Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for September 2010

Today I attended a developer conference organized by Intel Software. It gave lot of insights into Intel’s future roadmap (micro-architectures / multi-core innovations etc.,).

However, the highlight of this conference was a keynote speech by Mr. Ramkumar Kothandaraman (Director, Microsoft Technology Center, Bengalooru, India). His topic was “Innovation in IT Sector”.

Image Courtesy: http://www.microsoft.com/india/

During this keynote address, Ramkumar spoke in detail about many trends in IT industry today and advised how developers should change their thinking from traditional to modern devices / modes / ways of application access. I have added my complete (but unstructured) notes from this event  here –> https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1AmsOzTKUYrSmXFr41MRqGzncAES2xeujIfUrp07U46I&hl=en (Excuse typo errors please).

The interesting part about this speech was, it was not based on any template. Ramkumar had a very unique design for his slides and an unusual style of presentation. No boring buzz words, Lots of quotes, nice pictures, simple examples which even your great grand father would have understood … Crowd simply loved it. I would say its one of the best presentations I have seen in last couple of years!

Another unique thing about this session was, there were book recommendations in almost every slide titled “Book Worth Reading”. For example if a slide talks about new gadgets for application access, in the bottom right corner of that slide, a related book appeared with its cover. Ramkumar didn’t talk anything about those books or tried to impress us with his readership qualities, He just kept them there so that people interested can note down and hunt for those books later.

I don’t know about others, I sure made a note of them. Here is the list, in case you are interested:

  1. The E Myth Revisited – Michael E Gerber
  2. The Innovator’s Solution – Clayton M Christensen & Michael E Raynor
  3. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
  4. From Concept to Consumer – Phil Baker
  5. Joel On Software – Joel Spolsky
  6. Everything is Miscellaneous – David Weinberger
  7. From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur – Stephanie Chandler
  8. Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos – Sandy Berger
  9. A Project design to UX Design – Russ Unger, Carolyn Chandler
  10. The Art of Innovation – Thomas Kelley
  11. The Cathedral & The Bazaar – Eric S. Raymond
  12. The Wisdom Of Crowd – James Surowiecki
  13. Crowdsourcing – Jeff Howe
  14. Who wants to end a list at an unlucky number? This is a dummy entry to make it lucky 😉

Mr. Ramkumar Kothandaraman’s Blog –> http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ramkoth/

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N. Chokkan …

27 09 2010

When you suffer from a head ache, do you frown a lot?

I do. A head ache affects all my daily plans / schedules / deliverables / deadlines and more. It violently drains the energy and positive attitude out of my mind and I can’t think of / work on anything else till the pain goes away completely. So I am usually in a bad mood when head ache hits me and bite the heads off anyone who dares to come nearby.

Fortunately, I have some good friends who advice me what to do during a head ache. Their suggestions range from ‘Go for a strong black coffee’ to ‘Listen to songs composed in Raaga Gowri Manohari. It soothes your brain.’

Of course, they all mean well. But winning a war with head ache is not that easy. Mainly because, the enemy is not outside.

Yesterday, I had one of those surprise head ache attacks and was in a real foul mood. My daughter gathered the courage to reach me out and ask ‘How is your headache?’

Before I could jump and bite her, she continued ‘My Yoga teacher told me that you should smile a lot. Then your head ache will go away!’

Smile? When Head ache attacks you? She must be joking!

But my daughter insisted I should smile and the head ache will vanish magically. I took her advice and tried. It helped me to forget the pain. But not sure if it cured the head ache itself.

Today (after the head ache is gone), I decided to search for more information on the relationship between Head ache and Smile. I was curious if smiling can solve such a painful problem.

Surprise! My daughter’s teacher was NOT joking. Smiling seems to be a proven cure for head ache. Really!

(Image Courtesy: Comedy_Nose

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23408922@N07/3297852550/ & http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ignorance_is_bliss_-_shortbread_cookie_with_a_smile.jpg)

According to the articles / books I referred to, we get head ache when platelets in our blood group together and stretch the sides of our brain’s blood vessels. When this happens, we face extreme pain in the region above / around the eyes.

Now, if we frown, those blood vessels will be squeezed (try it!). This puts extra pressure on the platelets inside and the pain increases.

On the other hand, if we smile, it relaxes the blood vessels, and slowly the head ache should go away. Smiling also releases a chemical called ‘endorphin’, which is known to reduce the head ache related pain.

Of course, there are many types of head aches and smiling can’t be the only treatment. But its cheap and more important, it spreads good energy around you, which may be the ultimate cure!

(033)

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N. Chokkan …

24 09 2010

This is supposed to be an “information age”. But we all know it has become information-overload-age long back.

