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Mashup Marketing

Online marketing of non-internet based companies majorly has till now been confined to Websites, Email newsletters,the intrusive banners and popups and in rare cases participation in social sites like Twitter and blogs. With user generated content ruling the roost at this point of time, the sum total of all the contents a company is generating online will be negligible when compared to the contents users generate all over. Hence having standalone websites, blogs, Twitter presence, even forums are going to be limited in terms of both content and usability. Why would a consumer ever want to visit multiple sites to know about what a company is doing? It's a sheer waste of his time. If this is difficult for a consumer, consider keeping track of content users (other than the company) generate all over the web. It's practically impossible.

Mashups offer an elegant solution for this problem. If Cadbury wants to promote Bournville over the web, putting product description on their website, creating a Bournville forum, creating a Twitter stream are all going to help but to what level? To tap the full potential of all these online footprints the company and consumers leave all over the web, Cadbury would be better off creating a single RSS feed that pulls in data from multiple sources (can also be dynamic) and giving it to the user. One person might have written a blog post about why he deserved and how he earned the chocolate and some other guy might have taken some beautiful pictures of it and uploaded in Flickr. All these data could be pulled into one data feed to which people can subscribe. If Nikon wants to promote its range of DSLR cameras, it could create an RSS feed for top rated Flickr photos taken using Nikon equipment and promote it. Check out Pipes on how to do this. And obviously name the URL of the RSS feed elegantly to reflect the brand image. Try to promote this feed in addition to or better instead of promoting the website. Mashups are like the icing on the cake of online marketing. Measuring the impact of the initiative can also be done easily through Feedburner to begin with.

Further if this is done and managed well, your feed is going to sit right on the reader of your consumer. What more can you do to increase the mindshare of your product over the web? Giving the feed to the consumers is one thing and the consumers subscribing to your feed is some other thing. How can you make consumers subscribe to it? That is a different topic altogether. It's the same as why Harley Davidson owners join HOG and why thousands of CAT aspirants flock Pagalguy.

Playing with Pipes

When I heard about Yahoo Pipes, that too only recently I didn't give much attention to that. In fact I was wondering how could Yahoo! come up with anything interesting. The last time Yahoo attracted me was during the early days of email. But then I saw about pipes here and there in various blogs and only yesterday I gave some serious attention to it.

If I explain what Pipes is in my own words, I'm sure it would underplay the full potential and features of Pipes. Hence quoting from Wikipedia "Yahoo! Pipes is a web application from Yahoo! that provides a graphical user interface for building data mashups that aggregate web feeds, web pages, and other services, creating Web-based apps from various sources, and publishing those apps. The site works by letting users "pipe" information from different sources and then set up rules for how that content should be modified (e.g. filtering). A typical example is New York Times through Flickr, a pipe which takes The New York Times RSS feed and adds a photo from Flickr based on the keywords of each item."

I first created my own RSS feed of all my online activities at one place. Just add this link to your Google Reader subscriptions and you'll get all my twitter updates, flickr updates, blog updates, Google shared items in your reader directly. After completing this, my friend was asking me how I did this and wanted an aggregated RSS feed for him as well. So I made a customized aggregator which could be used by anyone to create a master RSS feed of their online activities themselves.

It's available at http://pipes.yahoo.com/shreyas/masterfeed. You can go there, give your usernames for various social sites and the URL of your blog and click Run Pipe button. After that, just click 'Get RSS' button to get your own master feed. In fact you might say I can do this through FriendFeed itself. But you can't get contents directly through FF, only the links. And you need to sign up for FF. Anyway the point is not to prove the superiority of FF or the masterfeed. It's just to show a sample of what can be done with Pipes. This example just scratches the surface of Yahoo! pipes. You can build some amazing web applications using Pipes. Just go ahead and check it out.

Sense through statistics

I normally blog or tweet when:

a. I have free time
b. I find something really interesting

Having said that, I recently analyzed my tweet frequency(http://tweetstats.com) and blog frequency.

Now, if you take a look at my tweet statistics, they peak on the months of October and November.And take a look at my blog posts. In the year 2008, September + October has seen 5 out of 14 posts. The average posts per month in 2008 was around 1.2.

From Sep 8, 2008 to November 8, 2008, I was doing my autumn internship as a part of curriculum. And it was this period that witnessed maximum tweets and blog posts which conveys I had free time and I found something really interesting. When I go back and see the subject of the tweets (and blogs), it's hardly connected to what I was working on. This means, I found something really interesting either in addition to my work or other than work.

