Sunday, May 23, 2010


From the college days......

 It was a very usual kind of Sunday and I was in a very usual kind of mood ..the one you have after rising up at 11 am on Sundays.  It is a very perfect blend of lethargy and the feeling "to do something".  Most of my "to do something" feelings land me  at Daryaganj or "Sanjay Van" or "Hauz Khas Woodland". This very day I went to Daryaganj. The bus was filled up to brim if something like that is defined for buses and with heat of 2 pm it was quite a relief when I  got down.

               I filled up my time with browsing and bargaining and by some demand made by the intestinal juices landed up at a sweet shop. I like sweets and I like gulab-jamun.  So I ordered one . "Bhai Sahib yeh eq plate gulab jamun milenge (? + . ) " .  I must make it clear here that the plate I  referred to was actually a "leaf plate". 

              This "leaf plate " concept is actually very practical and useful. It is made from leaves of the trees and not the tree itself while paper is made from trees. So in one lifetime a tree may produce millions of "leaf plates" but may be only a few thousand "paper-plates".  Second the shopkeeper does not have to worry about washing the dishes. Third one can take it and eat wherever whenever one wishes.  Now not all shopkeepers use leaf plates. Some use plastic bags.  First of all plastic is not nature friendly. It is not bio-degradable. Second if you try to eat a gulab-jamun from a plastic bag you will invariably apply "chashni" to various parts of your hand which is hard to clean and disgusting to lick in public. But if one uses "leaf plates" such problems don't arise. You can easily manage with your fingers and hence lick them at leisure. That is business as usual in India, they even show such stuff in tv adds.

          Anyway I just got my "leaf plate" with two gulab jamuns and started eating. The shopkeeper seemed to be a good citizen because he had put up a small dustbin just outside his shop.  The dustbin was completely filled and some of the "leaf plates" had fallen outside the dustbin. There was a beggar who looked like kind of mad and he was scrutinizing the dustbin for plates which had some of the contents left. Every now and then he will select a plate and lick it completely. He must be in his forties but his innocent happiness on tasting sugar was drooling on his face. He didn't begged anyone for something, largely ignored, he was busy in his pursuit of non empty plates. Just then a Bhai Sahab finished of his  stuff and his plate became the root of the heap over the  dustbin. This diverted the attention of the beggar and he left the one plate he was holding in his hand to get this new one. I had about half of gulab jamun left. Something just stopped me from eating it. I guess it had something to do with the concept of how few things either to be possessed or done may not have much significance in our own lives but they have lots of significance in other people's lives, who are insignificant for us.

            I don't care what it was but then this beautiful and most generous thought came to my mind, why don't I give this half gulab-jamun to him. It will take him at least 10 plates to make one half gulab-jamun.  The idea wasn't really bad and all I had to do was to throw my plate into the dustbin. He would have taken care from there on. But at the same time another thought came to my mind.  Why should I throw this into dustbin?  Don't I have any respect for this man? I can give it to him in his hand, that will be befitting. I could not decide which of the two choices was better.  If I throw it in the dustbin, I have no significance for the mad man. His relationship existed solely with the dustbin. He was eating what other have thrown into it, a waste, and hence he was not begging.  Its like some people borrow money from bank and some deposit into back, but people who borrow money are not grateful to people who deposit. They don't have any relationship with each other.  The other choice of giving it directly to the mad man would make him a "begger" which currently he was not. Point to be noted he was not begging.

Showing respect was disrespectful and showing disrespect was respectful. I ate all that was left, kept the plate with myself and walked away.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

YooMoot - I like this startup


Read about this startup yesterday and it looks interesting. Sometime when reading a blog, you feel like leaving a comment and then you either need to sign up on the site or do it anonymously. Once this is done it is hard to know if someone commented on your comment or asked for more information. The only way to do it is to keep visiting the site often.

I think the best way to solve this problem is to come up with an API.
  • create topic (url of blog post)
  • post comment (url of blog post, optional inReplyTo)
  • get comments (url of blog post) - returns tree of comments
So as a user, all I do is register with a siteX which manages all my comments.
As a blog owner, I use the API of the site to authenticate users and storage API for storing and retrieving comments. Bundle in some default java script to show the functionality on a page.

Now it is fairly straight forward for siteX to show me all the comments I have written and all the replies I have got.  Given the open API, someone might as well write iphone/andriod app to do it all from the phone. Similarly when I go to siteY where I commented, I still see all my comments and replies.

I guess where I am comming from is Internet as file system, one account, user owns what he writes, irrespective of where it shows up. He can change/delete it any time. It is fairly easy to extend the concept to "virtual files" like my photographs, or presence information or location etc which may or maynot be stored with siteX, but siteX plays to role of a gatekeeper to my personal information and any other siteY that wants to use it, has to go through siteX to access it.

In short siteX is my home directory. I am not sure how far YooMoot will take this concept, but looks powerful, if they can solve the chicken and egg problem.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Streamlining Patents

Patent Fee Hike is the way US Patent Office is planning to reduce the number of patents filed. The article argues about how this will impact small companies.  I thought about the problem few months ago. Here is how I feel this can be done.

  • The goal of Patent should not be to stop others from using it, but to allow people to use it for a price. Making price very high ensures no one use it.
  • The total estimated value in dollars of the Patent should be provided at the time Patent is granted. This number essentially means how much money does the inventor thinks he can make by keeping this secret and having complete monopoly over the use of his invention.
  • Patent Office will take a percentage (say 10%) for granting this patent.
  • The total estimated value of a patent can be changed over the life time of the patent by giving correspoding percentage to Patent Office.
  • When someone wants to use the patent they pay a percentage of the total estimated value of the patent.
  • Once total payout for a patent exceeds the total estimated value, the patent becomes void.
Here are the benefits of this approach:
  • People will not file patents just like that because they need to worry about how much is that patents worth. Either the company should have money or some investor should believe that patent is worth it because money is at stake. Ideally the inventor should make some percentage of the money he claims he can make. 
  • It helps small companies. IBM files thousands of patents every year. They cannot claim all of their patents are worth billion dollars, because they don't have that many dollars. This forces IBM or other large enterprises to attach "real value" to their patents, which means some of them are going to be cheap and hence usable.
  • Instead of 20 years, the patent is void once its achieves its total estimated value. This is good both for the inventor as he gets his money and for the user of the invention, because he can either wait for inventor to make money or pay it himself.
May be I should file a patent on this, so that when some Patent Office implements it, I get some money ;)

More thoughts on the subject - Patents Necessary Evil