November 29, 2005

Mine

I know this road only too well. Well enough for me to take the turn at an insane speed and still hit the pothole at the right level of impact that will turn the steering wheel a bit counterclockwise first and then clockwise, twisting my arm in the process, all in the matter of a very jerky split second. When you have been traveling for this long, there are no surprises on the road. There is only the predictability of your own travails and the predictability of the myriad variations it manages to play itself out in.

If there is anything worth mentioning, it is only a lack of dreams in this arid landscape. Dreams are for the indulgent, dreams are for those who have the luxury of knowledge of things either better or richer. For the poor, the only dream is to stay alive to live another day, where the only richness is a string of pearls, called life, strung together by days and days of un-splendorous survival. This is the only jewel which will adorn you on your lonely deathbed. There won’t be any mourners and there won’t be any memories, as usual.

When the darkness recedes and the pale light waltzes in at the fork, the shadow, once again, catches up with the soul and starts its merry dance. It darts left and it darts right, never once leaving the soul, boxing it in its own self-created ring. No bets are entertained here, for the outcome is already known, we are watching a fight that is always lost and never won. Legions of lesions mark the face of the embattled and the ring is covered in blood. This is not a fight for those with a heart. You simply cannot win what you already have lost.

Ultimately, there is not a lot you can drive around. Every journey eventually ends in a homecoming of sorts when the old foes return to roost. Even the most experienced of eyes of look out one last time, in vain hope, for that savior to pick up the reins and fight your fight as the starting bell echoes faintly in the distance. Cold comfort follows sheer terror as the punches start to rain. Even regular combat has its own familiarity, be it the unforgivable taste of your own blood in your mouth.

November 28, 2005

Pivot

It is that time once again when you question all the good that you have ever associated yourself with in your life. If those were ever true, inkeeping with your desire to never knowingly cause harm to anyone, you should not be doing what you are doing. There are no justifications, it just simply should not have happened. But it did, so what do you do now?

November 26, 2005

NDTV Not Com

Part two of the NDTV RSS feeds saga sees me, the poor information junkie, still waiting for the kind gentlemen and gentlewomen there to send me the the confirmation e-mail for accessing the feeds. Two days have gone and still no mail. Information junkie, being a proud member of the early adopters club, is now growing desperate. To get an immediate fix the city's best peddler, Google, is called up and asked a few pertinent questions and viola, more details trickle in.

The peddler points to a prominent pusher, Bloglines, who asked for the fix of the NDTV variety and finally produces one. The curious thing is the link on the Bloglines page that says "subscribe" that links to the URL of the actual feed. Interestingly, NDTV passes the username and password of the user in the query string of the feed URL, which is a patently stupid thing to do since users do put up the link on sites like Bloglines to use the feeds from different computers.

Now, this is an issue that has two sides. The first being that NDTV is sending out user login details in plain text, while the second is that asking a user for his e-mail id as a login id is one of the worst ideas anyone could have ever thought up since most users, to avoid maintaining multiple passwords, tend to use the same password as the email account for the login too. One of the subscriptions listed with the pusher has an email id and password that works on the email service provider. Not good at all.

In all fairness, NDTV does specify that the feed should not be used outside the personal sphere (which they go on to contradict that if it is used it has to be credited to NDTV with image and so on), but like I said before it does defeat the purpose of providing the feeds if they cannot be shared. In the spirit of fair disclosure, the account listed at Bloglines has been notified and a friendly reminder has already been transmitted to the brethren who run the NDTV site.

Update: More Bloglines gripes, this time from Phil, spiced up with some excellent XSS troubles for taste.

You

Have you ever felt that you are waiting forever to have that conversation which will transform your life in a single verbal swoop? I am sitting here in a cloud of indifference, listening to some dark, trippy music, on the shores of listlessness, impatiently waiting for the world to get up and go so that I can walk away from it in the opposite direction. I need low lights and walls that faintly glow yellow in them, swirls of cigarette smoke, a dazed look and freewheeling conversations with unexpected turns that leave you in a haze the following day.

I could now turn an approver to life's mediocre purpose, or hang, in disagreement, like a captive don. Instead, I will just sit and listen to your charges. I won't put up a defence. I will just watch the way you talk, the way your mouth shape the words you speak, the way your eyes list the unspoken charges from behind the weave of your silky black hair, the way your hands move to accentuate the gravity of my crime. I shall serve my sentence in the cold loneliness and wonder if I will ever remember what you said or what you looked like.

November 25, 2005

Feeding on NDTV

NDTV joins the RSS syndication bandwagon finally with feeds on National, International, Sports and Business news. They claim to be using RSS 2.0 as their preferred spec, but right now there is no way of knowing anything more since you need to register to get the feed URLs. I registered for the same some 6 hours back and I still have not received the e-mail as they had promised.

In any case, having to register to access the RSS feeds is distinctly uncool and even if it is for the sake of metrics and tracking usage patterns, it would really defeat the purpose and decrease adoption rates if they are going to offer unique, per user URLs. And if that is not the case and we are being forced to register just for a standard URL, I can only assume that it is a really dumb idea which could only have been thought up by some marketing department numbskull.

