Characteristics

There are nearly seven billion people on this planet. Each one unique, different. What are the chances of that? And why? Is it simply biology, physiology that determines this diversity? A collection of thoughts, memories, experiences that carve out our own special place? Or is it something more than this? Perhaps there’s a master plan that drives the randomness of creation, something unknowable that dwells in the soul, and presents each one of us with a unique set of challenges, that will help us discover who we really are.

We are all connected, joined together by an invisible thread, infinite in its potential and fragile in its design. Yet while connected, we are also merely individuals, empty vessels to be filled with infinite possibilities, an assortment of thoughts, beliefs, a collection of disjointed memories and experiences… Can I be me without these? Can you be you?

And if this invisible thread that holds us together were to sever, to cease, what then? What would become of billions of lone, disconnected souls? Therein lies the great quest of our lives, to find, to connect, to hold on. For when our hearts are pure, and our thoughts in line, we are all truly one, capable of repairing our fragile world, and creating a universe of infinite possibilities.

Thus spake Mohinder Suresh in”An Invisible Thread”, the season finale of ‘Heroes’.

And as if on cue, a large number of conversations and experiences popped up as conversations inside my head. Yes, those nice voices in the head. :)

I remembered the conversations that Mo and i keep having on the subject of identity, purpose, character and other stuff that she completely gets. Okay i get too, but muddled up. :) I remembered how, when I was reading Archer’s ‘Sons of Fortune’..again, I suddenly figured out why he is my favourite author. In addition to that amazing gift of story telling he has got, its his characters, and their character. Good or bad, they seem to have a moral code. They are noble – noble heroes and noble villains. (remember that word, shall come back to it in a while) Even when they come in contact with their character’s grey areas, they have a rationale they can apply to the situation. They make you aspire for such clarity in thought and deed, in being true to themselves and their character.

Meanwhile, I see around me, a lot of young people eager to emulate – even things that I hoped would question and better. And as i keep a watch on that, I sense that they do it to belong, at any cost. They are willing to take their lessons from second hand accounts – not accounts of mistakes, which could be argued as a good thing, but enriching experiences that would shape their character. Of course, not every young person I know is like that. I also come across quite a few who have more character and maturity than many people double their age. But I do see more of the first kind. It is a different kind of conforming than what i was have seen earlier – a  need to fit into their peer group’s collective terms.

On twitter and Facebook and all the services which connect us, I see this set, and more coming in every day to add to their number. And in this collective consciousness, I glimpse the desperation in the need to belong at any cost – even  at the cost of a character that is still being formed. A shared identity and a strong character, can it co exist? I wonder, if in this age of possibilities, they will be satisfied with this belonging, I also hope that they will not wake up, one day, years later and rue this conformity that they created for themselves.

And then, I remember what a smart young lady from that age group once told me “Manu, this is so archaic. Only you could use the word ‘noble’ in conversation”. So, I wonder whether there is something in this connectedness that I don’t understand, whether the ‘plan’ requires all kinds of characters – with or without a strong character, to maintain the balance,  or whether the kind of disconnectedness that I’m feeling now is one that characterises that thing we all do – ageing. :)

until next time, time for adages?

Broken News models

The Iran crisis once again brought the present day tools of news gathering into the limelight, even while highlighting the inadequacies of traditional media. From real time tools like PicBrk to spoof ads and stories, the tools became the focal point of the protests. It was as much about changes in news gathering as it was about the ability to share, both in real time, a skill that traditional is yet to pick up, in spite of ‘breaking news’ on television. The significance of Twitter’s contribution can be gauged from the fact that the US government asked Twitter to postpone its scheduled maintenance so as not to disrupt the flow of news from Iran. The inability of traditional news gathering and distribution systems to come to terms with real time media consumption, and their usage of social media as yet another broadcast medium was highlighted at the 140 Characters Conference (#140conf). All this makes me consider, yet again, the future of traditional media systems and conglomerates, especially newspapers.

A few days back, I read about the Associated Press issuing social media guidelines to its staff – not to show political affiliations, or post views on contentious issues among other things. The ‘best’ part is that they also have to monitor their profile to ensure that comments by others do not violate AP standards!! Ahmadinejad Press? Here’s the policy in its awesome entirety.

