Monthly Archives: January 2013

Search me..

I was quoted in a recent Social Samosa post – on Facebook Graph Search. Do check it out on their website, it has useful thoughts from various others as well.

Given that it is a fairly large move, (third pillar, Facebook calls it) I thought I’ll add to my quote there. As a final goal, both Google and Facebook are trying to organise and display information to users, because contextually relevant information is still a means to revenue, especially in the era of information overload. Google crawls the web, and Facebook uses social connections as a means to gaining this information. Google is also trying to add social as a context, and Facebook has Bing’s support. It’s not a war now, but it’s definitely armament.

Facebook has tons of data to get this right, and this is dynamic data, thanks to the information we supply, and this is going to get better as Pages (and people) start optimising for Graph Search. Also, once the Open Graph is integrated and actions outside FB also start becoming data, it will become a larger treasure trove of information. Though there’s no advertising product in sight, I will wager that it is an advertising foray in the guise of a consumer tool. As I wrote in the article, Facebook now has the user’s intent broadly divided into 4 categories (people, places, photos and interests), along with his/her ‘influencers’. All of this will allow for some massive segmentation, and thus better targeted ads. And this is not necessarily evil, it can be damn useful because discoverability will be increased.

In terms of implication for brands, (like I said in the quote) brands with organic signals (eg. for a retail outlet, check in at a physical location) will have a starting advantage. Once the Open Graph kicks in, social actions on websites will become a huge advantage. Content marketing takes on added significance since every action on FB increases the chances of a brand being discovered. Oh yes, Like is a back with a vengeance! On a tangential note, recruiters could use Graph Search as a hiring tool.

It’s a long shot, but what would happen if Graph Search was thrown open to Pages. Think about it – as a page admin, I already have the ability to target my post to a certain level (about 7 parameters) but that’s really basic demographics. What if I were able to target (organically) (as Myntra) an Angry Birds t-shirt post at people in India who Like Angry Birds. (or even standard apparel brands)

Meanwhile, there are two immediate concerns. One – privacy. Users will, over a period of time, calibrate the information they supply to Facebook with the advantages of doing so, but it will be a difficult process. The second, I will highlight through a comment made by Romit on Twitter

But this is just version 1. I’m sure Facebook will have/build more signals inside the hood to filter data. Social just became even more interesting. For that. Facebook gets a thank you.

until next time, Like I said…

I, the responsible

…and the poor poor girl died earlier in the day I wrote this. Given the delay between my writing posts, and them getting published here, we should have collectively moved on from the issue by now, at least in terms of mind space and media space- mainstream as well as trending topics.

Much, much has been written about the issue – the male/female/Indian/ NRI/feminist/opportunist/armchair activist/ weekend activist/ ‘I was there to protest’ perspective, and these were only some examples – slice and dice any way you like and you’d find a voice that spoke on behalf of the piece you carved. Like this.

Much as I abhor what happened, I see it (rape) only as one symptom of the disease we all have – our own malformed sense of justice. Probably one of the worst symptoms, but not the only one. Injustice is injustice, and it varies by degrees only on the basis of our own perspectives of right and wrong. It happens everyday – talking on the mobile phone while driving/riding, fudging tax forms, making the maid plead for a salary raise, bribing a cop, drinking and driving because you have assured yourself that you are still in control… ask your conscience, you’ll come up with many more. No, I’m not really confusing it with breaking the law – here’s an example. Five hundred times you speak on the phone while driving and nothing happens, but nothing stops the five hundred and first time being the instance that maims someone for life, and leaving him/her bereft of limbs, and perhaps dignity. Ask that person which is a larger crime – what happened to him or a gang rape – the answer should not be surprising. Every action/inaction that affects the dignity of another person, that shows another person that one can get away with breaking the law, that walks the grey area between absolute right and wrong in however minute a way, is injustice in some form.  And in this daily, casual, personal #theekhai attitude to justice lie the seeds of every horrible act of injustice. Any kid watching this today and seeing the perpetrator walk away scot free will imagine he can get away with a bigger crime. And so it grows, and morphs into multi-thousand crore scams and gang rapes further down the chain. A bit like the broken windows theory.

Granted that an elected government has among its duties the responsibility of ensuring the protection of its citizens. Should we protest if they do not? Of course, but that does not absolve me of my obligation, nor does it free me of the nagging thought that as a race, our notion of justice is based on convenience. Sometimes I wonder if the birth of laws in society was a response to the slow death of justice within human beings.

So yes, I am the privileged who can update my Facebook status, and move on with my life. I am responsible and there’s nothing I can do about it. Before I casually judge others, I have to wonder if I have the moral authority to do so. After all, I only vary by degrees.

(image via gaping void)

until next time, </justice>

Vengeance Of Ravana

Ashok K Banker

The seventh book of the Ramayana series that was never expected. Ashok Banker has his own reasons for writing it, as he mentions in the Foreword. He also uses the section to outline his plans to document the past, present and extrapolated future of India as well as alternate history. I was quite happy when i read this because it seemed a noble endeavor. And then the book started.

