Clay Shirky’s predictions about the future of Mass Media

Just found this article on The Guardian site. Clay Shirky’s a professor at NYU and a scholar of Mass Media and the effect internet trends would have on them. Worth a read — I agree with some of his predictions (and presumptuously adding some of my own):

  1. Newspaper’s will diverge into 2 classes – magazines such as Economist which will exist for the people willing to pay for high quality coverage, and mass coverage of all possible news on the internet that will be available free and paid for by advertising dollars. Communities such as Twitter might help surfacing the right news.
  2. Niche newspapers and magazines will only exist online — the distribution costs for anything that doesn’t have economies of scale are not justified.
  3. TV will also change dramatically – The current state of the industry is that content is tightly controlled by the Channels, and hence to maintain quality, studios invest a lot of money (at least in India). We will see a lot of rise of amateur content, but only so much, since professionals will soon (and have, if I am not wrong) start publishing on YouTube and the like. However, the sudden loosening of the grip on distribution (since there are no longer any channels), will mean the quality of the content will change. Video distribution will be controlled far more by social networking sites (a la Facebook) than are blog posts.
  4. Books will be relatively less affected, at least until we hit a e-book reader that really rocks! My guess, though is devices like Kindle will improve a lot in the next decade or so, and might affect book sales greatly. Print-on-Demand will grow, but I am still not aware of how much it costs to print just one copy, so I am not in a position to comment. A large part of the cost if the cost of distribution, PoD will really succeed if the following equation is satisfied (since you will still pick up books at a store):

cost_of_traditional_book + cost_of_distribution_to_store > cost_of_printing_just_one_copy

The full article can be found here.

Getting Flash Audio to work in Intrepid

I had a lot of problem to get this working, and for a while I was missing all the audio action on Youtube (too bad!) — so, here’s the solution that worked for me – Install “flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound”. It could be as easy as typing the following in a terminal and hitting ENTER:

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree-extrasound

UPDATE: To get Skype to work, verify that sound is working, and then open Skype / Options / Sound Devices, and update the settings as follows:

* Sound in – HDA intel
* Sound out – Pulse
* Ringing – Default device.
Any other settings caused Skype to fail when trying to make a call. (2.0.0.72-0medibuntu3) [Found this info here]

Viola!

[This worked for me. Might not for you. Use Google to find more references]

Interactive Game on Youtube

I found this game on youtube where you have to drive a car to safety by clicking on annotations they present at seemingly random places during the video’s playback. While a little lame to call it a game, it sure is a way to make youtube interactive and a little more engaging, and perhaps something YouTube team itself might like to experiment with [via pluggd.in]

This has been made by Hexolabs, an IIT Kanpur startup.

The new Microsoft “I’m A PC!”

Microsoft just released their retort to Apple’s “I’m a PC and I’m a Mac” ad — and one must say that the ads are absolutely cool!

Microsoft has chosen to use the opening line from Apple’s ad — and turn it into their strength. The ad first shows a (real) Microsoft employee, Sean Siler, saying “I’m a PC” and then goes on to parade a lot of cool people — many of whom are celebrities (one can spot Deepak Chopra, Bill Gates, Eva Langoria, Tony Parker) saying how they use a PC too and they live the new Microsoft Maxim Life without Walls.

These follow the disappointing Bill Gates – Jerry Seinfeld that nobody got — Microsoft has chosen to call them the ice-breaker to start conversation about the PC.

See the ads here:

What a reply! This is adverti-zing !

Always with You

http://alwayswithyou.tv

I was amazed by this site. This site recites the stories of people from derived deprived (Thanks PS!) parts of the country (villages, poorer sections of the cities) and how they are changing under the influence of technology, and with help from philanthropy in some cases. I was completely amazed by the first story, that of Sarita, who has been able to get advanced education thanks to Abraham George. Her English was as fluent as top notch convent schools in the country!

In the words of the creators:

Always With You is a collaboration between Interactive Filmmaking and Microsoft Research India. It is an exploration of the impact of rapid growth in economy and technology in India, through the voices of those whose voices frequently go unheard.

Do have a look.

