Thursday, September 29, 2011

Google as smart as you!

"If we aren't a lot better next year, we will already be forgotten," Page said to one of the first reporters visiting the company. 

The founders also knew that Google had to be a lot smarter to keep satisfying users - and to fulfill the world-changing ambitions of its founders.
"We don't always produce what people want," Page explained in Google's early days.
"Its really difficult. To do that you have to be smart - you have to understand everything in the world. In computer science, we call that artificial intelligence."

Brin chimed in. "We want Google to be smart as you-you should be getting an answer the minute you think of it."

- From "In The Plex" By Steven Levy

Uncertain at best - Incompetent at worst!

Getting out of comfort zone is sexy!

But is it really so?

With all the Seth Godins of the world touting it as the next best thing to do, it surely has become glamorous to talk and rave about it.

Though what happens when this secure bubble really bursts? (or you break out of it, due to its sheer sex appeal)

Well, for people who have already not seen this transition - it can leave you feeling uncertain at the best of the times, while incompetent at the worst of hours. There would be no peer network to fall back upon, who already know that "you are the best".

In fact, it will be the process to start all over. Making new friends, failing all over, building credibility all over and it gets tougher by the day since all this comes along with the expectations to deliver!

As they say, "Take calculated risk, it's better than being rash"

And now that you have the both the sides of coin on breaking out of comfort zone; take the leap only if it suits you and not for the thrill of your next door neighbor or Seth Godin & Co.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bums and Recession!

Can baby bums tell you how economy is behaving? At least Advertising Age thinks so!

Their number crunching shows how, in United States, during the last year, fall of unit sales of disposable diapers outnumbered infant population decline 3 is to 1.

What's more telling is, that "the unit sales of baby ointments and creams rose 2.8%, despite fewer babies.", speaking of parents trying to treat babies diaper rashes which is happening because of less frequent changing.

All this is clearly in proportion with increasing unemployment rate in United States.

However, there is something else which took me by surprise. According to P&G, India, as a country, tops all in terms average daily diaper changes. Now let's see how e-commerce companies in India, who are lapping up this craze (of change) are going to tap this!

Friday, September 23, 2011

"It's the writing, Stupid"

When Dick Wolf mouthed those prophetic words, he didn't realize he is talking for Internet industry as well. But sure he did.

For all the self-proclaimed SEO gurus, who believe training guns on infinite number of signals Google factors in its algorithm, would yield them results, this is the sole lesson which should work. Not to forget "instant gratification" afflicted, clients - they need to sit back and let the content do the job, if they really want to win the war (not just battles).

It is your content, which builds the fan following, brings people come to your site on the days when Google is not your best friend. Any one can be a prince when King is your father.

This serves the lesson for the likes of Expedia and Nextag, who are busy championing against Google. Their case is clearly the case of sour grapes! Nextag wanted Google to change their product feature so that Nextag can come up on first page. While Expedia clearly looks pissed off by not finding place in Google's new flight search engine. The key is to let the free market take the decision on who is the ruler, instead of acting like an underdog, when all you do is "write bad"!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Burning Man

Ever seen a city in desert being laid out for a week and then it being vanished after a week, leaving no traces of its existence whatsoever? That my friend is, Burning Man!

Burning Man is an extraordinary festival celebrating as varied principles as Self-Reliance, Decommodification, Civic Responsibility and Participation. A vision of one man, it sets about to change the perception in which art is defined, created, perceived and consumed.

Don't believe me - See it by yourself via Scott London's picturesque photographs (and that's just 2011).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Larry, why do you say you want to do research?

"He (Krishna Bharat) said to Page

"You are such a tiny group!" 

Page's answer was surprising and impressive. 

"Looking at things from a different perspective could lead to unexpected solutions", he said. "Sometimes in engineering you look at things with tunnel vision and need a broader perspective.""

- From "In The Plex" By Steven Levy

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jobs, Karma and Superman

"You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

When Steve Jobs spoke of these prophetic words at his Commencement Address at Stanford University in June 2005, what flummoxed me that a man of such stature, who had like made Apple rise like a phoenix in recent years was giving away pretty much all the credit of beautiful Typography and developing Macs to Destiny.

This was the time, when iPods, Macs & iTunes were already a sensation and though India which at times considered the "nerd country" (owing to the PhDs they have produced in United States), Macs & Ipods were still not a commonality as they have become now.

Among all this, I had just started working, was pretty much broke but was consumed by idealism of capitalistic nature which was sweeping away India (where I live).

And here was the poster boy of  all the "nerds" who was crediting Karma for his success. As much as it sounded ridiculous, it also confused the capitalist in me, wondering if Capitalism is indeed a solution.

