Excursions by Amit Gawande

Facebook has launched the next version of the Portal and The Verge has the review. After more than 1700 word, they end with this - it’s still a camera connected to Facebook inside your home”. I think that is all the review could have read.

Tue, Oct 15, 2019 thoughts

Tik Tok, Tick Tock…Boom.

Tik Tok is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on US social networks convincing US consumers, in particular kids, to download and use the app. This is fucking brilliant, by the way.

I have managed to stay away from this social phenomenon” - but am always impressed with the creativity on display in the app. Everytime that happens, I cautiously move away - I do not want another mindless entertainment fighting for my attention.

And am not even thinking about the political backdrop and its effects - which this essay from John Battelle nicely summaries.

Tue, Oct 15, 2019 replies links

I recently had my wisdom teeth extracted. Boy oh boy, if I had known earlier that the road to the recovery from this procedure is not straight forward, I would have never undergone this without much thought.

There are so many precautions to be taken — from keeping the mount clean to monitoring what you eat. This is in addition to easing the swelling and the pain. I would have liked to time this better. With just a day to go to start going to the office again, it would be some difficult times ahead.

Sure, my dentist did explain all the intricacies involved before the procedure. He also mentioned what all I would have to be careful about. But it was only once the teeth were pulled and the gums stitched back that I became cognizant of the complications.

And all this for a set of teeth whose only purpose is to jam up the number 32. Sigh!

Sun, Oct 13, 2019 thoughts life

Get yourself a blog

Nice reminder from Dave Winer (who else) on what blogs are not.

You imagine that your blog is lonely and angry that you’re not visiting, but that’s purely a figment of your imagination. The blog doesn’t exist in any corporeal sense. It has no thoughts or feelings. I doesn’t give a shit if you live or die, because it doesn’t have an ego, it doesn’t care about anything.

Yep. There’s no reason to not have a blog. Get some space for yourself on the web - select any platform that lets you do so for free. Write anything. Or just share links and pictures.

Don’t look at numbers. Don’t promote. Don’t yearn for likes or replies. It is a chore that will hamper your interest. Get rid of such mindless distractions. Forget your blog exists if you want. It won’t feel bad. But next time you have a thought, just put it on there. No one will mind.

Sun, Oct 13, 2019 thoughts

When do I want Automation?

Derek Sivers recently wrote about how he does not prefer using automation for things that he would better do himself. Or he enjoys doing manually. According to Derek, the decision of whether one wants automation or not comes down to is this.

how much of an expert you are at controlling this thing yourself, how much you still enjoy doing it, if you want the kind of assistance it provides

I believe there is one more aspect that drives this decision for me - how convenient will the automation make my life after all? And what is the the cost associated with automating that?

The price one pays might be in terms of the personal data he or she needs to relinquish. This is relevant primarily when the automation workflows are built and served ready-made by the companies. For example, as part of various functions of the smart assistants.

It can also be in terms of the actual time one has to put in to build the overall automation workflow. This comes into picture when you are linking multiple applications and services to get a use-case handled. For example, while using Shortcuts or IFTT, Zapier and likes.

In both the cases, whether I want the automation or not is a trade-off between the efficiency I gain due to the automation and the price I have to pay for that.

Sat, Oct 12, 2019 thoughts

I had to stop reading Thinking Fast and Slow. Not sure if it was the audiobook form or my current frame of mind, but it was monotonous, bland chapter after chapter — like a textbook. I will pick this up again some time later, may be. But for now, this isn’t for me.

This particular review from Jacques at Goodreads resonated with me. Especially this part.

There is also the struggle between wanting to speed up the book due to the slow and monotonous narrator, but wanting to slow it down to absorb the information.

Thu, Oct 10, 2019 thoughts

I'm glad that Android exists

On a recent busy Friday morning, I hopped into my cab on my way to the office. I was about to isolate myself by plugging my ears with an audiobook. Right about that time, I heard a voice in Hindi, a local Indian language, giving directions to my Uber driver. It made me pause and ponder on how ubiquitous the technical solutions have become. A large section of society has learnt to start carrying these powerful devices along. And this change alone has made some complex businesses more accessible.

Many, especially Apple, mock Android for being a cesspool of cheap, sluggish devices”. But it is Android that has put this change on the fast track. I spent my hour-long ride by being a lot more attentive than isolated. I decided to look around to the individuals, running small and medium businesses, using digital solutions. Almost everyone was flaunting some form of an Android device.

Uber drivers for managing their rides and the routes. Small shop owners for accepting digital payments. Delivery-only restaurants for accepting orders. Food delivery agents running around on bikes to find the next order to be delivered. Part-time service experts on the look-out for their next housekeeping jobs. And many more individual or small group ventures.

There is no doubt that the always-connected1 and accessible Android devices have enabled all these use cases. The two combined have also managed to pull millions of more people into the digital age. Sure, iOS might be the more secure, more private platform that’s better for everyone. But it is not for everyone because it is not affordable to everyone.

We need to credit Google for fostering a platform that attracts more and more OEMs. This makes the platform a lot more usable for the majority section of the world. And they continue to lessen the needs of the platform, recently with the introduction of the Go edition. No doubt, it suits and assists their business model. However, it doesn’t matter. They do that so, in their own words, even the most affordable Android smartphones are as sweet as can be”. I’ve come to believe that. Kudos!

Yes, let’s make the technology affordable for more people so that they too can benefit from the new-age advances. And while we do that, let’s also make the same affordable technology powerful. Because when we do that, we open more ways the people can earn, can learn, can connect, can be part of the world.

  1. There is a parallel story of how a business tycoon reshaped the Indian telecom market with his launch of aggressively priced mobile data plans.

