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My Work From Home setup

While it has been a year since I have been working from home due to covid, I have been investing in a good WFH setup much earlier than that. The productivity improvements by just having a dedicated space to sit and do your work at home is highly underrated.

So here goes the detail of stuff that helps me work better

PS: some links below are referral links and i make a small commission for qualified purchases


The Sitting Desk: This is perhaps one of my best investment yet. I got it made a few years ago.
My main specifications were:

  • It should be longer than normal( I like to have books and reading material also on the table)
  • Specific design(see the whites)
  • No annoying leg support that most desks in the market had. They are a nuisance for slightly taller people

The standing desk setup: This is new. I figured the best way to have any standing time is if I take some meetings standing. Unfortunately most standing desks are either super expensive, or just not ergonomic. I also did not want to give up on my existing desk.

The key to a good standing desk is to have the monitor at your eye level and your arms at 90%, very similar to how it should be when you are sitting.

My standing desk comprises of :
Standing desk converter (I use this one) : I keep this always raised. It turned out to be much more sturdier than I thought and flexible height means I can adjust it just right.
– On Top of it is your stepper used in Gyms ( i once exercised ūüôĀ )
a laptop stand( I use this one)

While this looks a lot, this gives me a comfortable standing posture. I can stand straight and type without straining my neck or my back


My Monitors
I primarily only work on my monitors and my laptop is only used when I am away from my desk or taking a standing meeting. I love keeping one monitor vertically as it helps me read long documents better, or open multiple windows together.
I use Samsung’s curved monitor for my primary work. I love the curved monitor so much that I don’t think i would go back to flat ones any time soon. Also it seems curved monitors are better for your eyes.



I also use Amazon basics monitor arms that can connect to my table without any drilling. I can shift it relatively easily to any side of the table. Monitor arms not only save space, they also allows me to put one of my monitors in a vertical position

Monitor Arms

Chair: I use a gaming chair by Greensoul. I assumed that gaming chairs should be super comfortable because gamers spend a lot of time sitting, but after using it for a year I think its not the case. It is a decent starter chair, but I am thinking of upgrading. Suggestions welcomed (Update: It seems they updated the lumbar support in the new model)


VC setup
My entire setup is fixed and I do not move around the laptop much, as a result I cannot use my laptop for my calls.
Also if you are using a monitor, and stare at it during a video call, it can be super distracting or annoying for the other person.
As a product manager, making at-least some personal connection is super critical and hence investing in a decent VC setup can go a long way (In budget)

Video: Logitech portable webcam this is attached to my primary monitor

Logitech camera


Microphone: I use and a Ahuja MTP-20 wired unidirectional collar lavalier mike , which is attached directly to my Macbook. While the Logitech webcam comes with an inbuilt microphone, it’s voice capture is not that great. A cheap Lavalier microphone can work wonders. I use this unidirectional one that cuts out any background sound such as a running fan. Also, since it is wired, its pretty economical

Lavalier Microphone



Sound: Macbook Pro built in

A note on using bluetooth devices
I did experiment with a bluetooth setup for both microphone and speakers, but there was always this slight lag that made conversations unnatural. I recommend against using any bluetooth device for audio in or out.


Mesh Wifi: My life has been different pre and post mesh wifi. It has been the single best upgrade I have done to my home office setup. I use Deco M4.
See below the speed tests before and after mesh.
Directly from router Wifi: 22Mbps
On mesh: 160Mbps

Wifi Speed before and after using Mesh Wifi Deco M4
My Mesh wifi. It looks super cool

Deco M4


Keyboard and Mice: Apple original Keyboard and Magic Mouse. If you are using a mac and can afford it (or your company pays for it), I recommend just closing your eyes and going with apple original. They not only work well, but also support all kinds of apple specific gestures, especially when it comes to the mouse

Apple keyboard and mouse

Other stuff

Wire organisers, lots of them to keep the wires always in place and mostly out of sight. I even created a charging station


Amazon basic lamp: Not only it looks cool, its great when you want to work in a yellow light during the night. Its rechargeable so no need to keep it plugged in. Really handy if you want to read a book on the desk.

Amazon basic lamp

Blackout Curtains: My desk faces the window, and while it is great to look out, during sunny days the brightness was way too much. My eyes started hurting trying to adjust to two different light sources.
I use these ones by Armenia Hague. Mine are fairly economical and work really well. I barely notice even if its super bright outside.( See images below)


Smart bulb directly on top of my desk, connected to my google mini. Its fun to ask the assistant to switch off the lights. I use Tplink smart light

Night time


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Product Management Reflections

Negative signalling: Being bad on purpose

While we would like to be good at everything we do, it’s neither possible, nor an attempt advisable.

