Vastu Shastra

Websites - Your house/office in the internet world?

People do a lot to build the perfect house, the perfect office space. They hire pricey architects to design their buildings and many consult Feng Shui/ Vaastu experts for their advice on how things should be. Infact, in some cases, the architects they hire are Vaastu experts themselves. Btw, Vaastu conceptually similar to Feng Shui in that it also tries to harmonize the flow of energy through the house, it differs in the details, such as the exact directions in which various objects, rooms, materials etc are to be placed.

If we do so much to build a house, why shouldn't we do the same for our "Internet" houses, our websites. I know the idea sounds preposterous, but there are some people that do this for a living! Web designers are our internet counterparts for architects. Without them, internet wouldn't be what it is currently. Good content presented in the right way attracts good number of people. Content is as important as the medium. (Don't remember which my last Doordarshan program was :)..most probably, a cricket match!). What amuses me is that there are Feng Shui/Vaastu experts for websites and that is their core business. All I can say is that there is a big scary bunch of people doing their business on the internet and this bunch is not ready to own up mistakes for their bad business and are resorting to anything (including consulting internet Vaastu experts) to make things work for them. Our internet Vaastu experts have a sound business model, but surely it is not based on truth. Who wants truth these days! People just want money!

This is how the Vaastu experts have correlated the forces in our world to the forces in the internet world. I found it very funny :D/////

Earth is the layout
Fire is the colour
Air is the HTML
Space is name of the site
Water is the font and graphic

Adding that each element should be chosen carefully and in balance with the rest of the objects on the page. I know all these elements are funny, but comparing them to forces of nature is just ridiculous!

Here are a couple of links if you are interested in Vaastuing or Feng Shuing your website.



Quality in Opensource software

There have always been a lot of arguments and discussions on how Opensource software lacks in quality and how Opensource software vendors make money on support contracts by deliberately keeping the software complex. There are proponents on both sides of the spectrum and the many bands that fall in between. Personally, I fall in a band that aligns itself closer to the ideology that "Opensource software is good".

MySQL's CEO Marten Mickos had something interesting to say about Opensource software that really appealed to me. He claimed that Opensource software would in general be of "better quality" than closed source software not just because of the community involved in developing it, but also because of the magical combination of pride and (fear of) shame experienced by developers as their work could be scruitised in public by others. His analogy was even more interesting :). The analogy is that of your backyard. Our backyard (in general) is never as tidy as the frontyard of our house. We keep our frontyards cleaner than our backyards because we are "socially" visible there. Same with software, developers don't want to show their dirty linen in public..oops i meant code in public, and so will work hard in keeping the code good.

Additionally he adds, the reality of the scrutiny, i.e. the peer reviews, ensure that a lot of bugs and defects are detected and removed early and claims that Opensource s/w is 12 times cleaner than closed source!! Interesting perspective, isn't it?


Ad(ds) Sense now?

Google released some stupendous results for this quarter. If you thought that Apple stole the show by becoming #3 in the PC marketplace and by growing it's marketshare like nobody else did, think twice. Gross revenue@Google rose by 70% and quarterly profit rose by 92% over the same period last year. Net income this quarter was $733.4 million compared to $381.2 million in the same quarter last year. The only other companies that I can think of that posted such tremendous growth are the biggies from our own India who seem to be riding a high tide with all the offshoring cash. However, the growth models @Google and @these companies are quite different. Google is a product company, more into creating new platforms, new products and eventually new markets by innovation, risk and excitement whereas the others are into services and are growing their market share more maturedly with little to no risk and thus very unexciting :|.

Coming to risk, Google's recent acquisition raised a lot of eyebrows as it was a big investment (worth $1.65 billion) and fraught with the risk of being sued by media companies for copyright infringement. Why would a company buy a company if it was a losing proposition?

To start with, YouTube has 35 million users in the US and 100 million daily video views. That makes it around 4 cents per video stream ($1.6B divided by 100 million daily views * 365 days) and the user base is still growing. Google almost paid around $30-$35/user to acquire YouTube. Coming to Google, it almost earned $1 billion in revenues from Adsense this quarter and currently has a user base of around 100 million, which basically shows us that Google earns around $10/user/quarter. With 35 million more users, Google can earn this money back in around 5-8 quarters (35 million x $10 x (5-8))>1.65 billion! 5-8 because there will ofcourse be an overlap between Google's current user base and the user base from YouTube. Considering the fact that video advertising is going to more effective than other forms (atleast IMHO) and that Google is going to find other innovative ways to advertise, my take is that Google will recover this investment in less than 2 years! Well, would you not call that a worthy investment?

Google has done this again and again and has done this once more this time. One reason it has been able to sustain it's momentum is the stiff competition from Yahoo n Microsoft, but the sad part is that it is moving farther and farther away from it's competitors (For example, Yahoo's results were good, but not great). I am eagerly waiting for Microsoft's results due next week and I hope they are good. I hate monopolies and would hate to see Google become one. Monopoly kills creativity!