The Odd Couple, Getting Lost, and A Proposal

Evam is coming back to town with The Odd Couple. The play promises to be another gut-buster with Karthik Kumar and Sunil Vishnu (who also played in ART, see my earlier post). The story is about two divorced men sharing an apartment in NY:clip_image002

Felix and Oscar are an extremely odd couple: Felix is neurotic, precise, and fastidiously clean. Oscar, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: sloppy and casual. What happens when the two friends are forced to share an apartment, and their differing lifestyles inevitably lead to conflicts- a full laugh riot for the audiences. Add to that their Saturday night poker gang friends: Vinnie- the dutiful husband, Murray- the cop, Roy-Oscar’s accountant and the sarcastic Speed, and the possibility of a date with the “Cuckoo” Pigeon sisters who live in the same apartment- you’ve got a chaotic entertainer for sure!

This Neil Simon situational comedy on one hand is about two opposite people (out of their marriages) deciding to stay together and the chaos and humour which is generated as a result, while on the other hand the story is about friendship, and loneliness — it gives us a glimpse into what makes us cling on to our friends even when they are so opposite to us and can drive us over the wall with their antics — the uncanny bond, which makes friendship such an odd-even relationship! Somewhere it also touches about how easy it is to lose people and how difficult to stay on and make things work — and sometimes you don’t get a choice at all!

The play is being performed with good intent — it is in support of Dare2Dream (find some information in this Hindu article), an NGO working for education in Bangalore. Another reason you should go. The event details are:

Date: Christmas Day, 25-Dec-07
Location: Chowdiah Hall, Bangalore
Time: 4 PM and 7.30 PM

Find some more details on the Evam site, and this document.

In other news, I had a tough time yesterday due to Google maps. We had wanted to go to FUGA for a party and FUGA is on Wood Street. Maps gave the correct address for FUGA as Wood Steet but a completely wrong location (See screenshot below — the location of FUGA that GMaps suggested is marked in “A” inside a red circle, while the actual location is somewhere near the big black dot on the map). Biggest trouble is that Gen Thimmaiah Rd (or Richmond Road as it was earlier known) is one way in the opposite direction (central Bangalore is one (way) big mess) and we had a rather tough time navigating back. There is more irony involved — the event itself was related to Google!

Google Maps Messup with FUGA

Needless to say, GMaps is an amazingly useful service. However, this means that address and landmark searches are still not 100% and you should take care before blindly trusting them (esp. if you are traveling to a place with lots of one ways).

For those, who want some more entertainment, listen to this Mallu Proposal Letter that I recorded (of course, it was a forward .. I did’nt write it myself, just recorded it!):



The text:

Madam:
I am an olden young uncle living only with myself in Thiruvananthapuram. Having seen your advertisement for marriage purposes, I decided to press myself on you and hope you will take me nicely.
I am a soiled son from inside Kerala. I am nice and big, six foot tall and six inches long. My body is filled with hardness, as because I am working hardly. I am playing hardly also. Especially I like cricket and I am a good batter and I am fast baller. Whenever I come running in for balling, other batters start running. Everybody is scared of my rapid balls that bounce a lot.
I am very nice man. I am always laughing loudly at everyone. I am a jolly gay . Especially ladies, they are saying I am nice and soft. I am always giving respect to the ladies. I am always allowing ladies to get on top.That is how nice I am.
I am not having any bad habits. I am not drinking and I am not sucking tobacco or anything else. Every morning I am going to the gym and I am pumping like anything. Daily I am pumping and pumping. If you want you can come and see how much I am pumping the dumb belles in the gym.
I am having a lot of money in my pants and my pants is always open for you. I am such a nice man, but still I am living with myself only. What to do? So I am taking things into my own hands everyday. That is why I am pressing myself on you, so that you will come in my house and take my things into your hand. If you are marrying me madam, I am telling you, I will be loving you very hard every day. In fact, I will stop pumping dumb belles in the gym.
If you are not marrying me madam and not coming to me, I will press you and press you until you come. So I am placing my head between your nicely smelling feet and looking up with lots of hope. I am waiting very badly for your reply and I am stiff with anticipation.
Expecting soon,
Yours and only yours Kutty

There is a disclaimer to go with this. Please don’t consider this either as racist or in bad taste. This is all in good humour. I have some very good Mallu friends — really talented and brilliant — and all they did was laugh :-)

There is also an update on my technical blog about Fran Allen’s talk. Check here.

