Sunday, October 31, 2010

Understanding Money

This is a beautiful article about "Money" - What Truly "Wealthy" people know about money.

There are some excellent thoughts in this article and one of the aspects in that article which I want to talk about is the formula

Wealth = Value Provided by Y * Number of Entities that Directly Value Y

(Where Y is the product, employee or subject generating wealth).


The key aspect for wealth in this formula is the value that is provided. At an organizational level or a individual level it comes down to the same thing. If you want to make money you need to have something that provides value. At an organizational level it is the value of the intellect the organization holds. If the organization does not innovate and keep ahead of the intellectual curve it will fall away and stop providing value. It is same for the individual - if the individual stops learning and stops innovating and keeps ahead of his peers in his ability to provide value then his wealth disappears.Once there is no value nobody needs the organization or the individual and that's when all wealth - financial, mental and physical disappears.

The Number of entities that directly derive value will automatically grow based on the amount of value you provide to them and the bandwidth you have to manage them. When you provide true value the entities that seek that value tend to find you faster than you wish for.

So the bottom line is to introspect and understand if each and every one of us at an individual capacity and an organizational capacity provide value. If we do, we will automatically become wealthy - financially, mentally and physically. If not overnight it will happen in time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Yourschool - Create a website for a school in less than 5 minutes

Yourschool.in is a product that we have conceptualized and developed. The idea is to be able to provide a school a platform to create a fully functional, interactive website in less than 5 minutes. We have achieved this by incorporating the following into the product

  • There is no installation to be done. Just register your institution on the website.
  • You do not need to have any technical personnel to operate the website. All you need to know is basic computer knowledge and you will be able to post content about your institution.
  • You can use the site from anywhere 24 X 7 and update the content as it is completely on the internet.
  • No need of high bandwidth dedicated internet connection from your institute to operate the website. Broadband connections with a minimum of 256 kbps is enough to operate the website.
  • You can change the information published at any time by yourself thus giving you complete control over the website with no dependencies.
Some of the features provided by the website include
  • Change content on the website by yourself. All the information published on the website can be changed easily by the school administrator without having to interact with software developers.
  • Provide logins for teachers and students. Each teacher and student can get his/her own login to the website. Unlimited number of logins can be created.
  • Dynamic Photo Albums to showcase the activities and the facilities in the school. Unlimited albums and photos can be uploaded directly from your computer.
  • Messages can be sent between parents and teachers. Using the messaging within the yourschool.in
  • Post news about the school that is displayed on the homepage.
  • Publish Documents and newsletters on the website. Choose whether the document should be publically accessible or only for logged in users.
  • Change how the website looks by choosing a theme from our wide range of templates available. We continuously add new themes to this library from which you can choose.
  • Publish a school calendar on the website with the list of holidays and events of the school.
  • Visitors can send enquiries directly to the school from the website.
  • Class Timetable - Publish the class timetable so students and teachers can refer to the class timetable any time
  • Send SMS Greetings on birthdays to students, teachers and support staff of the school - An automated message goes out to the registered mobile of the user on their birthday.
  • Send Bulk SMS Messages to all the users.
We have started a twitter feed where we are finding out when admissions are starting for various schools in Hyderabad.  Follow us on Twitter. To learn more visit the website http://www.yourschool.in or visit our blog http://blog.yourschool.in. All kinds of feedback would be greatly appreciated so that we can truly improve this product so that schools can create a more informative and up to date presence online.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Social Web - Changed for the better

A few months ago I wrote this article Social Web does not work for me. Life has changed with regards to my social networking since then for the better. Some examples include
  1. Started to tweet a lot more and people have started replying to my tweets. So there is a nice conversation going on.
  2. Met some old friends on Facebook who i lost complete touch with over the years.
  3. Met business acquaintances on Linked In and have successfully executed business with them.
What has caused this change? Initially it was a challenge. My initial challenges were
  1. What do i post about ? 
  2. Why would  anyone be interested in what I wrote about ?
  3. Why is nobody responding to what I posted ?
  4. Is anybody reading what I wrote ?
  5. How do I get more friends ?
But i kept posting and just writing about what I thought people would be interested in reading and slowly I gathered friends, followers and acquaintances. Then the conversations started to happen the connections started to be made and the whole thing suddenly started to turn around.

