Sunday, August 25, 2013

Understanding the larger picture

I used to play a fair amount of Chess while being at school. I was an average player, but I did love the game. So most of my after school hours were spent pondering over the squared board and hammering the chess clock using the captured piece. We didn't have a coach, so it was all our paradise.  So one fine day one of our distinguish old boy's came to spend the evening with us and put up a nice little competition.  He set up a position on a board ( I don't recall the position he set up. But for those who are new to chess, it will look something like this)

Image from
He gave us a task. Was pretty simple, we were given three minutes to look at the board. After which he would break the position. We need to go to our own chess boards and re-create the same position. The competition was to evaluate how many pieces each one of us managed to recall and set up at the right square.

With a bit of swollen headed arrogance, I wondered that it was a pointless task and went about simply memorizing the position. So rank by rank I tried to store in memory the shapes of the structure. For example, unmoved rook, white king side castled. Kings gambit like pawn structure for white, etc... Then when three minutes ended I went and tried to set up the position. I was left bitterly confused. Managed to set up only about 50% of the pieces. That too mostly the pawns.

On the contrary there was this other player who managed to set up the whole structure. I was about to conclude that he had better memory power and was good at memorizing. Then when the old boy asked him to explain how he managed to remember and set up the exact position. He explained that, if its white to move there was a two moves forced mate. The mate was to sacrifice the queen and mate with knight and rook. Largely its a two pawn up position for white. For the rest its black squared bishop against white knight.

For me it was one of those "Eureka" moment's in life. Initially as soon  I realized the blunder I had made, it made me sweat, felt half ashamed that "how come that this kind of a thinking didn't even cross my mind". Seriously I had been arrogantly fighting with granular details, without even realizing that this was not the approach to solve the problem. What I was fighting against was not even the real problem. It made me cringe and realize I was the absolute "frog in the well" . Growing up, this incident gets replayed in my mind often. It always reminds me irrespective whether if its in IT, Software engineering, Business analysis, organizing, planning, life etc,,when you  want to solve a problem understand the larger picture. When larger picture is clear, rest of the petty issues and details will fade in to insignificance. Its only after you understand the bigger picture you are really starting to solve the real problem. Till then keep fighting the petty issues like counting the pawns :D

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Yarl Geek Challenge - Season 2

Last year's Yarl Geek Challenge was a resounding success and even before the dusts had settled a lot of super hyped competitors, judges, mentors and organizers started discussing about the next season. One of the most pertinent points discussed was how this could be extended to reach the grass root level.

After much contemplation the team Yarl IT Hub team this time has announced the competition at two levels.

1. Yarl Geek Challenge - Senior

The competition will be similar in format to last years one but with a few minor changes to the rounds. The introductory round will be on the 5th of October and the competitive rounds will be from the 17th to 20th. We had picked a week end where if you  take a days (18th) official leave from work, you could get a 5 day 'vacation', be in Jaffna, forget about all the daily chaos, get in to a zen state and immerse yourself in an environment where IT ideas clash!

For those who are new to Geek Challenge, its a reality show styled competition where teams compete in 4 rounds and at the end of each day face a panel of expert judges who decide on elimination/s! All eliminated teams will be given another shot by competing in the 'opportunity round'. If you are planning to compete keep an eye on the announcements on our facebook page. Its all set to pick up from where we left last season and continue to set higher standards.

2. Yarl Geek Challenge - Junior

To reach out to the younger geeks at schools, we had opened up a new category, where school students are expected to form teams and develop a mobile application and send in their entries. A panel of judges shall evaluate the sent applications and call up the top 10 teams for demonstrations, which will happen in parallel to the Yarl Geek Challenge Senior round 2 on Friday the 18th of October 2013.

To get more details and to participate at YGC junior please read

So yet again as we gear in for an exciting time ahead, we are on the look out for volunteers who could help us out on various aspects of this competition.

How can I participate?

Competitor : Form a team and as per your age category send in the application. Then start preparing to compete. We guarantee that you will walk away with a tremendous amount of knowledge and memorable experience.

Judges: The panel of judges are the sole decision makers in the challenge. They evaluate the teams against pre defined criteria, give feedback to the teams and most importantly call the shots in eliminations. If you are a Senior Academic or a Senior IT professional, we would love to have you on the judging panel of the competition and share your expertise and guide the participants during the competition.

