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When scale can destroy quality

I have written in past about how a services business is hard to scale. While one would lament at the non-scalable nature of the consulting business, at the same time these businesses can claim a very high premium in their services. Conversely, when a product or a service becomes 'commoditized' - it stops commanding a premium. The less 'scalable' something, the more valuable it becomes. If one could produce a million copies of Picaso's work, or every dining hall could have the Monalisa - the value of great artists or great works of art would diminish. Even if this example sounds extreme - it explains an important principle which can then explain certain other phenomena of the business world.  For example, take the culinary business - it is possible to standardise not just the process of making food but even the ingredients used in food, to build a super scalable restaurant business like McDonalds - yet the price point which a McDonalds can claim will nev

Messaging / Social Apps and their impact on deep thinking, reactionism and fake news

Those of us who were (little) early to the Internet party would find the current forwarding and fake news culture on Whatsapp / Facebook similar to what ranting & flaming on newsgroups (e-groups) used to be in the early 2000s. However, newsgroups, because their access was to a limited few, were also places where ideas were born, partnerships formed & organisations were created. But I find Whatsapp (or other forms of messaging apps like Discord or Telegram) not being so. One probable reason for this, I feel, is the lack of long-form prose which email as a medium supported and which messaging as a medium shuns. Long form writing forces you to think deeper, engage in self-correction between various coordinated (or uncoordinated) parts of your own thinking and also help the reader absorb the context and message both. To be sure, the long form thinking was not mandatory in an email, and so, there was reactionism, flaming and shaming on newsgroups as well, but that was also

Checklist for product developers to market products

Stepahnie Hurlburt, a Graphics Engineer & Entrepreneur has tweeted a very useful checklist for software developers releasing Open Source products and tools to help in their adoption. I think the checklist can be used by all product developers / marketers to improve adoption. Here goes the list, you can also read it on this Tweet Thread  here or go to Stephanie's Twitter handle here . “Why isn’t someone using my software product or open source tool? It’s good!” A checklist for you: Have you described what it is and what the benefits are in a way a non-developer can understand? If someone Googles to try to learn more about it, is this description easy to find? Is this description easily skimmable? If someone looks at it for 6 seconds can they be convinced? Do you compare your tool to other similar tools so people feel educated about pros/cons of yours? If performance matters, do you have easy-to-skim benchmarks that include comparing it to other tools? Do you

Socialism, Communism, Open Source and Browsers

I love Firefox and the Mozilla foundation - it was the beacon of innovation when Microsoft tried to kill it with repeated versions of its buggy Internet Explorer! If you were involved in software development or managing online products circa 2005-2008 , you would know the nightmare it was to develop a website compatible with IE and its myriad of versions (IE6 was especially notorious)! At that time, Firefox was our ray of hope, and I would have tried to evangelise almost every friend, family or client to ditch IE and embrace FF. With clients, however, the big problem was, Firefox was an Open Source software and the corporate world has a certain amount of scepticism towards this species of software. [Ironical because most of the largest software services in the world run on Operating Systems which are clones of Linux and most of the web's websites run on Apache - these two being probably the largest Open Source projects in the world!] Source:  Netcraft Webserver survey 2017

Personalization is against Privacy - but is it a threat to mankind's existence?

The Economist argues in this article how online services which provide for personalised services are breaching some age-old notions of privacy. Google mines the data it collects from users for two purposes. One is to improve the user experience, making its various online services more personal, useful and rewarding for the individual—and thereby increasing their popularity. The other purpose is to provide better targeted information for advertisers. That is fine for the vast majority of internet users, who are happy to trade a measure of privacy for the convenience. However, most people (though not all) stop short of blurting out more intimate details about their private lives. Even so, all those innocuous bits of self-revelation can be pieced together, jig-saw fashion, by intelligent algorithms. Throw in the digital paper-trails stashed in Google searches and Amazon purchases, and things can begin to get a little scary. The above is a foregone conclusion - we all are ignorin

Email habits, productivity tips and using GMail like a pro

I tweeted this morning about an article which proposes to help your productivity by urging you not to empty your mailbox or at least not be fussy about emptying it every day. The best advice on productivity in today's age of information overload - trying to empty ur inbox is a waste of time https://t.co/QNVXL2CyBy — Nikhil Kulkarni (@kulkarninikhil) October 21, 2016 Does the advice mean that you should procrastinate or as some one sarcastically put on my Facebook wall - "[Don't bother with replying to an email the moment you get it] If they are important enough they will be resent and sent again ...." :-) Such conclusions drawn from the article above only make the message weak. Organizing the Inbox and emptying it are two different issues. Those who don't use Inbox as a todo list might have other ways of managing to-do. The article above is meant for those who rather than organize emails and prioritize them according to their importance, choose to use

