Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rockets up, Parachutes down

June 4, 2007

I just read an interesting article that describes the way Google works in their quest for the Holy Grail of Search – Giving you what you want regardless of where it is, how it is or what it is.

Apparently, Google uses some 200 signals to rank a mammoth index of over 8 Billion web pages against the innocuous group of words that make up your search query. Interesting stuff, truly so.

All that’s good, doubtless, but there are those  minor, fundamental irritations. One of Google’s wow features used to be the whole “Did you mean…” as one of the first links on the search result screen. A fantastic idea, since it’s so easy to inadvertently juxtapose keystrokes while doing that quick search. The whole concept of the “did you mean…” link was to help the user evaluate a potential better search query and execute it with a simple, lazy flick of the index finger. Freakin’ smart.

But even great innovations have those ragged edges. I was doing a search for an old Economist article I had read a while ago. The only thing I clearly remember from the article was a phrase that caught my attention “Rockets up, parachutes down” (an allusion to the way gas prices shoot up when OPEC does their nakra, but merely waft back down once the fuss is over)

So, in true Google “Power User” style, I typed my query in between two quote (“) keystrokes (for the just-about-leisurely-Google-user, a search query flanked by quotes will return pages which have that exact phrase). Google returned zero results (Shock!) but I was delighted when our cute little “Did you mean…” link came up very helpfully. “Did you mean Rockets up, parachuted down”? er, no not really wise guy, but let’s give it a shot anyway. So I click the link and get taken to a second page with – hold your breath – zero results! The darling of innovation, the predictive “Did you mean…” algorithm failed miserably.

So there you go. My story of irritations. Seriously, how difficult is it for Google to figure out that the “Did you mean…” link will not turn up results and therefore not display it in such cases? It should be a walk in the park for them. The devil, it is oft said, is in the Google 🙂 .

Any ways, another boring blog post. And I don’t even know a “self deprecating humor” way of ending it.

Ps: Aside, It will be interesting to see if this post comes up during a future query for the title phrase 

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Randomly Insightful

March 29, 2007

This one just discovered. Go to wikipedia and hit Control + Shift + X. It’s very very neat.

Wiki basically takes you to a random article – A wonderful way to read up on new arbid stuff. Neat.

This, ofcourse, for the jobless at large who do not subscribe to Faraaz Damji’s Article of the day. Unless ofcourse you’re part of the proud majority who has time enough to read the daily article and have time left over to potter around Wikipedia aimlessly. Yes yes, my Engineering Brethren 🙂 sigh, How I miss those days!

Son of a Preacher Man

February 15, 2007

I was on the phone last night with the parents. You know, The usual meandering conversation which suddenly ended up, strangely enough, about how corporate meetings for meeting sake have now reached a stage where they are totally and completely unproductive (yes yes. we always have fun conversations).

My father, as if on cue and pedantic disclaimers aside, gave me 4 points of advice. Great advice that I thought was important to share. So here goes – my interpretation of what he said:

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare. This one is obvious, I know, but its shocking how often people get into meetings without preparing. And I don’t mean being armed with copious notes either. We’re talking a mental framework – points in the head that will help you vector any conversation the right way – an more importantly – will allow the conversation to result in the desired outcome.

2) Anticipate shortcomings and be prepared to field them. I guess it’s important to take a step back and evaluate things from another persons shoes. The key of course is this – If you anticipate, nothing is truly a surprise. And if nothing is a surprise, you can’t get flustered. It’s really that simple.

3) Be inclusive. When sharing a concern, inclusivity is an absolute must. Anything not inclusive is perceived as a complaint – which is, admittedly, not the best way to be perceived.

4) Irrefutable facts are, well, irrefutable! Allegations, suppositions, conjecture flying thick and fast? throw in an irrefutable fact and sit back.

So there you go. It’s incredible how a small, offhand comment can result in deep learning (and an incredibly boring blog post). But hey, It’s great advice. And great advice is worth 100  boring blog posts.

Mind games. of blogging and self discipline.

November 5, 2006

Alright, I’m hoping this one will work. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now – Mental Discipline. Sounds profound, yes. But it’s me who is writing about it, so you know it can’t really be that profound. ah, one of life’s may little ironies.

