Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best posts of 2011

A total of 179 posts were published in 2011, averaging  15 per month, highest during 6 years of this blog

This post lists best blog posts from this blog, published during 2011.

Most Commented

Dancing peacock, Karanji Kere, Mysore (23 comments)
Travelogues, Moderated by Govt (23 comments)
Buying vs Renting a car (20 comments)
Srilankan trip FAQs (20 comments)
Tata Grande meet in Chennai (20 comments)
Bengaluru Photowalk pics (18 comments)

Most Viewed
peacock-tail-spreadout-dancingAMET Cruise package-Kochi (5040 views)
Customer feedback- Aircel postpaid, Chennai (1620 views)
Commuting to work by Cycle-Pros and cons (1501+ views)
Valparaiso City views  (1360 views)
Royal Enfield Bullet- Factory visit (1335 visits)

Dancing peacock, Karanji Kere, Mysore (1230 views)
Puri Jagannath Temple replica, ECR (1270 views)
Srilankan trip FAQs (1150 views)
Tajmahal Replica in Chennai (1070 views)
New Tata Aria test drive review (1050 views)

Author’s favorites
Apart from those listed above, below are few of my personal picks from the posts published in 2011
Promoting Electric vehicles-what needs to be done
Self Organized vs package tours
Lessons from Prison break serial
Murudeshwara-Lord Shiva temple
Paid Blogging and tweeting- a thought
My highschool projects

Social Media experts- to hire or not to hire
Sigandur Ferry ride
Be kind to bus drivers

Key Product Reviews: 
Panasonic Lumix FT3 digicam * Panasonic Toughbook * Bajaj Discover 110* Blackberry Curve 8520

Key Service Reviews:
Hoysala Village Resort, Hasana *  Aircel postpaid, Chennai   * Ramboda Falls Hotel, SL * SpeakAsia MLM * Air Asia Malaysia * ICICI Bank * Touristic-Santiago * Woodbriar Monica bungalow, Valparai * Hotel Grand seasons, KL * DirtMania QuadBike * JLR River Tern, Badra Dam *

Book Review: Topgear magazine * Comical Saga * Fate, Fraud and Friday Wedding *
Other Reviews: I am Number 4 *

Refer to 2011 Round up for travelogues

Also read: Best of 2010 * Best of Jan-April 2011 *

Bangalore classic scooters' club meet

2 weeks ago went to Kabban (Cubbon?) park in Bengaluru area where a meet up of classic scooters was organized. Owners who owned vintage and no so obsolete Bajaj scooters brought their scooters neatly parked outside the central library.

Managed to take some pics of the same.
Couple of birds flying off the red building in the background would have been nice, but sadly the birds didn't cooperate.

 A helmet was centre of attraction. Looked exactly like those seen in german war movies
Shutterbugs gathered in good numbers and clicked photos of the classic scooters, in various angles and positions and perspectives.
More scooters came in as we prepared to leave. Bangalore Classic Scooters Club is active on facebook and keeps organizing such meets. Do join next time if it interests you.

It was the same place where I had talked to TV9 during Tata Nano Superdrive in 2010. Photo by Prashant, More details here

View some more vintage bike pics in this post

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why I didn’t take up blogging full time?

Entrepreneurship, running a startup or freelancing are the new in-thing and several youngsters are taking this path, ditching otherwise sought after corporate careers. Many of them are lured by the huge potential of being independent and the opportunity to follow one’s passion.

In the space of blogging, many bloggers have said good bye to their salaried jobs and have taken blogging full time. They review products/services, attend  events, undertake paid blogging, earn from advertising and are able to happily make a living off blogging.

Many people asked me why I am not taking up blogging full time. I had that thought couple of times, but the downside of it forced me against it. Here’re some reason why I didn’t consider taking up blogging full time.

·         Blogging has its value as long as it is treated at par with journalism. When companies invite journalists for an event, journalists are not paid to cover the event. (Company may take care of Journalist’s travel & stay expenses, may give some gifts etc, but no hard cash is given). This way journalist and his/editor will have the liberty to write a fair story. When cash is paid, there’ll be an expectation for an all positive and overhyped publicity, which will not be in the interest of readers. Similarly when a blogger is free to write as per his/her thoughts, readers will appreciate it. When it becomes paid, content will be highly favorable to the sponsor, hence readers’ interest will be compromised. Unlike journalists who work for a magazine/media house and get paid by their employer and not those who invite them for events, full time bloggers may need some money to cover their expenses and time. But after paying money will the sponsoring company let the blogger write freely? In most of the cases expectation will be very high and blog post will sound like an advertisement.

