Mar 22, 2012

As You Like It

An hour before I started writing this post, Bangladesh came very close to winning the Asia Cup for the first time. Unfortunate fellows, lost the thrilling final by just 2 runs. The match report is here but you are not interested in reading it, are you? Anyway, I wanted to write about something else that spoiled the sheer fun of watching cricket these days. Match Fixing, or Spot Fixing or Whatever damn thing you might call it. Every close game & unexpected outcomes are bluntly attributed to this thing called "match fixing".

India wins? "Huh, they fixed this game. See how many drop catches". India loses? "They are playing for money. This is fixed. I know.", they say undoubtedly, as if they are from the 007 family. This increasing obsession with this phrase finally pushed one of the laziest bloggers (that is me, if you haven't realized it yet!) to write about it. Fixing was, and is there but not as blatant as how people claim it to be. My dad told me one day, when speaking about that elusive 100th Hundred, this:
"He is delaying it intentionally. This is all well planned. If he keep getting out, the odds of him getting it in the next game will keep going down. Once everyone starts believing he is not going to get there, he will eventually get there".
 So that might be 0.01% true or say, 99.9% true. Whatever you want it to be. Neither am I from the 007 Family, and I don't know either. The sheer logic of betting is playing for the impossible and win after it happens. The history dates back to 1983 when the first unexpected outcome started it all. India reached the Prudential world cup finals as underdogs against the 2-time champ West Indies. As it eventually turned out, India went on to become the first country to win the World cup after WI. Whoever put their money on India, as less as it should've been, eared lot of money out of it. Is that game fixed? Who knows, or who cares,  anyway.

Unexpected results kept coming then on but no one bothered much. It was on 7 April 2000, Delhi police revealed they had a recording of a conversation between Hansie Cronje and Sanjay Chawla, a representative of an Indian betting syndicate, over match-fixing allegations. Gibbs revealed that Cronje had offered him $15,000 to score less than 20 runs in the 5th ODI at Nagpur. Actually, Gibbs scored 74 off 53 balls in that game. More stories unfolded, and it eventually led to people start believing in fixing. This spoiled the love for the game. Many of those whom I met admitted that they quit following the game after such controversies surmounted. "Do they think we look like a fool to them? We watch and support with so much of passion, and they just get money and lose", is the standard  anger expression from them. 

So tell me one thing. What IF all the games you watch are fixed? To me, it doesn't matter at all. Cricket is purely an entertainment to  me. If it can thrillingly go till the last over and keep me enthralled, I am fine with every game being 'FIXED'. Didn't people like that Death Race movie in which Joan Allen (who played the role of Hennesey) fixed the outcome of every race? Or take the most watched sport on YouTube: WWE. Once called as World Wrestling Federation became World Wrestling Entertainment after they started 'directing' every match. None of those fights you see on TV is real. Still people like it, aren't they?

The world's most watched sport on YouTube
This blog will in no way change the way people see cricket. Same applies to me. As long as it is fun-filled I am fine with it being fixed. I could  recollect the first two lines of a high-school text book poem by Shakespeare. It went like this:  All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players

Mar 5, 2012

KISS: Keep it Short, and Simple

I have been following articles from user interface design communities very closely of late. Especially on what makes a great website - great. Is it about colors? or jazzy looking buttons? or speed? I could recollect a Steve Jobs quote on the word Design, which goes like this:
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
I do believe that there is more to do with design in addition to making it look good. The word 'great' comes from different people for different reasons. Here goes one reason behind why Google Search is great. Now tell me something. What can we do with a HTML text box? Type a name? mobile phone number? sounds insignificant right? Looks weird to see someone blog about it. I mean, what can one text box do at all?

Someone thought so, and did miracles with it. It is quite captivating to see that the world's most visited website - has only one text box in it's home page. It appears so but under the hood, there lies an amazing design which performs many different tasks based on the search term. We all know we can search for information on Google but many of us do not know all the features it comes with.
Two years back, I wrote a blog on How Google search works but I did not mention the features then. Here is a compiled list of many cool features.

Click on the links to see it in action.

Feature description preview link
Localization is one key feature of Google. When you search for weather, it returns weather detail for the given location. weather bangalore
The word MOVIES followed by City name will return showtimes for the present day. movies chennai
The word sunrise or sunset followed by city name will get the timings! Best thing to know if you are visiting Kanyakumari! sunrise kanyakumari
The word time will give current time along with Timezone. Helps avoid scaring out people at midnight while making an overseas phone call! time georgia
Starting search with site: followed by a website name will return results only from that website. I use it to find posts in my own blog! google
Giving Stock Quotes will return latest trend of that share. MSFT
Live Sports score will come when you enter the team names. Since all the sport website are blocked by the proxy server @ work, I use to check scores for the ongoing India-Australia test series with this! ind vs aus
There is a lovely calculator inside. Just type an expression, and off you go! 5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=
Unit conversions can’t get any easier! If your kid is in high school, don’t show this. s/he will become google-dependent for homeworks! 30.48 cm in feet

100 USD in INR
Thanks to organizations that expose public data. Population, Unemployment rate – it’s all available. population india

unemployment rate america
Looking for something specific? Type it along with place name and pincode. gym chennai 600041
To learn more about a disease/problem, put the name of it, and you could see it’s symptom/treatment/test/Complications etc., Mitral valve prolapse
Travel planning has become very easy now. You can check flight status, and timings just by keying in the name! american airlines 18

flights from chennai to bangalore
using related: along with a website will give you list of sites that are relevant to it.
Sydney Morning Herald is a famous Australian News paper. To get all such newspapers, use this!
A new addition to search is the Best Guess feature. Ask a question and it will try it’s best. This simplifies searching! who is apple ceo
billa2 release
All these things happen after you click the Search button. The engine running inside somehow works out what you wanted to do, and invokes that particular piece of software code to get you the results!
Think about a Google search homepage with 20 different text boxes – one each for features such as weather, time, flight schedule, and population! The page will look cluttered, and every time we have to think where to type. We all know how many buttons calculators have, but this one is absolutely simple. We must appreciate the people who does all this under-the-hood stuff! This is what I will call Great Design.
Some more design concepts from this blog post:
It actually took me 5 hours to finish writing this post. I was looking for the best way to present this content. I thought about bulleted points, screen shots of various search results but finally decided to have a simple table which will have a short description along with a link to show you how it works. Clicking all these links would not take more than 5 minutes whereas the reader trying it out himself would take a longer time. In fact he would not even try all of it since there is some amount of laziness in every human being. Having screenshots here would lead to a longer post and the reader has to scroll a lot. No one likes reading longer posts. Table is short, and solves the purpose well. This is the first time I am using a TABLE in my blog, and wrote some CSS for a decent looking table layout! If 1000 people read this post, then I have saved the world – 10,000 minutes. That tells something about design. It's not about developer's comfort but the end user's!

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