No. 2 – Life in the Blue Nowhere


So it was a tough choice to figure what should rank as my second best post in the top 5. Should it be the post I had about Sachin Tendulkar? Should it be about data security in Broken Window? Should be about treating everyone equally in Everybody counts or nobody counts? However given the relevance to the environment and the context, I chose this.

Came across a banner for Idea Cellular the other day. Cant put the precise words but what it essentially said was that if you have more friends on  your social networks than in real world.. click on the link. Pretty much sums up the thought behind the post too.

Check out some of the amazing articles at the end. tips and tricks for status messages on Facebook.. how now to be hated on facebook.. Hell.. where are we headed if we are seeking ways of not to be hated on facebook.

“Real friends are the one who survive the transitions between the address books… Phone diary to Yahoo to Gmail to Orkut to Live & Facebook… so all those who are here on FB in my friends list… You are the REAL one’s :)”

I need to give credits to two people before I go ahead with the post.

First is Mr Jeffrey Deaver for his novel – The Blue Nowhere. I read it couple of days back and I think its one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Second is my very close friend.. “REAL friend” actually Anshul Punhani.. for the quote at the beginning of the post. It was his status message yesterday on FB and it truly is an insight as to how social relationships are evolving today.

We all know the world is changing or rather it’s moving… from real world to the Blue Nowhere…. Blue Nowhere is a term coined by Mr Deaver for cyberspace. Juxtapose that with Anhsul’s comment and you will know what I am talking about.

We dont live in the real world anymore. We are the connected generation (generation here is not about an age group but about people who spend more time over the mobile phone or a lap top or PC than in the real physical world).

Back in the old days (no mobile phones or net connectivity) we had few friends because there were only so many people one could meet physically. The first few mins of the conversation used to be spent on checking up what the other person has been up to (no constant checks on the status up dates on FB or Twitter) and then spending time together. Of course lives were also much more laid back in those days. Socializing was the biggest form of entertainment. Nothing much on TV, cinema was down in the dumps and there is only so much you could do with the family.

But today, we live a life that does not have time. Time for family… time for friends (physical life)… Time to watch TV or time to socialize.

Our lives are spent in the Blue Nowhere. We are constantly wired and connected. We have over a hundred friends on an average and we dont have to meet them to know what they are up to. Just check the status message. And of course the lil chat pop windows help in knowing more personal stuff (e-mail too)

It’s the real world for us… the lines are really blurred. Anything and everything is available online… Virtual of course but our communication skills have improved and we can paint virtal pictures that are real. And as Anshul said it unknowingly… thats the real life. People are not known by names… but by their e-mail ids or by the nics… and pictures… and where they feature on the contact list (google chat feature which lists most commonly contacted people up on the list).

Second life is a prime example of how we are creating our own world… Being what we never would be in a physical world… If it was not true, we would not see proliferation of brands being part of the Second Life.

I bet in many cases, a couple probably has more conversation online or over the phone than actual life… given the amount of quality time that is actually spent together…

Many schools have also wisened up to this fact. I may not be home to check what homework my kids have for the day so I can log into the school site and figure out the homework… call up the kids and ensure they finish that by the time I reach home…

Brands are going to lose out if they think that the only way to connect with this reality is just to be present online. There is a huge opportunity which presents itself to the brands which believe that the only way to make the brand be the integral part of their consumer’s life is to involve the consumer in the process of creation – co-create. And The Blue Nowhere is the best way to reach out the specific audience and make them part of the brand.

All of the above sounds exciting… and so cutting edge and modern… but sometime I wonder… is it really meaningful? a hug emoticon can never ever replace the emotions attached to a real hug… the joy or the pleasure that a real smile can give, can never be replaced by an emoticon… Can it? 

Our attention spans are getting Twitterized… we are losing connect with our human side (we believe that we are still connected but hell! we are not)

Every single day we get more and more engulfed by the Nowhere. We post pictures of our vacation… post pictures of the new born… its great when the distances can be collapsed online… but tell me… can anything ever replace the joy of holding that new born in our own hands and congratulating the parents?

There is opportunity here too for the brands. Give me that connect… give me the emotions that I dont feel anymore… genuine emotion not depicted by an emoticon. Do not get confused in the chase of SEOs and lose touch with reality.

Embrace the change but do not lose yourself in the change… in the Blue Nowhere…

No. 3 – Privacy would be a new luxury


So this is the post I have decided would be the number 3 in my top 5. I had written this post last year and one year down the line I feel it is definitely going to happen. We are living in a world where we have seriously started craving for that private space… as an individual and as a family unit. Of course the majority still is going ahead and making their lives as public as it can get. But technology is truly getting invasive. The other day when I saw the Adroid application of layar which lets me see what a person is tweeting or what is he updating as status message on Facebook through a map on the phone, I was aghast! The application showed where the person was tweeting or updating from.. right down to the building where the person was.. scary. Well.. once the excitement dies down, we would be scurrying to delete, cover up and do anything to get anonymous again. Wont help though because what you put on line.. stays there forever….

