May 31, 2008

 

Flash video to text conversion

YouTube brought videos to internet. Really. The idea of making webpages embed the video provided instant gratification which was missing in "Click here to download the video in wmv format." A whole lot of interesting content is now available via this medium. But it has created a new problem. In the good ol' days, the transcripts of interviews at conferences were sincerely prepared and put on web. The videos have made these people lazy. Why prepare transcript when people can actually see the live people talking? Well, for one, I can read a whole lot faster. Secondly, I really don't need to associate faces with names. So here is my tiny idea to address this problem.

The service will sport a google like text box with a button titled "Get the text." You can copy-paste the URL the page on which video is embedded. Once you click on "Get the text" button, it will ask you take a chai break. Meanwhile, the service will get the page, fetch the video on the page, extract the audio, then use some speech-to-text converter to prepare the text. It can also label the voices as "person 1", "person 2", etc. Once you are back, you can specify the actual names for "person 1", "person 2," etc. Bingo! You have the interview transcript ready.

As Scott Adams says, you will either find this idea impossible to implement or you will point out that somebody has already done it.

May 28, 2008

 

Sarin times his exit just right

In July 2006, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin survived the shareholder revolt. Two years later when Sarin managed to bring the company back in black (shouldn't they call it green for the colour of money?), he has decided to hand over the reigns to deputy. The adjectives used in headline to describe Sarin's move are "shock"(BBC), "surprise"(Forbes) and "unexpected"(NYT).

In past, I have talked about timing exit in the context of Sachin Tendulkar. To repeat, one should leave when people ask "why now" instead of "why not now." In that sense, Mr Sarin has got the timing immaculate. Kudos to you, Sir!

[Update] Om Malik suggests, "Sarin should move to Bharti Telecom and help that company become a global telecom." Some 3 years back, Sarin entered India by acquiring 10% stake in Bharti. I suppose, he picked 10% because he couldn't pick 51% or 100%. Mr Mittal patiently explained to everybody that that Vodafone will not be a big brother. Few months later, Vodafone acquired Bharti's rival Hutch and liquidated their holding in Bharti (and earned a tidy profit in a short term.) At that time, Sarin gave the commands to Hutch team to become # 1 player in 3 years by beating Bharti and others. After so many eventful days, how likely it is that Mr Sarin will join Bharti with Mittal as boss?

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May 24, 2008

 

Innovative Menu Card

Recently, we visited a restaurant of Speciality group, whose flagship chain being Mainland China. Here is the photo of a page from their menu (apologies for lousy quality of the photo.)





Noticed anything unorthodox? The prices of the dishes are printed in words and not in numbers!

Many restaurants write only the name of dishes along with prices in the right column. Some of the fancy places write name of the dish, brief description and the price. Now, even if the place is fancy, price does play a role in making the choice for dishes. With listing prices in numbers, customer is prone to a cognitive bias called anchoring. We quickly decide what the "high", "low" and "reasonable" prices are. The right hand column helps you quickly eliminate the dishes which you think are outrageously priced, or the ones which are on the lower side (assumption being the potion will be too small.)

By eliminating the luxury of such quick scan, this restaurant forces customer to read the menu and order what they would like to have. Each dish does mention its price but customer can no longer figure out what prices are "low" or "high" as there is no anchoring.

Very Clever!

May 23, 2008

 

You are wrong, Kiruba

Kiruba Shankar has recently started writing a column about blogging, new ways of communication, etc. in Business Standard. In today's column he talks about cybersquatting. His intentions are noble - advising companies to protect their identity on the net. Except he gives one advice which is completely orthogonal. He suggests companies to buy domains which have adverse impact on the business. For example, according to him companies should not only book MyCompany.com, but also, MyCompanySucks.com, MyCompanyCheats.com, etc.

There is only minor problem. If one wants to create a domain where they can pour their hears against the company, they can do it in thousands of ways. Well, if MyCompanySucks.com is not available, how about MyCompanySucksBigTime.com or SayNoToMyCompany.com?

I guess, business can't thrive by containing the ill-will towards the company.

May 22, 2008

 

World's Longest SMS...

... was sent by Shah Rukh Khan to his Kolkata team. Really!

This SMS has 2441 characters (480 words). If we consider the fact that SMS has 160 character limit, this message was broken into 16 pieces. I guess, each team member will read one piece to stitch it together.

Oh, yeah, the first "S" in the acronym stands for "Short."

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May 20, 2008

 

Infinite memory

Recently, I was searching for something on blogs, but I found many of the results to be dead links. Those links unfortunately and surprisingly are not available with Google search. And Google's Blog Search doesn't give link to cached copy. Which is weird and almost gives the impression that Google doesn't consider the content from blogs worth "wasting" 30KB disk space on.

