Saturday, December 31, 2005

Another war?

An interesting article from Der Spiegel:
It's hardly news that US President George Bush refuses to rule out possible military action against Iran if Tehran continues to pursue its controversial nuclear ambitions. But in Germany, speculation is mounting that Washington is preparing to carry out air strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear sites perhaps even as soon as early 2006.
A little later in the article:
The German wire service also quotes a high-ranking German military official saying: "I would be very surprised if the Americans, in the mid-term, didn't take advantage of the opportunity delivered by Tehran. The Americans have to attack Iran before the country can develop nuclear weapons. After that would be too late."
Go read Is Washington Planning a Military Strike?

Friday, December 30, 2005

The perils of JavaSchools

Joel talks about the perils of using Java as a programming language for teaching courses in universities:
Years of whinging by lazy CS undergrads like me, combined with complaints from industry about how few CS majors are graduating from American universities, have taken a toll, and in the last decade a large number of otherwise perfectly good schools have gone 100% Java. It's hip, the recruiters who use "grep" to evaluate resumes seem to like it, and, best of all, there's nothing hard enough about Java to really weed out the programmers without the part of the brain that does pointers or recursion, so the drop-out rates are lower, and the computer science departments have more students, and bigger budgets, and all is well.

Read The Perils of JavaSchools

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Pat(ricia) vs. Goliath

An article (from CNN) about a single Mom fighting the music industry.
It was Easter Sunday, and Patricia Santangelo was in church with her kids when she says the music recording industry peeked into her computer and decided to take her to court.

Santangelo says she has never downloaded a single song on her computer, but the industry didn't see it that way. The woman from Wappingers Falls is among the more than 16,000 people who have been sued for allegedly pirating music through file-sharing computer networks.
Read -- 'Internet-illiterate parent' fights downloading lawsuit

Age of information overload

Interesting article from CNN:
Books are being scanned to make them searchable on the Internet. Television broadcasts are being recorded and archived for online posterity. Radio shows, too, are getting their digital conversion -- to podcasts.

With a few keystrokes, we'll soon be able to tap much of the world's knowledge. And we'll do it from nearly anywhere -- already, newer iPods can carry all your music, digital photos and such TV classics as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" along with more contemporary prime-time fare.

Will all this instantly accessible information make us much smarter, or simply more stressed? When can we break to think, absorb and ponder all this data?
Read the full article .

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Got a minute?

Marketing Minute is a free newsletter written by Marcia Yudkin, a publicity and marketing consultant. I used to read her articles about freelancing and always found them useful, so I subscribed to this newsletter.

The cool thing is that you can read the newsletter real quick and you will learn something useful. And though it's called Marketing Minute, you get a lot more than just marketing advice. Here's a sample:
Test prices, don't assume!
Do you set your prices according to what you believe your market can afford? If you're a professional, do you offer a sliding scale for payment? When anyone requests a price break, do you automatically agree? All of the above practices carry a danger that can needlessly keep your revenues down.

When you're tempted to set low prices, remember these points:

1. What someone can afford and what they will pay aren't necessarily related in any logical or predictable way. I've had clients hire me who had next to no income or savings, while someone with a Fortune 100-sized budget decides the same offering costs too much.

2. Someone may ask for or expect a bargain, but end up paying the original fee.
You can subscribe to Marketing Minute or check out Marcia Yudkin's website .

Nine things I don't want to encounter in 2006

In the order in which I'm thinking this up:
  1. Breaking news -- As The Daily News tagline goes, When news breaks, we fix it. Some of the breaking news need not break, it can wait.

  2. Exclusive interview -- TV channels use this phrase so regularly, it's losing its exclusivity.

  3. Sting operation -- How many more before the nation gets sick of these operations?

  4. Tsunami -- Not the tragedy but the usage of this word in different contexts, like A tsunami of emotions.

  5. Terror/Terrorism -- I think there's a serious need to either re-define the meaning of these words or to use them less frequently.