ART by Evam

I went to see ART by Evam yesterday, again a part of Bengalooru Habba. The play originally written by Yasmina Reza, a French actress and playwright. The play is about three friends, who have moved a little apart with time, but the death nail comes when one of them, Sarge, buys a painting. And before you think it’s a serious play, the painting consisted of white diagonal lines on a white background, and Sarge paid a whopping two hundred thousand Francs for it (yes, that is 200,000!).

The play was hilarious. Marc, who was completely against Sarge, and thought he had lost his mind, and was acting pompous, was extremely sarcastic, and Yvan, the bummer who was getting married in a week’s time, gave such amazing expressions that the audience couldn’t help laughing. There was this whole story about contentions between his biological mother, his step mother, and his fiance’s step mother about their names appearing on the wedding card. Marc’s sarcasm and Yvan’s innocent expressions made the day!

The play depicted the relationship becoming sour — Marc’s superiority complex, Sarge’s antagonistic attitude end up almost leading to the breakup of the friendship. The play ends in a sort-of a happy ending, but did leave a few strands for the reader to figure out.

The acting was superb — Evam has been doing this production for the last three years and it showed. The actors were very natural, and Karthik Kumar as Marc and Sunil Vishnu as Yvan were brilliant. The subtle querulous sarcasm, and Yvan’s dumb yet innocent antics lit up the stage. The set itself was pretty elaborate, using more than 30 carton boxes as I had said earlier, to distinguish between the houses of the three friends. The lights worked very well in sync (with only one slip) and it spoke volumes about their practice. I myself was in splits, falling off my seats ever so often. A must watch, if it ever comes around.

I got to talk to Sunil after the play — we had talked when they were here last time with Five Point Someone, and then they came again with And Now For Something Completely Different (but unfortunately, I was away at the time). They are coming back to Bangalore on 25th Dec with another play, and I hope to see them again!

Some more reviews of ART: The Hindu Dinesh (He has a picture of the set also)

Aside: If the text was too much for you, and you share my interest in Web 2.0 and the rest of the random things on the internet, you might like this video:

Aside-2: If you ever get sick of computers, see here for some alternate uses.

Americans beat Indians at their own game? BW got foot in the mouth!

BusinessWeek carried an article about IBM’s success in India, it’s ramping up of operations in India very quickly to 53,000 employees, and winning big in the IT outsourcing deals in the subcontinent, especially from telecom operators — which is a gratifying read. However, the email from BW in my inbox had a line that completely pissed me off:

IBM once looked like a lumbering giant next to India’s agile tech upstarts. But in scarcely five years, Big Blue has come to dominate the Indian market, with a staff of 53,000 in the country and huge R&D centers in Bangalore and New Delhi. Read this edition of the Asia Insider to learn how the Americans beat the Indians at their own game.

The article never said anything to that effect! My best guess is that some guy in the PR department at BW who was responsible for the uninteresting, mundane and morbidly boring task of sending out spam suddenly suffered from a bout of foot in the mouth.

First of all, I don’t think anybody has beaten anybody in this game of outsourcing. The money has come following the talent, and it’s not just IBM, but Accenture (India’s the second largest Accenture operations), EDS (which acquired Mphasis – here and here) and all other IT biggies are making bit bets on using Indian talent to fight Indian vendors like Infosys, Wipro and TCS who have been snapping at their heels. However, I am not sure if that can be termed a win of Indian talent or of the American business acumen. (Actually, I would not prefer an argument about winning and losing at all — since it is too early to predict anything — the Indian IT vendors who used to be mere outsourcing outfits earlier now want a larger piece of the pie, become consultants, and go after bigger money. For example read this, this, this – I didn’t try to get the best articles in the area, but just some of the recent news).

<!– Digression begins

Another interesting aspect, is the comparison of the Revenues, Profits, Market Capitalization and the Price/Earnings for some of the biggies. ['b' indiacates a billion US Dollars and 'm' a million US Dollars. Data taken from Google Finance today.]