It’s been quite a fun week, with a speech by Dow Jones Chief Executive Les Hinton – also the publisher of the WSJ, adding to the amazing show of perspective. He described Google as a giant vampire that was sucking the blood of the newspaper industry. Now, I have reasons enough of my own to be cross with the omnipotent Google, but  even assuming that it is a vampire, who showed them the “X – blood here” sign in the first place? While Google states that its mission is to give readers more perspective by aggregating news from different sources, and even directs clicks to the newspaper sites. Newspapers argue that these clicks are nowhere near to the visits (and revenue) that they’d have gained if people came directly to their websites. They also have a problem with ads appearing on the side when people search for news. (Source) I have actually not come across those, and Google News definitely doesnt have them anyway.

That is context enough for an interesting article I saw on Adage – ” Why ‘Going Galt’ isn’t the solution for newspapers”. The article is in light of the digital startegy of The Newport Daily News in Rhode Island, that’s closing its ad supported site and selling digital subscription only. John Galt, meanwhile, doesn’t need introduction for Ayn Rand readers, but if you are asking “Who is John Galt”, catch up here. In this context, it means that newspapers stop creating content for aggregators to pick up and make money. As the article points out, its chances of success is only when it deals with news that’s not commodity – could be specific locality/genre where there aren’t competitors. Its quite easy for newspapers to stop Google from taking its content – a 2 line code, as has been pointed out regularly.

Cody Brown has an excellent article which shows the inherent differences between print and online, in terms of how news is processed. To summarise, print uses batch processing, where news and rumours are sifted through, verified and reverified and the crux is the final output and the credibility of the publication. The web, uses real time processing, it works like a gigantic wiki, everyone contributes, the crowd corrects, and the final output is of relatively less importance. The flaws of one become the benefits of the other. Batch processing finds few takers in the age of real time, and as this article points out so correctly, Twitter is the fastest way to get informed, or misinformed. This explains why I see stuff on my networks, and immediately move to a rediff/Google News to immediately verify from a trusted source.

So newspapers face a double whammy. On one hand, its news creation is facing obsolescence in the face of changing media consumption habits, and on the other hand, it cannot find ways to make enough revenue out of the content that it ‘painstakingly’ produces. There are of course, traditional players who are bucking this, but as this article makes a case for, there can only be one Apple, who is an un-Google. I am still trying to fit in this understanding with the David – Goliath model. Apple operates so differently from Google, that it would be easy to summarily dismiss them as non-competitors, but there’s more to it. That’s for later, but the idea seems to be not to be a better Goliath, but to be the best David and play by rules that would take Goliath enough time to figure out, for David to finish the game.

A small note on the Indian scene.  We are perhaps a few years away from the mess that US newspapers are in,   But consider, a Galt stance would’ve been possible a few years back, but with players as diverse as Rediff and Instablogs having a mechanism of reporting, it would be a folly to even try now. Rediff has built services and business models that doesn’t leave them to the mercy of making money out of news. Instablogs is also figuring out revenue models, at obviously lesser costs. Technology and faster news delivery platforms will appear, its inevitable. Newspapers in india  need to replicate their real world credibility online very fast, understand ‘real time’ game rules, and evolve radically new business models if they don’t want to repeat the US scenario. For ““News doesn’t break, it tweets”, the TC article credits Paul Saffo as saying.

until next time, notice how many newspapers have ‘Times’ in their name? Real time? ;)

Little Home

It is quite an apt name for this little restaurant in Koramangala, for during our first innings in Koramangala, a few years back, this used to be our regular take away joint. Of course, the primary reason was the awesome beef roast, and that’s been my beef with them for some time now, they have stopped serving erm, beef. Anyway, to get there, take the road from Sony World (on the Koramangala – Indiranagar Intermediate Ring Road) towards Koramangala 1st Block. You’ll find it on the left after Umerkot. Here’s the map, ‘B’ is the correct location. Parking is a small problem, and you will have to find some space in one of those small lanes that dot the area.

