Jun 27, 2011

Sachin & Bharat Ratna

I saw a Facebook event wherein an enthusiastic, charged up team of Indian youngsters have decided to protest against the government for not conferring Sachin Tendulkar with the country's highest civilian honor: Bharat Ratna. Well, to start with, I am big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. I love him a lot. He is my hero. I do admire him like any other Indian. He had made the nation proud on lot of occasions, but I will not agree with the illogical fight for Bharat Ratna. Those who are fighting madly and blindly for it, I wanted to ask them one question: "Do you know what Bharat Ratna is, at all?"

It is India's most prestigious award given to recognize those people who have made our country proud by excelling in their own fields and bringing us international recognition. So, Yes, Sachin's excellence in his field is unquestionable. It did take the our country to greater heights in the international stage. But the award has no mention of sports. Quoting from the official page, It is only given for exceptional service towards advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of Public Service of the highest order.

As far as i know, Sachin is a big fan of Lata Mangeshkar, but never before I saw him sing like her, nor did he do a Sir.C.V.Raman effect or anything near to Dr.AP.J Abdul Kalam's contribution in the field of science. Philantrophy? Yes. He has been doing some great things silently. Tendulkar sponsors 200 underprivileged children every year through Apnalaya, a Mumbai-based NGO associated with his mother-in-law, Annabel Mehta. A request from Sachin on Twitter raised Rs.1.025 crore (US$228,575) through Sachin's crusade against cancer for the Crusade against Cancer foundation. But no way, his contributions are near the great women, Mother Teresa.

Human mind stops working when the emotions are in action. Love, by nature, possess the highest level of emotion. The overwhelming love for Sachin actually stops the logical reasoning department's job in the brain and the fallacious reasoning leads to such outcry. Realize that this award has nothing to do with the greatness of Sachin. He got the highest civilian award for contribution in sports way way back in 1998. Do you know what that award is? Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award [Here is the complete list]. Conferring him with Bharat Ratna will actually require some change of rules, inside which I see no point in. Come on, there is already an award for SPORTS and he got it.
Sachin Tendulkar: 38 years, 38 achievements
The first cricketer to be honored with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the highest honour given to an Indian sportsperson.

Even if it is given, I will not be surprised to see them fighting again, for a Dronacharya Award or even worser, a Param Vir Chakra. For those who have no idea about who won it before, here is  a Complete list of recipients. Now, there might be people who you think doesn't deserve it, I want to tell you, but please don't connect that with Sachin. So, my dear friends, Keep loving Sachin like you always do, cheer him up for his upcoming landmark - 100 Hundreds. I tried to start a twitter trend: #1002 but it did not allow me to add super-script. Please put your mind to work for a while, before you start any argument in your life.

Jun 25, 2011

1 line of code = 1 tree planted

At some point of time, we ask ourself this famous question: Are we contributing anything to our environment? Avoiding plastics and taking your own big bag while you go out for shopping? Proper disposal of waste? Conscious use of electricity? Taking that long walk or using the public transport while keeping your vehicle at home whenever possible? Opting for phone/internet bills by e-mail than by post, thereby saving some paper usage?

These are little little things that makes a greater difference when many people start following it. If 10,000 people follow the conscious-electricity-use way, think about the amount of electricity that gets saved on an overall! When something is done as a group, the impact made is quite remarkable. I wanted to connect this with the software that we engineers develop at our work place.

We transformed the way people live, travel and converse. We reduced the use of huge amount of paper by digitizing millions of data that once upon a time got printed on paper. That reduced the consumption of paper, which in turn reduced the paper requirement for human survival and eventually it all reduced the TREE-CUT-DOWN rate. Every line of program we write, computerizes some process somewhere on earth and helps people save time, money, energy and resources. If a penny saved is a penny earned, then a tree saved is a tree planted.

