Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Paid tweeting and blogging- some thoughts

Last Friday, couple of people I know got featured in the cover page of Economic Times, because they made a living out of tweeting and blogging. Subsequently there were some debates and discussions in twitter and blogs as to how ethical it is for someone to blog/tweet for financial gains. This post shares some of my thoughts in this regard.

Disclaimer: personal opinion only. Neither binding on anyone and nor intended to criticize anyone. Use your judgment and discretion.

Is it fair/ethical to blog/tweet for money? There’s no right answer for this and most suitable answer is, its best left to an individual’s discretion. If someone has decided to make a living purely out of social media, and is successful at it, then we should applaud them for their entrepreneurial initiatives. They took a bold step to abandon regular job, in quest of their passion and have been successful at it. Irrespective of what others think, if they are making money and are happy at it, others have no right to criticize them. Best one can do is unfollow or ignore these individuals, if one is not happy with the way they're making money/publishing paid contents.

Having said that, if you happen to be one of the follower/reader of such individuals, would you like to read their contents paid for by a corporate? Straight answer might be No. But relevant question will be this- Will you continue to follow/read them despite occasional paid contents? This is what determines if an individual can continue to tweet/blog for money. Obviously they know that readers/followers don’t like paid content. But then, readers/followers won’t pay to read quality content. When there’re opportunities to make some money, the temptation of money supersedes fear of losing followers. More professional tweeters would have figured out ways of promoting brands without raising suspicion among followers.

Attempting to enforce a blanket ban on sponsored content on social media will not work. So I propose following checks to determine if one should continue reading/following a person known for pushing paid content. If you're doing paid tweets and blogging, you can use these checks to find a balance and determine when to stop.

1.       Frequency of paid content (tweet, blog post)- May be one or two out of 10 is acceptable. 4-5 can be the limit and if 8 out of 10 posts are written purely to please a brand, then such bloggers/tweeps are better ignored.
2.       Paid vs Sponsored content- paid posts/tweets involve direct cash- take this much money and publish this- similar to advertisement in a newspaper. The other one is where brands allow bloggers/tweeps to experience their product/service, in expectation that these people tell others about the product/service. Inviting bloggers/tweeps for an event, giving them review units etc are done with this intention. While in case of most of the paid posts cases content will be dictated by those who pay, in case of sponsored posts/tweeps bloggers willingly write about the product/service they got to experience. Usually there’s no specific mandate for bloggers to write all positive content and bloggers write about what they saw/felt/experienced, this one bears little more credibility than a post which is written purely for money. This approach is akin to having a press conference and then expecting journalists to cover it in newspapers next day.
3.       Relevance of paid content. If the content is of relevance/use to most of the readers/followers, even if it is paid it might still be accepted by readers. For example, when a new product is launched and not many people know about it, even paid posts can generate some interest, on a blog which usually deals with subjects around the said product. But when a blogger who used to write poems all the time suddenly reviews a tablet and praises it all the way, without owning or experiencing one, don’t think this will go on well
4.       Level of honesty in the post. Is the blogger clearly stating the positive and negative sides of the product/service/brand? If he only praises it, ignoring or suppressing negative aspects, readers will be smart enough to know. Eventually the credibility of the blogger/twitter user will go down.
5.       Over-emphasizing:  A brand may be offering 10% discount, which is common practice in marketing. At the max this deserves one line mention in the post. If a blogger blows this up to cover entire post and projects this as if it is a lifetime opportunity, then something is not all right.
6.       Disclaimer: Are there any direct statements that the content is paid/sponsored?
7.       How readers are responding? If regular posts get 7-10 comments on an average while paid post gets less than 2-3 comments, then blogger should understand that his readers are not endorsing the paid posts. Same can be said in twitter w.r.t. retweets/replies.
8. Value add: Is there any value add in the post the blogger is bringing in or is he/she re-publishing same info available everywhere else? Giving some tips on how to use certain features, detailing salient features not that well known or other value added info can help differentiate the content from rest.