·         When one blogs for money, lot of obligations come with it. When I attend an event or review a product without financial angle to it, I will be free to write about my experience. When money come in to play, organizers will be demanding a lot. Writing all positive note just to please the sponsor spoils the fun of blogging and readers will soon lose interest in the blog. Companies do not like to see even a single negative comment, they may not like you writing about competition, be available at their beck and call.. All these are not in right spirit of blogging.

·         Art of Negotiating: There’s no fixed financial terms in Social Media. It all depends on your bargaining power and value of your work as perceived by those who are willing to pay. Effort spent in negotiating, invoicing and dealing with such after effects may not be worth it

·         Can you do it for free: Bloggers get lot of invites to attend events. If I say “you need to cover my travel and stay expenses”, some of them back out, while others try to convey “Allowing you to attend this event for free is the opportunity you’re getting, so don’t ask for more”. If additional payments are to be sought on top of travel and stay expenses, the number would come further. To make a living out of it would mean one has to sell himself to organizers, follow up on payments, meet their expectations and so on. All these will dilute the primary focus- the blog

·         No blog reader likes to be flooded with marketing materials.

·         When you rely on your blog for a living, there’ll be constant pressure to increase reader base, page views, links, comments and so on. My belief is that a blogger should focus on quality content and rest would follow suit. But not all will have the patience to grow their blog organically over a period of time. Then there are uncertainty- will blogging survive for another 3-4 years? What if blogging dies a death like Orkut? What are the backup plans? Call yourself as a social media expert and offer consultancy on increasing fans on facebook pages? Go back to corporate life?

As of now I am happy to continue with my full time job and pursue blogging as a hobby in the free time. I might miss some opportunities because of this, but it is fine.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Year 2011 posts- Roundup

2011 is nearing an end. A quick recap of the year that is about to end.

2011 was the first year when I traveled outside India. Luckily ended up with 3 international trips- a 2 day Srilanka trip with a total expense of under 10k per person, a 1 week work related trip to Chile and another 2 day budget trip to Malaysia.

Read all Srilankan Posts, Chile posts and Malaysian posts

Unlike 2010, this year I took only 1 domestic flight- to Mumbai to attend Panasonic Bloggers meet. Hardly any domestic travel.

Longest trip of the year was the Tata Aria drive. Had planned a week long trip during Deepavali and the Tatas gave me an Aria for the same date. Drove it for about 10 days, covering Chennai, Bengaluru, Hasan (Shettihalli Church), Halebeedu, Chikmangaloor (Mullayyana Giri), Shimoga, Kalhatti Falls, Kemmannu Gundi, Jog Falls, Keladi, Ikkeri, Sigandur, Agumbe, Kundadri, Maravanthe, Ottinene, Murudeshwara, Nagara Fort and so on.

Couple of short trips included one to Valparai (TN), one to Hasan (Hoysala Village Resort), Mysore.

Events attended:
Indiblogger tata Grande meet * Panasonic Bloggers Meet * Hoysala village resort Bloggers Trip * Techsparks * CII event on entrepreneurship * Tour of Nilgiris 2011 *
Did miss couple of opportunities to join few events as blogger. These events were few weeks to a month long in duration and getting so much leave was not a viable option. Buying DSLR didn't happen in 2011... Will make it happen next year.

Blog stats and updates's Google page rank came down to 3 from 4. I guess there're so many new websites and my relative rank has gone down. Indiblogger Rank remains at 87, traffic stable at around 700+ visitors a day and 45000 pageviews a month. Total post count has crossed 750. Numbers apart, good to see the concept of blogs survive despite the onslaught of facebook and twitter.

Few email subscribers have unsubscribed- I believe the the concept of RSS feed and subscribing to feed is getting redundant as everyone prefers it on facebook. Hardly any media presence this year, except for a tweet published in the Indian Express and an international magazine publishing my Nano Superdrive pics. Should write more articles for mainstream media next year.