Google Analytics support for Google Checkout

Google is surely tying things together and to very good effect. Recent release of GoogleOffice tied two of it's important programs Writely n Spreadsheets and now they have tied up something else that is even more intuitive..Google Analytics and Google Checkout.

An e-commerce site owner can simply add a JavaScript call and a hidden field to each page that displays the Google Checkout button and will be able to see conversions and revenue metrics for Google Checkout transactions. This would not only give information to the e-commerce owner, but also would allow to know how consumers are reacting to it's checkout process, see the trends and make the whole thing better.

This feature makes life even easier if you are an AdWords customer, because you'll also see ROI and Revenue per Click for every transaction that resulted from one of your keywords!

Google surely has got it right again. It is making it easier for the consumer, allowing him to search for products right from his browser, making it easier for the merchant by giving him all kinds of analytical tools to track customer behavior apart from giving processing discounts on purchases (for every $1 you spend on AdWords, you can process $10 in sales for free on Google Checkout) and ofcourse this would mean increased Adwords revenue for Google. This is a Win-Win-Win situation..

Wonder, if Google can rope in Amazon.com as a trusted merchant..Amazon might not want to do it because that would be put it in direct competition with other merchants and also wouldn't prefer users buying from them without visiting their website ...but, well you never know. Google's reach is just too deep to ignore.


Agility in world 2.0

You surely get a kick when a top official in your company endorses your idea. I had one today when our CTO said that the only way a company could survive and innovate constantly in this ever changing world of requirements is by being agile.

Globalization, OpenSource and Web2.0 have had a telling effect on the existing "internet" corporate world by having shrunk boundaries between continents and eliminating barriers for entry.

Survival tactics earlier are no longer valid now as the dynamics are totally different currently. So, how does a company face all these challenges .. how does it grow? The mantra for success is probably a little different for small companies and large companies, but what is common is that they all have to be agile within and outside the company.

Small companies should be agile in terms of assessing the market, carving out a niche for themselves and looking out for potential acquisitions..Sometimes, you could model your company "suitable" for acquisitions. Large companies should invest a lot in R&D, assess competitors and do acquisitions that would give them an edge over their competitors. Companies just cannot wait any longer as competition can lure your customers with more and more ease every passing day. I have seen that happening here in Sabre (we have been on an acquisition spree lately) and other big internet firms like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Time was precious, but now it is no longer available!

Showing agility in acquisition, assessing market needs, creating markets is surely important, but so is showing agility in our processes within. At the end of the day, even after making all those acquisitions, or for small companies that are building something, products have to see the light at the end of the tunnel and they have to come out in perfect shape. Mistakes are very costly as there is no time to recover. Whatever comes out of the company should come out very fast and should be flawless. An Agile driven development methodology can do exactly that. Development in iterations with constant correction cycles to meet the needs of a customer will bring out the perfect product. Stress should be more on how the product is being developed rather than what technologies it is using to develop it...and that could very well be the reason why in the last few years, there have been no breakthroughs in IT, but a lot has been done to make processes better!!!


What can technology do?

What can technology do? Well, it can almost do anything..even enable people to play games with neurological signals as was recently proved by a group of scientists from Washington University who translated neurological signals from a young man and then connected an Atari Video game to a computer that could process these signals. Amazing, isn't it?

Getting subjects to move objects using only their brains has implications towards someday building biomedical devices that can control artificial limbs, for instance, enabling the disabled to move a prosthetic arm or leg by just thinking about it. This is surely interesting, but there is something else that happened in our India that amazed me even more!

Ever wonder what technology does for a farmer in India? If you are a part of that world, you would surely know that technology and farmers are never even talked about in the same sentence. Setting up e-Seva service centers in villages was a big thing...Farmers didn't despise technology, they just didn't know it...But, so is not the case in

Raigad district (Maharashtra): Roughly 140 kilometre from Mumbai, farmers are turning to technology to fight for their rights.

Four months ago, the farmers of Pen taluka in Raigad district were told the state government was acquiring their land to help build the 25,000 acre Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

That's when an activist of the SEZ Hatao Virodh Samiti, Arun Shivkar, logged on to Google Earth and used it to prove to the authorities that the land was fertile.

Shivkar says initially state authorities claimed that only a small portion of the earmarked land was fertile and that some parts of it was submerged by salty creek water, meaning lower compensation for the farmers.

But Google Earth came to the rescue and its satellite pictures clearly indicated crop areas. This helped the farmers back their claims for higher compensation.

This technology has also brought together farmers from 45 villages to put up a common front and protest the acquisition of their land.

The ingenious ways in which farmers in Maharashtra are using Google Earth to fight for their rights is perhaps a testament to how technology can really help us in more than obvious ways.

Well, I have used Google Earth to see satellite pics of my apartment, pics of Eiffel tower etc, other saner people have used it in local weather forecasts, traffic congestion reports, discovering hidden ancient villages etc, but using it to settle a dispute with the government is a masterstroke, and this being done by villagers just adds to the delight!


