March 25, 2008

 

WordWeb : Pay up if you are "rich"

WordWeb is an essential utility to look up words quickly. Highlight a word and press Ctrl-Alt-W - Yes, you can change this short-key - to see the meaning of the word. Very neat. Today, it suddenly popped up a window informing me that my trial period is over (or something to that effect) and asked me to answer a question. My eyes and hands are nicely co-ordinated for such nuisance type activity, and not a single grey cell is involved in answering the question. Ouch. It said, I can no longer use the free software as I apparently said, I am "rich". Careful reading revealed that there was a question about number of flights I took last year and I had picked "more than 2" option. Come on, guys, this is cheating. I don't read EULA. Ever. I don't know anybody doing the same. Anyway, I just needed to reinstall it and next time, hands will pick "poor" option - which, unfortunately, is a sad truth - with reflex action.








March 12, 2008

 

LinkedIn Recommendations

Apologies in advance, if this post offends some of you. Just putting my thoughts on this topic and I mean no offence.

Have you come across a single critical thing written in the recommendations on LinkedIn? You read only glowing and sometimes, embarrassingly flattering, ensemble of words. Yeah, all these people are real smart and super-intelligent and deserve those nice words. I happen to know many of them. Unfortunately, the equity of these recos gets diluted due to lack of views from the other (read not-so-nice) side. Now, it would be a social and professional suicide to publicly write even mildly negative comment about your co-worker, boss or subordinate. The world is freakishly small place and you may bump into those very people sooner than you expected. Or it may unnecessarily get constructed in a negative way and blowing all the bridges you had painstakingly built. So, nobody treads those possibly precarious territories.

Given the lack of critical feedback in the system, there would be high level of discounting for those golden reviews, even if they are true down to the last word. There lies the opportunity for LinkedIn. They may allow anonymous comments, which may or may not be approved by the person in question. These comments will be available only to the premium users. As LinkedIn is the new El Dorado for head hunters, they would gladly pay for this service. The profile which have only sweet-sweet reviews will probably undergo fine scanner than the ones which have critical comments as the later ones will be more credible.

Another not-so-disturbing observation. The reco system seems symmetric. If A recommends B, then B recommends A. And I suppose, the socially accepted delay for reciprocating the act is few days. This behaviour is not much different from the one on Orkut where it is socially mandatory to become a fan of each other.

Will LinkedIn bite the bullet?

March 11, 2008

 

The farce called Toll Free Numbers

Quick question. When was the last time you dialled a toll-free number in India? Congratulations, if your answer is not a "never," as it is for me. Reason is simple. Toll Free numbers work only from BSNL and MTNL landlines. In India, you have a landline at home only if you are old-fashioned or rich or both. The landline subscriber base (33 mn) is a small fraction of the mobile subscribers in India (240 mn) and the gap continues to widen as these two numbers are moving in opposite direction. So, a company spends time and money to setup and advertise the toll-free number to reach a small subset of their potential customers. Nice story for a Dilbert strip!

BTW, have you wondered why these numbers start with 1-800? Well, it has been blindly copied from USA, including the country code. That imitation is quite embarrassing for our country.

March 06, 2008

 

India Today folks, Please stop this nonsense.

The over-enthusiastic marketing team of India Today and India Today Book Club is source of annoyance and mild entertainment. In the past, I have highlighted their inability to timely execute on the promises made.

Supposedly, I'm in the final stage of a contest, with a bounty of Rs 15 Lac. The minor problem is I have never entered in such contest. On the contest page, I'm supposed to answer the amount of bounty to enter into the contest. Folks, why don't you just ask if my IQ is lower than the temperature (in degree celsius) in Mumbai.




******

Then, again, they promise some goodies such as books, (wonderful) CDs, Adidas bag, etc. provided I become member of the India Today Book Club. After that they start sending you 3 (useless) books every quarter at a "special" prize of Rs 500. While, I have already confessed that I'm an illiterate when it comes to books, these books seem useful only for chana-walas to make the cones.

But, hey, the subject and content of the email don't match. In the body of the email they offer some diary (again for chanawala, I guess.)



Oops. Somebody realized they sent the wrong mail, so they send another one with the right content after 4 hours. Go ahead, spam my 6 GB mailbox, baby.



Seriously, I have never seen such a high-decibel noise to publicize mediocrity.