This is the place to head to, when all the three conditions are met – you are in Koramangala, you want to pig on Mallu food (and want a break from the Empire/Imperial/Paramount trimurtis) and you don’t really care about the ambience. So, while the menu claims North indian and Chinese, with soups and kebabs and even a chopsey (sic) ignore all that and stick to God’s own food.They have thalis (Rs.55 and Rs.90 for veg and non veg respectively) and ‘Meals’ (Rs. 55 for veg, and Rs. 75 for chicken, and fish) but these options are only for lunch. Ditto for kappa and meen curry (tapioca and fish), that was a disappointment, especially for D, who takes her sun sign very seriously. [Why isn't there a sunsign for chicken or chocolate, I'd get serious too :) ]

So we took long hard looks at the menu and found quite a few chicken dish names that we haven’t encountered anywhere else – kakanadan, tawakiran, tamiya etc!! We chose to be eh, conservative, and ordered half portions of  chicken stew and chicken roast, an avoli (pomfret), and to go along with that a plate of appam and a plate of Kerala porotta. We’d have liked some kallumakkai (mussels) too, but they didn’t seem to have it  yesterday. At some point of time, when the initial excitement of all this stuff had passed, and we were wondering what next, we overheard a conversation about kaada (quail) and asked for a kaada roast too, and another plate of porottas. Ask for the takeaway menu, since that is more updated and you can find stuff like kaada and rabbit, duck etc too.

The food was just as we remembered, fantastic. I’d advise half portions because you can then try out more stuff. The stew was well made, with no stinginess on the coconut milk. The chicken roast has a paste like gravy that’s quite spicy, so if you aren’t a fan of stuff that sets your tongue on fire, stay away. The kaada roast is similar in consistency, and in terms of spice, starts off from where its chicken counterpart left off. Quails have crunchy bones,  and you really can’t separate the meat easily, so you could order one plate and figure out if you like it.  The pomfret was excellent, fried just right, well cooked yet soft. The porottas were a bit flaky, but soft enough, so I won’t complain. The appams were also made well, and it was really a tough call when we had to choose the stuff to go with the quail.For the record, the beef would’ve made the meal unforgettable, sigh…

All of the above cost us just under Rs.400 :D I assume, you get the USP of the place – awesome food at VFM prices. Don’t expect a fine dining experience, but when choosing a place for Mallu food, this one should easily be a front runner.

Little Home, No 1015,1st Block,Hosur Road, Koramangala. Ph: 25631504

Menu at Zomato

Seedy Saanp tales

Disclaimer: This is one of those trippy posts written purely for indulging the self. :)

It all started when we realised that we could never find Nagraj when work had to be done. Some even said he never responded anyway. And that’s when I suggested that we get a been, so that he would be forced to respond. And then I wondered if a been came with a been bag.

I nagged him about why he went missing. He said he was a movie buff and held the job only to pay bills. His favourite actress was Nagma. He slithered out to watch Bollywood snake videos on YouTube. That was his escape from the snake pit we called office. He called it his cobra pause.

Nagraj obviously had a bean bag, which he refused to lend. I challenged him to a game. Whoever got snake eyes first in a game of dice wins it. I was a charmer, but Nagraj was a hood. Punch me he did. He kept the bean bag, and I could never be a has been.

until next time, been there, done that

Beyond run-of-the-mill

..and I took a look at the last few posts and realised, that the excitement of the Facebook -Google- Twitter three way fight was making me obsessed, and I figured you guys would like a break from that too. Thankfully, I came across two activities, that I thought showed a fundamental way of approaching the internet as a medium.

At a basic level, the internet (and mobile) differ from say, print, OOH, television and even radio (in spite of call ins) simply because it allows two way expression. And if we go meta on that, even the internet, like other media, is after all a tool, as far as brands go. Its just that in many cases, its a much better enabler than the others because of its features. So, Facebook, Twitter etc are only tools – I have to keep reminding myself of that. The two examples below have shown how to use the web to increase the utility and value they are offering consumers. I liked these two all the more, because while they have presence on the usual suspects, these activities do not use the services.