November 24, 2005

Mashuphead

Does not matter even if you have not heard about, Me And This Army, the new Radiohead remixes yet, you can jump straight into the party and download the torrent (and read more info) from here. The collection is more a mash up fest than anything remotely resembling a remix, but it is deliciously trippy and feels like standing next to a pile up of cars playing Radiohead, Tricky and Gorillaz at the same time, while some of the meanest MCs try playing traffic cops in the background. My personal favourites are How Ya Want It and No Surprises. I had already lost my heart to Paul Van Dyk's remix of Idioteque, so no go on that mash up at least for now. Link via BoingBoing.

Guilt

Growing up the way I did during my childhood was not an easy task. From as far as I could remember, the singular theme in my life and everything to do with it always boiled down to guilt. The guilt that I was never good enough for my parents, for them to ever like me enough to grant a kind word out of turn or to simply show, without any particular reason, even by some insignificant means, that I was worthy of being loved. While most kids grew up wanting to be loved, I grew up not wanting any of it, for none was on offer and to look for it was asking for unnecessary trouble and disappointment. A weird form of self-discipline took over. I thrived on constant struggle and loneliness. Gradually, I reached a subliminal existence where I needed and desired very little from life since I was just not good enough. It was my truth.

That struggle more or less ended in 1999 when I finally had had my fill and left home and everything I had known and valued till that point behind for a new life in Delhi. Later, I do not know if it was out a lack of choice, I made my peace with the folks. I was tired of fighting, hiding my happiness with my newfound life and friends because I was paranoid that they would take all of it away. I almost felt guilty that I was happy. They did not have much of a choice either, old age wears down the best of the lot, it wore them down too. In any case, I wanted to reduce the amount of conflicts that surrounded me. The change of bases did take most of the problems away, but the guilt never went away. It stayed on, like a well hidden infection, in my system, affecting everything I saw, did and understood. I should have seen the symptoms, but I did not.

In the years that followed, many relationships -- romantic, friendly or purely sexual -- happened. I gave almost all of myself away in them. It came naturally to me to give and not ask for anything in return. For the outside world it was nothing short of downright perversion. For me it was an effortless continuation, a familiar walk into unknown territories, manifesting in an imagined purpose to a life that deserved nothing. Then there were those who thought differently, that I deserved to get something in return than to just keep giving endlessly. But that was a process that was alien to my system. Not that I did not feel the need for it, every time I did feel it I could not understand it, since I did not consider myself deserving enough to be liked or loved. Every time it came my way, I flinched, I ran and I hid.

It is the fag end of 2005. Till recently I knew I had problems, though I did not know what precisely the problem was. I knew I liked to give and not take, but I never understood why it was so. I just knew I had to 'teach' myself to want for more and in stumbling through that weird education I came across the simple truth, that I never thought of myself as someone who deserved anything at all. For me, my own purpose in life was to always stay behind the scenes, to walk on to the stage when all had left and to strip myself of the gleeful make up in the silent echo of my unwanted thoughts. In this undesirable setting came something in which I had to give little and be in a situation where I was just not used being in. In spite of my best efforts, my system rebelled, threw me off track and locked everyone out. A new trip had already started.

That situation was avoidable and I am guilty of getting it wrong from every point imaginable and I am paying for it in my own weird way. But it is my own personal penance. One that is to be served out far away from any prying eyes. Meanwhile, the trip continues unabated. I am now on a journey of discovery towards the destination of seeing how much of selfishness is possible within my own system. I want to see how it is possible to live a life only taking things and not giving much. In a way I am trying to rid the association that I have of taking, with something undeserving and vile. I am trying to prove myself that the world will comfortably survive even if I don't give it much or take a lot. That I can be liked and loved for even when I am being a totally selfish prick. Maybe that would grant me a semblance of normalcy, make me one with the rest of the pack.

Like I actually believe all that.

November 22, 2005

Home Alone

I am genuinely happy to be home alone tonight. It has been such a lousy and miserable day that I could have bitten off every single face I had come across today at work and the mood was not expected to get any better once I got home. Thankfully, things did change. On my way home, I stopped by the local fish market, picked up some pomfret and spent a little bit of time cooking it for dinner and then polished off every morsel that was cooked.

Now there is Notting Hill playing on television, while I am in the other room listening to it and reading up one last time before I cuddle up with a book or call it a night. Incidentally, do any of you have the same bad habit of listening to television than actually watching it? Normally, reruns of old television serials and movies that you have already watched make for best television hearing, but an active imagination should see you through in doing the same with any kind of programming.

Which brings me to the question that has been bothering me for quite a bit in the day, how do you conjure up good sex in a work of fiction if you have not had any yourself? And you can please stop snickering, such things do bother me, now back to the question. It is funny because you can imagine what it must feel like when it comes to emotions and situations. Hell, you can even imagine or fantasize about what it must feel like to be a hijacker. But sex? How do you ever imagine good sex?