Mentor: Each team in the senior competition will be assigned a mento. The mentor will guide the team starting from the 5th of October. During the competitive rounds the mentor will be with the teams and help the teams prepare for the rounds. If you are an IT practitioner or an Academic who would be able to mentor a team through the requirement, design, user experience and business strategy rounds. You should be on board with us. We assure you would walk away from the competition with a lot of self satisfaction and a great network of IT professionals and students!

Organizer: A competition of this magnitude needs a lot of ancillary activities, from stuff like creating graphics for YGC content, media coordination, announcing, writing, linking up potential sponsors, etc. Yarl IT Hub is a not for profit initiative by the community for the IT community. So please do join us - you could make a lot of difference!

If you could contribute in any way, please do get in touch with us by filling in the following form  at or leave a comment here or on our facebook group at we could contact you!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More of monkey business

Who said people queue up only for apple before the stores open? :D

Speaking about monkeys, at last I watched Vishvaroopam and couldn't get over this passing comment made with brilliant timing, comparing and contrasting monkeys and men. I am not posting the comment here because I will be accused of posting something which is borderline vulgar and insulting my own kind, but in case if you didn't catch it, slow down and read the subtitles during the part where the old lady curses Kamal and his gang visiting the village after its bombed! Kamal the legend :D

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Portrait to pets

I have this unwavering belief that a lot of skills can be learnt by reading books. Sometimes ( others accuse that it is always the case) I used to push this a bit too much. The latest thing I wanted to learn was portrait photography. So I again seeked the only way I knew to learn, found a book and from last Thursday had been immersed in it. But the issue turned out, it was a bit like learning to swim without getting in to the water.

I couldn't find a guinea pig to be my model. So the only beings whom I could control were these two unsuspecting innocent kittens. So ended up saying bye to portrait photography till I manage to con someone to be the model and now started to claim that I wanted to learn pet photography!

We look away!

We look alike!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The magic of puttu

amma's puttu
If you are connected to Jaffna in someway and if you are not addicted to puttu, I am sorry, but I have to tell you that something is wrong with you! For most of the people from there, technically puttu is the staple food. When questioned most people tell me that staple food is rice, but when people from Jaffna tell me that answer I would argue that calling rice as the staple food is technically flawed in their context. They eat it for breakfast and dinner at least 5 times a week and then not calling it the staple food is a cardinal sin.

I always thought that my amma made the best puttu in the world and then kind of realized that most of the other guys also thought that their own mother's made the best puttu, seemingly its a common recurring syndrome found in a lot of people.

For those who do not know what pittu is,

Usually its made out of rice flour, either white or red rice flour can be used. Its not unusual for you  to come across variants of this made with kurakkan flour too.  Creation of puttu is a systematic process where water is added in to the flour, little by  little until the right texture is achieved.  After which the prepared flour is placed layer after layer separated by grated coconut in a cylinder, either made out of bamboo or stainless steel, and then steamed.

Puttu can be consumed with some seemingly weird but very tasty combinations. My childhood favorite was to eat puttu with banana. Growing up, I started to add a bit of sambar to the puttu and banana mix. I have had friends who would almost throw up at the thought of it, but to judge they should try it - I am serious! It really works well with milk too. The trick is to put it to soak it in milk with a little bit of sugar for a few minutes and then eat.

Other good combinations are eating with fried brinjals, drumstick curry, badji and sambar and even bitter gourd curry.

Puttu is mythical and international: The legend says the god who came down to lend a hand to an old lady to help sort out her quota of sand in return asked for puttu. I have heard many people explain to me that puttu originated from Kerala. Hence I had always known that puttu was popular in some parts of India.  never expected it to be found anywhere outside of the Indian sub continent.

Few days back I was speaking to an Indonesian and when asked what was my favorite food, I replied puttu. Then realized that I need to explain what puttu was and was about to start my explanation, when I was asked "did you say puttu?" I replied yes, and then I was told, we too have puttu! To my surprise I was explained that puttu is common in Indonesia, its the same thing steamed in bambo cylinders but from what I understand that its always the sweetened version available. Its supposedly found even in the way side make shift eating joints in Jakarta. Next time I am there I intend to take a picture! Little bit of googling made me understand its common in the Malay Archipelago.

By writing all of this if I managed to bring the craving in you to go and find puttu. My job is all done!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Industrial IT - There is life beyond coding

The following is the presentation done by yours truly at Nudpam conference held in Jaffna. What I have here is the English version of it. On stage what I did was a Tamilish version of the same.