Time passed by, I grew in maturity, but the question never went away. It stayed there at the back of my mind making me wonder, if actually in life, everything could "all work out OK", as Jobs had said.

It was only couple of days back, I got my answer - a sort of co-incidence that it overlapped with Jobs's retirement. Though I think for me it is kind of divine, since it sorted out the position of Fate in my life.

So what's the answer & where did I get it?

The story of that is as "connecting the dots backward" as it could be. I was on a vacation in Puducherry during July 2011 and had visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram there. The experience was divine, especially for an agnostic, like me. Over there I stumbled into a book called "Superman" and picked it up out of fetish for superheros. It didn't disappoint me. It was the compilation of three essays written by Sri Aurobindo in 1915, namely 'Superman', 'All-Will and Free-Will' & 'The Delight of Works'. 

The answer lied in "All-Will and Free-Will" and here what it says (excerpts):

"It is doubtful whether belief in Fate or free-will makes much difference to a man's action, but it certainly matters a great deal to his temperament and inner being; for it puts its stamp on the cast of his soul. The man who makes belief in Fate an excuse for quiescence, would find some other other pretext if this were lacking...... It is not our intellectual ideas but our nature and temperament, - not dhi*, but mati* or even manyu*,or,as the Greeks would have said, thumos and not nous.

On the other hand a great man of action will often seize on the idea of Fate to divinise to himself the mighty energy that he feels driving him on the path of world-altering deeds.......He expresses in the idea of Fate his living and constant sense of the energy which has cast him down here whether to break like some some Vedic Marut the world's firm and establish things or to cut through mountains a path down which new rivers of human rivers of human destiny can pour.....Therefore we find that the greatest men of action the world has has known were believers in Fate or in a divine Will......The Superman believes more readily in Destiny.......than the average human mind"

Needless to say Steve Jobs describes the latter paragraph, while my (conventional) thinking was stuck with former!

* These are terms of Vedic psychology. Dhi is the intellect; mati, the general mentality; manyu, the temperament and emotive mind

Friday, September 16, 2011

A man who did what was right!

I was in Delhi last weekend, on an urgently arranged trip. 

My sister's father-in-law had passed away. Having visited there, was a humbling experience for me and taught me a thing or two about life and most importantly death.

I wanted to show up in person to offer condolences, more so for my brother-in-law, than for any thing else. The reason was simply that he is one person I believe closest to who I want to be, in terms of temperament and finding happiness in life. And I truly believe that one of the biggest of reason of who he is and how he is; is because of his upbringing, father being large part of it.

For people who think, death scares kids, I found my nephew and niece handling it far more in a far more mature manner than many adults.
During our conversations over the weekend, my brother-in-law talked about the happy times he had with his father, telling me, albeit not directly, what does it take you to be a good father and most importantly a great father.

If I have to put all of them in the fewest words, it would be: spiritual, soft spoken, smiling, and the man who did what he believed it was right for him and for his family!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good Product Manager

Can you go through the phases where everyone in the organization resists the idea of your product being developed, from the phase where everyone wants to work on the project when it gathers momentum; not to forget the momentum-gathering phase?

If you can keep yourself grounded in all these phases, then my friend, I believe you are a good product manage!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cardinal Rule of Office Politics

An employee would never ever pick a tiff with her peer for the sake of her subordinate

She may pretend or tell the subordinate otherwise, but you know it better!

Some people, however, just don't get it.......

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Did you hire that JERK!?

So you are interviewing and you feel that you have got the best person for the job.

Fast forward 90 days:
You are sure that 90 days back, the person whom you found the best person for the job and for the team is a jerk.

So much so, that you are ready to bet your fortune on it!
So much so, that it has become a public act!
Actually it didn’t take you 90 days to figure that out, but isn’t 90 days what every management book tells you should wait before making a judgment over a new employee?

Now the perils this jerk can bring are that:
1. She can drive away other talented people simply by being annoying, acting tough, unlikable or simple by being know-it-all.
2. Her personal limitations can prevent her from accepting the change is what she needs and not everyone around her
3. She won’t be able to let the organization drive changes even if it’s a do or die situation
4. To top it all, everyone will know that you have brought this jerk onboard and they will talk about it in hush-hush tones on water cooler and in loud voices after getting drunk

If you have ever been this hiring manager, take heart from this:
Every hiring manager has at least one horror story about having hired jerks; you are not alone.

Need of the hour is to not to brood about it or to prove the jerk is indeed a role model for everyone to follow (which is what most of them try to do usually).

Only way to mitigate the damage done by a jerk is weed her out of the system. No excuses for that, you see…