Monthly Archives: October 2008

Apperception- LinkedIn

Apperception – The process whereby perceived qualities of an object are related to past experience.

Last week, I’d written about some developments in the business networking/enterprise web2.0 space. To make the scenario even more interesting, LinkedIn announced the launch of its applications platform. 9 apps have been launched so far, and they are presentations from Slideshare, and Google Presentations, a reading list app from Amazon, online workspaces from Huddle, a travel networking app from TripIt, blog feeds from WordPress and Blog Link (from Six Apart, powered by Typepad), a file storage, collaboration app from Box.net, and one home production called Company Buzz, to track the twitter talk on your company, trends etc. Going forward, all apps will be screened by LinkedIn to ensure that they are of ‘professional’ nature, and users can add a max of 15 apps on their homepage, this is to prevent clutter. (via Tech Crunch)

While the app ideas seem cool, I was extremely disappointed with the loading time (I tried WordPress and the Blog Link apps). The WP app also does not work with self hosted blogs, so i was advised by @prateekdayal to try the Blog Links app, but its taking forever to load!! I was thinking of a few apps that LinkedIn could consider – a del.icio.us app which would help me share links with those LinkedIn friends who don’t use the bookmark sharing service, an app from upcoming.org that i could use to share events, even a flickr/youtube app to share pics and videos from conferences, events etc (while hoping that I don’t get to see birthday party pics and videos). Oh, okay , a career daily astrology forecast too ;) No, it stops there, we really can’t have the ‘Which Office character are you’ app.

Meanwhile, the apps will have to use LinkedIn’s ad network, so that ensures control on monetising. I also read recently that LinkedIn has another revenue stream which is in trials now – B2B research surveys. The professional crowd is a great sample for market research, and can be targeted according to expertise/audience preferences too. To ensure that users aren’t pissed off, survey solicitations will be limited to one/member/month. Gift cards, opportunity to view survey results, charitable donations and even monetary rewards are being used as participation carrots.Interestingly, Facebook is also one of the networks which has been used to create a system of virtual currency payment in return for participation in online surveys.

Interesting, because LinkedIn has been profitable since 2006, Facebook still looks at ads as its main revenue stream, and Facebook, for all its popularity hopes it will have a  business model in 3 years. Facebook has MySpace and some would say even orkut competing for the users’ attention, in a generic space, Twitter and Friendfeed, too, but in its space, LinkedIn enjoys a huge, loyal user base. It makes me wonder, if at some point of time – considering the economic scenario and the jitteriness of investors, Facebook will look at alternatives, and provide filters for users to create ‘separate’ profiles for separate audiences (work/friends, for starters). If that happens, and Fb can do the app magic (in the work space) that enahanced its popularity, then LinkedIn might feel the heat!!

On the flip side, I also wonder if LinkedIn should reflect a bit on fading work-life borders, and how personal and professional interests are learning to co-exist in an individual’s mind without being shoved into separate compartments. This could play a huge role in deciding LinkedIn’s role in a user’s mindspace. I personally feel that because of a very formal approach that LinkedIn seems to have adopted, it doesn’t share the relationship that Facebook enjoys with me. My time on LinkedIn is limited to adding/accepting contacts, and tweaking my profile once in a while. That’s far behind the quantity and quality of time spend and interactions on Facebook. Its not just about the apps, Orkut has them too,  too little, too late and didn’t make any difference to me, its about the overall experience. I am not saying that they should add ‘Superpoke’, but when organisations are becoming more liberal in their outlook and encouraging employees to be personalities , rather than robots, LInkedIn might do well to consider a tweak in its positioning. Perhaps it’s just a design/interface thing, or its a deeper perception about what LinkedIn stands for, but the current image, to me, is neither social nor fun, and that may not be a good thing in the long run. Here’s a good post that talks about infusing some fun into LinkedIn.

I think its fair to say that just like it has in reality, in virtuality too, personal and professional lives will overlap, whether they co-exist or compete, only time will tell.

until next time, will LinkedIn be semi formal on fridays? ;)

Dolby Diwali!!

..and as i type this, i can hear today’s show getting started.. Yes, a few days back, I had written about festivals becoming homogeneous in the urban milieu, but I was answered by color lit night skies and sounds that could make a world war proud!! Deepavali, from its humble of origins of ‘festival of lights’ has become an extravaganza of light and sound!!

