Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where are we headed anyway?


Have you played Warcraft or Age of Empires? Not that I am a big fan of Strategy games but I have played them and pretty much liked them. So if you have played one of these strategy games, then you surely must have mined gold. I mean one of the things that you do in these games is explore territory and find new sources of wealth. Warcraft mostly used to have gold-mines and as soon as a new map starts, you would start exploring it looking for sources of wealth. Invariably, the mine that you started at beginning of the stage would collapse in the middle and if you hadn't found the next gold-mine it was pretty much game over. The good thing was that the people who designed the game made sure that there were enough mines in a map for you to survive and cross that particular stage.

But is that the case in our world? Have the designers of this game put enough resources on our planet for us to keep going on and on? China and India are the two most populous nations in the world. They are also the the two of the fastest growing economies of the world. The United States is the benchmark of prosperity for the world. But it is also the biggest consumer in the world. China, India and the others are expected to catch up with the US in the next 20-30 years. So the most populous nations in this world are going to catch up with the nation which consumes the most resources of our planet. God help our natural resources!

Just like Warcraft though, we would also move out to other areas in search of resources. India was already talking of mining the moon for some isotope of Helium, when our first moon mission went ahead last year. So once we have exhausted the resources on earth, we would move to the moon, mars and god knows where else just to keep ourselves going. Surely that is the way forward for the progressive human race.

You must have seen the blockbuster movie of the 90's, INDEPENDENCE DAY, starring Bill Pullman as the president of the United States. In one of the scenes, the president is communicating with one of the captured aliens. He explains to his associates, "They move from planet to planet. They consume all the resources in one planet and then they move on to the next. They don't want peace."  Well, makes me wonder whether the president of some alien planet is going to say the same thing about invading humans in the future.

The way we are going about things is disgusting at times. Take the development of around Delhi for instance. Concrete Jungles coming in every place. That alone increases the temperature of of the already hot city. What do we do keep it cool then? We install air-conditioners. Earlier only a few people could afford it, but now thanks to our prosperity almost everyone wants an AC. And how do we power up these ACs? We burn more and more fossil fuels to produce electricity and in the process produce a lot more C02. Well one fine day there won't be anymore fuels to burn and if we haven't found an alternative source of energy, cities like Delhi would be pretty much inhospitable. The current power situation in Delhi is a warning for what could be in store. It is what actually triggered this post.

Scientists and engineers came up with the air-conditioner as an answer to the heating and cooling problems of your home. But it is not a solution which we can use on a mass scale. So over the years they have been working on alternatives and one very impressive alternative is Passive Solar Building Design. I saw a program on Discovery Channel which showcased a company which was implementing such techniques in New York City.

Perhaps we shouldn't be worried about it after all. Somebody will surely come up with an answer. There is a certain degree of uncertainty involved there. What if no one did? In a very short span of time on this planet, we humans have had the most impact on it. No doubt then that we are part of the problem. However if there is a solution then it has to come for us.

So what does the future hold for us? Where are we headed? I guess only time will tell!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fighting the Pandemic

Well, finally some thoughts have turned into action. Started this website providing information on who to contact, procedure at hospital etc. in case you are suspected to have swine flu. Realized getting this information is a big hassle when my room-mate was suspected to have contracted the h1n1 virus. All turned out to be ok, but we decided to come up with the site. Do give it a spin. Its called Swinefluindia ! Send you comments to swinefluindia <at> gmail dot com.


PS: The site still has a few rough edges, but we're working on it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How advertising inadvertently sometimes sends the wrong message

I dont't know how many of you have seen the latest ad of IE8. It shows a hot chick enjoying her ice cream and a guy sitting at a distance enjoying the sight and apparently fantasizing. However, a fat man comes and stands in the middle and and the guy sitting cannot see the girl anymore and is understandably disgusted. Fantasies can crash - the message is flashed. An IE8 popup saying "Your last browsing session ended unexpectedly", with the options "Restore Session" and "Go to Home Page", is shown. Obviously the "Restore Session" option is chosen and the guy can see the girl smiling at him. He heaves a sigh of relief. Automatic Crash Recovery in the next generation Internet Explorer 8. Let's you start from where you stopped.
The ad is trying to showcase a new feature in IE8 - Automatic Crash Recovery. The way the ad has been shot will surely get your attention. And then you get to know about the new feature in IE8. Cool way to advertise - or should I say hot?
Well,  I happened to upgrade my IE7 to IE8 a few days back. But as soon as I started with IE8, it crashed. Of course the crash recovery option came up when i restarted and it promptly restored my session, which was nothing but my facebook homepage. But guess what, it crashed again and I restored the session again and it crashed again. This went on and on for a couple of minutes after which I switched back to Chrome and Firefox. Smooth sailing, no more crashes. So when this morning I saw that ad and the message "Fantasies can crash", I was like "Sure they can crash! If you are using IE. If you dont want them to crash, use something else!"
The interesting point here was I perceived the ad in a completely different way because I had a previous negative experience. But my question is, should one advertise such a feature? I don't see it as a nice feature because it reminds me that this piece of software crashes. All software do, including Firefox and Chrome, but why highlight it? By advertising the Automatic Crash Recovery you are in a way highlighting the fact that your software crashes. As a user I see this as a negative rather than a positive feature.
Is such advertising good? What do you think?

Packaging Your Product/Service

Towards the end of the first edition of the IPL, it was clear that the Bangalore team would finish in the bottom half of the table. One of my friends was booking tickets for the last match to be played at Chinnaswamy stadium and asked if I wanted to come. "What's the use? Anyway RCB are going to lose!" was my response. "Who is going to watch cricket? I am going to watch the cheerleaders" That was an example of how successful had the marketing of IPL been. They attracted customers not just for cricket (the core focus)but for the cheerleaders (add ons) as well!

Discussing the launch of bing, a friend said she had made Bing her homepage because she loved the scenic background pictures of the bing page. The background pictures on the bing page change every few hours, prompting her to visit it every now and then. Here Microsoft used the changing background (add on) to attract customers to search using bing (core focus).

While building a great product or service (core focus) is important in the long run,  innovative packaging of your product or service can help you create the initial buzz.

Do you feel such a strategy could prove useful for start-ups? What do you think?