tech


Social Media & Blog camp! – a description 8

I have been organising Delhi Blogger Meets and events around Delhi Bloggers, since many years now. Recently we did something quite differently. On 7th June’08, we managed to present a Social Media & blog camp for Delhi Bloggers Bloc – an online community of Delhi Bloggers. Blogging has come a long way and is one of the most powerful tools that are a part of “Social Media”. This post has been long pending since I was in the process of changing jobs during that time, and was also waiting for some of the speakers to provide me with their presentations. I still haven’t received all, but well, better late than never!

The DBB – social media and blog camp was held at Indiatimes, Gurgaon office on 7th June’08. The event venue, meal and snacks were sponsored by Indiatimes. We also had IBM & WordPress as promoters for this event. Tyroo ads was the online partner as well. There was another corporate – a leading telecom giant – who was going to be one of the sponsors but backed out at the last moment. All part of the game I guess! The event tags and pens were sponsored by Puneet of Superblogsecrets.com. Getting sponsorship was a learning experience in designing pitches and preparing concept notes. The giveaways were uber cool and perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises of the day. Indiatimes provided t-shirts and stationery. IBM provided sippers. WordPress provided some rather cute badges (which got lapped up very very quickly & I kept getting requests for them much later as well) and stickers. Indiatimes also had a lucky draw and provided all speakers as well as the lucky winners – a USB watch! How cool is that? A watch which also doubles up as a USB device.

We had released only 100 passes for this event and later had to extend them because of the high demand! I had to refuse some ppl who wanted to attend since we were already overflowing capacity. I had also been getting a lot of calls from people who wanted to speak at this event on a lot of interesting topics. However, we had to limit that too, much as we didnt like it! We had planned several talks by eminent personalities on relevant topics. The topics touched on web2.0 aspects in a lot of spheres.

The camp kicked off with N Madhavan’s talk on taxonomy of blogs – a way for newbies to identify where they are in this blogosphere. Madhavan is a senior journalist with HT with an active interest in New Media.

This was followed by a web 2.0 – travel industry perspective. Digital Marketing for the Travel Industry in the Web 2.0. Scenario was presented by Nirat Bhatnagar, co-founder of chahiye.info.

Rajesh Lalwani of blogworks.in presented two back to back sessions. Both were very well received. The first was Where are you going in your social media car? This session presented a perspective on social media – we talk so much about it but are we getting there yet? This was followed by an excellent case study Impact of social media on purchase – derived from personal expriences on purchase.

The next session was by Shyam Somanadh, Principal Architect, Network18 (Web18) who presented Participatory Media: The view from inside. He talked about some of the things that the Web18 team had done wrt social media on their own website. This was the time I learnt that “participatory” media is yet another term for social media.

This was followed by a quick talk on Twitter by Sanjukta Basu where she discussed twitter and also used it for a live demo.

We had to omit a rather interesting session on Social media – Socio cultural implications and trends – by Manav Deep Mianwal, Head Brand & Media, Airtel enterprise services since he couldnt be there due to personal reasons. We were running short of time, so this provided some getting back on track.

We quickly jumped to the session on Social media in the corporate context – presented by Natraj Akella, Brand strategy & marketing, IBM.
After this we had worked up quite an appetite and moved on to a great sumptuous lunch. The whole place was jampacked and people could be seen enjoying and of course networking.
After lunch we started with Bringing “Social” to software presented by Manish Dhingra, founder Tekriti software. This session talked about how to incoporate that social context in software.

This was followed by a “light” session – Exploiting the Internet – Riding somebody else’s Success by Jamshed V Rajan, Director products, Ibibo web pvt limited. Jammy is known for his humour blog – ouchmytoe.com and also showed us a rather interesting video on Social Media.

Then came a very debated session Protecting “New” in New Media by Prashant Singh. It presented various insights into our psyche about social media. Nikhil of Medianama.com, actually willingly gave up his session so that discussion around this topic could go on. He later presented his own take on the same topic.