I have been a fan of the other books (except for Book 3, which i thought was an unnecessary stretch) in the series and have, in reviews, admired how the author brings characters and the age to life and uses prose in a way that makes you (even) identify with them.

But this book completely failed for me. The plot, if any, doesn’t go anywhere. I could’ve flipped 10 pages and still not missed a thing – except for prose. It’s as though the mandate was to describe every occurrence / character/ vista in as many words as possible. Fitting in contemporary phrases like collateral damage and terms like vortal seem terribly forced. It’s a vengeance story, but sometimes you wonder who it is directed at!!

If you’ve been reading the Ramayana series, I guess you’ll have to sit through this one too, just to see where it goes, but go in fully prepared for a prose avalanche. The author does seem to be on his own trip – good for him, not so good for readers. Sad.

A picture to go with me

Something in Mishi Saran’s ‘The Other Side of Light’ made me think of a visual that would accompany me on the final journey. I’m not really a painting kind of person, so it’d probably be a photograph.

A photograph that captured my life in one still moment, or my soul itself. Something that was much more than a thousand words. Something that only I understood and could connect with, so its existence beyond my own would be meaningless.

For now, I don’t think I have a photograph like that. Or perhaps each photo, when I look back at it, is as much the deserving one as another. Each one, a different me, real and alive at that point in time, reduced to memory soon as it is captured.

until next time, transience

With great data…

LinkedIn’s article curation is improving very well in my case. What I particularly like is the dash of serendipity in the list. One of the articles I recently read was “Are we all being fooled by Big Data?” Though it is less to do with business per se and is skewed towards economic forecasting, it does make for a very interesting read.

Gartner’s 2013 Strategic Technology Trends has Strategic Big Data as one. In fact, I’d also add ‘The Internet of Things’, ‘In Memory Computing’ and ‘Actionable Analytics’ (also in the list) as related items, as a source, enabler and application respectively. While Big Data has been talked about for a while now, and has seen applications as well, I am not sure how accessible it is to the majority of organisations and brands. In essence, is it ‘mainstream’ enough? (I see organisations struggling to link existing data) Are there frameworks being built that will aid analysis and action across various functional domains – ways to nimbly access and use contextually relevant ‘packets’ from troves?

Probably 2013 is when we will see things moving. But there’s something about data that worries me. This has come from my own experience as well as from the things I have read/heard. And that’s where the organisation’s intent becomes important, because you can find data to validate most anything! This is all the more significant because with improving technology, the volumes of data will have the potential to help brands shift paradigms and disrupt the status quo. But it can also be used for strategic/tactical blunders. As the saying goes “If you torture data long enough, it will confess to almost anything

All of this reminds me of social media. The hype, the evangelism, the tools and so on. And just like social, Big Data has in it the ability to amplify the inherent nature of the enterprise.

until next time, think big

Cheers Coorg

The review was first published in Bangalore Mirror.

I knew that Shillong is called the Scotland of the East, but Coorg is apparently called the Scotland of India. However, what amazed me more is that in terms of my culinary mapping, I associate both of these places with pork, and that is something that Scottish Highlanders have an aversion to! Thankfully Cheers Coorg’s menu doesn’t have Scots in mind as the target audience. But long before the menu, the ambiance does a good job of conveying the restaurant’s character. From the funky tablemat that gives you an introduction to Coorg, its heritage, culture and cuisine to the various décor elements that line the wall – including photographs, sketches and even a couple of guns, Coorg is all over the place. Meanwhile, to get to the place, you can follow the map here.

The menu, presented in the form of a compact clipboard, also tries to give a sense of character. For instance, there is a “Real men ask for their drinks” line in place of a bar menu, but unfortunately the spirit is limited to words as the license is still a couple of weeks away. This proved to be a recurring theme.

We began well with both versions of the Nalla Malu Kanni soups – chicken and mutton, and a Mutton Bones soup. The Mushroom Coconut soup we wanted to try was not available. The Mutton Bones soup was spicy, with the pepper making its presence clearly felt, but though it was a fine soup, the Nalla Malu Kanni soup, with its mix of a mild sweetness and a peppery kick delivered slightly later stole the show.

The menu is skewed majorly towards appetisers, so it was a difficult task to choose the representatives from each kind of meat. The Chilkana Pandi triumphed over its peers and turned out to be an excellent choice. The pork was well cooked and the onion and green chillies based masala also had a touch of sourness courtesy the vinegar. The Chicken Fry in Green Masala had tender chicken in a spicy masala made of green chillies, coriander and a hint of mint. Mutton was represented by Khaima Unde, minced mutton balls. The meat was bordering on tough, but not a complete disaster. Aquatic life made it to the table in the form of the Kachampuli Fish fry, though the tamarind was a name only presence, and the only discernible flavour was that of the pepper.

