Cricket from ESPNcricinfo

I heard references to articles that Amit Varma writes for ESPNcricinfo on his podcast, The Seen and the Unseen. When I heard these many times, I got curious and went online to check out the website.

The website has articles and live scores. Currently, the focus seems to the India West Indies test series and The Ashes. I read a few articles but didn’t understand much as I had stopped watching cricket since Ajay Jadeja quit following a match fixing scandal in the late 90s. I failed to find any article that was interesting for me.

Screenshot of cricinfo in 1995.  Image:  By Desironya - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
cricinfo in 1995. Image: By Desironya – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

I read a Twitter thread yesterday by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan on Prof. Sankara Rao and how his interest for cricket and sharing scores by listening to cricket scores on BBC on his short wave radio inspired an online community and led to websites like cricinfo which was established in 1993.

At the end of the thread, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan shared an interesting article written by him on the occassion of ESPNcricinfo’s 25th anniversary. This follows the role played by cricket enthusiasts in the US and Australia and the role they played on what enables you and me today to catch cricket scores online.

Today, ESPNcricinfo powers the score updates one sees on Google. This is visible as notifications on our mobile phone. The website gives me a stand alone website that is part of the social internet which enables me to follow cricket again, if I want to.

Social Internet

I had written earlier about wanting to move towards Social Internet on this blog earlier. The move feels more urgent as I changed careers and moved to a more creative career field.

A pciture of a phone with social media apps installed on it. Photo by Magnus Mueller on Pexels.com
Photo by Magnus Mueller on Pexels.com

When you’re on Twitter or similar social media websites, you are bombarded with information. This information, though, is about different topics. To process this information, the brain does something called “context switching”. Cal Newport, a computer science professor, working with Georgetown University has written extensively on his blog about the cost context switching has on our brain. In short, this affects our attention span. He suggests a mental declutter of thirty days in his new book, Digital Minimalism.

Besides the cognitive costs, it also affects our world. It enriches a few corporations that gains by selling our data to advertisers. This leads us to “walled gardens” that affect our privacy. We do not have a clear picture about what data we give to corporations and how, in turn these corporations use our data.

Some of my friends have also started moving from corporations on to blogs of their own. Their dusting off old blogs that they once maintained and renewing them. A recent one I read about is Karthik’s. I am trying to get other friends to start up their blogs as well. This is where you have control on your content and data.

Tobi Lutke of Shopify is also working towards making shopping online social again. Recently, I was talking about a friend about cameras and that night I saw ads for cameras on Amazon. The Amazon app on your phone has permission to make calls. Is it listening to you as well? Shopify is now considering taking on Amazon. Tim Bradshaw has a nice article in Financial Times that describes the social shopping experience that Shopify seeks to build.

I am not advocating quitting social media. I am only saying that you need to be aware of how you give data away to corporations who make money off it. At the very least, I hope there is a thriving Social Internet that thrives along with Social Media.

Social Media vs Social Internet

Brett McKay wrote on the Art of Manliness blog on the difference between Social Media and the Social Internet and the difference between the two. While the former was the keep of billion dollar industries the latter is the creation of individual people. Lately, I have found myself coming to my website to share things rather than keep them in silos maintained by corporations. Data is the new oil, if you haven’t already heard.

Brett’s blog post is a good starting point if you want to begin moving away from Social Media again towards the Social Internet.

Social Media are websites owned by corporations that monetize what you share and become multi-billion dollar corporations richer. Social Internet is the network of sites owned by individuals or even small businesses that put out content and are shared by people like you and me.

If you have browsed the web before 2007 in India, you would have worked your way through Yahoo! search engine, through various email threads on Yahoo! groups and found like minded people sharing web pages using links. When blogs burst on to the scene, you would always keep an eye on the about page and for the “blog roll” on the side of the blog to find new blogs. If you were on the blog roll of someone famous, you would get a lot of web traffic. This is how you organically grew your website.

