Naga Chokkanathan

Christmas is around the corner. We see Christmas theme in everything: Stores, paper advertisements, websites and so on.

Unlike many other popular festivals, there are tons of books about Christmas. Most of them are not religious in nature, they capture different slices of this festival and the way it is celebrated.

Eric Dana Hansen’s “Ian, CEO, North Pole” is a novel about Ian, an elf working for Santa.

Yes, Santa maintains a large facility in North Pole where many elves are working and Ian is one of them. He is a hard-worker, but finds it difficult to fit in any department there. He keeps switching from one place to other.

After couple of iterations, he finds the right job for him matching his strengths, interests. But before long, he is forced to switch again, but this time it is a positive switch.

Eric Dana Hansen has taken this simple story and given it a very pleasant treatment. After a few pages, you feel like sitting with Ian all the time, understanding his thoughts, working hard with him, trying to learn everything about Christmas and Santa.

Yes, the novel manages to pack lot of information about Christmas without boring the readers. I wouldn’t call it a business novel as it doesn’t provide any ‘lessons’ explicitly, but it does gives you a lot to think about your own life, career.

Looking forward to read more stories of Ian!

You can read more about this book here: http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/shelves/book.php?id=30201

I must admit that I bought this book (Saint George: Rusty Knight and Monster Tamer) mainly for its cover. It looked so good (like a comics book cover), I wanted to find out what’s inside.

This book is a collection of funny short stories about Saint George: a strange character who sleeps for a week and then works(!) for a week, taming monsters.

Yes, it is a dangerous job; but George has a secret weapon against those monsters which help him tame them easily. Everyone respects him because of this unique skill, and he is recruited by the King, as a minister for the Environment.

But, what is that secret weapon and how did George get it? You should read the book to find out, at least the first chapter. After that I am sure you will complete rest of the chapters: George may have his own (funny) weaknesses, but he manages to win every challenge thrown at him.

While John Powell’s wonderful, comical descriptions of each character make it an enjoyable read. The text is easy to follow for the target audience, illustrations accompanying the text are simple and neat.

George is not a contemporary character. But, the author intelligently uses modern descriptions and examples to describe the ancient world. This style suits this book because of its humorous nature.

One word of caution: You need to have some background about England, its counties to understand some of the jokes. My daughter (12 years) found it difficult to follow.

You can read more about this book here: http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/shelves/book.php?id=88763

I learnt about Haiku poems in my college days. Their short form and the unique way of expressing everyday moments was fascinating. I even tried writing few Haiku poems in Tamil. I sent one of them to my favourite writer Sujatha and asked him, ‘do you think this fits under the Haiku Grammar?’

Why should I ask this question to Sujatha?

He wrote a fantastic book on Haiku. So, I wanted to know if I had understood it right.

Sujatha sent a simple response, ‘If you had actually experienced what you had written in this poem, it is Haiku. Else, it is not.’

Jack Cantwell’s book “Life Expressed in 25 Words or Less” brought back those memories of Haiku writing.

Technically speaking, Jack’s poems can’t be called Haikus, because they don’t fit the meter for Haiku. But, he has set up his own rule (25 words or less) for writing these poems. Even though the meter is different, the impact created by these poems remains the same.

A few people run away the moment you mention ‘poetry’ to them. But Jack’s poems will keep them hooked because they are so small, simple and straightforward. But at the same time, you will have a lot to think after reading them. They will remind you some incident from your own life, and you will start writing your own word picture (an excellent term I found in the book.)

Jack has shared the background stories about how some of the poems in the book were written. I liked them, but reading poems directly (without the background stories) was a better experience!

You can read more about this book here: http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/shelves/book.php?id=88810

I started reading ‘The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy‘ mainly because I love Japanese Fairy Tales. I have visited Japan once and liked the people. Even though life was fast-moving (I only saw the cities), most of the people I met had very relaxed personalities and interacted with others with care and affection.

While this book is not a fairy tale, the blurb gave me a similar feel-good experience that I usually feel when I read anything about Japan. Claire Youmans has done an excellent job capturing that spirit and creating a thrilling story around it.

In fact, this story starts with shades of another fairy tale (about straw hats) I had read earlier, and it keeps repeating throughout the story in different ways. This is mainly a good Vs bad fight and talks about kind souls who help the protagonists in their mission, However, it doesn’t stop there, both kids and adults can enjoy it. The story weaves details about Japan culture nicely, providing enough introduction to readers from other countries.

One aspect I liked about the novel: it has many moments which are kind-of short stories or experiences which are enjoyable on their own. For example, the episode about the lucky straw that the Sparrow-Boy gets.

I loved the first part and will look forward to reading the second part. Thank you!

You can read more about this book here: http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/shelves/book.php?id=93932

Our office canteen serves fantastic filter coffee, made fresh (by a human being) in front of our eyes. We had to cross many miles (and tolerate horrible machine coffees) in this journey before we reached this destination.

