Better social networking, Facebook or Orkut?

When I passed out of business school in 2005, Orkut was just getting popular in India. It probably existed before that, but, it was creating a wave among the school/college circles only by then. It was thrilling to touch base with old friends; those whom one never imagined to cross roads with, ever! As thrilling as it was, the same excitement seems to have died down somewhere down the line. Slowly, Facebook seemed to take over as “the” touch base tool. I have seen a lot of friends saying “goodbye” in Orkut and then saying “Hello” via FB.

For a long time, I didn’t bother to create a FB profile, because it is the same people I would be saying hello to once again. I had done all my ‘chaddi buddy’ search in Orkut itself and my list had gotten exhausted. However, out of curiosity about its growing popularity, I decided to check out FB.

FB looked good instantly. The interface was certainly far better than that of Orkut. The tools were certainly more advanced. But it took some time for me to figure out where the “wall” was, or how I could send private messages.  It felt more complicated than Orkut. Adding the same old friends didn’t make much sense to me, so I decided to stay away from FB and stick to same old!

Slowly, I noticed that Orkut was beginning to make changes to its interface by the hour. Tagging in photos, unlimited photo uploads, profile themes, whole lot of games and other applications, what not. It was facing great competition from its counterpart, FB. Very few of the changes seemed to be winning user hearts. What I made out is, while FB had become hugely popular in the US, Orkut had a major chunk of the Asian social networker population in its kitty. I am guessing that FB’s popularity among the US immigrant student crowd from Asia might be a reason for its initial attractiveness here.

FB and Orkut have one basic difference with regard to social networking – commenting. FB is all about other’s updates. One can stay in their home page and look at what is happening with everyone else. Not only look, but one can provide instant feedback without necessarily visiting another’s page. That’s the idea.  So, whether somebody has uploaded a picture or changed his status, won a game online or read an article, you can always say what you want, right from where you are now. On the other hand, Orkut requires one to visit the other’s profile page and leave a scrap or visit their album and comment on a photo.  Networking was seeming to take more time in Orkut.

This fundamental difference in interface, I feel, has made FB stand more true to its purpose, Social networking.

People like me, wouldn’t really want to leave Orkut being thankful for introducing the social networking concept to our lives. However FB looks like the one that will remain the window that will be maximized/minimized the most number of times on our desktops.

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The Official Dilbert Widget

Today’s Strip

[clearspring_widget title=”The OFFICIAL Dilbert Widget” wid=”478bf96b7bf0b5a2″ pid=”48aba823f14b3dd7″ width=”160″ height=”300″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

I am probably the last Dilbert fan to find out. If I am not, then check out this cool feature offered by www.dilbert.com, the official Dilbert site. It is a widget called ‘today’s strip’ that can be incorporated/embedded into any application be it facebook, wordpress, typepad, blogger or a load of others!

Isnt it a great way to help you start your day with a smile? Surf their website to explore more fundoo features. Also, check out the Dice ad(featuring Dogbert) on the foot of the widget. Now that’s what I call Web 2.0!

Check before you ‘Alt+S’

 

These days a lot of things are just a click away, your credit card payment, money transfer, a movie download, gifts to loved ones, some porn 🙂 and even some bad manners.
 

 

Remember how we spent all those classes in school learning how to write business letters? And remember how we struggled to memorize the letter format of from, to, date, dear sir, subject, body, salutation, name and designation? And no matter how well we learnt the formal letter format, our hands still trembled when it came to writing real letters to Principals, Teachers or job applications.

We were still confused – “do ‘from and date’ go to the right?” “Should I include ref: after subject?” “Should the subject be underlined?” “Does the salutation at the end come to the right or left?” “Do I say thanks or regards or thanks and regards?” “Are all these formats just fancy stuff they teach in school or do we really have to follow them?”

But we took them pretty seriously. For me, the worry of losing marks in an exam paid off in real life situations as I always had this habit of referring back to my textbooks before I wrote a formal letter, just to make sure!

I guess things changed quite a lot as we got introduced to the Internet and emails. With all the smileys, font colors and sizes, bolds and underlines, the letter writing act became a lot lighter, ‘kooler’! J Making spelling mistakes became a part of the style and lingo. Using ‘…’ instead of commas or semi colons became the in-thing.

No doubt emails are known for their speed, reliability and versatility, but are we forgetting that it is just a modern version of letter writing? Don’t we realize that formal letter writing is still needed for impressive business communication?

From what I see at work, not many companies are training their staff on email etiquette. Sometimes we fail to understand that what we communicate is a reflection of our feelings, and expressing everything we feel is not exactly the best way to do business. Because written communication is a risky affair; we are not sure if the receiver reads our bit the way we want him to. And emails and all the options that come with it, makes the process all the more tricky!

I know, we cannot be perfect, but we sure can learn a great deal from keeping note of the certain things that annoy us in emails we receive and the certain things we learn from annoyed receivers of our mails!

These are my top 7 annoying factors in a work mail –

1) Using capital letters in messages

2) Using red color fonts

3) Using multi-colored fonts

4) Adding “…..” as fillers

5) Very long subject sentences

6) Using too many abbreviations

7) Using high priority all the time

Even Scott Adams has put a good spin on email communications thru Dilbert. Check this out –

 

 

I know business schools lay stress on communication which involves emailing but I am not too sure if our high schools have updated this as a part of their written communication lessons. I think they should. Emailing has become such a common communication tool even for school goers that learning the Netiquette at an early age can help strengthen the basics to a great extent.