What did I learn in my journey on the social web ?
  1. Be careful about what you post. Think about what would your friends and followers would be interested in.
  2. Try to make sense of what you are posting each time as not everyone may be part of the conversation you are having from the beginning.
  3. Do not accept every friend request that you get - it becomes unmanageable very quickly.
  4. You will find your friends and your friends will find you eventually - do not spend hours and hours seeking them out.
  5. Try to make what you post sound relevant - do not just post anything that comes your way.
  6. Have fun, do not look at it as if it is a job to do.
  7. Its nice to have the social media applications readily accessible like on the mobile phone - you never know where you might get a thought you want to post about. Once the moment passes its hard to recreate that thought.
  8. Do not get discouraged by the initial lack of response. Unless you have posted something the application will not have enough to let your friends find you.
  9. Do not post about anything you will not say in public.
  10. Always keep reviewing what you have posted from time to time and delete stuff from your time line that do not sound relevant or meaningful.

Problem solving skills

We have been on a recruitment drive for the last month or so and its been quite a frustrating experience. Our recruitment process for junior developers involves a written test, technical interview and a HR interview. We have found a lot of candidates have cleared the written test and are able to answer technical questions with regards to definitions and syntax of programming languages. They do this with ease and its a very text book like answer. If you wander into the domain of making them think by twisting a regular problem slightly they are taken completely by surprise.

I think this is due to the way we are taught in India. We are very good as long as one does not deviate from the bookish suggested approach of understanding and solving anything. We are taught how to "by-heart" everything even if one does not understand it. For example, my 4 year old daughter is forced to learn Hindi poems each 4 lines long even though she does not know what the words in the poem mean. All you have to do is give her the cue word and the rest of the poem flows out fluidly. And this has been my experience in the interviews as long as you stick to the tried and tested questions you will get very text book like answers.

From our experience we have realised that its easier to train a developer that can think on their own and can look up a million resources on how to write the program once they have identified the solution. If a developer cannot think of the solution on their own then you end up helping them to come up with the solution and also helping them to solve it which takes up a lot of ones time. Also it is very hard to teach someone how to think. It is relatively easier to teach them how to program or the syntax.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ooty : The queen of hill stations

It was almost 12 years ago that I visited Ooty as a student from college staying in rustic run down dormitories for a couple of days and doing the regular sights that had to be seen by every tourists visiting this wonderful hill station.


It was so different this time - we stayed in 3 different resorts in different parts of Ooty. It all started with taking the flight from Hyderabad to Coimbatore and then the lovely drive up the hills that took about 3 hours to do with 34 hair pin bends that brought nausea to the strongest of stomachs. But at the end of the drive we arrived at Kingscliff to the most wonderful view of Ooty from high up in the hill.

We then had lunch in the award winning restaurant at Kings Cliff called Earl's Secret. A beautiful restaurant serving fine dining that makes everyone feel special. After some trekking around the hotel and some shopping at Charring Cross it was time for drinks and dinner which was served in the Bar Room of this resort with a real crackling fire place. Having never seen a real crackling fire it was wonderfully exciting.

The next day started off with a trip across the hills to Destiny that is a farm stay. Its about 45 min by car from Kings Cliff. If the ride through the hills is exciting then the last 500 meters on the jungle road in an army truck is the icing on the cake. Once you reach there - you have so much to do one does not know where to start. We started with the walk around the farm seeing the stables, the cow shed, the horse riding track, the duck pond, the fishing tank and then all the fields with carrots, herbs and strawberries. Then in the night there was a bon-fire with barbecue and then there was disco night.

The next morning after a lovely buffet breakfast with a lot of stuff cooked from the produce of the farm we went on a trek through the jungle to the lake that is adjacent to the farm. It was a beautiful walk through very rustic mud roads that were slushy from all the monsoon rain. The 10 km walk gave us an opportunity to view some of the best views i have seen in my life. In the afternoon we witnessed rain for the first time and the whole valley looked so different. The night ended with some Karaoke, Disco and a crackling fire place in my bed room !!!


