Google’s bite of an Apple – Is Eden getting closer?

I am a voracious user of Google services and a big fan of most of them. One of my early online hobby used to be discover all that’s listed under the “more” option of the Google header, one service at a time.

In the recent span of time, Google+ has been creating waves (sorry not google wave :-P) after two unsucessful attempts at getting a grip on the online social media sphere. A lot has been written, and many are still writing their early reviews of the service and what would be its potential course and its effect over the other social media hotspots.

To be honest, i logged in to blogger today to write about my first hand experience with Google plus. But what met my eye post login changed the course of my topic towards a change happening across Google. — The new look of Blogger after ages of seeing the same boring dashboard was here staring at my eyes wide open.

Winds of change

Google Adsense was among the first service to undergo a change in look. But apart from aesthetics there were some added features too such as better reporting. Most of the changes then were Googlish – read, mostly white and thin arial fonts all over the place.

Adsense – Old Look
Adsense – New Look

Google is known for doing rigorous multivariate testing before even moving a pixel, and thats where certain sea-changes made me wonder!

Among the first revolutionary design to hit me was… naah not G+, it was the new look of Google Analytics. The fonts got a tad larger with the screen stretching out and demanding more scroll than the older site. The scroll is a compromise for a cleaner look with elements being spread out a bit. The new design though would perform very well with better screen resolutions.

Google Analytics – Old Interface
Google Analytics – New Interface

Just when i was grappling and toying with the sneak peak of Google analytics, the top bar of google turned Black all of a sudden when i was logged in to GDocs. I first thought it was an graphic error due to low memory. Just when i saw BBC news release about the new arrival – G+

More press releases and blogs revealed that Google had bitten an Apple (hopefully not the one left behind by lady Eve!)… The fundamental changes in G+ and the cleaner look was courtesy an ex-Apple employee who brought in the new design elements.

And .. the changes rolled on

Two days since i started using G+ there was a link atop my Gmail prompting me to try the new Gmail look through the theme settings. I could now see an overall pattern which Google as a whole was moving towards. Slim gray bordered buttons and boundaries, Generous usage of white space, fading of the characteristic blue and inclusion of a palette of Grey and an unusual reddish brown were some of the obvious changes.



Blogger Today!

The latest Google baby to crawl out of the changing room is blogger. The new and improved post editor resembling a Wysiwig Gdocs editor is a welcome change. The new lean mean look is refreshing and as you can already see, has spruced up my blogging appetite.

Eagerly awaiting to see the effect of these changes on usage of G-services. Unlike Lady Eve, i hope, Google will open up the garden of Eden for online users, rather than the other way around!

UIDo or UIDont – Concerns on Aadhar

Yet another Card – a wildcard or a joker?

Government after government, citizens have been bombarded with a new series of cards. All these cards in the past had a similar proposition – being able to serve as a one point identity. We had ration cards, voters cards (where we looked like goons, to match the faces of the people we elect, beyond our own recognition), PAN card (a single identity for financial transactions).

And now a new baby – UID. What’s different though is that this time around the government has a celebrity endorsement for it.. Mr. Nilekani.

Benefit state – whats the benefit for the working middle class?
The UID promises jobs, health insurance and freebies for the poorest of the poor.. nice.. perhaps it would help the government implement archaic steps like caste based resevations too!

But what’s in it for the people who pay for all these free candies through their nose?  And with most of the time benefits flowing out like a fish served daily, rather than teaching the person to fish.

If you were to closely analyze, there is hardly anything for those of us who form the “source of income” for the government. It may infact help the govt to exploit us further by levying as many types of taxes as possible and targeting it to the exact demographic.

A govt. that has a reputation of so many scams can not be trusted to be noble enough to handle our data quite well, even with a pin-up poster-boy Nilekani.

 How serious is the government on this project?

Article link: UID project faces big cut this budget – The Times of India – Feb 2011

The article explains it all that the UPA has done a budget cut of over 50% to fund ministries held by its coalition partners… Ahemm.

A do-it-yourself reality check.. Visit the UID website – http://www.uidai.gov.in

With the project gone live, any citizen being able to find his nearest registration centre deserves a government reward. To cut the riddle short, you will find an ambitious link out there saying “How to get an Aadhar?” and here is what it reads as on 21 May 2011

How to get an Aadhaar?

