Friday, March 22, 2013

News Junkie

I think I have a problem. I think I am an addict. News is my drug and Internet my dealer. 

I don't know why but I always feel like updating myself about what is going around the world every few minutes otherwise I feel restless. And what other mode could be more useful today to achieve that other than using the World Wide Web. Spending even a single day without the internet seems like getting lost.

Reading news is not the main problem but getting tangled in it and spending hours on it is my problem. And this thing really scares me sometimes. Let me explain by giving an example. There was recently this row over Italian marines in India. Just going to a website like BBC and reading the related article should ideally do the job. But, not for me. No, Sir. This is not enough information for me. I will not stop and move on with another article. I will keeping digging into the article, dissecting it piece by piece, doing a postmortem on it word by word till the point that either I get tired or bored or the Internet stop giving me any further information (this rarely happens) or I suddenly realize and ask myself, Are you crazy? Do you really need all this information? Will it help you anyway in your life? 

The thing is that I want to know everything, I want to know every opinion before making my own opinion. So, I will read the same news piece on maybe 10 different places. Like what or how the American media has written it, what is the opinion of the Indian media, what German media has to say about it, how the Europeans react to it. The madness just does not stop there. It leads to a kind of chained reaction. A random word/ting in the article will catch my attention about which my knowledge is limited. Then, I would try to google it or check it on Wikipedia to get an idea. A link explaining it would contain further links. Then I would go checking all of them out. If my appetite is not satisfied by wasting spending enough time on it, I would then go to Google Images and try to find its images. Continuing with the Italian article example, I further tried to find out what really is a marine. Then how are they recruited in Italy. Is it similar to the marines in the US. Does India also have a marine recruitment process. What are the differences, how different do they appear in reality. My curiosity just does not seem to stop at any practical level.

Another example from yesterday. I read a simple article that the brother of that Sri Lankan guy, Rajaratnam (who was earlier found guilty of fraud) was also indicted on charges of insider trading. But that did not seemed enough for me. It let me google the guy out on Google Images. Then, reading even more about the story like how did they started, where did they started, who were the players involved in that scam. The chain continued by googling more on Anil Kmar, Rajiv Goel, Rajat Gupta and even Roomy Khan. How they look, where they are from, what they studied, where they studied, whom they worked for, are they married, where are their families, what are they doing etc. I just cant stop myself, it seems. The point where I was listening to the wire taped conversation of Rajaratnam, I realized I was not in my right senses. 

I asked myself if knowing all this would help me in anyway or if it was even necessary. I am not a journalist, I don't own a media house, I am not the chief editor of any of Murdoch's many news houses. I am a simple person working in the domain of R&D in Communication Systems which has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above not just by miles or kms but by a million light years. No matter how hard I try not to waste my time on things which I have no control over or which might not be affecting me directly, but still like a junkie, I am just not able to let it go. Hope this madness has an end to it .... soon.      

Friday, March 15, 2013

A chirp ... The Twitter

I work in the field of Research and Technology and it keeps amazing me with its wonders quite regularly. To some extent I can understand the mystery around new Technologies and its evolution but the human influence around it particularly in these times is something which fascinates me beyond limits.

One of the many children of modern Technology is Twitter. The place where it has reached today is pretty unbelievable. I wanted to praise and rant about it today at the same time.

Imagine a start-up with a few people you can count on your hands coming up with an initiative. The initiative is to allow people to broadcast 140 characters at a time on a website. It is a fairly simple thought and a pretty non-trivial idea (at least for me). It was a project named twttr. That was year 2006.

In about one year, the project turned into a full blown company called Twitter. A new term was conceived called microblogging to define its genre. Today, Twitter is one of the 10 most visited websites on Internet with more than 500 million users, generating revenue in the range of three digit million USDs and employing more than a 1000 people. This is year 2012. It is definitely a commendable feat without an iota of doubt. There are few companies I have seen or heard in my lifespan which has grown at this rate. You don't see such things happening every day in your life.

I personally cam to know about Twitter in 2007 and like many other ignorant people and investors rejected it completely at that time, I did the same. I has just finished my Master's Degree and started working. I still remember very clearly a photo of about 6-7 people grinning away as the team behind this venture on a website. I tried to explore it, learn its working and idea and found the whole thing a waste of time. I said to myself that who the hell in this world would be interested and have the time to know what others are doing in real time. Time, proved me otherwise.

I feel dragged on opposite ends when thinking about the use of this free online service. At one end of the spectrum, I feel that it is quite useful in communicating new ideas, links, news with people. It is a fast way to spread the word among your group. It is a good way for celebrities/organizations to keep in touch with their fans and for the fans to follow them. It serves as a good platform to promote yourself, your product, your ideas etc. 

There is absolutely no doubt that the features offered by this online service can be useful to many but then after reaching a point, I feel dragged by the negativity of this service and drag me into thinking many questions without satisfying answers. 

1. One of the biggest angst I have with Twitter is that I lost a lot of good bloggers whom I followed left blogging completely and started twitting. They started writing smart ass one liners and all the good content they could have generated never came up. It might be possible for a teenager to keep updating themselves every minute on their phone or tablet but for a working person like me is just not possible. You loose interest since you fall back on the tweets and then at one point give up forever.

2. I can accept that maybe for some people, keeping track of what their favorite celebrity/organization is doing. I can even accept that they need to know when and where they are going, when they are eating, when they visit the loo etc but does it really make sense to know what your best pal is doing by the minute? Does it not generate the need to show-off and materialize everything around you? Does it not generate a plastic life? Does it not generate a wannabe like culture? I read a study recently which showed that more than 50% of the content on Twitter is pointless babble!

3. Then it invites all the money sharks. Market researchers start hunting for the latest trends generated by the content on Twitter. To some extent that is good from technology point of view to understand the desires, needs and the thoughts of the society but then again after reaching a point it again starts becoming fake. Questions come up like whether the content generated is authentic? Was it generated by real and active accounts or just bogus ids? Were those people even sensible enough or just simple dumb? You or your product get paid more just because you have a long list of followers? Who checks how many of them are authentic and not just one time clicks? Does it not create an environment of more unreliability and non-trust around?

I can go on and on but I don't feel like doing it since it will not change anything. Maybe these and even more points must have discussed before by many other people but I had to take it out personally somewhere and what better place than my blog.