Saturday 31 December 2005

Auld Lang Syne

And so, I sit here, mildly sloshed after a party, unable to sleep, and no one to amuse with my clumsy typing, writing one of the very, very few Dear Diary posts that have ever touched this blog.

What a time it was and what a time it was. And yes, for me, it was pretty much the Year of the Blog.

I'd been blogging through the previous year, yes, to my wee li'l audience of friends and people I spammed with my links.

And that all changed after December the 27th. Those hectic days over late December and January, as we worked the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog and Tsunami Help wiki. The times after that, with collaborations like MumbaiHelp and Cloudburst Mumbai, then Katrina Help, and then Quake Help. Plus social experiments like Indi3, We The Media and CSF II. It got me more well-known than I ever wanted to be. Well, not quite true - let me put it another way. I would have given my eye teeth to see my name in the Guardian, BBC and BoingBoing before that time. But not, dear god, not on the back of human suffering.

But I think I'll raise a metaphorical glass anyway (had enough of the real stuff for the night, thank you), to the people I met this year, thanks to blogs and online networking. Some of them I have never actually met in the flesh, by the way, but I'm pretty sure we'll have much to talk about if we do bump into each other some time. As I hope we do.

So, fiery Rohit, and wise Dina, and calm, cool, ever-reliable Bala and Constantin, and bubbly Neha, and untiring Angelo, and brilliant Rudy and Anna-Lisa and Nancy and Paola and Pim and the inspiring, courageous Sanjaya, Isuru and Mahangu, and Megha, my precioussss, who I have plagued through many a template, and all those others who were part of tsunamihelp, this one's for you. It was a privilege.
And, also, through those other calamitous times, Amit, Dilip, Uma, Harini, Patrix, Suhail, Chandrachoodan, Yazad, a glass raised to you too. And also Jai, Samit, Shivam, J.A.P., Sonia, jaygee, Ranj, Priyanka, Prem, Ram, Nancy, and everyone at Caferati and the others in my Bloglines feeds who make the day begin.

I wouldn't have touched minds with all of you if it wasn't for blogs, yours and mine, and I am thankful that I did.

And of course, friendships that originated elsewhere, but found a facet in blogs too: Nilanjana, Annie, Manjula, Manisha, Lee; the glass would be less full without you.


Tomorrow, I shall link. Now, I shall sleep before I get toooo soppy.

Tuesday 27 December 2005

Citizen journalism + a view from a skeptic

Jane Perrone, in the Guardian newsblog, on The coming of age of citizen media (in which this blogger gets mentioned):
Perhaps most importantly of all, the TsunamiHelp blog has left a lasting legacy. The model of communication it forged has set the standard for web coverage of subsequent disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake, and many of the TsunamiHelp bloggers have used their expertise to launch similar projects on other disasters. And NGOs and academics are interested in using the TsunamiHelp model as a template for communication during future disasters.

And in the Outlook year-end special, two pieces by Jai and Amit on blogs and citizen journalism.

From Jai's piece
The reason for the impact of blogs like SEA-EAT (and later, Cloudburst Mumbai and Quake Help) was that they were run by teams of dedicated people who knew how to leverage the advantages of the internet—reaching a wide audience, pooling valuable resources from concerned people regardless of their location.
And from Amit:
It is true that in the hands of mediocre writers, the freedom that blogging affords can lead to self-indulgence. But I've found over the past year that the blogosphere is meritocratic, and readers are quick to sort out the wheat from the chaff. This is a new medium, and there's space for plenty more wheat.
And, this, from the in-house skeptic
The blog, a hero? You must be kidding. Maybe elsewhere in the world blogs and bloggers have made a difference during such natural disasters. But in India, over the past one year, where we have had a spate of natural calamities and bomb blasts, there is little evidence suggesting that this new medium, and its proponents have had any impact. Although a handful of bloggers have tried manfully.
I was tempted to just leave that without a comment, but I have to say this (and I'm quoted in Jai's piece and mentioned in Amit's, so you might say I have vested interest), but innit strange that two of India's most respected and widely-read bloggers write balanced pieces with no evangelistic statements, and it's the self-styled skeptic from mainstream media doing the ranting?


