Thursday, May 13, 2010

Freaky Facebook


I was absolutely freaked and startled moments ago. I was watching this pic by Bill Gates on twitpic. When suddenly I noticed a facebook badge for the fan page of KissMetrics on the page. See the screenshot below.


It suddenly struck me that I follow KissMetrics CEO Hiten Shah on twitter. Not on facebook, on twitter. Yet there it was, the facebook recommendation that I Like KissMetrics. How did facebook know what my twitter account is? How did it know that I follow Hiten? Why did I get the recommendation to follow KissMetrics and not anything else? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I know information on twitter is visible to all. But this level of association freaked me out and left me with the above unanswered questions? Have you noticed anything similar?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I answered a question on Aardvark


Aardvark is a great service and the company was recently acquired by Google. Basically, it is an ask and answer service but a very effective one indeed. Sometimes I just try and answer random questions and today I answered one about Currencies.


(From Maurice S./21/M/Beirut,Lebanon -- about 3 hours ago)
I do not understand this business concept:
The flow of goods and services between countries generates a supply of the importer's currency and a demand of the exporter's currency? I do not understand the supply/demand part??


My answer:

me: I am not a business or economics student but let me just try and explain what I understood. Suppose your currency is gold and my currency silver. You are selling some carpets. So you are the exporter. I want those carpets so I am the importer. To pay you, i need Gold which is your currency. Silver is not good for you. So I will go to a third person who exchanges gold for silver. I ask this third person for gold,  If there are other people wanting ur carpets, they will also ask for gold, thus increasing the demand for gold. At the same time, I am giving silver in exchange for this gold, so the supply of silver increases. You can now apply this analogy to countries and currencies. Hope that was helpful

You can see the thread here .

Was my reasoning correct?

How secure is Facebook extension for Chrome?


I recently installed the facebook extension for Google Chrome. But how secure is it? Look at the 2 screenshots below.

Screenshot with the extension


Screenshot after uninstalling the extension


When the extension was installed, my facebook home page was appearing in place of the Techcrunch on facebook badge. What if this happened on a public computer, say at an internet cafe?

Needless to say, I uninstalled the extension immediately. And to end, I wanted to share an article I read sometime this past week but I can’t find it right now. It came down heavily on Chrome for still having some basic loopholes, which other browsers learned long back. Kinda like you put some laws in place after the Great Depression of 1930 to prevent a recession in the future. But some smart people repealed the law (or gave exceptions to some firms) and voila – we have the recession of 2008! Lessons learned in the past have to be applied.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Availability and Capacity Management


For people familiar with ITIL, the above two words should not be alien. I was introduced to ITIL in 2006 as ITIL implementation was sort of my primary job for the first 1.5 years of my professional life. IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of best practices that organizations should implement for IT Services Management. However, when I was attending a three day workshop on ITIL v3, I realized the basic principles of ITIL can be applied to manage anything and not just IT Services.

Two of the processes are Availability management and Capacity Management.What do they mean? Suppose you have been made in-charge of water supply at a 3 day NCC camp for 450 cadets. The first question is how much water are you going to need per day. Lets say you need 1500 liters of water per day. Fine. But  you need to store this water. You have been provided with 2 storage tanks of 500 liters. This is your capacity, ie 1000 liters. But you notice that your capacity is less than the daily requirement. What should you do about it? You ask for another tank, but your commanding officer informs you that a pump powered by a genset will fill the tanks when the need arises. So even though you do not have full capacity to serve the daily need, you can still ensure availability thanks to the genset powered pump. Of course, you will have to ensure that the diesel for the genset is available when required. By finely balancing the capacity and availability, you are able to meet the demand and a lot of satisfied cadets. Also notice that having the tanks (capacity) does not ensure availability.

This is a very simple scenario, but something which we find almost everywhere. Do your servers have the capacity to process 100,000 simultaneous requests? Do you have sufficient developers to finish a particular project in 2 months time (Capacity)? Are all the developers available during this time? I heard a couple of them are going on a trip to Ladakh (unavailable).  You get the basic idea, right!

Anil Enthu Kumar and I made an interesting observation a few weeks back. There is tea shop near his house which we frequent. Opposite to this tea shop is another tea shop, which pretty much provides the same services. However, the tea shop which we visit is more crowded and has more customers. Always! Lets call this the Tea Shop A and the one opposite, the less popular one as Tea shop B.  Both of us asked the same question, Why did we go to this particular tea shop A when we could have easily gone to the other one? The answer to that was, one amongst our group of friends had visited the Tea Shop A and the next time he went with the others, he chose that particular tea shop. So the others started going to the same tea shop. We never considered going to tea shop B. Why? Because Tea Shop A was available whenever we went. Tea shop B wasn’t always open, something which I noticed in the past few weeks. Availability giving the competitive edge to a tea shop, ensuring more customers!

Why the sudden post on availability and capacity management? Well I was trying to book a domain for the new project I am working on, but the site of ZNET India gave an error. It wasn’t available when I wanted it to be. While I am not going to any of their competitors (just yet), the fact is simple things like availability are such a critical part of the customer experience. Look at flipkart. It is one of the hottest startups in India today, and how did they reach here – by simply focusing on ensuring good service availability to their customers.

