Friday, April 22, 2011

Did Alexander have a written mission statement?

Graph from Google's NGram Viewer shows the rise of the phrase 'mission statement'. Evil lurks among us. It is making us into latent fascists. It is called business buzzword.

Did Alexander, Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi have a mission statement?

Graph via Undernews 

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Unsuck it: Delivering us from the scourge of business buzzwords

Unsuck It is the new website that translates lofty and deliberately obtuse words favored by the business types.

The above screenshot shows the translation for the word 'boilerplate', and gives a pithy summary of the total work output of genre/formula directors such as JJ Abrams.

Unsuck-it Link via

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Swami Agnivesh to Barkha Dutt: Practice what you preach

I have stopped watching NDTV 24*7 for quite a long time now. Like other English news channels in India, NDTV 24*7 is just a hangout place power brokers, lobbyists, and assorted self-important carnies. On the other hand, NDTV India Hindi channel is good. It has three good people - Abhigyan, Ravish and Pankaj, as well as the always-wonderful Vinod Dua, who focus on news and analysis, and not on martketing themselves.

So, this news item about when social activist Swami Agnivesh gets Barkha Dutt to shut up is from another source. When Barkha, the 'star anchor' ('star columnist' and 'star investigative reporter' I get, but 'star-anchor'?) tries to go preacher-mode about the presence of the father-son duo of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan as the s civil society representatives on the Lokpal drafting committee, it goes like this:

Barkha Dutt asks,
“Swami Agnivesh… you will see that the number of people who had to resign from public office—and many people believe this is a good thing—just because of suspicion or allegations or accusations, I mean, from Shashi Tharoor to Ashok Chavan to Sharad Pawar, there are so many different examples where legally, the allegation has not been proven, but even before the trial has begun, these politicians have stepped aside. Now some people are making the argument that those drafting the Lokpal bill must do the same. How do you respond? Do you believe the same standard must be applied as they are applied to politicians?”

Swami Agnivesh replies,
“Well, Barkhaji, let me put it to you this way. Supposing there is an accusation of corruption on some mediaperson who is an anchor of a very famous TV channel, and if that person is initiating debate after debate on corruption and such [a] person is asked, first get yourself cleared of all these allegations and then only you will have a moral right to start or initiate a debate on corruption, should that person step down? What would be your answer?”?

Related: Why Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt aren't important


Students to Apple-Hawking Journalism School: Don’t make us buy iPads (or any other Apple product)

It is not only art directors for movies and TV shows that fall prey to Apple's subliminal selling push. Apple targets schools with a vengeance, adding further cost to the already expensive education, education which may or may not be fruitful in the long run. Now, students of the the Missouri School of Journalism have spoken against the school's directive to buy an iPad before they sit in a class.

The students write,
Leave it up to the student to decide if they’d rather record an interview on a new iPod touch or a simple tape recorder. Massive, general technological requirements do little for productivity, considering they are rarely utilized, if at all. 

We strongly urge the J school to stop requiring new technologies for their students, especially when they haven’t even found useful ways to utilize the current ones, like the iPod touch. 
And, then this,
...They aren’t even friendly recommendations — they’re endorsements.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Considering the effect of the internet on religion (and the effect of religion on internet)

Everybody asks, "What effect has the internet had on religion?", but nobody asks what effect has religion had on the internet.

The general explanation for the effect of the internet on religion is something like what Professor Heidi Campbell, author of 'When Religion Meets New Media' explains,
"The distinctions and differences (between religions) are amplified online."
That about sums it up. But, what about the effect of religion on the internet? For example, is religious conservatism linked to the Internet-Controlling measures such as Net Neutrality, Net Censorships, and such? Or, are we talking about a different kind of religion here? The religion of power?

Or, is the cult of Apple online affected by the cult of Scientology? The cult of Scientology, as you know, is a like a multi-level-marketing program where a member's worth is increased by the number of people he brings in to the fold. Similarly, having once purchased a needlessly expensive gadget, which puts limits to your extent of using it, the buyer is compelled to promote the cult of Apple, as there is no other way he could justify his excessive spending in today's times of economic turmoil. 

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Monday, April 18, 2011

The problem with this world: The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads

Jeff Hammerbacher is one of the first 100 hires (he joined in 2006) at the Social media company of the moment, Facebook. He is now something called a research scientist over there. For a moment, you think, 'wow, a research scientist! He must be doing something to eradicate malnutrition among poor kids, creating highly nutritious Rs.1 protein bars, or something like that." 

What Jeff actually does is to analyze behaviors of users. However, he is honest enough to acknowledge that he isn't doing any thing special.
 "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads" .
British street artist Banksy once said, 'The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people...'.