You will always be bad at something either due to skill or by choice. I want to talk about the latter today.

Being bad by choice: Your profile, your CV, your choices, are all reflection of what you want to be. While you want to be strong at what the job you want to do requires, it maybe a good idea to be bad or be perceived ‘not great’ at stuff you don’t want to do.

For example: when I was in consulting, my company offered to pay for PMP certification for any consultant willing to take it. PMP is almost an industry standard for becoming a project manager.

While it rightly got a few people excited, I blatantly refused to do it. I am not against being good at project management, I feared I would suddenly become eligible for project manager roles that may need urgent fulfilment within the company.

It’s super hard to say no early in career and I specifically did not want to be a project manager. I did not last long as a consultant either, but that’s a story for another time.

Doing so saved me from two things:

  • I knew if the need came, no team looking for project managers could force me or my manager to let me take that up. I preferred bench over Project Management.
  • A lot of Product Management roles in India are disguised project management roles. Due to my lack of PMP I was not considered as a candidate for them. I auto rejected myself

Traditionally, we assume, amassing certifications and varied skills increases our likelihood of landing a job, but it can also reduces our chances of landing the one we want.

Just because it’s free knowledge does not mean it’s good for you. You need to opt out of and close doors you don’t want to be tempted or forced to enter.

Will I ever do a PMP? : Never say never. I have deep respect for Program managers who can handle large projects and keep seeking guidance and help from them, but if I do take up formal certification I’ll most likely not tell people about it :).

I am at peace with being labelled as a Product Manager who is great at Design, Research, and Data, but sucks at Project Management. I don’t think that has hindered my career yet.

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Blogging

Youtube’s new partner rules are an end of Long Tail

Youtube recently changed its Partner program guidelines under which you can only monetize your videos if you meet these two conditions

  1. You have 1000 subscribers
  2. You have at least 4000 hrs of viewing time in past 12 months

I find both these rules unfortunate and detrimental to a lot of creators (including myself) .

For larger channels it implies that they now have a bigger pie to share amongst themselves ,assuming the advertisers spend remains same.

For YouTube it implies more lock in on larger channels (their earnings may go up) and less number of channels breaking community guidelines since they have more to lose.

Unfortunately for creators who do not meet one of the above two guidelines , it is a goodbye .

If I were to use my own channel on poetry as an example, I at the moment meet both the guidelines. I have more than 4000 hrs of viewing time in past 12 months and about 7000 subscribers , but

  • I no longer actively create videos(at least¬† not at the level I used to)
  • Most of my traffic is organic, which is steady but low
  • Some of my older poetry videos get picked up once in a while and go semi viral , driving traffic beyond 4000 hours, but that is not very sustainable.
  • I record poetry , not the most popular genre.

Madhur Chadhas poetry channel stats

For a creator like me, YouTube may no longer be a viable option. How do I make sure I have 4000 hours of video plays every year? I need to keep producing videos if I want to keep earning. I cannot kick my feet up and have that passive earing (however low it may be, it feels good ).

I am pretty sure a lot of people will resort to questionable techniques

  • Employ third-party to play videos in some click farm.
  • Stuff their videos with empty spaces, instead of quality trying to make sure people stick around a little longer.
  • Buzzfeed kind of videos– “watch till the end to know ABC”.
  • Auto play of your videos.

YouTube probably found these numbers based on analysis of it’s whole universe. I would have loves to see category based limits.

Eg: For Vine stars it could be 1000 hrs , for poetry 2000 hrs…for News it can be 4000 hrs. Every Genre will have a different video length and watch percentage that is considered good.

Because not every video ,every  genre is equal. This broad brush stroke may be the end of road for many not so popular genres.

 

 

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India Product Management

The Fallacy of Anecdotal Evidence

Heard this?

‚ÄúThe Tarot card reader was able to pin point the exact reason for my suffering‚ÄĚ

Or  

‚ÄúI know homoeopathy does not work, BUT my uncle was cured of chronic headaches when he started taking those medicines‚ÄĚ

Or

“I was able to pass the exam after the holy man blessed me”

Are you one of the people who has experienced stuff like the ones stated above?

You are a logical person and believe in scientific approach of double blinded study , but you cannot ignore what happened to you and the people you know  ‚Äúpersonally‚ÄĚ when they tried  occult and other scientifically disproven hocus pocus.

Anecdotal evidence is SOME evidence,and MUST count for something, correct?

Let’s discuss a popular possible ‚Äúscam‚ÄĚ .

