Showing posts from September, 2007

Quick review: Johnny Gaddar and Proof.

Much mediocre to good television was watched over this weekend, but so were two movies that I really liked. I'd have liked both movies anyway, but what elevated them even for me was the fact both used the places they were set in really well, and the places held special meaning for me. Given the few movies that use where they are set well, and the even fewer places that mean something to me, this is pretty rare.:)

The movie is a couple of years old, and I was sorry to miss it then. But it was almost better to see it now, when it brought back memories of the Chicago campus. The story, acting (especially Paltrow) and direction is, predictably, really, really good, but the shots of Lake Shore Drive, downtown Chicago and the I-90/94 highway made the movie for me. :)

Johnny Gaddar
Ooo...I really liked this one. The following holds true about mainstream Bollywood movies:
There aren't many good thrillers; there aren't many movies that are extremely well-directed; there aren't…

Gift cards: why are they good business?

This kind of digressing post is exactly why my productivity can be sub-optimal sometimes. :)
Last week, I ended up buying a gift card. For a couple of seconds, the thought crossed my mind, why does a gift card worth $50 cost exactly $50? The convenience of getting a gift card and the flexibility that it gave the recipient was worth something to me and I might be willing to pay a little extra for it. The marginal cost of printing the card (though minimal) did cost the store something, and there was the fixed cost of the infrastructure for the payments. Shouldn't stores then charge more for their gift cards?
But then I decided the store could probably charge considerably lesser than $50 for the $50 gift card, but pricing it at $50 still made sense!

The best part was the there seem to be so many different reasons for them being able to charge less than the face value of a gift card for it. These were the ones I could come up with right away. Are there any more?
Time value of money: a d…

The T-shirt snub

As an undergrad, for a couple of months I really resented a really good company, simply because their campus representatives acted like pompous jerks during interview season on campus. Employees, willingly or not, whether their employers like it or not, are always ambassadors for the company....

...and in the age of ever-present company-logo T-shirts, even more so.:)

Anyway, those who know me well, know that I wear company logo stuff far too often. There are number of reasons for this

the shirts are freeI'm too lazy to go out and buy real clothesI like the T-shirts most of the timeand they're free

Now, in general I only wear stuff from companies/organizations that I think fondly of, or recruited with; their is some overlap there; occasionally it'll be because I stopped at their booth at a recruiting fair and their rep stuck his/her hand out with a T-shirt :), but that was a long time ago.

Anyway, I came back home tonight and changed. I realized I needed to quickly pick up somet…

Gasp! Did Msft actually have the right idea?

It was a more innocent time: a long, long time ago. I still thought I was young, couldn't complete a sentence without trying to work in a pun, and my parents were still asking me questions like, "So how do we turn on the Internet?"

OK, lying a bit about the last one; they'd stopped asking that much earlier.

But about two-ish years ago when someone first told me about a startup called Writely that wasn't half-bad, and everyone couldn't stop talking about the inevitability of the online office suite, I'd heard an interview with a Microsoft Product Manager, who was rolling out a collaboration suite for Office products (which after all of Msft's branding fits and feature roll-backs is now called: Office Live Small Business and has fewer-even-than-promised features) . He maintained (I paraphrase from memory now), "We don't think there's much value in an online office suite. We believe that people want to collaborate online and share docs, but …

Monetary Policy 101 and other random videos

Greenspan on the Daily Show: the portion on monetary policy (in the beginning) was like a flashback to Macro.Loved it!
I really like Jon Stewart and his detached, look-I'm-poking-fun-at-authority-because-I'm-kinda-smart-and-curious brand of humor. But he seemed to doubt the free market there for a little bit...tsk, tsk. :)

Ooo..favorite Stewart/Carell/Colbert moment from the last Emmys (enjoy it while it lasts on YouTube):

While I'm embedding videos anyway, here are two more; new Pepsi commercials in India. I love it when movie stars are willing to acknowledge they're old. Also, at this point I'm comfortable saying with some confidence that the average Indian TV advertisement is better than the average US TV advert....if you get em.:)

Hmm...someone seems to be taking down advertisements from Youtube too. Seriously, who wouldn't want their ads to be distributed more?

