Wild Spice

Relax. Its the name of a restaurant. :)

We heard about the place sometime back from Balu, and since it was just past the swine flu season, thought it a good time to check out some Coorgi stuff (read pork). The restaurant is located on Residency Road right after the Museum Road junction. (map) There isn’t any parking facility for four wheelers, maybe you can use the paid parking on the Brigade Road extension, 2 wheelers can park in front of Imperial. Its quite  a little hole-in-the-wall and you’re likely to miss it if you aren’t looking for it.

The ambience just about passes muster and the place obviously caters to a regular crowd that really doesn’t mind the peeling wall paint and broken tiles. Its quite dimly lit and there is no air conditioning. But hey, we came for the pork, so let’s get to that fast.

The single page menu begins with a quote attributed to Conficius (sic) ” A family that dines together grows sideways together”. We were obviously in the mood to be living examples. You could choose from roti/chapati, rice – hot snow balls/ rice noodles (though they didn’t have the latter when we asked for it), veg dishes  – dal, beans, rajma, sprouts, pumpkin and even a rasam, ghee rice and its combos (veg/ pork/ mutton/ chicken) whose costs range from Rs.45-85, or the plain rice versions of the same, or even chapati meal combos (Rs.50-75). The menu ends with a few juice options and another quote “For a healthy life, choose your restaurant like you would choose your spouse”.

We ordered a couple of rice rotis, a ghee rice – mutton curry combo, a Coorgi pepper chicken dry and a Coorgi pork dry. I would’ve liked to try a fried fish too, but wasn’t sure if it’d be too much. Hot fluffy rotis, though they took a while, and such awesome pork that D, who isn’t a erm, natural pork eater like me, ended up eating the pig, like a ….. you get the idea. In fact, though the chicken was quite good, it was completely eclipsed by the pork. The ghee rice was the other highlight, reminded me of the stuff I used to hog during college days. Excellent. I didn’t fancy the mutton curry much, though it was coconut based, but D liked it. we had to order a couple of chapatis more and again, it took a while.

All of that, including a mineral water – Rs.15 :D , cost us just over Rs.250. If you’re looking for a fine dining experience, stay away, but when in the mood for some good pork, in a college/PG hangout ambience, complete with ABBA music in the background, do check it out.

Wild Spice, #1, Cariappa Bhavan, Field Marshall Cariappa Road (thats Residency Road for those who didn’t know), Ph: 09880381009

Birds of the same feather…

When he entered the place, there was already a crowd. All he wanted was to be able to have some decent conversations. He realized that he’d have to find a handle if he were to make any headway. And then he found her and realized it was possible to have a conversation amidst 140 characters.

until next time, my second anniversary dedication to Twitter. 2 days from now :)

Zoozoology..and more

The jury is still out (and perhaps permanently so) on who actually won the IPL – the fake IPL player or the Zoozoos. Both massively popular, they even have conspiracy theories built around them – the identity in case of  the former and the inspiration(cached) in case of the latter. There is even a minority who claim that actually the Deccan Chargers won, but that really isn’t relevant. ;)

I thought the Zoozoos were adorable. The usage of Mallu food terminology in the International Roaming ad added to the fervour. I remember starting at least 2-3 conversation threads on Facebook and Twitter, the ‘people behind the zoozoos’ image i shared on Twitpic got more than 250 clicks, and I saw quite a number of online and mainstream articles on them. Yes, there were many real conversations as well across age bands. There is no doubt in my mind on the amount of buzz that was created.

As per the afaqs article, the Vodafone brief seemed to be very clear – increase the awareness of VAS services among new acquisitions in a manner that would really stand out.  A small number of people I spoke to managed to remember the VAS services associated with each ad. I felt that the lateral interpretation of the services, or rather the rendition of that, made me try to connect before the ad ended, so it worked for me.  I even started seeing them in unrelated contexts. But a lot of people just remembered the zoozoos. Just like they remembered the pug. Now the association betweenthe Zoozoos and Vodafone would be established easily, I think, since the competition was Madhavan and Vidya Balan.