And thanks to the help from wordpress, there are very relevant articles at the bottom of the post now….

Luxury products are usually very expensive and affordable by a very few… the reason they are luxury and command a premium.

The way the world is going… soon there will be a new product which is going to be the ultimate luxury. And it is called privacy.

In the age of information explosion (and we ourselves add so much to that), nothing is hidden from anyone who wants to know more about us. If anything, we encourage information to be available about every waking (or sleeping) moment about us.

Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, MySpace, blogs, slideshare…. the list goes on… We are on display… or let me rephrase… we have put ourselves on display. Of course, most of it has been need driven… part of the social need set. But as we are slowly finding out… what goes on the web.. never really disappears. It would probably be there forever… in some form or the other… All the privacy issues that Facebook faced a while back… the furore was not so much about profiles not being deleted… it was about the future… and I will come to that later… The point is that we have taken this social interaction to a level where nothing.. well almost nothing is private… if it is not visible on the homepage or profile, it is visible in a text box of a mobile phone… in chat or e-mail… Nothing is hidden…

While this is what we do… there are organizations that are profiling us… banks, hospitality, mobile service providers, insurance… you name any organization… and they have a profile on their customers. In some cases we feel proud that they have a profile while in other cases it is an irritant…

And I also know that most recruitment consultants, the moment they get a resume, they get on the LinkedIn and all networking sites to check out the candidate! scary huh? people better watch it what they put up on ‘social’ networking sites and how much time they spend over there…

And trust me… while Google Voice is sounding so exciting right now… can you imagine the wealth of information that Google would get about your communication habits?

In one of my earlier posts – “Life in the Blue Nowhere” I had touched upon the fact that the more we are wired, the less is likely to be the privacy we would have… and it is true…

Now this is the case for a common man… celebrities too indulge in giving out very private information about themselves – case in point a little snippet I read about Angelina Jolie badgering Brad Pitt about the burial plot… Geez! And then the celebrities have issues with papparazzi chasing them! If you hang yourself out to dry… how can you complain about people knowing everything about you….

Slowly but surely… we are going to reach a stage when there will be a slew of products which would promise to protect your privacy… And these wont be just of the firewall type… they would be lot more complicated (and expensive) provide ways to erase a whole lot of stuff (stuff which sounded great when it was being posted or put up) from the web. Isolation is going to be packaged and sold (and there would be people who would buy!) and would be sold at exhorbitant prices… We would be craving for isolation… we would be ready to pay top dollar for it…

Letting go of all the gadgets and equipment is going to be tough (there would probably be de-addiction centers for that… for mobile phones there already are…) but we are going to surely try…

We try even now… couple of days away from it all… I know of a friend who had put up a message on facebook that he would not be responding to anything for a week and the comments he got… made for some interesting reading…

I bet there are organizations already working on such products… if anything they are right now feeding this whole “connect” frenzy so that when the time is ripe… there ‘isolation’ product would generate the kind of demand that would surpass the mania that was witnessed for iPhone…

At No. 5 – The list of my top 5 posts


So the following is my first post on wordpress. It was in April 2009. And the reason it features in top 5… well because it was the very first one. And also it probably set the trend for me to grumble about all thing social media. Or to rephrase.. just grumble about everything…

As an add on.. check out the related articles listed at the bottom. Just reaffirm the point made in the post.

“My first Blog out here on wordpress and read this info about how the moment I click on the publish button, I will feature right on top in terms of recent posts and this  application, service or whatever its called…has got people really excited!

SEOs and sneaky ways to get on top of search results. Getting all and sundry to  added on your LinkedIn, Facebook and so on (people actually run campaigns to get people on their network).

We have just taken our skills of finding the easy way out for social recognition from the real world… to the web. I know of people who actually choose what kind of people and what kind of profiles should get reflected on their network (sounds familiar huh? which party to be seen at and with whom).

Why cant we be good at what we do and a google or a yahoo will ensure that we are top of the searches?? The other day I was speaking at a conference and one of the speakers also said that whoever tries to sell you an SEO strategy is talking a lot of BS!

We look for SEOs because they are shortcuts! (supposedly).

We need to be active on social media and tell the world in detail every minute of our lives (ok not every minute or most status updates would get censored). Do i really care about 10 bengali recipes appearing one after the other as status updates? Do i care about someone adding picture one by one for every one to see!! (why cant pictures be only for the people who would know and can comment about them!)