With many types of media fighting for public’s attention, it is very difficult to determine what might be the best way to reach out to people. When we have something to say, should we directly Email it to interested parties? Or a hand-written note by post will help? Perhaps ask a print magazine to cover this? What about a TV Channel? Youtube video at least? What about social media? A nice facebook message, or a twitter update goes a long way, Isn’t it?

The fact is no one can answer this question with total confidence. With so many Emails, social network updates, instant chat messages, newspaper articles, magazine features, TV / radio programs and more, people are hard pressed for time and nobody knows what they would read and what they would reject.

But fortunately for us, good old Darwin Theory still holds good. Remember? Survival of the fittest!*

Few days back, a Stanford student by name Feross Aboukhadijeh launched a new search engine called “YouTube Instant”. It offers real time search on YouTube videos and plays your favorite video instantly as you type the search phrase. He announced this new search engine using a news website.

Ideally, we would expect such messages to get lost in the internet info-maze. Afterall, hundreds of developers are launching thousands of new applications everyday. Hence a new product / service / application differentiating itself and grabbing user attention is next to impossible.

But in spite of this ‘reality’, Feross’s “YouTube Instant” became a big hit within couple of days of its launch. People used it heavily, forwarded the link to their friends, wrote about it in their blogs, shared the link in social networks. Overnight Feross has got hundreds of (unpaid) marketers making his new application popular.

Reason? Simple! It was a real value-add extension to YouTube and Users simply loved it. They wanted everyone to use this tool and many became its unofficial brand ambassadors. Word spread thro’ multiple channels and apparently, Feross got a message from CEO of YouTube Chad Hurley “Loving YouTube Instant. Want a Job?”

So, Darwin Theory is proven yet again – Survival of the fittest (app)!

We can apply this logic to our CRM++ Extensions, projects, even simple web pages that we create – Is our App fit enough? Is it adding real value to its users and deserves to survive?

* Contrary to popular belief, It is not Charles Darwin who coined this term. Google for “Herbert Spencer”

(032)

 

When I read about William Frank Buckley Jr first, I couldn’t really comprehend what sort of personality he is (was). He is supposed to be an author, But the kind of books he wrote varied from politics to history to spy novels. Then he is known as a television host / commentator. A former CIA Man, Founder of a famous magazine, participated in many debates, gave some wonderful quotations about various political, social issues and much more.

In this small, but well researched book Jeremy Lott discusses William Buckley from another angle: His faith!

To quote from the book itself "He (William Buckley) believed that god, family and country – in that order – demanded our unswerving loyalty". This book tries to approach his story from this perspective and analyze how faith shaped his public life.

To be frank, I have never read a biography which approaches only a slice of someone’s life. So I was little confused whether this book will give me a complete picture. After reading the book, I was proved wrong – Within the 140+ pages, Author has managed to give a pretty good picture of William F Buckley with specific focus on ‘faith’. A very interesting read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Last couple of weeks I was delivering a training session for a team of CRM Solution Architects and Business Analysts. These people interact with clients on a regular basis, designing functional / technical solutions to solve their business problems.

During one of the breaks, a participant gave me an interesting scenario. ‘My client shares the same problem to two different consultants. We both are using the same technology. But we arrive at different solutions. Can that be right?’

Of course, it can be right. Business problems are not objective questions which can be addressed with one or two word answers. Different thought processes can lead to different solutions. As long as they solve the original issue, we should be happy with multiple solutions to the same problem, Isn’t it?

My student was not convinced. His argument was that ‘If same problem can have multiple solutions, how can we have a structured way of analyzing a problem / move towards resolving it? Won’t it be an unreliable / ad hoc process?’

I could see that he was assuming problem solving as a pure science. When we start looking at it as an art instead, we will be able to digest the creative design process, instead of a guided / template based approach. Famous Poet / Translator A. K. Ramanujam talks about this in a wonderful story:

In Ancient China, there was a great mountain. People living around this mountain found it very difficult to climb up and down to reach the other side. Emperor of that country decided to build a tunnel boring the mountain.

A team of Engineers were identified to do this job. They prepared a plan and decided to start working on both sides of the mountain.

This means, two different teams will start making tunnels from opposite sides of the mountain. After sometime, they will meet in the center, creating a single, long tunnel.

Wormhole

(Image Courtesy: Vkramer – Stock Exchange http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1255864)

But the Emperor was not happy with this plan. His doubt was ‘What if they don’t meet?’

Engineers answered, ‘If they don’t meet, then we will have two tunnels instead of one!’