Some of you would’ve read about the Dunkin’ Run iPhone app and website by now. For those who haven’t here’s the gist. Going out for coffee? Want to get your friends something too, but can’t be bothered to remember their order? You become the ‘Runner’, and use the app/website to initiate a group order. Your friends/colleagues ( a list you’ve made, and you can make different ones) get an interactive alert, and they can place the order online/app. If they’re registered users, they can even pick from their favourites/ previous orders. Once the list is made, take a print out/show it on the phone. Oh, okay, you can display the run status on facebook too. This is how the app looks on the phone

dunkin dunkin1

(Thank you, Chris Brogan, Mashable)

‘Run’ seems to be the operative word since the second example is to do with a product and activity right in that space. Nike. On Wired, I read about this excellent service called Nike+, which is now helping users track personal metrics and thus adding value. By using a sensor, and syncing an iPod to the website, (after the run) users can now track distance run, time taken, calories burned, weight lost etc and over a time period. These are displayed visually, on their profile, and it can be shared, and for extra motivation, users can even take up a challenge or set individual goals, and if that’s not enough, you can even create a list of people who could motivate you for completing it. They are updated about your progress. When i visited the India site, I could see a ticker that showed updates about various runners.

According to Wired, “Nike has attracted the largest community of runners ever assembled—more than 1.2 million runners who have collectively tracked more than 130 million miles and burned more than 13 billion calories.” It has not only helped the users, but think about all that data Nike has, which it can use to provide even more value for customers and build better products. Amazing, I think I just might end up doing this stuff!!  Oh, okay, there’s a twitter app too – Twiike.

Two ideas, which use the concept of sharing without needing the tools that I keep discussing here. A good reminder that while the tools race for users, and web domination, brands can quietly use the philosophy of web 2.0 and build communities around users through simple ideas and wonderful execution.

until next time, Just Donut it ;)

Incommunicado

There’s an old man whom I meet almost everyday now – he’s a parking attendant. He has a speech impediment that renders most of what he’s saying incoherent. He claims to know quite a few languages and from what I make out of his Malayalam, it is quite passable. I did try to make conversation with him a few times, but felt uncomfortable every time I asked him to repeat something. Sometimes I see him talking to himself. Maybe he is relaxed when he doesn’t have to explain, or maybe he doesn’t want a response when someone cannot understand him.

A few experiences made me compare his condition to my communication on Twitter. I have always fancied Twitter for the lifestream capability. That’s one of the reasons (the fear of losing the lifestream) that I’ve even started hosting my tweets in my own space. But, while I can do that on the blog, the conversations and some interesting people I come across make an effective bonus that keeps me hanging in there.

However, last week, something made me question my Twitter existence. On two consecutive days, I was ‘forced’ (yes, I do take responsibility for forcing myself too) to explain tweets which were my reactions to a couple of stuff that were being talked about on Twitter. The reactions were not pro or against anyone, and did not even touch upon the central issues, they were just interesting to me from a thoroughly different perspective. No, I am not going to detail them here, but suffice to say that while I was explaining, I felt like the old man, who found it so difficult to communicate something that perhaps (and most likely) in his head, doesn’t suffer from any lack of clarity at all. It frustrated me that, even keeping aside barriers like language and speech impediments, it has become impossible for us (I blame myself too, and am generalizing, so those above all this, please ignore) these days to take a statement or idea and not immediately judge it and catalog it safely into some stereotype we have made in our head (in both cases, I was considered either pro something or against something, when I didn’t have an opinion at all, because the issues themselves were of relatively lesser importance to me)

Sometimes, I see the old man in conversation with others, and he seems to be enjoying it. Maybe his companions know him enough to figure out what he’s trying to say, or maybe they’re just nice people who would like to see him happy and make him feel that there are people who understand him, in spite of his disability. If it’s the latter, I hope he never finds out.

until next time, communication channel surfing

It starts..again..

Facebook is on the march, though I have no clue about the destination. A few days back, I read about the ‘Search Inbox’ feature getting added, that’s after the overall search was revamped and the rumours of the “Everyone Button“. With photo sharing, a revamped mail box, status updates, videos, games, I guess I’ll have to correct the earlier statement and say that the ‘walled garden’ has offered enough evidence that it is making itself *the* destination.