In the essay, Good and Bad procrastination, Paul Graham argues
"There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or(c) something more important. That last type, I'd argue, is good procrastination."

As per this point, it becomes fairly clear that I wasn't tweeting and blogging in addition to my work because I would have ideally procrastinated these two activities. So it all falls into place. I didn't try to exit the subjectivity band and was totally falling in the 'in between ' region. And I even know why - I was not loving what I was doing.

Subjectivity, of sorts

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. It's just a matter of perception in deciding what is good and what is not. Subjectivity, we have come to see has become one word providing escapist route for average performances. When we start thinking about how people respond to things, more often than not ,subjectivity becomes a big bias. It's often an excuse when performance doesn't meet expectations. But are aspects of measurement, appreciation and selection really influenced by subjectivity to a great extent?

Art is one field that is heavily characterized by perception and subjectivity. But even in such a field we find exhibitions of perfection and beauty that goes beyond subjectivity and criticism. They just fall into the category of absolutes. When we take movies for example, The Shawshank Redemption is a great movie. I have never come across anyone who has watched that movie and felt it wasn't a good one. Similarly there are examples of bad movies - you yourself would have witnessed or check out IMDB's bottom 100. In fact there are three categories in which most things in life fall under - the really good, the really bad and in between. When something falls in the category of really good, it means that its greatness is appreciated even by people who don't have expertise in that particular field. You don't need to know the technicalities of cinematography, screen play and other finer aspects to appreciate The Shawshank. An average person watching the movie is often amazed by the movie. Similarly take the example of music. The Carnatic music is often considered to be elitist and only those who have a knowledge about the music are considered to appreciate it. But here again if you take the music of Mandolin Srinivas or Guitar Prasanna, it just transcends. Even a person who without Carnatic initiation is able to appreciate and enjoy it. You can expand the list easily - Sachin Tendulkar in Cricket, Richard Dawkins in religious philosophy, Da Vinci in being a polymath, Absolut in vodka and so on.

Usually most of the elements of a sample falls in the 'in between' category (the normal distribution is bell shaped). The gradient from good to bad is present only in this band. And you really don't know whether an element in this band is good or bad. Thus all fuzzy logic, the occurrence of alpha(the probability of rejecting a null hypothesis which is actually true) and beta (the probability of accepting a null hypothesis which is actually false)errors occur in this band. This band is the source of all debates, arguments and taking stands. When you fall out of this band, either to the left or to the right, life becomes very simple. You are almost always accepted or almost always rejected.

I'm tempted to say that the pursuit of excellence is to fall out of the gradient band and exit the realm of subjectivity.What I think helps you do this are:
1. Do what you love - Read http://paulgraham.com/love.html
2. Specialize extensively - Have a niche.
3. Don't always respond to expectations. Enjoy what you are doing.
4. Work with integrity. Be selective in what you are taking up and execute righteously.

Dr. S Ramanathan

Okay, I don't want this to be a music blog exactly. But somehow I can't restrict myself from writing this article.

Dr S Ramanathan(DSR) was perhaps one of the most underrated musicians of Carnatic music. Yeah yeah.. you would have listened to the short and sweet pacy kalpana swaras of GNB or the genius of Madurai Mani Iyer or the drawling voice of Maharajapuram Santhanam. Or even other yester-year greats like Ariyakkudi Ramanujam Iyengar or Semmangudi Srinivasan. But I don't think not many(atleast in this generation) would have listened to DSR as much as they have listened to other vintage musicians.

Image courtesy: www.carnatica.net

Dr S Ramanathan was more a musicologist than a musician. With a PhD in Ethnomusicology from Weslyan University, he looked at Carnatic music from an academic perspective. Now, that should never undermine his talent as an accomplished singer. One thing that captivates me when I listen to him is the inherent sowkyam brimming in the voice. When I was learning the Saranga Varnam (Intha Modi), I wanted to listen a musician's rendition as this has always helped me understand the full beauty of the song and the potential for improvisations present in it. When I hunted for it, I chanced upon the version sung by DSR. And boy, was I surprised. Till then I have never heard much of him but once I started listening, I was hooked.

