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Showing posts from August, 2008

IPStat - RIP :(

I was confronted with this when I tried to log in to my IPStat account today. IPStat was a counter service that gave me aggregate stats my blog readership, One of the dangers of using any service is of course what you do when it goes way.

One of the first questions we were asked at the startup I first worked at was "What happens if your startup fails and is no longer around?"
My first project was in some sense the answer to that very question. (Just to be clear I wrote the 1.X software versions of the LKM.:))

The question clearly extends beyond just startups of course. Having a good plan, or even good messaging, for your users and partners if you go out of business or decide to discontinue service is something everyone should think about. Its hard to get right or do without angering people, but its a responsibility every manager should feel, and there is a genuine business reason: generating as much goodwill as possible does ultimately pay off.

I feel really, really bad for IPS…

Back!

Well, I have a good excuse for breaking the post-a-day aim. I was in India!An amazing week personally, but nothing I want to blog about.:)
I'm back and find I'm strangely rejuvenated and excited about work. I'm not sure if that's good news (the fact that I'm rejuvenated) or bad news (the fact that I apparently needed to be!) :)
An interesting side-note, is that this was the longest I'd been disconnected from email/the Internet etc. for a while. I'd never gone four whole days without even logging on in ages and I was surprised how I didn't miss it. 
We ended up doing tons of stuff in Mumbai, but on a movie review front: Bachna ae haseeno: Fun; and better than I thought it would be.Rock On: WOW! Incredibly well-directed, incredibly real and incredibly fun (trailer below)...and now I can't get the songs out of my head either. I still can't get over the fact that they're all supposedly playing the instruments and that Farhan Akhtar sang as well. 
We …

Wow: that's a speech.:)

Say/think what you will about him, no one mixes substance and rhetoric, numbers and passion, intellect and populist instincts in a speech as well as Bill Clinton.





Even four years ago, I thought he was the best part of the conventions.



Random interesting quotes

OK. I'm going to need to start cheating if I'm to meet my 30-day post-a-day goal so here are just a couple of quotes that I've liked over the last few days.:)

From a WSJ article on Brits having to work with American media com: "They love conference calls, the Americans," Mr. Bodle says.

Peyton Manning from a new Oreo's Ad (that's completely co-incidentally on YTs US homepage today!): "My brother and I would like to announce that its on like Donkey Kong!"

Sharon Osborone on America's Got Talent: "You're an absurd little man....but I like you."

From the NBC Olympic quotes: Basketball player Michael Redd, on why he doesn't call table tennis, "ping pong.": "I've got respect for the game."

YouTube Favorites: another example where the feature is effective, but unexpectedly so.

Caveat emptor 1: Though, I work on YouTube I haven't really chatted about this with anyone that currently works on this feature. This just stuff coming out of my empty mind.

Caveat emport 2: It is also based on how I use a certain product feature, and my usage patterns. For all I know, I may be in the minority.

I've been favoriting a lot of videos lately, but I realized I'm probably not doing what the designer of the feature intended me to do.

Let me start at the beginning. If I designed a feature to "Favorite": essentially a list of videos that I allowed the user to mark as ones she liked, I'd assume that the primary intention of this list was to allow me to save videos that I can come to visit later. Other benefits would be sharing this with others on YouTube, as well as implicitly ranking this video so that it can be considered for YouTube honors and in lists.

However, I find that when I favorite something, my real intention is that it gets up by my Friendfeed

Some advice on writing for the web that I really liked

Two articles that reminded me of how to writing essays well...and all the things I don't do.:)

article by Paul Roberts, an English teacher, written in the 1950s: "How To Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words". Found the the link off Seth Godin's blog. If you don't feel like reading the article, summary here.
An article by Michael Agger in Slate on how we now read online. A lot of text there, but some good advice and explanations behind why we should bullet, hyperlink, be terse and use contrasts in text.

Re-use: not just for code.

Something every programmers is taught fairly early is to re-use code, and write code that is easy to re-use.

I've been re-using Powerpoint slides quite a bit lately because, though I don't think its as clean, often leading to sub-optimal presentations.

I didn't think this applied to anything else, until yesterday when I re-sent an email I'd sent a month ago to someone who'd requested an explanation of something I knew I'd explained before.

Given how much of management these days is communication, its a good way to think about all the email you send and documents you create: is it potentially re-usable? is it likely to be useful in such a scenario? can be it be re-structured so that it is re-usable? can you store/catalog/index it in a way that you'll remember to re-use it?

