Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tweets in the Time of Crisis

Its been over 30 hours now since the Mumbai terrorist strikes began. I first learned about the attack through twitter, via an update on TwitterFox. Since then I have been glued to my computer to get information about the Maximum City - or #mumbai as the topic is referred to in twitter-speak.

The real-time results on twitter provided valuable links from citizen journalists on the ground - articles, videos, flickr photosets, contact information, opinions, wishes, prayers. Pretty soon these pictures and soundbites were lapped up by the real media and the #mumbai topic turned into a lovefest of social media and twitter [sic] Love in the Time of Cholera.

The #mumbai topic also turned into a deluge of retweets, rumors and rants. An information/misinformation overload resulted. Elsewhere, Google News ended up with 6,146 news articles related to the terrorist attacks. Social bookmarking sites like Digg and reddit eventually showed the news (after a 3 hour delay on Digg), albeit rendering the breaking news to the backburner, overshadowing it by the rick rolling at Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

Traditional television outlets began their riveting 24 hour coverage. News sources like IBNLive and (gasp) FOXNews were kind enough to broadcast live feeds on the internet. Indian channels had multiple feeds on replay mode till I switched the television off and went back to twitter.

Twitter could really use some improvements to broadcast relevant information in times like this.

Here are some suggestions.
  1. Aggregate statistics about links from tweets and retweets so people know the most popular links in a topic - #mumbai in this case.
  2. Display the actual URL instead of the tinyurl so people can identify the news source
  3. A Digg style voting so the wisdom of the crowds can be incorporated to identify the best tweets/links.
  4. Differentiate tweets from official news sites like bbc, cnn, abc from those of regular tweeters
  5. Identify local citizen journalists accurately using location detection methods such as IP-based lookups

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sign o' the Times

People sure are wearing their yoga practice on their sleeves, their bumper stickers,...

So now an ad campaign by a major health care provider to cash in.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 02, 2008

On Walden Pond

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the
essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and
not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
Posted by Picasa

Gremlins in the (Windows) Machine

For the last several weeks, I encountered several networking issues on my windows laptop:
  • My machine wouldn't connect to the network when I switched wireless access points
  • The Apple Airport Utility on my machine wouldn't detect Airport devices and I couldn't print wirelessly using Bonjour
  • I couldn't ping my computer from a different machine
  • I couldn't see any flickr pictures
I was at a complete loss to figure out what was wrong. I tried resetting the winsock catalog, reinstalling airport utility, disabling the windows firewall, uninstalling spybot, unistalling windows sp3 and finally reinstalling windows sp2...all to no avail.

After exhausting all my search queries on the topic, I finally had the answer from an IT guy. I had enabled the option 'stateful firewall' on my Cisco VPN.

Disabling the option restored my machine and my peace of mind.

Hope this post helps someone else out there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tugging at my Hamstrings

Autobiography of a Recovering Yogi

Its been nearly a year now since I started my yoga practice. I started with a free, introductory yoga session at my neighborhood yoga studio and then started attending weekly Vinyasa classes there. Since then I have been challenging myself to the more strenuous Ashtanga primary series classes. I feel really peaceful and meditative at the end of these classes. The next morning, however, my body aches.

I did't want to give up doing my yoga just because of these aches. A few friends recommended that I try Bikram because the heated environment allows for deeper stretches and for accomplishing challenging poses. My body definitely felt a lot more relaxed after the class but I didn't find the same post-class bliss that I found with Vinyasa and Ashtanga.

A few weeks back I attended a workshop at the Balance center where the instructor analyzed the way I sat, stood, walked and slept. One key observation was that I arched my back and leaned backward while standing which messed up my entire posture and resulted in the aches.

So now I am consciously leaning a little forward while standing. To improve my poses, I signed up for Iyengar yoga. In these classes, I hold my asanas for longer with the correct technique (with the help of the instructor). My teacher noticed that my asanas were crammed because I had tight hamstrings (because of my arched back). This has affected even my foundation asana such as the downward dog.

Her prescription is two months of daily Supta Padangusthasana or the Reclining Big Toe Pose (See video below)

Will document the results after two months...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Viral Marketing Technique - Schmap

Imagine if you could get your web audience to contribute to your site and then act as your marketing agent...all for free. This is the ploy used by Schmap, maker of interactive city guides.

I upload most of my pictures on flickr with a liberal creative commons license, and I was pleasantly surprised when I received this mail from the managing editor at Schmap:

From: Emma Williams
Subject: Schmap Yosemite Photo Short-list
Hi Maneesh,

I am writing to let you know that one of your photos has
been short-listed for inclusion in the fifth edition of our
Schmap Yosemite Guide, to be published late September 2008.

