Monthly Archives: December 2010

Social + Scale = #fail ?

Remember the post on Social Media Explorer titled ‘Is Content Marketing the new Advertising?’ I had linked to earlier, while on the subject of content, media and distribution?

To me, content marketing will indeed be a key player in a brand’s strategy – communication and otherwise, because with the explosion of content across various internet and even other delivery platforms, and the increasing number of stimuli that the typical consumer is subject to, sheer volume might be needed, in addition to context, and relevance.

So, the thought then moved on to the creation of content. There are constraints to what UGC can achieve, and all brands may not have that luxury. So, what would be a good way to generate this in-house?  That’s when I looked at it from the perspective of last week’s post – on the evolution of ‘social’ as a concept and the software it entails, and the subject of how social media will scale?

And not surprisingly, I arrived at culture. And a rewiring that will include changing roles in the various functions of the organisation. The two that come prominently to mind? HR, to not just use the tools at their disposal and hire people who have innate passion for the organisation’s domain, but also in being the torchbearer of the organisation’s new culture. Marketing, to harness this in-house talent, surface their creations – product or content or service processes, and see how it can be scaled and communicated. This would not only connect people with a common interest  internally but also empower them, make them feel responsible and enable them to communicate this to an external crowd using their own networks.

These are only a couple of thoughts in a couple of functions, but even getting the rest of the organisation aligned around these might be a good start. More importantly, when this happens, the organisation might be then better equipped to engage with the crowd, culturally and operationally. ‘Social’ could then aim to scale.

until next time, multiply and rule :)

For those interested in the subject

Gautham’s post on social and scale

Social Induction, my post last week on social software and the larger purpose.

My last few posts on social and scale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Speech Disorders

Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’ is a book I found underwhelming. It could’ve been my maturity as a reader, or the hype that surrounded the book then, but all said and done, Ms.Roy was not an author who influenced me. Unlike a certain Mr.Tharoor, an author I deeply admire, and whose books (mostly) have given a lot of perspective, even the works of fiction.

But when he had this to say about Roy – commenting that she’d gone too far to the left and her writing about Gandhians with guns, I wasn’t sure whether I could agree, and I asked on Twitter (not to him) whether his stance is necessitated by his political affiliations. A feeling that was mirrored when I read this post by Anil Thakraney. To give you a background on Anil, I think his insightful (inciteful isn’t a word, or it would’ve fitted well too) articles and interviews are amazing, and his posts often find resonance with me, because the issues he talks about and the way he talks about them gives  abundant perspective. I don’t think Anil is compelled by any external force, a possibility that can’t be ruled out in the case of Tharoor. And so I wondered, why I wasn’t in agreement.

Could I’ve been possibly influenced by her articles on tribals that were written a year back – Outlook (which caused the first wave of outrage) and Washington Post (about the outrage) or even this excellent post titled “The Economics, Politics and Ethics of non violence” or just the history. It was human, and I could identify with the view on  the human sacrifices that are made for the sake of progress. A purely bystander perspective.

Or did it only play a marginal role when I considered Roy’s latest remarks on Kashmir? How can you be objective when on one side, she writes a moving article on why young boys are pelting stones and on the other side, you have almost an entire nation outraged? It doesn’t help that its fashionable to hate Roy, and even more fashionable to support her.

So in the end, I’d go beyond the freedom of speech debates and the notional boundaries. I only say notional because, if we look at a larger timeframe, the transience of these boundaries will be more evident. Empires of the past, in their time, would have thought that their boundaries were unassailable, even by time. But they are history. One of the ideas that have remained unchallenged for long is that of the nation state, maybe its time that came up for an overhaul.

A mass of humanity that make up a nation state makes laws that are agreeable to the majority. That’s the way civil societies have been built. The fun part is that, in most cases, the majority are mere bystanders with a notional stake. So at some point, the minority is pushed to such an edge that they’re forced to retaliate. What is only an inconvenience to the majority is a matter of survival and basic rights for the minority.