But then, there are these little things that happen outside advertising and in the consumer experience space. Like the ‘Hutch’ that appears as the network on my phone screen. Last week, I got this call from a Vodafone customer care executive, who informed me that I could pay my bill by ECS, and that was more convenient than my current way of paying by cash. Nice, but the only snag was, I’d been using ECS for more than 3 years now. I now wonder how my billing happens smoothly.

All of this made me think about two things. One, whether brands are thinking about segmenting their existing and potential user base, and then further evolving strategies and communication basis this. So, while the Zoozoos were extremely entertaining and informative, I really wondered about relevance. Did the Zoozoos change my perception of Vodafone? Would there have been a difference if Airtel or Reliance brought out the Zoozoos? Not just to me, who is often irritated by the Vodafone service (like many others in Bangalore) thanks to coverage and call drops, but other user segments as well.  Is this way of communication just a function of the media vehicles that are in use now, which allow very limited ways of segmentation? Will the internet and mobile really change this thinking?

Two, from a slightly larger perspective, will buzz marketing become an end in itself? Somewhat like the trending topics on twitter, which earlier gave an indication of what the ‘happening’ conversations on Twitter were, but now are just self fulfilling memes. The Twitter reference indicates unhappiness but the original query is in all earnestness. Buzz marketing with no trackback to the brand strategy? Is this more tempting when we’re dealing with a real time way of connecting and communicating? How does this stack up against building brand equity over large timeframes? Does it matter anymore? Or is a positive history of buzz marketing sufficient? In the case of Vodafone, they succeeded in creating so much buzz that editorial space in mainstream dailies were devoting space to them. Online, there were FB groups and Twitter mentions and posts after posts. I could write about engagement and conversation in social media, but where does all that lead to? Where do the Zoozoos go from here? Do they continue to be brand mascots, or are they good enough only for a buzz? Good enough to increase TOM and therefore affect sales in a tactical way?  So, is frequent buzz marketing + good consumer experience = brand strategy? Meanwhile, if the buzz has been generated, can we put up a few more towers and spruce up the data centre?

until next time, omnibuzz

Heard from myself

As it appeared at blogadda.com. Thanks Harish. :)

Interview with Manuscrypts

‘Manu is a carbon based life form, quite similar to you, but he has a much tinier carbon footprint,  he claims, but then his consumption is usually his own words’. LOL. This is the trailer of the person whom we have interviewed this week for you.  A fultoo humorous person by heart, foodie, Manchester United fan (We need a party from you for their triumph :) ). We have none other than Manu Prasad aka Manuscripts with a Y interviewed for you. You are gonna have a rollicking time reading the interview.

Manuscrypts

Q: When and why did you start blogging? Was it out of curiosity or something else?

A: April 29, 2003- 6 years ago. In my defense, I was relatively young then and as many young people go, I was reckless and had the urge to attempt things that were utterly disproportionate to one’s potential. In fact, just a few days before that, I even got married! Now, judging by the content of the blog initially, you could be pardoned if you thought that I was in shock over that incident but as people in bliss (or denial) would tell you, its actually quite a pleasant experience. Notice that I went all over the place without answering the simple question so yes, I really just wanted to ramble. Still do and hey, its not good manners to laugh at other’s disabilities.

Rediff in those days was promoting blogs a lot on the homepage and that ‘Start your own blog’ link had this shining, winking, hypnotic effect on me. So I began with a verse and as you can see, from there, it just got worse.

Q: What topics do you generally blog about?

A: After the initial euphoria of writing and reading and then re reading my own words, I stumbled upon a curious, befuddling fact. On hindsight, there was obviously nothing curious or befuddling about it, nobody was really interested in me. So I moved from me to meme and wrote stuff about popular culture that captured public interest anyway. Thankfully many of these were of genuine interest to me too. Overall I’d say that I’ve come back to me and the descriptor of the blog – “manu scripts with a y“.