Readers/followers/fans are assets for those in the field of social media. Typically number of follower base is used to assess one’s popularity/influence level. Monetization is important, but it should be done without compromising core values and turning off regular readers/followers. Integrity shouldn't be lost while promoting brands. Successful social media expert will be one who manages to strike this balance and grows on both sides- revenue and readership/follower count.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Revisiting Ramanagara, Bengaluru

We revisited Ramanagara in July. Last time I was there during 2009, for a rock climbing expedition. Details here.

That time we'd trekked all the way, this time we just used steps. Nothing much has changed, except that my cousin showed us something new- steps carved out on the giant rock located behind the temple, climbing which one can reach the top to get much better view. Not sure if these existed back in 2009

Nothing much to write, just sharing a few photos

On top of the rock lies a small waterbody, which had a blue coloured insect as shown above.

Nearby: Pyramid Valley * Big Banyan Tree * Manchinabele Dam *

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lessons from Prison Break serial

Happened to watch 4 seasons of prison break. Good serial-some 70+ episodes, story of how a structural engineer gets into prison to break out his brother, who was framed by a mafia outfit called the company. Besides being entertaining, serial teaches us several tactical info we should be aware of, to prevent possible troubles from bad guys.

It was overall entertaining,  but in 4th season I felt it was unnecessarily being dragged. Also it didn't give me answer to one key factor. If I was to be on the run always, my primary concern would be day to day food supplies. Through out the serial food was never a concern and it wasn't certain how these convicts on the run fed themselves without being caught. (while buying or otherwise)

These are the lessons to be learnt from Prison break

Your family can be your weak point. If you’re planning serious missions, move your family to a safe place. Train them on basic life saving skills, surveillance techniques and how to avoid being snooped or traced while communicating. Capturing family members will be the easiest thing for your enemies to do in order to extract information. Better not to share certain sensitive information for them, because they may part with the information under pressure.

Understand that most of the communication and transactions can be traced. Do not wire transfer money to your loved ones, do not communicate over listed phone numbers. Do not make credit card purchases. All these can be easily traced.

If you have a gun and your enemy in front of you, just shoot.  Even after you shoot, ensure that they’re fully dead and take away things like phones and weapons from them. The Prison break serial would have had a lot less episodes if the key characters were shot when there was an opportunity. If you let your enemy lose with some warning or otherwise, he will come back to haunt you later.

If you’re building a prison, do watch this serial to make it Scofield Proof.

Do not lose hope. If your arm is cut, it can be rejoined, if you manage to find a doctor and go to him with your arm in a cold storage. If someone says somebody is dead, it needn’t be. Confirm it

There’s nothing called permanent friends or permanent enemies. When situation changes, your friend can turn into your enemy and enemy into friend. Stay alert.

Just because someone points a gun at you, doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself. Look for opportunities.

If you’ve tied someone to a chair or a pole or something, periodically check if the knot/seal is intact. The person might be trying to break himself/herself free by scratching the seal or some other means.

If you’re transporting an enemy, ensure that he is properly tied and there’s no chance of he/she getting his/her hands on something with which he/she can break free.

Keep some record/evidence to the conversations. Can come handy if someone is trying to frame you.

When someone says “Do this for us and we’ll let you go free”, they may have every intention of killing you once their purpose is served. Plan your defense.

Objectives that can’t be achieved by using force, can be achieved by smart planning.

Each team member may have is personal objectives and agenda. Keep an eye on them. They might be forced to betray under the threat or temptation

One small mistake by a member of the team can jeopardize the whole plan. One simple phone call to family or dropping something behind or wasting time etc can make all the difference between success and failure.

If you're planning to escape, DO NOT BUY one way ticket. Buy two way ticket, even if it means few extra dollars. One way tickets instantly give away your intentions. If you're planning to take someone with you and kill them at the destination, do book return ticket for that person also.
Doors are not the only way to enter a building. There're air ducts, lifts,windows...

Learn to observe things and keep looking for odds. A bible salesman wearing expensive ring, a commando wearing shoes that is not part of his uniform should hint you something is wrong. Don't do these mistakes when faking things.

Wipe off your fingerprints before leaving rooms you searched.

