Monday, August 27, 2007

The killer blue line buses in delhi

The blue line buses are everywhere. And from the everyday news, it seems that they are killing people on the fly. Crushing a pedestrian, or a cyclist or a motorcycle rider.

Some days back, i had the option of riding one of the buses. And i realized some things which though i had noticed earlier - but it did not strike me.

The problem - to me seems like more of an infrastructure & mindset problem than that of blue line buses. People in delhi think that they are invincible. They have the mindset that i am the king of the road and no one else could do anything to me. Instead of thinking about the situation as a whole, they would prefer to be at the top of it.

So what happens is firstly, there are no footpaths and pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. Earlier people used to walk at the end of the road, but now-a-days, people tend to walk more to the center of the road and since the number of vehicles are ever increasing in delhi and the roads always remain of the same width, people tend to drive more towards the end of the road. And lo, you have people being overtaken by honking cars and buses. And the people who dont look behind when they walk become the victims. If we would have had proper footpaths and pedestrian crossings then i think, the situation would have been much better.

To add to the ever increasing traffic and the narrow roads, now comes the Delhi-Metro, the construction of which makes the road even narrower - so narrow that sometimes it is even difficult for a single bus to pass through it. Of course - this would cause jams and increase the frustration level in the daily commuters.

The attitude of bikers and cyclists are even peculiar. Bikers tend to overtake you from the left - always. And they would zoom between buses and cars. All ads about zippy 150 cc bikes also show the same. I also confess that sometimes i would also zoom between cars, but ofcourse taking every precaution. But there are people who would like to squeeze in between cars and buses and zoom ahead. These are the people who neither care for their life nor for the life of others.

Recently i had an incident where an uncle on a scooter zoomed past the back of my car - collided with the back of my car and fell - in-spite of my constant honking. If he would have waited for 2 minutes or would have kept a bigger distance between my car and his scooter while zooming, he might have saved himself a fall and saved me another scratch on my car.

The problem to me seems that everyone is in a hurry to reach his destination. And the narrow roads and traffic jams, dont help a bit causing people to move ahead where ever they see a possibility. No one drives in a proper lane. Lane changing is very common. The only aim is to move ahead.

The bus i sat in a few days ago, was trying its best to avoid pedestrians and cyclists honking now and then to make space for it to move ahead. And still he had to brake hard for a hero on the motorcycle cause the hero overtook from the left and zoomed ahead from a very narrow space between the bus and some cyclists.

It is not the blue line buses which should be called "killer". It is the government and the infrastructure which should be called "killer". The government has given us smooth roads but the roads are too narrow for the kind of traffic delhi has. The government has not planned proper footpaths & pedestrian crossings. No one believes in staying in the same lane while driving.

No matter what you do, the autos always overcharge. They ask for thrice the fare and settle for double fare. And they deny driving to the destination, if they dont get at-least twice the fare. And this again adds to the delay in reaching one's destination. And frustration level keeps on increasing among commuters.

It looks more like a chaos...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

independence day

Today is 15th august, india's independence day. But are we really independent. Lets check our independence level.

1. Can you move about anywhere you want from 14th night till 15th night, and celebrate our independence day. That, i think, might not be possible. From 14th itself, the capital of the nation - Delhi is on high alert. People moving in and out from the city are closely monitored. That's the story given by any personnel. But i have been out once on the morning of independence day, and i have experienced the "independence". Well, it happened that i was on my bike and it was around 11 am. I thought i would catch the early morning show of some movie (i dont remember the name) and thought of watching it at some place inside delhi. So i took my bike and when i was crossing the border, the thulla was there and he flagged me down and asked for my papers. Ofcourse i did not have all the papers. But i told him that i am a working software professional and other stuff and showed him my DL (identity proof). But he was adamant and determined to proove that i was a terrorist and had stolen "the bike" to do some notorious activities. What the hell... Anyways, it was easy to figure out that he was terribly in need of money and a 100 rs note proved to him that i was a good citizen.

In the mean time, 3 to 4 cars crossed the border - i remember one with black glasses as well. And none were stopped. There might have been some "terrorists" in there too. Don't i make some sense. So actually, if anyone wants to do anything it is easy to do so. I mean if someone plans a bomb to be exploded on 15th - i dont think the corrupt police officials of the capital of india would be able to stop him. They are just here to curb the independence of the general public on the independence day.