Clicking this link will take you to a page where you can:
i) See which of your photos has been short-listed.
ii) Submit or withdraw your photo from our final selection
iii) Learn how we credit photos in our Schmap Guides.
iv) Browse online or download the fourth edition of our
Schmap Yosemite Guide.

While we offer no payment for publication, many
photographers are pleased to submit their photos, as Schmap
Guides give their work recognition and wide exposure, and
are free of charge to readers. Photos are published at a
maximum width of 150 pixels, are clearly attributed, and
link to high-resolution originals at Flickr.

Our submission deadline is Sunday, August 31. If you happen
to be reading this message after this date, please still
click on the link above (our Schmap Guides are updated
frequently - photos submitted after this deadline will be
considered for later releases).

Best regards,

Emma Williams,
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides

I was more than happy to submit the photograph for the final selection phase but more importantly I was pumped that it would show up in an official guide, albeit a guide that is a new kid on the block.

A few weeks later I got this mail:

From: Emma Williams
Subject: Schmap Yosemite Fifth Edition: Photo Inclusion
Hi Maneesh,

I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo
has been selected for inclusion in the newly released fifth
edition of our Schmap Yosemite Guide:

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

If you use an 
iPhone or iPod touch, then this same link
will take you directly to your photo in the iPhone version
of our guide. On a desktop computer, you can still see
exactly how your photo is displayed and credited in the
iPhone version of our guide at:

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Finally, if you have a blog, you might also like to check
out the customizable widgetized version of our Schmap
Yosemite Guide, complete with your published photo:

Thanks so much for letting us include your photo - please
enjoy the guide!

Best regards,

Emma Williams,
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides


So now I have a widget on my blog pushing readers on their site as well :P

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Half Dome Revisited

Several posts back, I had written about my return to Yosemite to erase the ghosts of my unsuccessful 2004 half dome scaling attempt. I was back again in Yosemite for the labor day weekend. The weather was hot as before (100 degrees during mid-day) and the national park in the usual tourist mode. I had made no preparations for the strenuous hike and climb either but all I had this time was a shoe with a better grip and a determination.

We started at 5am from the valley and progressed our way up to the base of the half dome by 10am. I found a few people still ruminating over when they wanted to do the last rope climbing stretch. I remembered my cabin-mate Ben reading the book 'Blink' and I decided to proceed up right then. No power bars, no early lunch...just donning an old pair of unmatched gloves lying on the floor and then hauling my way half-dome rink at a time. In a half-hour, I was up and watching the yosemite valley from the top in all its glory.

Comic below for illustrations.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

SuperManeesh's Back

It has been a while since I blogged...I have been doing a bit of 'micro-blogging' on facebook and twitter lately and that left no time for my blog. Micro-blogging has its benefits for sending updates but a pithy, perhaps witty sentence is no match for a well written blog entry. So I am back!

On the subject of backs, I have had a torrid time with my lower back. X-Rays had revealed that I had a slight curvature of my spine, medically referred to as scoliosis. My un-ergonomic, working-at-home situation only worsened the condition. So when I decided to run a 5K race for CRY, without any practice, I was afflicted mid-way by a mind numbing my back. For the rest of the race, I supported my back with my hands and reached the finish line in about 33 minutes. Not bad...for someone who did it without any practice, with a bad back and a funny bib number (See pic)!

It was time for me to focus my energies and nurse myself, so I decided to turn to the ancient wisdom of Yoga. I have now been doing yoga aasanas and attending revitalizing vinyasa sessions to get myself back to shape. I got BKS Iyengars 'Light on Yoga' to understand the science behind the poses. I have recently started doing head stands and Bakaasanas, neither of which I thought I could ever do!

I found the awesome Yogamazing podcast to improve my home practice.

This session has been particularly useful to me, so do check it out...only when you have safely learned how to do the aasanas.

YOGAmazing: Yoga Back Basics from Chaz Rough on Vimeo.

Oh...did I say I was back again!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Taking Stock of Stock Photos

What's common to a money-transfer service company and a hotel chain? Western Union and Marriott to be more specific.

Ok...besides the fact that they are large, publicly-traded, international corporations...they use the same stock photo service to get images for their web sites!

Western Union


For the little web-site I launched a while back, I bought royalty-free images for a good chunk of change. Wonder...what belt-tightening measures these corporations have incorporated that made them skimp on their images.

Next...they will be picking up free images from flickr.