A screenshot of the website, stryder.com
stryder.com was a website that I visited often for such web links and blog rolls. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

The onset of websites like Facebook and Twitter were the onset of Social Media. These websites earned money by showing us targeted advertisements based on the things we liked, shared and searched on their website. Getting us to stay on their websites for longer (even not having to open web links on a browser) means they can watch user behaviour for a longer time. Data is the new oil. Wired ($) has a personal guide to Personal Data Collection that tells you how your personal data is collected and used. However, they do offer a convenience in use and sharing that Social Internet has never reached.

The Social Internet was built on RSS feeds. Not the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh but Really Simple Syndication. Google Reader made it a breeze to subscribe and read blog posts and even listen to podcasts. But, Google pulled the switch on the project and RSS feeds have been difficult to follow ever since. I currently use Feedly for blog posts, Spotify for podcasts and Thunderbird for feeds and email offline. What I would really love is a mobile version of Thunderbird that I could use to read and write emails, read my blog posts, listen to my podcasts and play videos from the channels I have subscribed to. One app to do it all would mean so many saved apps downloads and my data would be safe with a non-profit like Mozilla Foundation where we would have more control on our own data.

I know reading this sounds like I am scared of Social Media but the fact is that I use it as much as other people but I am slowly beginning to realise that we need control of the data that we create. I believe that awareness that your data is being used by Corporations to make more dollars is a good first step.

Shared – Podcast #479: Becoming a Digital Minimalist

Brett McKay has a podcast, Podcast #479: Becoming a Digital Minimalist on The Art of Manliness with Cal Newport on digital minimalism. The concept surrounds the idea of not having social media in walled gardens like Facebook, Google etc. These are only trying to rob our attention and make money from them. These have an adverse impact on us just like fast food, cigarettes etc.

I am dealing with my own smartphone addiction and might get the book in the last week of this month on Audible.

Between Political Democracy and Protests

Ethan Zuckerman spoke at re:publica2015 at Berlin on May 1, 2015, where among various things he mentioned how we’re treading the middle ground between political democracy and protest movements after various rounds of success and failures under each.

If you’re too lazy to watch the whole video or on low bandwidth or just love to read, you can read his own writing about the talk here.

How Google Reader’s change changed the way I share online?

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Somehow, all the changes that Google is making to Gmail, Reader et all to make them all look similar has changed the way I use the internet. That’s a pretty powerful impact for one company to have.

I have now started reading blog posts and email on my mobile phone (a Nokia E63). Earlier, my mobile phone was used primarily for Facebook and Twitter and that too for looking up birthdays or to make status updates.

I have over the past two days set into motion a particularly set routine for doing things online. I use Google Reader on mobile (I really hate Google for killing off competition in the RSS readers market) and then star them if it is something I’d like to share. I then get home, open my laptop and use Google Reader’s Starred Item and share the items on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

I get many things from twitter. These get re-tweeted and shared into my bookmarks on Opera. When I get home these get shared via Google+ and Facebook as well.

I tried using something like delicious as well but that is definitely not something for me. I tried for sometime to look for nice alternatives to Google Reader, then decided to let others look and change how I used my mobile and my internet instead. These were easier than looking for a new alternative, switching stuff to that alternative and then using it. Too many things. Very little time.

Blogcamp Mumbai at Mood-I 2010

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 20, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I attended my second blogcamp today. Both have been in the School of Management building in the IIT-B campus. I reached here super-early and so managed to catch up on some of my reading (Ruskin Bond’s The Book of Nature). There seemed to be a strong creative vibe in the camp – especially with speakers on reviewing movies, doodling and fiction or with people who meddled in them. Hence, overall I enjoyed the whole experience.