Or is it that I am the only one who finds it weird that so many people write some fantastic bits on people making love? It can’t be possible that all of them have made love in the manner the have described. At least I hope not, for I can’t imagine the plight of humanity and publishers if things were to come to a stage where the public discovers that the key to having good sex is to become a writer. Still, I find it awfully funny these days when I read passages that go like “he put his hands on her thigh and she flinched in pleasure”. Don’t you agree?

Another thing I’ve grown to develop a great deal of distaste for is people saying “I can understand how you feel”. I hate it with all my life and I really do want to bite my tongue off every time I come close to saying it. How in the world can I ever understand how another person feels? For that matter, how in the world can another person understand how I feel? Even the stupidest of us are unique in our own ways and even then there is no way one can make up another’s emotions and context by virtue of imagination.

That Effing feeling

Yes, posting has been pretty much non-existent over the weekend. The system is still clogged up, though it is much better than what it was earlier and the mind is a monstrous muddle right now. I am just wholesomely tired of switching and adjusting to changing circumstances, it is like moving to a new house every third day. Right now I am pretty much in a 'fuck off' state of mind. So, don't be surprised if I did not smile at you in the morning, because I just don't feel like it, okay?

A couple of questions before I sign off. Don't ask me for the reasons why I am asking them, you will get to know soon enough. But here we go.

1) If I were to deem you a good blogger on a certain topic and ask you to blog for a particular amount of money (let us say some 'x' amount for 'n' posts in a month), would you be interested in it?

2) How huge an issue would editorial intervention be for you, provided you say "yes" to the above proposition, would it be too much for you to have someone clean up your copy and possibly enforce a bit of discipline, only when it is needed?

3) How much of an issue would anonymity be for you to blog for someone else?

4) Would you have any issues blogging on a different (possibly major media-supported) platform, or would you only blog on your own site/blog?

The slow as hell Blogger interface is not opening for me here, so I am using Writely of all things to post this. Weird.

Update: Don't use that effing thing to post at all. Crappy, half-done, dysfunctional software should be banned from ever being released.

November 19, 2005

Velocity

The sane part of my mind tells me that I should slow down, steady the ship a bit, stop all the crazy behaviour and be one of those children that the parents would be proud of. Instead, the insane half seems to have taken complete control, like a mad clown driving a noisy, about-to-self-destruct steam engine, driving me faster and faster to an unknown point where nothing can remain unscathed. Maybe, like a good friend tells me, I just want to believe it that way to escape the responsibilities for my actions, but the momentum is maddening and there seems to be no slowing it down.

As the months pass away one by one, a common thread I have noticed is that I am willfully destroying all that is valuable and sacred to me, in a quest for an unknown abyss. The mind seems to be trying to make the point that since most of what I have valued has already been destroyed when I did try really hard to keep them safe, it would be a nice challenge to destroy the little that is left, by myself and not give circumstances or fate that option. I know it is something like the old 'nam concept of destroying the village to save it, but I am certainly doing just that.

The thing is, I don't quite know what would I achieve at the end of all of this. In all probability, I would only end up crying even more once I achieve that end and it is scary to know that you are in fact scripting your own self-destruction. In a way, I think it is also reflective of the desire to escape my own self and become someone I have always despised and see if any part of me would be left standing after that. Why anyone would want to do something crazy as that is anybody's guess. I think I want to kill the desire to be normal once and for all, throw it out of the window and move on in life.

November 18, 2005

Gymming It

The decision to stay GYM-free (that is Google, Yahoo! Microsoft) approach by the A-list bloggers could not have come at a worse point in time for Robert Cringley has decided to come up with yet another of his awesome columns, this time on why Google is buying dark fiber all over the place. It would be pointless for me to paraphrase it here since you have to read the entire thing and swallow it in full to understand it. Read on.

Lost Opportunity?

I wonder if it is the best idea to work for a big company and do innovative stuff at this time. Other than the obvious incentive of cash, provided that you do manage to sell your product off to a biggie, the internal processes and bottlenecks that you have to go through are less complicated and mostly restricted to infrastructure when you are on your own. Credibility also is another issue. Some food for thought.

November 16, 2005

Aesthetics & Sensibilities

People with journalistic backgrounds are not bothered by what their blogs look like, says Vulturo, elaborating on his contention that mainstream media (MSM) bloggers don’t care about aesthetics. I believe the point that he is making is a bit of extreme conjecture, unless he has interviewed a major percentage of the MSM bloggers and asked them if they care enough about it or if they would like to change the way their blog looks, provided they have the time and effort to spare for it.

There is a famous geek saying that there are only 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t. Inherent in the saying is the fact that people who understand technology generally look down on the rest who do not understand it, and the comment on aesthetics is yet another one in the same vein. In a world where the geeks still have not figured out which is the better markup to be used, I think a reading of HOWTO Spot a Wannabe Web Standards Advocate is in order here.