So, here’s the conundrum. You know you could do with a little more mental discipline (heck, it’s sometimes like money). The thing is, how do you push the envelope? yes, there is the extreme method (“give up alcohol just to see if you can”, “become vegetarian” for precisely the same reason and ofcourse, the vintage “get up at 4:00 AM on Sunday mornings”). Yeah, the draconian route to better mental discipline. But you know, that’s not so elegant is it? how about something more agreeable. Like a 7 km run everymorning? sounds good, but its a bit strong for the average indolent twenty something. Ah, then there’s the killer. Blogging. Not just blogging, but regular blogging. Yes, regular coherent blogging (and I don’t mean those pseudo photo posts either). And that’s precisely what I’m going to begin to do. Everyday posts are probably a little bit difficult (you know, being the hardworking, efficiency obsessed, customer focused consultant) but that is certainly going to be the target.

Lets see how it goes.

Koach

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Skype goes free: But who really cares about the end customer?

May 16, 2006

Fantastic. Atleast for the folks in between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Skype just announced that all calls made from the continental US and terminating within the same geography will be free. Gratis. No hidden costs, no nothing.

This sort of brings up an interesting thought. Skype prides itself on the fact that they’ve been largely successful in unifying global rates in an attempt to simplify using their VOIP system – “It doesn’t matter where you call from”, they affirm, “It’s where you call to”.

So if Skype can offer free calls to the US and Canada, why can’t it be free for everyone else (and hence be in line with their marketing spiel). After all, North America has very very low call termination charges (which is why skype can offer this promotion). It’s another entirely different matter that this, if successful, will probably be one of the greatest (and most cost effective) marketing tactics of all time.

The sad truth, is the fact that local operators in other countries will cause all hell to break loose if something like that happened. Imagine, calling the US for Zilch instead of forking out 7.2 rupees per minute. Fantastic, if you’re a customer. Not so great if you’re Airtel.

But that’s where I have my problem. Why the hell should a service provider with his own minor vested interests be assuaged, idemnified and protected by the government? I mean, yes, they have made an upfront investment and all that yada yada. But this is business. And business is fickle and has a full complement of inherent risks. Too bad if a wrong investment was made. Customers can not be made to pay the price for bad investment decisions on the part of a self serving business.

I’m pretty sure I’m missing something in all of this. But what the hell. Can I have my free calls. Please?

The Catalunya Post Mortem – El desastre español

May 15, 2006

Sigh. Formula 1 has the power to humble you like nothing else in life (Let’s leave aside mathematics, shall we?).

Exactly one week ago marked the re(d)surgence of Ferrari. Everyone spoke of their genius pilot and how he was going to overhaul the incumbent Alphonso and waltz away with yet another world championship. Then Barcelona happened. Sigh. How humbling.

In a sense, the Catalunya result should not be surprising. Renault, still have the best car. We are not talking big margins, no, but in Catalunya the smallest differences are biggest magnified – A marginally superior car ends up being appreciably quicker.

The reason, then, for my extreme disappointment is the fact that Ferrari did look rather strong over the weekend. You see, there was hope. Yes, this was Renault territory. Yes, this was a Michelin circuit. Yes, a Spanish world champion was driving in front of his fervent countrymen. But there was that darned hope. Both Friday Practices demonstrated that the reds had the pace. Okay, they qualified 3rd, but it was overtly clear that the Ferrari’s were heavy. They were on hard tyres. They would run long and leverage their awesome long run pace. They held strategic high ground. The Renaults were minced meat. Renault was the hapless bull while Ferrari was the deft, sublime Enrique Ponce. Right?

Wrong. We couldn’t have been farther away from reality. Ponce got gored. Michael himself was mystified, and while he admitted that the Renault pace was unrelenting, also emphasized that even minor, capricious factors like wind direction and temperature (which was hotter than expected) can have substantial performance repercussions. And these substantial repercussions ensured that the Spanish mango won at home. And what a crushing victory it was.

Is all hope lost, then? Not really. Felipe had his moment of glory when he set the fastest lap (I only wish he had overhauled Fisi). Ferrari is still very much in the thick of things. it’s just that the momentum has swung a little bit away.

Monaco in 2 weeks. How long has it been since a Renault failure?

Ps: Although my tone suggests it, I don’t dislike Fernando. He’s awesome. Truly so. It’s just that I’m just a bigger Michael fan. Sue me!

Gmail: To dot or not?

May 14, 2006
Uncreative, random headings aside, this phenomenon is pretty neat. Discovered it a while ago, and while I had meant to write about it earlier (no, I really mean that… okay, maybe not. must you always be this picky?) I never actually got around doing so. Yeah, tell me something new.