I am really bad at picking stocks(Fact) , but I decide to start a stock TIP service where I tell people which stock to pick. This is how I could do it

Step 1: I buy a list of 1 lakh phone numbers .

For the purpose of this post, I will represent 1000 phone numbers(target users) with 1 sheep.

I know that Infosys is about to announce its quarterly result, and post every result the stock price either goes up or down significantly. I send half of my list[Part A] a message that ‚ÄúInfosys will rise , Buy as many shares as you can‚ÄĚ and the other half [Part B] ‚ÄúInfosys will fall, sell sell sell‚ÄĚ

Actual result: Infosys went up.

Step 2 : I discard the Part B of the list. I divide the remaining list in 2 parts and repeat the same process with Reliance stocks.

Step 3: I do the same process 3 more times for 3 different stocks, discarding the portion of the list that received a wrong prediction for each subsequent iteration.

ITERATION 3
ITERATION 4
ITERATION 5

At the end of these 5 iterations, I will have: 

  1. 50,000 ppl who know I am just a bogus guy. The first prediction itself was wrong.
  2. 25,000 will think my predictions are as good as flipping a coin, 50, 50
  3. 12,500 will think i have some talent
  4. 6,250 will think I am good.I got 3 in a row correct. Not a mean feat
  5. 3,125 will think i am a genius , i got 4 out of 5 correct. They just had to follow my advice and make a lot of money.
  6. And last 3,125 people will think I AM GOD OF FINANCE. I just predicted the FUTURE with 100% accuracy . There is NO WAY I could have done that with such consistency . I either have a LOT of insider information or I practice occult. They will believe anything I tell them.They will refer me to all their contacts, hold my words as dear as financial gospel.

All I have to do now is send a message to 4,5 and 6 to ‚ÄúSignup‚ÄĚ with a low low fees of 1000 rs for getting more updates. Any guesses if people will sign up?

If you are part of group 6, would you NOT sign up? You could have made crores by just following my last 5 free advice, what is 1000 rs in front of that?

I just did some quick projection of how much the scammer can make (lots of assumption).

Now, the question is : Do I really know how to pick stocks?

And that is how ladies and gentlemen I can become anything I want.

I can tell you how to solve your marital problems using cow dung. Given enough solution seekers, I bet I can find at least some couples who will swear by my ‚Äúcow dung therapy‚ÄĚ.

This is one of the MANY “tricks” used for the spread of pseudoscience.

#DontBeSheep

I make a final prediction : Buy shares of a company called Suzlon. They will breach 18 in 2018.

If it works, send me some bitcoins ( ) , if it does not, well I already said I am bad at picking stocks ;). Deal?

//Update: Suzlon is still at 5 Rs…I failed in my prediction

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India

Some “subtle” things many people forget

Few housekeeping things that¬†many people get confused with…But it pays to have some clarity

You have Freedom of speech , NOT the Right to be taken seriously

 

You have Freedom of having an opinion , NOT the Freedom from criticism that comes with holding it, and saying it out loud

 

I may respect your Right to have and practice your Religion, NOT your Religion

 

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Humor

What’s in a Name — Nothing, but a LOT can be done to it

Let’s first get something very Clear: My Official Name : It is MADHUR CHADHA and there is no spelling mistake here.

I never really knew that my name could be tough to pronounce or spell for anyone, but boy, have I been wrong?.

Here are some of my favorites things that have been done to my name

The Chadda Complex

A lot of people have had the tenacity to tell me that I was “accidentally” spelling my last name wrong. It is supposed to be “Chadda” not “Chadha” or even “Chada”

Yeah, probably one of my ancestors was bad at spelling and I have to live with that

At least half of my college certificates have Chadda in them. This is something I kind of lived with since childhood

Maaadhur

I joined Infosys Hyderabad in 2006, it was the “Communications” teacher who was taking the attendance.

I marveled at her ability to pronounce those complicated names(To my “never stepped out of faridabad” ears) . She was the type of person who knew it is Telugu, not Telegu …until she met her nemesis. My name.

After about 30 seconds of trying to arch her lips in the perfect fashion to make the sound that represented that supremely complicated name—She muttered Moaaaadhor, I still do not know what exactly she said, but it was me. Everyone else had “easy” names. I was already famous.

PS: The next name was Madhulaletty –And she did not even have to read it. It was like Neha for her

When the communication instructor cannot pronounce your name…you do start questioning your whole life

The Moon

Overconfidence kills and can sometimes lead to hilarious results.

In 2009, I was starting a project with a company in the US . Before traveling, we had to send our details so that they can get our email , access cards etc ready. The guy handling that on the client side was an Indian, and being an Indian, he thought he knew all Indians.