Each one of us would definitely have had experiences where we get in to a certain type of work and loose sense of whats around us, loose the sense of time and at times even loose sense of hunger. This might have happened while playing a game, writing an essay, solving a problem, doing math, while singing, etc. These are things we enjoy doing.

Then on the other hand, each one of us get eternal satisfaction by doing certain types of things, for some it might be by creating new things, discovering something new, helping others, making money, learning something new, teaching someone etc. These characteristics are unique to each person. So before I start my presentation I would like if we could take 10 seconds, close our eyes and try to think of things that give us eternal satisfaction and are thing which we enjoy doing.

Alight, for each one of us we would have got things which would have come to the top of our minds. Lets mark it on paper and have it in place, so you could revisit it when we end the presentation.

I have another question, what's common about the three people here on this slide? I wish,that no one would put their hand up and tell me that they are all in  IT. So, the question is what do they have in common?

(The lady seated in one of the front rows said, "They all have a lot of money", some one else quipped "They are good in their selected fields".)

I continued, yes correct they are experts in their chosen fields. They are benchmarks that the rest of the world looks up to. There are lot of such people who are on this illustrious list including the likes of AR Rahman, Murali, Kamalhassan, Swami Vipulanandar, etc. There was this research which was done in the US, to find out whether there is a common factor in all of them which makes them stand out from the rest. Is it their IQ? or were they first in class? were they from wealthy parents?  Is it the school they attended?

So to find out, the researchers went about analyzing the lives of these outliers. For example they analysed the lives of the likes of Bill gates.

Bill joined a computer club aged 13 and started to learn programming. When he was almost 15 years old, he found a loop hole in the punch card system and exploited it to gain extra hours of programming and ended up getting a suspension from the center.

At this time he creates an excuse by doing a project in programming as part of his school work and again make sure all his time is spent on computer programming. Then finally when he was around 20 he drops out of Harvard and starts Microsoft. Researchers observe that, he has spent around 40 hours per week programming during this period.

Similarly most of us know that Sachin broke in to the world stage as a 16 year old and became a sensation. Some assume that he was a boy who was playing chuckers and picked from the streets and then became what he is. But in reality if we read through his life, he was introduced to cricket when he was 11 years old. His coach gave a strange assignment day after day, where Sachin was asked to bat with a coin kept on his stumps. In case if the bowler gets the wicket of Sachin, the bowler will get the coin. If Sachin manages to bat the entire session of the practice without getting out he would get the coin. He remarked that the 13 coins he got are among his valued possessions. His passion was to bat and bat for long hours. So from this again its obvious that he has also been at practice for around 40 hours per week before he became what he is.

Researchers observed that the passion for practice was a pattern which was the common factor in all the outliers who were analysed. Based on further analysis Malcolm Gladwell in his book outliers concludes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert.

So, unless we pick something we enjoy doing and we get eternal satisfaction out of what we have chosen as our career, getting 10000 hours will be a tough or nearly impossible.

Given the above context if we are pursuing a career in IT we might as well want to know what are the roles available in IT. Then pick which suits "me".

Just before someone tells me that I am fond of only western ideologies and building a case ignoring the stuff that has been said even before that by Eastern scholars. Let me quote from Swami Vivekananda, although he doesn't say its 10000 hours he advises to take an idea and make it your life, which effectively means you spend all your time on it and as a result you  would become successful! For me, it effectively implies the same thing!

I very often meet people who are developers or who wants to become developers and I ask them, why did you choose to become a developer. I hear answers like, "When I made the choice it was the top paying job for pass outs", "People with top marks did this, so did I", sometimes I have even heard "my neighbor did so I followed".

Do not get me wrong here, Software Engineer or Developer is an essential role in IT, but its not the only role available in IT. People who have the knack to create programs, who have brilliant mathematical minds, people who can solve algorithm kind of problems should definitely become programmers and take it up as a career. But its highly unlikely every ones 'calling' is to be the same and everyone out there doesn't have those as their strengths. When I was a student I didn't know what were the other options available in IT, so today I thought of speaking about the other options, hence my topic is - Industrial IT - There is life beyond coding to be precise, Software industry - There is life beyond coding ...

Both these guys are legends in IT. Well celebrated and well known. One is a developer the other is not. Hence I could safely say that you can choose any field within IT and get to the top of the game.