A much needed session on Law & Technology was well presented by Gurpreet Singh, Internet Attorney. He discussed copyrights and trademarks.

This was followed by an interactive session on What makes mobile social networks successful? This was presented by Ekta Rohra Jafri.

The last session of the day was one that a lot of people had been waiting for. The monetary aspect of blogging (how could we not include that? 🙂 ).
Blogging Superstars : How to monetize a blog effectively? was conducted by Mohit Maheshewari, Co-founder Tonic Tag Media Pvt Ltd.

This event was quite well received by both the audience as well as those who wanted to present something. It is amazing to see how social media creeps into everything – be it the corporate world, purchase, travel, traditional media etc. There were a lot of other interesting topics that I wanted to have during our session. However due to limited time we could not. I would have also personally liked to do an elaborate session on photography and how it is benefitting due to social media. Due to lack of time with me as well as a well known photographer I had approached, we could not conduct this one. Next time surely!

The participants were a very intresting mix with people from internet companies, startups, national TV channels, IT personnel, civil society, lawyers, brand managers, social workers, mainstream newspapers etc. The news about this event had reached a lot of people. A surprise entrant was Pavan Duggal, the well known lawyer who also attended this event, having heard of it from a friend.

The day ended with a closing thanks by me, followed by lucky draw and surveys/feedbacks.
It was a fruitful day full of compliments for the enormous effort behind it. All this would not have been possible without Garima and Sanjay – my co-organisers for the event. Garima worked from the Indiatimes end. Sanjay and I, designed pitches, made powerplay presentations, posters, tags, schedules, invites, concept notes etc.

Here’s a mini glimpse of how Amit Ranjan of slideshare.net, saw it and enjoyed it :).  Here’s what Sanjukta, an oldie in our DBB group, had to say :). “social media and blog camp by Delhi Bloggers Bloc ws a total hit..v v engaging, interesting sessions. m proud to b an oldie in this grp “, says Sanjukta on twitter! Thanks Sanjukta :). Here’s what Shyam Somnadh says about the day. Here’s what Kreeti tweeted about the day – here and here.

Here are some of the pictures we clicked that day. It was a day very well spent after which we proceeded to sleep off the sleepless nights spent behind the organising of this mega event.


Social media & Blog camp 13

It’s been quite some time since we were planning the “Social media & Blog camp” to be held at Indiatimes, Gurgaon on 7th June’08. It started as an idea from scratch and finally we have managed to get a sponsored venue for this exciting event. Indiatimes, our gracious sponsor is also providing us free wi-fi, lunch, tea/coffee and snacks. There is so much to learn on Social media & blogging in the social marketing context. Are you going to be there? You can register as a speaker or just as an attendee.

This is a one-day semi-camp style “unconference”* which brings together stakeholders and audiences of social media and blogging. The wave of social media in India (which includes Facebook, DBB Social Media & Blog camp Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ryze, Orkut, YouTube, Flickr and many more) has led to a huge interest in the personal and business implications of this here-to-stay form of interaction. Blogging has already been a huge platform of expression for professionals and citizens from all walks of life.
The idea is to provide an ongoing and large platform of interaction for everyone, from entrepreneurs to enthusiasts, from technology to marketing experts, and from media to PR, to enrich themselves with a whole world of learning and business opportunities.

Where :

Date : 7th June’08 (Saturday), 9:30am – 5:30pm

Venue : Indiatimes office,
Times Internet Ltd.
I World , Opp. DLF Golf Course,
DLF City Phase V,
Gurgaon, Haryana – 122005
The venue is wifi enabled and has an auditorium, projectors and a board room for parallel tracks if the need arises. Lunch/tea/coffee/snacks would be provided by our prime sponsor – Indiatimes.