I had this (perhaps strange) perception that the slum behind our apartment would have been the biggest culprit in the neighbourhood, but I was in for a surprise when i ventured out into the balcony. Only a single house in the slum was bursting crackers, and those were only ‘rockets’ whose only audio contribution is a small ‘whoosh’. On the other side, an apartment complex, where the monthly rental is anywhere between 75k to a few lakhs, had embarked on this ‘break the decibel record every second’ project. I missed having a good war game on the comp, the sound effects would have been just awesome!!

I wonder how many crackers my childhood Deepavali allowance would get me now. Perhaps, half a cracker. But i had fun then, and excitement. I see today’s kids excited too,  after all it is an avenue to establish superiority. No, not like when I was a kid, and the superiority contests were of bravery – who would light the cracker, who would hold the cracker longest and so on, but more of the ‘how many crackers did your dad buy for you?’ kind. I’m glad to see their parents having fun too, and living their second childhood. They ask their friends, “so, how much did you spend for diwali?”

It is perhaps a testament to a changed world order – from one of sharing to one of selfishness and one upmanship. Deepavali is indeed a festival of lights, i ranted about it, and now feel light :D

until next time, the sweets don’t make me feel light though!!

Making it Really Simple

Forrester has a new study ‘What’s holding RSS back?’ According to the report, RSS usage is at 11%, and most people don’t use it because they can’t see its relevance in their lives. You can get some good snapshots of the report here.

Now, I realise that because of the contents of this blog, a lot of readers (at least about 40 odd ) understand RSS. For those who don’t I’ll attempt a bit of evangelism, at the end of this post. Meanwhile, Mashable has an interesting take on the report. While I agree that the usage might be much higher and that most sites have it in some form or the other, they don’t necessarily have the user consciously utilising it. Facebook’s news feed is a typical example. So, I would side with this view on the geekiness of RSS. I started subscribing to feeds only about a year back, and gave an RSS feed for my blog much later. So, I can identify with the intimidation some might feel with regards to feeds and RSS and subscribing… On an aside, if you asked people in India about RSS, we’d most likely have strong opinions on it, but that’s only because there’s a Hindu nationalist party by that name. ;)

However, the best tangential take on this report that I read happens to be here. In addition to a take on the entire subject, this post points out that newspapers could have a great role in making RSS mainstream. This is because newspapers have always been aggregators and have learnt the art of packaging the commodity called ‘news’. The packaging results from an understanding of the consumer’s needs. This is all the more interesting since a new PWC study says that traditional media has about 5 years left, before the death clock kicks in (varies for different markets) I’m wondering though, whether this role would be  equally applicable to other traditional media – radio and TV. While newspapers might start out as favourites, increasing fragmentation could redefine media preferences. TV, for example, could provide all that the newspaper’s online version does, and add a visual angle to it. The difference between reading about Chandrayaan (India’s lunar mission) and watching it. Do you think that once news becomes a commodity (as it has online) TV has a competitive advantage over newspapers? (among traditional media players) Or is it going to be a pure play new media player like say, Instablogs, who will steal their thunder?

until next time, subscribe :)

and now, for some

RSS Evangelism

Why would you need RSS?

When you started browsing around the net, you would have liked a few sites and you could track them daily to see if there was something interesting. Over time, the number of favourites grew and sometimes you’re missing on good content because you forgot to check. Even if you didn’t forget, it would be a pain to keep checking all the while. What if you could have a tool that would alert you when your favourite site was updated?

Yeah?

Yeah. These tools are called readers. It can be web based or desktop based. For now, I’ll stick to the web based type. There are several sites which offer this service (its for free). Pageflakes, Yahoo, and the example I’m going to use – Google Reader.

So how do we start?

Click on this link which will open a new window – Google Reader. If you have an existing GMail account, you can use that, else you’d have to create a Google account first. Once you login for the first time, Google has a fairly good tutorial on how to use it. But I’ll still do a bit of explanation. How does Google know which are the sites you need to get updates about? You have to connect your fave sites with Google, so that it picks up the updates from there. This is called subscription.

How do you do that?

On the left panel of your Reader page, you’ll see a button ‘Add Subscription’. Here’s where you need to enter the url of your favourite site. Shameless that I am, I shall use the example of this blog. The url is www.manuscrypts.com/brants . Once you type it and press enter, the ‘feed’ of this blog gets added to your reader. You can see it on the left. And the next time you log in, it will have the number of  new updates in brackets.