And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

(Alice’s restaurant by Arlo Guthrie)

Meanwhile, for some, these boundaries might be sacrosanct, some might believe that Roy is doing it just for the popularity. But, even from the armchair, the hurt sentiments of the first and the (alleged wrong) intention of the second pale when compared to the human condition.

until next time, longish posts are charged with sedation? ;)

PS: Found later that Shoma Choudhury has articulated this well

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuXFIfb7cnY

Truffles Ice & Spice – Koramangala

D was inclined to have a steak, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted pasta, chocolate is always interesting for both, I didn’t want to ride far, and we didn’t want to pay more on account of a fine dining tag. Usually, Boca Grande is where all these coincide, but we’d been there only a few weeks back, and that’s when we figured there’s an Ice & Spice in Koramangala!

Its unfortunately not the easiest place to find. If you know Taste of Rampur, go down that road further, and you’ll find Ice & Spice on the right. This is the road that joins 1st A Cross Road (which has everything from Ping to Golmaal Paratha to Tunday Kababi, Empire, Sufi etc) and the service road diagonally opposite Forum (by the side of Monday to Sunday after Raheja Arcade). If you’re on 1st A Cross, take the left at Desmonds. (the one after Jyoti Nivas) Hope that makes it easier. Parking shouldn’t be too difficult, especially for 2 wheelers. Besides there’s a huge parking lot just nearby.

Its an absolute hangout ambiance and the sight of chocolate (lots of it) is welcoming! The stone seats are quite okay once you get used to them. Of course, for the kids who regularly frequent this place, it wouldn’t be a discomfort at all! Yesterday they were playing Xmas carols. :)

On to the menu. In addition to the regular menu, (below, click to enlarge) they also have an additional menu now. That one has a couple of soups, salads and starters and more than a dozen main course dishes including more pasta, steaks and even some Oriental dishes.

Just as I’d feared, all previous half decisions went for a toss and we set about ordering random things. A soup to start with – Asparagus & Cheese soup, from the additional menu. D ordered a Chicken Merango, I asked for an oriental item from the additional menu – Chicken Tom Kha Pha (sic). Greedy that we were, we also ordered coffee so that we wouldn’t convince ourselves to drop it later. D ordered a Hazelnut Coffee and I asked for a Turkish coffee (with English Toffee and whipped cream). That last addition did backfire as they brought the coffee first! Partly our fault, we should have ordered it only after the meal. To get over the ‘gloom’, we asked for a ‘Tons of Fun Burger’.

The coffee looked on as we started with the soup, which turned out to be delicious. I didn’t even miss the chicken, (I prefer all soups with chicken, unless there’s chocolate in it) since those little cheese dollops  more than made up for it. This one is highly recommended. The ‘tons of fun’ burger came next. We had asked for the chicken patty option, and it also had chicken salami and egg. Yes, there were vegetables taking up precious real estate too. Sigh. This was really good too, though slightly pricey for its size (I’ve been spoiled by the Peppa Zzing guys)

I’m only familiar with the white Tom Kha soup, so we sized each other up before getting fully acquainted. In addition to the red chillies base, it also had green chillies. The coconut milk flavour was almost lost amidst all this. It tended towards salty and was quite spicy, but the basil rice helped balance it. Loved the shiitake mushrooms. So, worth a shot if you’re in the mood for this kind of food. D always gets lucky with her selections and the Merango was no exception. Velvety smooth, and excellent herb rice too.

The coffee was reasonably good, but the flipside was that there was absolutely no space for dessert. But we are not to be outdone! The Oreo cheesecake and the Ferrero Rocher cake wait in the fridge for the rendezvous tonight!

ALL of that cost us Rs.825. This now becomes our go-t0 place in Koramangala when we don’t want to spend time on deciding where to go, but need to be assured of good food and lots of chocolate. Except for the minor coffee fiasco, the service is prompt and helpful.

