Friday, August 14, 2009

Seth Godin’s challenge: bandwidth and latency

Seth Godin’s has a thought-provoking post that looks at the different types of media based on the bandwidth it can support and the immediacy of the exchange.

The bandwidth-sync correlation that's worth thinking about

Check this out. Every once in a while a cool graph pops into my head.

Source: Seth's Blog: The bandwidth-sync correlation that's worth thinking about

Human civilisation started at the top right hand corner on this graph: one-on-one coaching, which is both immediate and high bandwidth.

Since then other forms of communication have been invented. They have been limited on one or both dimensions, although that has often been an advantage. Talented and creative individuals have created profitable enterprises in any quadrant and with any medium.

Hugh MacLeod of has discovered how to effectively use even the scrap heap, as Seth calls the bottom left corner.

Seth goes on to challenge:

If you had seen this chart three years ago, you obviously would have invented Twitter. Now that you see it today, what will you create?

Well, it does appear that successful businesses have generally exploited the top-left to bottom-right axis, the one that has been highlighted on the graph. Whereas, individuals are more successful on the axis perpendicular to it.

To answer Seth’s challenge, I think there’s opportunity for people on the axis that is less crowded. For instance, as bandwidth increases and latency drops, there could be money in offering piano lessons over the internet.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Do you observe rules this strictly?

Look carefully at the picture below.

Four pedestrians are waiting for the red light to change, even though the road they wish to cross has been blocked permanently due to security reasons, and the police are guarding it!


Picture taken near Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on September 26, 2008.

In the few minutes that I watched, lots of Berliners acted likewise!


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Friday, June 20, 2008

It’s size that changes the experience

We know that in the government, possibly because of the size, the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

Are are the rest of us better?

Do large, profitable and professionally-run organisations offer a smoother experience than the silos of a bureaucracy. 

Here’s my experience of the Airtel web site that makes me wonder.


Retrieving an MMS from the web

It started with the following message from AirTel:

There is an MMS message for you. at Your Passcode is: c6s8**

Okay, I knew these were pictures sent by a friend, so I followed the url.


The requested URL /mms/ was not found on this server.

IBM_HTTP_Server Server at Port 80


Activating MMS on the phone

Maybe the url had changed. We know it happens.  So I look around and find this:

Getting Started
You'll need a compatible mobile phone to send and receive picture messages. To Activate MMS, send "MMS ACTIVE" to 121. Requires MMS enabled handsets. If your friends don't have a picture messaging phone, you can still send them a picture message. They'll receive a text message asking them to go to a web address where they'll be able to enjoy your message online.

:: Airtel :: Postpaid Mobile - Mail & Messaging Services.


All right, I send the SMS to 121 requesting activation of MMS, but get this response:

Welcome to My Airtel. Make a selection
1-For Billing
2-For Payments
3-For Bill Plan
4-For Do Not Disturb
5-For Help



Trying something else


So I give up on MMS, but continue to look around and discover something different but useful:

Access via PC

Access Airtel Msgr via your PC or Laptop:Instant chat with friends with any mobile number in India. Airtel Messenger on your PC offers many reasons for you to get hooked on. Foremost, it lets you send messages to any Airtel mobile number in India , for free. GET CRACKING, MAN!

Download NOW!
Click here to download AirTel Msgr.


:: Airtel :: Postpaid Mobile - Mail & Messaging Services.


OH, but “download AirTel Msgr” link brought in a completely useless zipped folder called mysites! :-(



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A “must have” feature from Gmail Labs

You known that Gmail has powerful search built into it.

But after you’ve crafted that perfect query, do you throw it away? Not any more!

You can use an experimental feature in the new Gmail Labs to save the query for as long as you want. It is called “Quick Links” and is extremely easy to use.

How to enable Quick Links

  • Click on settings from within your Gmail account.
  • Select the last tab on the setting page, called “Labs”. It’s been placed there a few weeks ago.


  • Enable Quick Links from a list of dozen or so feature that are currently available. 


VoilĂ ! A Quick Links panel is now added to the left column in your Gmail account. It’s below the panel called Labels.


In this panel, you can place a shortcut to whatever view, search results or individual message you are viewing.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

Lesson for software engineers from a filmmaker


Picture from: Shekhar Kapur's Website


What could a filmmaker say to CEO’s attending a software conference?

Probably very little, unless you are Shekhar Kapur and unafraid of opening up your thoughts to scrutiny by strangers.


Giving up Control

Mr Kapur started by asking how a symphony is created? Does it happen by exercising control or by giving it up?

He didn’t provide an answer but rather hinted at it by asking more questions and describing his own experiences.

For instance, he recalled body surfing—something he did in his younger days. And he cited the experience of filmmaking, for which he is acclaimed now.

He says he prefers to work from loose scripts because the rigid ones leave little room for creativity. How do you create anything, when all you do is follow instructions?

His method is to be obsessed with the subject, and to do all the hard work and research in the preparatory phase. And then to panic!

This serves to disrupt the stranglehold of earlier preparation and frees him to live in the moment and make his decisions on the fly. It’s not unlike being in the zone, which is what breathes life into his work.

Just like with body surfing, his other example. You need to learn how to control your body in water. But you really surf only when you give up control.  It happens in the moment when you allow your body to follow the wave, rather than controlling anything. That’s when you cease to exist because you’ve become one with the wave.

It is, perhaps, also how symphonies are created. Beethoven’s fifth (my example), has a very precise structure in terms of group theory. But no mathematician has created a comparable work following the discipline of mathematics. And Beethoven, who created the masterpiece, is no mathematician and wasn’t following a mathematical procedure. 

We all know that Beethoven never really studied advanced mathematics. Yet he incorporates a surprising amount of math in his music, at very high levels. The beginning of his Fifth Symphony is a prime case, but examples such as this are legion. He "used" group theory type concepts to compose this famous symphony. In fact, he used what crystallographers call the Space Group of symmetry transformations! This Group governs many advanced technologies, such as quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, and crystallography that are the foundations of today's technological revolution. At this level of abstraction, a crystal of diamond and Beethoven's 5th symphony are one and the same!

Source: Chapt. One, IV.4, Mozart, Beethoven

Yes, the mathematics is there. But it was formed into the symphony when Beethoven let his imagination discover its structure, unfettered by any control. If there was discipline, it was went into training the musician and composer that Beethoven was, not in the actual act of creation of the symphony.

Okay, so what is the lesson for the software engineer?

Here, it is (and I hope Mr Kapur agrees):

Great software doesn’t come from following the detailed SRS that you or someone created. It is more likely to emerge when you do an obsessive amount of preparatory work, but respond to the requirements as you see them when the action begins.