I chronicle my experiences and usually question and explore them. These experiences could be anything from the books I read to the movies I see, the character of people I come across to the places I go for a dine out.. Anything that gives me food.. for thought….Its my journey..a lifestream. So there is no content strategy per se, just some contentment for myself and those kind enough to read me. Oh, okay, I desperately attempt combinations of wit and profundity. :)

Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry?  What do you do then?

A: Ah, the blogger’s block. After years of meditative practices which included hours of sitting in a dark room and alternately crying and praying to God, I have attained a perfect state of detachment. So I shamelessly write on. :)

Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?

A: Like Twitter, Facebook and many other web 2.0 services, we’re still considering various revenue strategies. Its only been 6 years since we started, so its still an early stage start up, no cause for concern. I even tried those ‘Buy me, Google’ banners for a while. Now I just keep hoping that just around the corner are a few VCs who’ll appear and tell me “V C Potential”.

Manuscrypts quotes

Ok, seriously, I did try to add cents to my account through Ad Sense, but it backfired on me when some well meaning people just kept on clicking. So I am a recipient of the tyranny of the evil Googzilla monster – they deactivated my account. I never bothered after that.

Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?

A: To me blogging is about two things – expression and perspectives. Much as blogging is about expression, I also believe that the process is completed only when someone responds to that expression.

Manuscrypts quotesI give my perspectives and hope to receive my readers. I really am thankful that I’ve never been at the receiving end of any ‘flaming’ exercises, or maybe I ain’t just not hot enough..Sigh. I do respond to all comments, albeit with a couple of weeks delay sometimes. If someone has been kind enough to read what I write, and then take pains to give his/her view, the least I can do is respond. But having said that, I can also relate to what (for example) a Seth Godin is doing when he removes the commenting option from his site. In my case, I obviously don’t get that number of comments, hehe, but more importantly I believe the blog is as much the commenters’ as its mine.

Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.

A: Its unfair to rate. When I rate, I make the mistake of judging someone’s expression based on my likes and dislikes. That’s not objective. But yes, I sure have my favourites. And that’s really much more than 5. Tys, Mo, Cynic, Arunima, Austere, SwB, Ideasmith, Meeta, Kavi, Vimoh, Dina, Shefaly and that’s perhaps the most incomplete list you’ll find. My ‘Site Seeing‘ and ‘Brandwagon‘ lists are better lists. They make me laugh, they make me think, they make me feel connected. Thank you all.

Manuscrypts quotes

Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?

A: A comment that says “You made me smile” or “You made me think“. I am happy when the latter happens and positively thrilled when the former happens.*

*Conditions apply. Subject to change when my revenue strategy fructifies. ;)

Q:  Can you share with our readers, a light hearted funny incident from your life?

A: Life has this huge expense account with me. Many of its jokes are at my expense. A lot of the 55 word stories on the blog are autobiographical. I refuse to disclose more details.

Q: ‘Being a Joker fan, the idea is to put a smile on your face :}’. That is a thing not everyone can do with utmost ease as you do. have you ever felt that you needed someone to make you laugh in your difficult times?

A: Oh well, the Joker is twisted, so I twisted his words too. As for me laughing, I sometimes humor myself into thinking I write well. But seriously, if I do make people smile, I can only say I am thankful for the gift, for that’s just what it is. Like I said before, many of those bloggers I mentioned are gifted with an excellent sense of humor, and there’s always The Onion, and Twitter.

Manuscrypts Quotes

Q: You have a blog for Brands and Social Media which is very interesting! Brands have started making their presence felt in Social Media, How do you think can Brands benefit from using Social Media for their businesses?

