Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Effects of sleep deprivation

I have always tried to get as much as 8. hours of sleep for I know the subtle side effects of sleep deprivation. These subtle effects cause huge damages. Sleep deprivation is the reason behind most accidents between midnight and 4 AM.

For those with less awareness and didn't know about this, here are some symptoms of sleep deprivation.

1. Lack of coordination between the brain and the organs. This manifests as biting of tongue when eating, tripping while walking etc.
2. Increased frequency of déjà vu. Déjà vu is nothing more than minor malfunction of the brain. With sleep deprivation the frequency of déjà vu experience increases. If you felt like a psychic, get over it. It is just an effect of less sleep.
3. Black outs. As an event happens, the brain switches off for a fraction of a second to process inputs from sensory organs. This results in an experience like watching a movie from a scratched DVD.
4. Signs of OCD - obsessive compulsive disorders like doubting if you locked the door, switched off lights etc. This is because, the brain may not have registered the action due to some kind of black outs mentioned above. To compensate for this state, the mechanism to doubt and question kicks in.

Monday, April 09, 2007

SEOs - The new pornographers of the web

SEOs - The new pornographers of the web

The business managers in my last job wanted to give a good push on SEO to reach a wider audience, read higher page views. One part of the organization's web sites managed more page views by doing a number of changes suggested by the SEOs. The sites I managed weren't doing that great for many reasons - the primary reason being the pages do not change much to force the crawlers to visit the site more often. The belief was the more frequent a crawler visits your site, the chance of your site showing up in the first page of Google's results. The second important reason was - we just didn't have good content. That was an e-commerce site. Until the SEO buzz, getting good content from vendors means, getting a nice photograph of the product and nothing more.

In addition to the stand-alone e-commerce site, we were selling on Amazon too. Amazon's guidelines on the content gave me a good idea on what is important. I came to the conclusion that fixing the content first is the first step towards better performance is search results. Fixing the content is not easy considering the constraints from the vendor (poor detail, spelling and language) and from the application (limited fields / length).

I chose to get the content fixed with changes to the application and setting expectations with the vendors. This is better than running behind a phantom called SEO. I believe good detail and user experience are more important than search engine optimization. Translating this to brick-and-mortar model of businesses, the efforts are better spent in designing your shop in such a way that people can find the products they need easily than to put up huge hoardings to drive people to you shop.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Google Desktop plugin for Outlook - Side Effects

I installed Google Desktop in every machine I use. I love the Ctrl+Ctrl to reach any document or email in the fastest way possible.

There was a third party plugin for Outlook some time back. I used it for some time and then realized it was hanging Outlook and the system. So, I uninstalled the plugin. But the recent version of Google Desktop comes with an add-on for Outlook. I guess this comes from Google itself.

Of late, I began experiencing problem opening an appointment from the Calendar. I do not know if Google tries to sync-up with Google Calendar as we use Google apps for domains for our emails and domains in our organization. I can see the contents of a meeting request in the preview pane, I can accept the request, the alert would show at the right time. But when I try to open the item, Outlook would report "Cannot open this item for reminder. Operation failed."

After googling for sometime, I bumped into a solution that suggest to switch off a plug-in. The procedure is as follows:
1. Close Outlook.
2. Open it in safe mode by typing ""C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\OUTLOOK.EXE" /safe" in the Start -> Run box or command prompt.
3. Go to Tools -> Options -> Other tab -> Advanced Options button -> COM Add-In Manager -> Uncheck the item "Google Desktop Outlook Tool bar" and click OK.
4. Go to Tools -> Options -> Other tab -> Advanced Options button -> Add-In Manager -> Uncheck Google Desktop Search Outlook AddIn and click OK.
5. Restart Outlook.

Let's hope Google fixes it in the next release of Google Desktop.

What is bad about Reliance or Birla in grocery retail

There was this program on Showtime - Penn & Teller's BS on Hating Walmart. The theme was, it is fashionable and nonsense to hate Walmart when Walmart is doing so much for the community in terms of low cost goods and employment for unskilled. Can this be extended to India? Are Reliance and such big shops good for the communities? The answer is no.

Walmart opens shops in every place where there is scope for selling cheap goods. They probably won't open shops in glitzy malls. On the other hand, the big chain of grocery stores in India open in clearly upper middle class area. In Chennai, I see them in places like Anna Nagar, Egmore, Adyar and TTK Road. Even within these places, they stay away from lower income group areas. So, their aim is not to offer low cost products to needy community. The number of jobs they create is far few as compared to multiple small sized grocery shops catering to same number of customers.
Every time such a big shiny shop opens, they threaten the survival of traditional grocers and vegetable vendors. I find myself thinking like a commie here and with a reason. Even as big shops offer some employment, they kill the entrepreneurship of small time traders by pumping in more money. I think India's economy was kept alive during the days of socialism by this small-time business people who managed to sell products made by equally small scale businesses. They were probably below the radar of socialistic governments and their controls.
A company like CavinKare (with products like sachet Velvette shampoo) could come up just because they could sell through the regular grocery store. I do not think, a Food World or Trinetra would care to sell sachet shampoos from an unknown manufacturer. At some point, bigger shops need to care about margins vs shelf-space and can not support smaller businesses that make things like packaged food items with low investment.