March 05, 2008

 

Time Your Exit, Sachin

In American Gangster, Denzel Washington smuggles high quality cocaine from South-East Asia and builds a drug empire in US. When everything is going great, the business hits the dead-end when the smuggling logistics is about to be shut down. The boss at drug source tells Washington to pack up the business. He tells him "Quitting while you're ahead is not the same as quitting."

This astute observation is very much valid in the walks of life where people hit zenith of their career and know that they probably can't stay there for too long. They use the term "in the zone" to describe invincibility of such people. So, whom does it apply? Sports persons, artist (filmmakers, actors, writers, etc.), business icons among others. These people, at their peak, are not just admired but revered.

Why is the peak the best time for them to quit? When things are going so great, when everybody expects more from these heroes, doesn't sound a sensible time to hang up the gloves. The problem here is of the "last impression." If an employee stays happily with a company for long period of say 5 yrs, and if company treats him as an unwanted element when he is about to leave, chances are slim that the person is going to talk unequivocally nice about the company. Last impression, you see. That's the reason, the peak is the best time for the heroes of the society to leave the scene. One should leave when people ask "why now" instead of "why not now." A shining example of leaving at peak is Mr Murthy of Infosys. He quit the position of CEO when the company was doing really great.


I believe, the time has come when Sachin Tendulkar should call it a day. In recent past, except the very recent Australia tour, Sachin has just become a pale shadow of himself in glory days. The critics generally say, though Sachin has exceptional statistics on his name, on very rare occasions he has been a match-winner. Worse, he has not be able to fulfill the dream of the country to win ODI World Cup single-handedly. Last year, when India failed to make it to the last 8, the country saw the eruption of anger. Much of it was directed to Sachin as people expected, probably unreasonably, him to play great innings when there was dire need of it. His effigies were burnt and photos blackened. It was sad to see Sachin's restaurant in Mulund being guarded by the cops for almost a week as stone pelting on the glass wall was a very much a possibility.

And exactly an year later, when Sachin helped India win spectacularly in Australia, he is back as the God of country's first religion. Rave words are being written about him and no superlatives are left unused. I think, he should exit the scene gracefully before the ink dries. He should keep in mind that Ganguly, Dravid and Sehwag, who were once integral part of the team are left in cold. They are already not part of the 20-20 format of the game. And the new players are sealing their place in ODI team making little room for the greats of yesteryear. Sachin may not meet the same fate as Ganguly and Dravid, but if at all he does, he will have effectively wiped out all the goodwill he painstakingly earned in last two decades. And it would be a sad and grossly unfair to see Sachin leave in less than gracious manner.

March 01, 2008

 

Jamaican Haggle

On the blog 37signals, a call to share negotiating story met with bunch of interesting responses. You can find quite a few amusing stories, but this one took the cake.
The Jamaican Haggle
A friend of mine, I’ll call him D, was at a market in Jamaica looking at trinkets. Here’s how he would negotiate for an item:
D: How much?
Vendor: 20J
D: I’ll give you 10.
Vendor: 15.
D: 9.
Vendor: No, you’re supposed to go up!
D: 8.
Vendor: Fine, fine. I’ll take 8.

From then on we referred to this backwards technique as the Jamaican Haggle.

 

Webaroo 2 : Download YouTube videos. And do more.

Shiny disclosure at the end.

YouTube is an extremely addictive service. You can spend hours together watching hundreds of videos without an iota of boredom and still you may not have watched 0.00001% of the interesting videos on YouTube. But, the things which can steal the fun are lousy bandwidth, flaky connection or worse, no connectivity at all. The way YouTube added the asynchronous dimension to TV, an extra layer of this asynchronous behaviour is necessary - ability to watch those videos without worrying about connectivity. Now add the twist of RSS-like functionality to this which means, you will come to know as and when videos of your interest are uploaded, instead of you visiting the website and checking for the availability of new content.

Currently, there are download solutions, but

Webaroo 2 addresses these major problems. How?
Also, a browser plugin for IE and Firefox, part of the same software installation, will sense you are watching a flash video and prompt you to save the same. So, you don't need to switch the view to save currently playing video. This works for any site hosting flash videos. This takes YouTube addiction to whole new level.

And More.

Webaroo 2 can also do lots of other things. Each of these is a separate feature and deserves a separate post. Nevertheless, I'll commit the crime of giving epitome.
Give it a whirl. Beware, it can be a serious time sink in a pleasant way.

Some Screenshots:








Disclosure: I worked with the company till few months ago.

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