A: Well, I started it because that’s what I do for a living – the brands part, that is and had views on the subject. The benefits from social media are something that each brand has to answer for itself, basis the objectives it sets. And these brand objectives cannot be isolated from what the corporate does on other fronts – from product planning and development to marketing communication to HR policies to Environmental & Social impact and so on. Social media has the potential to be useful in almost all organizational functions- after all there are enterprise and consumer tools and services, simply because at the basis of it, its a two way communication device. Listen.Introspect.Apply.Repeat. :)

Q: Manu is a complete foodie as we all know and you write some amazing restaurant reviews. Have you got any feedback from any restaurants as yet?

A: No Comments. That’s what I get for my intense gastric labour. I mean, come on, I run the risk of an upset tummy, high cholesterol levels etc, and dish out one review after another and only two restaurateurs have ever had the guts to comment. I really can’t digest it. So dear readers, its upto you now, subscribe to my feed, and comment. I have to admit though, those reviews get the maximum views on the site. And that’s when I almost believe Bush’s statement on Indians and our food consumption.  ;)

Q: You are ‘Ex- Carnatic Vocalist’. We are sure your fans would have loved to hear you croon carnatic classics. Why didn’t you give us the opportunity to do that :) ?

A: There’s a reason why its ex. Sometimes when you try to crowd source appreciation, it goes terribly wrong. But seriously, its one of those things that require quite some dedication. That was a trip until about a decade back, though one of these days, perhaps I’ll make attempts to get back on trail. If my beta testing proves that the page views won’t drop, I’ll share stuff. :)

Q: What promotional techniques work best for you and why?

A: As you can see, I started the interview with a link to my blog. Ta-da. You didn’t click on it, right? Early on in my blogging life, I realized that too, so I don’t try. So no hype, just type. But yes, there are a few things that help – directly or indirectly.

For instance, commenting on other blogs. Not that ‘Nice post’, ‘Interesting post’ type of generic comment, but do try to appreciate posts that interest you and where you sense that the blogger has sincerely tried to communicate with you.. or even himself. It helps both. I have the RSS feed subscription displayed, and hope for the right buttons to be pressed. I also tweet my posts (not an auto updater, but manually). So feed, and bird feed, that’s about it. :)

Manuscrypts Quotes

Q: Which tools/plugins do you use to efficiently manage your blog? Any widgets or tips you would like to share with our readers.

A: Well, for a long while, I only had wordplay, but ever since wordpress happened to my life, I realised that a lot of plugins actually brought in some great functional benefits. So I’d plug the following – YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin), Lifestream, Mobilepress, and that’s just a few. You have to figure out your needs, and you slowly realise that thankfully those plugin developers have usually thought of that before you. :)

Tip: Even the WordPress Site stats plugin works, you just have to stare at it long enough.

Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?

A: Start. and don’t forget to mention me (with link please) in your About page, as that final push that got you started. Oh, okay, mention Blog Adda too :)

Woahh! Thanks for making us and our readers smile. Keep writing such wonderful posts and eat in the best restaurants :)

and this is how, they responded on Twitter.

What’s on TV? The Internet

The confluence of web and TV has been a topic of discussion for quite sometime now. The initial version of Web TV- with a set top box and keyboard, didn’t work out well, but that hasn’t stopped the next generation from making attempts, and with all the components required for access built into the TV now, things are showing some promise.

Yahoo’s TV widgets, with Flickr, news, finance etc integrated onscreen in Samsung TVs had created quite a stir at the CES 2009 event earlier this year. Yahoo and Intel have also co-developed a range of products that lets users access pages and tools while watching a program – around 20 widgets (scaled down versions) from the NYT to MySpace and Twitter. Yahoo will also release a toolkit for developers to make new content.Yahoo is not the only player here. Netflix has tied up with LG for a new line of broadband high-def TVs with Netflix built in to it. More on that here.  Verismo Networks has a PoD device – VuNow that can stream web content onto your TV without a PC or connections. (via Bangalore Inc) On another front, there are gaming consoles and DVD players etc with built in broadband access abilities.

