Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for June 2010

Ever observed a husband and wife pair (or colleagues / brothers / sisters) who talk the same way? Even their body language seem to match each other perfectly.

We can understand the brothers / sisters part, there may be some genes in action. But what about Colleagues? Why do they seem to mimic each other so much?

The answer, seems to be “Mirror Neurons”. These are part of our brain, which learn from others, and make us imitate them. They are the prime reason we yawn when somebody else in the same room does.

Just a few minutes back, when you read the word ‘yawn’ in this post, you felt like yawning, didn’t you? Be honest 😉

It’s not your mistake, Mirror neurons are in action again, they can control us even when we just read about someone doing something. That’s why when you are reading a thriller, you feel as if a serial murderer is behind your back.

Research on Mirror neurons is not complete yet, Scientists are still experimenting, learning new stuff, making discoveries. But the basic fact about these, is clear: Because of these special grey cells, we tend to follow what others are doing, unintentionally.

When I read this, I had a scary thought – a mirror wouldn’t know what is in front of it and just reflect it as it is, If our brain acts the same way, won’t we be (unintentionally of course) copying both good and bad things from others?

For example, if I copy someone else’s accent, or body language, or the way they hold a pen etc., there is no harm. What if I start copying their bad attitudes? Worst, I will start spreading those attitudes to others around me and it may become a hopeless cycle.

Worst, these mirror neurons could be creativity-killers. Let us say I am a writer, and I read a fantastic novel, Unknowingly I may start following a similar pattern / structure for my next story (I am not talking about intentional copying here 😉

This can happen for non-artists also. A programmer may have the mirror images of all code structures / designs he / she saw over all these years, and they could make him / her go in a circle, repeat the same thing again and again, trying to solve new problems with old solutions. In that case, everyone thinks the same way and getting out-of-the-box solutions could become very difficult.

Fortunately, the same Mirror neurons seem to provide us a solution to this problem. When you watch creative people / new ideas on a regular basis (preferably around you, in your own workplace) then we start mirroring the same creative-thought-process. When this happens all over a company, that’s where creativity becomes part of the culture and not something we need to force / struggle for.

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N. Chokkan …

25 06 2010

Remember Ice creams?

Who doesn’t? It’s one of the rare treats that everyone (well, almost everyone) enjoys, from binary-age children to senior citizens. It brings a smile to anyone’s lips.

Now, a company has decided to twist the tale, and come-up with a Smile-activated Ice cream vending machine. SapientNitro & Unilever has created this innovative technology, which senses people’s faces, and measures their smiles, There is a unique smile-o-meter software, which measures how big is your smile, and if its big enough, you get an ice cream for free.

Read more about this innovative product here –> http://www.sapient.com/en-us/SapientNitro/Work.html#/?project=157

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N. Chokkan …

24 06 2010

Picture this – You are a violinist, playing a very complex composition in front of thousands of fans and critics. Suddenly one of the strings in your violin breaks. What would you do?

This is exactly what happened to Midori Gotō. A very gifted musician born in Japan, famous all over the world for her exceptional talent.

(Image Source / Copyright: http://www.associatedentertainment.com/aec/images/main/Midori-Goto.jpg)

At the tender age of 11, Midori debuted on stage. Very soon, many composers and music concertmasters started praising her as a prodigy. She was known for learning fast and playing even the most complex compositions effortlessly.

In 1986, she was performing at Tanglewood. It was a difficult piece composed and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. In the middle of performance, her E-String Broke.

Most of us would have frozen like a deer in front of headlights. But Midori didn’t think too much of this accident. Without a blink, she borrowed the violin of the concertmaster and continued playing, as if nothing had happened.

This new violin was much bigger for 14 year old Midori, but she didn’t care, all she wanted was, completing the performance without any flaws.

After few minutes, another accident. Once again, Midori broke E-String in this new violin also. She had to borrow another (big) violin from associate concertmaster to continue her performance.

When she finished playing that complex piece in her third violin, everybody gave her a standing ovation. New York Times praised her with a front-page article titled ‘Girl Conquers Tanglewood With 3 Violins’.

I believe Midori’s story has a powerful message for all of us. We can treat our work as a concert, and the resources (men, machines, material) that we use to complete this work as violins. When Midori’s violin broke, she didn’t complain, she was ready to adjust to a new, wrong-sized violin, changed the way she plays and made exceptional music with whatever was available at that time. She was concentrating only on things she can do to excel in her field, without worrying about other factors that are not in her control. Isn’t it the real sign of talent?

(019)

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N. Chokkan …

18 06 2010

Today I attended a developer conference conducted by Samsung, Recently they have launched their new OS called ‘bada’ (not the hindhi ‘bada’, In Korean ‘bada’ means Ocean :). The first ‘bada’ phone will be available on Indian market in next few weeks, Its going to be called ‘Samsung Wave’.

In this developer conference, Samsung technology evangelists from India and Korea (including the brain behind ‘bada’, Mr. Justin Hong) conducted 15 sessions in which they shared lot of useful information about bada, developing applications for bada and selling applications. So much info in just 8 hours, It was really fascinating!

