Tale of 2 Fora : Proto.in, BarCamp Bangalore 4

Last weekend, proto.in at IIT, Madras. Organized in great detail, 22 finalists (Zook amongst them) and a a dozen and some more VCs. Crisp 6 minute presentations, lots of interactions with the investor community and a humid tho not unpleasant by its usual standards Chennai. The meet was more focused towards goals of attracting investors, partners and potential employees, and creating some buzz about one's product or offering. In that order. For me it also turned into a great opportunity to stretch my recently renovated car's legs on an excellent highway - whose primary drawback seems to be the lack of good refuelling stops - for both the car and the occupants - between Krishnagiri and Kancheepuram.

Proto's first day was a little bit of a lost cause from our point of view. We never really got to know (about) the other participants - and the real networking had to be compressed into the few hours after the main presentations on day-2.

And I cannot take Chennai's stuffiness, even though the IIT campus was amazingly pretty; this when the weather very pleasant if the Chennaites protestations are to be believed :)

Yesterday and today : Barcamp Bangalore 4. This was the hugest crowd BCB has ever seen - over 650 registrations on day1 by someone's reckoning. All the usual suspects were around, plus a whole lot of first timers, including non techies. The event was "federated" into collectives, and there were plenty, including an unBand and a cycling collective. The low ratio of rooms:collectives ensured a good amount of confusion, and we missed out on making one of our presentations.

We also "world-premiered" Zook tees at this event :D

Sunday saw better sessions - I loved the enthu of the pakd.net guys, and offered them some advice. The semantics session by the guys from Brainwave was interesting and has many parallels to what we're doing at Ziva - with of course a different dataset and scale focus.

Also met this guy from Swajana.com - this is a video blog capturing India on film. Its a very interesting start - could become a very comprehensive source to "see India". Maybe I could do something while at Jamshedpur - the Durga Puja celebrations will be on in full swing then.

Finally met Kiruba - one of the bigger blogging names in India - and he interviewed Ashwin of Mapunity and then me. Seemed very clear about how to wrap up a podcast in 10 mins flat.

My friend from college, Indus, also did a session on EC2 which a lot many were curious about.

We did our presentation about why Mobile Search needs fresh thinking and a non-incremental effort over "regular" websearch on day 1. However, I was a little dissapointed with the low interest in the mobile collective overall (especially as compared to BCB3) and especially with the level of participation from the audience. Last time around we could hardly stop the questions' flow - and had to nearly "split" the room into two or three parts to engage the 80+ crowd in there. There were less than a third of those this time, and it was mostly a monologue, except for some interesting questions from just 2 guys.
Was it because the session was not about features and usage (we didnt want to plug Zook too much again) but a tech-oriented discussion ?

Anyhow, I'm sure the tees ensured some visibility, and the opportunity to see and understand the numerous new things that are happening in the Indian startup and tech scene was worth a sacrificed weekend. And the lovely weather Bangalore charmed everyone with yet again just highlighted the contrast with the previous Chennai weekend. Proto.in will need to happen in Blore too, soon :)

Growth, Zook, Hiring

There's lots happening at work. Zook's past its infancy, and its new clothes are almost done. Its friendlier, and more useful. Can't say much more :)

But as is wont with the buzz, there's growth. And we're doing 27 exciting things at the same time. So the hunt for like minded souls who're excited by the possibilities of the mobile space, and keen to work on tougher-than-nuts problems. Here's some of what we need with all the buzzwords included :
  • Sr Engineering Manager/Architect (design, dev, processes, gyaan)
  • Marketing, for both Manas as well as Zook (product/mkt/customers related "MBA" work)
  • Account Managers (We have many customers!)
  • Build and Support, Performance Engineer
  • Lead and other Geeks for the Community Platform (scale, distributed, graphs)
  • Search Engineer for, well, the Search Core!
  • IR (not the railways kind) Gurus for extraction stuff
  • Java gurus
  • Data Mining Experts
  • UI/UE/Scripting whizzes. Rber, lotsa new-fangled mobile fundaes. Even on SMS!
Whew. If we crack all of that, we'll be in an awesome place. The market's a little too hot and we just need to get soooo many things out of the door.

