Saturday, December 30, 2006

Use Foxmarks to Improve Productivity!

A little time organizing the bookmarks in your web browser is a great productivity booster, and ...

With time you grow so accustomed to your own unique placement of links that working on another machine destroys your rhythm. It could be as disorienting as working with an unfamiliar browser or waking up in a strange room.

If you feel the same way and use Firefox (why don't you, btw?), then you absolutely must try Foxmarks.

I've been using it to keep my office, home and laptop in perfect sync. It hasn't crashed the browser, lost my bookmarks or drawn attention to itself in any other way. (But do back up your bookmarks, because not everyone has been equally lucky.)

Here are the easy steps:

  1. Log in to your primary machine, the one you use the most and on which you know your way around.
  2. Spend a little time to neaten up and organize the bookmarks.
  3. Back up your bookmarks. (Learn how to backup the bookmarks here.)
  4. Download and install Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer
  5. Restart the browser. There would be a prompt to do so. (If you are doing something else in another tab or window, finish the work first.)
  6. Open an account on the Foxcloud Server. (Don't worry, this part happens automatically. You only need to choose a username and password.)
  7. Follow the prompts and your bookmarks would be copied to the Foxcloud server. Nothing else visibly changes.

On any machines that you need to synchronize now, follow essentially the same process, except the bit about opening a new account on Foxcloud. Instead, supply the original username and password. Foxmarks would merge any bookmarks on the new machine with those saved on the server and copy everything to the browser. Adjust as necessary and forget all about it.

You'd see the same set of bookmarks, identically placed on both (all of) your machines. Any changes you make at one place would appear at other places, before you notice the difference.

Now get productive!


Thursday, December 28, 2006

CNN-IBN Haj Expose - Where is the outrage?

New Delhi: Want to take the ultimate pilgrimage to God? Pay the middleman as the Haj is up for sale. Just as many temple establishments across India are often accused of exploiting poor Hindus, so also are poor, vulnerable Muslims who are being exploited for their beliefs.

Source: Muslims' faith misused by community leaders? : face the nation, Special Investigation :

This morning CNN also aired interviews with the common people, who it claimed were shocked and enraged.

But the two persons CNN-IBN chatted with actually showed no rage. They were, of course, reproachful in adequately strong language.

Perhaps, we are all so inured to such behaviour that it doesn't cause outrage. That's the reason why the exposes are all the more necessary.

We must come to expect the behaviour and design systems accordingly.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Okay, now why is he so successful?

This post continues from: Why is Amit Agarwal so successful?

A truly nice person

This is the first impression you get upon meeting Amit. (See my post after meeting him at BlogCamp in Chennai .)

He too wrote about interesting people he had met at BlogCamp. See his disarmingly simple reaction to something that could have led to a rant elsewhere.

GigaOm was represented by Shailaja Neelakantan who flew in from Delhi for the conference. While Shailaja was very disappointed with my session, nevertheless for me it was great meeting a writer who works with Forbes and GigaOm.

Source: BlogCamp India 2006: Meet Some Interesting People at Digital Inspiration

Here's another example, when a reader complained:

I can't believe I read that whole thing just to discover that all Amit is saying is "drag and drop". I want my ten seconds back.

Source: How to Add HTML Signatures with Images to GMail Email Messages at Digital Inspiration

His response: Wish I could give your 10 seconds back. :)

These are just a couple of examples. You can find the all over by visiting his blog:

All the hard work

Yes, he doesn't just tell you things he knows. He goes out and learns what his audience could be interested in. He experiments. He thinks and writes about what occurs to him.

He is a professional whose job happens to be blogging.

Like in other professions, hard work pays off handsomely. You could do an Amit in your own field, it doesn't have to be blogs.

A large body of work and an excellent brand

Yeah, Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was Digital Inspiration.

His new posts certainly bring him visitors, both from search (high PageRank) and subscriptions (a loyal audience). But don't forget that the old posts continue to drive visitors too. Because they show up high in lots of search results.

Success comes from both character and good tools. The latter are equally accessible to everyone (IP, market access issues aside). On the net, they are often free. (Read the bonus question at Why is Amit Agarwal so successful?)

So what makes him the phenomenon that he is? The same qualities that have been valued for long. The digital world isn't so different after all.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quantum of punishment in Jessica Lall case

The Delhi High Court has found Manu Sharma guilty of murdering Jessica Lall under Section 302 of IPC.

The NDTV reports on its website (today, December 20, 2006):

It is a big day at the Delhi High Court where a two-judge bench will sentence Manu Sharma and his co-accused Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Gill in the Jessica Lall murder case.
The court is hearing arguments from both the prosecution and defence before it decides on the quantum of punishment.

Was Manu Sharma's action premeditated?

Perhaps, not. He appears to have acted in the heat of the moment. If so, the the death penalty may be unwarranted.

However, there are others in the Jessica Lall case who could be guilty of lesser crimes.

But they acted with greater premeditation and for their own advantages. So shouldn't they be tried and awarded the maximum punishment for crimes they may be convicted of?

The co-accused

Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Gill have been found guilty of abetting the crime and destroying evidence. Their arrest was also ordered by the High Court.