The next morning after breakfast we started off to the next resort called Sherlock. Based on the Sherlock Holmes theme the resort is tastefully decorated with wonderful views of Ooty town. One can just sit for hours in the lawns with a laptop (what i did) just watching the view and ignoring the laptop sipping on some nice hot Nilgiri tea. In the evening we trekked on a hill called Tiger Hill. Again the most beautiful views to assault the senses mixed with a fragrance of Eucalyptus was just the right mix to not want to go back home. One more crackling fire place to finish our 3 day stay in Ooty.

Having thought we saw everything we woke up the next morning to a fog filled valley with visibility down to a few meters. Just another facet of this wonderful hill station that makes us want to go back and visit it again and again.

These 3 hotels are run by The little Earth Group. They are small, homely and tastefully done up hotels that bring back the British Raj with a wonderful modern twist to it. The wonderful food, the crackling fire places, the wood paneled walls of Kings Cliff, the views from Kings Cliff and Sherlock, the farm experience at Destiny makes one want to come back again and again and there were so many guests who were repeat customers. Its not surprising that these hotels are among the top hotels in TripAdvisor.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Double standards of going green

We just celebrated Earth Day and Earth Hour. I am for these two concepts to try and save the environment. A lot of organizations are going green and i had an opportunity to see first hand how one organization is going green and the double standards within that organization in implementing this.

Let me recount my experience. There were no paper/plastic cups at the coffee/tea/cold drink/water dispensers. When i looked around i found coffee mugs and then realised that we had to use those to drink anything. A very noble idea to save paper and the environment - but what about water. In a city like Hyderabad where water is a problem i was observing that each time someone drank from those mugs they would wash it and then again wash it after it has been drunk from. Now you might wonder why was it washed twice - the reason is the person who used the mug washed it because he used it. The person who was going to drink from that mug washed it because he did not know if the person who last used it washed it. So with the intention of saving paper are we wasting other resources.

Next we were to have a meeting to discuss a document. We were 4 of us in the meeting and since there was no projector/computer in the meeting room there were 4 color print outs of 20 pages each that were taken just for that meeting. I do not need to elaborate any further on the possible number of trees that must have gone into making those 80 pages for that 1 hour meeting. The meeting after ours too there were quite a few of them holding print outs which only shows that almost everyone that goes into that meeting room ends up taking print outs for the meeting. How can one save paper in this situation. Every conference room big or small should have a computer monitor/projector from which users should be able to remote desktop their own machine and open the document that is being discussed.

My point is it is important to go green and think in that way for all organizations. But there is no point implementing it in only certain aspects of the organization. Every function of the organization should be thought through and a unified approach implemented to truly go green. It is only when such a unified approach is implemeted with every member of the organization on board with what is being done and the effects of their efforts will such initiatives really be effective. Otherwise it is only on paper and words but not in implementation and real effect.

Another thing that I have noticed is that the more affluent the country/city/organization/individual the more environmentally damaging they are. But it is these affluent sections of society that do the most preaching about being green. The poorer sections of society anyway do not have the money to be environmentally damaging in a big way so there is no point really preaching to them. So it is the affluent members of society that should seriously introspect the way they live their lives and implement going green in their own little ways.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Awesome Indiblogger meet

It was great to be back at the Indiblogger meet after more than 2 years. The meet was held at the Fortune Select Manohar hotel near the Begumpet Airport and it was great to meet some old friends that i got acquainted with in the last meet and it was nice catching up with them after so long. I also got to meet a lot of new friends and learnt about their interesting blogs that I am sure to be busy reading over the next few days.

The meet started off on time with some entertaining videos on a mystery blogger who wanted to come all the way from Germany to attend the blogger meet - the Indiblogger ice breaker spoof is always very entertaining. After that it was the 30 seconds of fame where each participant in the bloggers meet could introduce themselves and their blog. There were a lot of interesting bloggers with a mixture of the young and the old, the quirky funny bloggers to the serious bloggers. There were bloggers who blog about stories, dreams, inner voices and a lot of other varied subjects.

After this there was an interesting session where each of the participants were given a chart to wear around their neck and anyone could scribble anything on the chart. This was a wonderful idea to collect blog address' that one can then go through without the fear of forgetting the address of the blog. This went on for quite some time but the time just flew during this session as i was meeting a lot of interesting people and getting to know them better.

