Saturday, October 30, 2004

I've seen the future...

Ok, I've been hearing that Republicans should be thanked for India's prosperity for some reason! I agree that Republicans might be pro corporations but I think both offshoring & India's prosperity couldn't have happened only in the last four years now, could it? Tata Consultancy Services started offshoring way back in 1968! So, I think the political party at the helm didn't have much to do with it. I feel corporations focus on lowering operating costs was the reason.

Also, one shouldn't confuse outsourcing with offshoring. These are two different animals entirely.

Anyways, here's my prophecy -

1. Kerry will win.

2. In terms of the Iraq war, Kerry will start pulling troops out and stop putting in good money after bad. UN will be asked to step in and get the Iraqi people involved in governing their own country whether it's by a central government or through a coalition of the warlords in the different regions.

3. Afghanistan will be more in focus as Kerry will still be trying to get Osama.

4. Overall economy will start rebounding for a number of reasons. First, investors will show a little more trust in the economy. Second, the perception that American jobs stay in America will get reinforced. Not because outsourcing will be reduced though.

5. Outsourcing companies, both Indian and others, will simply start hiring more Americans, and try to operate at lower costs (smaller cubicles maybe?). However, outsourcing as a phenomenon will continue.

6. Offsoring will also slowly gain new meaning as other companies start setting up branches in countries closer to America e.g. Mexico & Canada. This will reduce time zone differences as well as give the benefit of lower costs.

7. Important Note: Outsourcing & Offshoring will happen more for the growth of the company rather than acting as replacement of current infrastructures. For example, if a call center is to be added, it might get added in Canada or Mexico, staffed by Indians rather than getting sent across to halfway around the globe.

8. Additional tasks will start getting outsourced from companies. Business Process Outsourcing will gain a broader & broader definition. (Well, if the US Army can outsource it's tasks then why can't corporations!)

9. Prosperities of countries like Brazil, India, China & Russia will continue to grow. Innovative solutions out of these countries will help them in becoming more global players than they have been in the past.

10. Globally, copyright will stop being the bugbear that it is today. Linux will rule, as will region free DVD players!

11. Increasing bandwidth availability will cut down telecommunication costs drastically. This will have more profound implications than what can be imagined currently. Media will get shared more and more rather than getting copied. After all, how many radio stations do you actually tape? The reason being that radio is ubiquitous. (A handheld recordable satellite radio is just the tip of the iceberg!) The same thing is going to happen to media. Both video and audio is going to get streamed rather than being consumed in packages. Charges will drastically reduce as both distribution & marketing costs go down.

12. Marketing will gain a new meaning through social networking software. Currently, this path of marketing is hardly utilised. Imagine hiring someone for chatting about Matrix Part IV in a chat room!

13. Google and other independant search engines will gain more importance. As will lesser known and more obscure audio & video which have not been marketed as heavily as the best sellers.

Thirteen seems like a good number, so I'll stop there! (And keep my fingers crossed!!)

Friday, October 29, 2004

Make your own potrait!

I discovered this website where you create a potrait of yourself! Fun stuff!!

Check out my potrait! Not that you'll recognise me on the streets with that, but all the same quite a close likeness I'd like to think. What with the cigarette and all!

Cool, eh?

Thanks to Russell Beattie for this one. He publishes an interesting blog by the way. He's also a night person, and finds it a waste to wake up early in the morning!! Maybe I'll meet him some day!

Anti Magnet!!


No comment here. I think it's self-explanatory!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

And then man built an island...

Will the blue planet finally become a brown one?

Here's an article on the two artificial islands created off the coast of Dubai - the "Palm, Jebel Ali" and the "Palm Jumeirah".


And you thought only white collar jobs are disappearing?

Here's an interesting Slashdot article.

Apparently it's called 'Medical Tourism'!

The complete Washington Post article is here. The article itself is a very good read.

Well, to give a brief personal experience - When I had to get a tooth capped, I was suggested by an American colleage to hop over the border at Nogales, Arizona to Mexico, since the costs are cheaper there! Everyone in her family used to choose that option rather than pay the exorbitant charges here in the US.

So when I went to India on vacation, I decided to get it done there. In dollar terms, it cost me 100 bucks. In terms of time, a couple of days compared to two weeks here. Both were, needless to say, way, way lesser than what it would have cost me here.

So, my question is - besides the basic cost (and yes, I know the cost of living is lower in Mexico & India), what are the other costs that are getting added to the bill? And why are Americans keeping quiet about it? If the system needs changing shouldn't someone take the initiative? This is capitalism after all. If my widget is cheaper than yours, then wouldn't everyone buy it?

Sexed Text

This appeared some time ago in The New York Times, but worth having a look at again...

A new computer program can tell whether a book was written by a man or a woman. The simple scan of key words and syntax is around 80% accurate on both fiction and non-fiction. The program's success seems to confirm the stereotypical perception of differences in male and female language use. Crudely put, men talk more about objects, and women more about relationships.

Female writers use more pronouns (I, you, she, their, myself), say the program's developers, Moshe Koppel of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, and colleagues. Males prefer words that identify or determine nouns (a, the, that) and words that quantify them (one, two, more).

Sexed Text

You can read the article here

And if you don't believe it works, try this page.

You can put in (copy/paste) any text you feel like and the analysis is quite straightforward! Of course, the bigger the amount of text, the more correctly it can do it's job!!!