Meanwhile, the convergence is happening on the reverse direction too. With the net becoming a competition to TV channels as a source of entertainment, the reverse is also happening as a lot of television content is now finding its way into the net, legally. :) Comcast, Time Warner Cable etc are now entering the fray with a two fold objective – to take more content online, and make the TV experience more web like. Closer to home, Star TV had tied up with nautanki.tv earlier this year to watch shows online. A couple of months back, the Times Audience Network added Big Adda as a video content partner. More about that here. Hmm, Bigflix + Big Adda?

It is also interesting to see web based entities going beyond their current territories. Portals, like Sulekha creating Web TV. Internet video site Hulu getting into social networking. Will expand on that in a bit.

Meanwhile, television content (shows) have started using social media to add a layer to their interactivity. MTV recently announced plans to launch a show that will also include real-time conversations taken from Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to interact with the show as it airs.  Users will be able to upload videos (their favourites and even self generated ones) through a RockYou application.(via TC) Mad Men’s tryst with Twitter, though fan generated is also a case study.

An interesting concept I came across on TCDelivery Agent, which helps TV networks make use of their content by being an online marketplace for products and merchandise that are seen on television shows. It pays the network a royalty for this. According to the TC article, they have gone step further by checking the index of products scheduled to appear on the show, before the show airs, and then approach the brands concerned to buy an ad package. It seems like a win-win-win concept. With even a partially enabled web on TV, this concept could be easily integrated and made into real time purchases. Absolutely measurable for brands. Imagine saans – bahu saris, wedding costumes and even office and casual wear that can be bought online. The Jassi look, or the more recent Ballika Vadhu look, anyone? ;)

TVLoop, which started out as a Facebook app that allowed users to have view TV show episodes on their profile , has now gotten itself a website of its own.If you comment on an episode of the show on TVLoop.com, TVLoop users on Facebook or any other social network can reply directly from their respective site. (via Mashable) The Hulu social network I mentioned earlier encourages Hulu users to connect with one another and share their video preferences. The new features are expected to help Hulu better track viewing preferences, which helps further target ads. It also helps monitor conversations around videos and therefore provides more data on viewer behaviour. In both cases, the key take out is collective feedback – on content, ads served etc. From tweaking storylines and characters to embedding products better, having conversations around them and making purchase decisions easier, there is tremendous potential.

Web on TV, TV on web, web TV and social networking, TV and social networking, at the end of it, the point is about content on demand- across platforms, a rapid increase in interactivity, and the potential to increase the relevance of a product/service to consumers and encourage purchase almost instantly.  In an era when vanilla product placements are becoming increasingly unpopular with viewers, this content integration across platforms could be the kind of tonic that’s needed for a system that currently thrives on sponsored (and usually non related, random) advertising and  insipid product placements. From the other side, the web’s current major advertising mechanism – contextual advertising just got more content to play with, and this could spawn an entire new way of advertising.

As for me, I’m waiting for the time when I can watch the YouTube videos, Flickr photos and Twitter updates and the TV news on the same screen, and then real time reality TV, when I use my Twitter handle to eliminate participants and generally decide their fate ;)

until next time, users, from publishers on the web to broadcast producers

Daddy’s Deli

This rendezvous with Parsi food has been long pending. Daddy’s Deli is a restaurant in Indiranagar that serves Parsi cuisine, and is open only 3 days a week-  lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday and only lunch on Sunday. Its on 12 th Main Indiranagar, when coming from the Koramangala side, take a left at the 12th Main – 100ft Road junction and go straight till you see the Executive Inn on the left. Its in the same building on the first floor.

We reserved in advance and though a couple of tables were occupied by 8pm, we could still find a good place. The ambience is excellent, with comfortable seating and cosy corners. Book shelves lined with old Readers Digest issues, and the ancient green soda bottle lend a nice touch.