Adding links to a template, forget changing a blogger layout, in itself is a hard ask for most people whose only interaction with technology is to start up their computer, browse a bit and check their email. A majority of the users on the internet belong to this group, which is one of the reasons why blogging is big now. If everyone was capable of doing hand-coded HTML pages and using FTP later to publish them, we would not have needed Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad etc.

Expecting that lot to change the way their blog looks, beyond the content they provide, is asking for too much. Blogger’s template tags are the easiest to master compared to Wordpress (which is done using PHP code), MovableType and Serendipity (Smarty templates). Even then, it is hard for an average user to understand what a conditional tag is and asking him/her to modify it with markup that validates is even more absurd. Yes, we all would love to have a perfect world to live in, but it is not something that will ever happen.

Moving on to Vulturo’s next point that he would be “happy if Mainstream Media portals as well moved to an OpenSource solution such as Drupal or Mambo” I can only assume that he has not ever dealt with a real world situation of trying to come up with a solution by using a (well, somewhat) boxed solution to suit the varied needs of different media set ups. Yes, it is very hard “to adopt and customise a content management system” be it free, open source or proprietary.

In any case, the open source and free point is more or less bunk. The Indian Express Group websites run on Linux, Apache, PHP, Postgresql and a bit of MySql. The same is the case with The Business Standard. Rediff, from what I remember, for most parts, run Apache, Linux and Resin for their CMS and some form of HTdig or Lucene for their indexing needs (this I am guessing, feel free to correct me if you know better). As you can see, it is not like free and open source solutions are not used at all.

And that takes us to the next point, why the wheel is reinvented in the first place. Most of the times, it is reinvented because the original wheel was just not good enough to meet the requirements. Mambo is a fine CMS, but the interface is really slow and speed is of the essence in a breaking news environment. Drupal too is pretty fine too, which is why sites like The Onion use it, but it is a pain to customize and run. Besides, it is very community oriented, which is not what most media houses ask for.

If I remember right, way back in the dotcom boom era, someone had tried convincing Zdnet India to shift to Zope/Plone, since it was meant to be absolutely rocking from a geek point of view. That experiment did not go down well with the end users and it ended pretty much there. Being sexy from a geek’s point of view is very different from what it looks like from the end-user’s point of view. Case in point: there are a lot more of users on Blogger than Freeflux, though the latter is better for a geek any given day.

In the past four months, I have been pretty much doing the reinventing business at the new jig. I had evaluated most of the free/open source options and found none of them, other than the exception of Midgard, to be good enough to fit our needs. Most were either too complex or were too simple and I would rather have my team work with a set of known problems than have them dig around nested directories of endless libraries which might or might not break every time I want to customize the site or add a new feature, which would require hacking the existing code.

Even with Midgard, there is a problem of not knowing how it will scale up when it has to survive traffic close to at least a million page views in a day. It is a comprehensive application framework, which means that the potential bottlenecks are strewn all over the place. I do not want to wake up one fine day to discover a new bottleneck which might be at its core. When I am reinventing the wheel, I know that I can either reverse proxy the front end pages (throw in more Squid servers to the cluster to scale it up) with a load balancer in front or use a MySql/Postgresql cluster (write to master, read from replicated slaves) in case of a dynamic data intensive website.

Then there is the issue of the actual requirements. The Indian Express has two kinds of editions, one for the print edition and the other for the breaking news site. Right now, there is nothing out there that addresses the two differing requirements using the same solution. And the Indiatimes group of websites uses a monster of an (somewhat) internally developed IIS-based framework that handles everything from the front end page serving, connection pooling and caching to the backend for managing the content. In either case, the spokes would really have to be bent to fit the wheel.

Eventually, when you take your product proposal to the management and tell them the best avenue for technical support for your solution is an IRC channel, don’t be surprised if they totally freak out on you, which is why a lot of media organizations sign up for outrageously priced Microsoft-based solutions. They don’t want to understand the technology and there is no reason why they should. All they want is a single point of interaction at which they can throw both feature requests and problems. How it is done is not their problem in life.

Fever

The body is an amusing creation. It started yesterday morning with a touch of fever that was ably aided by an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion in the evening. Managed to somehow drive home and crashed into the sack with the latest self-diagnosis being that of a nasty sinus infection. This is one of those times when living alone really, really sucks.

Come morning, I was feeling feverish once again, with both the larynx and pharynx feeling distinctly molten and unskinned. Driving all the way down to Noida and surviving the commotion there was not an option. Called in sick and stayed on in bed. I am feeling better now, but I do feel very insulated, my senses encapsulated in thick membrane like fluids.

November 14, 2005

Meaningless

A fair bit of content on this blog has been dedicated to the thought that I hardly believe in anything anymore. In my short lifetime, I have been branded everything from cynical to jaded, to a rank pessimist in describing my approach to life and my thinking. And having spent a lot of my life turning away from things, important and unimportant, it is hardly surprising that at times I have a great deal of trouble trying to stay in touch with my sanity.