The most talented people are making us click on ads and buy stuff. That is all they do. That is their purpose in being talented. They are talented.
And you wonder why the world is as it is.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jerry Seinfeld on the Royal Wedding: Let's pretend that these are special people

Jerry Seinfeld, famous for the greatest TV comdey show of all time, "Seinfeld", says what many of us have been thinking: What makes the royals in England special? In this age of elected democracies, the royals are an aberration. The royals are not even famous (or semi-famous/15-seconds-famous) TV/movie celebrities.

The Daily Mail reports of a TV interview, in which Jerry spoke out against the 'circus act':
Seinfeld added about the royal event, "You know, it's a dress-up. It's a classic English thing of 'let's play dress-up. Let's pretend that these are special people.' OK, we'll all pretend that -- that's what theater is."

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Annals of Internet Blocking, India Edition

A list of links the Department of Information Technology (DIT) in India has had blocked, as published by CIS India. Please note that DIT denies having issued any such order.
(a) (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(b) (IP (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(c) (ED: Criticising Zone-H. Looks like a censorship/Freedom of speech issue. Works on MTNL, Delhi)
(d) (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(e) (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(f) (is a Canaan Partners funded website; page blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(g) (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(h) (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(i) (ED: Redirects to Facebook homepage)
(j) (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
(k) (ED: Blocked by MTNL Delhi)
If you suspect any link is being blocked by your ISP, file in a Right to Information (RTI) application with DIT. Keep in mind that often some vested interest (most commonly, a business that does not like its criticism on another site - for example, Zone-H above) has moved ahead and put in a complaint, and the easiest thing the government can do is block the link.

Link thanks to Nikhil Pahwa

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How Corrupt India's Higher Education System Really Is

Notes from an excellent article on the state of India's corrupt Higher Education system, and from an overview at Nanopolitan:

1. 30% of all Indian students pay bribes to get into colleges after having failed entrance exams. (Figure may be higher at colleges with the so-called 'management quota'.
2. Fees at a typical tech institute are 3 times that of those at an IIT.
3. At many colleges, you can get test papers for a price.
4. At many colleges, you can bribe to get better marks in the internal exams.
5. At many colleges, you can bribe the lab people to meet your quota of lab attendance.
6. Most Indian institutes and universities have to pay bribes to get the desired accredition from AICTE, MCI, and others.
7. In 2010,  some IIT Kharagpur Professors were found to be running their own private college on the side, called the Institution of Electrical Engineers (India).

Also read: Does India really need more colleges and universities?
Do we need more MBAs?
How to improve education in India: A proposal

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Bob Woodward on the News bubble: There’s too much emphasis on speed and feeding the impatience people have

Bob Woodward, of 'All the President's Men' fame, says to a gathering of journalism students that there is a severe “news bubble” developing in forms of page-view-led blogging or AOL-type mass profit-led newswriting, all of which make 'authentic journalism' difficult to support:
“I think there’s too much emphasis on speed and feeding the impatience people have. … In many ways, journalism is not often enough up to the task of dealing with the dangerous and fragile nature of the world, or the community, or anything you might try to understand. [The world requires] high quality, probing journalism. And there’s just not been enough of it.”
AOL way is not the only way. A writer explains the importance of great news stories, and of long-form journalism at a Rolling Stone/Long Reads panel:
A great story is a great story. The platform matters but it’s not the most important thing, ...The important thing is the story can’t be bland and it can’t suck. If something is great, people will want to read it, and they’ll read it whether it’s on the Web or in the magazine.

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New Genre flourishes - Sucking up to Media Overlords such as Ariana Huffington

A writer for the popular Cinematical blog writes about being fired, as part of the overhaul of HuffPost-AOL combine. He explains the main reason why AOL bought Huff Post:
As it turns out, not paying people is what had attracted AOL to Huffington in the first place. “Tell us more about this ‘not paying people’ system,” AOL said, intrigued.
Huff Post's PR Company-in-news-disguise is open to all. People question how long will Huff Post continue to attract writers for free. But still, some continue to frame this story as 'The war against aggregators' or 'People resent Ariana'. For example, one commentator's response to the above article about a writer of a popular blog being fired is:
New genre flourishes: Arianna resentment porn.
See, some people just won't accept criticism of Ariana.

Let's call this, ' New Genre flourishes - Sucking up to Media Overlords such as Ariana Huffington'. Actually, it is old genre, quite popular in the old media arena. But, old media or new media, as far as power games are concerned, it the same thing in a new bottle.

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