Truffles Ice & Spice, #28, 4th B Cross, 5th Block, Koramangala Ph: 41466565, 41536565

Menu at Zomato

Social Induction

‘Disparate’ perhaps wouldn’t describe it best, but definitely 3 different posts in terms of scope and point of focus, but which I thought were in their own way, circling one of this blog’s favourite topics – how organisations can fundamentally become more social – not just from a usage of tools across its ‘silos’ but more from an ‘adding meaning to the individual and society’ perspective.

Stowe Boyd’s post titled ‘Are you ready for social software‘ not only gave me perspectives on the subject of the post, and title – social software, but also gave me a way to connect these three posts. He starts of with challenging the belief that Sherlock Holmes used deduction to solve the mysteries.

It turns out he (or better, Arthur Conan Doyle) was using induction, which is, according to Webster’s, “the act or process of reasoning from a part to a whole, from particulars to generals, or from the individual to the universal.” In working from a paltry collection of clues to a full understanding of the actions and motives of the butler and his victim, Holmes/Doyle was, basically, developing a picture of the universe surrounding the crime from a few hints.

He goes on to distinguish social software from software built for several purposes taken to mean ‘social’.

Social software is based on supporting the desire of individuals to affiliate, their desire to be pulled into groups to achieve their personal goals. Contrast that with the groupware approach to things where people are placed into groups defined organizationally or functionally…..Traditional groupware puts the group, the organization or the project first, and individuals second….. Social software reflects the “juice” that arises from people’s personal interactions. It’s not about control, it’s about co-evolution: people in personal contact, interacting towards their own ends, influencing each other.

Its a fascinating read and he quotes Kenneth Boulding, the economist, humanist and social scientist,“We make our tools, and then they shape us.” I thought that was an amazing way to look at it, and if you think for a moment on how tools have changed the way you behave, interact, consume, I’m sure you’ll appreciate it too.

Amazingly, even without getting into software or technology, I saw an application of this thought process in Tom Fishburne’s Wiki Wall, a symbol of organisational creativity that could prove more useful than the traditional ‘brainstorm’. The wiki wall (a real whiteboard/surface)  allows ideas to be shared, collaborated on, and evolve over a period of time beyond the silos that the organisation might have. Shared belief systems and thoughts around which people could group together.

Which then brings us to the ‘larger purpose’ that an organisation exists for. This purpose is something that has popped up here many times in the recent past, the last being ‘A Social Culture‘. I found it expressed extremely well in Umair Haque’s post on the way ‘social’ needs to evolve.

Social is significance. The real promise of social tools is societal, not just relational; is significance, not just attention. You’ve got to get the first right before you tackle the second — and that means not just investing in “gamification,” a Twitter account, or a Facebook group. It means thinking more carefully how to utilize those tools to get a tiny bit (or a heckuva lot) more significant, and starting to mean something in enduring terms.

For now, most organisations are looking at social tools (including software) to meet their business ends, and not looking to make the business’ ‘reason for existence’ itself something people – both employees and consumers- would associate with. Hopefully, by the time they deduct the importance of this, it won’t be too late.

until next time, elementary? :)

A small matter of life and death

There’s this wonderful scene in ‘The Hurt Locker’ in which James talks to his baby son who is fully engrossed in playing with his toys

You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don’t ya? Yea. But you know what, buddy? As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. With me, I think it’s one.

Its probably a generalisation, but I’m sure many people can identify with that. Figuring out at some point, that all the things and people they cherished, or they themselves, have moved on. In fact, there are many who might be even more unfortunate and realise that have nothing to love, going through the motions of life, as a job to be finished. But it could be even worse.

Quite a morbid line of thought, but one that I felt compelled to share, because it made me think about so many things we take for granted. Sometime back, I had written about the ‘alone’ people I see in many places. Well, there’s another kind of people I have seen – sometimes during daily commute, at other times, when I travel.