Grumble grumble grumble… thats how my first blog out here is. Hopefully something more meaningful the next time”

 

The “Twit” Generation


Read in the paper today about PC (Priyanka Chopra) being back in Mumbai. And how she kept her fans(?) informed about Pondicherry and how her bags were packed and how she was happy to be back in Mumbai. And the point of all this is??

Another one – RGV (Ram Gopal Verma) complimenting KJo (Karan Johar) about the title of his to be released movie and KJo responding to the compliment.

And then about  how the film stars complimented Saina Nehwal through Twitter.

Not to mention AB (Amitabh Bachchan) persuading AK (Aamir Khan) to be part of the Twit Frat. And Delhi Times (or was it HT) actually doing an article to figure out what the handle should be for Aamir. Talk about paucity of news!

I must confess that I had also tried being part of the twit frat (now I can’t even remember my handle or the password) but always at a loss as to what should I type in those 140 characters. Gave up. Was actually shocked that I was stuck for words…

It is, I am sure old news but the “twit” generation is not about age… AB is there and my daughter’s friend (all of 10 also knows about twitter). It is about how you can manipulate letters and compress your thoughts (so those thoughts or actions or whatever are not too profound or interesting to begin with)  to fit the specified number of characters. Not to forget the fact that there  should be enough that you want to share with the whole world (besides the point that the world itself wants to share and doesn’t have time for your sharing). If two people are talking at the same time… then who does the listening?

I guess one could go on and on about how people want to put everything on display or to show how they are part of the ‘with it” 140 character crowd. But seriously why? What satisfaction one gets by mutilating the language?

And more importantly if one is constantly updating the status on facebook and actually syncing it to twitter, then what really is the point of it all? When the lines dividing the mediums get blurred, one needs to question the need or necessity for one or the other. I am all for media melding (or mashing.. whatever is the term currently being used for medium integration) but help me with the context and relevance.

As I have said in the past, if used well enough, these can be tools for making a significant difference to the media environment… but can we have substance please… instead of  ‘twit’terizing (read trivializing) everything?

I am not a dinosaur as a friend of mine keeps telling me nor am I averse to the changing communication environment but I do believe that if anything kills language and expression… not worth it. (I am probably part of the rare group who actively use the T9 function of the handsets for text messaging).

Does it really matter?


So yet again media created the hype and then moved on.  The whatshisname ex cop who was the breaking news or the unbreaking news has disappeared from the pages of the newspapers and from the channels. I don’t remember his name and I bet many others also do not remember.

Shiv Sena got some mileage with all  its empty threats and helped MNIK (ever noticed that most of Karan Johar movies get into these short ones so quickly) enough for the producer and the investors to start thinking if they can beat 3 Idiots. Sometimes I wonder if this whole shindig about not letting the movie release was a marketing gimmick… a la Wag the Dog… Media went to town.. Kabir Bedi was pretty much saying the same things across channels. Some wierdo from Shiv Sena was fighting with him with pretty much the same language across channels… And yeah Rahul Gandhi got some great mileage too (I bet he has got some very sharp PR brain managing his perception strategy)

The whole thing about racism and attacks and killing of Indians in Australia and threatening postures by the government… seriously if they really want to protect Indians… how about protecting them first in India itself! there are worse attacks that happen on Indians in India but these attacks are more often than not two column articles on the city page or sensationalized on Aaj Tak or India TV… nobody cares

These stories and many more… they happen and disappear.. catering to the shortening attention span of people who are logged in to digital media – channels, websites, social media networks… Media moves on because we move on. We don’t have the time or the inclination to stop and ponder…

Been reading yet another book by my favorite author Mr Michael Connelly – The Scarecrow.  Jack the lead character who works with LA Times is getting pink slipped because we now consume news as and when it happens.. in real time and correspondents who are expert in uploading the story instantly are the ones who run the newspaper… The depth be damned… its all about getting the two lines in right now… Because that is all that is read. (people actually spend more time reading the status messages on facebook and twitter than reading newspaper)

Wonder how the scenario would be ummm 5 years from now… all the day’s news crammed into character lengths less than 160 characters?

I am now probably old school who likes to read and read in depth and not 160 characters. I don’t want to just read the scroll at the bottom of the screen about whats happening in the world while the images on the screen are something really meaningless… Wonder if there is anyone in the media who wants audience or readers like me? I guess not. Because they are chasing the mindsets that are driven by status messages… videos and downloads…

So nope it doesn’t really matter what me or people like me think. We have stopped being the target audience probably 5 years back…

News and lives of people have just become a snippet to be addressed and archived…

The window needs to be shut


It has been a while that I have posted anything. Work pressures and many other pressures. Been meaning to write this one for quite sometime now.

Read this book called “The Broken Window” by an author who is soon turning into one of my favorites – Mr Jeffrey Deavers.