(031)

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N. Chokkan …

10 09 2010

Few years back I had to conduct a training course in Tokyo. This was the first time I was visiting a country where English was given the second (or third or ninety ninth) priority. Everyone spoke Japanese, wrote Japanese, read Japanese, even smiled Japanese. You absolutely can’t communicate with anyone if you don’t know the local language here.

Because of this, I was really afraid to leave my hotel room. I decided to spend all my free time locked inside, reading the books I carried from India.

But everyday morning I had to go to office. I tried to take a taxi on day 1. But couldn’t explain the address / route to the driver. He did some roundabouts before finding the client office for me.

When I spoke to a gentleman there, he told me that the hotel I am staying is quite close to that office. He showed me the route. He asked me to walk to office instead of taking a cab, and save some money.

I decided to take his advice. Not to save money, but to save myself from the conversations(?) with cab drivers.

From day 2 onwards, I walked to the office everyday. It took less than 10 minutes and I could enjoy the city view without the need to talk to anyone.

During the next two weeks, Other than the (English) conversations in office, I never spoke to anyone for anything. Only during the second weekend, I gathered the courage to buy a train ticket and went to some tourist places far away from my hotel.

On that day, I visited a museum which had some fascinating exhibits about Japanese history and culture. Also, the friendliness of Japanese people made me like them a lot, eventho’ we couldn’t exchange any words between us.

After returning to India, I spoke to one of my friends who also visited Japan recently, I was surprised to find he had similar thoughts about Japanese. We both wanted to understand them better, and somehow communicate with them.

Of course, we never got an opportunity to visit Japan again. But whenever I read any news items or articles about Japan, I think of those days in Tokyo, there was something attractive about Japanese which I couldn’t make out – sort of a mystery novel whose last page (or the last paragraph) is written in an unknown language.

Last week I got a book titled "Grandpa Cherry Blossom and other folktales from Japan". This is a collection of folk stories from Japan, collected and translated / retold by Hema Pande. She has lived in Japan, learnt Japanese language and you could see it in the simple, yet effective style with which she has done the translation. Keiko Tsuji’s illustrations transform these stories to an uniquely-Japanese experience.

image

Thanks to my daughter who needs a story to go with every meal, I read lot of stories, especially fairy tales / folk tales. Many of the story themes in this book I have already heard or read somewhere in some other format. But yet, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Mainly because it gave a snapshot of life in Japan (at least ancient Japan) and there were no language barriers this time.

Similar to many other folk traditions, these Japanese stories are full of Good Vs Bad, people treating others well getting the rewards they deserve, punishment to greedy people etc., Sometimes you feel themes repeating. For example three stories in this volume "Tongue-cut Sparrow", "Why the sea is salty" and "Grandpa Cherry Blossom" can be merged into a single story, because of the way good people and bad people are portrayed in them and what they gain by being good or bad.

Of course, this is not a big drawback because the target readers for this book (age group: 11 to 14 years) would love reading these stories in simple language, with pleasant layout (By the way, wonderful choice of font, Or is it handwritten?) and bright, detailed watercolors.

According to me the best story in this volume is "Greatest Mountain". A Famous wrestler in Japan decides to tease a fat girl. But she catches the wrestler between her arm and body and drags him to the nearby mountain. There they meet the mother of the fat girl, and this mother is carrying a cow. She looks at the famous wrestler and says ‘Poor Weak man!"

You can read rest of the story in the book 😉

(Grandpa Cherry Blossom and other folktales from Japan – Hema Pande / Keiko Tsuji – Pratham Books – Rs 75/-)

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N. Chokkan …

09 09 2010

New York Times Bestselling Author Andy Andrews has recently written a book called ‘The Butterfly Effect’ (Which I have reviewed here). The same book is also available in a colourful kids’ book format titled ‘The Boy Who Changed The World’.

In this book Andy takes the example of Norman Borlaug. He won the nobel prize for his inventions in the field of agriculture which saved many lives.

But this book doesn’t talk about his scientific achievements. Instead it focuses on who else where responsible for Norman’s success. For example his immediate boss who gave him the encouragement and financial support for his inventions.

Then, even this immediate boss was not a self-made fellow. Someone helped him in his childhood to create this interest on nature. Even that someone had help from someone else … and so on.

You get the idea. By illustrating the story of Norman, Andy Andrews proves that even the tiniest of our actions do matter and we can change the world. Philip Hurst’s full color illustrations make this a delightful reading for everyone, not just for kids.

One negative part is, the book (along with its main book ‘The Butterfly Effect’) focuses on male characters only. Aren’t there any girls who changed / are changing the world? Expecting a follow-up book from Andy Andrews!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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