If you want more, watch the serial.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Panasonic Experience Centre, Mumbai

On invitation from Panasonic, I made a quick visit to Mumbai last week, to visit Panasonic’s Experience Centre in Andheri West.
Our drive to Andheri west from Airport took us through several narrow lanes of Mumbai and I started wondering why Panasonic chose this location to set up their centre, as visitors may lose their high spirits by the time they reach the venue. Only later I learnt that the location has been strategically selected by Panasonic, because YeshRaj Studios was located closeby, besides a movie complex, Mercedes Benz and BMW facilities. Proximity to these business customers seemed to be primary reason for selection of venue.

We were about 10 invited bloggers, mostly tech bloggers, who were flown in from all parts of India. Mr Yoshihika Otomo, Sr. Manager, System Sales Division gave us an overview of the centre
Innovative Panasonic products

At present, Panasonic has world’s largest Plasma TV- all of 152 inches, featuring full HD and 3D, (cost not known. A 65 inch TV can cost about 3.5 lakhs+ INR, you can guess proportionate cost of 152 inch). (If only it came with a big room in which I can keep it, I would have bought one right away.) We saw bits of 3D movie in it and the experience was theater like. Mr Yoshihika Otomo, explained us that while viewing 3D, one should sit in front rows, closer to screen as possible for best experience. It is possible to toggle the TV between 3D and 2D.
Panasonic notebooks are not that known in the market. However Panasonic has several industrial grade notebooks, called toughbooks. These are heavy duty, dust proof, shockproof equipments costing 2-3 times regular notebooks. Army and industrial users are target for toughbook series. (Dell had a similar looking XPS range long back and Lenovo of late is advertising the toughness of its thinkpad series)

Panasonic has several equipments for audio video industry- recent one in its offerings is a camera which has 2 lens. With two lenses, it can instantly capture 3D (traditionally 3D is shot in 2 cameras and then merged). We experimented with it a bit and was nice. See the images below- of the camera and 3D videography
The concept of multiple split AC s is nice. You can have several split AC indoor units (of different sizes as needed for each room) and one common outdoor unit for all ACs put together.
Panasonic is not much known in Indian consumer electronics market, except for its plasma TVs and lumix cameras to some extent. But globally Panasonic is about 80 billion dollar, Fortune 100 company. We’re all familiar with Anchor, the makers of electrical equipments. Anchor brand is owned by Panasonic. Besides consumer electronics, Panasonic has products for various industries and office automation-security systems, handheld devices, video conferencing devices, education solutions, power solutions and so on. It will be relatively irrelevant for my readers and will sound too commercial if I elaborate on them. Refer to Panasonic website for details, if interested.

Sanyo was a company founded by brother in law of the person who founded Panasonic in 1918. Panasonic acquired Sanyo recently. Of late Panasonic is also into beauty care products, which I’m not sure if displayed in Experience centre. National Panasonic kitchen appliances are manufactured in a plant near Chennai.

Panasonic supplies lot of electronic components to BMW, Merc and other auto companies. Company officials didn’t elaborate on this due to confidentiality.
Panasonic is setting up a factory in Haryana and expect Panasonic to launch washing machines soon.

Though India has no tough norms w.r.t electronic products recycling, Panasonic products meet European standards for recycling.
About 10 years ago, Electrolux India CEO was reportedly quoted as saying “We can’t give same warranty period in India as we give elsewhere, because our goods suffer greater damage due to poor road and infrastructure” I asked if this is still valid. Panasonic officials stressed on the importance they give to packaging and destruction testings.

We were told Plasma TVs have a half life of 60000 hours (that is, if used for 12 hours a day, 13 years before the screen performance starts deteriorating). At entry level plasma TVs are expensive, but once crossing 46 inches, cost of a plasma TVs is at par or cheaper than similar sized LED/LCD TVs

If you ask for price of any product in innovation centre, you’ll be redirected to nearest showroom, since Experience Centre is not a sales shop.

Panasonic Newsroom website has more updated details on Panasonic Product range.

It was a short trip but informative.
Read my reviews of Panasonic products: Lumix FT3 digicam * Toughbook * Camcorder *

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Amet cruises package rates, ex-Kochi

June 2014 update: Looks like Amet has shut shop. They don't seem to be operational in Chennai or Cochin. Reasons not known, but probably because of poor patronage.