1024px-Filter_coffee_South_Indian_style

Today, a Beverage Services Company has taken over the coffee section of our canteen, and they are serving filter coffee (and few other beverages, but who cares about them!). It is a free demo, and they are collecting feedback from employees so that they can pitch for a long-term service.

I walked in few minutes back, they asked me for my choice (strong, with milk, without sugar) and served it promptly. I sat at a table and tried to judge its aroma.

Immediately, a feedback form was thrown at me. ‘Sir, can you please share your feedback about the coffee?’

Mistake #1: I haven’t even experienced the coffee yet. Why ask for a feedback NOW? Why not wait for few minutes, till I finish half of the cup at least?

This may sound like a small error. But in reality, it can be a SERIOUS problem: I tried the first few sips of the coffee, it was average, So I gave them a “3” rating (out of 5) and returned the feedback sheet.

Guess what, after few more sips, I actually liked the coffee. I would have given a “5” rating (or at least “4”) if they gave the form little later.

Another example of ‘bad timing’ in feedback: Ola and Uber. They both are collecting immediate feedback after a taxi trip is completed. But, ONLY if you open their app.

Usually, when do people open these apps?

When they have to take a new trip. Right?

So, I take a trip on Monday, Open the app again on Friday, and you are asking me to provide feedback about the Monday Trip? Wierd!

Guess what; I HAVE TO fill a feedback for Monday trip before I book my Friday trip. So I just fill something that comes to my mind and move on. That’s all.

So, Uber and Ola end up getting a lot of feedback, But will it be realistic? I guess not.

Coming back to my filter coffee, the feedback form given was too short (just three questions), but they wasted a full A4 sheet for that, with nothing printed on the back side.

Even those questions were too generic: “Would you recommend our coffee to your office?” and the answers were Yes and No.

Come on, Where is the “maybe” option? That’s what I wanted to select. Many people may not be able to make a decision based on one cup of coffee. In fact, I wrote “maybe” in the sheet and picked it.

I know companies want Yes or No answers. But then, don’t try to put your customers on Black and White buckets. You need to include few shades of gray in between.

Also, when you are serving employees of an IT company, Why not send a Google Forms (or equivalent) feedback link to them (via office admin) so that you can get all the feedback in one place quickly? Why waste paper and manpower? (someone has to consolidate those feedback sheets and calculate the overall feedback, it can take couple of hours)

Of course, I agree that getting the feedback then and there is likely to be much more realistic. In that case, I would expect them to carry tablets, give it to folks for filling it out.

“More” supermarkets have an excellent “Feedback Panel” in the checkout area. After they bill and collect money, they ask you to touch it and provide the feedback. These buttons are in English AND Kannada. Excellent execution:

  • Simple & Quick Feedback form (But, Only one question: in case of checkout experience, it may be okay!)
  • Right form factor (No paper, No Email, No Tablet, Just click a button and you are done)
  • Feedback Linked to the checkout clerk (Supermarket knows who was on the table when you filled the feedback; So it can be linked to an individual’s performance)
  • Right time (They ask for feedback AFTER the checkout process is completed)
  • Immediate update to their database (I assume this is the case, Most likely, all these feedback panels will be talking to a cloud database)

Customer feedback is important. But it needs careful design at every level for it to be realistic and useful.

***

N. Chokkan …

02 06 2016

Image Courtesy: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/42/Filter_coffee_South_Indian_style.JPG

Recently I started reading/ researching heavily on what we eat. After years of eating whatever I like, I felt this is the right time to understand what I eat and how it helps (or doesn’t help) me stay healthy.

So, This Horlicks Immunity IndiBlogger Meet was a pleasant surprise. It had an expert presentation (By Ms. Jill Castle) and a panel discussion with many other experts, topics revolving around what is important for building immunity.

The session was sponsored by Horlicks and hence most of the topics were around children. But I guess everyone would’ve benefited from the discussions, as adults (at least in India) too eat irresponsibly. So, it is important we understand and balance what we eat. The talk by Ms. Jill Castle and the panel discussion gave many statistics/ insights on this account.

This was followed by a fun quiz. It had some easy/some VERY difficult questions. Our team scored 5.5/7, While the winners scored 7/7.

But no worries, we got yummy (and (hopefully “Balanced” :)) dinner and couple of Horlicks packs as return gift! Thanks Horlicks and IndiBlogger for organizing this useful event. Looking forward to the follow-up discussions.

Started using Grammarly few weeks back. Very impressive solution with excellent user experience. Much better than MS Word: I am amazed by some of the grammar/ usage errors it catches by using the context right, Wondering how a software can “think” like a human!!

Another good part: it explains why certain usage is wrong and how to correct it, along with beautiful, simple examples.

Strongly recommended!

http://gram.ly/hjJN

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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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