And this one on Mathematics...

It's called the

I like the great way they put mathematics across using simple Java applets. Some of them are quite interesting games actually!

Here's one called The Towers of Hanoi. I remember having played this when young. Broght back some nice memories.

I guess when you're older you start appreciating what all the mathematics teacher were trying their damndest to teach you then!! No matter how painful it was to sit through a blackboard full of numbers & symbols which didn't seem to have any relevance with reality!

(via the Wired Blog)

Excellent website of Black & White snaps

Came across this fantastic website of Black & White snaps of New York called

Here's one of the great pictures.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Will the little guys rule the world?

This is a question that popped into my mind recently.

Before coming to US, I was truly enamoured by this idea of a nation built on one simple word, 'freedom'. I think of all things, that is the key to the success of the Unites States. Freedom to think, freedom to innovate, freedom to succeed. However normal this seems to Americans, these things are not necessarily taken for granted in many places around the world. In most countries, 'culture' is a big hurdle to overcome in both personal and professional lives. It is conveniently forgotten that culture is not static, but a living, breathing entity.

Things changed a bit after coming here. I realised that what started the nation and what continued till about middle to late of the last century, has somehow been ransacked. Big corporations and big companies hold a lot of freedoms to ransom. And what is ironical is that those companies actually came into being because of the freedoms that US gave them! But now that they are the big chaps, they try and throttle innovation and control creativity. Microsoft is of course a prime example. But there are others. The music and movie industry (and their arm the RIAA) also comes to mind. As does the big telecom giants. As does the legal system.

But of late, I notice something strange. Fuelled by technology & connectivity, a number of things seem to happening parallely, and I see a kind of pattern.

1. Linux is easily the first choice. The 'other' Operating System. Which has taken over people's minds and also PCs in developing nations. And most of it built by people volunteering!

2. Music and movies, both their production and distribution, have been taken over by everyone! A surge in indie movies, a surge in music, original and remixed, and the increasing amount of file sharing is changing the scene forever. Add to that the homebrew FM stations!

3. 'Hackers' and innovators are appearing everywhere. They build and transform on the things that are being produced by these mega corporations. And in the process improving on things as they stand. Witness Greg Hughes add a 5 GB microdrive hacked from an mp3 player into his digital camera! (via Engadget). Or people building their own PCs!

4. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) companies like Packet8 and Vonage are giving the Bells a run for their money and winning.

5. Lawrence Lessig and the Creative Commons is turning the definition of copyright on it's head to benefit the ideas of people, regular people, not corporations.

Today, I read an article, posted by Om Malik, about rural broadband. The article quoted Carlini's observation about how broadband in non-major cities is essential. Om says "... in this new connected economy, the jobs flow to the lowest cost destination, just as money used to flow where ever it could seek highest return." Couldn't agree with that more.

And to that I'd like to add this - As people have freedom to think, to share, to learn, they will create value. In other words,

"Ideas will flow where there is the most freedom"

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Politics, Cricket and a by-two chai

In India, politics replaces all other forms of entertainment. Well, except during the cricket season. At that time, even the politicians take a break from their mudslinging and sit in front of the tv.

So, it was not surprising to get into humungous political debates over the US elections, US foreign policy, Iraq, Bush's links (to everything mid-eastern!) and the future of US in world affairs, with my friends here in New York.

And then I wonder if I've had such vehement arguments over politics in India?

Well yes I have, most often about BJP/RSS and their veiled Hindutva agenda, sometimes over Pakistan, sometimes over the "new" Nuclear World and sometimes over US foreign policy. But for whatever reason, although politics is such a mainstay of newspapers back in India, it has never been so "in your face" as it has been here. After we've had our share of arguments and debates, we always have a "by-two chai", smoke a few cigarettes, and ask each other - "So what else is new?" And if things get too heated, there will always be someone coming over from the next table and saying "Take it easy guys!" or the ubiquitous "Relax!"

I've been thinking over this for some time now, how in the US you have to have a stand. And the stand is always 'for' or 'against'. Like you're either for abortion or against it. You're either for gay marriage or against it. You're either for the war or against it. You're either a Democrat or a Republican. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground in America!! And the funny part is you're expected to stay that way for the rest of your life!!

In India, we can let issues affect our lives only so much. After that, you've got to get up and move on! You've got to make a living, you've got buy some food, you've got to go back home because you're wife's waiting. I mean there's always so much to get done just to live that we can't afford to let issues rule our lives. Also, sooner or later, someone points out the ridiculousness of the whole thing and everyone cracks up! Until the next time, that is!

When I read the Wired article on "The New American Idol", one thing that caught my eye was the quote "It's the third way, Stupid". That's true, in life as in everywhere else. The idea is to make democracy work. The idea is to make the legal system work. The idea is to make life work. And invariably, there'll be things outside your control which will keep throwing spanners in your works. But you can't afford to stop and take a stand. If you get a spanner, take it out and look for nuts to tighten! And work around things! I guess that's why Indians are usually called unflappable.

At the end of the day, if you can have a hearty meal, enjoy the company of good friends, and when you lay your head on your pillow, think about a wonderful day spent rather than the things to do tomorrow, that's life well spent, isn't it?

PS. In case you're still wondering what a "by-two chai" is, I can't help you. You've got to go to Bangalore.