Features vs. Users

davewinerabttwtr As  @DaveWiner , tweeted about twitter's innovation stalling because it closed its API than open it, another friend of mine emailed me asking about which Social Bookmarking service I use. To put it in context, in 2008-9, I too had started to build a social bookmarking application Bloozle , which was aimed at sharing links (bookmarks) by users, tagging them (to create 'folksonomies), enable sharing and finally presenting a technology curated 'magazine' for end users to browse. What we envisaged as bloozle, is today available as a combination of Twitter / Facebook based link sharing (with #hashtags acting as tags) and Flipboard based 'curation' of those links for you to read. Long story short - this friend of mine was a part of the team for Bloozle and hence, we share the love to hate Twitter-Flipboard combo for 'stealing' away our success! :-) My friend commented (sic)- "i am just back on delicious and find it way b

Rise of the CLGI - Command Line Graphical Interface

The IT geek world is unequivocally undivided since more than a decade on the superiority of the Command Line Interface over the GUI! For the uninitiated, Command Line is the black screen, that comes up when you go to 'Start Menu' > 'Run' and Type 'cmd', which you often use to do a 'ping' or 'ipconfig'. GUI expands to Graphical User Interface, a technical name to the point-and-click interface we all use in computers today.  The geekdom has had debates  on why we haven't evolved from a purely textual entry mode into something better, a debate which always concludes accepting that Command line is a superior form of human-computer interaction . With introduction of Siri, Google Now and Cortana - while we have added voice commands also to the debate; its uses are currently limited to searching, giving pre-ordained commands like calling someone in your contacts list. For performing complex tasks such as say formatting your hard disk, ch

The future of personal computing

This post is co-authored by Hemantkumar Jain who writes on the shoOOonya Blog . Personal Computing is probably a word from the 90s, not quite apt for the post iPad era. The reason we use it though is because, this post starts with a recap of a discussion from 2006. As the news spread about Flipkart.com and its affiliate Myntra.com moving to mobile only websites - our minds went back to a discussion we had in 2006 which started at Hemant's apartment in Geneva and continued for next 5 days through our train journeys across Switzerland . The 80GB iPod had just been released, and Hemant mentioned that at the end of the day, the iPod which fits the pocket had hard drive space and a processor. So all we needed now was to load a light weight OS on it, connect it to a monitor, keyboard/mouse and you have a personal computer ready. Today, the relevance of the personal computer is almost lost in context of tablets and mobile phones. The question is - will this 'mobile-only

Should you let Kids Use iPads?

Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use iPads (as per  this website ) - even though he invented them himself. A lot of parents might want to follow him. " Especially in Silicon Valley, there is actually a trend of tech execs and engineers who shield their kids from technology." The claim is that technological addiction prevents kids minds from becoming creative " setting up our children for incomplete, handicapped lives devoid of imagination, creativity and wonder when we hook them onto technology at an early age. " To me this is an extremely biased and dystopian view of technology exposure - though it is nothing new - the same type of concerns were raised few decades ago for TV and before that even for newspapers. My view is that it depends on how and what kind of exposure you give your kids. For ex. kids today already know the whole ABC, 123, almost all poems by the age of two. This is all thanks to nicely made kids rhyme videos which you can play in ab

BBM mania and the future of Whatsapp

Image from Facebook - credit unknown A couple of days back while having a lunch conversation with colleagues, I declared that Whatsapp may not survive primarily because there is no stickiness in the product. In case of social networks like Facebook, even if a new platform with some differentiating features comes up, your relationships are very difficult to migrate to another platform. Hence, users will not switch from one social network to another unless there is a generational shift in the features between the old and new one (ex. migration from Orkut to Facebook in India), because of the effort needed to migrate all relationships to the new network again. In fact, this is one of the reasons Google plus is finding it so difficult to grab users from Facebook even though critics claim that Google Plus has a better conceptualized social networking features.  However, P2P messaging apps like Whatsapp, Line or Viber - lack any such stickiness because the relationships reside in yo

