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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Has Cattlegate Opened The Floodgate ?

Holy Cow! Shashi Tharoor's single tweet has taken Twitter to every nook and corner of India. Now, even the most obstinate bull squatting in the middle of the vegetable market wants to know what Twitter is all about. Of course the cows let loose by their owners to graze in Indian streets are equally curious even if they are not mooing it. Indeed, a lot of people are signing up on Twitter, a vast number intend to do it in near future. But I am a bit skeptical, if most of the people have an understanding on what Twitter is and how it should be used.

I have posted some of my own experiences here

There some facts and opinions that I should mention before proceeding further. I think all Internet users who are not on Twitter can be broadly categorized into 3 categories. The first category includes people who use the Web minimally, their professional as well as personal agenda doesn't allow them to explore the social aspect of Web. As such the whole social media debate is irrelevant to them, at times they are indistinguishable from machines .

Then there are people who think Twitter is just another way of wasting one's time that could be utilized for creating artificial intelligence or achieve major breakthrough in stem cell research. However, you won't find them doing either, instead, you can find them participating in Orkut. Socialization, interaction, collaboration to them means going through photo-albums of this cute chick they came across in the friend list of another friend's friend. The main activity would include sending persistent add requests, leaving flashy images,ASCII art or corny scraps in Hinglish or broken English or do stuff that require little or no intellect. People belonging to this category, who think that the phenomenal growth of twitter userbase, eminent personalities and biggest organizations and almost every website extending tweeting functionality, is because of a social media hype and
who are convinced that Twitter is a waste of time should strictly continue with Orkut, Twitter would be an incompatible medium since the latter requires intellect!

However, there is the third category of users who do not doubt the utility of Twitter but are still not using it because they don't fully understand it or it has not worked for them. Indeed,there is not a single social website that one can join up and start enjoying or get results from day one. How effective social networking sites turn out depends on how well the user has created her network. This is especially true with Twitter since there are no photo albums of users, no social games or "which movie character you are" quizzes (well, there are mechanisms to share images, files etc but they are not integral part of the architecture.) . In other words, your experience on Twitter depends totally upon how you interact with other users (Tweeps). If used properly, it opens a completely new world of options, from real-time news to reaching out to targeting customers/audience and getting the most relevant answer to your questions. The potential is immense! In my follow-up post, I will try to compose a guide for beginners.

Posted By danish Ahmed 3:37 AM

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Engaging The Red Dragon

Posted by: danish Ahmed 3:03 AM

This post is a continuation of a Twitter conversation  (not more than 2 to 3 tweets) i had with two of India's hottest and intelligent females, @gulpanag and @CelinaJaitly ,on the string of incursions into Indian territory by the Chinese forces.
Every time China flexes its muscle,we Indians go on an overdrive speculating everything from minor skirmishes to nuclear exchange. Strange as it may sound, this behaviour is quite expected. After all, India has never had a coherent China policy,starting from Nehru himself. However, as has been opined by most intellectuals, it is imperative that we come out of the shadow of  the 1962 aggression, but that does not mean that we close our eyes to the reality. To find a reasonable solution, we need to identify the problem first, something that is not very actively done in case of Sino-Indian relations. 
The genesis of India-China rivalry lies in a very fundamental law of physics which says that two masses cannot occupy the same space! As two biggest powers in the region it is but natural that they have vested interest in the neighborhood. It is not a question of ethics or morality but one of political compulsions.This stems more from the instinct of self-preservation rather than aggression, after all, the balance of power in the region is closely related to how well they have maintained their spheres of influence. Any two big powers would end up in similar circumstance but in the case of China and India, even if their deemed spheres of influence are too common to trigger conflict of interest, their distinct political ideologies further compound the equation.
This is very different from India- Pakistan rivalry, which is based far more sentiments than on pragmatism. This is one of the reason why the Chinese threat is almost always underplayed,it is very unlikely to whip up passion at the grassroots level.
These factors together make Sino-Indian conflict particularly complex, but how does one engage the Red Dragon?