To end this random post, I think about the pressing problems we face – depleting water table, clean energy etc. Can we ensure availability of water? What happens if there is drought for two consecutive years and the monsoon fails as well? Do we have capacity to sustain the water needs of the ever growing populace? Can simple principles from capacity and availability management be applied to solve such problems? What do you think?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Breadcrumbs – Who needs them anymore?


When I started learning Web Development, breadcrumbs was the way one thought about navigation on a website. For the uninitiated, breadcrumbs are highlighted in the screenshot below.


However, none of the top websites that I visit everyday have breadcrumbs. Take a look at the screen clippings below.





Breadcrumbs, I read, provided easy navigation for users and should be implemented in a website. I tried to implement it in one of the projects for my previous company. I tried to implement it for CAT-NINJA. For implementing breadcrumbs in ASP.NET, you define the navigational structure of your site in Sitemap.xml file and the SiteMapPath control automatically creates the breadcrumb structure for you. The problem was defining the navigational structure. After putting a fair amount of time defining the navigational structure of the web site, we found it very difficult to accommodate changes to the structure. More often than not a page would come up where the navigation on the website would not match the way we put it in the Sitemap xml. At the end of the day, this left users with an inconsistent experience.

I am not sure how helpful breadcrumbs are for site navigation. Looking at some of the sites above I dont think I am going to worry about them anymore. It may be helpful only in some particular cases like the help section of your website or in cases where you are showing some sort of documentation. See the screen clippings below :


Breadcrumbs in Google Help(above). A breadcrumbs like navigation at msdn(below).




How has your experience been implementing breadcrumbs on your website? Is it useful?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My picture on the lpad site


Lpad is a launchpad for startups in Chandigarh area.

I just saw a snap , which was taken at the Morpheus open House at Java City in Bangalore on Feb 28 (I think) where me and Shashank are chatting with Abheek of RobotsAlive, on the site of Lpad.


The screenshot is below.



Remembering the rains!


Rains are amazing. They bring respite from the summer heat. The smell of rainwater falling on burning earth is something else. If its a thunderstorm, I sit and count the seconds between a lighting flash and the sound of thunder, thus determining how far the lightning strike was(its something I picked from a Walt Disney Movie – In Search of the Castaways, anyone seen it?)  Sometimes there is a power cut and you are left with nothing to do but listen to splashing drops of rain and the thunder of the lightning. Its a raw form of communication with Mother Nature - where for a brief moment you forget about the post you just liked on facebook, the tea you put on the kettle, the cell-phone you cant find in the darkness – its just you marveling at the lightning across the sky. You feel you rediscovered a part of yourself – something ancient, something raw – even though moments later the feelings gone.

Rains also bring memories of places, of people, of times gone by. Deepanjan Dey has written what I consider a masterpiece titled “Random Rainy Days”. It expresses what many of us feel on Random Rainy Days.

Today was one such Random Rainy Day! After dinner I felt like having a chilled coke so I walked to the nearby store. There was a slight drizzle but the normally crowded street was empty. Deja Vu! I was reminded of the rainy days of Manipal.

It used to rain non stop – remember! Sometimes I would decide to go to Timmy’s for a Keshto and a chai (no not a sutta – i do not smoke). It was difficult to find people who would accompany me in the rains and thus sometimes I went alone. Of course, on the way people would hand over 10 bucks to me to get some sutta. Sometimes they would also hand over an umbrella, not because they cared that much that I would get drenched, but because it was one of those rare moments when they had somebody’s umbrella with them. Whose? Who cares – just get the ciggs will ya?

I would climb the short wall behind 9th block and jump to the other side, carefully making my way to Timmy’s, on the lookout for snakes who perhaps might decide it was lovely weather for an afternoon crawl! Ever since I saw a cobra crawling on the road next to Timmy’s, I was fairly certain I was going to die bitten by a cobra which was hiding below the bench inside Timmy’s shack. Whenever I entered Timmy’s shack, I tried to see whether there were any snakes around. But it was pitch dark and I reconciled myself by thinking that any snakes in the shack would have crawled away the moment Timmy anna would appear from behind the shack shouting “Kaun hai?”. You cannot imagine how terrified I am of snakes! Yet I used to go to Timmy’s every day, overcoming my fears to savor half fries, keshtos, chai and the sight of the valley. That sight was something else when it rained.

Sometimes I would start playing songs like “Raindrops keep falling on my head..” on my comp and others would join in for some good music and good bakar.

During the rains, you also got to better know random people studying with you. Waiting for the rains to get over, you would start reading the notices on the notice boards, even though you had read all of them a couple of hours ago on the way back from lunch. You would find a notice about the fine you had to pay for some random thing or the available rooms in 10th block for your batch and then you would start cursing the college authorities with some random dude you hardly spoke to. Of course, some years later that random dude became a very good friend as both of you were placed in the same company.

I saw this video on facebook today in Mayur Kislaya’s news feed. Its a recent one of the rains in Manipal. Then I went out and was reminded of Manipal and all of you as I soaked some of the drizzle.

Remembering all the MITians and Manipal on this random rainy day! We Rock!