Here I was listening to a chrono-perfect, paternal comforting voice in repeat mode. A slight detour: Saranga is a janya of Mechakalyaani with M2 like Kalyaani. But the usage of M1 in the sequence r g m r s makes Saranga stand out and it would be apt to say that this is the signature of Saranga. The text book Aarohanam |Avarohanam is
s p m2 p d2 n2 S (You can also sing or play s r2 s p m2 p d2 n2 S)| S n2 d2 p m2 r2 g2 m1 r2 s.

And I started hunting for more songs by DSR. Unfortunately not many were available to listen to online.
Links for a few of them - listen to them..They are absolute gems!

1. Shivkumar's page

2. A Kamas kriti on YouTube

(By the way, I was actually floored after listening to Mandolin Srinivas' Enta Bhagyamu in Saranga. Currently am too bugged to find the link. Will update as soon as I find it).



I grew up reading Siruvarmalar.
For the uninitiated, Siruvarmalar is a free supplement that comes on Fridays with Dinamalar and it's targeted towards the kids. But I shamelessly agree, even today when I go to my aunt's place, lunch without Siruvarmalar becomes tasteless. During those days the thin magazine used to transport me to another fantasy world - of kings, magic and morality. Simply putting it without getting too sentimental - I loved the book.

This was one of the reasons I pursued Tamil even in my 11th and 12th, but I screwed up finally in 12th board exams which is a different story. But my initiation into Tamil poetry and literature was through this simple magazine. It led me to bookstores searching for more Tamil books and I zeroed in on another series of books called "Rani Comics". It was a comic book which I bought - the main reason being that the price was Rs 2.00 . Today it might be some 5 bucks- but the point is it well satisfies ROI or NPV or whatever analysis you do. The number of pages is around 60-70 and it usually runs stories about heroes on the likes of Tarzan and Batman with busty female leads.

At a later point of time, I started reading another weekly called "Kalkandu" which I stuck on to for long. I even read the crime reporter "Junior Vikatan" but given it's propensity for lecherous and gory crimes and my propensity for reading such news, my mom decided to stop it. I somehow never read Kumudam or Ananda Vikatan or Kungumam beyond taking an eyeful of centerpage blowups - apart from that they were not able to catch my attention. And Kalkandu it was, for a long period of time with lots of tit bits and travel stories of Lena Tamilvanan. Kalkandu comes from the house of "Manimekalai Prasuram", a damn famous Tamil publishing house which publishes books like "Cinema ulagil hero aavathu eppadi?", "kokko munivarin kadhal ragasiyangal", " 30 naatkalil Judo katrukkollungal", "Kundaliniyai ezhuppungal" and other universally well guarded secrets in the price range of 10-30 bucks.Incidentally they also published a lot of science fiction and detective stories.

All these books where somehow restricted to a very very niche set of people who had high flying jobs like doing an audit for sleepworthiness of benches in Valluvarkottam, Sivan Park and other popular vetti officers' hangouts. Then again some guys identified a major business opportunity in parrying to the tastes of the elite masses who claim themselves to be Tamil (Palakkadu, Madurai, Tiruchi, Mylapore or wherever)Iyers and Iyengars but still don't know how to read or write Tamil. Pico Iyer, I'm your fan and all but can't digest the fact that you can't talk Tamil and you can't walk Tamil. So, for all these Anglicized Tams and other lovers of pulp fiction, out came a book called "The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction" which was a translation of all these Tamil thrillers in English.

Nice way to start, I should say and this will bring on more famous works of Tamil to limelight. I love Tamil. But there are people like Skin.Panther and AncientlanguageDrinkSon who go ga-ga over this. The cause is good - these dudes want to save Tamil and propogate it, but the means remain questionable. Guys, let's face it - you stop the encouragement of other languages in Tamil Nadu and you make generations of Tamil people socially handicapped when they go out. And this leads to a species of people called "Ek Gaon Mein.." group which always work in isolation and finds itself allergic to mingle with the rest-of-Indians. And somehow this has ingrained in our DNA and is flagrantly visible for everyone to see. But you know, lots have changed now. And slowly in Tamil Nadu, Mamas and Mamis have started looking beyond Hindu Paper and Narasus coffee. They are allowing their sons and daughters to get married to Sethjis and Sardarjis. They are spending their retired life on round trips of the world.
So the panthers and drunkards of the world - all your motives and moves are outdated by some 20 years. Try something new. You may find some innovative ideas in the stories of Rajesh Kanna and Indra Soundarrajan in the Blaft Anthology.