What is sanity actually? Beyond the poetic definitions of it being the reality, in effect, it is a set of constructs and belief systems that basically act as safety net for you every time your mental system lacks orientation and direction. It is a relative measure that qualifies your uniqueness, purpose (both routine and long term) and a sense of your own self that enables you to interact with the rest of the universe in a predictable manner.

It manifests in the real world in terms of relations, the values that they hand down to us and the subconscious mental connections that we make with them. In effect, we define the world through the values that are handed down to us and the connections that we assume as innate to ourselves. That way, the world is an amazing place, for we have built it entirely based on these loosely defined concepts and still we manage to function effectively.

But what if you don’t have these values and associations? That is when the fun starts and the world becomes a theater of abstract interpretation and logic. Since there is no absolute fixed point, the relative points you define afterwards are also in a state of constant flux. What might be absolutely necessary for you at point becomes absolutely unnecessary at another. It is madness and sanity smiling from the same face at the same time.

It also leaves you with a considerable amount of scope when it comes to imagination and innovation. At any given point in time, you can step into another’s shoes and see the world from their point of view with a moderately acceptable degree of accuracy. It is logic, but abstract too, since it is a form of role-play. It is role-play, yet it is real, since you are not really tied down by any major amount of innate beliefs or values to skew your observations by a disruptive degree.

Thus, depending on how you want to view it, the world can either be a beautiful place or a totally crappy place to live in then. Which is why even in my so-called pessimism, it takes a lot of optimism to face up to the world each day, every day. It is not a great deal of fun when you have to apply concepts which are close to mathematical models than emotional certainties to survive and sustain the self on a daily basis.

Till a while back, I used to harbor this great dream of being rescued, of being fished out of this conundrum. That someone would appear one day and make sense of all of this and lift my own heaviness from my shoulders. But somewhere I reached a point where I could no longer keep looking back at my lack of real meanings to define my present and my future. Somehow, I let go of that and I gave away all my virtual meanings.

It is a high risk strategy that leaves me with a make or break situation. If I happen to break there is nothing that can put me back together. In letting go of the past, I also threw away the key and the clues that can unlock the door to my mind. Somewhere I got really tired of keeping it all catalogued and well marked for someone to look over and figure it all out. Eventually, every story has the same ending and that is an ending which holds no significance for me.

Root It Out!

Deciding to eradicate Sony's root kit is probably one of the most decent things I remember Microsoft doing in a long time. I do not know what kind of effect it will have on their relationship with Sony, but it is a very clear and proactive stand on the issue which will set the tone for setting the limits on what can be termed as acceptable behaviour in dealing with piracy.

For those who are late in joining the party, the story goes something like this. The story broke after Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals posted on his blog that Sony was installing a root kit as a part of their copy protection mechanism. Sony responded by issuing a patch that Mark said was capable of crashing the systems which installed it. Finally, Microsoft steps in and decides to zap the root kit. Detailed FAQ by CNet here.

Update: I am taking Google Analytics for a spin here, so other than the Sitemeter tracker I now have one more way to keep an eye on you all.

November 12, 2005

Blog More

I know I had promised not to write about the mainstream media versus blogs controversy anymore, but since today is an unexpected holiday that has brought forth a very welcome break from the madness in office, I have the time to sit and collect my thoughts and present them in a sensible way than to fight meaningless street fights in the confines of the comment window. But be warned, this is going to be a very long read.

First up, I’ll present you a little bit of a primer about where I come from. The need to know has always been a huge thing for me. I have, from the time I could remember, been an information junkie, watching all the news bulletins on the only television channel then – Dooordarshan and reading newspapers and magazines, both English and Malayalam ones, from the first page to last. It did help that I was no good with studies and then Delhi happened under the pretext of “studying journalism”.

I started working here in 2000, fresh out of the journalism course, all ready and willing to change the world. Strangely, I had not grown up wanting to be a journalist; it was one of those things that happen mostly due to your having no idea of what you really want to do. My choice of the first job was a bit dicey, since I turned down a better paid and respectable desk job with these guys and decided to go with the famous dotcom industry, which was already showing signs that it was about to go bust.

In the five years that followed, I worked with a variety of news publications – some of which were just online extensions of traditional print houses, while the others have been pure-play internet firms or television channels – and it has been a wonderful learning experience. In all these years, I have somehow managed to stay clear of belonging to just one camp or the other and being completely dismissive of any of them, which, as you will see, is the basis for my belief that we need all the pieces of the puzzle than just one or two, to complete the picture.

What all this is essentially about is information and how it is communicated between people. The equation for which is written in terms of the need to inform and the need to be informed. Till recently, this used to be a very well defined dichotomy that kept the informant and informed in two distinct camps. As you can guess, the general public used to be the ones who would be informed by the media, the informant, in its various forms through the years.

At its core, the mainstream media is nothing but a huge filter, which transforms the enormous amount of information it receives into tiny chunks that would make sense to you. You have to work in a news environment to understand the scale I am talking about here. Left unattended, the emails from the department that coordinates what finally goes on air can overwhelm my inbox at the rate of at least a 100 per hour. What you see on the screen for a couple of minutes is something that often takes more than a couple of hours of hard work to put together. It is similar to mining an entire mountain to finally discover a stone that can fit into your hand.