-----------------Original post --------------------------
For past few weeks I’ve been noticing extensive ads by AMET Cruises. There’re not many cruises operating from Indian shores and cruise holidays are very uncommon for Indian middle class families. Just out of curiosity, I was keen to check out AMET Cruises prices, to determine if it is affordable.

AMET MAJESTY cruise advertisements never mentioned rates/costs anywhere, so calling the numbers given in the ad was only option to figure out how much these cruises cost. I called one of those numbers, spoke to a rep and collected some details. Sharing those details below, for the benefit of other internet users who might be searching for cost of a cruise holiday from India.
I am not advocating/promoting the cruise. This post only intends to provide basic information and save you some phone call expense. Information below is as obtained from the AMET official, at the time of our conversation. Prices and other information are subject to change w.r.t time.

AMET Cruises currently operates from Kochi (Cochin) in Kerala only. Amet is likely to commence operations from Chennai port from Feb 2012 onwards.

How much AMET MAJESTRY cruise packages cost?
I was told AMET has a flat per night rate card.  There’re various types of rooms and rate varies w.r.t same. The cheapest room costs Rs 6500 per person per night and most expensive one costs Rs 13000 per person per night. Hence for a 2 day cruise, for 2 people, your cost will be ranging from 6400*2*2=26k to 52k, depending on type of room you select and subject to availability. Taxes included

Type of rooms available in AMET Majesty:
Inside state room: Cheapest one, Rs 6500 per person per night- No ocean view
Outside state room: Has a small window with ocean view
Ocean room: Slightly more spacious and has bigger window with ocean view, costs about INR 95000 per person per night
Premium inside : No ocean view, but larger room with premium interiors
Junior Suite:
Spa Attached Cabin: Has a spa space within cabin

Children from 5-15 years pay 50% of adult charges
Children below 5 years pay Rs 1500 port charges

For group booking: 30+  people, 10% discount


From Kochi, AMET Cruises has following packages

Package One: Kochi-Maldives-Kochi: 4 nights: INR 26k to 52k per person (for 4 nights, depending on type of room)
Departure every Tuesday and return on Saturday. Only 1 day at the Maldives island, local travel costs extra. For Indian passport holders visa on arrival.

Kochi- High seas- Go deep into Arabian sea in Kochi and come back (One night)
Every Saturday evening to Sunday morning. I wish the departure was couple of hours earlier, so that ship reaches high sea before sun sets. If ship is leaving by 6 or 7pm, the sun would have set by then.

Kochi-Lakshadweep-Kochi: 2 nights
Departure Sunday, Return on Tuesday

Note: All packages will start from October. Bookings open, travel to Cochin at your own expense.

Possible Negative factors:
The above schedule appears very tight and I wonder when will AMET get to do maintenance activities on the ship. The ship will leave on Tuesday to Maldives, return on Saturday, go back to high sea on Saturday, return on Sunday, leave for Lakshadweep on Sunday and return by Tuesday, leave again to Maldives. I hope few hours of gap between the trips is adequate for maintenance activities.

There were couple of comments on internet that the ship is 35 years old. If true, hope it is still sea worthy and has necessary clearances and safety approvals.

At about 26k per person, Kochi-Maldives cruise is nearly twice as expensive compared to air travel. (In cheapest mode of cruise, without sea view). If exploring Maldives is your primary objective, makes more sense to fly.

Cruise to Srilanka (Colomba) from Tuticorin had commenced about 2 months ago, but is said to have lukewarm response. 2 reasons: Cruise fares are almost same as Chennai-Colombo or Kochin-Colombo flight charges, if you consider expense of reaching Tuticorin from your city. Second being time factor- unless you’re keen on experiencing sea travel, time and effort spent on this is not worth it.

AMET's 6.5k per night is twice what Tuticorin-Colombo ferry costs. Hope there's some value add for this price difference (may be better cabin, services etc)

Swimming pool picture, below, looks like an oversize bathtub. Not sure how practical it will be.

