The newspapers of today

I do not know where the newspapers get their paper from. I do not know
if restriction is set by the Government on the number of pages or
supplements that a newspaper may have.

With such restriction of my knowledge, I would like to submit that The
Times of India, one of the most voluminous papers today – it has other
than The Times of India, Bombay Times and Mumbai Mirror. the other
supplements change on a daily basis. A lay subscriber to the Times,
therefore has to run through nearly 100 pages of content and ads
everyday. Newspapers have long forgotten the art of summarization and
selection. Why waste manpower on summaries and news selection when
everything can be printed?

This also helps them serve more ads as they have more pages to serve them on.

In return of money thus generated, the reader just gets more content
and never better content, with extremely few exceptions. The money has
also not led to mainstreaming of the more controversial topics. So, in
the end, the only thing that has grown rich materially or
knowledge-wise is the management of the newspaper.

I have a certain degree of respect for The Indian Express. This is a
newspaper I would like to subscribe to when the decision falls on me.

Also, the very long analytical pieces are the domain of magazines.
Newspapers have invaded this domain and have destroyed both magazines
and analytical pieces. Newspapers do not and must not have space to
publish or stifle these. Newspapers must lead the people to these and
must play this role.

Moving Towards Nature

In 2001, I started seeing people jogging and begin going to the gym.
As time passed, more and more people started doing such recreational
activities and today many Indians are very conscious of how they look.

I think we’re in a somewhat similar condition to that today regarding
with environment. There is the slow creation of awareness and there
are products and offerings that are slowly emerging and the green
market is opening up.

The next generation has started becoming somewhat environment
conscious when buying things. This is not as widespread as we like it
to be but it is an emerging trend worth noticing.

Transparency and Data Interpretation

Yesterday night I wrote this on my twitter feed: Transparency without
an interpretation of what you’re seeing is stupid.

I got to this point listening to a YouTube video on danah boyd
speaking at the Personal Democracy forum last year. Her speech was all
about how transparency must be combined with data literacy and
information interpretation skills for it to be effective.

The point is even more true in India and when you add on the
complexity of language and level of education, this becomes even more
important and difficult. It also becomes more important since the US
Government says India is the example in open government to follow. We
have to identify and let people who adopt our open government
initiative understand the limitations and adapt.

One solution to this is information graphics made popular in recent
times by websites such as informationisbeautiful.com. These are easier
to convey to an adult population with partial literacy. Imagine how
people handed a huge file would feel when they were afraid of even a
school text. Infographics on a single page with an email id and a
phone number which tells you details of the infographic is more simple
to handle.

However, not all information can be put up in terms of infographics
and it is for the IT and design guys to take up the challenge of how
to convey information already made transparent to people who need it
the most and who may be illiterate or cannot pay to access such
information. The people who do access this information also need to
learn about how to use it and how to interpret it.

Although the Government of India has started putting out information
it hasn’t pushed for its usage like the US or UK. But Indians, being
Indians have started utilising this data. I have started finding blogs
that have started linking to this data and who have used this data to
make infographics. A few media outlets also use this tool very
effectively to emphasise their story. This data provides possibility
for a coder, provides the need for data literacy for the transparency
activist and calls for creative display of this data from designers.

Interesting ways of recording our Experience Online

I have been seeking ways of recording my experiences online since
2006. This was the year when I thought I had to record stuff and
things I did in my life. I  had started recording on an offline diary
and notebook since 2000. I had also burned them in 2007 out of
frustration.

After burning it, I felt better temporarily but realised what huge
implication this had only on September 26, 2010 after I also disposed
off stuff in the after 2007 era. My blog is the only document left of
this era of mine other than stuff on social network sites and twitter.

It was here that I found the means provided by social network sites,
blogs, twitter and photo-sharing sites inadequate.

Also in 2007, I stumbled across www.stryder.com. This is one of the
strangest websites I have seen that the author classifies as ‘weblog’.