The quiz that followed was very informative and interesting. Came to know about a lot of things which included Fake Steve Jobs and one red paper clip. This was followed by some lovely food and enjoyable conversation.

Thank You Indiblogger team for a well organized event. Hope we don't have to wait another 2 years before we can have another meet here @ Hyderabad.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Khan Academy

There are a lot of universities that have made their courses online which usually involve a  professor taking a class and the class is recorded and published on the internet. These are usually complex courses that are long and very involving and it takes time and patience to complete them.

On the other hand there are courses for school children which are usually custom paid programs that cost quite a bit. These programs are delivered via custom programs for children to watch and learn.

I came across The Khan Academy which has videos for teaching children Math and Science and has a lot of videos related to banking, finance, investing, venture capital funding and so on. All these videos are done by a single person Salman using paint as a whiteboard and with him explaining the concept. The wonderful part is the simplicity of the whole delivery mechanism and the effectiveness in using this delivery mechanism to teach a concept.

All the videos are free and are available on you tube. Happy viewing and learning.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Being passionate Vs Making money

Over the last few days I have been having interesting discussions with my friends on being passionate in what we do versus having focus on the money aspect while doing things. Here are my thoughts on the same.
I belive that one needs to be passionate about what one does. There should be an excitement while thinking about what one is doing. What this does to the person is that it makes them enjoy what they are doing and it also ensures that they feel responsible for what they are doing. This automatically leads to a better product and a more caring service. This all sounds so wonderful but there is a downside to this just having passion and doing things may not result in short term monetary rewards but almost always there are long term monetary rewards if the person sticks to their passion right through the ups and the downs. Also during this time the person is enjoying what they are doing and this keeps them motivated and happy.

On the other hand if a person is doing a job only for the monetary aspect of it then this makes it very hard. There are always ups and downs in the monetary side of things. If there is no other motivation other than money in doing a job then the person will find it very hard to navigate through the downs. The downs are inevitable - one cannot try to escape them. Its just inherrent in the monetary cycle. Money also tends to make the person lose focus on the quality aspect of the product and the service. This in turn finally effects the long term monetary gain expected from offering the product or the service.

Its important to have passion in what one does with a focus on ensuring long term monetary gains. Focussing on short term monetary gains and compromising on the passion never works. Having passion while doing things eventually gets noticed and will be rewarded.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Something new to learn always

I believe learning can never ever stop. Everyday there is something new to learn and there are times when you are forced into a situation that drives you to learn even faster. These situations are crisis situations - during this time you always learn at lightning speed and you feel it is the hardest time in your life but the important thing is to stick in there ride out the crisis, do your best and you end up coming out of it a more knowledgeable individual. No amount of make believe scenarios and training can give you the kind of learning a crisis situation gives.

Having significant experience in Software Development and having worked on more than one large project one feels that they have seen pretty much everything. Over the last 15 days I have been through two crisis situations that have made me realise that I have not experienced it all yet.

The first situation involved our servers that were on a public IP located at a data center that hosted our website http://yourschool.in/. I got a call one day from the data center telling me that the bandwidth used by our site was 25 times more than normal in a month. So I immediately went and checked the usage information given by the data center and realised that the only way this kind of traffic can happen is if someone is hacking into the server. So I start investigating this and I sudenly realise that I need to start learning about Firewalls, Ports, IIS Vulnerabilities, IIS Logs, ... to solve the problem.

The second situation involved an application that we built that worked fine in the development environment, Quality Assurance Environment but was crashing in production. We spent more than a week every night in the office trying to debug the problem in production but to no avail. After a lot of persistence and patience and learning from our findings in production we were able to replicate the issue in the development environment. It was related to an issue of deadlocks happening in the database. This time I was forced to learn about SQL Profiling, Deadlocks, SQL Error Logs, CLR Profiling,...

I could have found it very hard to create these two situations in a laboratory environment to be able to learn how to handle it. But after riding through these two difficult situations I have come out feeling like I am a more knowledgeable person now which does make me feel good. So my hope is to never stop learning and the more I learn the more confident and happy I feel.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How life can change in a moment?