Sometimes you would come across a blog, like it, but would be too lazy to log in to the reader or remember the site. Most sites now would have a button that looks like this or a variation of this (like the button on top of this page), or even this . Click on the button, and then you would see an ‘Add to Google’, ‘Subscribe with Google’ or Click on this, and it would take you to a page that gives you a choice between Homepage and Reader. Since we’ve set this up on Reader, click that and you’ll be asked to log in. See, it pays not to be lazy ;)   So, keep adding sites and checking your Reader regularly. You can do many things lime sharing some items with your GMail friends (using the share button at the end of each post) , organising your favorite sites into folders like say, Personal Blogs’,  ‘brands’, ‘social media’ etc.  It might look like a big deal or a difficult thing to do now, but trust me, it will add a whole new dimension to your browsing and time management. In case you get stuck, shoot me a mail – manuscrypts @ gmail dot com, and I’ll help you out. :)

Destination Unknown

..and few weeks back, it happened… at last. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar became the highest run getter in the history of test cricket, and the only man to cross the 12000 run mark. As Alfred Victor Vigny has said, “Greatness is the dream of youth realized in old age” I remember writing this about 3 years back, and sparking off a Gavaskar-Tendulkar debate then. And inspite of that, I still consider Sachin a greater player than Gavaskar. But thats just my perspective, and this post is not intended to start off that debate all over again.

As always, it is the standards that the man sets off the field (Adam Gilchrist can take his stories down under) – including the locker room and press conference chats, that amaze me. His teammates talk about his indefatigable spirit and his joy in playing the game. While his fans were cheering him, and his critics were throwing stones at him, was he looking forward to this milestone, if not playing only for it? At 16 years, when he played his first test in Pakistan and fell to Waqar for a mere 15, did the boy Sachin know that he would make the 11000 plus runs that would make him a unique persona in world cricket? When Merv Hughes told Border that ‘This little prick’s going to get more runs than you, AB’, how did he know? When a person is doing exactly what he is meant to do, does the clarity reveal itself to himself and others?

At a far lower plane, many of us have achieved those little milestones, the ones which we had looked up to in awe, and wondered whether they were achievable at all. I remember, about 7 years back, hearing about my project guide’s salary and saying that if I got that kind of money, I wouldn’t mind stagnating after that. And now i look back and smile at myself, because i realise how time changes everything. I also realise that I can keep setting higher figures up, and god willing, perhaps knock them down. But most importantly, I realise that when life brings us to that point of our imagined future, there will be happiness, but perhaps not joy. Like ticking off a box in a things to do list, as opposed to a whoop of sheer delight. Unless, I am doing what makes me happy, so that the inevitable reaction to achieving a milestone is joy, and there is simply no reason to contemplate such things as destiny and my reason for existence, except for saying a thank you.

Is that cynicism brought on by the loss of innocence ? Or are the likes of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, ironically named after Sachin Dev Burman, a legendary music composer, blessed by the cosmos to tread only on the exact path destined for them, while I continue the search, hoping I haven’t “missed the starting gun”

until next time, “the post is over, I’ve nothing more to say:)

Corporate Talk

I’ve always maintained that social media has this uncanny way of stripping the veneer of most entities – be it people, products or organisations.

At one point of time, Mouthshut used to be my preferred destination for user reviews. All the ads, all the DMs, and all the brand ambassadors would be collectively shown the door, if the user reviews declared the product a failure. Although, niche portals have taken away quite a bit of my dependence, I am still a user and so, was pleasantly surprised to know about the new section called Employers. (via AlooTechie) Yep, Mouthshut now allows users to review organisations that they’ve worked in, something like what Jobsnetwork.in has been doing, though that’s more a discussion board. Criticat seems to be doing this very well, though.

But they’re not the only guys with this agenda. I also came across a site called Jobeehive, whose proposition is “Before making your next decision, see company reviews, salary and advice given directly by employee”.I wonder why a service like LinkedIn (hey, they got more funding recently) hasn’t gotten into this, though. It could be the social angle to the networking relationships that are the problem. The typical user would be connected with his ex-boss on the network, and would hesitate before giving a negative review of work conditions/ salaries/ experiences etc. Everyone loves un-burnt bridges, social media be damned!! ;) Shine, the career portal from HT, also limited itself to salary tools, and hasn’t built a review feature. I guess there are somethings people don’t want to share, for everything else there’s social media. :)

However, I live on the hope that transparency – in employees, and employers, will eventually become a reality. I read about a new service called BeenVerified, which helps employers verify candidate backgrounds. (via CenterNetworks) Meanwhile, in the last couple of months, the enterprise tools based on popular social media tools like Twitter have also been seen in the market. I’d written about Yammer earlier, the winner at TC50, and its premise of ‘Twitter for business’, and about a similar service, Present.ly. Later, Yammer also introduced Yammermail, you can read about it here. I also read about Co-op recently, which adds time tracking and project management to the ‘what are you working on’ feature. Smibsnet, seems to be on the same premise.