Parking : this will be provided inside Indiatimes office; Map: http://xrl.in/5lk



Gmail/Gtalk bugs – me 5


Before my usage of gmail started, there was a long period of avoiding it because of the unusual “no frames” interface, also because gmail was in beta phase (will it ever get out?) and because I didnt need the space as I already had a 1 GB spymac account (which incidentally launched before gmail did and didnt even need a silly invite). Eventually I also created a gmail id to at least “occupy” the usual id’s that I have on every other domain. As expected, they were already taken on gmail. It took me a long time to actually start using gmail for important mails (I still don’t trust it completely). Gmail certainly has some good points. The main reason why it scores for me is the auto refresh feature in mail and now also, because of the chat embedded inside the mail. I have the “option” of having at least something available for instant written communication, where all other clients are blocked (at my workplace i.e.). Though I am a bigtime “keyboard shortcuts” person, I avoid gmails shortcuts because they tend to interfere with a lot of other shortcuts applicable on my machine. Apart from the “bells and whistles” there are a lot of glaring eye sores as well in gmail. Soon enough google launched gtalk and has practically taken over every successful website on the net making ur gmail sign-in a one stop dashboard for many things. But in the process have come out some glitches mentioned here. Of course a lot of the ones mentioned are independent to the “one sign in” feature.

1. Is gmail even giving the very basic of email services – which is “somewhat reliable delivery” of email? If an email is not delivered, one should at least get a mailer daemon saying so. Else it’s assumed to be delivered. But with gmail, the best part is that a LOT of times (yes substantial enough to not be ignored) mails do NOT get delivered and the sender does NOT receive any kind of error either. Basically the mail just “vanishes” into the quarries of the internet or maybe somewhere in gmail’s huge server space. No one knows where and no one knows why. It has happened with me a whole lot of times and right from when I started using gmail till now. One would think that this abominable glaring BUG would be rectified instantaneously but that hasn’t happened. I have actually had terrible misundertandings with friends because of the things that we take for granted in this technologically advanced world of today. A lot of times I have sent important mails which never made it to the recipient. A number of times I havent received responses I expected and later learnt that they had indeed been sent. Both situations have not been good for my personal relationships. And here I am talking about just the ones I cared about. I dont know how many mails actually get delivered.

2. Use gmail with gtalk and a plethora of bugs can be unearthed. There is *always* a mismatch between the number of users one would see online in gmail and the ones in gtalk. Understandably, those who logon to gmail and not gtalk should be shown in gmail and not gtalk. But this does NOT happen. There is always a random mix. And implicitly one needs to be logged into both to actually get an idea of who’s really online.

3. A lot of times, if a person is online in gmail/gtalk both, then the online status of that person would be different in both. I am not just talking about the availability status but also the status messages ppl set for themselves. A lot of times they refresh in just one of the two.

4. Every time I come online in gtalk, it shows my last set textual status message for a couple of seconds before coming down to “available”. That confuses ppl a lot of times. Understandably they can’t fathom why I am “on phone” or “At global voices summit” or some such thing for a few seconds, which possibly couldn’t be happening at that particular time.

5. Gtalk lacks on space eventually! It’s buffer space that I am talking about here not server space. Gtalk has a buffer problem ~ 1025 lines or some such. The buffer would obviously be based on the number of characters and not lines. When it reaches that buffer, it just hangs and then one is left with no option but to kill it and restart it. Most of the times, a restart doesnt work. Switching over to gmail in the browser is the best bet. Also worth noting is the fact that if one is having a voice talk *along* with a text chat (same person) then this buffer problem somehow gets circumvented. Gtalk does hang but eventually snaps out of it on its own IFF a voice conversation is also happening. Don’t ask me how I got the chance to “test” that. And no, it’s not a problem with the RAM or the processor on my end. Both are pretty high end and all other apps work just fine.