The kind of people who make me wonder what it is that makes them hold on to their life. The easiest example I could give are the beggars – no, not the ‘professional’ ones who haunt our traffic signals, but the ones that frequent obscure places, where there’s hardly a chance of them getting anything, the ones who don’t even ask. They sometimes look too old or invalid to move out of there. There are other examples too, ones that need not be at such levels of despair, but you probably get the drift.

So what makes them plod on? A hope that things will become better? A dogged belief in the sanctity of life? A dull notion that life has to be lived on unto its natural conclusion? Or maybe they are in a state where they’re okay with what they’ve to live with or what life will dish out next? Or maybe they’re afraid that the experience after death will be worse.

I’ll end where I started from – ‘The Hurt Locker’. To quote James again ‘Everyone’s a coward about something.‘ Sometimes it’s life, and sometimes it’s death.

until next time, alive and clicking :)

Vembanad

The review first appeared in Bangalore Mirror. This is a retelling that appears here after much delay. I do have a reason for it – was traveling, but it also matches Vembanad’s generic theme of delaying everything.

Vembanad, the kaayal, would conjure up a host of beautiful images for those who have been there – Mallus or otherwise. For the former, the streaming images might also have a soundtrack. I’m way under equipped to review it, so I was happy to review a restaurant named after this famous Kerala ‘watermark’. Vembanad is part of The Paul Hotel, a luxury five star hotel on the Intermediate Ring Road, near Mother Earth. Here’s a map. The signboards are pretty helpful. It’s a fine dining restaurant that claims to specialise in southern seafood cuisine, but though the coastal slant is evident in the menu, the focus is clearly on Kerala dishes.

I usually don’t make a mention of the guests here, but making an exception this time for Bijoy Venugopal, whose humour  helped us tide over the long waiting time, and little Mythili, my other guests’ child, who semmed to have a love for pappadams that I completely identified with. :)

Vembanad’s décor is quite classy, and the furniture does lend a Kerala touch in an elegant manner. The walls are adorned with interesting curios. A comfortable setting, but I wonder if I missed anything because of the really dim lighting. A couple at another table was using their mobile flashlights to read the menu and later, the bill.

If you’re the kind who unabashedly likes coastal food, you would appreciate the menu. The starters section makes this point quite clearly with its complete lack of fowl play. The vegetarians are reasonably well looked after and have no cause to complain. The Koondhal Varattiyathu (squid) had an awesome pepper masala that made it an excellent starter. The Meen Nirachathu – seared fish with a raw mango stuffing was just about okay. The crispy Parippu (dal) Vadas were good too, though you would find the price hard to digest.

The main course section makes a show of ducking the sea of issues and providing some other relief in the form of beef and chicken.  The Kozhi (chicken) Mappas, a classic Syrian Christian preparation with coriander and a mild coconut flavour, and the Pachakari (vegetable) Kurma, saved the main course. The appams were fantastic, though the delays meant that we were forced to ask Eppam?! (when) Cold appams are never a good deal and thanks to delays, that was exactly what happened.  The Beef coconut fry, which is quite a holy cow in Kerala cuisine, proved really disappointing, and some portions were undercooked. We agreed with Bijoy when he said that it would require quite a meen chef to serve an underwhelming Fish Moilee, but the hardly-there coconut milk ensured just that. The desserts left a lot to be desired. The Ela Ada (coconut jaggery filling inside rice dough and cooked in banana leaves) wasn’t sweet enough and the Parippu Payasam failed to deliver too.

While coastal cuisine is arguably a good hook, what sinks it is the inordinate amount of time taken to serve the food! “Oh fish” would be an apt expression for our experience. Mythili practically slept off on a hungry stomach. The starters were taking a really long time and when I enquired, I was told that they had forgotten to pass the order on, but If i was okay, they could serve the main course dishes! Bijoy aptly described the service time as ‘meenwhile’, a fishy unit that included the time taken to bring the catch from the Vembanad lake. The waiter was definitely helpful and even suggested dishes, but that hardly solved the other weighty service issues.