But the most interesting service I came across has to be SocialText 3.0, which “applies next-generation Web 2.0 technologies to the critical challenges facing businesses”. It seems to be a mashup of several web 2.0 entities like wikis, microblogging, Facebook, Friendfeed..and Twitter (as SocialText Signals) So it allows people to describe themselves, subscribe to others’ activity streams, edit information streams, and all of these get updated on a dashboard, which would help users in organising and using data better. By using the collaborative properties of all these tools, SocialText does seem to have gained an edge over other enterprise services in this genre.

The tools are definitely being built. It remains to be seen though, whether/how much organisations are willing to use them. Such tools would also dispel concerns about social media being just a productivity reducing mechanism.

until next time, organisational chats

The Only Place

This is only our second visit, and that’s all thanks to a rare mistake I made about 4 years back. No, I’m not claiming to be otherwise flawless, its just that on our previous visit, I forgot to mention that I wanted the steak well done, and they gave me a rare one!! The immense strength my jawbone displays now, is thanks to that incident.  And the memory made sure I kept away from the place.

This time too, the original choice was Spiga, but Spiga, I was told, is no longer open??!! So, I thought the time had come for another shot. The Only Place is in the central part of  Bangalore, but the location and the ambience would deceive you. Its on Museum Road – from Church Street, take a left at Empire, just before you reach the next junction, you’ll see it on your left. Parking might be made easier, thanks to the (parking space of the) neighbouring office building.

We did reserve a table, but didn’t prove necessary at 8pm. It was  a Sunday, I’m sure it would be more crowded on Saturday, and anyway the place was almost full by 8.30. We started with a cream of mushroom soup. While the soup was definitely thick, the cream was not very evident. For the main course, there’s quite a lot of steaks to choose from, with some baked items, spaghetti, burgers etc also thrown in. There’s enough choice for the veggies as well. Though I simply love the Chateaubriand steak (thanks to an official lunch, where the ‘well done’ was amply communicated) I decided to try something different, and ordered a Chicken Cacciatore. The wife ordered an OP’s special fish. The chicken dish is “ tender cubes of chicken, served in a red spicy sauce with celery and mushroom on a bed of noodles (there’s also an option of rice), onions and assorted vegetables” The sauce is simply amazing, its spicy without making you all teary, the noodles is soft and absorbs the flavours fast, and overall, the dish is very tasty. If you’re not into beef and can’t order the Chateaubriand, go for this one. The Op special fish is “fillets of fish topped with herbs and spices charbroiled, served with vegetables and mash potato” Though the fish is somewhat bland, the topping and the sauce ensure that the dish is tasty enough.

There was a chocolate fudge cake that was eyeing me from the display all through my dinner, and I succumbed finally. Thank God! Awesme, and they pour enough chocolate sauce s that its practically dripping. Pure evil!! And there are other options too, including a trifle pudding. Some other time, maybe :D

The quantities are just right. It leaves you full but not bloated. All of the above cost us just over Rs.600, including a mineral water for Rs.25 ;)

The Only Place, No: 13, Museum Road. Ph: 32718989

Photos at Zomato

Where’s the movie tonight?

Google has been struggling to get some money out of You Tube for sometime now, and a few days back,  introduced ‘Paid Search’ in You Tube. They appear on the right hand of the page and one small image and Google Adwords style text ads, as ‘Promoted Videos’. These link to the advertiser’s channel on You Tube itself, and sometimes to their homepage. You Tube has anyway been a fertile ground for viral campaigns. This should well work for branding, leads remains to be seen, since (unlike Paid search) users are only looking to be entertained on You Tube. On an aside, they also have a deal with CBS now to play CBS programs on the site, and Google TV advertising.

The latest monetising attempt from You Tube is click to buy. (via Marketing Pilgrim) If you happen to see a good music video on YouTube, and are wondering where you can buy the track, there are Amazon and iTunes links nearby to help you out. As of now, this works only in the US, but of course, this is only a start and Google will work on scaling this up for additional content and product partners, and international users. I wonder how this will affect the distribution model of sites that promote indie music? On another front, Facebook is plotting a move into the digital music business.