Outlook's year end cover story, Heroes from Hell is out. Please go read. Real people, and deeds that misted my eyes over more times than I care to admit.
'It's In The Instinct Of All Fishermen'
R. Annamalai & Sons, fishermen: Heroes for their courage, compassion and sense of justice

'Three Wires, Just Like In The Films'
Kuldip Singh, 35, bus driver: Hero for his presence of mind and physical courage in the face of sudden terror

Gray, Murky Water World
Tushar Kadam, 40, policeman & Anil Tandel, 28, lifeguard: Heroes for their unflinching sense of duty and commitment

A Titanic Train And A Prayer
Rajesh Sheth, 48, businessman: Hero for his never-say-die attitude and practical approach in adversity

Soft Spot Of The Village Toughie
Subhash Bheemu Kamte, 42, farmer: Hero for his dare-devilry and risk-taking ferrying people to safety

When Angels Troop Down
B.S. Krishna Kumar, wing commander: Hero for his prompt reaction and brave risk-taking

No One's An Island
Commander Gopalan Parthasarathy, Indian Navy doctor, Kochi: Hero for his sense of duty amid personal trauma

The Smell Of Dead Bodies
R. Thangarasu, 42, sanitary worker: Hero for his unflinching dignity of labour, doing a job nobody wanted to do

From Rockies To The Sands
Brig J.M. Devadoss, 52, commander: Hero for his sense of duty

The Collector Of Heroes
Gagandeep Singh Bedi, 37, collector of Cuddalore: Hero for his hands-on leadership in a crisis

The Boy Who Saw Tomorrow
Somnath Saha, 19, student/activist: Hero for serving the people in spite of his own trauma, with his parents and sister

The Coming Of Age Of Karthikeya
Raja Karthikeya 25, sales executive: Hero for his empathy, enterprise, initiative; for leaving his safe environs for harsh reality

Cold Tin Roof And Some
Shaukat Khaliq, 35, engineer & Muneed Ul Hasan Malik, 34, bureaucrat: Heroes who kept their wits at a time of chaos

Coming In From The Cold
M.A. Zargar, 36, S.E. Haq, 26, R.A. Hajam, 19, volunteers: Heroes for helping those in distress, without exception

Smelling Of Roses In The Slime
Lakshmi Narasimhan, doctor, and team: Heroes for spending days trawling the villages, picking up and burning scores of bodies

Nobody's Child Goes To School
Revathi Radhakrishnan, 28, filmmaker: Hero for helping an ignored and belittled community find its bearings

Lighthouse In The Islands
Kranti, 24, legal rights activist: Hero for helping the simple locals realise their rights

Monday 26 December 2005

Remembrance Week - 26th December, 2005 - 1st January, 2006

We have been so busy spreading this one around that we forgot to post it here.

Thanks to Angelo and Bala for thinking this up and making it happen.

WWH Remembrance WeekLast year, on the 26th December, an earthquake, and then a tsunami, killed, wounded, or impoverished hundreds of thousands of people in South Asia.

During the course of the year, other disasters took their toll too. Most devastating of them: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the South-East coast of the USA; and another enormous earthquake near Pakistan's border with India.

These disasters took their immediate toll, and, each time, the world tried to help. But as calamity piled upon calamity, there has been a certain amount of fatigue. Perhaps people's stock of goodwill has run low. Perhaps seeing too much suffering hardens us.

But, the fact is, the suffering from those disasters has not ceased. Parts of South Asia have still not recovered from December 26th, 2004. In the USA, normalcy hasn't returned to New Orleans. In Pakistan, thousands are still homeless, and may not survive the harsh Himalayan winter.

They need your help.

Last December and this January, the online community came together as never before to help in the aid efforts in South-East Asia. The lessons learned there were put to use, and improved upon, when the other tragic events of the year unfolded.

Can we harness that goodwill, that togetherness, that willingness to help once more?

The WorldWideHelp group would like you to join us in Remembrance Week. Here's what we suggest you do.

