Sep 23, 2007

Three Stress busters for Software Engineers

Last week one of my friends was talking to me about the insane levels of stress that the IT professionals go through in their profession...Yes, at times this profession is demanding..and this cubicle life has kind of transformed the friendships and networks that we otherwise build over a glass of beer or a stroll in the park into different domains like Orkut & Facebook, where ppl are more or less doing a kind of virtual interaction.. Ofcourse there are immense benefits for these social networking sites, but then the shift from real life to online life has more or less happened with the Gen-X ..
Now how you handle your wellbeing in this online life ? While drawing up plans for your day-today life, realize that you are a human..not a machine..Because if you plan things like 6 - 9 PM movie, 9 - 10 PM Tech design review or something like that, the probability that you screw up the review is very high..Because at the end of the movie, your mind might not be in a comfortable state to switch to work.. I generally find myself to be more productive in work if I read a few Dilbert comic strips every hour ..And I find myself to be even more productive if I take a look towards the Christ college gate once in a while :) ( My cubicle in office is at a such 'strategic' location that if I turn and look out of window, I can see the 'colorful' crowd at the college entrance :) ) . These 'distractions' tend to refresh your mind to a very high extend..
Here is a list of such 'online distractions' which can give you a good laugh anytime and 'refresh' or de-stress your mind :)

Stress Buster 1:) Dilbert
-- Most of the online folks would definitely be aware of dilbert..But here are some of the less known dilbert 'features' or strips which'll definitely give you a good laugh

(a) Mission Statement Generator

-- Every time you get a company mission statements from your CEO / VP / whoever it is , go to Dilbert Mission statement generator and generate 10 random mission statements..The tool is basically a script which generates random mission statements from a collection of verbs,adverbs, pronouns etc .. And see how closely your company mission statement corresponds to these 'Dilbert mission statements' that is randomly generated :) .. You'll be surprised with the results :)

Some of the random mission statements from Dilbert MSG are
"It is our mission to quickly supply world-class products while promoting personal employee growth"

Our challenge is to quickly build principle-centered technology so that we may endeavor to competently integrate mission-critical solutions while maintaining the highest standards"

We exist to assertively leverage existing corporate solutions as well as to continually initiate diverse content"

It is our business to proactively coordinate inexpensive deliverables while maintaining the highest standards"

We envision to quickly customize professional technology while promoting personal employee growth"

These strike a chord with you :) ???

(b) Dilbert & IIT -- IITians are world class..No doubt about that..Now, read those Dilbert snips where he pokes fun at IIT-grads :).. This is why Scott Adams is the best cartoonist around.

Stress Buster 2) -- Ouch My Toe
This is a good site for all guys who are trying to understand the fairer sex..And the other way too for girls who think about why these guys act like this :-) ..This has got enough articles than can hook you to this site for ages.. So, read in moderation :-) .. And he has taken pains to consolidate those into PDFs for folks who would like to print it and keep for reference :) ..A good link for bachelors. :)

Stress Buster 3) -- CNN Wild wacky World
They have an ingenuous ability to dig up all the crazy stuff happening around the world..And most of them are hilarious too.. Some might be objectionable , but all are good source for a good laugh atleast :)

--- So, have a good laugh , de-stress yourself and enjoy your life :)


Sep 13, 2007

Google Phone : Fact or Fiction ?

Caution :- Heavy technology – business related article.. Quite long too.. People who are not interested, please skip .. This is an article which can bring brickbats or bouquets to me some time later :)

Over the last few months, blogosphere has been abuzz with news about a mobile phone that Google is about to launch. The frenzy over this so called G-phone has reached such proportions that people have started coming out with imaginary designs of the G-phone.. Being someone who is extremely interested in this search – revenue related Google business or rather g-business, I’ve too joined the group by launching a g-phone blog and hoping to rake in some ad-revenues :) .. However, this post is not just about speculation ..This post is about some facts of the search industry and why does it make sense for Google to get into mobile phone related business .

The Search – Revenue Entangle

Some people laugh at Google’s pay-per-click policy. And most of us can count using fingers the number of times when we intentionally clicked a Google Ad or a sponsored web search link. Then how do these translate into revenue for Google?

Initially I too was highly skeptical about their business model. But the answer lies in the sheer size and scale of penetration of internet. Billions of web searches happen every day.
Millions of web pages have Google Ads (These Ads are rendered based on keywords) on them. And if you take an approximate count of the number of times, a keyword
like say ‘DVD player’ comes into relevance in day-today web surfing of people across the world, it would give you a staggering figure. Infact, for a globally operating company like ‘Canon’ , the kind of returns that they would get if they do an online advertising campaign based on a relevant keyword like ‘digital camera’ would far exceed returns from any other traditional advertising channel.