The process to get an Aadhaar will be circulated by the local media upon which residents need to go to the nearest Enrolment Camp to register for an Aadhaar. The resident primarily needs to carry certain documents which will be specified in the media advertisement.
Upon registering for Aadhaar, residents will go through a biometric scanning of ten fingerprints and iris. They will then be photographed and given an enrolment number upon completion. Depending on the enrolment agency, residents will be issued an Aadhaar number within 20 to 30 days.

 Can you really trust a department that cannot manage a database of its registration centers on their own website to really manage a mammoth database of its citizens?

That brings us to the main concern—-

How safe is my identity with the Bharat Sarkar?

Nandan Nilekani may have been handpicked to form the face of the project, bypassing the usual IAS babudom factory. However vendors and partners are still chosen by the tendering process, where vendors that find favors in the government stand a good chance to grab the project rather than a competent company. Even with stretched pricing, which is a prerequisite of the tendering process (add to that the goodies that need to go back in cash) – the best of the companies would be forced to cut corners.

There have been headlines earlier of certain government websites, where registered user details including user names and passwords were available through a public URL.. (sigh! even hackers would feel frustrated since they need not hack)

With our friendly neighborhood countries wanting to use Cyber attacks (read China’s new art of war) to destabilize the country, there is a lot at stake. It would take just one unscrupulous govt employee to even sell the data to telemarketers and spamsters.

There is hope still .. since thankfully the government has kept registration as a purely voluntary process… UIDo or UIDont is purely your choice. 🙂

Wait! Before you damn the Social Network

It is the heart throbbing buzzword of the day.
Its way beyond the dreams and imagination of those who started electronic communication, even those closer in history who started the world wide web
It is certainly an enigma that has kept many behavioral experts baffled
Marketing researchers and media experts too are left in bewilderment, trying to gauge its impact and future course.
Unlike the rocket science advancements of yore, “The Social Network” is an up-close-personal reality of our over-communicated and over-connected lives. Its proliferation has gone beyond the realms of the modest desktop or laptop computing devices, to the omnipresence of mobile devices. However, with the growth of its usage, and more importantly the way it has become a close part of our lives, we do find amongst us certain negative trails. Trails from the lagging edge of the double edged sword of technology.. as always..
The dark streets of social networking
It is not uncommon to find amongst us a feeling of paranoia about what we should and shouldn’t be doing on our social media presence. In few unfortunate cases, there have been unpleasant experiences leading from embarrassment to even suicides, as an aftermath of something uncalled.
I have had friends seeking counselling from me, narrating how their addiction or affairs on facebook messed up their life. Some of them who were new to the online connected world were confused and scared by daisy-chaining applications asking them to be a “mafia lord” or getting friend requests from total strangers.
Way out of the dark streets

In wild woods it is prudent to stick to the beaten path, unless you are game for an adventure at your own risk.
So is killing your presence on facebook or twitter an answer to end your paranoia? Maybe a temporary answer.. but thats not a solution. So what could be a way out.
The answer begins by understanding what the social network is in the first place.
Social.. and Network
These two words have been in existence for a very long time.. much before they have been used together in a strong context to name the big wave sweeping us.
Social Networks have been in existence much before our devices got wired and wireless connected. We have been calling it different names… clubs, Society, Social Circle, alumni groups, interest groups.. and different ways through which we bonded.
So what makes this new Social Network driven by technology so scary?.. If we analyze deeply..
The problem lies in our own tendency to let our own hair free and loosen our clothes, and go blabbery blab till we realize the weight of the first word out of the two… Social.. and that the new and improved … Network.. makes things spread as wildfire.
The Social in social networking is there for real.. Being tempted by the “non-physical” nature of the medium can lure you into enjoying a self-proclaimed freedom.. But yes, the rules of a SOCIETY.. apply here too.. There are certain norms each society has… You are free to rebel, you may be applauded.. but be prepared to be backbitten with twice the speed as the real world.. thanks to the faster NETWORK.
The next time you feel you are being trapped by the Social Network.. ask yourself these questions .. and you will find your solution..
1. What does being Social mean to me? Does it mean a right blend of being cordial informal, and at the same time knowing the distance to maintain?
2. Am i applying my knowledge of being social… on my social network? 
That means certain terms like.. Not accepting friend’s request from strangers without knowing the risk associated with it. Using privacy features of each social networking platform whether it is twitter, facebook or youtube.. to help maintain the demarkation between your private and public life.. even online.
3. Just like in a real society locking oneself up in a dark room is not a solution, can staying away from the social network keep me away from its benefits derived from prudent use? – Same old Dad’s principle.. Running away from a problem doesn’t solve it.