I would compare the big shops to the organized religions like Islam, Christianity and Communism. They all offer some good stuff to start with. You can't complain about the teachings of prophets, messiahs and thinkers. They are probably fine. But they deny the option of alternate views and dissent by the sheer power they had acquired by setting up an organization, getting influential people to support it and marketing.

I would pay extra to keep the street corner vegetable vendor in business. I would probably do some impulse buying to encourage my grocer to compete with Trinetra opened in the same street. We need these small businesses to survive and flourish for the good of the people and the country.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Jobs in India

Joel's Jobs In India had just two job postings since it was announced a week ago. Joel says there is a good set of visitors from India for his blogs. Still, two postings in one week doesn't sound good. The reasons on why Joel's blogs get so many readers and the postings are so few:

1. The readers are usually middle management in large organizations and top management in small organizations. The middle managers of large companies have no say in where the organizations should look for candidates. The top managers of small companies do not post jobs in portals, instead they look for resumes in portals and call them.
2. Large organizations do not care much for the software skills of the candidates. For a fresher, they look for candidate with over 75% in engineering in any branch. For 2-3 year experienced, they look for the basic criteria plus the candidate should have worked for 2-3 years (not necessarily software development). For middle and senior management, there are far fewer requirements and they get filled by consultants. The HR for these companies are not going to post ads in Joel's job site.
3. In the past few years, it has changed from candidates applying for jobs to employers soliciting candidates that they source from job portals like Naukri.

In Indian IT job market, it is the quantity that matters. It is no different from a sales job. The HR makes 1000 calls, schedules interviews for 500, 200 attend, 20 clear the technical interview, 10 accept the offer and 5 join. I may be exaggerating the numbers, but the fact is - to get more people, you just need to start with a higher number.

In another context, Joel mentioned that the best programmers aren't looking for jobs. Those looking for a job aren't likely to be the best was his argument. I do not understand what changed between that comment (2 years ago) and now.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Udit Narayan and Tamil songs

Mukundhan commented about Udit Narayan's voice and pronunciation here.

I thought Udit Narayan's voice was a good fit to Prabhu Deva in Kaathalan. After that, I can't think of any other song where there was such a good fit. Remember paruvayillai in Run! I do not understand why north Indian singers who aren't pronouncing well should sing in Tamil. This includes Sukhvinder Singh, Sadhana Sargam (best of the lot) and Adnan Sami (well, he is not an Indian first, but that's not the point).

SPB mentioned it in an interview that he introduced Sukhvinder Singh in Telugu, and later in some other movies he didn't think that the singer did well with pronunciation. It is possible that most new male singers in Tamil and Telugu are highly influenced by SPB, Yesudoss and TMS. This probably forces music directors to look out for fresher voice. That explains why Udit Narayan and Sukhvinder Singh sing in Tamil. For the same reason, SPB and Yesudoss were used in some Hindi movies.

Gone are the days when the entire media laughed at Yesudoss for singing 'Therukkoile' instead of 'Thirukkoile'. I do remember our folks in Mumbai commenting on SPB's accent (note, not pronunciation) when singing in Hindi.

Now, we accept bad pronunciation by singers just as we accept Chennai girls' Tamil spoken with English accent. How's it in the North?

Blogging about blogging

Since I love Google Analytics and I was curious on how many visitors I had to my blog, I set up a GA account for my blog. The results I see assure that I am not Joel Spolsky. I noticed that a fresh grad working with me gets a higher traffic to her blog. That's what a link on her blog on how much the content is worth.

The results on GA indicated an interesting information.
If you blog about a current affair (like song release of Sivaji- the movie), there is a chance that your blog may get some new visitors. I got just one. On other days, I get the usual co-workers and ex-coworkers visiting my blog.
It is essential that the blog must be current. I blogged about the dark matter after reading about it on Slash Dot and Time magazine. My blog was about this article and Rig Veda. I had a surprise visitor who used the keywords for which my blog appears 3rd in the results.

Well, I do not write for eye-balls. I write because it is one way scratching my brain itch. After I write about what I wanted write, the thought disappears and doesn't bother me any more. It is just like writing a letter to God about your sorrows to feel better.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sivaji Songs

It is probably not legal. But sites like have the songs from the movie in streaming format.

I don't expect Rahman's music to be catchy in the first listening. You hear it again and again and start liking it. Of the six songs (seven if you count the two versions of 'Sahara Pookkal Poothatho'), just two stay in memory. 'Sahara Pookkal Poothatho' by Udit Narayan, Chinmayee and Vijay Yesudoss, Gomathi Sree is probably the best of the lot. The song is not great, but is at least good enough that the tune stays in memory after the song is over. 'Vaaji Vaaji...' by Hariharan and Madhusri is slightly fast paced, catchy and could be a hit. Madhusri's voice reminds me of Lata Mangeshkar's current voice. Nothing more to write about it. The song 'Kaaveri Aarum...' by SPB appears to be the usual Rajini's opening song. My father would comment as - 'தெவச மந்திரம் மாதிரி இருக்கு'.

On hearing the songs, I feel A R Rahman is getting old. When was the last hit from him?
While typing this blog, I heard some of the songs a second time to get the lyrics. Hey.. I like them. Hmmm - Another Rahman's album here.