Life is fine at work and home. As a policy I don't write much about professional personal life in my blog. Few mistakes, lots of learning and indulging this year. More should be lined up next year. Let us see.

Vehicles driven in 2011:
Tata Aria, 10 days, 2888 kms
Tata Venture, 2 days, about 150 kms
Mahindra Scorpio Vls- 1 day, some 300kms
Maruti Swift Dzire VDi- 2 days, 400kms
Tata Grande- 1 hour, 20 kms
Maruti WagonR- about 100+kms

New year wishes to all my readers.

If you have been following my blog in 2011, what is the best and worst post this year according to you?

Read best of 2011 posts here

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tata Venture GX photoshoot

Post No. 750 on this blog...

Similar to Aria, got the recently introduced Venture GX mini van from Tata Motors.  Venture is an 8 seater mini van (5 seater config also available) with a fairly adequate diesel engine and stylish looks. Venture is more powerful and stylish than the Magic and aims to win over the customers of Omni and Eeco. More about the comparison later.

Sharing some photos of the vehicle here. It had a temporary registration and came with a condition that I shouldn't take it outside 70km radius from city. So had to confine my drive and photoshoot to few scenic and vehicle friendly places inside Chennai city.

Venture under nice yellow flowers.. somewhere off ECR
Venture with hi-jack bus. Hijack bus lets you go for a joy ride for about 600-800 Rs (veg and non veg) for a short drive on ECR with dinner
How Venture looks when parked next to a Volvo Multi axle?
 Under light house
 Under Indian Flag
Sunrise time
 Under a lamp-post
 Tata Venture GX ready to take on the light house, face to face... Appears as tall as light house and ready for a fight..

Venture photoshoot: set 2 * Venture vs Eeco and Omni *  Venture test drive and review *

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tour of Nilgiris 2011 launch event

With the invitation from organizers, I got an opportunity to join BSA Tour of Nilgiris on its first two days.

Last friday morning went to Bengaluru, to join the team. Manekshaw Parade group was the launch site for the event and when I went there before dawn, preparations had just begun. I went for a walk around Chinnaswamy stadium and Shivaji nagar area and came back with couple of kannada newspapers. Vijaya Karnataka had a detailed story on Ride a cycle foundation which has organized Tour of Nilgiris event.

Ride a  Cycle Foundation (RAC-F) has been conducting this event for the 4th year now and first 3 editions were great success. Tour of Nilgiries is an 8 day cycling event, but RAC-F folks work all through the year to make it a success. RAC-F is undertaking other initiatives like separate parking lot for cycles, cycle rentals, eco awareness and more. More about the TFN 2011 backend work in a separate post.

Riders were pouring in with their cycles, each costing anywhere between 15k to few lakhs. Many were racing cycles with razor thin tyres, made as light weight as possible.
Above: Energetic riders all set for the event.

I happened to meet Anita Bora at the event. (She was part of Club mahindra bloggers trip in 2008 and had come to see a friend off). Interacted with few other riders-few were participating in TFN for the first time, others were part of it last year. I had missed the briefing session on the previous day.

Below: Sridar P of Ride A Cycle Foundation talking to media
Invited guests for the launch included Minister Suresh Kumar, Dr H Sudarshan, few senior Army officials and RAC-F founding members and not to forget the sponsoring company-BSA's officials.
Minister Suresh Kumar spoke about an incident how he traveled 600 kms in 4 days all the way to Kanyakumari without all these sponsors, without all these launch events, without any high end cycles...

Dr H Sudharshan spoke next. While advising a safe ride to participants, he urged the minister to plan for cycle lane in Bengaluru city.
Above: MG Road metro station
Below: Sunrise with Utility Building in background
Post event, the minister explored Montra cycles on display, lifted one to find out how light it is. How much does it cost? He asked. Montra ranges from Rs 20000 to Rs 80000- replied BSA officials
Lot of Army personnel attend the event. Army jeeps escorted the riders till end of city limits.

Read more: TFN2011's youngest rider * Innovative Helmet * TFN 2010

Innovative helmet with rear view mirror

During Tour of Nilgiris 201,one of the riders had an interesting helmet. It had a rear view camera mounted on it. Apparently it is more convenient and effective than a handle mounted rear view mirror.