This is something that bloggers probably don’t understand. They can’t see the process that finally culminates in the finished product and by its nature most blogs are specific to a single topic or a couple of them, which results in complaints of the nature where the mainstream media is accused of ‘ignoring’ big blog events or controversies. And then there is scale and perspective. Blogging is big for the bloggers, but the uncomfortable, yet true, fact is that more people would be interested in reading or knowing about what is happening in a famous actor’s love life than the news that an educational institution has threatened to sue a prominent blogger for what he wrote, simply because blogging is still a very niche activity. For that matter, even being on the internet is a niche activity in India.

Ironically, this is exactly where blogs fit in perfectly into the picture. It is awesome in its form as a collective and a filter of these niches. By tracking a properly done blog on technology, sex or politics, I can track a multitude of sources without having to go through these sources everyday. But for the main news I would still stick to the mainstream media since the degree of bias there is lesser. After having worked with and helped build at least one of them, I can assure you that bloggers don’t do half as much fact or tone checking as news desks do.

The problem is that too many people these days believe that they can either replace the mainstream media or do a better job than them, which is a classic case of believing grass being greener on my side of the fence. Only once when a blog becomes very popular and reaches the same scale like, let us say, a newspaper website, can you assume a level playing field. Doing one good blog entry a day is one thing, but being actually out on the field and doing 70 of them is a different thing – on the basis of quantity, quality and logistics. Once you reach that stage, you will end up looking more like the mainstream than as a blog.

Personally, I would rather not have to choose between the three forms – print, internet and broadcast – as mutually exclusive choices for my sources of information. All three are tremendously valuable and important for me. Print with its in-between states of having too much space and too little space gives me perspective, internet with its ease to publish and ease of access gives me an unrivalled breadth of opinion and information, while television gives me immediacy. Why should I have to pick between the three, when I can’t replace one with the other?

And I do believe that it is possible for everyone to co-exist. The mainstream cannot afford to ignore the voices on the internet under any circumstances, especially under the pretext of it being too nerdy or geeky. They need to track the internet and blogs to see what is relevant to the general public, even if the number of those influencers is a tiny one now. Having been an active blogger – as a writer, reader and commenter – for close to some five years now I would only love to see it growing larger and better.

Blogs, if they can get their tone right, should be tremendously effective in adding to the mainstream agenda. A year back, I was pushing for the implementation of such a product, which did not go anywhere due to various reasons. This time round, with a little bit of luck and patience, it should be possible. Even if it does not, I am sure Google has some secret product up its sleeve which will hit us and mow us down one day!

P.S: Is Blogger now sending automated trackbacks?

November 09, 2005

We the bloggers

Just read Ashok Malik's views on blogs. It is a tad optimistic and he does gloss over a bit in his views. Contrary to what he says, blogs did not play a huge part in the US elections. Initially, the blogs were meant to turn the tide and carry Kerry forward into the Whitehouse. Moreover, unlike what he claims, the community does not police itself too well. Most of the bloggers in fact don't give a damn about correcting themselves. When they are caught in a corner they either dismiss it as propoganda or as some 'ism' or the other.

The reasonable voices are far and few between and it is mostly about finding people who read and think similarly, though I would not go as far as to call it an echo chamber. At the most they are information aggregators than opinon shapers. And compared to the west, the Indian scenario is a bit different. There is an actual lack of compelling content and there is a vast pool of wannabes (yes, I'll readily admit to being one too) who are looking for the next great wave of controversy to ride on.

But mostly it is a case of a lot of smoke and no fire at all. The quality of a blog can be determined by a simple factor, whether the content is driving the act of blogging or if the act is driving the content? In any case, the latest controversy (edit: the earlier link was pointing to an unlelated post; my sincere apologies to Shivam), of the Delhi Times story (apparently toned down), on the blogger meet, has taken off and we already have reactions like "I will slice off your penis and feed it to you". And we wonder why legal notices get issued regarding what we write. Please do get serious guys, at least when you write about others.

To conclude, I'd revert to Malik, who makes a pertinent point.

"Are these flickering exceptions or do they hold a beacon to a new treasure room that journalism is at the edge of? Honestly, I don't know. Someday the MBAs who pay people like me our salaries – and who in turn are paid their salaries by people like Mr N. Ram – will finally pronounce judgment on a possible revenue model for blogs. Who knows, they may even seek to tamper with the format"

Eventually, nothing of a large scale exists by itself. It always leans on a larger framework to reach the masses. Do not underestimate traditional forms of distribution and institutions. They have been around for ages because they adapt and mutate and now they are in the process of mutating again. If you do not understand what I am talking about, you have obviously missed old man Murdoch's vision of the future. To win them, the best way is to join them. The thing is nobody realieses that they have already done that.

Update: Part of the above-mentioned post has been struck out removed, but we do have the phone number listed in the comments. That the number might be fake is a different story, but seriously, I don't like the tone, direction etc of this. It is just making all parties involved look very silly.