6. I type quite fast but for gmail perhaps it’s a tad bit too much. There’s a lookahead problem in gmail’s buffer. In layman terms, when gmail is busy displaying output, the user can not go on giving more input by typing. When the user presses enter, gmail throws out the text in the chat window and clears the edit box. At times this action goes into slow motion throwing everything out of gear. One would expect that at least the app would keep taking in input but gmail clearly can’t multithread so much. Eventually what happens is that by the time gmail splashes the text in the chat window and clears the edit box, I am already done with typing another long sentence, which gmail clears out while clearing the edit box. A lot of times, to my dismay I realise that the text I typed in, is gone. This problem doesn’t seem to occur in gtalk though.

7. If you login into gmail with an id, then you will have to use orkut with that gmail id only, and vice versa. One can not have a different id logged in into gmail and a different one in orkut. If you try changing then you get logged out. Gtalk however is independent of this and remains online thankfully.

8. A lot of times gmail/gtalk shows the user as “entering text” or “typing”. Just how different is “typing” from “entering text”? Why keep two of them! Whenever any user types a character and then deletes it, the msg in the chatting window gets stuck at “is entering text”. Most of the times, this text is shown even when a user is actually not typing. Whenever the edit box gets empty, the message shd be reset.

9. Now this one is more of a lack of features rather than being bugs – Gmail/gtalk has no option of being invisible. At best, one can block/unblock a user. But that doesn’t let one be “invisible” in the true sense, since one can’t see the activity on the other side either. Through some means, it is also possible to know whether someone has blocked you or not. At least gtalk has now implemented sharing files, and offline msgs thankfully. Unfortunately it still does not allow any text/audio conferencing. Neither does it allow webcams.

10. Again – more of a customization issue – the size of gmail contacts appeared to be non-customizable – it never showed all people online apparently (which was due to the restriction in window size in gmail). This seemed to be a bug, but the number of visible contacts can be customised through settings, though it is still limited to 40 users in gmail. To top it all, even if it is restricted to a certain number of contacts, which happens to be lesser than the number of actual people online, gmail would still show you some offline/idle contacts and omit some available/busy ones! In gtalk, the number of visible contacts again seemed to be limited to the size of your screen (in other words your resolution)! But one can view a scroll bar for the same through settings made by the ‘view’ button on gtalk.

11. There is some WEIRD logic behind the various colours in the thumbnail of the contacts shown in gmail/gtalk (the ones who dont have a profile picture). Orange, blue, green and pink silhouettes are shown on the basis of something that I haven’t bothered googling so far at least. It also happens to be gender biased – no female silhouettes!

12. When gmail/gtalk displays online contacts, how does it sort the id’s? On a larger level it shows them in the order of – available, busy, idle and offline, but within them? The id’s are not sorted in alphabetical order. In fact there really is no order and a lot of times, this order is different within gmail and different for gtalk.

13. The search function in gmail doesn’t really work all the time. At times it doesn’t show up results with strings which are very much there in one’s mail database!

14. With Orkut, why can’t I see all the visitors to my profile? Google assumes that there would be only 4 people visiting me in a day? Anyway this has already been suggested as a feature, but considering that this kind of a thing is readily available in the market since many years, why did Google have to lag behind so much? Plus, why that inadvertent display of online status of gmail/gtalk through orkut, even when I don’t want to share it with my contacts? I haven’t made any settings to share my status and even then my online status is visible to my contacts all the time! There’s no way of “not displaying” it except by probably removing all my friends from my list.

15. If Gtalk crashes while you were listening to music and while displaying your music track, the next time you come online, your status would show the same song as the one you heard when it crashed, irrespective of whether you log into gmail or gtalk or whether you are actually listening to music or not.

Gtalk’s own blog isn’t updated that frequently and most discussions are about some very basic features. And lastly, Gmail “officially” doesn’t have support for other messengers. But here’s a way, one can make it work with MSN, YM, and AIM. Talk away, for that’s one thing where the quallity of service of gtalk outscores on several others.



Doggone the phone!