They already face sentencing by the court.

Delhi Police officers

The Delhi Police was ordered by the High Court to investigate the role of its officials, who allegedly tampered with the evidence and influenced the investigations. 

I'm not trained in law, but don't they become accessories-after-the-fact?

"AN accessory after the fact may be, where a person, knowing a felony to have been committed, receives, relieves, comforts, or assists the felon.17 Therefore, to make an accessory ex post facto, it is in the first place requisite that he knows of the felony committed.18 In the next place, he must receive, relieve, comfort, or assist him. And, generally, any assistance whatever given to a felon, to hinder his being apprehended, tried, or suffering punishment, makes the assistor an accessory. As furnishing him with a horse to escape his pursuers, money or victuals to support him, a house or other shelter to conceal him, or open force and violence to rescue or protect him."

Source: William Blackstone quoted in Wikipedia article on legal definition of an Accessory.

The judge that heard the case at trial stage

And finally what about Justice S. L. Bhayana, whose judgement has been found "perverse" at some place by the High Court?

Originally hailing from Rohtak in Haryana, Bhayana was a practising lawyer in Tis Hazari courts for 12 years before he became a judge. He was overlooked for promotion in 2004 but got it immediately after the Jessica judgement. 



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Saturday, December 16, 2006

A thought on outreach

Interesting thought from someone at the Global Voices Summit now on at New Delhi:

The other thing is that it is very hard to encourage just by outside examples. Every people thinks that their country is so different that outside models are just hard to be adopted. It might or might not, but the perception is strong that it is.

Source: Hungarian Accent :: A thought on outreach :: December :: 2006

Yes, the perception that "outside models are just hard to be adopted" can be strong and there are good reasons for it,  not easily seen by those who offer outside examples.

Some decades ago Fred W. Riggs developed his theories using similar insights from his observations around the world.

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Photographs of people in Conferences?

Most conferences look the same. You could possibly tag photos from earlier conferences and not be found out. (Same, perhaps, could be said of large weddings.)

But photographs give you a sense of being there. And I did look at some that carribbeanfreephoto has been regularly uploading on flickr. Thanks, georgiap!

Next I want to remote participate in a wedding on flickr, even though I never like to look at wedding photos.


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Remote participation in Conferences

This morning the Global Voices 06 Summit got off in New Delhi.

I was hoping to join in person, but that didn't happen. Well conferences now have IRC channels, streaming broadcasts and all, so maybe I thought all is not lost!

But the experience hasn't been very exciting so far and someone else expressed similar thoughts on the IRC. (Likely Ethan Zuckerman, but one can never tell from the nick alone.)

*** jace [n=jace@] has quit [Nick collision from services.]

*** jace_ is now known as jace

*** Rosario [] has joined #globalvoices

<i-ange> LUG - linux user groups

*** FrancoGG left #globalvoices []

*** Delal_ [n=chatzill@] has joined #globalvoices

<Guest605> My son is damn good at writing, Jeremy. Do you mind giving me a blog site for kids where he can join in?

<ethanz__> someday, one of these conferences will go so smoothly I can actually participate in it... :-)

*** ethanz [n=ethanz@] has quit [Read error: 110 (Connection timed out)]

How does one participate remotely and yet be reasonably in the loop? I find it difficult even when physically present at conferences, what with all the simultaneous sessions.

Perhaps, the best bet is that people live blog and use the official tag.


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Judgement calls in organisations

New Delhi: The Ulta Pul was a casualty waiting to happen. The foot overbridge that smashed down on top of a moving train on Saturday morning was a British relic - over 140 years old and beyond repair. Coach No. F-8 of the Howrah-Jamalpur Superfast Express was crushed under the weight of the Ulta Pul, which was being demolished - a new one having been constructed and already in use to replace it. Though all the passengers trapped inside the coach were rescued and taken to a district hospital, 33 of them succumbed to their injuries.

Source: IBNLive : Bhagalpur was waiting to happen!

Perhaps the full story would only emerge when the statutory enquiry is completed, but it appears that someone made a Himalayan error of judgement.

When is a structure that's been partially pulled down likely to tip over and fall? There is no straight forward way to predict this accurately. And if trains cannot be stopped to remove the structure first, someone would be forced to make that judgement call.

With perfect hindsight we now know that on Saturday it was unsafe to allow the train to roll under the last remaining arch. Not too long ago a group of highly trained engineers at NASA made an error of judgement when they allowed Space Shuttle Columbia to re-enter the earth's atmosphere, without repairing damage to its heat shield.

Perhaps, the risk to this train on Saturday should have been easier to assess than the shuttle's, but I wouldn't think it was a trivial matter. Structures are notoriously difficult to assess.

Am I suggesting that we accept such disasters or rationalize them away as having been sent from Heaven?

No. I only suggest that being forced to make judgement calls, when there are organizational pressures to accept one recommendation rather than the other makes it extremely risky. Think back to the Challenger disaster and Feynman's account of his investigations into it. (Appendix F, Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle, Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident.)

Many of us make judgement calls. Not about stock markets, but other peoples lives. Think doctors, for instance. Or military commanders. But engineering failures are kill many people in a single, visible incident. So they make news.