 

 

The alfresco area on the first floor was nearly full by the time we were ready for the rest of the meal, and that meant the main course took a while to get to the table. The Pandi Curry was a mandatory choice but failed to deliver, with a poorly diluted gravy that was rather insipid. The only consolation was that the pork was well cooked. The Chicken Curry also did not impress with its coconut based gravy. Most of the vegetarian gravies were unavailable, and from the options we asked for a Kumbala (pumpkin) Curry. Mildly sweet, it was just about average. We tried out most of the ‘accompaniments’ – Kadambuttu, Noolputtu, Paaputtu, Akki Otti, Sannas and Neyi Koolu (Ghee Rice). The Kadambuttu and the ghee rice were the pick of the lot. The former had an excellent consistency and the ghee rice was different from the standard fare with a mild sweetness to it. The Paaputtu was a tad crumbly, and the Akki Otti was an XS version!

 

 

When we asked for the Dessert of the Day, the only option other than the Ice Cream, we were told that it was Caramel Custard, not really the Coorgi dish we had expected. So we decided to end the meal with juices and coffee. The Passion fruit juice and the Filter Coffee were not bad but the Kaipuli (bitter orange) juice was the clear winner.

For about Rs.1200, you could share a soup, a non veg starter, a non veg main course dish and a couple of staples, and a dessert. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge)

Cheers Coorg has nailed the ambiance, and features a unique cuisine, but they do have some way to go in terms of the quality of food, before we can truly say cheers!

Cheers Coorg, #29, 80 feet Road, Indiranagar , Ph: 080 41219555

Social v2.0.1.3

I really avoid writing “trends for 20xx”, but towards the end of last year, I jotted down a few things for an article. Same thoughts, but I expanded a bit.

Barring a game changing phenomenon that further complicates the already shifting landscape, these are the 3 areas where I see the needle shifting more than others, in 2013.

1. Content is (also) Advertising: Branded content will continue to rise as the worlds of publishing and commerce collide. Brands will invest (talent, money, time) more in content creation and curation. Also, paid media (traditional and social) will be used to promote owned media (blogs/twitter/FB page content etc) and we’ll continue to wonder how much was earned by publishers in supposedly earned media! By ‘advertising’, I don’t just mean the traditional marketing communication kind, but one that brings out more of the character of the brand/organisation itself. Hopefully this will be the first step towards a larger culture of authenticity, values, and transparency. Something like McDonald’s “Our food. Your questions” would fit the bill.

2. Social Orientation: Social is media, social is CRM, social is enterprise collaboration, and many other things which we haven’t even begun to explore. Silo based approaches for social will evolve into socializing business strategy itself – a horizontal approach (and team) that looks at business objectives more clearly, and encompasses everything from CRM to ORM and beyond. These teams will also be equipped to handle everything from new social platforms to how social integrates/manifests on more advanced devices to technologies from AR to Big Data. Not all of this would happen in a jiffy, and there would be challenges aplenty – right from setting objectives to harnessing various skill sets to getting buy-ins from various verticals that social would interact with and affect. Social Business is most likely this year’s gamification in terms of buzz and random usage, but while that sorts itself, businesses would at least need to start seeing social as a strategy, one that can actually provide competitive advantage.

3. Brand Voice: Speaking of competitive advantage, brands will figure out that they need to craft a voice and tonality that can resonate on social platforms as well. Many of the large brands we see now have grown up on media that never talked back, and hence adopt a  traditional media approach to communication on social as well – swinging between being apathetic and being servile. An identity and voice that can withstand the rigours of increasing conversations across platforms needs to start getting built. There might be multiple renditions of the voice as well – adapted to contexts, audiences, intent and so on, and brands will thus need to learn cohesion in narratives. A new approach to storytelling that spans media, understands popular culture and involves consumers better is the brand imperative.

Update: Very heartening when people I respect – Dina, Gautam Ghosh, Prem think all of this makes sense! Mighty pleased and grinning away! :)

until next time, #makeittrend 😉

Stated Obsession

A defining purpose, or rather, the lack of it, is something that has been gnawing at me for a while now. One can go about the daily motions of life without defining a purpose, and it need not affect professional objectives or progress. In fact life must, and will go on without a purpose, but once the gnawing begins, it is difficult to rid of. It might be the result of something that I am often accused of – extra doses of analysis – self and otherwise. :)

A friend-in-law (coined to refer to the spouse of a friend :D) recently got probably one of the biggest highs possible in his domain – a result, I am sure, of the hard work he put in, and his unwavering belief in the self. The hard earned outcome of a well stated purpose and well directed passion. May he have many more.

One of my favourite Malayalam movies in recent times (actually in the all-time list as well) is Ustad Hotel, about a young man and his choices – two paths and their implications symbolised by his father and grandfather respectively. The game changer in the movie is inspired by Narayanan Krishnan. (do read if you are not familiar with the name) In real life, Narayanan Krishnan has defined his purpose, and bravely soldiers on, helping those who have no one else to help them.

Completely different scenarios, with completely different motivations, but linked by the presence of a purpose. I can cite excuses – primarily the business of living and an interest in way too many things to devote myself completely to one – but I know those are just excuses. I am still searching for the reason – the inability to find something that defines me or the inability to devote myself to pursuing it, or just sheer lack of guts. My only hope is that I have some time left, but the clock is ticking.

until next time, a gnawing tick