For me Steve Job's is an IT sculptor, his product design for apple are works of art. He created a wonderful experience for the users with his products. In an era where all computing stuff were in boring black color without any place for aesthetics, he got inspiration from the white marbled Italian architecture and other creative things and created IT devices which effectively changed the way in which people designed IT products. He was not a developer. On the other hand Bill Gates was an excellent developer and then became an Entrepreneur and changed the course of operating system business forever.

So moving in to more specific roles in IT. I would like to recall a presentation from one of the Yarl IT Hub meet ups. We had Sujewan, who demonstrated his application, which he had built for his final year project. It was an Augmented reality application and when you focused your phone on the cross placed on a piece of paper an animated character will appear on the phone screen on top of that marker. He developed this application and its currently on google play. Effectively the same piece of  augmented reality technology in the hands of a product designer made a huge change for band aid - the plaster manufacturer. It was a simple thing, the cross which Sujewan had on the piece of paper was put on the plaster and built a product targeting kids. With this innovation kids had started to like wearing plasters since they can now play with the augmented reality application and have animated characters dancing on their plasters. At the end of the day when its done the idea looks very simple. But it was a very innovative execution and the trick was for the product designer to spot a market in which the technology could be used to add value. So product designer and business analysts are people who can understand business, markets and have a good knowledge of technology. Effectively they should be people who have good imaginative power.

The next role I would like to speak about, is project management. At home, amma is our project manager. If she decides to have vadei for lunch for the next day lunch, she effectively starts the project and planning the previous day night itself. She takes ulundu (de-husked black lentils) and lets it to be soaked in water over night. Then, when she starts her work she first washes the rice and puts it to boil. Since it takes a lot of time to boil, so she can parrelly attend to other work. For me it involves planning, finding the critical path and then execution. Imagine if cooking is to be done for a wedding, this gets even more complex, then you would have a team of people who would work on different things. Like frying vaddai, cooking curries etc. There should be someone who should synch up all this and manage the team. The same issue happens in software and it gets a bit worse, when you need 5 people to do the project its not unusual for the PM to be given 4 people and asked to come out with the product on schedule with the expected quality. So to be a project manager you should have a passion for leadership, good at speaking to people and convincing them and to be methodical.

The next role, I wanted to highlight is the role of Software testers. Unfortunately they are the most mistaken and least appreciated people in IT industry here. Its due to our ignorance. People who have the passion to examine things with a curious mind and who have the passion to find faults in things should become Software testers. (there was laughter all around and Gowri had this big smile on her face - I am sure she assumed that I said this with some other thing in mind). No I am being serious about this, imagine if you are getting 4 clever people to write a piece of code and if you are going to find fault in it, you should be cleverer. (Now she had an even bigger smile on her face)

To be a good tester, the person need to have a destructive mind set, where they want to break the system and find faults on it. Effectively they make a huge contribution to the project by making sure that all these failures and breaking happens internally so that the product doesn't fail in front of the customer. In short its one of the most important roles in the Software field.

(over ran my quota of 20 mins and skipped this slide after a brief comment, the following is what I wanted to mention)
Then we have sales and marketing. Very seldom IT student's understand the importance of these roles. Statistically speaking globally they are some of the highest paid jobs in IT. The real IT sales and marketing people are a rare breed. Selling IT solutions is not like selling a cake of soap. It needs very good skills, including interpersonal skills, speaking and convincing capabilities. Its an art with a science behind it.

So these are some of the roles in IT. Each needs different skill sets and expects people to have different capabilities. None of these roles are superior or inferior to the other.

The trick for each one of us is to first find what our strengths are and what we like to do and then pick the right role in IT. To find what you like you might want to revisit those things that came up in your mind when you closed your eyes for 10 seconds when we started the presentation. So the idea is we could happily spend all our time and energy to collect up 10000 hours of practice and become an expert.

So there is no point in blaming others, the choice is in our hands. If you spend one hour per week practicing the chosen discipline you would become an expert in 197 years. If you spend 40 hours per week you would become an expert in 5 years!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When imitation became an art

Few weeks back I started using a Samsung 3. It's been working reasonably well, but I haven't still been able to stop making comparisons to the iPhone and the experience of using apple products.

 Funnily when I saw the invite for the samsung S4, immediately what I remembered was the apple invite. My immediate reaction was, can samsung get so monotonous? Don't they have a marketing team which could make an invite which is different from apple.