Google Reader does something smart like remembering as many posts as it can, but then it just works off the feed and fails for partial feeds.

I wish some service with infinite memory comes up soon.

 

Bookeazy - Booking tickets in Pune

Bookeazy is Pune based startup for online movie ticket booking. While I have booked tickets online for Adlabs and PVR, the experience on Bookeazy is quite different (really!)

Few nice things:

And not-so-nice things:
On the whole, I like for sheer convenience. Rs 5 per ticket to beat the traffic hell? Any day!

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May 14, 2008

 

Careful about what you wish for?

The SMS rates are high in India. Very high actually. They charge Rs 1 for local SMS and Rs 2 for national SMS, which incidentally is how much it costs you to talk to that person for whole 60 seconds. I wished for new revolution which could bring down the SMS prices to earth. Well, there you have a step closer.

Reliance Mobile has launched two plans for postpaid subscribers. In a package called SMS Lite subscriber can send 100 SMSes (local + national) for Rs 25. The other grand offering being SMS Mega which gives 1000 SMSes for Rs 60. That's virtually unlimited. While I am happy to see these development, I am personally unaffected due to my age.

This is only a partial step as it is only for postpaid subscribers who probably account for 10-15% of all mobile users. Not sure if there is a similar plan for prepaid customers. The website does not contain any information about this plan.

I can already see Twitter addicts (via Vakow bridge) jumping with joy.

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OK, probably last post about Amitabh's blog

Few days ago, I wrote this (Yeah, quoting your own stuff is embarrassing)
Media which thrives on celeb gossip should be scared of this trend (of celebrity blogging). With blogs, celebs don't need media. They can just redirect all the media people asking for an exclusive to their blogs.
And just days later, I find myself reading my own mild prophecy. Today, Amitabh published his email interview with Times of India journalist on his blog. This puts media in double jeopardy. On one hand they have lost readers, a small percentage you may argue, of this interview in print. Also, now, journalist can't put the masala twists to make a catchy headline. People already know what he has said, or they can verify what he said.

He also posted some photos, I don't know if it was movie or an ad film, on his blog. These photos will never be seen anywhere else.

As somebody said, a small step for BigB, a giant leap for the industry.

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May 13, 2008

 

Postpaid plan for Reliance Mobile

Minor utility post for Reliance Mobile customers.

If your monthly usage is Rs 700 or more, consider switching to MyRoaming 475 plan. This has rental of Rs 475. The call rates are Rs 0.50 per minute for local (landline & all mobile), long distance is Rs 1. You get Rs 250 worth of talktime (local+long distance) and Rs 250 worth roaming talktime.
Earlier my plan was Rs 299 rental, which had all calls charged at Rs 1 per minute and no free talktime. With this plan there is a potential saving of Rs 574 (500 local minutes at Rs 1 + 250 roaming - Rs 176 extra rental.)

Off-topic curious observation. Only for Reliance Mumbai, Maharashtra and Goa are treated as single circle. For rest of the service providers, Maharashtra and Mumbai are separate circles thereby making users pay for roaming charges when the move in or out of Mumbai. I thought, with unified license, or otherwise, the definition of a "circle" has to be same across telcos. Anyway, for once, I am on the right side of the unfairness.

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May 10, 2008

 

How much discount did you receive?

While we always notice the extra cost attached to a service with fine print (always looks suspiciously at the number which has a star with it), the fine print with benefits is hardly noticeable.

I shop at More, the retail chain from Birla group, for groceries and other essential stuff. Occasionally, they provide cash coupons with the purchase. The scheme (well, we'll see how it is a "scheme") works as follows. They provide a cash coupon of Rs 50 on the bill of Rs. 500. Simple math tells us they are offering 10% discount. When inflation is running more than 7%, that's a neat sum.

Now the fine print. You can redeem the coupon only on your next bill of Rs 500. So, essentially, you got Rs 50 on purchase of Rs 1000. That's a 5% discount.

Since when you shopped for the first time, you must have had bill more than 500 but less than next multiple of 500, i.e. 1000. That amount doesn't get any cash coupon. So, in a hypothetical case, purchase of Rs 990 will give a coupon of Rs 50. The same applies when you redeem the coupon. You see where we are heading. Since the bill will shoot Rs 500 mark by a margin which doesn't get any discount coupon, actual discount may be less than 4%. Still good, but not as cool as it seems at first glance. Somebody didn't say ignorance is bliss just like that.

There is a lesson here. Our minds perceive actual cash discount different from the percent discounts. eg. Pizza Hut routinely run the campaign of 50% off on next pizza if you order a top-range medium pizza. Now, if there 2-3 people, they don't need the second pizza and feel let down with such offer. Pizzahut is trying to to increase individual order size instead of increasing volume. They can increase the volume if they adopt More scheme.... er, strategy. If they give a nice shiny coupon with Rs 50 printed on it, people will give it a thought before deciding to "waste" it.