The answers to surviving in the inevitable onslaught of social media and modern day networking lies in being prudent and self-disciplined individuals of the online society. Any deviation from this has its own risks.. and possible pitfalls. However, that doesn’t negate or superceed the potential of the medium to do immense good to our lives when used with diligent moderation.

Graduating as a Prof

The weekend thats about to end in few hours, marked two very memorable events. Apart from the launch of Balaji Seva Samiti website, there was one more event which was very special and unique in its occurence – the convocation ceremony at NMIMS University, where my first batch of students passed out. Around 140 in all across three classes – all decked up in their convocation gowns.
Its been three years since i got the wonderful opportunity as a visiting faculty at the prestigious institution, adding a new facet to my life (read weekend life) at large. The greater privilege was being given a chance to address students who were no less than a panel of experienced professionals from various reputed organizations, who sweated out their evenings and weekends to get their masters degree. Being a part-time MBA myself, makes me totally empathize with the amount of sacrifice and tight-rope balancing needed during the course through a bermuda triangle of – Family, Profession, and Studies.
The Reminder
I was at work when i got a call from Mr. Dharmendra Kumar, my student and a seasoned professional from the Pharma industry. He informed me about the convocation ceremony and asked me if i could be a part of the event by invoking Saraswati Vandana – a Prayer to the Goddess of learning. He was entrusted the task of getting someone with a classical music background, and it was kind of him to remember me. I pounced at the offer and readily agreed for the event that was scheduled in two days time.
At The Venue
Bhaidas Hall was abuzz with activity of the post graduates passing out, but what surprised me further was familiar faces at the entrance.. These were students of my first batch! “Its been 3 years already!”  I thought with glee to myself. My students and i had pleasant exchanges. Was totally humbled when some of them introduced me as their prof to their family members. One of the elders even blessed me with a caring hand over my head.

I told them that i was giving them a surprise .. as i left for the backstage 🙂

Backstage — Frontstage
I was introduced to the compere of the evening who briefed me about the flow of the event and my entry and exit. The curtains opened and the crowds cheered to the young and beautiful compere, in many more decibels than the applause to any other guest for the evening.. ahemm!
The convocation parade comprising of senior faculty and distinguished guests marched to a ceremonial tune of bagpipes and lit the ceremonial lamp. I was called upon the stage where i sang the Saraswati Vandana i had learnt in my college. I was humbled when my name was mentioned in the vote of thanks for the tiny participation in the prestigious event marked by its achievers.

My students got their degrees and felicitations… and i Got mine when they reciprocated my surprise stage appearance for them .. and Goddess Saraswati 🙂 

Felt like i was convocated 140 times for each of my students passing out… ..A feeling that had never hit me before. My students got their degrees and i got mine in my joy filled heart.


Icing on the cake



When i was having my dinner (actually high tea) with my students, a senior visiting faculty walked up to us, congratulated me for the ‘degree’ and wished me all the best for the future…. He thought i was a student :-D. I was reminded:


” Life is a university that admits you in the Womb, and graduates you in the Tomb”





Many Smiles … scaling… Many Miles 

 

Google Chrome Full page ad – Browser Wars – Now at a desktop near you

Everybody loves watching Google and her moves, with the curiosity of watching Magician Pasha with his hand in the top hat. Presto! and we have here today — Google Chrome Full Page color ads in leading Indian Dailies…

Blogs, Tweet-o-sphere, and all modes of communication is abuzz with the question… What made Google, the largest medium by itself on the planet, resort to newspapers in India? and that to for promoting not its cash register – Adwords, not its milking cow – The Google search engine… But… its browser Google Chrome..

As the rhetoric exclamation of these questions spread like wildfire i am sure ol shrewd pals – Larry and Sergei are laughing all the way to the bank, since one half of the objective for the campaign was done successfully… Which was… the huge buzz factor.. News of the day across multiple media by just few ad inserts in a daily.