WWH Remembrance WeekUse your blogs, your home pages, your wikis, your newsletters. Link to your favourite charities and NGOs, write a paragraph about them and the work they are doing, and ask your readers to make a donation. (If you'd like to find some more charities and NGOs, please take a look at this page on our TsunamiHelp wiki, this one on our KatrinaHelp wiki, or this one on our QuakeHelp wiki.)

Please link back to this page to help pass the word. feel free to use either of the images above.

Please use this Technorati Tag: .

In this post, we have a few more banners and buttons, with intructions on the code you must post to use them, plus the Technorati tag code for those who need it.

Sunday 25 December 2005

Playing Tag

From Gene Smith's You’re It!:
This was a big year for tags. You could even say that tags went mainstream in 2005 (if tags were a band, they’d be The Killers). So, given we’re at the end of 2005, I thought I would take a look back at the major announcements and events in the world of ad hoc, user-created metadata.
He goes on to cover the big tag events of the year, from Technorati's introduction of distributed tagging in January, to Yahoo's December purchase of

Read the whole thing here.

toilet training in the alma mater

Dilip points to this Hindustan Times article, which says that our old school in Chembur went co-ed this year (as Larkin said, "which was rather late for me," alas and alack), and then went back on their decision. Among the reasons cited: no permission for the little girls room. Gosh, where were those toddlers sent off when they raised their little finger, then?

Friday 23 December 2005

Off the map

We are always fascinated by maps (yes, we luhrve Google Earth. And, this evening, when we were researching something for a column – a stray sentence which we wanted to get right – we got distracted for close to an hour with a variety of maps. And to make ourself feel better about how we use our time, we're blogging some of the links.

Ever wondered what was on the exact other side of the world? For us in India, it's somewhere in the Southern Pacific, off Peru. (Another image here, from this page, which has some good stuff about the different projection techniques used to map a sphere on to a flat surface.)

You might also want to point the kiddies to this page, for a look at time zones, the reason for Great Circle airplane routes, and a cool way to use a globe to approximate what time it is in any other part of the world.

And also see this page on the myths about medieval maps.

She's a blogger, she's a columnist, she's a writer...

And now she's a URL. Pliss to see, which went live in the wee hours.

If you like, come tell us. If you don't go tell her.

More reasons to be jolly

Sir T B-L is blogging too! Fa la la laa, la la la laaaa.

You better watch out, you better nor cry...

'Cause Santa Claus is blogging too!

Wednesday 14 December 2005

A Menu for Hope II

Pim Techamuanvivit, fellow contributor to the SEA-EAT blog, and well-known food blogger, presents a way for you to help the survivors of the Kashmir quake. Donate US$5 at her A Menu for Hope II page at Firstgiving, and you could win any of the great stuff she has listed here.Funds collected via A Menu for Hope II go straight to UNICEF. A Menu for Hope II has collected US$4,438.00 so far, and will stay open until December 24th. Prizes will be announced January 1st, 2006.

Wonderful idea, Pim.
The "donate" link once more: A Menu for Hope II.

Do pass this on, please.

Tuesday 13 December 2005

Being of unsound mind and body...

"What will happen to my blog when I die?"

That's a thought that has crossed our mind. Go read Neha's lovely 'vague piece of "pure" (or impure?) fiction' on the topic.

Saturday 10 December 2005

Crossed fingers

We just applied for this job. Wish us luck.

Thursday 8 December 2005

When I'm sixty-five

John Lennon was shot dead twenty-five years ago today.

Two visuals in remembrance of a remarkable musician and writer. The first is from an ad I wrote, oh, 14 years ago, I think, for a music company. The second is something I did a few years later.

It's only an ad...

It's fashionable to diss advertising - and god knows it's usually an easy target.

But words and phrases first seen in ads have become part of our culture - many people I know (no snide remarks about my choice of friends, now) remember more advertising headlines than they do lines from poems, essays or stories. The fact is that it's a business that has attracted some of the best writers and designers around. Some, yes, for the money, but most, and I mean this, do it for the challenge, for the every-day-is-different feeling, for the spirit of fun that pervades most creative departments.