Images from AMET website: (Update: Website is inactive now)
Despite cost and convenience factors, one should experience cruise once. Let me see when the time comes right for me. If the concept picks up in India may be more and more operators will come in and cost will come down.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Poem on Kannada actor Darshan Toogudeepa

Lot of bad people are getting arrested of late and that is a good sign. Latest to the series of high profile arrests and jail visits is the case of Kannada film actor Darshan, who is accused of beating his wife and threatening her. I received a nice poem on this topic, by a reader named Ramapriya. Read original comment here

I don’t usually publish comments as post. This is one of the exceptions. I figured out that the reader has no blog of his/her own and thought of giving some visibility to the poem. This is a kannada poem and non kannada readers please excuse.

Poem by Ramapriya

ದರ್ಶನ್ - "ಚೆಲ್ಲಂಜೆ " ಹೀರೋ

ಎಲ್ಲಿಂದಲೋ ಬಂದು ತೆರೆಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಮಿಂಚಿದನೂ
ನಮ್ಮ ಖಳ ನಾಯಕ ಪಾತ್ರದಾರಿ ತೂಗುದೀಪ ಶ್ರೀನಿವಾಸ್ ;

ಪರದೆಯಮೇಲೆ ಖಳ ನಾಯಕನಾಗಿಯು
ನಿಜ ಜೀವನದಲ್ಲಿ ಆದರ್ಶ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿ ಯಾಗಿಯು
ಮೆರೆದನೂ ನಮ್ಮ ಆ ತೂಗು ದೀಪ ಶ್ರೀನಿವಾಸ

ತನ್ನ ಮುದ್ದು ಕುಡಿ ದರ್ಶನ್ ನ್ನು ಬೆಲ್ಲಿತರೆಗೆ
ತಂದು ಜನಕ್ಕೆ ಹೊಸ ನಾಯಕನನ್ನು ಕೊಟ್ಟನೂ
ನಮ್ಮ ಈ ತೂಗು ದೀಪ ಶ್ರೀನಿವಾಸನು

ದಾರಿ ದೀಪವಾಗಿ ಬೆಳಕು ಚೆಲ್ಲಿ
ನಮ್ಮ ಸಿನಿಮಾ ರಂಗಕ್ಕೆ ಒಂದು
ದ್ರುವ ತಾರೆಯನ್ನು ಉಡುಗೊರೆಯಾಗಿ
ಕೊಟ್ಟರು ನಮ್ಮ ತೂಗು ದೀಪ ಶ್ರೀನಿವಾಸರು

ಮುಗ್ದ ಆಕರ್ಷಕ ನೋಟದಿಂದ ಹೆಂಗೆಲರ
ಮನ ಗೆದ್ದೂ ನಾಯಕ ನಟನಾಗಿ ಅಪಾರ
ಜನಪ್ರಿಯತೆ ಗಳಿಸಿ ದಶಕ ದ "ಚಾಲ್ಲನ್ಗೆ ಹೀರೋ"
ಎಂದು ಹೆಸರು ಗಳಿಸಿದನೂ ನಮ್ಮ ಈ ದರ್ಶನ್

ವಿಜಿಯಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಿ ಎಂಬ ಕನ್ಯೆಯನ್ನು
ಪ್ರೇತಿಸಿ ಮದುವೆಯಾಗಿ
ಸಾವಿರಾರು ಹೆಣ್ಣುಗಳ ಮನ ಒದ್ದೆದನೂ
ನಮ್ಮ ಈ ನಾಯಕ ನಟ ದರ್ಶನ್

ಮುದ್ದು ಗಂಡು ಮಗುವಿನ ತಂದೆಯಾಗಿ
ಹೆಂಡತಿ ಮಗುವಿನ ಜೊತೆ ಸುಕವಾಗಿ
ಸಂಸಾರ ಮಾಡುತಳಿದ್ದನು ಈ ನಮ್ಮ ದರ್ಶನ್

ಒಂದು ಪರ ಹೆಣ್ಣಿನ ಮಾಯಾ ಜಾಲಕ್ಕೆ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿ
ತನ್ನ ಸಂಸಾರದ ಸುಕ ಶಾಂತಿ ಯನ್ನು
ತಾನೇ ನಾಶ ಮಾಡಿ ಕೊಂಡನೋ ನಮ್ಮ ಈ ದರ್ಶನ್

