Eureka! I now understand how to use the social networking tools!

I have not been much of a believer in social networking online. One of the main reasons for this has been the fact that I work in an online startup. Since I spend over 10hrs a day staring at a computer screen, I really dont feel like going home and doing another 2-3 hrs just to connect with people. Secondly, I was (and still am!) quite happy with my current social networking mechanism (namely the telephone and email). I do not feel the urge to communicate my every single thought, whim, photo, book and movie to my friends circle. I also focus a lot on what I do at work and find personal communication during the day a distraction.

But over a year now I have been slowly adopting selected aspects of the “social network” and have come to the realization that there is a lot of utility even for someone like me. So here is how I use the various tools:

  • LinkedIn: I use linkedIn to maintain my professional network. Most of the people I work with are on this network and it helps me keep uptodate on career moves and changes. I also use to identify people within this network who could potentially help us fill positions that we have or give us some domain expertise. However, unlike most other folk, I am quite selective about who I add to the network.
  • Facebook: I began using facebook at work in order to understand this community and dropped off once I moved to another project. Facebook has been incredibly useful in helping me connect with people whom I talk to perhaps once a year. I am now connected to a bunch of my italian friends and am able to keep up with them at a very low bandwith level. So I log on about once a month on average and catch up with whats been going on. Another purpose I use facebook for is to get reading recommendations. I find the iRead app one of the most useful on facebook.
  • Twitter: This micro blogging tool has been a recent addition to my toolbox. This was the one I really couldnt understand how to use for my lifestyle. Finally, I figured it out: I use it for the same situations where I would send out an email to a bunch of people about an article I read or a joke I found funny or a movie that was great: a low importance personal spam. I also use it as a blog spam filter: most bloggers post their headlines on twitter and I can then decide whether to read the post or not. I also mostly consume twitter content via a desktop application rather than on their website… but no, I dont have an iphone on which I read and post constant twitter updates!
  • Friendfeed: This tool is new to me and I am still trying to figure it out. It claims to aggregate most of your online presence (on all those other sites including those mentioned above) and provide a single place to learn whats going on as well as keep in touch.

The one thing I have NOT used the above tools for is meeting new people. Perhaps the reasons for that are I am not in sales (and hence dont need to keep actively seeking new business contacts), I am married (and hence not looking for a mate) and I have lived in the same area for 6 years (and hence have a moderately well established social circle).

Nevertheless, I am quite convinced now of the value of these tools for pretty much anyone be they complete extroverts and social butterflies to being a recluse. These tools allow me to tend to my social circle at my pace and on my time and definitely enriching my life!

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Fractal Antennas and cell phones

If you recall from about 15 years ago, cell phones and car phones all had large antennas that you typically pulled out before making a phone call. Here is one such phone picture.

cell phone with a long antenna

Nowadays, cellphones and car phones dont seems to have such long antennas So where did these antennas go? Did we get technology that makes a phone work without an antenna? Thats not possible just yet.

What happened was that the fractal antennas were invented. The key feature of an antenna is its shape and the strength and quality of the signal received is a function of the length of the antenna. So the larger the antenna, the better the reception. How fractal antennas solve the problem is that they are made up of a shape that repeats it self (a fractal). Hence for a given length, a fractal antenna because of its folded self similar design occupies a very small amount of area. In fact, the shape of these antennas are commonly called “space filling curves”. Hence we are able to get a very long antenna in the smallest amount of space possible. This is the reason we dont need long external antennas. The antenna is built into the body of the phone.

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Fractal antennas also have one other significant advantage. In various countries, cell phones operate in different bands of the radio spectrum. Cell phone manufacturers were faced with the need to build multiple antennas in order to make their phones work in these countries. However by taking a shape that can receive multiple bands and then replicating that into a fractal antenna, they are now able to make compact multi-band phone without significant increase in space.

Google’s secret to advertising dominance

Search and Advertising are the two most important product segments at Google. Search is the basis of the company and the reason for most users to come to Google. Advertising is the means through which those users are monetized. Though they were not the first, Google successfully developed and implemented text advertising in such a way that it was easily accessible to small advertisers. AdWords, the advertising system they developed is simple and hence consequently very powerful. Based on an auction model, you can bid as low as 5 cents for a keyword and run a simple text ad that will be displayed when a user searches for something similar to your keyword.

This enabled advertisers of all sizes to enter the advertising market where before they had a large barrier to entry. Most small companies do not have the large budgets needed to hire ad agencies and creative studios to develop advertising. Yet with adwords you can now run a successful campaign with just a couple of people. Text ads also provide a more efficient mechanism for advertising since the advertisers are matched very closely to the consumers, using the keywords the consumer typed. And finally, adwords provides the advertisers with a fine level of control and access to analytics to give them a never before seen level of understanding of how their consumers are interacting with their advertising.