One year of working for a living again...kinda...

The adjoining picture greeting arrived in the email today morning!:)
Its been a pretty good year; both personally and professionally. 
Lots of successes, lots of opportunities presented (and most taken) to learn and grow, lots of free food, lots of smart/nice people.
Good year.

Busy with Buzzwords: "Own this"

So, how many times have you been asked to "own" something vs. just doing it?
Of late, 5-6 people have used those exact words when asking me or others to work on something. Its like somebody just sent out a motivation tactic memo to everyone that I know!
The choice of words is really fascinating to me. Clearly, I'm going to be much more committed to doing something that I now apparently "own" and the subtle difference in words can have quite an impact on the way the work you're parcelling out is treated.
Think about it: Doesn't owning the grocery-shopping sound better than being told to go and do some chores?
In my mind though, owning something means enpowerment (hopefully some resources as well)decision-making ability, even if its limited. If you're not given these, you're not "owning" stuff, you're doing stuff; which is fine; just different and probably less interesting.
The take-away:
To those who would make others "owners": it…

Quick TV Drama review

Yet again I've been catching more TV than I should over the past few months.
Quick reviews of a few shows below:

Hustle Their TV seasons may be much shorter (6 to 9 episodes), but the British really do their TV well. This is so slick and funny, despite following a predictable-ish formula and some loopholes, I've been devouring it on DVD for a while now.

Mad Men I resisted even starting to watch this one despite the Soprano's pedigree , but when Comcast put the entire first season on demand over the summer, started getting into it. The setting (Madison avenue in the 60s) and the characters really make the show and it is smarter than your usual TV drama, though sometimes I can't help feeling it tries a little too hard to add in the gravitas.
Weeds I thought this had jumped the shark a while ago, but they seem to have salvaged it just enough lately to make it interesting again.

Gossip Girl I'm embarassed to even admit I started watching this :(, but dammit...I can't lo…

Oh, so that's synergy! Lessons from the Teen Choice Awards.

Once again, the student of business in me is going "wow", the student of life in me is going "really?"

For reasons too personally confusing to get into, I started watching the Teen Choice Awards.
Don't worry, I tore myself away after about an hour after convincing myself this was not age-appropriate behavior, and after all the teenage screaming started to get jarring.
Also, I was multi-tasking at that time, so it wasn't thaat bad!:)

Anyway, the genius of Murdoch's minions was to come up with an award for the best celebrity MySpace page ("Choice MySpacer"....really)

The business gurus may sneer, but there _were_ thousands of teenagers screaming. Think about it; the Teen Choice Awards (and by implication teens and all the celebrities nominated) were endorsing one particular social networking site on a national broadcast. Now that's good marketing. I don't know how effective it'll be, but it certainly can't hurt.

In general, the opport…

Who're you selling to anyway?

Another reminder that companies don't make decisions. People do... and people are human... and hence idiots. Remember from The Dilbert Principle
"Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we're idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot."
A couple of days ago, I ended up having a conversation identical to one that I had a few weeks earlier with another person. I can't get into the details and so will abstract. This person was in the position to make a decision; an important one at that... and his decision finally was based on the presentation that he would be able to give to his bosses, instead of the actual results of what he'd do. Just to be clear, this person ...thankfully...didn't work at Google.
I've heard the same problem a million times the brand manager who decides to buy advertising in X place instead of Y, be…

WSJ: I cracked...and why thats a good thing.:)

The only truly successful subscription-based online news service I know of is the Wall Street Journal

I grew addicted to the Journal over a summer at b-school, and got the student subscription for my final year. I didn't renew the subscription, and then kinda waited to see if after the controversial acquisition they'd drop subscription on the site as Murdoch had hinted.

They didn't; and so a few weeks ago after getting only the first paragraph of an article I really wanted to finish, I cracked and subscribed. I decided not to get the paper delivered though (just the online subscription.) The idea of more paper to get rid of around the house is scary

I'm mildly annoyed that I had to spend some money to do it, but I'm really, really glad that clearly the WSJ has decided to stick with the subscription/paid-for model.
I've said this before, but I do think that the whole "Content wants to be free" mantra and the idea of building distribution believing advertis…

Chibus google ego boost

Some of my best memories from b-school came from working on the student newspaper, ChiBus. So I was pretty kicked that a year after graduating of the results on the first page for ChiBus within the ChiBus site 4 are mine, and bunch are special features that I contributed to.
My favorite is this April first issue article.  Wow, its amazing how long I carried on with that one-trick joke.:) 

On Metrics: Andrew Chen's post

There are times when Andrew Chen is really, really good and then there's times when he's just brilliantly insightful.