May 07, 2008

 

Is Amitabh's blog ghost-written?

Sheece says, in a comment on my previous post, that Amitabh's blog is written by a ghost.

Amitabh has responded to such queries negatively and emphasized that the blog is written by him and only him. Given the sprinkling of some not-so-public information, it surely must be coming from the man himself. But given the rate of publishing posts (one entry per day) and the length (600-1000 words per post), it looks highly unlikely that he is writing the entire post on his mac. Now, I am not somebody with great flair for writing. So an average meaningful post takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Sometimes even more. Amitabh may possess natural ability to express his thoughts so well in writing. But, it is hard to believe that he puts his thoughts across in a lengthy piece in an impeccable manner, day in day out. And so much of effort is being put in arguing against the trash written in a tabloid. He surely has better things to do.

Well, I have reason to believe that blog is indeed written by ghost. Amitabh may have a conversation with writer to put across his ideas. The writer then goes about finding what trash is written by a nobody in a tabloid read by only people in the tinseltown and write a polished rebuttal of the same.

Asides, if anything, media which thrives on celeb gossip should be scared of this trend. With blogs, celebs don't need media. They can just redirect all the media people asking for an exclusive to their blogs. Aamit Khan no longer has to give 682 exclusive interviews and answer the most innovative question "How does it feel to wear two hats - of actor and director - for the same film?" with almost rattaoed, "When I am just an actor, I practice my scene and directly come on the stage. But, in this case, Aamir, the director has to understand the shot with all actors and technicians. Then play the actor role by wearing different hat. It's difficult, but enjoyable."

Imagine if these celebs record a small video of themselves talking about say current film, post few "raw" photos from the shoot on their blogs, they will make media redundant. Don't bet on if. Bet on when.

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May 06, 2008

 

Lazy searching with Firefox

Many times, we know we are going to click the first search result on Google for the given query. If you are searching for IMDB page of Iron Man, simply put in "iron man imdb" will result into IMDB's movie page as first search result.

The typical steps for that are typing google.com in address bar, hit enter, enter search query, press enter, wait 0.5 seconds for search result page and then click on the first link.

Minor optimizations in this can be done by entering search query in the Firefox search bar, which is next to the address bar. Also, you may argue that "I'm feeling lucky" is available if you are visiting Google's home page. But then, search is such reflex activity that you don't want to think while searching.

There is a neat thing called keyword bookmarking in Firefox. You can associate a keyword with a URL. Once a keyword is associated with URL, you can visit the URL by typing the keyword in address bar. A twist to this concept comes with ability to program this bookmark. Here is how you go about it.

1. Organize Bookmarks -> New Bookmark.
2. Enter title as Lucky (or whatever you want)
3. Paste this URL in Location * : http://www.google.com/search?q=%S&btnI=I%27m+Feeling+Lucky
4. Give keyword as "lucky" without quotes.
5. You are done.

Now when you wish to perform "I'm Feeling Lucky" search, type in "lucky [your query]" in the address bar and you'll land up on the result page!

There I save a few minutes of your only life.

(Bhavin first taught me the keyword bookmarking trick. Thanks are due to him.)

* For the curious souls: Notice the %S in the search query. That's a variable which replaced by the parameters following the keyword while forming the actual URL.

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May 05, 2008

 

Amitabh vs Aamir

You expected Amitabh Bachchan vs Shah Rukh Khan, right? That's so old. Now, the two film icons have entered into the world of active blogging. Amitabh is learning the baby steps of blogging with the perennial favourite topic - media criticism. His enthusiasm is visible with the frequency of posts. Hope, it doesn't die down due to fatigue.

So, who wins my attention? Answer is Amitabh. His blog has RSS feed, though partial, which I am not very comfortable with. Aamir Khan's blog doesn't have an RSS feed. So much for excellence that Aamir stands for.

I am accepting the bets for predicting the next celeb-blogger. How about Mr Scindia, the young minister handling IT portfolio? Don't bet on any of the cricketers, who are on a 50-day tour of India playing matches at every halt. Nevertheless, Dhoni or Yuvraj may have a podcast which they can record while sitting on the side bench.

Links: Amitabh' Blog and Aamir's website... err.. blog.

May 02, 2008

 

*222 : Customer care number for Reliance postpaid users

Minor utility post.

Reliance Mobile's customer care number *333 is simply not accessible from my cell. Neither is 3033-3333 (from Pune.) Finally 022-3033-3333 worked.

You will be greeted with the message that the new, supposedly exclusive, customer care number for postpaid users is *222.

Also, be prepared to receive the stock answer "Sorry, Sir/Ma'am. Our systems are under upgradation. Please call us after half an hour."

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