Now what could be the other half of the objective? Let me add my two cents to the buzz, and to the grins of Larry and Sergei.

1.First thing in the morning :
Why did Google choose English newspapers as a medium, that has almost the same reach as its search engine? The size of the ad, of course was for the reasons of getting impact and showing dominance. Dominance in the wake of newer versions of Internet Explorer, and rising popularity of Firefox and other browsers.

Size aside, the ad was not seen on television or on hoarding (may follow later). Newspaper was the unsuspecting first choice..

Pondering over the reason for this choice took me to a conversation i had with a former senior colleague of mine.. who told me about a pitch he did to a prestigious client for organizing a large corporate event. His competitor was the number one business TV channel known for doing custom events.

When his turn came, which was after the TV channel’s, he was asked- ” My dear Sir, you just now saw the largest business channel walk out of the room. What is it that you can give us that they can’t?”

To which my friend replied -” We reach your audience, much before any other medium does in the morning….. Not everyone has a television in the Washroom.. and busy people usually read a newspaper in their most intimate morning moments :-)”. ….. The pitch was won..

Bottom-line… Newspaper gets there First thing in the Morning.. however this may change for different audience.

2. Why Google Chrome? Why not other products?


Before Google, it was Yahoo and Rediff that did a multi-crore blitzkrieg to promote relaunch of the complete portal.. However, Google here chose to do it only for its browser, not for any of their other cash cow products.

There could be two reasons for this.

a. The browser, which began long back as a modest, good-to-have, add on tool to browse the Internet, is poised to become the most important and core application on your machine.

Cloud computing and Software as a Service, are becoming jargons of the day, which primarily use the browser at its core. Very soon, all the applications that you would ever need would run from a remote server, which can be accessed through….. the good old browser.

Hence to gain a good share of the browser user base is very important for any online brand, to gain a ready platform to offer overall computing service in the future. It is not a matter of surprise, that the Google Chrome Desktop operating system is touted to run on online application.

Having said this, for India, we are still away from the day when we can have reliable connectivity. However, the day is getting closer.

3. Dominance during a competition launch – “Who is the boss?”:

With over 2 million downloads reported for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer ver.9, six days ago, the battle lines had to be drawn between the Redmond Giant and Mountain View Monarch.

The stakes are too high for this one, and hence Google Chrome perhaps wanted to show its dominance – First Thing in the Morning.

Newspaper was its best bet..

PS: Imagine the sight of Google Chrome and MS IE bidding on each others keyword on Adwords as well as bing!! Keep watching!

An Ode to Childhood – बचपन मेरा बना रहे

पैरों मैं पंख लिए  जब,  दौड़े चले वह नन्हे पग
नैना देख पुलकित होए, सुन्दर बने उनसे यह जग

ज़मीं पर टिके न टिकाये, वह नन्हे पैरों के दौड़ते निशाँ
चंचल पग को चूमना चाहें, इस व्याकुल धरती की प्यासी जाँ

 बचपन के यादों से लदे, तह दिल से दुआ करता हूँ
 बचपन मेरा बना रहे, दुआ रब से यही चाहता हूँ

US open, French Open…. Bharat Bandh

जो काम बरसात  का जोर न कर पाया, जो काम देश विदेश के आतंकवादी न कर पाए. वह काम हमारे राजनैतिक नेता कल आजमाएंगे …. मुंबई.. और  भारत बंद 

(what couldn’t be achieved by torrents of rain, and the blows of terrorists from within and outside the country, the political leaders are attempting to do…. Mumbai and India Shut Down in protest)
The opposition parties of our great country have called for a ritual that is celebrated “peacefully” in this world’s largest democracy of ours.The ritual is called a Bandh… Which literally means .. Shut Down..


For residents of financial capital of India, it is business as usual. First it was the Motormen of the city’s life line – Local Trains, that went on strike for the “larger benefit of commuters”.. Then, it was the turn of the Taximen and Auto rickshaws to go on strike. The weather god’s tried their bit with not much effect though with the usual flooding of the city, at a trickle as much as a dog’s piddle…. And now..
Its the turn of the lawmakers (should i say lawbreakers) themselves. 