  6. MSM -- Mainstream media, which is the favourite punching bag of most bloggers.

  7. Use of the suffix gate -- Plume-gate, Volcker-gate, to name a few. Enough, get another suffix.

  8. Voting through SMS -- Probably a nice source of revenue to channels and telecom operators, but mostly meaningless.

  9. Moral policing -- Mind your own business or find a better cause, one that actually helps people.

What was I thinking writing this post, none of this is going to go away. Hope is also a four-letter word.

Hope/Wish 2006 is a good year for you.

Monday, December 26, 2005

InformIT on Internet basics

InformIT ( is a site for IT-related stuff, run by Pearson Education, a publisher. They let you read sample chapters from books for free. I've found some useful stuff there.

Here's a clipping from a sample chapter:
Much of the trepidation regarding the computer world comes from the fact that many people don’t understand the highly technical terminology associated with computers. In most cases, a person doesn’t have to understand complex jargon to work with a computer, but every now and then some necessary geek-speak creeps in. This is the case with Internet addresses, which are also called uniform resource locators, or URLs for short. The Internet is a treasure chest of information. As a -user, you must have a key to unlock this high-tech chest. URLs are one of the keys. The sooner you understand URLs, the faster you can open that treasure chest and begin enjoying the riches of the Internet.

To read more, go to: The Language of the Internet for Beginners

Friday, December 23, 2005

How to sell a stereotype

An interesting article by Lisa Katayama on Alternet:
The creator of the satirical website, explains why, when it comes to race, many white people still just don't get it.

When Damali Ayo was 12, her parents sent her to day camp with 20 white kids.

The kids were fascinated by the way Ayo's hair maintained its texture in the pool. Even after she deliberately dunked her head in the water, they were convinced that black hair doesn't get wet.
Read the full article: How to sell a stereotype

Friday, December 16, 2005

Letters from an unpaid writer

From the article Letters to Tehelka from an unpaid writer:
I suppose I am a fool, by Tehelka's standards anyway, to have written for you again. There are two mitigating factors: I didn't think an organisation which preaches propriety and ethics to the nation could behave so unethically; and I didn't think Tehelka would treat a fellow-professional so shabbily.

Yes, I know you've gone through hard times, but you always had a support group to fall back on. I'm a freelancer. When my father was in hospital late last year and Shoma wasn't answering my e-mails I had no such support group and I needed money. But why do I need an excuse like that to get what is my due?
If you've ever followed up for payments, you'll feel his pain. (Via The Hoot)

How Google Does It

From (Google: Ten Golden Rules) an article by the Google CEO and a Berkeley professor, who's a consultant to Google:
At Google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood how to manage the new breed of "knowledge workers." After all, Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that smart businesses will "strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers' way." Those that succeed will attract the best performers, securing "the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years."

At Google, we seek that advantage.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The 14 Worst Corporate Evildoers

An interesting article from Alternet; here's a snippet:
In India, Coca-Cola destroys local agriculture by privatizing the country's water resources. In Plachimada, Kerala, Coca-Cola extracted 1.5 million liters of deep well water, which they bottled and sold under the names Dasani and BonAqua. The groundwater was severely depleted, affecting thousands of communities with water shortages and destroying agricultural activity. As a result, the remaining water became contaminated with high chloride and bacteria levels, leading to scabs, eye problems, and stomach aches in the local population.

Read the full article, there are some big names there. The article is based on a Global Exchange report, which you can read here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Cuba: IT's more than just cigars

From an article by David Pye, on Globe and Mail:
Despite being one of the world's last standing communist regimes, Cuba has proved masterful at reinventing its economic priorities in troubled times.

Since 1991, Cuba's information technology sector has been developing at warp speed and now consists of about 45,000 highly skilled workers, 38 per cent of whom have specialized degrees. More than 85 per cent of the country's IT industry is concentrated in technical services and software development.