Coming closer home, have you noticed ‘’ ads ( they are into real estate business ) appearing in TV as well as in Google Ads in Indian blogs.. I’d say, they have smartly managed their advertising campaign. With just a few dollars, they have successfully ‘resereved’ select keywords like ‘Cochin’, ‘Vizag’, ‘Mysore’,’Gurgaon’ etc ( basically all new emerging townships ) .. Throughout blogs and news portals where these keywords show up, Google Ads of show their head. They might not have succeeded in generating much online transactions from those Ads..But they would have atleast generated thousands of curious phone calls, thousands of new housing/plot related advertisements in their site. And, if you see something on TV, which you have already noticed on web, you tend to attend to that a little bit more..In other words, successful bidding of a few keywords in Google search has been an integral part of the magicbricks’ advertising strategy. And I believe they are reaping returns from that.

So, the key point is, a seemingly innocuous Google search on ‘Cochin’ might result in a commercial benefit for sites like and Google too in the long run. That’s the power of smart online advertising.

So far so good.. But then, why does Google have to look at mobile phone sector ? Why can’t Google remain in web-search itself? ..There are lot of reasons for that. But everything boils down to an inherent problem with Google Ads –

Tracking of true value generation for the advertiser.

Like any other TV ads or wall poster Ads, it is extremely tough to measure the true returns from Google Ads on web. As an advertiser, I would always like to measure the returns to my invested money in monetary terms. Or in other words, I’d like to measure how many of the Google Ads resulted in a financial transaction of benefit to me. Of-course you can always argue that most advertisements create brand / product awareness and those indirectly result in monetary transactions. But those indirect transactions are not easy to measure… Hence, any advertiser would prefer a medium of advertising through which he’ll be able to measure the direct returns from advertisements or the direct financial transactions arising out of that. Or in more technical terms, e-commerce industry is eagerly awaiting a paradigm shift to a ‘pay-per-transaction’ model (I’d pay Google when a transaction of benefit to me happens out of their advertising ).. from the existing ‘pay-per-click/impression’ model ( I’d pay Google when someone views my Ad – hoping that those views would result in a direct or indirect Ad-benefit to me ).. Now there are lot of technical and business difficulties in implementing a true ‘pay-per-transaction’ advertising model on web based on just internet and PCs.. Here comes the importance of mobile phones.

How mobile phones may function 10 years later ?

Imagine you going to a shop. You like a product..instead of paying by cash, you pay through your mobile phone by sending an SMS / RFID / Bluetooth / Wireless communication to the shopkeeper’s mobile phone , which inturn would debit money from your bank account and credit it to the shopkeeper… U think this is a technological fantasy or something totally ridiculous ? Well, take this news .. Google has applied for a patent on such a software system dubbed as ‘G-pay’

Ok, so you think it is possible ? ..Now think about a more advanced scenario.. You go to a wineshop.. You see a bottle of Bordeaux Wine and notice the price..Apparently you get a suspicion whether it is priced at a higher level.. You take out your cell phone, use the cellphone bar code scanner to scan in the information about the wine .. And using that scanned in information you do a google local search, which would list the nearby shops selling the same wine and their prices.. And you go to the appropriate shop to get the wine bottle at the correct price.. This part is not my creativity .. Its taken from John Battelle’s “ The Search ” -- perhaps the most authoritative book on Search Industry Now, this is a bit of scientific fantasy at the moment. But note that it is not technologically impossible.. I mean, all parts of that scenario like barcode scanner, google local search, GPS etc exists even now.

Now as an extension of that scenario, assume that you pay for that Bordeaux wine bottle using ‘G-pay’ ( i.e, SMS based payment that I described earlier ) -- Isnt it possible to visualize a true ‘pay-per-transaction’ model based that scenario ? You have done google search, you have viewed details of the wine at the relevant shop, you have paid using G-pay --- Now it is possible for Google to charge a certain percentage of Wine bottle’s cost as advertising charge because they are able to uniquely trace back that wine-bottle purchase to a Google search… Isn’t this the ‘pay-per-transaction’ model that the e-commerce industry is truly awaiting?

Where in Mobile phone Industry will Google come into?