Elected representatives of the opposition parties of our democracy have invoked the great constitutional right… freedom of peaceful protest.. that would hold a city or even the whole country to ransom, with hungry daily wagers and sporadic violence, to name a few, as a price to pay for this peaceful protest.

The protest is in response to the rising prices of commodities and the recent unpopular decision of the govt. to deregulate the price of fuel. Whether the protest will help the countrymen or is it just yet another ritual (read political stunt) is any common man’s guess.

1. Does a strike really help?:
When you keep the nation shut for even minutes, forget an entire day, she has to foot losses – monetary and psychological.. for the moment let us consider the monetary part.. People earning on a daily basis can even go hungry.. And at the end there are no free lunches.. The loss incurred has to be paid for, ultimately gets paid through the tax payer’s pocket. The party funds of the protesting political groups are not gonna fund even a dime. 


2. Would prices fall really, if the fuel prices were rolled back?
The answer is a small yes and a big No… The small yes is the short term effect you will see on the price tag.. Now for a big NO.. Before the fuel prices were deregulated. Every liter of fuel sold was subsidized to as high as 25%. This cost was paid by Tax Payers as subsidee.. most of whom do not own a vehicle! The mounting losses because of the subsidee would once again mean rising prices.


It is a shame that hardworking citizens of the country have yet another obstacle for them to and from their workplaces, tomorrow.. Monday.. Just as this “peaceful protest” unfolds.







A weekend diary note

Here i am, at the brink of terminal midnight…
where one week end’s and shows me the next flight..

The week that went by had many pleasant and jovial moments.. Few random citations served right here:

1. Finally got a call from NMIMS university for an assignment as a visiting faculty for one of my favorite subject – “Brand Building for NGOs and social enterprises”…. So next ten sundays are booked. This is the third year i would be facilitating the course.

2. Had my third marriage anniversary.. which i spent with a rare occassion of overnight work assignment at my creative agency’s premises. Worked till early morning 430AM, to be greeted by passionate rain with lights and sounds… On a road that was empty with cabs and autos on strike. Was lucky to be dropped by a friend from the agency.

The final outcome was good and appreciated indirectly… I think the compliments, few of them make it direct to you specially during appraisal :-D.

Luckily had the privilege of taking the next day as a compensatory off from work.

3. The rains are here.. It was raining moderately yesterday… i embarked on a two mile walk after a days work, as i left for my sister’s home.. It was an experience enjoyable as ever sipping raindrops.. The next morning, was walking again towards office, just when a bus driver, from my usual morning bus honked at me and dropped me to the bus stop en route his return journey.

Little moments… few disappointments… glitters of joy…. deep rough sea… and then Land Ahoy!

A sleepless night – random rambles

The first notions that come to your mind when someone says – “Sleepless night” is hard work, constant worry, upset health, insomnia… and so on. Thankfully, this moment of my sleeplessness relates to none. Strangely, i slept off at 8 PM the moment i reached home, and after 6 hours of dreamy sleep, i woke up at 2 AM with nothing much to do except for toying with a new netbook that i got for my cousin sister.

I just recall that i reclined on my bed at 8 pm, and immediately fell asleep as though i was tranquilized with a strong dose of anaesthetic drug. Though my personal anaesthetist – my wife Varsha, is away from home preparing for her final exams on the same subject. I could have very well been a subject of her study today for two reasons –

1. What made me go into hibernation at 8 pm?
2. What keeps me totally awake at 2 am?

As i fell asleep, i recall entering an imaginary world in my dreams, which had some imaginary friends of mine partying with me. In the dream, I recall standing outside the five star venue, in the lawn of the entrance driveway, with a couple of my friends asking if i was fine… And all of a sudden, the earth shakes violently – right to left… “God, its an earthquake!” everyone around exclaims.. Within moments, there is a second tremor, this time exactly in 90 degrees direction to the earlier one.. Went into deeper slumber after that… and then stood awake at 2 AM.

Have had strange dreams, usually during summer nights. Have dreamt of dark skies, storms and tornadoes (once distinctly at Dadar beach) during this rude season.

Maybe i should just shift to the Air Conditioned bed room :-)….. *yawn* … feeling a bit sleepy now.. and there is about an hour of sleep-able early morning :).. Sweet dreams.