Since the place serves (almost) exclusively Parsi food, the menu is quite small, but there are still enough choices for all sorts of -vores. Munching on the complimentary sarias (Parsi rice chips), we decided to start with a plate of brain cutlets, and also wanted a Chicken Liver on Toast, but the latter wasn’t available. So we had to live with that lack of cholesterol, but the crispy on the outside, smooth inside brain cutlet made up for the disappointment. There’s no need to brainstorm on this one, have it!! There are also other starter options like cocktail kababs and Farcha (fried chicken) for the non vegetarians and at least half a dozen veg options.

For the main course, you could either have dishes like Sali Murghi/Boti/Kheema accompanied with rotli (4 for Rs.30) or go for rice dishes. Thanks to our greed, we ended up ordering a Patra ni Machhi, “fish coated with green chutney and steamed in a banana leaf” and Sali Murghi, “chicken in brown gravy topped with potato crisps” from this set, but decided to skip the rotlis. Instead we ordered a Dhansak, “the all time favourite. A parsi speciality – masala dal with mutton, served with brown rice”. The descriptions were quite disappointing, they really don’t do justice to the food. :D

The fish was soft, almost boneless and served with a mint-coconut based chutney. D had to be stopped from finishing the banana leaf too for the chutney particles that stuck on. I loved the chicken dish, and thankfully, it went quite well with the dhan. The mutton-dal combination of the saak was new to us and so we took some time warming up to each other, but we parted as friends. Now before the vegetarians close the page, there were at least 4 options I counted in the rice dishes.

And thus we come to what we call the main course, and the more ignorant ones call desserts. After much deliberation, we chose a lagan nu custard, ” a Parsi favourite, steamed and baked brown”. Soft, and topped with crisp nuts, this just melted in the mouth and was over very very soon. And then we realised what marital understanding was all about. With no words spoken, except of course, for placing the order,  a Chocolate mousse made its way to the table. Daddy’s Deli – Double Dessert – Parsi for the course!! :)

All of the above cost us Rs.950. Drop in for a homely ambience, very helpful service, and some great food, don’t be parsimonious for once. :D

Daddy’s Deli, The Executive Inn, #3289, 12th Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar. Ph: 41154372-75

Drivel

He was humbled by the wisdom of those visionaries – the town planners of the city he lived in. Every time he rode on Bangalore’s roads, he marveled at how they’d managed to forecast the city’s traffic snarls so precisely, and then ensured that the locations were named appropriately – Koramangala 1st Block, Jayanagar 4th Block…

until next time, block aid!!

What do you recommend?

One feature that helps add weight (generally) to a LinkedIn Profile is ‘Recommendations’. I’m not getting into debates on how it’s used etc, that’s a subjective thing, but someone else acknowledging that the concerned person has certain skills does help. Facebook recommends friends, Twitter recommends users to follow. These are three layers – in LinkedIn its a human, in Facebook its an algorithm basis the user’s location, friends etc, and as for Twitter, well, Twitter just decides – no algorithms. But its ok, we recommend links to each other on Twitter. :)

A few activities recently made me think of recommendations. Two from Google and one from Facebook. A TechCrunch article from a few days back states that Google Friend Connect now has a widget that can help publishers know (and display) which parts of their websites their visitors like best. So it helps both parties. I’m guessing it should also help Google figure out a little more data on who reads what where, and therefore some thing that can be used to improve Ad Sense’s effectiveness. :)

One of Google’s services that uses a recommendation mechanism is Google Reader. Google has now added a feature on Reader that lets you know which of your friends are still worth following on Reader, basis your consumption of their shares. I wonder if they’ll utilise this data for new users – eg. if A and B are existing users and C joins the service, will Google use the A’s and B’s data to help C start off? I also think users should have the option of sharing their own trends data with each other, tools can be used to enhance utility – eg. if i know that 90% of my friends are following TC, then I might share less of TC items.