Be proud to be a software engineer, if you are one. Feel good that you are contributing to environment preservation. Without our knowledge, we are indeed saving the environment in some way or the other. Also spare a few minutes and think about the contribution you will make, if you decide to follow the little-little things I mentioned earlier!  You will make even greater difference! When you persuade your friends to do so, more difference is made. And I just did that, by writing this post ;)

Here is some good little-little tips, that will make a greater difference. Clink on this image to begin the journey.

Jun 12, 2011

The 'new' Largest Country!

"Whaaaaaaaat?", I exclaimed in amazement as if Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement.  My brother told me the name of a country that has that just swift past through everyone and reached the TOP position.

Which is the world's most populated country? Undoubtedly China. India, though less than half the geo size of China and not even one-fourth of the U.S' geo, still managed to stay a bit behind the bejing brothers. Someone started very late: as late as 2004 and in just around 6 years, knocked these  two out and reached  the top. The Father of this new country is none other than America's youngest billionaire and the TIME Magazine's 2010 Person of the Year: Mark Zuckerberg. I am talking about Facebook here, the world's most visited website, after Google.com 
If Facebook is a country, it would be the 3rd largest, behind only China and India. 
The sentence above, I wrote 8 months back! Facebook has even surpassed China's population. If Facebook's users are a country, it would be the largest in the world! One Tenth of entire humanity owns a facebook account. They speak 75 languages and collectively lavish more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. Last month, the site accounted for 2 out of every 4 American page views. Its membership is currently growing at a rate of about 130,000 people a day.

It's amazing,  how Zuckerberg made this happen in less than just 7 years. Though I first decided to write this blog entry, to announce the largest-country thing, I later made up  my mind to contemplate on the possible answers to one not-so-new-question: Why Facebook succeeded?

So, Facebook succeeded because of?

Ans 1:  Its Founder. 

This man, Mark Zuckerberg, a.k.a Zuck featured in the TIME magazine's list of TOP 10 College Drop-outs, a list that included renowned names like Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs (Apple). Although stories revealed that Zuck stole this idea of a social networking platform from his Harvard seniors, I feel that Facebook wouldn't 've been  this successful had it been developed by someone else, who worked for 'just' money. Like it was screen-played on The Social Network movie, Zuck always wanted to build something COOL. His intent was never to make money. Everytime his so-called co-founder made monetisation attempts, Zuck discouraged him. He let his imagination grow and went on to add everything he felt would add to the cool-quotient. There were so many people who approached Zuck with billions of dollars to acquire FB but he turned down all of them.

Terry Semel, the former CEO of Yahoo! who reportedly offered Zuckerberg that sum, told the New Yorker that he'd never met a person who would turn down a $1 billion offer. "He [Zuckerberg] said, 'It's not about the price. This is my baby, and I want to keep running it, I want to keep growing it.'" Semel said, recalling his conversation with Zuckerberg in 2006, "I couldn't believe it."

That kind of a belief, intent and determination is what that is required to make something succeed to this extent.

Ans 2:  Its Technology. 

Think about this: You update your facebook status, and you get the message, "Some problem occurred while updating your status. Try again after some time". Twitter show that often but never in your facebooking history would you encounter such a message, unless you borrowed your internet modem from Vasco da gama or availed the internet connection during World War II. 

I have seen facebook loading like a whisker even in slower connections where even Google.com will delay to load. Such is the kind of hardware and sofware systems that has been developed and administered by facebook. It is an invincible revolution toward technology. It's probably the world's most robust system ever built by mankind. The servers process updates to Facebook users' pages as quickly as possible, so that a comment or post is live within seconds. Multiply that across 850 million (and counting) users and the power of the data center becomes awesome indeed. Scaling up of the servers is always a challenge at facebook as the number of users exponentially increase at an extreme rate. Think about code check-ins. Have your ever noticed a facebook downtime for site maintenance? Never. The are thousands and thousands of code that gets checked-in LIVE, in a sophisticated way. They call it Facebook Push. The way facebook store, retrieve,  and  present information is unbelievably amazing. Think about the dynamic privacy options: For every single user, it has to maintain data sets to show What and What Not. Also think how seamless has the Social plugins integrated various websites? It will require a dedicated blog to write about the Facebook Engineering team's brilliance. Your status message and party pictures are stored in one of the boxes shown below. Check out more cool images here.