My phone died on me two weeks back. It was a Samsung SGH N200. Actually it is still breathing its last few breaths. I wish it would just die completely and save me the torture of having to see my precious, sleek, 5 year loyal gadget with a flip, trying to come to life and giving me some futile hope. At the end of which, it just hangs itself to death again! Talk of atrocities. All this when I had some grand plans for it. Oh yes, I was planning to buy a new phone and stash this one away. For the kids (whenever they happen), would have played with an age old gadget and still found it nice, sleek and working (like I played with my dad’s Sony walkman which was one big box too heavy to be lifted. BUT it still works.) My precious little slim phone

It all happened one fine day when one felt the urge to go for a morning walk. Now such days are rare but not that rare to make one completely out of practice in terms of holding the mobile in question, house keys (as big as ones hand) and mp3 player (half the size of a credit card) – all in one hand, while shutting the door. Suddenly before I knew what fate had struck me with, my cellphone slipped and fell out of my grip. The keys could have fallen too (the fools) and no harm would have been done to anyone. But then the mp3 player could have fallen too and the hard disk inside it would have crashed and that would have been the end of another gadget (just a baby compared to the phone). Glad it didn’t.

My poor phone had fallen a couple of times earlier too. But it had always taken such falls in its stride and continued working fine. Not even a chip off the old block. But this day was destined to be different. After the fall, I quickly picked it up and verified that it was working fine. It was only later that I saw that the clock had frozen in time and the phone had hanged itself! Well at least it worked as a onetime stopwatch for my walk. Some optimism I have. Bah.

I tried everything I could to revive it. I even managed to make a couple of calls which was a very very very difficult thing to do considering that it just hanged (at random points of time during switching it on). But in the end, it just wouldn’t work without hanging at some point or the other of its operation. Being without a phone was some sort of a nightmare. I was not reachable nor could I make any calls. Besides that my contacts were in the phone even if I needed the numbers to use with a landline. Before any smartass points out, well yeah, the SIM card could be used in other phones but what abt the contacts which were in the phone memory?

In desperation I ultimately took it to several repair shops. Most ppl just gave up (saying that it’s like an old body now – medicine is no use anymore). Ultimately I landed in a shop where the guy was at least willing to look at it. He looked no less than a witch doctor himself. He checked the batteries and then without even asking me or giving me a warning, hard reset the phone! I lost all my contacts permanently (the most important ones were in fact in the phone and not SIM). When I stopped him, he just told me the stupid fact which he had supposedly assumed – that they are all in the SIM. Dumbass. All my passwords/PIN’s etc were in the phone as well!

Well, now I have another phone. The Motorola C168 (I am strictly against Nokia). This happens to be a temporary saviour which I bought the next day, so that I could use it for 2-3 weeks during which I plan which next flip phone to buy. After I buy another one, I would transfer it to my mom who anyway needs an upgrade of a phone. Her Nokia (torch wala) hangs too, right from the day it has been bought and replaced and even had its firmware upgraded. Only the frequency of this habit (hanging – do they make some sadistic phones or what?) is quite low. The new fella has all the usual frills. Polyphonic ring tones, colour display, MMS, GPRS and an FM radio to boot. The battery life is as good as Nokia. It supports 600 phone book entries and 200 SMS entries (which is much more than counterpart Nokias). All this in just 2990/-. What more could one want!




‘Oops, my Ooosp drive is not working’

My USB (pronounced Oooospb by the Finns) drive had some problem with it recently. I went through some hell and back, trying to fix the problem. Since I’ve been there, done that, I thought I would compile all the important information so that if someone ever faces a problem like this, they can benefit from it.