Ten years in the agency world gave me valuable lessons in craft, economy, persuasiveness, impact, and much else, including a coffee habit. I did get disenchanted with some aspects of the business, it's true, but I mostly, it was a great ride. I moved on, yes, but not because I had fallen out of love with the business, but because there were other things I wanted to do. I think of advertising as fondly as one thinks of a first girlfriend. With a certain amount of tenderness, of nostalgia, with the bad bits fading away.

What brought this on? Well, someone mailed me one of my favourite bits of advertising copy. It's for Apple, a company I've been inordinately fond of, ever since I first got onto a computer more than fifteen years ago, to my good fortune, a Macintosh. And that has been a parallel love affair, though, arguably, one which has been even more one-sided, because in the years since then. I have been forced to spend more time than I want to on Windoze stuff. Still, Apple is who you have to blame for being made to read this.

Anyway, this wasn't the campaign that launched the company (that's the legendary "1984"), but most copywriters know it, most would have been quite happy to have it in their portfolios. I know I would!
Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Tell me, then, are there any ads that have stayed with you long after you first saw them? Maybe even after the products they sold went off the shelves?

Sunday 4 December 2005

Bad Mid-Day?

Now, we don't think we're a prude - we're usually accused of being way too liberal - but we were more than a little scandalised to see in today's Sunday Mid Day a double spread feature on the Bad Sex Award. Not just a short mention (which would be okay, IOAO, considering there was an Indian angle with Aniruddha Bahal taking it two years ago, and Salman Rushdie and Tarun Tejpal on this year's shortlist), but, erm, extracts. Not just this year's winner, but the winners all the way from '94. Plus, in a mild attack of originality, an add-on feature on Bad and Good Sex in the Indian film industry.

And yes, we know the Lit blog world has covered this, and that's in the public eye too, but there seems to be a line being crossed here.

A newspaper lands up in our homes, has puzzles for the brats, etcetera. Are you comfortable with the kiddos finishing the Jumble and then turning to a page of rather descriptive text, even if a few perfectly normal body-part type words are *******ed out?
Cross-posted on we, the media.

The Chennai floods

The boys at Chennai Help are keeping it blogged. Give them your support.

First, Google Analytics. Now, Diagnostics and Investigations?

The New England Journal of Medicine has this letter to the Editor where a Fellow made an accurate diagnosis of a rather rare syndrome.
'How did you make that diagnosis?' asked the professor. Came the reply, 'Well, I had the skin-biopsy report, and I had a chart of the immunologic tests. So I entered the salient features into Google, and it popped right up.'

'William Osler,' I offered, 'must be turning over in his grave. You googled the diagnosis?'

Where does this lead us? Are we physicians no longer needed?
[Link via Patrix's weekly Linking Park. How does the boy find the time to do that and Desipundit and have a life?]

And, in other news, we learn through creativegarh, that in Durham County, North Carolina, USA, the prosecution in a murder case used a man's search history as evidence in a trial, and won a conviction.
Robert James Petrick, 51, didn't exactly point a Web browser to the Internet search engine Google and type in "how do you kill your wife?"

But he came pretty close, say prosecutors in Durham County, North Carolina.

Petrick used Google to search the Internet for references to "body decomposition," "rigor mortis," "neck" and "break" in the days before and after he murdered his wife, Janine Sutphen, then dumped her body in a lake, said Durham County assistant prosecutor Mitchell Garrell.

By "Googling" his wife's murder, Petrick was inadvertently supporting the prosecutor's time line of events.

For instance, the jury learned that Petrick searched for and downloaded a topical map of a lake bed in the days before he dumped the woman's remains in the same body of water.

"We were prepared to go forward with prosecution anyway, and would have succeeded, but no doubt this stuff helped," Garrell said. "We were able to tell the jury things like, 'Here's when she's last seen, and here he's downloading a map of the lake she's found in.'"
Of course, this raises questions of privacy. Your opinion? And in the first case, would you be more comfortable if your doctor was using search to help in diagnosis, or less so? The the link that Patrix points to has some opinions.

What nonsense. We pray to Technorati.