Sun, Oct 6, 2019 opinion technology

I recently went through an experience that put my rational mind under a scanner. After a tiring session of shopping for clothes, I stood in the queue to pay for the stuff that my family had finally decided to buy. I always hate the process of selecting clothes in the shopping malls - more so when my family’s doing it than me. I just can’t fathom the sheer number of parameters my wife, my daughter and my sister together can cobble up while deciding a piece of cloth to be selected (to be frank, rejected seems to be more apt). Anyway, it is a battle that I have lost many occasions over years - so moving on.

The billing process that follows isn’t painless either. I am always bombarded with so many questions.

Do you have membership? Why not? There are no many benefits like blah.. blah.. Why won’t you become a member?” Which card do you have? Why don’t you pay this way rather than that?” Would you need a shopping bag? 1 Large? Or 2 medium?”

It’s an unending sequence of dreadful moments till I leave the shopping mall. But this time it ended in slightly different manner. I was offered an offer which am convinced now must have been part of some psychological study. The lady behind the billing counter explained it to me somewhat like this (emphasis her and mine).

Sir, you made a purchase worth a specific, nontrivial amount, so you stand a chance to win an assured gift. This is not a lucky draw, you will win some gift1 for sure. All you have to do is pay a significant amount. That will make you eligible (wasn’t I already?) for this assured gift. And the cost of the cheapest assured gift is twice as higher than the price you pay (how can I verify). So, of course, I should include that, right?”

So, in short, it is pay (over and above what you have already paid for the shopping) to win assuredly? Like what you would do in a casino - but with some surety angle? Why not just have an aisle full of assured gift cards? Why link it to billing? I couldn’t help but think it had to do with the fact that my abilities to think rationally are depleted due to the exhaustion from the decisions made earlier during shopping. And my mind is at my most vulnerable state.

With the pressure from the people queued behind me growing, I nervously said yes. But within seconds, pushed by the pressure from my rational mind, I said no. I wasn’t ready to undergo the scrutiny of my thoughts.

  1. The gifts included bedrolls, luggages, some OLED television set, bikes and even car.

Sat, Oct 5, 2019 experience life

Every now and then, you come across people who are filled with negative vibes. There is nothing constructive that they can ever think of about any activity at hand, individually or for the team. And it is with these people that I find working with the hardest.

Laziness and incompetence are both undesired quirks in a person. But I am fine to have people with these traits on my team than those who are pessimists.

Lazy people can be nudged with a smaller, broken-down tasks. Incompetent people can be trained. Worst case you can decide not to work with them. You only lose that one person.

A negative thought, on the other hand, is contagious — it ruins the environment in a team. It rubs off on to others, bringing down the productivity and the quality of everyone around.

It is even worse if such people are also skilled at one particular job - making timely noise. Because the noise they make first portrays the team in poor light and second dents the morale of the whole team.

Learn to not be a naysayer — wish people could be forced enrolled in such courses too.

Fri, Oct 4, 2019 thoughts

Quick thoughts on few tech news today

  1. Duplex on Chrome? Sorry, not for me. Google wants Chrome to be a platform — but it already runs on another platform, my OS. And in here, I want it to stay a browser. Chrome OS can go as wild as Google wants. Not the regular browser. Another reason I stay a Firefox user.
  2. Apple today released iOS 13.1.2 and iPadOS 13.1.2. And users are still reporting on some unfixed bugs, even those that Apple claims they have fixed. Has there been any iOS release that has been buggier than this? I hope introduction of iPadOS hasn’t affected the dev team, that was already thin, further. That, at this point, looks to be a strong possibility.
  3. When Apple Arcade and TV+ are priced aggressively as they are, the high subscription cost of Apple News+ sticks out. Is it driven by Apple or the publishers? If we don’t see a course correction soon, I doubt it is the later.
  4. Music is priced exactly the same. So may be, it is driven by who owns the primary content that Apple provide subscription for?
  5. A couple of Surface devices that Microsoft plans to release in their upcoming event have leaked. More than the Surface laptops (which unfortunately look may too similar to MacBook Pros - so much for differentiating), I am always excited about the 2-in-1 devices from Microsoft. I find the hinge designs in there to be really well done, with some crazy low angles!
Tue, Oct 1, 2019 thoughts

Every now and then, I wonder about that time when I am at my creative best. It is, rather, everyone’s desire to find that time, that place, those tools that make them more productive at being creative.

However, I have realized over the years that being productive and being creative are antithetical more often than not. There are times when I am at my creative best, I do something that I have never done — say, I doodle the best I ever have — and my brain considers this to be a non-productive use of the time I had at my hands. Why? Because that wasn’t the plan”.

Productivity can be measured, quantified. Creativity can’t be. As a result, productivity is always driven by one’s overly thinking brain while creativity is a response to a curious mind.

The essential spirit of creativity is captured brilliantly in this quote from Wayne Dyer.

Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.

That’s so meaningful — no doubt that one often fails to think creatively these days. Our minds are ruffled all the time by the distractions of our digital life. So every so often, I am on the lookout for that stillness.

Mon, Sep 30, 2019 thoughts creativity

Apple Arcade needs instant play - similar to the instant apps on Android. It is extremely frustrating to wait for huge games to download before you can even try them. With a huge list of games, downloading every one of them is overkill. More so with Apple’s stingy storage plans.

Mon, Sep 30, 2019 thoughts

A year ago I wrote Woke up to find that Amazon brought a bag full of things’, untied it on stage and started throwing it against the wall. No one has any idea if what try hurled is genuine or shit and if it will ever stick.”

Amazon did that again today — a yearly ritual now.

Thu, Sep 26, 2019 thoughts