I remembered an article I read a couple of weeks back on how its this merging of activities on facebook that has given it a growth of 8.54% growth in the last month, as compared to Twitter’s sudden fall to a relatively dismal 1.47% growth rate. As Shefaly pointed out the last time I’d compared the two services, there’d still be an audience that consider the Twitter protocol more useful in spite of Facebook’s ‘charms’. A general comparison of the user figures would show that Facebook has the mass. Whether the Twitter audience is a good enough number, time will tell.

The other interesting article I read was about the social network identity crisis. For one, this is not about us, the users, but the networks themselves. I’d written sometime back about LinkedIn’s attempts to be like Facebook, which thankfully didn’t develop much. This article compares LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and their overlap. Friendfeed is another unique character in the mix, and serves well as a great aggegator, though it does appear geeky as far as the average user of Facebook goes. Like I’ve said before, Friendfeed thinks up all the neat stuff, and Facebook makes them popular to the masses. As for LinkedIn, their ‘official’ networking positioning keeps them at a safe distance now.

But yes, the battle, in different manifestations for several years now- as mailboxes, portals and so on, has been for the spot of destination site, or rather the starting point of the user experience on the web, the first site a user opens on his browser, the base. And that’s the reason i feel that the recent spate of Facebook’s initiatives, while they seem to be aimed at replicating the utility of Twitter, are actually targeted against Google, and specifically, Wave. The approach of both are actually from two opposite directions – Google, from Mail and Talk to the spectacular collaborating, sharing and weaving features of Wave, and Facebook from social networking to newsfeed, to chat and mailboxes. Wave is Open Source, Facebook is opening the stream to developers. It will be interesting to see whether there can only be one/couple/all survivor/s from Wave, Facebook and the simple appeal of Twitter.

until next time, Wavebook :)

Update: Excellent post on Facebook vs Google, (click it, dammit :p) and here too, and why Facebook has a chance.

Cilantro

Cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander leaves, say some on the www. (D was sure, i had to check. Makes sense – she cooks, I eat)  It’s a restaurant in Koramangala, say Bangaloreans, and as it happens many a time, everyone’s right. To get there – at the Sony World junction on the Intermediate Ring Road (Koramangala – Indiranagar), take a left turn towards Koramangala 1st Block (when coming from Indiranagar), and keep going till the next signal (thats where the Maharaja restaurant is – map), take a left at the signal, keep going straight, and where the road takes a natural right turn, you’ll see the Halcyon complex, inside which is Cilantro. Two wheelers can be parked right outside, and there are enough bylanes around for four wheeler parking.

Cilantro is promoted as a ‘sunrise to sunrise cafe’, serves North Indian and Continental, and is spread over a semi outdoor and indoor space. We hadn’t reserved in advance, and if you’re going before 8, you can just walk in. We chose to sit outside, and realised that the unspoken part was that the mosquitoes joined anyone else who came after sunset, for their dinner. :|

They introduce you to their salad, pasta, and barbecue counters, which you can go for, in case the regular menu doesnt appeal to you. We thoroughly ignored the salad counter, gave a cursory glance to the pasta counter, where there was a choice of 3 pastas, and deliberated over the barbecue counter, where there was fish, chicken, lamb, pork, calamari, prawns before settling for items in the menu. The chef is quite eager to help you around.

The menu has sandwiches – both veg and non veg, with prices ranging from Rs.125 – 230, burgers, priced between Rs.130-155, both of which are classified under ‘any time’.

During regular meal hours, you have a choice of half a dozen soups, including veg and non veg, appetisers – including a couple of prawn and calamari options, and kebabs. For the main course, you could choose from the continental options – veg/prawn/ beef/ pork/ fish/ chicken or the Indian section which offers decent choices in veg and non veg, with rotis and rice to go along with them.

We started with a Chunky farm style chicken veloute soup. Though there is a creamy flavour to it, it’s actually made from stock (not milk) and has chunks of chicken. A very good soup, and they bring you a bread basket from which you could take white/brown bread, bread sticks or croissants.