Facebook data center
Ans 3:  Its Employees. 

Zuck can be like M.S.Dhoni. Both has the right mix of talent and overwhelming luck. When you are leading a big team, you need productivity from your colleagues. Neither does Dhoni can bat for full 50 overs nor does Zuck can code for 24 hours. You just need to keep the people around you excited about what they do.  When Dhoni was in there, he kept the team's morale in great spirit. The intent for the boys to perform was always there. Zuck had a very different way of handling his employees. He created an environment where people are at their lively best, from where real creativity can originate from. The typical corporate hierarchy and infrastructure is no where to be found in Facebook offices!

The space is open plan: no cubicles, no offices, no walls, just a rolling tundra of office furniture. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, who used to be Lawrence Summers' chief of staff at the Treasury Department, doesn't have an office. Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO and co-founder and presiding visionary, doesn't have an office. 
Yes, it's an office!
This work culture combined with fat pay checks and real food for challenge encouraged every aspiring technologist to join Facebook. A day was there in which joining Microsoft or Google seemed to be the biggest achievement. These aren't happening any more. Many Googlers are rapidly filling facebook positions of late!

There were some rumors that a Google employee was offered 3.5 Million, not to join Facebook. Lars Rasmussen, the founder of the highly successful Google Maps project, left Google and joined Facebook after Zuck sent him a job offer with a 'cool' description: "Come hang out with us for a while, and we'll see what happens". Lars pointed out that the energy out there was just tremendous. That's what you want to succeed in your business: "Empowered Employees". Here is some more cool images.

Ans 4:  Its Idea.

"Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected", states the site's home page. Facebook did not create any content on it's own like news websites do. It provided a platform where it's users can share all the content out there in the world wide web. It makes use of user's creativity and generates traffic. Think about that amazing dance video link you shared on FB some time back. 1 million video views would account to 1 million facebook page views. There will be tens of thousands of such videos  out there, being shared over and over. We read more news on Facebook than we do by opening news websites or watching televison. 

While all that would be just trivial, what matters the most is what you update about your own life. You are given a medium to record almost every event of your life, with the people in your life. Be it the day you gradauted or got a job, and proudly posted it on your facebook wall, or be it the picnic pictures you recently clicked, or the video you shot, or that private group you created for your own gang. Pictures, Videos, Groups, Blogs (Notes), and what else you want? 
"Facebook is a good friend. He is there waiting for you to pour out your feelings when you are lonely, Celebrate when you're happy and simply an uncomplaining spectator when you want to shoutout all the phases of your life. I don't care if the creator of FB is an atheist or a saint, this does not mean members are also the same. This is simply amazing how you can communicate and reach out to far flung places. Thanks FB!", writes Claudette Kim.

So, Where is the money?
From where comes the money to build and maintain all this? Have you ever paid a penny for using your facebook account? Do you know how many billions of dollars it would require, to maintain an user base facebook has? That is the master idea I am talking about. Initially, Zuck hated the way of keeping Ads. But later, he incorporated them in such a way that user's experience is hardly hampered. The best part is the intelligent Audience Targeting of these Ads. Without your knowledge, by analyzing your activities on facebook, the system generates your likes and dislikes and shows up ads accordingly. Changing your relationship status to ENGAGED would prompt the system to show wedding arrangements related Ads on your profile! God knows if changing to married would show up Honeymoon packages :P

Because of this reason, Facebook has high CTR than any other internet advertising business. By the way, CTR means, Click Through Rate, an internet marketing term which is a measure of the number of times the ad link has been viewed.

Jun 9, 2011

Blown away, just now!