So, anyways, this goes back to the early days of the perpetually in beta gmail. Yeah, these were the painful days of 2 mb mailboxes, garish, huge and annoying banner ads promoting nonsensical wares and unending spam featuring penis enlargement kits and what have you not. Gmail, with it’s promise of a 1 gb limit (gasp! how much is that!?!?), text ads (yeah, who cares if my email is scanned and read. I’m Indian. We live in large, gossip hungry families. Privacy? what on earth does that mean?) and enhanced spam blocking (well, spam was the only email I ever got. So it would be dearly missed. But we digress…) was sure to revolutionize web email.

But like all things good, there was a catch – you had to get invited. #%@^#@? yeah, that was my exact same reaction (if you’re female, give me a call. we might share a wavelength). So after weeks and weeks of searching, worshiping and displaying admirable levels of sycophantic behaviour (featuring unpublishable stuff) and other things such towards people who had gmail invites, I finally landed an invitation to my very own shiny, new gmail account.

As an early adopter, I had virtually no problem choosing an email address of choice (unlike yahoo where my best shot for kaushikmohan@yahoo.com is kaushikmohan_meister_73284738@yahoo.com and msn where it is a shite side worse!). (drum roll) kaushikmohan@gmail.com (flourish) was hence the new email address.

And then like all things new and exclusive, eventually everybody and her dog got a gmail address (by which time it was public knowledge the “.” was an accepted character in an email address, finally supplanting the inelegant but effective underscore). The standard email address, hence became firstname.lastname@gmail.com . Damn, I was the pariah. again.

But this is the cool thing. the dot does not matter. You see, because the firstname, lastname with a dot in the middle paradigm became the subconscious choice for anybody’s email address, people started emailing me at kaushik.mohan@gmail.com (yes, by this time legitimate email had miraculously started arriving in my inbox). And (even more miraculous) these (email featuring the incorrect dot version of my email address) would come straight into my inbox.

So the experimenter in me woke up, and I tried doing some random stuff.The discovery was quite cool. according to gmail, k.aushikmohan, ka….ushikmohan and kaushikmohan are all the same. In effect, gmail treats the dot as a mere visual separator. To the piece of code that actually parses the address, the dot is replaced by a null character. The dot is therefore, irrelevant. How incredibly profound 🙂

Sashman also did his own set of (more adventurous, multiple dot) experiments and came to the same conclusion.

Interesting ain’t it? My guess is that email addresses are parsed through some sort of LIFO system (I always try and sound remotely intelligent atleast once in every blog posting), that nullify’s all the dots that precede the ‘@’ symbol. Who knows, perhaps there are other characters that are handled in a similar fashion.

It’s quirky, even geeky perhaps. But I still think it’s pretty cool.

Because Consultants will Rant – # 1

April 28, 2006

The Simple Analyst (who happens to be a good friend of mine) and I had an interesting series of email conversations on the future of enterprise software. What is funny, strange and perhaps even ironic is the fact that none of us are part of the genus that has come to be known as ‘the Software types’. One’s a business grad (and hence knows very little) and I’m a victim of engineering (and hence know nothing at all). But we’re technocrats and are suppossedly Strategy Consultants . And consultants have the license to speak and opine on any topic. Don’t ask me why, thats just how it is.

So, the analyst conjures up this document from Booz that talks of the changing landscape in enterprise software.

What, according to me, it comes down to is this:

BEGIN:Rant

With the rising outlook of solutions architected on SOA (google it! I’m going to be the acronym obssessed, ever annoying consultant) and such frameworks as well as the mainstream arrival of Open Source Software, CIO’s will increasingly gravitate to using these open source ‘modules’ in their applications. This will crash development time as well as reduce costs.

The days of monolithic software are numbered. Primarily because the economics don’t pan out.

So, all in all, the software landscape will orient itself to two major phenomena:

1)‘On Demand’ solutions for SMB’s, with annual ‘per seat’ subscription fees (a la salesforce.com, netsuite etc.).

2) Open Source ‘Modules’ implemented in an SOA environment for large enterprises.

The analyst adds that legacy systems will still be used extensively. Perhaps, but I guess they will be ‘adaptorized’ and integrated into the larger SOA framework.

END:rant

Crap. what a boring blog post. I’m seriously begining to lose it. aargh. The curse of the software types is upon me. oxCAFEBABE 🙂