Other innovations: Upadhya's innovative tender coconut opener * Innovative fix for punctured tyre* 10 innovations on my wishlist *

Monday, December 19, 2011

Highway Accident-Witness Account

Fortunately I haven’t witnessed many accidents in life. Recently got to witness the aftermath of one and here’s a brief account of the same.

On Day 2 of Tour of Nilgiris, we were at a support station near Hole Narasi Pura (A support station is where riders can relax, refresh and take basic medical/mechanical help before they proceed). Most of the riders had crossed the support station support staff were in relaxed mood and we were waiting for the rest. A lady was performing winnowing (technique of separating food grain and its leaves/enclosure, using the power of wind) on the highway and vehicles were zipping around on the state highway. We tested the BSA Montra, took some group pics and were preparing for packup (of refreshment materials)

The Accident
Suddenly something happened and we looked at the direction from where the sound came from. A group had formed on the road and apparently there has been an accident. A speeding biker had collided with a cow that was crossing the road and was lying on the road trying to recover. TFN support team had first aid kit and we rushed to his rescue. His arm was bleeding and bent, leg had minor injuries.

I consciously didn’t click the image of his injured hand and clicked only after the hand was covered in bandage. He was wearing a helmet, which saved his head from any possible injuries. A call was made to 108 ambulance. The rider was able to recover from his shock and utter a few words. He was from a nearby village. Someone took his mobile and called his friends. Few others took responsibility of ensuring smooth vehicle movement and also ask people to go back so that victim can get fresh air.
He was slowly taken to the road side and was given Tropicana guava juice. Someone who were passing by in a car offered to take him to hospital, as Ambulance hasn’t arrived yet. But others recommended waiting for ambulance as improper posture can damage the bones further. Stretcher is the best option. Surprisingly the 108 ambulance arrived within next few minutes. The rider and his friend were made to sit in the ambulance and dispatched to nearby hospital.

His bike with its mangled front end was moved to the roadside. Most of the headlight, speedo console and front facia is gone. Despite having best of the safety feature such as disc brakes, the rider couldn’t stop it in time to avert a collision.
Once the rider is sent away in the ambulance, everyone’s attention turned towards the cow, which had decided to cross the road and came in the way of speeding biker. It stood there frightened, watching all the drama unfolding on the road. The cow had its share of injuries-minor drops of blood oozing from its legs, couple of bruises on the body. Nothing critical. Someone told that cow had rolled twice on the road after the impact. It stood there with fear. It didn’t retaliate or run away when we went near, but we were afraid to go too close. Someone sprayed a bit of painkiller on the wound, while others suggested it is a bad idea as painkiller had alcohonic elements and the wound is minimal and will heal naturally in few days. Cow’s owner came and walked it away slowly. I patted it a bit.

So whose fault was it? The bikers? For speeding? If he is expected to crawl at 40kmph then what is the point of having highway? His bike had good brakes but he couldn’t stop in time. May be the cow moved too quickly or the rider had his focus diluted because of his earphone- was he speaking to someone or listening to music? I don’t know. I guess not being able to predict the unpredictable was an error, but there’s only so much one can predict and be prepared for.

Is it cow’s fault? Before the road was built it used to move around freely. Now that a highway is passing through its village, it is expected to risk its life while crossing the road. Is it fair?

What is the solution? Raise barricade all along the highway? Then villagers will have to walk several miles just to cross the road- they’d prefer jumping over the barricade instead.

Build lot of speedbreakers and ask drivers to go dead slow? They why build highway and collect toll?

I think sensible driving is the best solution. Good drivers just drive. What are your thoughts?

Similar: KSRTC bus accident * Predict trajectory

Fish cross breeding as a hobby

Rishi Goyal is just 14 years old, but is no ordinary kid. He is the youngest rider in the ongoing Tour of Nilgiris (TFN2011). He hails from Ahmedabad, where he studies in Class 9. He has several achievements to his credit such as climbing Mount Abu, 

When I struck a quick conversation with him, I casually asked what are his hobbies. I was expecting answers like Cricket, but what he said surprised me. He said he cross breeds fishes. When he breeds two fishes of different colours, child fishes will be of a new colour combination. Having an aquarium at home is one thing, learning more about fishes and cross-breeding them is another. Here’s wishing all the success for Rishi Goyal.

Some more details about this little champ is covered by TFN official blogger, Prashanth