Among the lessons learnt in last 50 years,an important one is that while China forced India to pull out of Pakistan in 1965 ( Apparently, Indian forces marching towards Lahore were called off after China mobilized troops on the border and asked India to stop the war on Pakistan 1 ) , it was much restrained in 1971 war, which came shortly after Porkharan-I. It is apparent that like all good communist dictatorships, the Peoples Republic of China understands the language of force. By force i mean deterrence and not applied force, the latter is unthinkable in present times.
But there are sufficient indications to believe that the Communist regime plays the game by the rule (the reference here is to games theory ) But the only game that China has really mastered, is the zero-sum game, as is evident from not only the 62 war but also from the Korean war and the Sino-Soviet conflict. It is also a game that India has not been a very good player of. Quite likely China's recent transgressions are its way of expressing displeasure at India's decision to allow Dalai Lama visit Arunachal Pradesh but then lack of appropriate response from India would be construed as weakness by any rational player. Both the states are mature enough to realize that armed conflict or even an escalation of rhetoric would be highly detrimental to the pace of development going on in their respective countries. But knowing  China, these incidences are likely to continue more vigorously if India continues  if India does not respond appropriately.       

Posted By danish Ahmed 3:03 AM

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Transparency, Radical Trust and the Indian Democracy in the Age of Web 2.0

Every time i see @shashitharoor defending his tweeting habit on TV i can detect a gleam in his eyes which betrays a feeling of incredulity within him. WTF?! They seem to say, shouldn't his government be grateful that he is connecting it to nearly a hundred thousand people? One could say that may be Tharoor's long stint at UN has made him forget the epitome of doldrums that our babudom is, but that wont be the whole truth. Managements in most large organizations world wide are scared of new things (and for good reasons too) but that's part of the larger social media debate, this post is about the Shashi Tharoor question and about Twitter.

Shouldn't a democracy like India support transparency as the UK does, for instance, Tharoor asks. The penetration of Internet technology in India has not been deep enough to become part of our lives as it has been with the American and the British. India may be emerging as a software giant, but the majority of Indians, including those belonging to the IT workforce view the Internet as an unreliable medium. True, everyone right from the governmental departments to the small-time trader use the Internet for things like e-mails and correspondence, online booking and shopping and propaganda. But these are traditional tasks that the Internet makes easier, they don't harness the real power of the Internet.

The real beneficiary of the Internet have been those who have been able to leverage its powers. Let us not forget that there has been a major paradigm shift in the architecture and usage pattern of the Internet. It now goes by the moniker, Web 2.0. Tim O'Reilly opines that a significant characteristic of Web 2.0 is the fact that businesses are embracing the web as a platform by building applications and services keeping the features of the Internet in mind instead of expecting the Internet to transform itself to suit traditional models!
Yet, a large section of the literate Indian population still consider the Web as something that should be used strictly in a manner that keeps the user insulated from the other users.

In the early days of the Internet revolution, anonymity was a major factor which encouraged participation and for good reasons too. But Web 2.0 revolution has changed all that, users now are not only using real identity but are also trying to put up as much info about themselves as possible. Discussing the various aspects of the changing user behavior is beyond the scope of this post, the point i wish to drive is that if anonymity was the flavor of Web 1.0, trust and transparency are the pillars of Web 2.0.

Lets take Wikipedia as an example, a reference site that can be modified by anyone with access to the Internet! A decade back, the majority of people would have scoffed at the idea. Indeed, Wikipedia was not an instant hit, it came out as a winner with the passage of time. But Wikipedia introduced the idea of radical trust which went on to become one of the distinctive features of the Web 2.0 meme. Almost, every successful Web 2.0 enterprise has been based a collaborative platforms that believe in actively engaging with the consumers and using the feedback to offer far more customized services/products the consumers.

For Indian democracy, this a great opportunity for interacting better with the people. The incumbent governments stand to gain the most by connecting to the voters directly, redressing most problems would be an impossible task but letting the people take a glimpse of the working of the government can actually instill much greater confidence of the people in the government. In fact, the opportunities are immense, if the Ministers, bureaucrats and legislators are willing to come of the time warp and connect to the people. Instead of trying to discourage Shashi Tharoor, they should actually be encouraging other Ministers and spokespersons (as well as issuing- DOs and DONTs lists) to use the power of the Web 2.0 to strengthen democracy.


Posted By danish Ahmed 9:02 PM