Update 2: Note to self: Stay clear of the bloggers vs. mainstream media battles from now on. It is a worthless endavour.

Disrupt!

Now we know why Scoble has been using 'disruption' these days almost as if it was some form of punctuation. The lord and the master of all screens blue, Bill Gates, has deemed that disruption is the way ahead in his now leaked memo, which was prompted by Ray Ozzie's missive on why and where Microsoft should be moving to in the future. Ozzie's memo is a sublime mix of technology and marketingspeak rehashed in yet another creative way. In any case, I desperately dislike anyone who thinks AJAX will save the world.

November 08, 2005

Letter

Quite accidentally, I happened to run into an old e-mail I had sent in 2003 to a good friend. Interestingly, the thought process is very familiar. Only difference being that the optimism and the beliefs were probably much better. Below is an excerpt that has been cleaned up a bit for clarity and language. Read on.

Somehow the concept of the person whom I would like to spend the rest of my life seems to be more and more improbable the more people I seem to meet. I really do appear to have utopian ideas or pipe dreamish concepts and the funniest bit is that I am not dying for something like that to happen. I have a very low threshold for making allowances in anything that takes a fair amount of my time. Even if it does happen, in the long term, the best I can offer is live and let live. Nothing glamorous. So in most cases I am glad nothing is happening.

I am not your typical recipe for "lived together happily forever" and then there is the issue of being close to too many people. Most long term stuff is based on exclusivity and most people cannot even imagine the fact that I might be as close or closer to another person as I am to them. So, all things considered, I am much better off this way. If it happens, great; Otherwise i do not want to call my life a failure just because at 32 I do not have a wife who will wash my undies and do my kid's nappies. I will have plenty of other things to do and live happily too as long as I do not let my dick do too much of the thinking, for that matter acting too.

The funny bit was that after writing this, I went headlong into a roller coaster of a relationship that ran through almost a year before we called it off. The short version of the story, if you can see the bigger picture, is that you should never take me for my word if you can help it. I have come to terms with the fact that I am a bastard of the premium variety.

Okay, normal service resumes from this point on.

November 06, 2005

Oddcasting

I don’t listen to podcasts. I could never understand them anyway. Not having the required bandwidth to keep track of them makes it much easier for me to ignore them. But anything that does not allow me to skip and hop along a narrative is just not good enough. At least seven out of ten times it only ends up wasting my time. Worse still, any momentary distraction, which is always a given for a multitasker like me, always results in the money quote being missed.

Apparently the opportunity in podcasting is for small and independent content creators to push their wares across without a great deal of capital expenditure or reliance on traditional distribution networks. This is nothing new. After all, at the base level, a podcast is nothing but an XML file which has enclosures pointing to an audio file. C’mon we can now transfer files over HTTP, this is going to change the world dude! But there is something new, the TiVo like interface to manage, sync and organize them. Even there the primary driver is the content and not the feature. Capiche?

Before you tar me a cynical bastard once again, I would like to present exhibit #221, a weekly online radio show, A State of Trance, by Armin Van Buuren. The show kicks off around 1 AM in India and from that point on there are some thousands of people from across the world tuned into the show and talking about it on different IRC channels and forums across the world. The next opportunity is to provide all this on the same platform rather than peddle in badly recorded audio the daily doings of some couple half way across the planet.

As you might have noticed, this is a post that should have been made to the experiment, which I can officially label a failure once again. For the umpteenth time, Wordpress has failed to impress me and for some reason I can’t seem to get the latest version of Serendipity running elsewhere. In any case, I am past the stage where the geeky challenge in getting it up and running would have been a big enough kick to get it done. All I want is to write a bit when I can, than to run around fixing problems. So, no, thank you.

Talking about content, one of my favourite new bloggers is Scott Adams. Yes, that Scott who does the Dilbert strips. Other than some interesting insights into the creation of some of the strips, the blog offers some of the most interesting quirky thoughts I have read in a long time. And on that quirky note I will move along through to the rest of my Sunday. There is a car waiting to be picked up at the service station, two books that need to be finished a little bit of sleep to be caught up on somewhere in between.

November 05, 2005

Monologue

Well, no. You are not the only who wonders why this monologue of a weblog exists in the first place. Even if you do take into account the comments, which pass off as a semblance of interaction, there is not much by means of a conversation that happens here. It is mostly just me and my thoughts, wandering, meandering, falling over itself and then picking itself up again, without any set rule, pattern or much external compulsion. But the unsavory truth, as truths often are, is that I have long run out of people to talk to.

Actually, it is pretty interesting. I have always thrived on conversations of all types – crazy, serious, mundane, emotional – and it was inconceivable that this could happen to me. It was not this way all the time. I grew up pretty much listening to my own voices. It was a one man show. I was the actor and I was the audience. When I finally got around to talking and listening the way I wanted to – to others – it opened up a whole new world for me. But the doors have been closing gradually once again. They are not bolted shut, but they are not open either.