In terms of cost, we Malayalis would pronounce it ‘coastly’, and deservedly so. A seafood starter, two non veg main course dishes with appams/ Kerala Parathas and a dessert would set you back by Rs.1500.

For some reason, if you happen to have a (mostly) Kerala coastal cuisine craving and want it delivered in a star hotel setting, you might consider the place. Otherwise, the city provides enough options to have equally (if not more) tasty food at a fraction of the price. Hardly anything can be worth the wait we endured!

Vembanad, The Paul, 139/28, Domlur Layout, Off Intermediate Ring Road, Bangalore – 71. Tel: 40477777

Menu at Zomato

Update 2.010

So, the Twitter bio now has an addition “Columnist”. Readers of my other blog, and the restaurant reviews I post there, would know that I’ve been doing reviews for Bangalore Mirror for a while now. The other column I’m responsible for is also up and running well now, judging by the feedback I’ve received. This one is titled ‘Ideas @ work’, and in it, we feature Bangalore based startups. The column appears every Monday, usually on Page 4. I’ve been updating them on the new space on the right column- ‘In print’, but in case you haven’t noticed, the ones that have been featured so far are Oye Happy, LifeMojo, MobStac, Revu, Recruiterbox and The India Market. Big thanks to Kiran, Praveen (an old chronicler in this area), Kesava and Amit, who have helped me with thoughts and leads. :)

I’ve always been interested in start ups, on many levels – because many of them work in spheres that are new, relatively unexplored and are exciting, because many a time they see the same things but view it differently and thus creating something that’s valued, and also because at a larger level, they are following their heart and being part of something that matters.

Its been a very interesting experience so far and finding and talking to people who have an idea they’re passionate about, and willing to work hard on it, has done a lot for my own thinking as well. We’re also going to dedicate about one column a month for social entrepreneurship ventures.

So, in case you come across an interesting Bangalore based startup, feel free to ping me at manu(dot)prasad @ gmail (dot) com.

until next time, upstart ;)

Versus all the world…

(written a few moons ago)

Season finales have a way of dispiriting me, by showing me the transience of things. Things that we like, things that we get used to, things that teach us lessons, sometimes not even by design.

Like this one, which took me to Queens, a borough of New York City, week after week, and also gave me a peek into the world of fashion magazines, however contrived a view it may have been.  More than the sometimes convoluted plots and the character profiling that ensured certain audiences, I was a fan because in its own way, it gave insights into the innate goodness that exists in all humans..characters, especially in the final season of a dramedy :)

But more than anything else, the show was all about the journey of its title character, an unlikely success story. It sold the hope that a person could make her (in this case) own world, despite her unconventional ways, because she believed in herself. And it sold it well, because many a viewer cheered for her, and egged her on.

Say that I’m changed, say I’m different
Maybe I’ll finally understand

It has succeeded to some extent, in teaching me, that its not really the choices I make, but how much of myself I am willing to put in them, that really decides the outcome, and the way I deal with that outcome.

I’m ready, I’m ready
I’m ready to believe

And if I zip through the entire journey of the character, I can also see the transience of these outcomes, despite their seeming finality.

Say I’ll let go, say it’s obvious
Oh, I tell myself over, over and over again

So yes, thank you, for taking me on a very interesting journey, and giving me several LOL moments, thanks to nasty one liners from Marc/Wilhelmina/Amanda. And now, when I am asked, usually with much incredulity, followed by amusement, about why I watch Ugly Betty, I’ll perhaps hum..

And all the world can watch the choices you make
All the world can watch each tiny mistake
Let the world watch….let the world wait for you

until next time, couchsurfing of a different kind

Lyrics: All the World (I Tell Myself) by Correatown, played during the season 4 finale