My friend, Kirk Kittell as well began the organisation bogey putting
stuff in MediaWiki, Gallery, WordPress, Drupal and populated his stuff
on multiple sharing websites as a safety.

My legacy way of handling this would be longform writing. My slightly
advanced way was writing about it on my blog. In between, I used
Twitter, Tumblr and Notepad as various ways of recording stuff. None
really satisfied me.

I like blogging but more as a way to provide a complete picture and
not as a way of describing an evolving thinking process. I like to see
the blog as a post-event condensed report rather than a note taking
and structured thinking method.

These are my unpolished thoughts.

Watching Social Network in India

I have been watching and adopting various social media networks since
2005, when I joined hi5! I immediately moved to Orkut and this is
where I built my first social network. When Facebook opened to India
in 2006, I moved there as well and did invite my school friends there.

I have been watching social networks to try and leverage that to help
my space plans. Although I watched social networks, I just didn’t get
to the part about leveraging social networks but did build a cool
space organisation. I just stuck to making my colleagues in the
organisation friends, first on Orkut and then on Facebook.

Till date, I feel more comfortable leaving a scrap on Orkut than
posting a ‘hi…hello…how are you…fine…ok’ thread on Facebook.
Events like fraandship requests and bad press pushed people out of
Orkut and onto Facebook.

My college friends stayed on Orkut initially and then moved to
Facebook when peers told them being on Facebook was considered cooler
and because many girls moved on to Facebook.

The fraandship requests originates from settings where people have
come on to a social network platform and didn’t really know what to do
and just extended their Yahoo! Messenger experience onto the social
network. I think Orkut really helped polish many of the people there
who then carried the rules into Facebook.

I still remember scraps on Orkut about: not posting a scrap in your
own scrapbook, not trying to friend people you do not know and
expecting introductions when you add a person as a friend. These were
then also circulated among the offline channels – mainly through SMS.

As it has grown, social networks in India have also transformed
offline meetups because of a segregation in the kind of people who
hung around in each of these spaces.

The fraandship thing came as more of the rural and lower tier towns of
India came onto Orkut and began trying to make friends in the city
they planned on moving to. Urban and middle class Orkut users made fun
of this and proliferated this across initially to humiliate people who
didn’t use proper spelling or grammer in their introductions of
friendship requests. Later this was used to reinforce the fact that
only known people are welcome as friends.

This also co-incided with the offline hang out culture. This shifted
as the more well to do kids hung out at the Cafe Coffee Days and
Baristas whereas the middle class and the lower income group kids hung
around inside of college canteens and wada pav stalls. Slowly,
Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days realised that more money could be made
inviting the middle class in as well and they moved to lower prices.

Funny enough, this coincided with the time that the bulk of Indians
moved onto Facebook and this network reinforced the coffee shop,
McDonalds and pizza culture more.

We’re in an interesting time in social networks in India – at a time
when the crowd in Orkut has started moving to Facebook. Mainly because
brands have been using these to push prices down and also using the
network to hold and provide access to events. The Orkut experience has
made this crowd wiser and has moderated them. But, also a new
generation is coming directly onto Facebook than through Orkut. Some
of my friends have started seeing the ‘fraandship-like’ trend showing
up on Facebook as well. I haven’t seen it either on Orkut or Facebook
other than on other people’s scrap book.

Facebook also slowly pushed us off the ‘introduce yourself’ habit of
our Orkut days by not providing access to the wall without being a
friend in the privacy settings. More people are now also not using the
‘add a message’ option that appears when you ask a person to become
their friend.

The real thing to see now is how such a closed network like Facebook
will teach new comers on the unwritten network rules. I see this
happening in the offline world and some people say Facebook is very
complicated and Orkut has become complicated but is now resembling a
ghost town.

Today, I started scrapping on Orkut again. Watch this space as I post
more of my social network watching here.