ತನ್ನ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿತ್ವವನ್ನು ಮರೆತು ಪರ ಹೆಣ್ಣಿಗಾಗಿ
ಹೆಂಡತಿಯ ಮೇಲೆ ಮಾರನಾನ್ತರೆ ಹಲ್ಲೆ ಮಾಡಿ
ಕಾರಾಗೃಹಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋದನು ನಮ್ಮ ಈ
"ಚೆಲ್ಲಂಜೆ " ಹೀರೋ ದರ್ಶನ್

ದರ್ಶನ್ ರ ಈ ವರ್ತನೆ ಯನ್ನೂ
ಕಂಡಿಸುಥಿರುವರು ನಮ್ಮ ರಾಜ್ಯದ ನಾಗರಿಕರೂ
ದರ್ಶನ್ ರವರಿಗೆ ಕುಮ್ಮಕ್ಕು ಕೊದ್ದು ತಿರುವರು
ಅವರ ಅಯೋಗ್ಯ ಅಭಿಮಾನಿಗಳು
ಅದರಲ್ಲೂ ಲಳಲಾಮನಿಗಳೂ

ತಂದೆ ಖಳನಾಯಕನಾಗಿ ತೆರೆಯಮೇಲೆ
ಮಿಂಚಿ ,ತೆರೆಯಾಚೆ ನಾಯಕರಾಗಿ ಜನಗೆದ್ದರು ;
ಅವರ ಮಗ ತೆರೆಯೆ ಮೇಲೆ ನಾಯಕ ನಾಗಿ
ತೆರೆಯಾಚೆ ಕಾಳನಾಯಕ ನಾಗಿ
ಅದೇ ಜನರಿಂದ ಕಲ್ಲೇಟು ತಿಂದನು.

ಮೂರ್ಕತನದಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾರು ಸಾಟಿ ಇಲ್ಲ ಈ ನಮ್ಮ
"ಚೆಲ್ಲಂಜೆ " ಹೇಡಿ ಹೀರೋ ದರ್ಶನ್ನಿಗೆ

(corrected ಧ in original poem to ದ in ದರ್ಶನ್)

Related: Shanken but not stirred- Poem by Shrinidhi Vasudha Hande's poem in Taranga * Summer of 05

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mistakes to avoid in IT JOB Resumes

This post lists couple of recommendations w.r.t writing resumes for IT jobs. There’s no sure shot way of writing resume and however nicely written, a resume on its own can’t guarantee a job.

Still, based on personal observation, listing couple of common mistakes job seekers should avoid.

·         Too generic objective: Objective section is expected to give quick overview of a candidate’s experience/specialization and specify candidate’s expectation from new job. This should be conveyed effectively in 3-4 lines max. A half page objective section which beats around the bush is clear NO NO, as it will turn off the recruiter.

·         Not optimizing space in resume: Avoid having a resume that runs into 5 pages, but could have been fit within 3, if the tables and text were better aligned.

·         Key information such as experience, skillset and education are not available in first few pages- if these are hidden somewhere at the end, interviewers may not like it

·         Fancy Emails: At least for the purpose of job seeking, keep an email which represents your name. Fancy email IDs like coolBob1999 or Raj192002 can make you appear unprofessional

·         Separating core skills from general tasks. If you’re applying for a senior architect’s position in a specific technology, let your resume highlight your strengths in specific technology.  You may have done several other secondary tasks like conducting interviews, appraisals for your team etc. If you have proven competency in something, it is understandable that you’d have handled a team. Focusing too much on supplementary task is not good. Let the recruiter get confidence that you’re an expert in your primary specialization. Do not let other tasks dominate the resume to take the focus away from core skill.

·         Not having proper header, footer and page number. Interviewers may print your resume and may have 10 other resumes to interview. If pages do not have proper footer, page number, person handling many resumes can easily mess up and miss couple of pages of your resume. Having your name and page no in footer will help the person to correctly re-arrange your resume.

·         Ensure data integrity in your resume. For example, at any given point of time you’re not supposed to be working for two companies. If your experience says Jan 2005-Jan 2008 in company A, Dec 2007 to Dec 2010 in Company B, something is wrong.