No, I am not digressing. I had started this entry writing about the long winding monologue and why it is there. I do not know for sure the exact reason, but one of the things that it grants me is to speak, be it mired in abstractions, my mind, without fear, without having to think much about anything at all. Funnily, this is the only place where, in the recent past, I have more or less opened up all that I have wanted to and more and still not felt bad, about how it made anyone else feel or if it made any sense at all. To think about the absurdity of the situation, I have meaningful one-sided conversations with absolute strangers.

But it is one of those very absurd times. It is three in the morning. I am sitting blanketed in front of the screen in a room bathed in a dim orange light. I am not drunk. I have not touched alcohol the whole of today for that matter. I am not terribly depressed as I have been in the past couple of days. For most purposes, I am doing pretty well. Still, why am I up here, in front of a flickering old monitor, when I should be elsewhere, awaiting the arrival of yet another boring day in my sleep? Wait, I think I know why.

It is because, a couple of minutes back, a thought, which has been swirling around in my mind for a while, reared its mysterious head again. The thought that I abhor saying the same words that I have said before which frame sentences like: “You are special”, “I adore you”, “You do not know how I feel” and a million other combinations. Somehow, I don’t want to be understood, figured out and so on. And surprisingly, I am quite okay with it. To just clarify things a bit, I hold no grudge against anyone; but why so?

Why? Because it is a lot like making love to someone long past when the novelty of the act has left you behind, like the memory of a season that once came out of turn. It is like the gentle, yet violent, glow of the tip of yet another cigarette being lit. There is nothing pure, there is nothing new. The onus is on the parties involved – the smoker and the cigarette, the two naked bodies and their lust – to discover the newness every time, where there is no actual newness to discover. It is this newness that has walked away from me.

To further complicate things we have the presence of the wanting to feel – the wanting to feel wanted, the wanting to feel loved, and the wanting to feel the warmth of that want – in our lives. We want to assign values and meanings that may not essentially be there. It is this want that has tripped me. For the first time, every single grain of earth underneath my feet has deserted me. I have lost my conscience, my voice and my will to fight. I sincerely wish I could give up, I wish that I could love and allowed myself to be loved. But it is not to be and for now, since it is late anyway, I must sleep, awaiting that boring day again.

November 03, 2005

Stream

Needless to say, but it has been a tough time of late. Work has not exactly been rocking, and the same goes for the personal life too. All this calls for another lock out period. Need to hunker down revisit the basics since I have no ground beneath my feet now. And right on cue, the other voice in my head, which often gives me the very rude and very unbiased perspective on things has vanished. I do not know where it has gone, but it is not there anymore, turning an already unpleasant situation into an even worse one. It should not be this way, but it is. Have no other choice than to deal with it.
 
I always used to think that a lot of the problems I have acquired over time, of being too independent and having trust issues, would go away once I settle down to a nice rhythm in life. Right now, I am discovering that it is not the case. Standing behind the line of trusting anyone, I am capable of feats that defy a lot of logic, but I can't seem to cross the damned line even when I want to. It works against my system and I am sick of having both halves fight it out within myself. Inside I feel like one of those civil war-torn countries you get to see only on television, burnt, broken and beaten totally out of shape.
 
You know most times you wish you could say with pride that "I've grown up", "I know what I want to do" etc in your life. I thought I had finally reached that plateau, but in the past month or so I have proven it to myself that it is otherwise. I am torn between being able to believe that it is possible to live in a way that you want to live, which might be quite different from the way others do, and conceding defeat and lining up my set of compromises. I know it might not look like a compromise to others and that I might be sounding more than a tad demeaning. But that is the way I feel and while I am not labelling it thus, I am not apologetic about it either.
 
There has to be more to life. It can't just end at settling down with wife, kids, two dogs and two cars. If that is the case a huge number of people on earth must be blissfully happy, while most of them are not. Okay, I would even admit that it is just the beginning and not the end. But there must be more. You know little, tiny things, like feeling special, happy and comfortably hyper sensitive, while watching the thin veil of mist saunter across the horizon in the distance and feeling happy to be alive. Contrary to my perceptions, I can't multitask well. It is either this or that. Being on my own, it seems is the only thing I can handle well.
 
Meanwhile, I am giving bifurcating what I write into the personal and the public stuff another try. Even though it is quite a lot less of pain to use just one place to blog, mixing the audiences does not work quite well. This time, hopefully, I should have a better idea of what I am trying to do and I am assuming that I'll have to start blogging in an official capacity in a while. So it would also serve as a sort of a training ground too. Head over and take a look, but only if you want to do away with the abstraction, whining and heart aches and replace it with straight talk on media, music and technology.

November 01, 2005

Months

July unraveled the actual depth of the scalding, August could not have been unkinder with its tryst with the barrel's bottom, September was sedate with signs of sanity, which October shred to bits in no time. I should be staring happily at perfection, I should be gloating in the promise of the fulfillment of a vision. I should be feeling better, I should be feeling happier, but, sadly, I am not.