For the main course, D ordered a “Red Wine Chicken Breast”, (chicken simmered in red wine, glazed and served with home made pasta) which was recommended by the staff, and i went for a Char grilled pork chops with bbq sauce, (served with cous cous and buttered tossed vegetables) which was recommended by the web reviews. The chicken dish was very good, from what little i tasted of it, and was served with sphagetti. The pork chops were well amde and the gravy was fantastic. The cous cous complemented it well. There were ‘strange’ vegetables, which I didn’t bother figuring out, since I had meatier things to consider. ;)

There were the regular Indian and Continental dessert options – gulab jamun, chocolate mousse and the like, the only one that stood out was a coconut caramel custard, but we decided to skip. They also serve liquor. Our bill came to just over Rs.750. After the meal, have a few polite smiles ready, since the chef and at least two more members of the staff ask you if you had a pleasant experience, and also inform you about a Sunday brunch. You could check out the place – pleasant and relaxing ambience, with loads of greenery, and decent food.

Cilantro, PB 4708, No: 9, Drafadila Layout, 4th Block, Koramangala. Ph: 41102200

Photos at Zomato

The foreign object

A search for a sticker – part of the memorabilia of a concert from about 4 years back – ended up taking me over a couple of decades back. I wonder if this is a coincidence – a lot of writing about memories these days, or am i consciously watching out for these trips so i can chronicle them?

The sticker turned up many interesting things, some of which I knew existed, and some whose existence I had forgotten – my old carnatic music books, letters and cards from almost a decade back, an autograph of Nonie – a favourite VJ from a long time back, some of you oldies might remember her :p , a few old board games – Scrabble, Monopoly, stickers used to label video cassettes!! And journals 1.0 – the stuff i used to pen down regularly, fun to read the stuff from half a lifetime away – seems more like a lifetime!! Each of these have several stories around themselves, and then some that I perhaps have forgotten.

It sits in the corner of a room in Bangalore housing these nostalgis triggers – a 25 year old massive veteran, not even Indian in origin – a Samsonite.

It came from the US in 1985, when my dad came back after a year long trip. We became friends immediately – no, not my dad, that would take more time – because in it were Lego – the soldier set I had specifically asked for after seeing a catalog, the View-master – with Superman disks, little robots that turned into cars, chocolates, remote controlled cars – one with a  wire which was chucked only years later for a wirefree one, and assorted things that mean so much in childhood – pencils and rubbers (yes, we were innocent enough to call them that then) and fluorescent colored marker pens with the ‘Made in USA’ inscriptions, battery operated pencil sharpeners – all you had to do was dip the pencil and it came out sharpened. As Arthur C Clarke has rightly said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, and magic is anyway an acceptable commodity for seven year olds. The friendship came to an abrupt end, as soon as the above items were taken out.

We then got separated – mostly thanks to the distances – at home, it was kept on the top of a large almirah. Several attempts were made to reconnect – primarily because it was suspected of housing more booty. These suspicions arose from the fact that a lot of ‘Made in USA’ gifts were given to self and others on special occasions long after Dad came back. But we were kept apart, scraped knees, beseeching innocent expressions and bruised ego notwithstanding.

It took a decade for the ownership to be transferred, albeit without any words being exchanged. There were only a few remains of the treasure by then, and i wondered aloud who would be interested in such junk now!! I think it started coming down in the world from then on.

It moved to the less homely, and usually less cleaner habitats – the engineering college hostels, and played host to everything from the T Scale and other engineering drawing set paraphernalia to my favourite sliced green chillies pickle that was stocked and used with bread to survive the toxic waste that was regularly served in the hostel canteen. College mates used to eye it lustily because it was also suspected of containing quite a few literary works that kids at that age read for erm, pleasure.

Conditions seemed to be improving as it hopped on to a train and reached that paradise – Goa and spent two years there. However, its contents were nothing more interesting than sets of clothes, sometimes unwashed at that. To be noted that the lusty looks continued, as the literature was suspected to be growing in quantity and quality, and even to be technologically updated – floppy disks!!

