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Showing posts from 2011

shortest path to the heart

It was a hot afternoon. Tejas had completed an important deliverable at work. His customer had an unusually happy smile that meant things were working beyond expectations. Better yet, this would lead to more work. That ought to have made him happy - he loved more work, more challenges. He exemplified the "ideal employee" that every business wants.

However, Tejas wasn't happy at all.  He wasn't able to pinpoint the reason. He was sure he will find it during his post-lunch walk.

Today, Tejas was going to cut through a new path through the streets, for a change. As he turned the other direction at the second traffic light and neared a T-junction, he realized things have indeed changed. A lot of buildings in this neighborhood had empty parking lots. Most of them also had signs stating that at least 50% of the space was available for lease. The grass lawns were fresh green, though. A few patches of light green showed where the walking trails had been - another sign of ch…

Reality is an Unbox

Our world is increasingly a place where people box everything into nice labels and acquire places, events and things in nice labeled boxes. Modern life, for some, is simply an ever escalating art of creating, sustaining and consuming better and better digital universes filled with better digital boxes. But better, as in "more efficient to produce", "more efficient to consume", "more efficient to serve", "use and throw" with "talk-to-a-child" simple interface.

In this world, people are the standard input and standard output - the buy and sell side interfaces - of the box; events are transactions between the box and the box holder. Here, motion is emulated by a switch to a different buy-me box. Relationships are mediated through an emotional attachment to an anonymous box that embraces, extends (and thankfully, not yet managing to 'extinguish') one's identity.

People, events and relationships - the soul of being human - are …

He traveled on a stream pipe to heaven.

#include "no_dmr.h"
void main(void)
   printf("Goodbye World!\n");
/* -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 * Dennis Ritchie, the man who co-created Unix and gave us the C language
 * passed away without as much fanfare as the man who stood on his
 * works to create Apple.

 * It is hard to imagine a world without Unix and C. These have become the
 * foundation for almost every computing device that is now in our reach.

 * In some sense, my very life revolves around the side effects of Unix and C,
 * as do millions and millions of others who work in a universe driven
 * by computing.

 * Thanks Ritchie, for making us the beneficiaries of your giftedness and gifts!

The Black Swan of computing passes into iImmortality

No question. Steve Jobs is a black swan in computing. It's not an exaggeration - everyone has been, in some way or other, touched by his single minded quest for making people love their devices while they use them for work or play.

He beat the odds in many ways. Most notably, he re-shaped two industries, took the same company to super-stardom twice, re-defined what a mobile phone is, and created an entire new market segment within a single year - the iPad.

Here's to someone who will always personify "stay hungry, stay foolish" in every sense of his own words.

The Social Illusion

Online is a different kind of 'social' -  connecting, exchanging information in public. Although each 'social' interaction is a thread, the participants are not working within the context of the conversation.

Being present online is not a social activity as much as a pre-social activity: forming, testing, aligning and finding common threads. This applies to all digital presence advertisement networks - email, chat, social, mobile.

Through the beguiling ease and simplicity of being this early kind of social, the illusion sets in - that this is all it is to be social.

Digitized packets of emotion emerge in society, but don't necessarily build society, as much as they aid in building a marketplace - a market for sharing information once thought the domain of one-on-one conversations. They help to democratize conversations. In that sense, digital emotions are a welcome addendum to the normal channels of building one's society, identity and purpose.

But to treat th…

Digital emotions

First, information wanted to be secret.  Next, information wanted to be valuable. Then it wanted to be free. Now, information wants to be a commodity.

First, ideas were conveyed with single word grunts. Next, ideas were delineated by fables and stories that were hardly more than a tweet. Then came novels, treatises and tomes. Now, each idea is quietly being hyper-linked to billions of other ideas in uncountable contexts.

In the past, these were six degrees in the social network of space and time (update: 4 if you believe the world of digital networks and this report). Now, there is really just one link separating any two people: net access.

World was round. Then the world went flat. It is now inverted.

For you who are viewing this, survival is a given, inquiry is indexed and sophistication is in deciding when, where and how to make your next digital footprint.

You are a producer of one, potentially trading with the entire world. But you aren't trading money, ideas or information…

Footprints in the sands of digital media

There is an interesting pattern that indicates a rough security risk profile for each of us.

It is by no means scientific; it may be a very "US centric" list; and I have ignored second and third order effects.

