About 1 year ago I saw an NGO(Help Us to Help the Child (H.U.H.C.) copying my blog article on their home page without permission or attribution .
Since it was an NGO I decided to be patient . If they had shown the basic courtesy of asking for permission, I would have given it but since they did not, I simply asked them to simply remove it.
I know how slow the processes can be in an NGO so I waited for 4 months to get a response .
So what is the whole point of an NGO? Do something good? Fill the gaps where the government fails? Raise some issues of importance?
In their zeal for achieving their objectives , most NGOs spend considerable time reaching out to people, people with great social circles, influence and possibly power.
But here is a thought , in an Utopian world NGOs should not exist . They exist only because there are some issues that are not being resolved by the governments , some voices that are not finding ears and some people who get an unfair deal. Simply put “Because there is a problem that needs fixing” . If the main motto is resolving the issue, it makes sense to work more towards reaching out to problem fixers and not just information spreaders.
In the current world, there are hardly any problems where technology cannot help.There is corruption? We can help by building easy to use RTI systems .There is a natural disaster and we don’t think aid is reaching the right places, we need a way to survey the area and maybe pass it on to government agencies .
Not saying anything against NGOs reaching out to pure influencers or the influencers themselves , rather making a case for many NGOs to change focus and reach out to a very different kind of audience . You need Geeks and Nerds on your side. They love solving problems .
The needle has not moved, not even an inch ,not even a cm. My weight still remains exactly as it was when I started this. 85.9
[contextly_sidebar id=”XzG0krt4Ex2c0ySMUrRJ3cKt2OK1owaj”]Went to get my weight and other vitals such as body fat etc checked,hoping to see some change. I I was hopeful, partly because I have been exercising a bit and controlling diet a bit and partly because I feel slimmer(if that is a thing).
But NO CHANGE. The only progress was reduction in Visceral fat by 0.5% , which is good.Visceral fat is the fat between your organs , basically it wraps around them, snuggling them in it’s warm embrace. Seems pretty nice to me, but apparently it is not good 😛
I blame my injured leg for my non-progress :P. No seriously , possibly I used that as an excuse to not exercise much since past few days and hence gained whatever I might have lost initially. Nevertheless, back to the grind.
Uber , Ola, Taxi for sure and all other taxi Apps are truly disruptive to the taxi business and have made life easier for many people.
Now a taxi is just a touch away and you pretty much know how far away it is and when it will reach . Like scores of customers , I am sold on this idea and am a frequent user of almost all these apps.
So lets talk about what these Apps finally want to be. For the sake of this discussion let me talk about Uber . Uber’s tagline was/is Everyone’s Private Driver.
Sounds good right? Yup it does. Uber wants to be your driver wherever you want to go , whenever you want to go , as if you own the vehicle without actually owning it.
So what does Uber need to do to achieve this objective
Available all the time: This can be solved by having more and more drivers sign up . Uber , Ola etc are aggressively recruiting drivers and this should be a solvable problem. The next step in this should be better demand forecasting and having drivers on standby in not so busy places. This currently is being done but seems to be mostly driver driven rather than company driven.
Affordable: It should be cheaper to use Uber than Own a vehicle. The trick here is that it needs to be perceived as cheaper , not just be cheaper. People do not take out a pen and paper and calculate cost of ownership of a vehicle , they simply would calculate Per Km Cost and would be OK if Uber is slightly expensive in this regard. This would need considerable marketing and customer education
Reliable: There are 2 types of reliability here
Reliability of availability : I should know that I would get it , irrespective of where I am , it could be a super busy downtown or a picnic spot at the end of the city. I should be able to rely on it. If I cannot, I will always have the need to buy my own vehicle or maybe use other modes. I cannot plan a trip with uber with a possibility of not getting one on my return journey. This again is a solvable problem by having more and more drivers and using better placement and routing algorithms
Reliability of Cost: This is something which people do not really talk about much . Why do you think people in various Indian cities do not like Autos and use them as primary means of commute? Why do people use autos because they cannot afford a car yet ? Apart from all the above mentioned points , there is an added issue of auto drivers literally looting customers by jacking up the price at will . This is something that Uber and Ola have inherited from auto drivers and call it surge pricing(price increases based on demand) . You never know what price these companies would quote, and you cannot even bargain. Just because it is in a swanky app and has a cool name and is done automatically by an algorithm , does not really change what it really is: Extracting as much money as possible.
Now I am not debating if it is right or wrong, it makes business sense to charge as high as you can especially since all these companies are simply burning cash ,but my point here is about “will it help Uber achieve its ultimate objective or being everyone’s personal driver”?
To demonstrate the point , let me bring in a personal example. I wanted to use uber to go till a bus stand instead of an auto , simply because it was too easy to get it. Uber suggested that since it was peak hour, I would be charged 1.2X times for a distance of 5 Kms. I still decided to use it though. The moment I reached the bus stand , just out of curiosity I rechecked the price and it was 5.0X times normal. This was in the span of 15 minutes and a distance of 5 Kms. If I had been quoted this rate, I would have definitely not taken uber . Looking at such variation, my instant reaction was , I cannot always depend on Uber and possibly missed the 5.0X window by a few minutes. It is like a game.