Company Revenues Profits Market Cap P/E Ratio
Infosys 3.08b 850m 25.8b 27.33
Wipro 3.64b 711m 19.71b 26.67
IBM 91b 9.4b 152.37b 17.19
Accenture 18.22b 973m 30.21b 19.45
EDS 21.26b 470m 11.59b 19.11

It seems obvious that Indian companies are far more profitable than their western counterparts for every penny (or cent perhaps) of revenue that they make — and the markets reward them accordingly. If you look at the MCap column, you would realize why the biggies are unable to try their luck at acquiring some of the larger IT companies in India — because they are bigger than the western counterparts! (IBM of course, has many divisions, and it might be difficult to get data on their software services division). So much for winning and losing.

end digression –>

Until recently, I thought that foot-in-the-mouth was not a very communicable disease and spread only on contact with a creature named George Bush. I have, obviously, been proven wrong. Ronen Sen recently caught it, and now BW! Looks like its spreading faster than I imagined. Is somebody aware of necessary vaccination which I can take?

Feedburner down? (and what is feedburner?)

Looks like feedburner is down. I just went to check my readership figures and it showed Zero subscribers. In all humility, I accept that I don’t have too many readers, but I feel happy for every click I get (don’t the others?) and so keep checking the figures ever so often. Anyway, this is what feedburner shows me:

image

Definitely something fishy! Google, what are you doing? First the confusion in the Gmail Logo and now this?

Anyway, for those who don’t know what feedburner is: Feedburner is a service that lets you redirect all your readership through a single access point. Think of it as a gate through which the feeds would pass. Hence, you can do a bunch of stuff with your feeds:

  • Add stuff to your feeds, like advertisements, or burn amazon associates id to every book review you post
  • Make several changes to your feed format to make it standards compliant and provide other frills. It would also provide better uptime if you have a self-hosted blog
  • Clip your blog posts so that people reading it in a reader are forced to come to your blog and increase hits (*wicked curled lips*)
  • Publicize it better, with those cool-looking “617k subscribers” (not mine :P) type logos
  • Provide extra services like ‘Subscribe by email’
  • Of course, track you readership
  • One benefit which I love but is often glossed over is to be able to change your blog URL and still have people get updates on the same feed. You can essentially tell people to go to a different room at the gate, to lift the paradigm of my earlier example

Feedburner has a page on its site where it gives reasons for using it. It’s good a video too (though I haven’t watched it!)

Feedburner was recently acquired by Google. Google also added a new feed-redirection feature to their blogger service which lets people redirect their blogger feed. I wish wordpress.com provided that (you can do it in self-hosted wordpress though)

If you are serious about blogging, feedburner (or a similar service) is a must have. Provided they fix the aforementioned problem, that is.

[Others seem to have noticed it as well - WebFiles Simon Sandossu]

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Change in GMail branding – Have you noticed?

Looks Google is changing the branding of Gmail to Google Mail. It seems that Google lost rights to the GMail brand name in Germany and that is now being followed up in some other countries.

Since 2000, Daniel Giersch has held the brand “G-mail… und die Post geht richtig ab” [G-mail... the best way to go postal]. Under the G-mail brand, he operates a number of physical and electronic postal services with thousands of users, as he explained to heise online in March of 2005. Giersch therefore had a court issue a temporary restraining order against the use of “Gmail” before winning the main proceedings at the first-instance district court of Hamburg (Az. 312 O 475/05) against Google in April of 2006. Google appealed this ruling and has now lost the appeal

The legal dispute, which also detrimentally affected users, has also been extended beyond the German legal system. Currently, charges have been filed in Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland.

Looks like there has been another incident in the UK. In fact, there is a relevant BBC report dated way back in 2005. However, this is the first time I am noticing the change in India.

GMail before:

gmail

Google Mail now:

image

Funnily enough, the brand change seems to be in effect in one out of two of my email accounts. Perhaps they are slowly transitioning users to the new branding. Have you noticed the change in your email branding?

[There is another brand change story which is doing the rounds now-a-days -- UTI Bank to Axis Bank -- but that, of course, is for entirely different reasons]

[Email brand name change has been common lately with Hotmail transitioning to Windows Live Hotmail. This has beset the Redmond giant with quite a few problems because people have been worried about rather frequent name changes]

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