It might have been happy to be home, but that was to be only for a year, and it soon traveled with me to Bangalore. And that’s where I stare at it now, a proud, dignified brown giant of a travel case, with the scars and keepsakes of its old journeys – the ancient tag of its first flight, Lufthansa, the light discoloration that happened when it served as a dining table, the scratch marks courtesy Indian Railways, and inside, the books, the board games and the posters that I used to stick on the walls of my college room……

I look at it and think absurdly how wonderful it would be if i could have  a conversation with it. It has seen how I have changed, and not changed. We could sit and laugh at the suspected literature and sigh wistfully at the loneliness of places away from home. We share memories. I realise that in many ways, it is like the room, but in many ways, its different – it has changed too, with me, as only a traveling companion in the journey of life can.

until next time, traveling baggage, literally :)

Re: Search

There’s this lovely Greasemonkey script that does the job of getting the best of both worlds- Google and Twitter, for me, but then it would be quite interesting to have Google bring out a microblogging search engine. (conjecture, but very much in the realm of possibility) In fact, with the recent pain I’ve been having with Twitter Search, it would actually be a big help. What this would do to Twitter Search and would Google add sense (in terms of ‘authority’/ relevance etc and indexing shared links) and Ad Sense to it, and would they share revenues with Twitter are a few questions that interest me. Let’s wait for the engine before we talk about that.

Meanwhile, the Facebook vanity url brought out an interesting service from Social Too. According to RWW, Social Too is “extending our existing Facebook profile redirect URLs, which redirect yourusername.socialtoo.com to your Facebook profile, and adding an additional layer of analytics to the whole process. So tonight, you’ll be able to get a Facebook vanity URL and get the SEO benefits, but the URL you’ll want to hand out to all your friends will be your SocialToo vanity URL because we’ll provide statistics around those clicking on the URL, the browsers they’re using, where they’re located, and where they’re clicking from.” This would be a very useful resource for brands and even people, just ask any blogger who obsesses over page views ;)

So what is Facebook upto? I just read that Facebook has rolled out a beta version of its news search that allows people to search their News Feeds and brings up results chronologically from their streams. It means that I can now easily see what my friends think about a recent event/product/service, and that can be notes, videos, status messages, photos etc. ( I did ask for that :) ) The kind of search results that used to get displayed in the earlier avatar of search (people, groups etc) are now listed on the side. (via Tech Crunch) Wonder if it searches comments on the shared content too? Also, thanks to this beastly tweet from Karthik ;) ,  I noticed that there is a location tab in my newsfeed now. Nothing much for now, but that is a start, and they could add events, among other things. For instance, since a lot of people are auto updating their Twitter status on to FB, I noticed quite a few with the #cisia tag, which is for an event happening in Bangalore. But both the friends using the tag are from Mumbai, so they don’t show up in the Bangalore feed. But yes, it is a start.

So it does seem that Bing’s launch and the simultaneous bundling of One Riot with IE8 (One Riot is a real time social search engine) has shaken the search box a bit, especially in the realm of real time, though it could be just a coincidence. I have wondered why Bing didn’t launch with some One Riot like mechanism, that would really have been a differentiator, at least in the short term. A reason why I should use Bing, which seems the problem that MS should be addressing.

Before we end, while we’re on Search, a couple of services I came across that you might want to look at. Hunch, a new discovery engine, from Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr, helps you answer questions, basis its understanding of you from the questions it asks you and your further usage of the site. Yep, this is a decision engine which asks you a few questions first :) Mashable has a full analysis on it. I’ve just started using it a couple of days back, and it takes some time to get used to, and what it can do for you is directly proportional to the time you spend on it. So the task for Hunch would be to keep nudging people to interact with it more.  While I did start with a simple question, for which the sponsored link was an obvious choice, i think the question-answer way of search gives sponsored links a lot of relevance. I like the me+crowd way of answering questions and I think it just be the kind of service that grows on you. The other service I came across is Aardvark (via WATBlog – and they’re giving away free invites) which again uses a community network (via IM) to answer your queries.

Google has claimed that search is in its infancy and there are many avenues for new and existing avenues to explore. Now while Hunch and Aardvark seem to be great products, if Google puts its mind to it, there’s no reason why it cannot replicate either of the services, especially considering the data it has of me from its various services I am a user of. Also, Wave, when it happens, can build on the power of incremental networks easily.  If the microblogging engine does emerge it will give Google the path to real time too.  The advantage for now, is that once these services reach a certain usage level, a me-too product, even from Google will have to work hard on getting people to jump ship, simply because of the lethargy and the time, content etc already invested.

until next time, the search continues