July 28, 2008

Its summer time - Its movie time!

The summer is a festive time for movie-freaks. I am no freak, but do enjoy watching good movies. A usual weekend during this time of the year is spent worthwhile by watching a movie a day. That means watching 2 movies in theatre every weekend.

Yesterday, I watched 'Jaane Tu, Ya Jaane Na', a movie by Aamir Khan Productions. Aamir indeed has a great acumen in selecting his movie scripts. This movie is fantastic with a fresh cast and a debut director. Genelia is cute as always, and the movie packs so much fun! The music is at its best as you would expect from the master Rahman.

Prior to this, I watched Hancock and 'The Dark Knight'. I liked both of them. Hancock was bit of a drag, and its good for a one-time-see. 'The Dark Knight' is a superb action-packed movie that is worth its hype. I regret not having watched it on IMAX. A couple other good ones I watched are Wall-E and Wanted.

Now, I'm waiting for the launch of "The Mummy", and that Steven Spielberg's upcoming movie (I forgot the name). Life is Fun!

July 15, 2008

Moving from Textpattern to Wordpress

Until recently, my website SanskritVoice was using Textpattern as the CMS. But now, I'm moving to Wordpress. Read below to know why and how.

I liked Textpattern for several reasons. I can have multiple Sections like Home, About, Articles, and Resources. Each section can have an assigned template, and I can publish blog-posts for a specific section. Under a given section, I can further classify my posts based on category.

The main drawback with Textpattern is the difficulty in moving the website to a different server. It has weak import/export features, and less support for unicode. It lacks a WYSIWYG editor, no widgets, and has relatively less number of plugins.

On the other hand, Wordpress has a huge community, excellent feature-set, and myriad plugins for almost anything. However, Wordpress lacks the concept of a section. It only has Pages, Posts, Categories and Tags. Ofcourse, I can assign an appropriate template to a page. I spent some time in reading the Wordpress docs on how to use it as a traditional CMS. I had to use custom-templates and custom-variables to match the URLs of textpattern and to create pseudo-sections.

Here is an overview of what I did. A traditional Page in Wordpress is static. So, I created a custom template (say "Featured Page" template) that displays the content of the Page, and reads a custom field "categoryid" defined on that Page. The template then displays all posts that were published under that category. Thus, I projected a Page that contain posts from a specific category as a virtual Section.

July 10, 2008

Capitalize on Confluence to create Synergy

Be it TOI's Teach-India initiative, the idea of FriendFeed, the concept of Alltop... All of them do one thing in common - Create Synergy. It is the creation of great value by bringing the appropriate resources together.

TOI' Teach-India project brings together several NGOs on a common mission of spreading education to the masses. It added more value by getting corporate companies into the mix. The heavy works are done by the NGOs and Corporates, while TOI is just an organizer/mediator. To oversimplify the story, TOI has done nothing but confluence of the right people. Now, look at the synergy that TOI has created - Its massive and effective.

FriendFeed is an aggregator of activity across several social websites. Though it currently packages several unique features, it started just as a confluence of social activity on the web. It thus achieved more fame with less work! Similarly, AllTop is just a RSS feed-aggregator to read several blogs in one place.

On the same lines, I created 'Sanskrit Voice Digest' as an aggregation of selected Sanskrit blogs across the web. Though I had spent less effort to create it, the value it offered to Sanskrit enthusiasts is huge. I only capitalized on confluence of the right resources.

So, Confluence is a smart act if done right, the remaining pieces of the puzzle will fall in place. Lets apply this idea for the growth of a nation. Bring together several charity institutions under one roof, and provide an easy interface for the rich and benevolent people to contribute. I think several nations including India lacks such Meta-Organization. Hope this becomes TOI's next social experiment. Click here to read more on this idea.

July 09, 2008

Analysis of TOI's Teach-India Project

'Times Of India' has struck the chord once again with its 'Teach India' initiative. Their previous project was 'Lead India' campaign, a campaign that encouraged entrepreneurship among Indians.

Purpose (Idea)

With a population of over 287 million illiterate Indians, we need motivated teachers in every corner of the country to go back to school. The aim is to bring together children in need of education and people who can contribute a little time towards teaching them. To begin with, the project is introduced in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.


This mission would not have been possible without the partnership of over 60 NGOs, schools and companies such as Hindustan Lever, Aditya Birla Group, Nokia, Wipro, Reliance Communications, Barclays and Amex. The companies have come on board with the promise that at least 50 employees will commit two hours a week on company time to teaching.