Meanwhile, RWW thinks that Facebook has to be working on some recommendation technology. With those thumbs up and down signs on ads, I won’t be surprised if Facebook uses that on friends – ‘Manu liked this ad’ (so we’re serving this to you, since you’re his friend) and one more ‘rebellion’.

Also, from RWW, a related topic, for a larger perspective – Linked Data. “Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, gave a must-view talk at the TED Conference earlier this year, evangelizing Linked Data. He said that Linked Data was a sea change akin to the invention of the WWW itself.” We are moving towards a web that’s increasingly inter connected.

That made me think – we’ve reached a state where you can now login to Facebook with your GMail id (not vice versa yet), thanks to its working with OpenID. There are tools on existing social networks (and new services) for location based social networking. Made me think of the potential of a larger recommendation based web experience, that can then spill over on to real life. Recommendations are already being used, even in online commerce.

But what it actually made me think is about a larger system where say, Facebook, the ad publisher and I will all share revenue if the friend does some positive action on the ad served to him, thanks to me. And of course, Google will then use this info to serve ads to me later, or utilise this on its own Friend Connect + iGoogle+ AdSense . ;)

Virtually connected lifestreams and real money. The friends of friends of friends connection utilised upto a huge degree (with privacy controls) – its not a real social connection, only an algorithm that would calculate relevance basis the degree of separation and the history of activities. Recommendations of ideas, links, ads, people, jobs, music, books and any kind of products, services etc.. an algorithm boost to ‘serendipity’, if you will :) It even works the other way, so  if you say, log in to a site to check out products, it immediately searches to see if there’s a recommendation it can push at you. Trust automatically plays a key role, and how well past recommendations have worked for you.

Meanwhile, let’s hope that Google doesn’t make a social algorithm to top the one they’re working on now – to identify which of its employees are likely to quit. A recommendation feature that allows one employee to suggest another would be a Google killer. ;)

until next time, ahem, some social advertising -I’d recommend watching this space – for a virtual interview ;)

Head Trips

Sometime back, a friend and I were discussing Bollywood in general and then we somehow landed up on the subject of Aditya Pancholi. Oh, okay, if you’ve forgotten him already, refresh your memory with Wikipedia.  The last I heard of him was when he tried to give Kangana Ranaut a lift, the story was she didn’t want it. During the discussion, I was able to ‘regurgitate’ information about him, stuff I’m guessing few track, since she is also a Bollywood buff , but wasn’t able to recollect. No, don’t go away, this post is not about him.

This is about the place that gave me different kinds of education at different stages of my life. A couple of years after I started going to school, I was also deemed responsible enough to go to the nearby barber shop and get myself a haircut. After a few months, it was noticed that the time I took was way longer than warranted. I tried to get away by saying that there was a crowd before me, but my mother had a sneaking suspicion that I was playing cricket for a while before I came home. I wasn’t lying, but she was close to being right too. The barber had realised that I could easily be persuaded to wait, while he dealt even with those who came after me, if he gave me the video games he had. The complete version of the truth was discovered after a few months, when a rather long gaming session caused quite a stir at home, and my gaming education lost its continuity.

In later years, after my childhood faults were forgotten/forgiven and the time I spent outside wasn’t so strictly regulated, it was noticed that  my haircut trips had suddenly regained their lost long duration. Though I claimed I was spending time with guys i knew, my mother had a sneaking suspicion that I was with friends of the opposite gender. I wasn’t lying, but she was again, close. For these trips was also when I caught up with Sridevi, Juhi, Madhuri, Kimi, and later, Raveena, Karishma, Urmila, Manisha etc, in addition to Big B, Mithunda, Jackie Shroff , and later Govinda,  Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Chunky Pandey etc -  Filmfare and Stardust were read from cover to cover diligently, and random bits of information about actors and actresses were stored. They were always surprised at home, when I expounded on actors’ and actresses’ lives and the gossip surrounding them, since we never got the magazines at home. Some of the Bollywood education has obviously been retained in the memory bank even after more than a decade.

