Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pay for Online News

Rupert Murdoch will be making people pay for online news in UK. I like it. From free to going behind a paywall is probably a little harsh. News Publishers can always control when Google indexes their stories and how much it indexes by putting things with and without authentication. Google is still good as it brings users to the websites. Instead of putting all content forever behind paywall they can have partial content indexed by google as soon as possible, but make it free (un authenticated) after some time. The "after some time" will depend on kind of news and kind of consumers. Sometime 10 minutes would be enough and sometimes it could be an hour or a day. Basically change the business model from one dependent on advertizements to one based on quality and timing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Parliament Vs GotoMeeting

I read some where that it costs about Rs 25K per minute to run parliament. Apart from parliament we have so many states each having its own legislative assembly with comparable number of members. This is big sum of money. I am assuming this includes cost of getting the MP's to delhi, their stay and food and travel, etc.

May be we should give GoToMeeting a try. Cost is negligible. Security of communication is not an issue as we anyways show this live on TV.  Disruptions would be impossible as speaker can mute every one. Speaker can easily ensure time limit on what each person speaks, cut his time or give him more time as he feels. Speaker will be body can throw shoes at each other...but we can still have "poke" or "finger" or "hai-hai" or "zindabad-murdabad" or "throw a shoe" gestures to keep the spirit alive. To ensure attendence Speaker can also send them reminder or make  the server keep calling them to just annoy them for a while.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pink Autos?

At last an all women taxi service was launched in Chennai few months back. News Link.  Similar services were available in other parts of world much before.

I think it is great idea but needs a bit of indianization. Most women in Bangalore would be using Auto than Taxi for usual reasons of cost, speed and reasonable privacy. I think instead of Taxi,  Pink Auto  would make lots of sense for Bangalore and other metros.

This is how a typical Auto trip works out:
1) Walk upto auto stand or keep waiting for Auto whereever you are
2) Some of them will run away the moment you say Indira Nagar or Marathalli.
3) Some of them will say 20 rupees extra or will say 100 rupess
4) Finally you will find someone who doesn't says any of those things and you get in it.
5) After two kilometers you will see that his meter is running at 1.5 or 2X the speed.
6) At this point you have probably spent 30 minutes, so depending upon your energy level you might just stop and repeat the process or continue thinking at least I am going home/office.
7) This doesn't ends here. Finally when you take out a 100 rupee note to pay for 85 rupees, the auto driver will tell you he doesn't have change.

I think this can be done a lot better.  If managed by a corporate similar to how Meru manages taxis, this is a much bigger market (cost of auto is 0.5 times of taxi and number of women using autos is probably 10X or more that of women using taxi ) and their is no competetion. Apart from peace of mind for women travelers it opens up another opportunity for being self sufficient  for many uneducated or less educated women who are currently restricted to work as laborers or house maids.

Since most women would be using Autos for cummuting to work and home, it is a simple logistics problem. Have something like a membership card for 10% discount and keep track of who travels from which place to which place at what time and you can easily know all you need to solve this problem in the best possible ways.

- monthly plans, pick any pink auto or you will be told which auto at which time
- allow shared auto at lower costs
- allow post payments of bills

It is a solvable problem and it is a problem worth solving and in the process you can make money.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Talk to anyone in Bangalore two "truths" come out very soon. Auto drivers drive really bad. Taxi drivers drive really bad. Talk to someone who drives Santro and the next truth would be Swift drivers are next after Auto and Taxi drivers.

If you say all drivers are bad it is not useful information because it applies to everyone and their is nothing you can do about it. If you say driver of car KA 08 XXXX is bad, it is probably correct but not useful again (How many car numbers can you remember?). So I feel that humans (at least in Bangalore) generalize it to a point where the information can become big enough to look useful. Avoid meddling with Auto, Taxi and Swift drivers. Cool...I imparted some wisdom ;) It doesn't means it is only means it is now worth discussing/talking about.

Learning & Context

We have a Guard at the entrance of our apartment building. He always stop the cars going outside the building to give way to the cars coming inside the building. This is a very good strategy because of two reasons:
1) Any car that comes inside will always find parking because only residents cars can come inside.
2) The road outside is not very broad. The car going outside can easily cause deadlock if it goes out at the point when some other car has come near the gate.

I am not sure if the Guard understands these two points. If by any change he has to do the same work at a mall or theater and if he continues to use what he has learned he will always cause deadlocks. They have limited parking - any car coming inside is not guaranteed to find parking space.

When learning something it is important to learn the context also because unless used in the same context, whatever you learn may not be applicable.

Monday, March 08, 2010

ReInventing Money

Money is an abstraction used by people to exchange goods or services from other people in exchange of goods or services they provide to other people. It replaced a systems called barter system where goods or services could only be exchanged for goods or services, to a system where they could be exchanged for money.

Money is pretty good thing. I want to see a doctor and I am a software professional. Chances are the doctor don't need me to fix his software, so how do I take his services. Money. We talk about alienation of people, of money minded nature of people, of hatred in the society, of people being less human, insensitive to other people...and the cause is money. Money disconnects people with people. That is its objective. But on the contrary money is the most human thing, which connects arbitrary, unknown people and makes them solve your problems. With industrialization and modern corporate culture is it companies that now solve most of our problems and not individuals. Well it is still some person finally but even persons are now virtualized by corporates. For example my relationship with Airtel is nothing more than a support call. My web search is just a page called google. Point is with every passing day we are trying really really hard to dismantle the structure of human interdependence with virtualization. We should stop complaining that people don't care about people any more because we are the ones creating/destroying it.

Here are some of the properties of money that are not shared by the model of human interdependence.
  • It devaluates. I have to pay more for the same thing in some time in future. It is really not needed but it does happens with money.
  • It is immortal. If I die I won't be able to write software for anyone. But if I have money, someone can still use it after I die. It gives its inheritors the same power as it gave to its creator whereas skills or services or goods (unless non perishable) will not work in the same way. Land for example will not give you money unless you cultivate it. Its mortality is still dependent on the dependent.
  • It gives you interest (via banks). My skills or goods when not in use give me nothing. They only help me get something when I give them to someone else.
  • Stock market is yet another kind of bank which gives you more interest with condition that you might loose your money.
If their is no inflation, we really don't need the banks to give us interest. Whatever we saved is probably all we need when we retire. Inversely do we have inflation because it helps banks? I don't know..may be. I don't have the statistics but I am sure banks made tons of money before every depression. What really is the instrument for making people help each other without both needing something from each other at the same time looks stupidly different, a beast of its own, when we look at things like banks, loans, interest, futures, derivatives, mutual funds, stock markets, etc.

Human interdependence is a zero sum game. With inflation, interest and stock markets money is not. Money was invented long long time ago. We have changed tons of things in last last few thousand years without touching money. I think if we think about this problem from scratch we can invent better models for people to help each other.