Yahoo Mail upgrade - too late and diagonal

New Yahoo Logo || Source: Razilabs Yahoo! has been a struggling tech giant for almost a decade now - especially since the rise of Google and later Facebook. Yahoo! which was the original haven for geeks and the Social Network cum a goto destination for everything else online in the 2000s has had to hire Google's ex-executive Marissa Mayer as its CEO to stay afloat. Recently, Yahoo revamped the UI for its (still) most relevant service Yahoo Mail along with a populist looking gift of 1 TB storage. Mayer was probably borrowing a page from her ex-employers' book by offering a bonanza storage along with some other features copied from its service GMail. As Times of India puts it: Yahoo's free email service is becoming a bit more like Google's Gmail as part of its second makeover in less than a year. The similarities to Gmail probably aren't coincidental. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer helped design some of Gmail's features while she was a top executive at Google

How to create a successful online business

This post is based on content from guest author Aisha Singh  - many thanks Aisha! When you think about a successful online business, names like Amazon, eBay or Flipkart come to mind. While these companies have mushroomed from garage ventures into colossal corporations, there are also millions today who are making a living out of online properties which are capable of more or less running themselves - think of blogs, classified websites, tech help forums, and even YouTube channels. Case in point - Amit Agarwal , who after working with brands like Merrill Lynch quit his job to become India’s first professional blogger. Running an online businesses is not only exciting but also many a times allows the owner more time to engage in leisurely activities rather than being stuck in a corporate job all day long. Creating a successful online business is of course no easy feat and you will have to work very hard in the first few months/years in order to reap the rewards later on. Wit

Starting a "Dot Com"? Don't.

I met a young group of student entrepreneurs today who came to me for some basic advice on how they can start up a new online video portal. Their idea was to open a niche video portal and cultivate a community around it - in the process helping content owners / producers with the technology and sharing revenue with them. The idea wasn't unique but one of the co-founders had a good insider connect within the artist community which he hoped to use in content aggregation and building audience. They had identified a team of programmers in Hyderabad who would be able to do all the "coding" for their video portal, and they would do the groundwork. My immediate advice to them was - don't create a website ! Counterintuitive as it may sound, the time for starting websites and portals from ground up is long over. The time now is to start 'services' and not 'websites'. The web has come a full circle, from the days it was a haunt of Geeks, to today when eve

Social Media vs. Traditional Media

Image Credits: Flickr user vernieman An eminent programmer was referring to one of the most typical challenge the Media today faces - how to find out the most influential people on Social Media? Who is more influential on twitter - Barkha Dutt or Amitabh Bacchan? Who is more influential on Instagram, on Facebook? Is the number of followers the only metric which matters? What about the quality of content? What about the quality of followers / fans? How do we measure this "quality"? And if we can measure these individual factors - what is the algorithm to combine these to create a common metric, the rating which will be used to rank people based on their influentialness on social networks. Some startups have attempted to solve this puzzle - just like this eminent programmer is also trying. Klout and some similar services look like they have cracked the nut, but Klout gives a pretty high level percentage score - so its quite possible that two people have exactly the same

How to solve the distracted driving problem
Is talking on the phone while driving illegal? [Part II]

Photo Credits: Flickr user Lord Jim Humans are cognitive beings, we instinctively get attracted to actions which involve thinking, perception and interaction with others. And the  crucial difference between human cognition and that of other species is the ability to participate with others in collaborative activities with shared goals [Michael Tomasello, Malinda Carpenter, Josep Call, Tanya Behne, and Henrike Moll (2005),  Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition ]. Hence, as I argued in the first part of this post  - given a chance, any human will prefer talking and interacting with others, even if it means talking or texting on the phone while driving! Making laws declaring mobile phone usage illegal is probably the easiest but the most difficult to implement solution to this problem. The solution lies in using technology to circumvent the problem. Humans today do not engage in several non-productive tasks such as those involving physical labou

Is talking on the phone while driving illegal? [Part I]

Photo Credits: Flickr user  OregonDOT Short Answer: Yes . Long Answer - read below . Depending upon which source you trust [ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ] - anything between 88 to 30 percent of people admit to using mobile phones (talking, texting and using apps) while driving. Several cars (even those not so pricey) available now integrate your mobile phone with the car stereo systems acknowledging that usage of mobile phone while driving is not just acceptable but also to be encouraged and aided with technology. Given these stats, is it really worth having laws which prohibit mobile phone usage while driving? These laws are similar to the sermons of the 16th century Church which decreed the Copernicus system of astronomy to be false. I remember one of my maternal grandfathers telling me that is mother never allowed him to ride a moped or a scooter in his youth because she was afraid of accidents. (Ironically, he got injured on the road was when someone else hit him while he was walki