He read it once and entered my details as “Madhur Chandra”.

Now the way they made email ids was <last name><first 2 letters of first name> @<domain.com>

So I landed in US and emailed my colleagues back in India with my shiny new email ID

chandrama@<client.com> (Chandrama means the moon in Hindi)

I just got 1-word reply for multiple senior people “Lol”

PS: NO American has EVER misspelled my name. They copy paste from my signature. It is always my fellow countrymen

Mr Mathur

I have no clue why, but a LOT of Hyderabadi’s think my name is Mathur .¬†They not only pronounce it like that (which is Ok) but spell it too. I have been corrected on this (can you imagine?)

One of my Microsoft colleagues used to ALWAYS refer to me as Mathur in Emails. I do not like to correct people on email , I sound like an obnoxious jerk correcting minor errors.

I decided to tacitly bring it to his attention.

  • I started putting my first name as a ¬†signature in my emails(even replies). ~Thanks, Madhur.That did not work
  • I Started putting my FULL name in email, to draw his attention
  • I bolded my Name, First name….put colors …highlighters

There still is a Microsoft employee who thinks that he had a colleague called “Mathur Chadha”

How do you correct someone after they have spelled your name wrong for 1 year and you never corrected him ?

He won, I lost. In honor of this name, I ¬†keep my screenname as “Mathur” in a lot of online games.Remember that if you are playing someone called “Mathur”

NSFW 

Now that does not mean, my name is awesome and cannot lead to unfortunate but hilarious situations.

When I joined Microsoft, and had had my fanboy moments, I  was finally presented with my email ID. I had looked forward to that shiny new @microsoft.com email address that I could flaunt

But Microsoft used the following formulae for creating you email ID that time. <2 letters of Firstname><last name>@<domain>

yes: My email ID was machadha@microsoft.com

Don’t get it? Say it out loud in one go…over and over again and see the people around you react.

No surprises, I did not message people my ID, but went to their desk and told them machadha.

Yes, I got it changed soon. A joke has a limited shelf life and mine was also NSFW

Yeah…so what’s in a name.

Now when someone talks about their name being tough.I¬†chuckle…

Son, you have no idea…and my name was supposed to be simple

Or perhaps people are inspired by this Ron Swanson Mantra of Life

~Mathur

 

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philosophy Reflections

On Sonu Nigam, Azaan , and Kabir

As as kid, one of my favourite subjects was Hindi.One of the things I enjoyed was writing an essay(yes sounds boring but I was really good at it)
Most essay questions in schools revolved around some finite set of themes, and one theme was religion, superstition etc ..or something like that. My Memory fails me here
I no longer remember the exact title of the essay , but I do remember that I used to always quote two dohas by Kabir for good marks

Kankar pathar jod ke, Masjid laye banay
Taa chadh mulla baang de, kya behra hua khudaey
Loose translation: You collected pebbles and stones and made a masjid out of it.
Then you got your priest to go on top of it and shout. Has God gone deaf?

Patthar puje hari mile, to main poojun pahad.
Ghar ki chakki koi na puje, joko pees khaye sansar.
Loose translation: If praying to a stone gets you God, then I will pray to a Mountain
Instead, why doesn’t anyone pray to their¬†flour mill at home, it gives people¬†food

 

Now I am pretty sure, I am not the only one who used these dohas for those “extra marks”. Many must have remembered it years afterwards like me.Many who came before me and many who came after.

 

Both the dohas question and satirise one of the most dearly help aspects in both religions. Azaan and Idol worship.
But it was ok to write about this in examinations.It was all ok, at least that is what we felt, to question these things without getting an exaggerated reaction from anyone.

 

What worries me now is, that the generation that I studied with, the generation that remembered these dohas and probably  wrote them down multiple times, is also among the generations that are getting so offended over someone questioning the use of loudspeakers for azaan , aartis etc

The same generation, as kids, thought that it was OK to question the whole concept of azaan and idol worship, now has people who think its blasphemous to question the use of loudspeakers?

Yes, there are people across all age groups who fall into this category, but it makes me much¬†sadder when I see people who I presume are from “my generation” discussing this.

Yes education is not same across, people change and blah blah blah

It is the same feeling you get when you see one of your old classmate who has ruined his life. You had nothing to do with it, but you feel so sorry and somewhat guilty. He is a part of your childhood and you cannot fathom it taking such a turn.

 

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philosophy Reflections

YOLO – Ok , so what?

YOLO :(You only Live once) a common phrase that precedes most stupid, idiotic and sometimes fun plans people have.

People use it to justify doing anything that does not fit the traditional way of the world, for doing things that are unexpected of them, for breaking the “rule”, for nor having any “regrets”.