Here are a few references I found useful –

http://www.emailreplies.com/
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/HA012054101033.aspx
So next time you hit the send button, pause for a moment and imagine yourself as the recipient. If you don’t get put off by it, chances are others wouldn’t either! Happy emailing!

Slideroll feature

 

I recently came across this site, http://www.slideroll.com and i am probably the last one to do so! Found it extremely interesting. Slideroll helps you create online slideshows. The membership is free and it allows storage of a sufficiently large gallery of pictures. Slideroll enables one to add music to the slides from a given list of tunes from different genres you can choose from. There are also options for text slides, zoom, timing etc.

Unfortunately there is no option to add/upload music files from your pc (I didnt find it). Another issue I faced was embedding the slideshow in wordpress. There were many codes for embedding, but noting was working on my wordpress. I spent a lot of time and brain exercise trying to figure out what the code meant. No luck! But I came across an interesting feature to solve all these problems. There is a free slideroll video creator, which you can download to your pc and attach slideshows created on the site and upload music from your pc. The end result is an mpeg file that can be uploaded to youtube and google videos and even to wordpress.
So here goes my first slideshow using slideroll video creator. It is a collage of some photos I clicked during our trips around US. Check out –

“They take our jobs”

ttoj1.jpg 

That is the mantra here, in the US. We hear a lot about it on TV and come across many articles supporting it. No, I am not talking of it in the present context of the economy going into recession, but this has been the popular opinion for a while.

[Here, ‘they’ refers either to the immigrants in the US or aliens to whom US companies outsource local jobs and ‘our’ refer to the citizens.]

To think of it, the argument sounds reasonable – globalization has created this situation wherein companies take advantage of low cost labour thereby neglecting the employment and welfare of its own people.
Thousands of Americans have lost their jobs to immigrants and alien companies.
Who is benefiting? Who is to be blamed? Who is losing? The answers seem obvious but they are not.
I just finished reading this book, ‘They take our jobs’ by Aviva Chomsky.
The author has done a very comprehensive research to find out the facts and point out the myths and misconceptions of the reality. Though I’ll be jotting down some of the points here, the book is certainly a ‘must read’.

In the early 20th century, the Government collaborated with businesses to help find ways to reduce cost of production and increase profit margins. When local labour unions grew stronger and workers gained more rights, the businesses started looking at options of bringing in workers from other countries or shifting some work to countries that had cheaper labour costs. Immigrants didn’t fall under a labour union and didn’t have the same rights as citizens. So businesses could successfully reduce cost of production and increase their margins and the final consumer always got the benefit of low prices. Immigrants are also reasonably happy, because whatever they earn in dollars will mean more money(after conversion) to their families back in their countries.

Then there are the fallacies that immigrants don’t pay taxes and drain money from the US economy to their own countries in the form of remittances. The author points out that the immigrants who don’t pay taxes are the ones who are mostly hired for informal service jobs, like cleaning, baby sitting etc, for which they are paid less(lesser than the minimum rate prescribed by the law).
The author argues that remittances to other countries is a complex point and needs to be looked at from a global point of view. Spending of foreign remittances can have local and global effects, since, nowadays many products or raw materials used for products and even processes may come from different parts of the world. Remittances may also have a long term effect of more migrations or reliability on immigrants in order to afford the rise in cost of living caused due to remittances.
There are of course, a lot of illegal immigrants but most of these people are engaged in low paying jobs like textile factory workers who have fewer rights in the country and are paid less for their work, in turn reducing the prices of those products. So who’s winning? Who’s not?

Chomsky’s book is very informative, factual and brings out the logic behind many false notions. She has discussed 21 myths in a very constructive manner.

Understanding the complexities of this huge, multicultural American economy is certainly not easy. But this book is a no doubt a good start to understand it the right way.

PC, our phenomenal FM

 I am so glad my friend Suchitra and I have these discussions outside work; discussions about work itself, friends, fun, nations-economies-investments-shares(in our own sweet way), cricket, movies, family and recipes. We agree, disagree, exchange online articles and videos and at the end of the day, its interesting because our chat history turns out to be truly historical !!

Today’s chat history was a milestone because we had this heated discussion about India and America, our economies, politics, culture and almost every other broad aspect we could think of(rather, using every keyword we have come across in our textbooks(i of course used google too)). It got really interesting because we were mostly disagreeing with each other and in the meantime many points came up. And while exchanging all the heat, cold and warmth Suchitra sent me this youtube link – an hour long interview of our Finance Minister, Mr. P Chidambaram by an American interviewer, Charlie Rose interview taken circa 2005.

Its been 6 hours since we ended our discussion and I have already watched this interview thrice, and i wholeheartedly feel it is a must watch for everyone. One hour of time spent on this interview is totally worth it, and i have two points to justify this. But first, watch the interview –

You would probably have guessed by now

point 1 – PC’s communication skills, articulation, confidence, eloquence and clarity

point 2 – the magnitude of content, simplification of economics, relativity of issues, representation of facts and reality

I found it phenomenal! Didnt you?