"We've been investing in this sector for the last 14 years and we now have highly skilled IT workers at every level," says Luis Marin, general manager of Avante, the marketing arm of Cuba's Ministry of Information Technology and Communications. "IT doesn't require a lot of investment . . . except in human resources."
This is interesting. Read the full article.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Truth and advertising

Can you read the fine print?

If you take a close look at advertisements on TV, you'll notice that some ads have clarifying statements that will flash on your screen for nano-seconds milli-seconds and disappear. For example, one says: Percentage of women who claimed effectiveness in a consumer test. (I could be mistaken because it flashes by too quickly.)

These will be typically done in ads that tell you that product A works 76.8% more effectively. Than what? I'm also guessing that the advertisers realise that most people won't read the clarifications posted in extra-small font.

Then, there are the stars (*) next to the "It's a great sale" ads in the newspapers and magazines. These stars will tell you that the sale is on from 10 to 4 on even numbered days that are divisible by 3. Or some such thing.

What about the ads where some doctor or dentist tells you that a product is good for you? Are these real doctors? If so, are they paid to endorse the company's products? Which one should I listen to--the one who says use product X and another who says use product Z?

If that's not bad enough, there've been articles now about using ads to target children because of their pester-power. Pester power = The power that kids have to pester parents into buying a product. What's next: foetal advertising?

Is all advertising bad? No, some advertisements are creative, funny, and give a product visibility, which is fine. But, when advertisements withhold information or make claims that are untrue, then I think that's bad.

The hiring process

A hiring process in a company may be something like this: Screen resume, conduct tests, conduct interviews, check references, make offer.

It's an exhaustive process and most recruiters do a thorough check on candidates. You want to be careful about the people you take on board right? Fine with me.

What is this process for? Partially to ensure that the candidate is really what he/she is claiming to be and to figure out if the candidate is right for the job.

So why then is the hiring process one-sided? Companies expect you to tell the truth about what you've done, which is the right thing to expect. Why don't companies tell you the truth about themselves?

Would it hurt them if they said, "Hey, the guy you're working for, he's a pain in the rear end."

Of course it would. That's why they won't tell you. And by the time you find out, you either look for another job or accept the situation. Training wasted or disgruntled employee, both not good for the company.

What would happen if a company lets short-listed candidates talk to their team members before they join? And what if team members have a say in who is finally picked?

Candidates would make sure that they voice their concerns and team members would know if a person would fit into their team. After all, they won't pick someone who is a misfit because they are now responsible. (This is not my idea by the way, it's done in Semco, a Brazilian company, and it works just great. Yes, they're a profit-making company.)

Yes, some people would get scared away. Isn't it better that this happens before they join than after?

And won't the people who do join have a clearer idea about what they're getting into?

But this will take a lot of time, you say.

Yes, it will take time. However, you'll get the people you want and the people that want you and that will be better for your company.

Ask Semco's Ricardo Semler, he'll tell you.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Newsflash: Men cut nails

This week's India Today has an article about how men are using skin care services and products more than ever before. You read about this often now-a-days, because it has an economic impact.

The skin-care industry is thriving. I wish I'd opened a men's skin care clinic instead of all the money and time I wasted in studies. I'm no stock analyst but if there are stocks available in skin care companies, buy.

Before I lose track, here are some other things that men do that the industry can exploit:

1) Hand-washing: Men wash their hands after eating. Some use soap. I think there's a huge market here for soaps that clean the skin and provide a moisturising effect on the skin.

2) Nail-cutting: Men cut their nails. Some bite them off. Though I wouldn't wear any, there is a market for men's nail polish. You think some men wouldn't like skulls on their nails. Think again. There's also huge market for automatic nail-cutters. You'd think that someone would've figured this out by now. (If you're planning a product on this idea, give me a holler. Some cash would be nice too.)

3) Muscles: Most men like to show off their muscles. If the skin industry could create a cream that will tone flab into muscles, they'll make a huge profit. Maybe this tip is for the diet industry.

Sorry to end this post here but I have a hair appointment.