This magazine habit still continues, despite getting a daily fill thanks to newspapers, TV and the web, who consider Big B catching a cold breaking news. When we move to a new location, and I have to go to a new salon, I make sure that the place is well stacked with magazines. There are so many more sources, and so much more content these days, but reading the magazines is a way of being in touch – with the past.

Meanwhile, my paternal genes attack me from the temples and my maternal genes attack me from the vertex. When it happens, I’ll miss the hair, and the heady education, the haircuts provide. :)

until next time, fountainhead :)

‘What are you doing’ needs an @ reply ? :)

And every so often, we hear about how brands screw up on Facebook and Twitter, these days we even regularly hear how Facebook screws up on itself, and finally we heard about how Twitter ‘screwed up’ on Twitter. In case you missed it, the chronology can be read here.

And in case you were too lazy to follow the link, Twitter suddenly yanked off an @replies option — a non-default setting to monitor a conversation between someone you follow and someone you don’t, which was only used by 3% of the Twitter universe. In an initial blog post Twitter addressed it from a product design perspective and as a ‘small settings change’. The response from users was whale disproportionate to the 3%, resulting in the trending of #fixreplies . Poor Twitter was actually doing just that, because the 3% users were straining the servers, since each time someone sent an @reply, Twitter had to scan people’s settings to figure out which tweet could appear in whose timeline. The fun part is that we anyway got to hear only half the conversation.

Let me try to explain quickly A and B follow each other, B follows C, A does not. In the earlier system (where A was one of the 3% who had changed the default option to ‘see all @ replies’) A could see B’s @replies to C. With this change that Twitter made, A stopped seeing it. The ‘fun part’ I mentioned earlier was that A anyway couldn’t see C’s updates, or specifically C’s @replies to B. Anyway, the 3% considered this option as an aid to ‘serendipitous discovery‘ of new people. But I think the trending happened simply because Twitter didn’t tell anyone before they made the change. As one of the 3% (I think, since I clearly remember finding people based on the @replies of those i follow. Shefaly, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we started following each other thanks to our individual conversations with @dina) I think its a  mistake if the Twitter blog was updated without studying all the aspects, a bigger mistake if Twitter chose not to tell users the real reason.

Twitter then blogged once more emphasising that the technical aspects, more than the product design flaws, were the chief reason for removing this option. And later, gave a consolation gift which now means that A could now see those updates of B, which does not begin with @C. eg.  wondering what @C is smoking. To me, that solves the problem, because its just a format change in a way. And who knows, maybe users will take more initiative in helping connect people now – a human touch to serendipity. Or more power to ‘recommended users’. Meanwhile, there are at least five of us who can have the pun fests we enjoy, because (only) we all follow a particular id we created only for this. So I’m sure users will figure their lives out without the option. :)

Like Twitter, I too learned a few lessons from this entire exercise. That it is important to be transparent and communicate your complete perspectives, especially if you exist largely because of the community’s efforts. There might be disagreements, but its better to make your stand and reasons clear before the event. That it’s very easy for users to lose the perspective that Twitter is a free service that was never meant to be scaled so much, and a lot of what they’re doing now could be to ensure they can scale up. I’m quite glad that even unbridled mobs have  limits of ‘justice’ they can get. That it’s still an ecosystem about which very few (if any) people have a  clear long term objective about – on one side we complain about noise, and when Twitter removes an option that in many ways added to the noise, we complain about that too. That hashtags are increasingly becoming an end to themselves than a means. That it’s the real time issues that matter – most users wouldn’t know that its quite a difficult task (if not impossible) to get their first tweet, after they cross tweet # 3200.  Another example of how Twitter is so many different things to different people.

until next time, And I will cut you off from the peoples..”