Meanwhile, closer home, Medianama recently carried a story of Landmark making a foray into online music sales, with a ‘pay per song’ model. I agree with the article and wonder how this model can work with piracy that’s so rampant. I wonder if someone would try out the Popcuts model, about which i’d written about earlier. Otherwise, mobile seems to be the only way for digital music.

While audio seems a tough place, there is definitey some action happening in the video space. Here’s a review of Moviemart, an online DVD rental company, and a report on the DVD rental market in India, on Trak.in. I also came across the news of Hulla’s release on BigFlix, simultaneously with its release in cinemas. I think Vivah was the pioneer in this.

With DVD rental companies getting their distribution in place, online video sharing sites figuring out revenue models, and DTH, with its ‘movie halls’, increasing its penetration, I wonder if we’ll see the simultaneous release of mainstream Bollywood and regional movies on DVD, DTH & online (a pay per view model) and cinema screens. I’ll be particularly interested in the online piece – a social angle to it by tying Bigflix with Big Adda, and involving movie communities to do word of mouth publicity, ‘invites only’ premieres and so on? Perhaps a virtual multiplex screening on Second Life later? :)

until next time, so many tubes..

Invaluable

There is a peculiar phenomenon that happens on Bangalore roads. Whenever the traffic stops at a signal,  some of the vehicles behind quickly make their way outside the median onto the side of the road belonging to the traffic from the opposite side. These vehicles move ahead a bit and then try to get back by fobbing the guys who have been disciplined enough to stick to their side. In most cases, they are not able to, and they are at the receiving end of contemptuous glares. I wonder what these guys believe-  the Bhagavad Gita moral of ‘end justifying the means’? Or is it to do with solving the immediate problem and figuring out the right/wrong of it later?

The last few days have been bad for the global workforce in general. While the layoffs in the US seemed somehow far away, the Jet axing was closer. A few days back, a couple of my twitter friends worriedly spoke about how a few of their colleagues were being asked to put in their papers. They are young kids, in their mid twenties, perhaps in their first jobs. Most likely, they have grown up seeing (at least the first) trends of opulence. Even in their earning life, it has been a life of choice abundance, that has spawned a life on EMI.

Sometimes, they remind me of the guys who go across the median. They get glares from those who feel they’re not entitled to be where they are, that’s okay, I think they have learnt to deal with that, but I am not sure if they have learnt to deal with the massive truck that will come bearing down on them from the opposite side. They will panic when they have nowhere left to go. But hopefully, it will help them gain some perspective.

One of the good things about most people of my generation is that they have been brought up with the strong foundations of what is fondly or deprecatingly (depending on who says it) called the great indian middle class. There are a lot of values there that stand you in good stead. I sometimes wonder if the cosmos has its own ways of inculcating the values it wants to see in us mere mortals. Quite a humbling thought, that…

until next time, keep the faith

Don’t shoot the messenger….yet

A few weeks back, I’d written about Yahoo India’s TVC for Search. I was not impressed, because I felt that the ‘need for speed’ in search could easily be portrayed without making fun of a speech impediment. A few days back, I happened to see another TVC, this one for Yahoo Messenger.

To its credit, it does manage to create some suspense with the one eyed character, and you wonder where all this is leading to, especially since there are things that suggest a certain line of thought. The ending, however falls flat when it turns out that there is nothing more than a  ‘It pays to know people better’ positioning communication. It plugs the revamped Messenger, with picture, music and video sharing, and friends’ activity updates.

I also read a couple of days back that Yahoo profiles was being evolved into a social network. You can read about more of their plans here.  If Yahoo is serious about social networking, then I wonder if Yahoo will link some of its very popular properties, which together could create a formidable entity. A social network that utilises photo sharing flickr communities, the delicious link sharing communities, Messenger, Yahoo Launch for music sharing communities, and upcoming for geographical connect. The potential is enormous since all these are extremely popular in their own right, but yes, a star studded team need not be the best. What do you think?

until next time, some greater than sum..

Accurzzzd

Somewhere in the first half, Himesh sings “Hari Om. With the twang, it sounds like ‘Hurry Home’. I didn’t heed it. As the movie moved towards the climax, and Himself confronts Urmila, who plays the vamp, I half expected Him to sing ‘Ch***** banaya’ in tune with his old hit. This time I’d have agreed.

until next time, but hey, its a must watch :)