Surge pricing is Ok if it is not too high. Eg: when you quote using the “Bata Pricing” of 1.XX times(say 1.98 X) , people still perceive it as 1 ish . It seems Ok and can be tolerated but when it crosses integers and is in the range of 2X 3X and even 5X , I get a feeling that I possibly cannot depend on it. Your own car or an auto running on meter (autos are legally not allowed surge pricing , except for night rates) would not surge prices.
Basically , I cannot depend on uber during the times I might need it the most and that exactly is the problem
This simply means that people will always keep a second option open, an alternate mode of transportation , thus defeating the whole purpose of Uber’s tagline . I have all the apps on my phone in addition to various numbers of local taxi players not signed up with uber.
Uber cannot make a profit until it becomes a dominant player ,and it cannot become a dominant player until there are enough cheaper options available in the market and having things like surge pricing might actually keep the cheaper options lingering in market longer.
Many of you might have woken up today with the news that the SC has deemed Section 66A of Indian IT Act as unconstitutional and struck it down. So what is this section 66A all about?
What is Section 66A
Legally the section 66A is worded as
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages,
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
Basically in it’s purest form section 66A seems to have been formulated to protect against spreading of messages that can incite violence, promote hatred or online bullying by spreading false rumors.
So why the hoopla?
So why were people so pissed with the law and why was there so much hoopla over it. Well the issue is that law operates in words , it is not what the law intends to do but what the interpretation of the wording of the law can be.
Concentrate on the words “grossly offensive or has menacing character” , “annoyance “, “inconvenience” , “danger“, “persistently ” .
Who decides what is offensive? Who decides if it has menacing character? what is the measure of danger?
In it’s practical form the entire law is basically a tool to bully and intimidate the junta by the people in power . Eg: What if you want to criticize a Politician and he/she deems it as offensive ? You get arrested and go to jail. What about a satire/cartoon site ? Are they allowed to make political satire at all? What about you talking about flaws in a religion?
The problem is that these cases have happened in the past . Aseem Trivedi‘s cartoons against corruption site was banned, a Jadavpur university professor was arrested for forwarding a caricature of Mamta Banerjee , three people spent 40 days in jail just because they were tagged in a video that was possibly blasphemous to a certain religion.
Should I be happy?
By all means yes , yes and yes. Congress introduced this and BJP actually tried to strengthen this and even defended it in court. They even want the online world to be regulated.
Internet is one of the last places to be free from government control and it is in our best interests to keep it that way. No Good democracy can survive until there is a free flow of information, unbiased sharing of opinions and a freedom from fear of prosecution for voicing your views(unpopular ) .
The decision has been made but Trev ..oops Trevize is still not sure why he chose what he chose. Why did he chose Galaxia ?He is searching for an answer and for that he needs to find earth , not sure why but it seems right.
As a stand alone novel this is brilliant , great twists and turns, science and action . This book alone can be made into a three part movie if required .
But going by the standards of other Foundation Series novels , I am a bit disappointed. Way too much time spent on altercations between Bliss and Trevize and an attempt to bring in some sexual scenes which seemed completely unnecessary . But again this was written years after the foundation series, it was possibly expected that the writing style could change.
The book has it’s edgy moments and connects well with the whole foundation series while also hinting it’s connection with the Robots series. A great deal of attention paid on exposing the [contextly_sidebar id=”WuR6I0Q42YvIc4zJ6eHf7g7XuMs99HHq”]weaker side of even Gia , showing that it too is vulnerable and there can be forces much beyond it, making it look much more humane that shown in Foundation’s Edge
All in All Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov is still a great book to read.
But Asimov did not end the foundation series with the trilogy . After the immense success of the trilogy , persuaded by his publishers , Asimov wrote 4 more books. One prelude ,talking about Hari seldon and 3 after the second foundation.
Seeing me go all gaga over the series, My dear wife decided to give me a perfect birthday gift . She gifted me all the foundation series books she could get hold of (and some more). Now my collection has all books except Foundation and Earth(Last copy in stock of which I was able to grab on amazon recently)
This is a review of Foundation’s Edge , the book that follows the original triology’s last book .
Generally whenever authors revisit their original trilogies and try to juice out whatever is left of the story , they lose the essence , the style , the soul of the plot.But , in case of Asimov, I am happy to report that it is not the case.
Everything from the gripping plot , the twists and turns ,and the doses of science is perfect. It does not seem that this book was written separately from the original series.
Plot Highlights (Mild Spoiler Alert):
//Spoiler Alert Start//
This books picks up where the last foundation series book left in which the Foundation is made to believe that Second foundation is wiped out . Many years have passed and another Seldon crises is averted. So much so that it seems the Seldon Plan is almost 100% on track. It is too good to be true ,and whenever something is too good to be true , you suspect 🙂 . That is exactly what some of the Foundationer’s do. This is their attempt to find the Second Foundation Again.