To develop applications in bada, you need to use their SDK and write code in C/C++, The IDE used currently is Eclipse, and development support is available only for Windows XP as of now. In future they may support development of bada apps in Linux and other OSes.

As Samsung is a late entrant in this Mobile OS / Apps Market, they want developers to help them by building lot of useful apps for them. In return, they pay developers 70% of revenues from their apps, They have even launched a contest for bada Mobile Apps, with cash awards worth 2.7 Million USD. Looks like India is the country with maximum entries in this contest – There is still time, in case you want to join: http://developer.bada.com/challenge/

I am attaching the notes from today’s session here. Few warnings before you click the link:

  1. Kindly excuse typo errors, grammatical mistakes, wrong statement constructs and  every other possible errors  – I had to type very fast 🙂
  2. I didn’t get any of the Korean names right, Almost all of them are wrong – If anyone has access to this Agenda as a soft copy, Please let me know and I will correct them asap
  3. This is NOT an official document – If any info is wrong, the mistake is entirely mine.

http://docs.google.com/View?id=dd8b27s9_25gfvncjhk

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N. Chokkan …

14 06 2010

A short collection of “Meetup” groups in and around Bangalore – These groups meet on a regular basis (mostly, once every month) and interested can share / learn a lot:

Bangalore MySQL & PHP Group: http://mysql.meetup.com/166/

Bangalore LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) Group: http://lampsoftware.meetup.com/5/

Bangalore MySQL Group: http://www.meetup.com/bang-mysql/

Bangalore iPhone Developers Group: http://www.meetup.com/Bangalore-iPhone-Developers-Entrepreneurs-meetup/

Bangalore iPhone Apps Idea Bank: http://www.meetup.com/iPhone-Apps-idea-bank/

Bangalore PHP Developers Group: http://www.meetup.com/Bangalore-PHP-Users/

Bangalore Android Developers Group: http://www.meetup.com/blrdroid/

Bangalore TechWriters Group: http://techwriter.meetup.com/2/

This list only contains software development oriented groups. For a generic list, refer to this URL: http://www.meetup.com/find/in/bangalore/?gj=ej32

Came across an interesting iPhone application called “At a Boy!” (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/at-a-boy/id371156872?mt=8)

This is a very simple software – It randomly picks a ‘compliment’ for you and displays it. For example “You look great today”, “Well done”, “You are a genius” etc.,

That’s all?

Yes. Research says we are happy when we hear nice words about ourselves, even if it comes from a total stranger, or a software program which just compliments us without knowing anything about us. You can read more about how this application came into existence in this article: http://danariely.com/2010/06/10/a-fun-new-iphone-app-at-a-boy/

This gives us a simple, yet powerful idea. Why not maintain a “Praise List”?

Everyday, we get so many Emails from colleagues / friends / customers / others. Because of this information overload, just in a matter of days, these Emails go to the bottom of our inboxes and quietly forgotten. This includes those mails which ‘praise’ us for a job well done – It may be completion of a program / report ontime, or exceptional quality on some deliverable, or a great presentation, or remembering someone’s birthday. These digital praises may pep us for a minute, and then they are lost in the ocean of Emails.

(Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Thumbs_up_by_Wakalani.jpg)

Why not maintain a “Praise List”? It may be a simple document in our desktop (or better, on the web in Google Docs / MS Office Live), Where we copy paste (or type) every praise we get from different people, with few basic details. For example:

Date: 10th June 2010

Mode: Email

Praise From: Mr. XYZ

Praise Text: “Great Report. I presented it to the customer and everyone loved it. Thanks for the great job.”

Like this, we can document all the Email Praises, telephone praises and face-to-face ‘Attaboy!’s from various people. Pretty soon, it will become our own “Praise List”.

But hei, what purpose it serves?

Not much, as of now. But later, when you are feeling down for any reason, I am sure this will make a great reading. It will remind us the instances when we did something right, and motivate us – Exactly like “At a Boy!” does, in a more personal, realistic manner, because these praises are real, not random / software generated!

(018)

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N. Chokkan …

11 06 2010

Recently I was attending a conference where they played a beautiful advertisement. The product / brand advertised was BlackBerry, But it really doesn’t matter because the Ad was all about Like Vs Love. It was more like a concept / culture which can be applied to any job / task / product / company / individual.

After the conference I did some googling and found it in http://writeherheart.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/blackberry-ad/ . Here you go:

Like is watered-down love.
Like is mediocre.
Like is the wishy-washy emotion of the content.

Athletes don’t do it for the like of a sport.
Artists don’t suffer for the like of art.
There is no “I like NY” T-shirt.
And Romeo didn’t just like Juliet.

Love. Now that’s powerful stuff.

Love changes things.
Upsets things.
Conquers things.
Love is at the root of everything good that has ever happened and will ever happen.

This poem(?) can change the way we look at our work (professional, or personal). For example, when I am writing a software program, or preparing a report, or dancing to rhythm, or preparing “Aloo Paratha”, Am I just liking it, Or, loving it? This can (and will) make a great, positive difference in my output!

(017)

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N. Chokkan …

04 06 2010


Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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