My drive wasn’t getting detected in the IBM thinkpad provided to me by my client. ‘Getting detected’ needs to be understood clearly. It could be that the drive is detected but not displayed. It could also be that the drive didn’t get detected at all in the hardware sense. My drive wasn’t getting detected in the hardware sense of the word. I had already checked all alarms, and event logs. There was no mention of any USB device detection at all. That was rather strange considering that just a few hours before that I had copied data into it from my office desktop. However I didn’t panic yet because there was a very apparent difference between my desktop and the laptop. The laptop had WinXP pro whereas the desktop had Win2K as the OS, even though USB drivers are a part of Win XP (no special installations required) and ideally Win XP shouldnt be giving me any problems. The next day, I tried my drive again at the desktop. It didnt get detected, whereas I had just connected my Sony Handycam to it and downloaded pictures. (That rules out a faulty port). Since it could be a port reuse problem, I tried it again at a colleague’s desktop, one who hadn’t plugged in any USB device so far. The drive didnt get detected again. This time I got into panic mode. The USB drive is only 2 months old, just bought especially to store all my personal data. I felt foolish, having removed all my personal data whatsoever from my office desktop in Gurgaon. I didnt have any CD’s of it or any other copies of it anywhere on the net. The thought of being without my precious data left me with a sinking feeling.

I started with searching on the net for forums where similar problems had been discussed. I found a lot of things but not what was helpful in my situation. I also learnt that WinXP has a lot of problems with USB devices. These bugs are reported at the Microsoft site, but there is no solution to them.

There could be various reasons why your USB drive doesnt get detected or rather not displayed.

1. It’s detected but not displayed. One can confirm that by going to device manager and clicking on USB drives or Disk drives. There’s bound to be an entry for your USB device. If it’s there and the drive letter is not being shown so that you can actually access it, then it’s a drive letter problem. It could be that something else is mapped there already. Ideally USB devices should not get stuck to a drive letter and should take any empty slot, however that doesn’t happen at times. For that you could change your drive letter settings through powertoys TweakUI (if that drive letter is disabled eg, A:, B:) or simply disconnect whatever is taking up that drive letter where usually your USB device attaches itself. You could restart your PC too. The next time the device should get detected.

2. The USB port could be faulty. Try another USB port and you could see the contents of your drive again.

3. You could try configuring everything to run USB 1.1 (disable USB 2.0) and it might work. The USB 2.0 drivers don’t seem to be stable.

4. Try a different USB casing. At times, that stops working and is the only thing needed to change and not the HDD.

5. Look in Device Manager, locate the drive – under Disk Drives/ Other Devices or USB controllers. It there is a question mark or exclamation mark, reinstall the driver or uninstall the device and then reinstall it using add new hardware.

6. The USB cable might be faulty and not everything else attached with it.

7. Power supply may not be adequate if you have a USB device that has separate power supply.

8. As a last resort (software) reinstall your OS (with all released updates) and reinstall drivers freshly.

None of these however were a solution in my case. Since the drive was new. I was pretty sure that the casing, wire etc were all ok. Either it was a minor software problem or a rather big hardware problem (HDD gone bad). The USB ports were ok since my handycam worked with it. The OS (at least the desktop – Win2K) shouldn’t have had any problems because I had already used my USB HDD on it earlier. It was only later that the same PC stopped recognising my HDD.

I decided to study the computer management (administrative tools->computer management) more clearly. Though it indicated event logs for my handycam, there were none for my USB HDD, not even of failure to recognise anything. The ‘device manager’ only showed the HDD of the PC itself. The ‘logical drives’ didnt show anything. ‘Removable storage’ showed several heads one of which was ‘Physical locations’. It showed a number of devices attached to the system out of which only one of them was attached to it in reality and all others were ghost entries and had a red ‘X’ mark on them as shown in the picture. That included 2 entries for my Sony handycam, which was no longer connected to the PC. It also had some other devices which I had never ever connected to it, but perhaps the users before me might have. Seeing this, everything fell into place and I deleted these entries (right click->delete). Just to be safe, I rebooted once more and then plugged in my USB HDD. Voila! this time my USB HDD showed without a hitch with all my precious data intact!

So it seems that not only WinXP but Win2K also has this dangling file handle problem. This apparently doesn’t even go away when the PC has been restarted. One has to manually delete these entries. Hope this helps those who are in similar situations. Here’s a good link which has most of the stuff that you can try in this case. If nothing else works, there do exist services that try to recover data lost from hard drives gone bad and dont charge anything if they arent able to recover any data.