Posted by: gowrisivaprasad | November 2, 2007

Google’s OpenSocial: Automation of social networks?

Dan Farber, David Berlind et al, Robert Scoble and others have pointed out many aspects – technical and strategic – of Google’s OpenSocial. There is one aspect that hasn’t been explored yet: automation.

Till now you had to register and build your profiles one by one in each of the various social networks. This is quite tedious and unless you are a dedicated “socialite” and had friends in every network you didn’t take the trouble.

But now, with the availability of a single API that can read and write profile and friend data, you can build an application that reads data from one network and propagate that to the other networks. It could even replicate the social graph. Does this mean that membership numbers wont matter much anymore, since you could potentially be a member of all participating networks with the click of a button. Automation?

Of course this depends on how far does the OpenSocial API itself allows access to reading and writing profile data.

Profiles and memberships are sacred to the networks. Would they allow applications to be able to do CRUD operations on memberships and profiles?

It will be interesting to watch how the API grows.

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Posted by: gowrisivaprasad | November 1, 2007

Apathy in society

I read an interesting article in Economic Times today about problems with banks recovering payment from loan defaulters.

Recently there has been a spate of incidents where banks have used horrible means to try to recover money from loan defaulters. They have sent goondas and musclemen to the customer’s house, threatened them, and even in one case went to their kid’s school to threaten. In a couple of extreme cases, two people couldn’t take the harassment anymore and committed suicide. Few people filed lawsuits and one of them went to the Supreme Court. The court took a very strict view against the banks and they ruled that its illegal for banks to use force or aggression to try to recover their loans. They also instructed police to arrest the CEO of any bank/company that indulges in such behavior. Following this apparently banks have tried to be more careful.

But see where the apathy in society has led to now: apparently now there is an increasing trend that people have started threating banks that if they ask to repay the loan they will commit suicide or file a case that they are being harassed! This newspaper article talked about a major bank CEO getting a letter from a borrower threating that he will commit suicide and site the CEO as the reason. Jeez… The court tries to do the right thing by the people and the greed in our society exploits that to its gain. What is the bank supposed to do now? They are now in a tight spot, no doubt.

This is akin to many of the rural folks now beginning to “expect” subsidies and loan writeoffs. Few times the government bails out farmers and poor people in the villages by writing off their bank loans. Now I heard that many of these people are deliberately getting loans with an idea to never repay, expecting the govt to subsidize their greed. This just means bad debt (aka “loss”) to the banks. Many banks have now become very reluctant to lend to these guys. Can’t blame them… Problem with our society is that people have no sense of self-discipline or integrity.

One way to solve this problem for banks is to introduce a credit scoring/rating system and consequences for a low credit score. The US has had such a system in place and personally I really like the fact that you are made responsible for your financial actions or inactions. I am glad to see that the Indian govt is thinking about doing a similar thing through CRISIL and has even called for RFPs. The biggest problem I see in doing this is that there is no unique way to identify everyone. There is no social security number concept. The PAN card is one idea in that direction, but thats only for tax payers/filers (and there are enough people who have built an illegal “collection” of PAN cards for themselves) at the moment. What we can do is extend the PAN card to everyone – give one to every child being born from now on. The challenge is to do this across one billion people, a majority of them in villages where the concept of using a card will take time to reach. But we have to start at some point… It might take a generation to reach and teach everyone, but we will get there. Didn’t we give voter ID cards to mostly everyone with a reasonable amount of success? Since it has far more penetration than the PAN card, maybe we can extend its use as a national ID card/number for all financial, political and other transactions.

A pre-requisite for becoming a developed country is a uniform way to identifying and tracking people and their transactions, not for being a big brother but for compliance.

Posted by: gowrisivaprasad | November 1, 2007

Almost got ripped off

I was looking to buy a Digital SLR and found a good deal on the net. Infact it was too good a deal. I was looking for Canon 400D (aka XTi) which usually sells for close to $600 for body only and bestpricecamera.com was selling it for $269. I thought it sounded a bit of too much of a good thing. I kept watching the site for few days and surprisingly the price kept falling every few days. That didn’t sound right.

Then I did some digging for reviews about this site and found that they are major bait-n-switchers and even worse, many people reported that their credit card numbers were stolen and fraudulent purchases made on it in the next few days. The website has been reported as a fraud to BBB etc. There is too much evidence pointing to bad things about bestpricecamera.

Lesson learnt is to stick to major merchants and research the website if you are new to it.

Posted by: gowrisivaprasad | October 31, 2007

What is this “feed” business?

If you are new to blogs and someone you know sends you a link to his blog, you go to the page and read it the first time. Then you might be wondering “how do I know when is this fellow going to write again? Will he send me a mail everytime he writes an entry or should I visit the site everyday to see if he has written anything”. Not really. You do not need to go to their website everyday (go visit if you want to), nor do they need to email you everytime.

This is where “feeds” come in. Its like this: you get snail mail everyday that the mailman (or postman, depending on which part of the world you are reading this) puts it into your mailbox. Imagine you had a helper who goes to the mailbo, gets all the posts of the day and then drops it in your table. All you got to do is go to your table whenever you want and then read the posts. Blog Feeds are the same thing. Each blog generates “something” that is available to your helper to “go get”. In the blog world, the table where you read your posts is a piece of software called “feed reader”, which essentially goes and gets all the posts that you are interested in and keeps it ready for you to read. So all you got to do is setup the reader once (like telling your helper to get the posts from a particular mailbox) and then blog entries start showing up in the feed reader. If you wanted to read multiple blogs (like to multiple mailboxes where you might get snail mail), all you do is setup all of them in your feedreader (akin to asking your helper to get posts from multiple mailboxes and putting them all on a single table).

There are many feedreader software, mainly in two types. Those that you have to install in your computer and the other which are just websites (which you visit to read all the blogs you are interested in). The browser based ones are the easiest to use for a beginner – no software to buy, install or maintain. There are two great browser based feedreaders – Bloglines and Google Reader. The sites are pretty easy to use. You need an email account to setup bloglines, and you need a gmail or Google account for setting up Google Reader.

BBC has a nice introductory article on feeds and reading news using feeds. You can read it here.

Posted by: gowrisivaprasad | October 31, 2007

e-wallet

Few months ago I bought a new phone – HTC Touch – powered by Windows Mobile Pocket PC Version 6. Its a great phone with lot of features and a small form factor. The only thing I miss is a real keyboard – it only has a small on-screen one that you have to tap-type with a tiny stylus.

Being a full fledged PDA phone, I have been looking for some good software to load. I bought SPB Pocket Phone Suite a couple of months ago; its perfect for the purpose I got it for (speed dial and contact management from the home screen). I am planning to buy e-Wallet from Ilium Soft next. It has a desktop and a mobile component that syns with each other.

Posted by: gowrisivaprasad | October 6, 2007

Can we avoid problems in life?

Can we avoid problems in life? I mean, by not confronting a problem will it go away?

But I see many instances in daily life where people have either chosen to ignore or consciously go out of the way or take deliberate action to avoid some problems. It doesn’t happen for all problems, some of us are loathe to deal with certain or certain kind of problems. In almost all cases people know they have to face realities at some point.

Isn’t this like procrastination? Putting off doing something is no different from putting off dealing with a situation.

We see this in business situations commonly. Delaying confronting a problem employee, or not bringing up a quality issue to the attention of our managers etc. Sometimes these problems go away – a problem employee could decide to quit!

Are you avoiding any problems in your own life? How are you ultimately planning to deal with it?

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