He ended up addressing something that strikes particularly close to home right now, in this post on how to think about and use metrics.

I really liked the analogy of developing and thinking about reporting as a "Product Tax"

Jeremy Liew adds two interesting points to the article as well.

Some Video picks: Matt Harding at Yahoo, Paris and Trailers

Matt Harding and Yahoo

If you haven't seen the Where the Hell is Matt Harding? video, take the few minutes right now.:)




I like good corporate rah-rah videos and this Yahoo effort with Matt is a good one. Yahoo had Matt Harding dance at different places in and around Yahoo (snap below; click through for video.)



More on Matt Harding here.

The Paris Hilton response
After the McCain ad, this was comedy genius. Background here.


See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die



Robert Downey Jr. trailersHmm...Robert Downey Junior was in my favorite two trailers of the summer.:)



















Expected or Unacceptable?: Rant on the NBC commentary during the Olympic broadcast

Warning: mildly naive rant ahead!
I've been poking around the NBC Olympics site today, and been surprised at how good it is. In general, I haven't been captivated by the Olympics since I was young and don't expect to spend that much time on it this year, but still you can't help being caught up in all the hype.
Anyway, I got home and switched on the TV just in time to catch part of the opening ceremony that NBC was broadcasting, and was instantly surprised at the thoughtless commentary, from I'm assuming Bob Costas (though I can't be sure)
Just as I turned the TV on it turned out the atheletes from Saudi Arabia were walking across the track, and in surprisingly thoughtless agenda-pushing, the commentator goes (paraphrasing from memory):
"Ah, the atheletes from Saudi Arabia; all men of course ...women aren't allowed to compete in sports in this country, or drive or do much without the permissions of their husbands....."

OK, why is this relevant here?  If…

Minor annoyance: Apple Installer

I got the reminder to install a bunch of stuff from Apple on my machine from their Software Update Tool (iTunes etc.)
So I did. It went as planned. So what's the point of this post? 
After the installer runs, what does it do? It shows me the dialog again. I know, its a minor thingy, but still: I needed something to complain about today.:)

Don't ask me if I want to run something after I just ran it! C'mon

Ignore sunk cost..and abandon a novel...oh, also a review

See, I actually did learn something in school....how to justify giving up on finishing a novel! :)

The year before I started at the GSB, a favorite Professor actually ended his commencement speech reminding students of this. The thought process, "Oh I shouldn't do this, but I've already invested so much in to it I might as well finish it." is surprisingly common, very human and completely wrong.

So as I finished about half of Brida by Paulo Coelho, whose novel The Alchemist I'd absolutely loved year ago, I had a decision to make. Would I, for the very first time, deliberately abandon a novel?

It wasn't a bad novel, but it hadn't gripped me and wasn't really teaching me much or making me think of anything new. It's not a bad book, just not a great one. While as most of my friends know my standards for movies and TV are pretty low (I'll cheerfully watch almost anything), it turns out my standards for books are a trifle higher.

I'm abandoning it;…

When Quantity >= Quality

Its been mildly annoying to me that I've let work and well...laziness..get in the way of blogging...yet again, but inspired by this post from the ever-entertaining Jeff Atwood, I'm resolving (for the umpteenth time) to blog much more.

He makes the point well, but essentially its a well-explained version of "Practice make Perfect."
He reference this great story below from the book, Art & Fear

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a per…

Identity, Brands and Social Networking (Notes from the Google Faculty Unconference)

If I don't get distracted or busy, this should be the first in a short series of posts about stuff I learnt and/or enjoyed at the Google Faculty UnConference.

The conference was a small gathering and had tons of breakout sessions and one keynote by Prof. Mohan Sawhney, which for me was one of the most enjoyable parts of the conference.

Prof. Sawhney had some excellent ideas and structures, and was extremely entertaining to boot. I'll try to go through, and comment on some of the points he made.

I'll start with the comedy:
On choosing to speak without PowerPoint: "PowerPoint is a good crutch, but once you learn to walk you need to throw it away."Early efforts with brand marketing trying to use social networking: "It was a lot like teenage sex. Everyone had heard about it, nobody was really doing it, thought that everyone else was doing it, and when a few of them tried it, it was really,really bad."His contention was that branding (or rather marketers trying …