Narrow questions = narrow results

I've been answering tons of questions outside work recently, mostly from MBA students about recruiting with Google/other tech companies. Most have general-ish questions, though the conversations typically seem to come back to similar themes.

The other day, I ended up speaking with someone who seemed to have done everything they ask you to do before getting into a meeting. He was well-prepared, knew exactly what to ask, and did so quickly and efficiently. It was my shortest phone-call.

I should have been happy with that, except I felt bad for him. I had probably given him less advice and information than anyone else I'd talked to. He had been so focussed in his questioning, he'd made it impossible for me to add stuff to the conversation, and give him more information.

The moral of the story: Always be prepared and stick to a script for a meeting if you have one. However, always be willing to deviate from that script or go with the flow. Chances are thats where you'll get t…

Quick review: Vuze (Azureus)

Yes, I realize reviewing a product about a year after its been released is kinda pointless, and the irony of having the word "quick" in my title is not lost on moi either.:)

But I ended up installing Vuze last week, wasn't really expecting much, and hence was pleasantly surprised. Vuze is the "corporate" version of the open-source p2p bittorrent client: Azuereus. It does 2 things well, and thats why I was pleasantly surprised.
Its adds a decent skin on top of the basic Azuereus client UI (which you can access by clicking on the 'Advanced' tag.) Sure, the normal UI looks just like iTunes, but what video download service now doesn't?:) Its probably not a big deal for most Azureus users who'll just ignore the new UI, but I've had a lot of friends say to me, "Hey, I can't figure out how to get Bittorrent to work." Well, this goes some way to solve that problem once they try it.
..and the content will give them some reason to actually…

United boarding passengers: am I missing something?

Most airlines (unlike Southwest/Jetblue?) have assigned seating for their passengers. I travelled United when this I flew to Chicago (more on this later maybe),and something puzzled me. Maybe someone who reads this can help. Passengers along with their seat numbers are assigned a seat area (1-4) and seating areas are boarded in ascending order.

Now, why people rush for their seats when they have assigned seating (assuming the baggage storage space isn't a big consideration) is another human psychology conundrum, but anyway... People do rush: they stand in line for the longest time, and when their seating area is announced ("Section 1 may board now") they rush towards the gate, knocking children and old people on the way, knowing well they may have to wait again for quite a while, as people in front of them take their seats.

Now, airlines make a big deal of optimizing their gate turnaround time. So why on earth would they have people board in an order that is bound to gene…

Revisiting a favorite article I wrote, and hence revisiting copyrights...

I'm kinda kicked about something that happened a couple of weeks ago. Someone wrote me an email asking if he could adapt an article I'd written for ChiBus for something he was planning. My reaction was, in order : "Hell, yeah!" ...and "Thanks".

It inspired me to revise Carol and Klaus (A) one more time. I'd written the original article in a terrible rush, but it was one of my favorite articles for the school newspaper. I think its funny only if you've been to through the special weirdness that is business school and the case-based education format (i.e. its funny because its kinda true.) But still, if you feel like a laugh give it a try.

The episode also got me thinking: "What if lightning strikes twice?" and someone else wants to do something with this again? It was nice of this guy to ask, but I should make it easier.

I've known what Copyleft and Creative Commons is for a while, but have always thought about it in the context of softwa…

If you suck at something, please continue to do so?

So, Seth Godin is a smart guy and he says smart stuff about marketing really often.

But then he says stuff like this, it makes me want to find a desk to bang my fist on (my head is hurting now, so I've stopped banging that.:))

"If you have an organization that is slow and deliberative, don't enter a market that rewards the fleet of foot.
If you have colleagues that love to discuss everything out loud, don't choose a campaign that will fail if the market senses internal discussion and disagreement..."

In other words, "if you kinda suck at something, don't try to fix it. Just smile, accept it and keep doing what you were planning to."


The last time, I remember reading something by him and having such a strong reaction was this gem: Bobcasting. Stuff like this is exactly the kind of stuff, that though its not a terrible idea (not a new, or even well-defined idea either), that makes engineers make fun of marketers

Am I a middle manager?