Ok, so agreed that mobile phone is going to play a bigger role in future? But then Google is a software company. Forget a tough job like mobile phone manufacturing. They don’t have much expertise in hardware itself. How are they going ahead with such a niche job like handset manufacturing.. Afterall, it’s the forte of elegant designers in Nokia / Apple / Motorola etc ? And doesn’t it make sense for Google to roll out a mobile phone OS clubbed with G-pay?

The answers are pretty intricate again… To start off with, take these news too

1) Google interested in bidding for a wireless spectrum that’s up for sale in US

2) This is actually a Google link itself over the available openings in Google UK

What kind of openings you see there :) ?

Now I’m explaining based on mobile-phone industry, about which my knowledge is extremely superficial..If Google rolls out a mobile OS integrated with G-pay, do you think established players like Apple ( which is actually quite nitpicky about the software that it has in i-phone ) , Nokia and Motorola will take it up ? The answer is a straight NO. Nokia would never think of discarding its Symbian OS.. Neither would Microsoft mobile OS or Motorola’s linux based systems disappear from market..They have invested millions in developing these. And they would not throw it away at one shot

Now, what would happen if they release G-pay as a third-party application ? .. This is a move that’s quite possible.. But then, there are lot of tricky issues in such a case.If G-pay is being released as a third-party App, Google will have to provide different versions to suit different mobile phones..And, in the absence of a dedicated carrier frequency or spectrum , it would not succeed in a big way..And third-party systems are more prone to hacking/security issues.., both of the above scenarios, even if they seem to be possible, does not seem to be a killer combination..Now lets imagine another science-fantasy scenario.. Imagine you have a google-phone integrated with Google-talk.. And assume that Google has a dedicated wireless spectrum ( which it may get soon ) . Then you might be able to talk to your friend using Google phone (indirectly using Google talk ) without paying anything to the so called ‘SIM card’ provider J .. Doesn’t it look appealing? ..And what if you are able to pay some shopkeeper sitting in SanFranciso from NewYork by using Google-phone SMS over the wireless spectrum ? -- Doesn’t it look even more attractive ? ..

Infact I believe Google’s interest in bidding for the wireless spectrum by investing billions of dollars is a very strong indication that some google-phone ( hardware ) is going to come..Because, without a dedicated handset, its not quite possible to get good return on those billions that it would put for bidding the spectrum.. But then, who is going to make the handset ? Does Google have the required expertise to make it ?
Actually based on the business , the handset does not have to be quite sophisticated like the iphone or any of those N-series. It should have wireless interfacing capabilities , it should have integration with Google talk, it should have the G-pay integration..And obviously , tight integration with all google products like search, checkout , maps, youtube etc.. Infact I don’t think it would even have a dial-pad kind of facility.. I feel calling a person would be more or less based on Gmail ID .. And more than the phone functionality, it may function as an electronic wallet for sending and receiving payments.

Doubtful about whether a customer having a normal GSM / CDMA phone would switch to a number-less ( but gmail ID based ) phone world ? They might be reluctant initially..but in the long run, they would..because in a g-phone based communication, they won’t be paying anything as cell phone usage charge to anyone else other than Google.. And quite likely , in such an environment , Google may discount on call charges in return for Ads ..because Ads served in G-phone – G pay system would be based on a ‘pay-per-transaction’ model..And advertisers will be quite willing to take that... But still, the issue of expertise with handset design remained a tricky issue to me ..Until yesterday when I got this link ==> They are going to outsource the design of the gadget to someone else..

After that link, everything seems to be fitting in perfectly well…The entire business model looks to be fitting in in an excellent way :) ..It remains to be seen when Google will actually come out with such a phone at-least in US.. Contrary to what many analysts think, I don’t think the release is immediate, though I’d be happy to be proved wrong .. The first hurdle – Wireless spectrum bidding – is yet to be surpassed..Only after that , will some solid information come into the public.. And I guess it’d take at-least an year for them to actually come up with the business model in US. Until then, happy speculation :) Happy G-phone designs :) Happy G-phone blogs too :)


Sep 11, 2007

Interview by Cuckoo

This is a kind of different 'tag' which I came across last month.. Cuckoo is interviewing people based on their blogs..When I signed in for the interview, I thought it was going to be very superficial..But she dug up and read many of my long forgotten blogposts and had questions based on that.. Really when someone spend such time and effort on your blogs, you ought to give as detailed answers as possible.. :) ... Only difference on this tag from my side is that I'm not going to interview you ppl as a continuation of the tag..This requires a lot of time, which unfortunately I dont have ... So, anybody who is interested in having such an interview, please contact Cuckoo herself... But believe me, you'll enjoy the interview..