But then on deeper analysis I started to figure out that perhaps they have done more analysis and wanted to create an add that will invoke memory of the apply iphone 5. Perhaps a comparison of it too... But then apple made a reflection of the number 5 out of 12..trying to make a reflection of four with those cluttered a bit too much.. The other day I was reading a piece of writing which said "They had made imitation an art" - well I cannot disagree.

Monday, March 4, 2013

East vs West in presentation

In recent times I had been experimenting on starting presentations. I decided that the traditional way of starting a presentation or session by saying, 'thank you very much for the opportunity' and ' I am glad to be here' was too mainstream and a waste of the precious 'honeymoon' period with the audience.

By reading through some of the manuals on presenting originating from the west, it was clear that almost all the western authors agreed that you should never start a presentation with an apology. As per them, this showed that you are tensed and weak. They also argued that, an act of apology can get you sympathy but it makes you loose respect. I kind of agree with the rationale of these arguments.

But it leaves me puzzled, on how to handle the situation if there was a genuine need to apologize at a presentation. In this part of the world in case if there is a need to apologize, if not explicitly mentioned it is taken as a cardinal sin. More than anything else, being humble is always considered a prime element in the value system. So I was looking around for inspiration from eastern culture and remembered our O/L Tamil literature book. Kamban a celebrated poet when presenting Ramayanam has handled it in an entirely different way, in stark contrast to the above western ideology. He actually has devised a two phased strategy, in the first phase, he makes a very humble start and says what he is about to do is analogous to a greedy cat who wants to lick up an entire ocean of milk. Then in his second phase of the introduction he systematically sets up arguments to make people realize that he is indeed a great poet and then eventually taking control of the audience.

Not sure whether he did this purposely to play to the gallery or was it because it was being recited in front of Royalty. But for me it looked like a better way of approaching an eastern audience. In my last two presentations I had tried to 'borrow' some inspiration from him. So far so good - I mean the personal feeling, not sure about what the audience felt like! Let me know your thoughts in case if you try...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The art of spotting opportunities

During the January 2013 Yarl IT Hub's community meet up we had a session on augmented reality. The highlight of the session was a demonstration of an implementation of an augmented reality application by Sujewan.

The above application from a technical sense worked really great and Sujewan has done a great job taking in to consideration that its an individual undergraduate project, but from a business sense it lacked a business case. The same augmented reality technology put in the hands of a shrewd business mind has made all the difference. Look at the video below,

Johnson and Johnson launched the above product. In its simplest form, what made the difference was their ability to spot the potential business case by taking the tracker and putting it on a band aid plaster! They created an experience for the children with plasters.As per the makers they "Turn moments of pain in to moments of delight"! The neat use of technology has made it a application with 4+ rating on itunes and I assume more sales!

The lesson to be learnt is that its not only about writing software or knowing technology, but the need to be able to map them in smart ways matters. With regard to this ability to map, we love to believe that these thoughts comes up in Eureka moments, while sleeping under a tree. But in reality in 99% of the cases they do not come in such moments of epiphany, but its 'magic' that appears in the trained minds. The trick I am made to believe is to start training by learning, experimenting and trying, so hopefully we would also develop a knack to spot such opportunities.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Relationship between art, work and the "Dunning and Kruger effect"

I have a friend who is a brilliant photographer, on any given day gazing at his album would lighten up my day and I am sure it's lightening up the days of many other people too. Usually his pictures generate comments in hundreds, one day one of the comments read- "I wish I had a camera like yours to take pictures like this!"

Similarly, there is this prolific blogger. Who has won a loyal following and made an emotional connection with his audience.  Time to time on his blog I see comments like - "Lots of thing to write about, I wish I had the time like you!"

At times you feel you want to go and tell them that a camera doesn't make a great photographer and that having time will not make you a great blogger. You start to pity the narrow minds, who doesn't understand the dedication and hardship individually each artists undertake to create the works of art, which the rest of us just sit relax and enjoy with a cup of coffee. I was sitting and wondering what was the root cause of it and I couldn't stop thinking that it was all due to a mis-calibration they have of their abilities and the lack of experience having ever tried creating any art. I felt convinced that if  Leonardo da Vinci had lived among us in modern times and shared a picture of the painting of Mona Lisa on facebook, they would have put a comment like "I wish I had oil and panel!"

Digging a bit deep in to this problem, it seems that this has a scientific explanation.It's called as the Dunning and Kruger effect. Quoting from wiki,

"The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average."