Someone asked me the other day, "So how goes middle management?"
Now when I think middle manager, the first person that comes to my mind is the PHB.

And though, I don't manage people at work, I do feel like I'm supposed to "manage" stuff.
So, I checked the definition. What does Wikipedia have to say about it?

"In pre-computer times, middle management would collect information from junior management and reassemble it for senior management. With the advent of inexpensive PCs this function has been taken over by e-business systems. During the 1980s and 1990s thousands of middle managers were made redundantfor this reason."

Finding, re-assembling and presenting information for others: isn't that a non-negligible part of most people's jobs now (at a large company anyway?)

So, does an efficient company eliminate middle management? Or is everyone middle management?

Ok...I'll admit to being a LinkedIn spammer!

A couple of people asked me this week what the story was with the LinkedIn invites they received from me. So I'll come clean. Now, I clearly like LinkedIn. I think its a pretty nifty professional networking tool, but my rule of thumb for it is
don't invite someone who isn't already on it and reasonably active.don't invite, or accept an invite from, someone whom I haven't already had a businessy email exchange/conversation or is already a friend.But I (only temporarily) slightly loosened the first of those requirements earlier this week, inviting a few people I know well, but don't seem to use the site actively (defined as having few connections)
The reason: once you hit 500 connections on LinkedIn, they stop showing the number of your connections to others, and just keep it at 500+. So at the start of the week, when I saw that I was at 493 connections, I just couldn't resist the idea of joining the 500+ club.:)

You probably wouldn't ask, so let me just tel…

On the other side of a resume review

I have a problem with idealism. The problem is that I have it.

Yesterday, I helped the recruiting effort at work narrow down resumes. Imagine this: you're given a stack of 100+ ish resumes and you need to whittle them down to a maximum of 8 (I couldn't get it to below 10.)

Why is this task even vaguely related to idealism? When in school, I was often annoyed by the some of the drama thats involved in recruiting: the dinners, the meet-n-greets, the pressure/suggestions to show up to presentations/lunch-n-learns, the information sessions that devolve into "selling my resume" sessions, the phone calls from recruiters to gauge interest in a particular firm(not making this up.) My thought process was: you have our resumes, make your picks, call us for the interviews, and leave me alone to read my damn books (or just daydream while pretending to read my damn the case may be.:)) This sucking up seemed unnecessary and a little too fake to me.

Then I tried separating …

Laptops and meeting etiquette

Having the word "manager" in my job title naturally means I'm attending a lot of meetings these days, though that's a fact of life for almost everyone I know that works in large team; rule of the thumb: the more cross/multi-prefixed adjectives needed to describe your team, (e.g. cross-functional, cross-product, multi-disciplinary, etc.), the more meetings you will need to attend. :)

What struck me in many of the meetings I did end up attending though was the number of people who brought their laptops to there meetings and then had them open right through. This wasn't just "keeping it open to take minutes/notes" open. This was "doing work, answering email" open. They'd drift in and out of the meeting as required (someone else would typically keep the agenda/main conversation going.)

There's the obvious etiquette dilemma. My default for the last few years has been to shut the laptop down once someone started talking. It seemed like the…

Quick review: Superbad, Beerfest and RGV's Aag

Seriously what would happen to the arts without my completely gratuitous, occasional opinion and commentary. :)

Superbad: Really funny, incredibly stupid, ridiculously profane and... a little sweet: I like! Can you make a movie more autobiographical than naming the lead characters after yourselves like Seth Rogen and Evan Glodberg did? I like the kinda movies Rogen gets involved with, and his imdb page indicates there are tons more of the same coming.:)

Beerfest: Really funny, incredibly stupid, ridiculously profane and ...ridiculously stupid and profane! I like too! :) ...caught it on cable last week; nothing more to say here.

And finally, the one that I was still looking forward to that seemed like a good idea way way back when it was announced, less and less attractive as time went by, and finally when it released last week, I was actually looking for excuses to avoid it....but I got sucked into seeing it First Day Second Show.

Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag:
There are many reason…