Interesting acquisitions

Interner acquisitions pot is boiling over. Keeping people and companies (big and small) on their toes. The big 3 are in a spending spree..good for the market because when you there is "perceived" value for innovative products in the market, juices flow out. Juices flow out even otherwise, but we give them more freedom now! Flavor of the day or should I say "probable" flavor of the day :

Google gets YouTube ($1.6 billion).
Yahoo gets Facebook (around $1 billion).

Have to keep our fingers crossed and wait for the news. It's not just acquisitions these companies are into...they are into interesting partnerships too.
Google-Dell deal (Google default search engine on Dell computers, $1 billion dollars!). Yahoo did a similar deal with HP for $300 million! Google signs up with Adobe (Google toolbar installed with Adobe). Wonder if somebody is going to sign up with Sun for something similar :). Google signs up with Intuit (Small businesses can sign up with Google for Writely, G-Sheets ;) etc). Apart from this, I am sure there are many more that I have missed. Here are a few acquisitions from the past -->

Google :-

NevenVision (Image recognizing software)
Witely (Onlined document editing software)
Urchin (Google Analytics)
dMarc Broadcasting (Radio ad)
Android (software for mobile telephones)
Zipdash - Provides navigation assistance for road traffic on mobile in real time by GPS.
Picasa - software for management of photographs

Yahoo :-
Jumpcut (Online Video editing software)
Deli.cio.us (Tagging software)
Upcoming - Social events calendar "online"
Flickr - software for management of photographs
Overture - (Now Yahoo Search Marketing (SM) for 1.6 billion)
3721 Network Software Co. (November 2003) 3721 NSC is a Hong Kong based language keyword search engine
Kelkoo - A European based online shopping and advertising service
Musicmatch - personalized music software and services
WUF Networks - multi-media transfer of data onto mobile device
Dialpad - Internet Telephony, Alibaba (August 2005)
Farechase - Web-based travel search engine,

Microsoft :-

Nobody can forget Hotmail.
FolderShare - a File-Synchronization Technology Provider
DeepMetrix - web site stats
Massive - videogame advertising
Onfolio - web research
Teleo, Media-Streams - VoIP
MotionBridge - mobile search
TSSX - China mobile services
SeaDragon - Large Image manipulation)
Frontbridge - e-mail Security
Mappoint - Mapping
Futuresoft - Web filtering
AssetMetrix - License management

Other companies might not have done this much in the internet space, but they surely have had a share of the acquisition pie..I can think of ...
AOL with truveo (video search), teoma (search engine) and Sony acquiring Grouper, a online video startup

I am sure this list is not all-encompassive, but nevertheless it surely does give us an idea on where all this is all headed. Companies see Internet to be the future of media, entertainment and information and have been busily investing in everything that can capture a users attention or should I say eyeball gazing! All I can say is that I am in tandem with this direction because that is where I am spending almost all my time !!!!!!!!

YouTube acquisition?

I wanted to desist from posting this, as I had seen a lot of blogs post the same thing over and over again, but I guess it is just so exciting that I cannot hold it back .. Well, not any longer :)

Google might acquire YouTube for a whopping $2 billion. If you thought that was a big price to pay, take a look at these stats!
YouTube is the no.1 online video sharing site. I know some of you might contend this citing that MySpace is bigger, but I think we shouldn't compare them both..YouTube is for video enthusiasts, by video enthusiasts and has been built by a bunch of video enthusiasts. Think about it -- a company that was almost nothing, less than a year ago is in the "ivy league" now...that is no mean achievement! Here are some detailed stats :-

Back in November 2005, Google Video was more popular than YouTube. A whopping 400,000 more people visited Google Video.

- In August,2006 - 15.9 million more people used YouTube vs Google Video! Quite a turn-around!

- YouTube has grown 483% since January, while Google Video has grown 279%. Wow.

Verdict: YouTube is the clear winner in terms of Visitors to the site.

In August,2006 - on an average each YouTube user visited the site 4 times over the course of the month. While Google Video visitors returned just 1.6 times.

Verdict: YouTube is the clear winner in terms of Frequency of Visits.

Bottomline is that YouTube has more users, more visits and users that spend a lot of time on their website and it is in a growing market. It current has 100 million videos and a userbase of around 25 million and the video market is set for tremendous growth with incresingly faster networks..A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is obviously much more than that :). Google surely wants to sink it's feet deep into the current social networking revolution. It is disappointed that it couldn't get as big as MySpace or Facebook with it's own Orkut and it surely wouldn't want to lose out on this opportunity with YouTube.

$2 billion is a big price, but is still worth only a drop in Google's big bucket. Now, is a better time to buy it than ever!

Only issue being .. all the copyright infringements that it will be tagged with once it gets YouTube under it's umbrella..But well, it is already fighting a lot of battles in this regard..this will just be one more! If it can come up with innovative ideas on selling it's content without affecting a user's experience and still make money for the media companies and advertisers, copyright infringements would be a moot point! There's already a lot of din going on against DRM and there will be more if user's are at the receiving end. Media companies surely don't want to lose out on this Internet era, where an increasing number of users seem to be more time on Internet than Television! Well, atleast I do :)..

Let's just wait and see if this rumour has any reality to it!!