Once, one of my mentors pointed out that, it's the very same issue in units, teams and organizations where there will always be a set of people, who perform poorly on tasks, but lack the capacity to evaluate their performance. Worst part being that they cannot even identify or accept that they lack competencies and get in to a vicious cycle of not working to over come their in-competencies.

On the opposite side of the spectrum Dunning and Kruger's study also identifies that people with true ability under estimate their competency! Which again I am sure we had noticed many times with the bright minds who are genuinely humble. Firstly as individuals, it might be a good idea to know which point we are in the Dunning and Kruger's effect. Secondly, when someone advises us, it might good to find out which side of the Dunning-Kruger's effect the adviser is on!

"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." - Bible

Friday, March 1, 2013

Halal controversy

Today when we were travelling we had an interesting discussion about the present halal controversy. Ranjan explained the controversy by saying it appears that the main issue that's being sold to people is that non Muslims are being unfairly made to pay for the cost of halal certification.

My opinion was pretty simple. I said when you want to feed a kid during the day time you would use a crow as the distraction and in the night since the crow is not to be found, we find an alternative in the form of moon. Same is happening here. The masses need to be kept entertained!

Then when the issue of price came up again, my reply was let it be a free market and let market forces decide whether products need to have halal on it or not. Who ever who is offended by halal can probably look for non halal stuff and buy. If there is such a big demand for non halal items. Market will respond and open up another market segment. But then free market? Do we know what that means?

When the discussion turned on to explore the option of having different production lines. Kalhara quipped in with the following story from 'api nodanna live'  a famous Sinhala comedy show. Waiter goes to the table and asks what do you want, two people say plain tea with less sugar, next one says plain tea with more sugar, others say normal plain tea. Waiter goes back to the tea master and say, 5 plain tea. Then returns to the table and distributes by asking, who asked for less sugar, more sugar etc and distributes them. If this controversy continues plain tea theory might become the most sort after business strategy! Patent?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Train token and database locking

I've always had a great fondness for train related pictures. A simple search for the keyword 'train' on this blog will reveal more than 5 posts on the same topic. So today I adding one more in black and white.

The picture captures the tablet being passed to the train driver.

I am made to understand that its a fool proof system. It's used to restrict and make sure that only one train is allowed to traverse through the single track line with bi-directional travel at a given time, thus ensuring no collision could occur on the train line.

While watching this happen it reminded me of locking in databases. Like conflicts on rail lines, in databases we have conflicts in data updates, which need to be avoided. Thus giving rise to different types of lock implementations. Anyway database has some additional levels of complexity and has different types of locks, eg. read lock, write lock, Locking levels, table level, row level, page level etc. Perhaps a bit more complex to solve than the railway problem.

But the interesting thing is when doing algorithm design to solve problems perhaps we can actually find inspiration from past solutions and at times even from nature.

Its an interesting topic read the full detail on wiki

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where 'gamification' meets advertising

The results of the global mobile awards for 2013 was announced by GSMA at the mobile world congress yesterday and the "Chok Chok Chok" application picked up the awards for the best advertisement and the best application.

Its an application which has been in the news for the last couple of weeks after its stunning success in Hong Kong. It has apparently gone viral and made a connection between the younger tech savy generation with main stream TV advertising. They had deviced a smart ploy in which they combined the concepts of advertising, gamification and augmented reality, but still managed to reach audiences and do the magic work!

Gaining inspiration from this model  I see countless possibilities of applications which can be deployed which could open up a new branch of interactive advertising?! Will this work in other cultures? Are people ready to seize a new opportunity before too much  of it kills the very spirit of it? Who is ready to try it?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Icarus deception - You should listen

During the last two weeks I had got accustomed to the habit of listening to audio books during my train and bus journeys. I had always had this weakness of not being a good listener. When given a choice between reading and listening I would always choose reading. But for a change I wanted to utilze my walking time and travelling times in a better way and most importantly challenge my weakness of not being able to listen to stuff.

So the first book I picked was "All marketeers are liars" (since it was quite aptly name ;) ). A piece by Seth Godwin. It was good and I kind of got in to the rhythm of listening to audio books and slowly got in to the groove of listening and concentrating without letting the mind wander. It made me realize the importance of world view and framing stories to fit world views. The book perhaps didn't turn out to be a shake up for me, but it did create a good impression about Seth Godin on me and made me curious to listen to more of him.