[Skip this post if you don't have a facebook account. I have written 126 other posts that might bore you :D]

This day, few minutes ago:
Stumbled upon a terrific post in my Facebook news feed by my dearest friend: Karthik Murugesan. I was blown away after I opened it up. It was not a kind of post that you simply click LIKE or share it and say - Wow, superb, and move on. It was a kind of a post that requires calling up the entire humanity on earth and tell them, "Come on guys and girls. You should see how beautiful it is. Truly terrific."  So, is there a better way to reach out to the whole world than a blog post? That's why I wrote this. If you want to spend one worthful hour, going thoroughly through this will just be it.

Right. Let me stop the build up. As an improving writer, one of the tips I learnt is, make the reader go till the last line, if s/he ever starts to read. What wondered me is a glimpse of one of my growing interest: Photography. Some awesomely captured pictures of "singara" Chennai. Having lived there for 3 years now, I never knew Chennai is this much beautiful. Aspiring photographers all over chennai have galored together with their masterpieces in a facebook group:  I ♥ Chennai. Go ahead and enjoy the pictures. I am sure you will appreciate the creative work. Click the picture below, and it will take you to the dream destination.

Jun 1, 2011

Google, GPS & Me

[Written with Blogger for Android]

It is always scary when you wake up out of no where, during a long journey, especially at the middle of the night, and you ask youself one single question: "Where the hell am I?". I don't know how people manage to get down on time, during a over-night travel. Possible ways would be,
  1. Don't sleep. Keep your eyes wide open. Get down on time. (Only maniacs do this)
  2. Keep an alarm. Traditional way. If it is a frequently traveled destination, you would eventually know the approximate travel time. You can get down easily, unless you don't sleep desspite the alarm.
  3. Tell the driver. He knows when the place comes, and he can get you down on time.
  4. Board the bus that has your destination as the last point, which ensures that will always get down on the right place. Even if you over-sleep, you will still get kicked out.
That's all I know. This is such a simple task and there won't be much possibilities. If you know other ways of getting-down-on-time, I am eager to see you write a comment about it. For the current trip, I used a combination of 2 & 3. I told the driver that I wanted to get down in Chidambaram, and he nodded. On the safer side, while I started at 12 AM, I kept an alarm on 3:20 AM, which is very earlier than the average time, which is 4 hours. I slept deeply, despite the humpy-bumpy jerks and still managed to wake up 4 minutes before 3:20 AM.

A quick peek outside revealed a vast majority of darkness and a little of paddy plantations. You have lot such plantations throughout Tamil Nadu, and you will never clearly ge to know where you are. The operating officer boy did not come to wake me up also. I advanced the alarm by 20 more minutes, and slept again. When I woke up again, witnessed a similar sight, as if the bus did not move for a longer while. Same darkness and plantations, and  no damn idea where I was. Suddenly it struck me that I could take my phone out, and identify the location. One of the advantages of using an Android powered phone.

While the Google Maps app started to load, I prepared my mind for embarrassment. I personally felt that I screwed up, and pondered over the possible options. And few seconds later, I found out that I have crossed my destination, and I am now near mayiladuthurai a.k.a mayavaram, a place 60 miles away. While there was some disappointment, I did not worry much. I prepared myself for that situation in advance, and felt fortunate to have found it this earlier. This bus goes to pattukottai, a place 500+ miles from home....I only asked myself, "what next??".

Well at 4 in the night, you can never do any 007 heroics in India. You just have to get down at the next recognizable location and take another bus back home. I did that, and that's where I am writing this blog from: "Mayavaram bus Stop". I was lucky to get a chidambaram bus here, and I am on the way home now.

After all this happened, a little idea struck my mind. How about an intelligent alaram that will wake you up when you near your destination? This requires a solution that makes use of the Navigation API and Alarm API. Scope is simple. I lock a location. It should ring when I near it.

Any takers? I was very good at ideas but the laziest out there, when it comes to implementing it on my own. If I still overcome my lazynesss and go on to build such an app, I will blog it, surely!

#Update: My friend vivek told me that such an app already exist in the Android Market, and it eats a lot of your battery. Well, it have to as it requires continuous checks between the current location and destination!

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