Other tips: include only those facts which you have documentary evidence and you can talk about. One might have worked at his uncle’s factory during summer holiday, but if one tries to show it as an experience and then fails to provide evidence, it is like inviting trouble.

Business ethics: In the interview and in resume, do not give out sensitive information related to your current and past employers (such as billing rates, knowledge treated as intellectual property of the company, etc). Also do not bad mouth people.

Best wishes.

Related: Rejection Handling (Google No 1 for keyword rejection handling)  * How your blog can make or break your career * Career options in Engineering (Guest post) * Court Reporting career *

Living without “Always ON”

I have twitter, facebook, foursquare, google +. Quora and Orkut… What do you have?

I have work

I was little late to enter the “Always ON” bandwagon- of people with gadgets that keeps them connected 24x7. About one and a half year ago, I joined this group, with a blackberry and aircel blackberry plan. Then I had the world at my fingertips and was all set to conquer the world.

Initially it was fun being online always. My mails would go with a foot note “Sent from my Blackberry Smartphone”, announcing the world that I have a blackberry (however this can be customized or removed- I could have reset it to say “Sent from my iPhone” ). There’re apps available for everything, except may be for doubling your salary or buying some time when you near deadline or downloading some food to eat while hungry. Used foursquare for couple of months, became mayor of 50 odd places, eventually deleted the application, as I realized it is total waste of time.

Though applications like twitter for blackberry, facebook for blackberry, gtalk were good, my blackberry battery wouldn’t survive even half a  day if these applications are used heavily. So on a multi-day trip, ability to use these cool features depended on my ability to keep the phone charged. Being connected was useful during nano super drive and various other travel, but connectivity wasn’t as smooth as it was expected to be at all the places.

Couple of months ago, I came out of this elite group of mobile users, who are “always connected”. I now am connected only from a wired device, at home and in office. 3G was talk of the town, but several months since 3G services started, I understand it is just a little better from 2G and is nothing extra ordinary in terms of speed and excitement.

Did being always on help in me being more productive? Did it add to convenience? Did it help me save money? To some extent. (Only because of twitter I could know about a Karnataka Bandh and could change my plans on the go and visit Bekal fort and Chandragiri fort) I figured out it is possible to manage without this luxury.
  • Not even 10% of my mails had an urgency that needed immediate action/response. Almost all of them could wait for couple of days.
  • My current job doesn’t need me to be connected on the go. It is enough if I check and respond to communications during office hours or from home.
  • Having a connected device is a distraction. Takes away your precious time from higher priority tasks
  • Good amount of money was going down the drain in the name of data plan that wasn’t being utilized to the full extent.
  • While it is deemed cool to be able to upload status and photos on the go to twitter and facebook, I realized that world will go on without my updates and my friends/followers can wait for a day or two
Disadvantages of not being connected always:
  • I am feeling the inconvenience only during travel, which is not so often at present. Without a device which is connected, I miss being able to use Google Maps, tweets and email during the trips
  • Can’t live tweet during events
  • Updates I may wish to share need to wait for  a day or two
  • Sending a twitter DM or FB message was cheaper than sending an SMS or making a call
What I gained without being online 24x7
  • Able to focus more on work & hobbies, than getting distracted by a device for new updates which are neither urgent, nor important
  • Able to save few hundred every month
  • People who email won’t get angry if I don’t respond/act in few hours.
It is possible to live without the boon or bane of staying connected. I may still go back to some data plans, if found cheap and good, but for now, I am comfortable not having the world at my finder-tips.

Personal Opinion only. May change over time.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sholayar Dam, Valparai

Unlike other dams I’ve been to, Sholeyar Dam was a bit different, because of one reason. On our way to Sholeyar dam, we got to drive several kms along the water body, which is essentially the catchment area of the dam. Usually we go to dam from downstream side and get to see only dam and water coming out of it. In case of Sholayar dam, we got good idea of how vast the catchment area is. Several trees and hills which might have had independent existence earlier, now lies submerged in water.
Sholayar dam, 30 kms from Valparai town, is said to be the second deepest in Asia. Besides the dam there isn’t much of attraction here. Entry to the dam is restricted and tourists can view it only from a distance. Sharing couple of photos of the dam and catchment area.