TOI has made good use of its existing popularity in winning the support of NGOs, and tie-up with coporate companies. The partnership with right organizations is what I believe to be the first step in carrying out a social experiment. The NGOs know where to find people in need of education, the poor, and the illiterates. The corporate companies are the ones to fund the experiment and offer mass volunteers. So, TOI has done its groundwork perfectly with tie-ups.

We have seen the best of viral videos in TOI's Lead-India campaign. The videos spread all across the web and some on television too. I'm sure Teach-India project will also capitalize on social websites to go viral. Being a media company, no external PR or Marketing agency is required.

Teach-India project is an offline venture that gets the help of internet to speedup the process of volunteer registrations, etc. This is exactly how a successful experiment should be carried out. Especially in India where not everyone has access to internet, offline mode is very essential for the success of the project. So, it brings both offline and online worlds together. One without the other will have less impact and reachability to the masses.


The highest response has come from the capital city, Delhi, followed closely by Mumbai, and then by Chennai and Kolkata. There was more than 10,000 people signing up to pledge at least two hours a week to teach a child in their neighbourhood, mostly for weekend sessions. This army of volunteers is a multi-lingual, multi-talented one drawn from diverse streams - doctors, lawyers, company executives, etc...

Business Plan

Lead-India and Teach-India projects are social initiatives by TOI with a business model wrapped around it. Truly, they are noble efforts with a worthy cause. But, they are not without a profit in mind. I love such undertakings that wrap a for-profit business plan around a noble cause. Its a win-win for all. For the same reason, I love the open-source companies like Redhat, Sun, Automattic, Google, etc...

So, How does TOI profit from these social projects?
First of all, these projects create a BUZZ in the media world. They have successfully created a topic of conversation for the bloggers and media to jump-on. Thus, getting the "Times of India" name to appear everywhere.

Secondly, they create a loyal readership and fan-following from most of the country-lovers and educated citizens who wish to see India grow. That includes a substantial percentage of the youth and NRIs.

Thirdly, TOI has partnered with several NGOs for these initiatives. Hence, the NGOs tend to spread the word and advertise 'Times Of India' for free. On the whole, TOI has acquired the title of being a dynamic non-evil media company in India. This means increase in reputation, readership and revenue.


Well Done TOI! Keep it up and continue to lead as an example to all other media companies in India.

Click here for answers to the following questions...
How do I apply?
How does Teach India work?
What kind of education will I be providing?
How long will I have to teach?

July 07, 2008

Refreshing trip to San Jose

Just the day before the long weekend, Karthik and I decided to visit San-Jose and San-Fransisco. On arrival, we met my friend Vinoth who lives there at San-Jose. We stayed there for a couple of days, went around the Silicon Valley and had a lot of fun. Just the three of us, it was like what you see in "Dil Chahta Hai".

On Friday (July 4), we had a walk on the Golden Gate Bridge at SF. The view was beautiful, weather was chill, and it never felt like summer. The next day, we visited the Napa-Valley Vineyards during the day, and 'Half Moon Bay' beach in the evening. Running the car through the cool breeze of misty-mountains to the beach was among the best rides I had.

We returned home on Sunday afternoon (July 6) to end a refreshing trip!

July 06, 2008

Destiny starts with a Dream

To phrase it in a line, here it is: The Destiny starts with a DREAM, and flows with COURAGE fueled by FAITH in the direction of ACTION. Let me explain it.

Watch your Dreams
They become your thoughts...
Watch you thoughts,
They become your words...
Watch your words,
They become you actions...
Watch your actions,
They become your habits...
Watch your habits,
They become your character...
Watch your character,
It becomes your DESTINY!

- By Frank Outlaw

In the movie GURU (Hindi), I love Bachan's starting dialogue "I always dream, and my Papa used to say dreams dont come true. But, I still continue to dream". Daring to dream is probably the larger motif of the movie Guru. We should dream BIG, and the dream should be followed-up with action. To perform such action, we need faith and courage. This courage holds the key to make the dream come true.

Faith and courage go hand-in-hand. When we lose faith, we lose courage. I hope you all agree with me so far. So, the topics to ponder are...
What should we have faith on?
How do we not lose faith?

There is just one answer to both the above questions. This answer is also the secret of "Success without Stress". It is the faith in the supreme self. If we exhibit our best effort and leave the results for the god to decide, we become more vivid. Whatever happens will happen for good and happens for a reason. That is the law of Karma!