So here is the secret in a nutshell: Allow a large number of advertisers (of all sizes) access to a large number of consumers, make the ads highly relevant and give the advertisers full control.

Using this strategy Google has come to dominate the text ad market and is bringing this same level of access, relevance and control to the online display ad market (with the acquisition of doubleclick) as well as the print, radio and TV markets. Hence I predict that Google will, within the next 5 years, dominate all forms of advertising and I look forward to oncoming advertising revolution!

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The Google Android Phone: Clunky as a brick?

Recently I got to see a google android phone.  I am sorry to say that I was un-impressed.  Given Google’s well known penchant for simplicity and usability in design, I expected a phone that at the very least was usable.  My first opinion was “its clunky as a brick!”.  This couldnt have been designed by google.  Since google only made the platform, my guess was that the design shop employed by the phone manufacturer, HTC, didnt really do a good job.  My friend, who owned the phone and works closely with telcos told me that google had extensive design oversight since this was the launch vehicle for the platform.

When I then heard about needing a google account to do most things on the phone, I was even more surprised.  Isnt  this supposed to be an open platform for folks to write applications and such… if so we should be able to use any authentication mechanism.

From a usability perspective, I had some irritants.. the screen not changing orientation as I turn the phone…this is one of the most common ways in which I read stuff on the iphone when there is lots of text.  The icons werent as bright and clear as the iphone.

However, one place where this phone beats the iphone is that it does work as a phone.  Compared to the dropped calls and other horror stories reported by most folks and on this blog, nobody seems to have problems making phone calls on this phone!!

So I would say this phone is a good start and hopefully the next revs will focus a lot more on design.. at the same time I hope there is tremendous acceptance of the platform for applications.  Maybe this will be phone that will want me to switch from my ages old clam shell phone and enter the new world of 3G touch screen, gps enabled phones.

Multi Bloggers:The many faces of a blogger (and Facebook are you listening?)

I recently began to notice a new (in my noob opinion) phenom.  I thought most people had “a” blog where they spilled their guts out on all their thoughts, ideas, happening and hopes.  Not so!! Given that people have many different facets to their personality, I found that their were creating a blog for each facet.  So you have a cooking blog where folks write about the recipes they made and the restaurants they went to, a travel blog where their travels are recounted in detail with picture, a professional blog where they project a persona that will help them in job searches, and so on.  I wonder what the average number of blogs per person is?  this will probably indicate how many different facets there are to most people’s personalities.

I dont know how they get time to write for all these blogs, but they do.  My second thought was “Why arent they doing this on Facebook?”:  but it seems like the blog format and organization has a significant appeal.  I think Facebook is missing an opportunity here for helping folks collect their thoughts and organize them on their facebook profile.  Facebook:are you listening?

Well I gotta get crankin on those 3 other blogs… look for additions on the blogroll!!

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The new mobile web: what will change

Recently I read an article on the Economist that detailed the growth rate of mobile usage in the developing world including China and India.  Of particular interest was the observation that many people in these countries will only access the Internet  via mobile phones.  That led me to thinking about a world where more people are accessing the internet via these small screen devices.  Will the Web be the same?  How will the pages change?  Here are some possibilities:

  1. No large images on the pages that will not easily fit within the small screen.  The small screen size will be used as the standard to create the thumbnail of images.
  2. Pages will be organized top to bottom rather than wide (this is already happening as a matter of style)
  3. Pages will be much shorter and will be more organized into mobile screen sized nuggets.
  4. Less typing and more point-and-click interfaces in the applications since typing will never be that easy on a small device (though I have seen many fast thumb typers!)
  5. More text to audio or embedded audio versions of pages for people to automatically listen to pages rather than read them
  6. Use of text messages for purchase confirmation, identity verification

IPhone troubles

In a previous post about the iphone, I questioned the reasoning behind buying a device that did not serve its primary purpose of enabling communication.  It appears now that I am vindicated since my co-worker, much to his chagrin, had to confess that his iphone has crashed and rebooted numerous times due to the instability of the applications.  Even BusinessWeek recently reported that the iphone was “more fun than phone” with lots of people reporting problems from activation to  application failure to most popular complaint of dropped calls.  In that story, one user who was expecting a baby started carrying two phones so that he wouldnt miss the all important call to rush to the hospital.

To me this is all a little ironical since I am actually a fan of Apple products.  I used their powerbook for years and have never found another laptop as good (I am pushing my current employers to buy me a mac as well).  But I think while the Iphone is a great product, its not a great phone and call me simple, but you wont see me buying one until it actually works well as a phone.