2. And secondly, you receive numerous smses from your family and friends wishing you "Happy independence day" and another sms from the cell operators (IDEA, HUTCH, AIRTEL), that special rates of smses are NOT applicable today. Why? Cause it is independence day and they have got to make some money today. The message i got today was a palindrome in itself. "This is to notify that special call rates and sms rates for different schemes would not be applicable for today. Happy independence day". Isnt it a nice way to say "Happy independence day". You cant help it. After all there is no control over it.

3. India is a country where everybody looks after himself only. There is no control by the government. Recently there had been some reports of high levels of pesticides and harmful chemicals in agro products imported from india by singapore(i think). The government over there at least takes care of its citizens. This is not the case in india. All the government is interested in is taking its taxes and the politicians are interested in filling their pockets. What happened to the chole king - Ashok malhotra. Suddenly he has almost disappeared from all news channels and news papers. He has moved from the first page to some unknown page in a small invisible column which has to be searched to be read. Ofcourse he will get away. He has all the money that he has accumulated over such a small period of time. He could have been the richest man on this planet - if he was not caught. But now - who ever opens his mouth to speak against him would get a mouthful of money - so that he may never need to speak again.

4. And then there is reliance digital at the Shipra MALL - who were offering pamplets with a tricolored pen. Celebrating independence day and inviting more customers.

That's india...

Friday, August 10, 2007

networking on the net

myspace & facebook were, i think the pioneers in social networking websites. Sites which link people to people. And then tons of other websites followed. Some for social networking and some for professional networking. I myself use orkut for social networking and linkedin for professional networking.

First of all, we would go a bit in depth about the technicality of these web sites. Well basically in terms of software engineering - all networking websites are graphs. Each node having number of child nodes and so on. The best way to built such sites is to have a linked list type of structure where each user or node and its corresponding links are stored in memory.

The architecture for such a site could be easily designed for a small number of users. All you got to do is store the information that user "A" is linked directly to users "B", "X" and "Y". And that information could be stored in the database. But, as the site grows, this information multiplies exponentially. It is like 2 users invite 4 others and those 4 would then invite 16 others and so on.

It is when the data reaches a critical mass, that extracting information from the site becomes slow and heavy. This is where the system starts to smoke and the site goes slow. The way to solve this is to have the information - which is in the form of a graph in the memory. Where also it is easier to traverse and get information whenever needed.

Now lets look at it from a business perspective. What do entrepreneurs get out of building and maintaining such heavy sites? Lets look at social networking websites first.

You have the benefit of searching and getting in touch with long lost friends. And you build up your network. The way to get revenue out of this is firstly ads. Now social networking sites are places where you stick and explore. Of course, i would spend more time on orkut than i would spend on yahoo or gmail or any other website. So, if a user spends more time of a website, it is more likely that he would click on one or more ads. And this is where the revenue is. But is this revenue good enough? I cant comment on that. But look at it from this point of view, that the information available from these sites could be used to generate very relevant ads. And the ads could be linked from user to user. So if i click on a particular ad, then people of similar age and sex who are in my network would be interested in that ad. At least it increases the relevance of ads shown.

And what about professional networking sites. In addition to ads, professional networking site is a bit more serious area than a social networking site. So, if you are on a professional networking site and you have got your cv over there, then someone who is looking for a similar kind of profile - might find you in his network and ask for reference. So in addition to getting a person of matching profile, you also feel more secure about the guy - cause he is known by someone whom you know. And that someone can vouch for his work profile. So, the revenue model in professional networking sites is to charge for contacting people. So there is someone who is not in my direct network and i being an HR person find his profile interesting, then i will have to pay to contact him. It could be looked as a next level of job-site, which could be used to fill up "top level" positions. People on the top who generally are not on the normal job-sites.

But what i fail to understand is that is this revenue good enough. Well, only time would tell. Ofcourse, once the site grows huge with trillions of users, the revenue can be substantial.

I like the model of techtribe, which allows a user to post a job and another user to refer someone for the job. It is more focused on the idea of head-hunting using professional networking.

And the latest addition to this list is brijj from info edge ('s parent organization).

Maybe a day would come when you would look into your network to find a good plumber you could trust.

P.S. List_of_networking_websites