But what regrets?

Isn’t YOLO also symbolic of – No matter how much “fun” you have, and how many “rules” you break, it still does not matter?

It still is what you intend it not to be.

Is it really about having fun or, dealing with the inevitable oblivion?

In the end, how does it matter one way or the other?

And what is this fascination of not following the “traditional” path?

This is like saying you would not like the Taj Mahal because millions of others have been

So what if your life follows the same path as many others before you?. You are still doing it for the first time

So should you not have fun?

No idea—Let me think about it while I eat some Dark chocolate, sip some great coffee in my comfy recliner chair.

 

 

 

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India

Who Said demonetisation was not planned ? An alternative viewpoint

Who said demonetisation was not planned?..all the people losing jobs, people dying in queues, elderly and sick waiting in lines for days without money, existential crisis for daily wagerers ,was all planned….
  • They knew how much money could be printed
  • They knew the ATM density
  • They knew how many people do not have access to “digital payments”
  • They knew how many daily wagerers are there
  • They knew that ATMs will need reconfiguration
  • They could easily calculate how long the ATMS queues would be and how many days an average person will have to wait in ATM line
  • They knew even the sick and elderly would need to stand in these lines
  • They knew it would put a lot of people with upcoming marriages at home in extreme stress
  • They knew some people would break
  • They knew some people would not be able to access medical facilities despite having money
  • They knew people would die
  • They knew some industries would collapse
  • They knew farmers would not be able to buy seeds
  • They knew the poorest would suffer the most
Do you think they did not know all this? If you insist that demonetisation was not planned or all these things were pure surprises , then you insist that the government¬†is run by ¬†idiots who do not even do basic homework…I won’t say that.
So stop saying¬†demonetisation was not planned , give the government credit for all this.Give credit where it’s due.
It was all planned, just that we cannot fathom that the government could be this insensitive and this brutal on it’s own people.
Welcome to the new reality


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India

A planned Marathon #Demonetization

Suppose I organize a 10hr marathon for charity and name it ‘demonetization’ , in which everyone in my org has to run irrespective of age, gender , health else they lose their jobs.¬†
 
  • 1 hour after the start, a few people start fainting and I realize , I did not account for water. I then call for water but I have a special request, all water should be served in special glasses printed for my marathon. I also forgot to order the glasses
  • 2 hours after the start I realize that though water is there , a lot of people are a lot thirsty and I did not order enough,so I ration it-only 1 glass per KM
  • 3hrs: Well, some people really need more water than others ,they are still fainting.I implement a rule:you can have 1 more glass if you already have a doctor’s note.if not , your problem¬†,not mine
  • 4hrs: Well while I was looking at the fast runners who were drinking more water, I forgot that there were heart patients who were running very slow,they never got any water because it¬†finished before they reached any stop point.¬†I make everyone else to freeze in their spot for 30 minutes so that heart patients can cover up a little and maybe have 1 glass of water, once.
  • 5hrs. Some people die of dehydration and I realize, I never really accounted for a doctor or a nurse or even basic first aid,so I do the next best thing-i let people have as much water as they want
  • 6hrs: I realize that people are drinking way more water than I accounted for,so I ration it back – only 0.5 glass per km. I shout at the water supplier who claims he has a limit to his supply, he cannot supply infinite amounts instantaneously.My request for specially printed glasses also¬†adds to the delay
  • 7hrs: people are still dying and I am not sure so I call it “Sacrifice for the greater good”. I also realize, people are hungry and I never ordered food
  • 8hrs: I figure, the water supply is not that great so I ration..you can drink 0.5 glass only ONCE in the entire race. After you drink, I would mark your forehead with the¬†company symbol so that you cannot drink again
..
.
.
.
.
  • 10th hour: In a press Conference I declare: “It could not have been planned better” .I was nimble and agile , I took feedback and quickly rose to the¬†occasion and made changes with authority.Demonetization was a success
  • The deaths I ¬†blame on the water supplier for not being able to supply instantaneously at the speed of thought

/*********Update*************/

  • Now I claim that the real motive of Demonetization was to boost water sales ¬†and help the struggling¬†packaged water industry , which it did…hence¬†Demonetization was a resounding success

/******End Update************/

/******Another Update******/

  • I saw employees helping each other get on their feet when they fell down, I saw a manager give a CPR to the peon who had a heart attack while running and a coder offering a tester some water after he just recovered from an asthma attack.
  • I put some glycerine in my eye and claim that the real reason for demonetization was to promote team spirit and the team(which survived) has never been closer. Hence Demonetisation was a success

/*******End Another Update****/


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