So, here it goes..

Good Morning Mr. Ajith Prasad. If you don't mind I will call you Ajith. Well, before we start, let me put a few things a little straight to you. As you know I would be taking your interview, you are expected to remain seated calmly without questioning my questions or no. of questions. There are going to be five main questions with some sub-questions. Treat them as parts a, b, c etc. please be as detailed as possible, it'll give you some practice for your exams. And now, for God's sake keep your face a little more cheerful. It looks like you have come here for a mourning.
Yeah, that's a little better now. Keep smiling like that. You do look good after that wonderful haircut. Here we go..

1 . You have started blogging since July 2004. That's a long time. But your first post is of June 25, 2005. Have you deleted some posts? And I can see you have as many as 6 blogs !! That should go for some kind of record I guess. Can you elaborate what these blogs are about and why have you kept them, specially when you are a busy person struggling thru your FinAcc and your studies. Well, most of them have only 2/3 posts but still we want to know.
How blogging journey has changed your life, your perception over the period of time ?

Ans : J
uly 2004 is the month when I created my gmail account.. I started blogging in June – 2005  . I think I’ve deleted just one post… but that was much later.
6 blogs – mostly created at the spur of the moment ..Those are not updated frequently. Couple of them are used for testing my entrepreneurship idea – check
Blogging journey has given me lot of new friends.. And I’m a firm believer of the Godfather message – “In your life its your contacts, relationships and acquaintances that matters the most “ ..I believe blogging has really widened my network. I has also helped me to develop my language.. As a result of this, my speaking skills have also developed… I mean, ideas or intentions crystallizes into words quickly now.. For someone like me who has studied in a more or less Malayalam-dominated environment, it has been really a boon.

2. I can see you, in your own small way, are trying to help the society. That's an applaudable gesture. Do you think blogs can make a big difference? What do you think of the society we live in? Like many of us you too get affected by things happening around you e.g. when a friend's marriage was breaking up and you wanted to help them. Were you able to do something for them ? What do you think when someone calls you philosophical ?

Ans :
Blogs can make a big difference in generating awareness. And to a certain extent it can motivate people too. But there is no substitute for the ground work that you have to do to make a difference.. Spending a day cleaning a park or hospital is much much more valuable than blogging about those and generating 1000 chain mails. Indians have a general tendency to form 10 committees for a simple task and all committees end up doing extensive planning but not much action. I see that every now and then. Even I’ve been part of some such non-functional committees. But really, ‘making your hands dirty’ as some people say is really what the society needs.
All societies have certain plus points and minus points. And no one can afford to live a totally disconnected life.. What might seem to be good for me might seem to be bad for you..Its all perceptions. I believe for anyone to call their life meaningful, they have to make some contribution to the society that would motivate the coming generations.. All might not be able to do that. But atleast we should try for that
Over that friend’s marriage thing – No I was not able to do anything for them.. However, time has more or less mended their differences I believe..They r together now.
Yes, at times I’m really philosophical.. Especially people who have had long dinner conversations with me would vouch for that.

3.Can you please tell us about the funniest moment of your life till date ? What was your age then ?

Tough to classify the most funniest moment.. Maybe its upto you people to evaluate..Go through

4. Which movie made an impact on your life and why ?

The movie - book ( actually book is far better in this case ) combination of 'Godfather - part I & II ' ( Godfather III is crap -- courtesy Sofia Copolla ) has definitely made an impact on me.. Why? Because Godfather is an institution on its own.. Every-time I re-read this book, I tend to realize something or other that applies to my life ( or in general to everyone's life ) .. I'd say, if you haven't read Godfather, you are missing something in life ( read the book first,then see the movie ).. Books like this prepare you for life better the than the so called self-improving books like "The seven habits of highly effective people" ... The point is that, the story, scenes , screenplay& dialogues of Godfather would remain etched in your memory for long ( consequently, the messages conveyed through those ) rather than pure verbose description of those principles....Thanks to Mario Puzzo, Marlon Brando & Al Pacino :)

5. You have been given unlimited wealth, you have already saved the world and given generously to every charity. How are you choosing to spend the rest of your life? Don't copy my answer.. say something different.

Unlimited wealth + charity + saving the world – hah..interesting.. I’d spend the rest of my life doing two things – Roaming around every possible tourist destination across world with my wife ( hope she would like to travel :) )..And I’d acquire a bookshop chain like ‘Landmark’ / ‘Cross words’ and make it my personal library ..And read and write as much as I can :)


So guys, contact Cuckoo if you wish to have such an interview