This boat was giving nice perspective
Driving couple of kms towards Kerala takes you to a bridge that runs parallel to the dam. We took some more photos there and came back.

60kms from Sholayar Dam lies the place Athirapally falls, also known as India’s Niagra. We couldn’t go there due to short of time.

Also read: Sankara's writeup on Sholeyar Dam

Related: Banasura Dam, Wayanad * Badhra Dam *

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Borderline Drive by Harsha and Prabha Koda

Have you ever driven across the border of your country? Or any country? Are you aware of someone who has driven next to entire border of his/her country? It seems no one has ever attempted such a thing and one Chennai based couple are on their way to achieve it.

Prabha Koda and Harsha Koda, a Chennai based couple who constantly venture out on long drives in their Xylo E8, are currently pursuing what is called “The Borderline Drive” . Their plan is to drive along the Indian border- all of it- starting from Mumba- Gurarath, Rajastan, J&K, touching Pakistan, China and Nepal borders, going to north east and then driving along east cost- Kolkata, Vizag, Chennai- Kanyakumari and back to Mumbai on NH17 (now re-named). This is said to be 70-90 days plan and being done at a cost of several lakhs (7+ I guess), partly funded by sponsors and rest by their personal savings.

Since Harsha and Prabha were based in Chennai, they could have started the drive from Chennai and end it here, but I guess that would have delayed the trip by few days and they can’t make it to Jammu and Kashmir before certain roads close for the season. Also Mumbai is where most of the media and sponsors are, hence makes sense to flag off from there.

I’ve come across couple of drives which are long enough to cover several thousand kms- The Ford Figo Discover smart drive which was from Chandigarh to Chennai, Tata Nano superdrive which covered most of India, but in 3 different teams (I was part of one), Events like Royal Enfield Rider Mania, Mahindra Great Escape serve specific objectives. There’re many other events which span across few thousand kms and automobile enthusiasts do go on long drives, but all of these appear too simple, compared to the idea of driving across the entire Indian border.

Harsha and Prabha Koda’s drive is a non commercial initiative, driven by their passion for driving and funded by personal savings and some sponsorships. They are supporting a new cause: India's first stem cell plant at Jeevan. You might wish to spend some time understanding what a stem cell bank is.

I wish the couple all the best in this initiative. They are looking for support, in cash or in kind. If you know someone who can sponsor this venture, in parts or in full, do introduce them to the Koda couple. Or if you can give some visibility to the event- offline or online, pls do. If you wish to join them in the long drive- in parts if not completely, you can contact them. At their own discretion they can take you along.

I am curious to know how many thousand they will spend in total in the form of toll fee, across all toll gates during their journey. During tata nano superdrive, the event team which was traveling in a yellow board rented bus spent about 1.6 lakhs in interstate permits and toll fees.

There’re many countries which are less than 200 square miles in area. May be we can go to some of these countries, drive along the border.

Photo sourced from their blog.

Related: Sandhosh Kumar climbs Everest in support of awareness against child sex abuse * Tata Nano superdrive * Ford Figo Discover Smart Drive in Bangalore * Rally for the blind * Mitsubishi Challenge * Chennai-Mysore 1300 kms drive in Skoda *

Nov 2011 Update: Reportedly Harsha and Prabha's borderline drive came to a crashing end when they met with an accident in Orissa, during the final leg of their trip. Both Harsha and Prabha are safe, but the Xylo is ruined beyond recognition.

I am sure the couple will recover from the incident and undertake more adventures in future.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Macaw and other Birds at KL tower

This post shares some photos of the birds, clicked at Menara Kuala lumpur

Macaws are nice colourful birds. At Menara KL, these trained birds are made to sit on shoulders and hands of tourists, at a cost of RM 5 (Rs 75)

When I tried taking a closer shot, the bird came charging at the camera and I got this shot, though not sharp, it is different...
A white peacock

A red bird- looks similar to cock
Another bird carrying a white feather.. Can you name it?

Similar: Birds at Bheemeshwari * Birds at Valparai * Birds near Hoysala Village Resort, Hasan * Nearby: Shettyhalli Holy Rosary Church * Birds of karanji kere, Mysore * Dancing peacocks in Mysore *