One of the best part of the story is on how Second foundation is finally shown in a more humane light. How in-spite of their mental strengths they are not immune to the basic human emotions such as jealousy , greed , ambition and how even the best of them can fall for them. The structure and expansion of the Second Foundation is also detailed out .
//Spoiler Alert Ends//
Nevertheless there are some pretty big plot twists and surprises which I cannot reveal without revealing the whole story .
Should you Buy this Book? HELL YEAH . There is no good reason to miss this if you have read the foundation trilogy.
I am sure my Wife regrets her decision of giving me these books since I have spent almost every free second I had in past few days , hooked up to the book.I was also part of a Clan on an iPad game called Clash of Clans , I got so engrossed that I did not even log in and was kicked out of the clan 😛 . Books Win over online Games :).
Now Awaiting the delivery of the next part of the series Foundation and Earth
Menstrual cycle is still a taboo topic for discussion in India. 50% of human race undergoes it , still we cannot even talk about it forget discussing about menstrual hygiene and various options available .
To make matters worse , in many parts of India, a woman is considered “impure” during “un dino” (having her periods) . She cannot touch the deity in a temple or even , in some places, enter their own house. They live in makeshift sheds outside .
Imagine , a biological phenomenon which basically is linked to a woman’s ability to conceive a child, probably the purest form of “being human” , an ability to bring life to this world , a power similar to God and still being perceived as impure.
But this blog is not to discuss about various taboos surrounding menstrual cycle but to shed light on an organization that is trying to do something.
Due to various taboos surrounding this issue , many women, especially in villages are unaware of menstrual hygiene, leaving them vulnerable to diseases and loss of productivity due to discomfort. Many girls end up skipping upto a WEEK of school EVERY MONTH , eventually leading them to quit school all together .
Aakar is a social enterprise that creates affordable biodegradable sanitary pads . Their model is simple, bring the simple technology to villages where women themselves make and sell these pads . These women also educate other women about menstrual hygiene while becoming mini entrepreneurs themselves.
They are running a fund raising for expanding this noble venture and I believe it is worth contributing to .So Go and DONATE
I have always been intrigued with why a company would buy keywords for it’s own Brand Name, eg: If someone is searching for Maruti, you know they want a Maruti and as per me Maruti stands to gain nothing by buying the keyword “Maruti”. There are various explanations such as
1. Preventing Competition from buying it:
Unless you have a very generic name such as Shaadi , your competitors may not stand to gain much . Yes, agreed that you may not want a customer to showcase their results when someone searches for your name , but it may not justify the high cost of buying a keyword of your own name. Do companies do a cost analysis to see if the Return of investment for buying those ads is justified? A simple test would be to see the CTR with and without your Ad for your Brand name .It may not make economic sense many times
If you have a distinguished brand name, you anyways should be the number 1 results in search. If you are not , it is an SEO problem, much more important to fix than a marketing problem. You are then wasting your money on ads
2. Display specific information:
Some advertisers may contend that they can display some specific information such as a coupon code to the user or point out the most relevant information. My point is ,that it should be on your website and not search. Assume I am searching for makemytrip , why do I want to see makemytrip cupon as an Ad? I should be seeing it on makemytrip itself.I am anyways going to navigate there most probably MakeMyTrip may be better off buying keywords such as “cheap flights”. How many customers could be lured by a competitor such as yatra.com when the user is specifically searching for makemytrip?
My point here is that advertisers tend to sometimes forget the intent of search and try to carpet bomb the user with ads. Intent is much more stronger than distraction(Ads are distractions at the end of the day) .
But finally ,very recently ,I accidentally stumbled upon a legitimate use of buying your own brand name by looking at ads by HootSuite .
HootSuite is a social media management website and it buys the keyword hootsuite. Why you may ask?
Well , this is my theory:
HootSuite knows that the user searching for HootSuite is genuinely interested in the product and possibly is a customer. Hootsuite now has 3 kinds of plans
Pro – Available with 30 day free trial
Enterprise-30 day free trial.
It knows that a person who takes a free trial of Pro and Enterprise is most likely to buy the plan ,but most free customers may not necessarily convert .
It needs the free plan to hook the un-interested customers , but it would rather want the interested customers to simply jump to pro or enterprise. If someone is interested in hootsuite and simply goes for a free account, it is a loss for hootsuite.
Hence , it uses it’s ad to direct users searching for hootsuite to the version of the site that ONLY has pro and Enterprise version but NOT free version.
Is it a good practice? I leave the user to decide about it. Is it a successful practice? Seems so.
Interestingly Hootsuite is using the same trick for other keywords as well, such as people searching for social media management tool. So my assumption that it might only be for people searching for hootsuite is incorrect .I am not even sure if they had this theory in mind? .
I have a hunch that hootsuite is possibly directing users to the free plan for certain keywords that do not display user intent of buying a Social media management tool,but till now I have not been able to find any. I find it ridiculous that when people search for free tool also, HootSuite ads directs them to it’s pro account creation page and not free. The free account is visible only if you go to their website via search results.
Nevertheless, I find this interesting, and this maybe a legitimate reason to buy keywords of your own brandname and still make good economic sense.