessarily existent. It paved way for a red tape free Foreign Direct Investment in many sectors. The impact of this was such that the FDI increased from US$132 million in 1991–92 to $5.3 billion in 1995–96. We made our markets open for the global game. Urbanization was put on a fast track. The unprecedented growth of tier 2 cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune etc was a side effect of this treatment.

He has been accused of not repeating the magic in his tenure as PM. This might be partially true. However the way in which he fought for the Nuclear Bill has proved once again that no matter how mild he might sound, here is one man, who likes to play rough.

The thing which makes him adorable is his humility. He neither has the haughty air of a premier of a country nor does he have a know-it-all attitude of a scholar. He is one person who excelled in what he did. Be it education, teaching or the government, he was a source of inspiration to all. Recently he was among the most powerful people of 2010 list of Forbes. He was also listed as “The Leader other leaders love” in their list of 10 respected world leaders by Newsweek.

I don’t consider myself his ardent fan. I might not agree to his political opinion. However, I admire him for his willingness to move out of his comfort zone and venturing into an unsafe zone (the political jungle). I am also fond of his serene smile.

So next time when someone asks me who my role model is, I would reply – Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of my country who took the energy problem of my country by its horn, a finance minister who took my country out of global shame, an economist who left the comfort of best universities of the world to come back to India to serve the Indian academia and then the government machinery, a student who studied under a lamp, lost his mother early in his life, bore the pains of relocation due to partition, walked kilometers for water and still had the audacity to pursue education at the centers of excellence and a man who is humble enough to still own a Maruti 800.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

H to Oh!

There was this weekend few boring weekends ago when me and my friends decided to check out the motherland of CCD - Chickmaglur. The day was Friday and we all were looking forward to the trip. On a scale of 0 to 5 my enthusiasm for the trip was approaching 0 from the negative side and anvi went into the imaginary scale to repsect the maximum limit of the scale her enthu was at 5 + 1000i. The cab driver was expected to pick abhinav at around 0030 hours from the streets of BTM and was supposed to pick the rest of us by 0100 hours. However, I probably wouldnt have written this post if there wasn't a but (/bhat/butt) in the story. And it goes like this - "But, the driver never turned up". After waiting till 0300 hours on the chilling secluded street with an auto wallah to give him company, Abhinav hung his boots, switched off his cell phone and eventually fell off into deep slumber, leaving the rest of us in the wind tunnel road apartment to handle the 5 + 1000i worth of enthu turned into anger. After a walk outside and some justdial calling, we decided that we would head to ShivaSamudram the next morning.




We left for Shivasamudram at 0700 hours in the morning. The ride on the most part was beautiful. After having a breakfast somewhere on the way, we reached the first fall, gaganchukki by around 11 in the afternoon. Let me pause here to give a bit of info. Shivasamsudram falls is located in the blah blah blah. Did I mention how awesome our driver was. He had a camera phone, could drive the car at 40 kmh while talking on phone and stopped at every random place, encouraging us to take pictures. This guy did another good thing. He took us to the dargah entry of the fall. This was the place where a 25 year old software engineer died (as according to a caution board on the other entry where the losers who dont have such an awesome driver go).

Gaganchukki falls is apparently the second highest fall in the country. The moment you reach close to the water and stand next to the mighty fall, a sense of belittlement captures you. My jaws dropped when I stood on the spot from where it was almost a 50m fall. After keeping our legs in water (exactly like how we used to do when we were little girls) for a while, we left in search for food. Fish was the only thing that was available however the ambience killed the hunger. We unanimously agreed to survive on packaged food.

After this we left for Bharachukki falls and reached there at around 1430 hours. After climbing down a few steps (it looked like steps, wonder what its called), we witnessed this beautiful sight. There was a boat ride. 100 bucks for a boat. Even a communist hypocrite would have agreed to pay for that. The boatman took the coracle almost under the fall and we were drenched in the mist rising from the water to water impact. If this was not enough to raise our spirits, the boat guy started rotating our boat, the flimsy piece of hemispherical container, crossing the threshold angular velocity for awesomeness.

We then crossed a small stream of water to reach a spot where there were dozens of uncles, aunties, wannabies and monkeys dipping their skins in water .For me the best point of our trip was standing directly under the falling water. I opened my mouth to growl, only to be silenced by the serene thunder of the fall.

After spending sometime there we started our return at around 1600 hours. The return was uneventful, except for some bladder issues. We were famished, wet and sleepy. So much so that when we reached Gramin for dinner, I was eating and sleeping at bursts (much like the I/O burst - CPU burst alternation). Okay now I dont remember what happened next. I guess I came back and slept off.

Things to remember while on a trip to Shivasamudram:

  • · Take a driver who loves Kishore Kumar.
  • · Check your blood for alcohol before leaving. While standing on top of the gaganchukki falls, the mind plays "I'm six feet from the edge and I'm thinking..." more than once.
  • · Fish is the staple food of people of Shivasamudram. If you belong to McAloo Tiki generation then get your lunch prepared. There is a Barista outlet and a CCD outlet on the way.
  • · Don't go on a rainy day. You don’t want to stand and watch the falls from far.
  • · Take some lessons on Defense against Monkey violence ( I hear Arindham Chaudhari is coming up with a book for the same, to be added in IIPM's curriculum). Monkeys are fond of Haldiram's, even more than you.
  • · Wear a pair of shorts. I am still not able to get my dirty jeans clean.

Follow sushantkoshy on Twitter