I was reading a very deep and touching post today on Subroto Bagchi's blog which is about a young girls life changing in a momment for no fault of hers. Its a very touching story that can happen to any one of us.

There have been 2 devastating earthquakes in the last 1 month one in Peurto Rico and the other in Chile. In just a matter of a minute the lives of millions of people changed. Again something that can happen at any time to anyone.

Life can change in a momment for any one of us and it is important that we enjoy and have fun with every momment that we have.There is no point in thinking about the missed opportunities in life or what life could be if only we did something - you are wasting precious time that can be spent just enjoying life.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Social Web - Does not work for me !

First there was twitter. Everyone seemed to have had a twitter account. So I created one too. Nothing happened for the longest time and I unknowingly followed a lot of people who kept dumping me with a lot of junk information. So I then went and "unfollowed" many of them. I then configured it on my mobile phone thinking OK at least this will make me tweet. I tweeted the first couple of days - i then felt stupid tweeting because i wondered, do the people that are following me really care about what I tweet. What if I am just creating a whole lot of junk information out there with my tweets. So I stopped tweeting when I realised I gave some stupid advise on tweeting that goes like "just tweet what ever is in your head. I'm sure there are enough people that will put up with your nonsense, like me". This is not really true is what i now realised. Tweet only if you have quality information to share which your followers care about.

Then came facebook and orkut - I have accounts with all the three but that's about it. Every once in a while someone friends me which makes me login to accept their invitation for the fear of insulting them if I do not accept their "friendship" and then I friend some more people just for the fun of it.

I was all excited when Google came out with Google Wave. They gave me an account with some invitations and I so excitedly handed them out to everyone hoping that they will "wave" with me, but that was not to be. Very few waved with me because we did not know what to "wave" about. Maybe I'm still not yet far enough into the future to understand how to "wave".

Anyway then came "buzz". I again said OK let me "buzz". But then again I had a whole lot of friends that I thought I could "buzz" with, but again I was wrong - my Google "buzz" is as quiet as quiet can be.

So all this got me thinking. Is real time information not my thing? With so much information readily available all over the place are we complicating our lives with all of this. Well I think I am. The catch is that if you don't use any of these tools you are accused of not changing with the times. You are accused of being stuck in the past. Ive been writing this blog since July 2005 and I still find it the best way to express my thoughts. My thoughts on this blog are written, reviewed, changed, reviewed again and then published. Thoughts and ideas should not be like fast food and I think all of the "tweeting, buzzing, waving, wall(ing), ..." is like fast food - you get a few tit bits of value and the rest is junk !

Friday, February 26, 2010

Leaders have followers not slaves

Always wanting to be a good leader I have tried looking at what made other leaders as "leaders". One of the things that hit me was that most of these leaders that were successful are mild mannered, respected individuals and not tyrants or dictators. Tyrants and dictators become leaders but they always end up falling. Usually a very tragic and painful drop from fame.

So what is this quality that truly made up the leader. I think that quality is the leader always commanded the respect of the people that they led. They made their subordinates look up to them rather than be scared of them. They always tended to put the interests of the subordinate first before their own. They were willing to give up the best for their subordinates before thinking of keeping it for themselves.

All of this is very hard to achieve as it expects a very selfless way of thinking but I do feel that if one can even get close to doing the things I mentioned above they will surely become powerful and strong leaders.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Conflict = Drama = Popularity

Watching the news channels of late got me thinking about the style in which most of them function. They find a conflict or a contentious issue and then they get a panel to perform a drama arguing about that issue and that creates a spicy mixture of entertainment. Or atleast that is what they think.

None of these discussions ever result in anything concrete being decided or any commitments made or any meaningful insight into the real problem. There is only mud slinging that goes on and then the moderator runs out of time and closes the discussion leaving you hanging.

Very rarely does one find a clear articulation of the pros and cons of a particular decision and reporting news the way it is to be reported - the truth and to the point. There is a lot of dramatization created and this ends up putting ideas into the viewers mind that did not exist in the first place. This can sometimes have serious consequences and unless news channels start acting responsible and are held accountable for what they report, I do not see an end to this style of reporting.