Add the following numbers for yourself:

1. number of email accounts (include everything)
2. number of distinct credit cards
3. number of debit cards
4. number of social website accounts you maintain
5. number of IM/Chat/phone accounts you maintain
6. number of intranet passwords you have to remember
7. number of savings/trading/checking/retirement/legal accounts
8. number of online accounts with merchants
9. number of blogs for which you need login access
10. number of distinct internet/usenet style groups you belong to
11. number of news/info sites you browse with login access
12. number of hobby/recreation/professional sites with login access
13. number of company required login accounts (partner sites)
14. number of non-profit/voluntary group accounts/credentials

The permanence of life

"Rama, this is just a cancer.. it can do what it needs, but it cannot bound my thoughts and actions, I have to treat it like any another thing that I have to work on."

These were the words of a friend that I most remembered, when I first heard that he passed away fighting it.

It is curious how we meet minds. It starts in early childhood, in school, in our residential neighborhood, in college. But a lot of times those early friendships never cross paths until we are out in the world and discovering ourselves. It was only in professional life that I developed a lot more common ground with Rags.

Thus, what we cherish in our friends has little to do with who they are, or have become. It has more to do with what we explore in common - competing, collaborating and creating.

In Rags, I cherish what is most valuable in his quest of life - every smile 100% genuine, every thought 100% heartfelt and sincere, every stance imbued with a questioning and testing attitude, and every ac…

Gaps in the fabric of lifetime

The world takes a respite from another weary day and is immersed in deep slumber. Darkness is pierced by the tendrils of light that would become twilight very soon.

She wakes up to the sound of the rattling pails of water, a monotone that is all too familiar, dusts her self off her blanket, cleanses and decorates the entrance to her home with kolam and deeply inhales the pre-dawn air.

He dries off his body and cleanses his mind with his recital of the morning hymns ringing in his heart and soul.

The threesome, however, sleep as if they never have a care.

It is the beginning of yet another day. He thinks, "Where is the hand that shall wake me up, wrap me in warmth and bring me some food and lead me to my day?" Just as this innocent thought breaks through to reveal the inner child in him, the fogs of responsibility close in - a tunnel around the light of day forms and leads to one single exit - other end of the day.

She wonders "What will Today bring for me, what shall …

A deep bow to Japan and it's people

Japan has been all over the news lately, and the tragedy of what has been dealt by mother nature, to that country and it's peoples, is beyond words, beyond emotion and beyond imagination. At this moment, there is very little one can do except to observe and contribute when asked for.

Reports are sketchy and subjective, but one thing is clear: the level of focus, concentration and calmness in dealing with a disaster of this magnitude deserves our highest and deepest respect, notwithstanding what else has gone wrong and will be remedied in the future.

Witness the facts: a calamity that was 7 times more than the worst case imagined 40 years back struck this nation, and a tsunami washed out every line of defense it had built around it's nuclear infrastructure. And the result is there for all to see: a simple stance of moving on to the next step, a willingness to do whatever it takes, within the bounds of cultural and practical experience of dealing with similar issues in the past. I…

Liberating liberation - an infrastructure for progress

An excellent article was forwarded to me by a friend of formidable intellect, Surajit Basu - Liberation by Software .

The article talks about Free software and how it has democratized communication and freed people up from the clutches of established power hierarchies.

This view itself has become democratized, and it goes back to 1994 or earlier. 1994 changed everything with the launch of Netscape/Mosaic. It enabled software and information to take off from the early unpaved runways of smtp/nntp/ftp. A few gems of software, notably Linux and Perl, would emerge in the backdrop of the original internetwork to speedup this flight of freedom around the world. Many great minds had worked on the previous layers and laid the foundation for this take off. As is usual in the free software/open source world, the harbingers of change were not the established corporations, but passionate individuals within them or outside them - hobbyists and scientific researchers - who had "an itch to sc…

The Division Bell of communication infrastructure

Communication is the life blood of human existence. Cooperation is the mechanism through which humans achieve synergy. However, this requires a delicate balance between individual success and common purpose.

Humans are adept at communicating within small groups. This does not work without self moderation in any medium where anonymity, physical, emotional and professional distance play havoc in discussions. Harmless words in private may turn into public name calling or insinuations or caricaturing. Multiply this with lack of visual, tonal and "presence" feedback among participants and we have the phenomenon that we see today - a breakdown of common purpose and communication.

You can see this in many online communication media. You can find it in high profile articles or blogs if you go down far enough in the comments section. Instead of reading the article, you are treated to a pavilion view of "nature red in tooth and claw". It used to be Anonymous Coward that …