At one level it is a gripping read and at another level, it is an indictment of the new culture that web access has spawned in terms of virtual lives taking over from real lives and more importantly, every little piece of information gets stored deep down in some server and then is mined to build a profile on the individual.

Any organization can build extensive profiles  and can have access to the most intimate details basis the purchase that a person makes using a debit/credit card or shopping online or essentially any activity that involves a transaction which is connected and if you read the book, it will send a chill up your spine. You can read more about the book at:

http://www.jefferydeaver.com/Novels_/Broken/broken.html

But the reason for this post… almost like a continuation of earlier posts about “Life in Blue Nowhere” and how “Privacy would be a new luxury”… we are reaching a point where everything that we do and a whole lot of that is online can be captured and used to build our profile. And that profile can be used by corporates to target their offerings. It can be used strategically to modify our behaviour. And it can be used for some really dangerous stuff as mentioned in the book.

I have really started wondering if  “going off the grid”  is a concept whose time has come. The way things are, using a debit card or a credit card may not be very prudent. Can you imagine, you buy a whole lot of stuff and pay through cards (wonder how many have noticed that at the cash counter, while the card gets swiped for transaction, it also gets swiped into the outlet database), the cross tabs of what you have bought can be very informative to a data miner.

Staying endlessly on facebook, twittering and everything else to be socially active on the web would soon lead to people knowing everything about you. Read another book by Mr Deavers and it uses what we say on social networking sites and as comments on various blogs to create a scenario where nothing is private. A person with a little elevated skills of data mining can unearth so many  things that it is scary… your fears, your passions, your insecurities… it is all there for everyone to see.

Rambling of course,  but I do believe that sanity is required in terms of how we use our conveniences and more important, there needs to be a control on how data mining is used. Till that happens, I am going to figure out ways of slowly dropping off the grid.

Privacy would soon be a new luxury


Luxury products are usually very expensive and affordable by a very few… the reason they are luxury and command a premium.

The way the world is going… soon there will be a new product which is going to be the ultimate luxury. And it is called privacy.

In the age of information explosion (and we ourselves add so much to that), nothing is hidden from anyone who wants to know more about us. If anything, we encourage information to be available about every waking (or sleeping) moment about us.

Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, MySpace, blogs, slideshare…. the list goes on… We are on display… or let me rephrase… we have put ourselves on display. Of course, most of it has been need driven… part of the social need set. But as we are slowly finding out… what goes on the web.. never really disappears. It would probably be there forever… in some form or the other… All the privacy issues that Facebook faced a while back… the furore was not so much about profiles not being deleted… it was about the future… and I will come to that later… The point is that we have taken this social interaction to a level where nothing.. well almost nothing is private… if it is not visible on the homepage or profile, it is visible in a text box of a mobile phone… in chat or e-mail… Nothing is hidden…

While this is what we do… there are organizations that are profiling us… banks, hospitality, mobile service providers, insurance… you name any organization… and they have a profile on their customers. In some cases we feel proud that they have a profile while in other cases it is an irritant…

And I also know that most recruitment consultants, the moment they get a resume, they get on the LinkedIn and all networking sites to check out the candidate! scary huh? people better watch it what they put up on ‘social’ networking sites and how much time they spend over there…

And trust me… while Google Voice is sounding so exciting right now… can you imagine the wealth of information that Google would get about your communication habits?

In one of my earlier posts – “Life in the Blue Nowhere” I had touched upon the fact that the more we are wired, the less is likely to be the privacy we would have… and it is true…

Now this is the case for a common man… celebrities too indulge in giving out very private information about themselves – case in point a little snippet I read about Angelina Jolie badgering Brad Pitt about the burial plot… Geez! And then the celebrities have issues with papparazzi chasing them! If you hang yourself out to dry… how can you complain about people knowing everything about you….

Slowly but surely… we are going to reach a stage when there will be a slew of products which would promise to protect your privacy… And these wont be just of the firewall type… they would be lot more complicated (and expensive) provide ways to erase a whole lot of stuff (stuff which sounded great when it was being posted or put up) from the web. Isolation is going to be packaged and sold (and there would be people who would buy!) and would be sold at exhorbitant prices… We would be craving for isolation… we would be ready to pay top dollar for it…

Letting go of all the gadgets and equipment is going to be tough (there would probably be de-addiction centers for that… for mobile phones there already are…) but we are going to surely try…

We try even now… couple of days away from it all… I know of a friend who had put up a message on facebook that he would not be responding to anything for a week and the comments he got… made for some interesting reading…

I bet there are organizations already working on such products… if anything they are right now feeding this whole “connect” frenzy so that when the time is ripe… there ‘isolation’ product would generate the kind of demand that would surpass the mania that was witnessed for iPhone…