Hence I picked Icarus deception, the first 10 minutes was very thought provoking and he did manage to get under the skin. I ended up listening to it for 5 hours on a stretch during the journey. I am probably one of the luckiest people on earth, when ever I get a bit lethargic and loose sense of direction, I get to read and listen to wonderful pieces of art which shake me out of slumber. Starting from Monk who sold his ferrari, Tuesday's with Morrie, Outliers, Siddhartha each of them have managed leave a lasting impression on me and helped me kick start things I had procrastinated for long. To that illustrious list now I will add Icarus deception.

While reading I remembered few friends of mine and wanted to recommend this book to them since I felt they are 'artists' capable of touching great heights and they need a shot of inspiration and this book could just do that to them. So some of you  are going to get 'the torture' from me with my recommendation for Icarus deception. Watch out!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Designing three wheel experiences

Few weeks back when I was taking a stroll around Kandy town, I noticed a colorfully decorated three wheeler ( aka tuk tuk) with 3 foreign passengers coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road. I was thinking "Poor souls, welcome to Sri Lanka". I expected them to panic but what unfolded in front of me was quiet a spectacle.

They got off the three wheeler and while one or two of the passengers were trying to push and start the three wheeler, others took turns to take pictures.From my view of the world, I expected them to be in dismay and frustrated. On the contrary they were fascinated, they took time to give different poses and each one was trying their best to get a perfect picture, so that it could end up as their profile picture on facebook!

Then I realized that they were taking the three wheeler not as a mode of transport or for the sake of ease of travelling, their whole idea was to experience a three wheel ride! For the experience seeker it turned out to be the epitome of their experience! I was thinking that people in tourism should probably learn out of this and 'design experiences'.

I thought I was smart to discover an idea, where something people look upon as a negative experience can be sold when packaged nicely as 'the experience'. This concept was working in my mind during the days after this and was making me feel good for a change, that I had been smart and spotted a different kind of opportunity. The notion of this 'feeling smart' evaporated a few days back, when I saw the same three wheeler, but with a different cast play out the same script! Co-incidence? Established model? Will let you decide...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Loosing faith in sports

During the youthful days of our generation the list of sporting legends of our times included the likes of Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong, Andre Agassi, etc.

Media portrayed an image that what happened to our earlier generation in the form of East German doping scheme would never repeat and with the amount of testing involved sports were clean now. Only eyebrows were raised against a possible Chinese doping scheme. It was claimed that testing would be done and results confirmed in 'no time' so that there was no chance of enhancing performance by taking drugs. But today years after we are told that the 'legends' were not really legends. Sitting and watching Lance confess was drawing a lot of emotions from me and made me think.

Earlier even when he was stripped of the titles and when he dropped his defense, I still had this whimsical wish that it will be proved otherwise and that his story will continue to be immortal and would always serve as a source of inspiration for all cancer patients. When the other 'legends' failed I never wished that it was untrue. Given this context I wanted to watch the interview with Oprah badly. By the time I watched it I had already read the reviews which were critical about him not showing remorse for his actions and that he failed to shed more light on the case.

But when I was watching it I was trying to think from his shoes. Since he had doped from day one and continued for a decade, obviously it has got engraved in his value system as 'not a wrong thing' which according to him was almost similar to filling up his water bottle before a race. For example for some people their value system takes drinking as 'not a wrong thing', for some other people smoking joint is 'not a wrong thing', for some people being a non vegetarian is a 'wrong thing', for some stealing is 'not a wrong thing'. So if we look closely each human being has their own axis of value system and comes to a subjective derivation on what they see as right and wrong based on it. Lance was also a mere mortal with his own axis of value system, it was just our foolishness to get caught to the marketing gimmicks and weave a larger than life portrait of a person whose value system we never knew of. It just holds true even beyond sports, we blindly place them on a higher degree of value system which is no where near reality.

The harshest reality that dawned on me while watching it was that we should stop 'boiling our blood' and watching sports only to know 10 years down the line that it was all cheated.

I learnt a lesson for life I would watch sport the way I would watch theater and cinema, just applaud the act and not take it anything beyond that. Its not all due to Lance, but this thought process started with match fixing in cricket and then when they started the 'tamasha' called as IPL which I have this edgy feeling would bring out a bigger can of worms and in another 10 years from now it will be proved as a master piece of theater. All this time for the sake of the game cricket, I had a wish that my suspicion be proved wrong, but now I wish that 'whatever the truth, let it prevail'. Not just cricket or sport, but everything!