See you all at BarCamp over the weekend. Please do drop me a line at get - dot - sameer - AHT - gmail if you think Ziva's interesting enough.

MS Live Shady Search Gains

Technology Review: No dumb clucks: Microsoft boosts search share with chicken game

MS tends to get into such news rather easily. No figures on the chicken-free queries yet.

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Google is an Angel

contentSutra.com - India's Digital News Monitor - Google Joins Band Of Angels In India

Does this make things easier or tougher for startups which have functional overlap with big G ? If you're starting out with an idea, you probably don't want G/Y/M to latch on to it early - they may do it later anyhow but you have a fighting chance...

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Whose context [ ads ] ?

There's a whole bunch of efforts out there around independent contextual-ads platforms - on the phone, on the web. By definition, these create a context from the content they attach the ad to, and deliver an appropriate one (after ensuring relevance, monetization priority and hopefully some amount of distribution fairness).

Here's a thought to ponder upon : how many clicks happen because of forwarded links, how many uninteresting mails does one receive, and how often have you seen pesky messages SMS'd to you ? Even amongst the "interesting" ones, arent there many which you are curious about, but by no yardstick would they figure in your "interests" list - and definitely not as a consumer!

What else counts ?
  • Your history. The stuff you generally do - over years, and over the last season. Are you a traveller, shopper, movie junkie, gizmo fan ?
  • Your interest patterns. Do you eat out at "big" places about twice a month ? A weekend vacation every 3 ?
  • Your social patterns. {Wraps}
  • Your self image. What you see yourself as! Hmm, this is a real toughie.
Ok, whats the point ?

Well, contextual ads are not from "your" context. They reflect, more or less, a point in time - not who you are and what you do. So the click throughs suck, and the ads irritate.

A major "lifestyle-credit-card" company keeps sending me messages about theatre, wine tours and treks. Truth be told, I've never done any of these seriosuly, but hope to start "next weekend". So the ads work, and keep me keen. They are not irritating at all.

Privacy ?

Oh well, thats a totally orthogonal set of issues to consider. I guess if the data is ONLY used for ensuring you get more "info-mercials" than plain hardsell, actually find it useful, and the data's never given out for any other uses, its a start. At the end of the day, I do buy the TOI because a lot of advertisers on it push stuff relevant to my life cause there's a lot of readers like me who read it! Virtuous/vicious ? Cycle, for sure.

In all, there's more to context than has been done so far. Through zook, we may start scratching the next layer under the surface soon, and there's surely a lot many speedbreakers. But the journey towards "user friendly advertising" is certainly very promising.

Junta sab jaanti hai

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Local Is Social By Definition

Well, thanks for the confirmation, SEL. Zook is firmly on its way to power community driven information exchange the way its never happened before. Your social network will finally be at least as useful as in real life, and then some.

Ain't this awessssome ?

contentSutra.com - India's Digital News Monitor - Consumers Want Premium SMS Prices To Be Reduced

This has been a not-so-secret dream for a while now. If it happens, it might actually give pro-consumer services like Zook a real chance. Fingers crossed...

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The Power of +ve

The Dilbert Blog: My Compliments to You

The best way to get people to do something is to get them +ve about being able to, I guess. Focusing on what they cannot only reinforces how tough it is, and how unachievable. I had a teacher once who emphasized the latter, and I developed an intense dislike for vectors right then!

Pearls of wisdom, but it must be said they're tough ones to live everyday. Wonderful enough t try tho.

And, in case you haven't noticed yet, I'm one of those smart, intelligent, open-minded Scott Adams readers ;)

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My iPhone Post

[ Every blog i'm reading feeds off has an iPhone post! How can I be left behind? ]

Some interesting, most contrarian ones :


The whole blogosphere went into a collective haze for a while.

iDidnt :)

[ There. Done ]