The morning began with a session by Meeta Kabra, who wrote movie reviews on Wogma.com. Meeta began with sympathizing with today’s creators for receiving one word reactions for their work. She said reviewers must take the effort to provide constructive criticism of the work so that there is a possibility for the creators to learn and improve. The audience thought that maybe not everyone would understand the nuisances of cinema (Meeta reviews films) to provide such criticism and hence the restricted reactions. Meeta then asked for advice on how to handle abusive commenters. The general consensus seems to be that these be not posted at all. Some schools of thought believed that these comments may not be removed but should not be answered. Certain comment moderation was encouraged through various tools by the attendees.

The second session of the morning was done by Harpreet Singh on sketching experiences. He blogs at sketchingexperiences.me. He started off with his aim to get at least 5 members of the audience into sketching by the end of his talk. He was of the opinion that diagrams and drawings were catching the eye of people in this era of information overload. These were simple and easy to understand in a single glimpse as against reading pages of text on some topic. I am not overtly enthusiastic of diagrams but do believe that it has its usefulness.

The next session of the day was by John P. Matthew who writes a personal blog. From an end of the day perspective, John’s session seemed to be presenting ideas that didn’t seem to sit well with the audience. He began by speaking about Google PageRanks and blog monetization to an extent. He then spoke of his experience of using the blog for activism and having used his blog to make money and also make good friends. His school of thought urged people to take blogging as a serious activity and blog at a daily pace. This pushed some of the members of the audience to ask the question of quality suffering because of quantity. The result seem to be mixed with people calling for differing rates of blog posts. I, personally do not set any particular target for the number of blog posts per day. That’s just too much discipline for me.

The next session by Tarun Chandel, now a photoblogger, seemed to contrast well with John’s session before. His talk basically asked the blogger to begin the blog for a purpose. He stressed that by “walking that extra mile” while writing a blog post or posting a picture or the cartoon/diagram makes a difference. He believes that having a good workflow, a well thought out structure works better for the blogger. He says these are worth the time and the effort because one adds his name to the blog post. Commenting on the trend of multiple platforms available for content, he suggested their wise use.

I particularly enjoyed Tarun’s talk because it seemed like a return to the roots in this time of confusion in the world of media today. I was also meeting Tarun for the first time after the last blogcamp, which is when I last met him.

The next session, post a small drinks break was by Srinivas, a travel blogger on #SrinionTour. Srinivas has the idea of going around South India on a shoestring budget of Indian Rupee ₹10,000. He hopes to visit 19 locations in 15 days. He hopes to create a buzz around his trip by using social media. I am guessing it is do-able and connectivity is improving in South India. Srinivas’ trip would be the real test, of course. I have started following him both on twitter and on his blog.

Sonesh Prakash spoke next on his comic strip. Oddly enough he used Facebook Notes for the same. This is odd to me because I differentiate between a blog and a social network. He is the creator of the comic strip that has two characters – SoBo chick and Suburban guy and uses them to generate a comic strip to comment on various issues. He demoed two tools – StripCreator and Pixton. Interestingly, he then moved on to his trips to Sikkim and Kerala and shared pics from there. He came across as a very curious person to me, in a rather good way.

The next session was by Aniket who blogs at flashfiction.in. He began by talking of how he began a multiple author website on writing fiction, short stories and poetry. He clarified for me the idea behind syllables in poetry. He further spoke about how he started his multiple author website and some of the friendships he has made through blogging. He seems to be talented with his voice as well as he was asked to introduce in multiple voices!

The next session was by Sampath Iyengar who is a corporate blogger. His session was built on a series of questions to the blogging community. The answers he received urged him to separate the corporate and personal identity blogs. He was urged to use plugins to pull content from blog to Facebook. Tarun, answering his question expanded on his comment on wise use of platforms. He suggested that social websites like Facebook are liable to change as was the case with Orkut and there was also an unclear copyright protection problem while using such platforms. Whereas, on your hosted server, the content remained with you, by and large.

Harish Iyer spoke next on using blogging to encourage activism. He worked primarily in the area of raising awareness about sexuality and child sex abuse, having been subjected to the same himself. He is openly gay and has spoken about these issues in open fora. He states that his humorous attitude towards this has helped him handle society’s reactions to his sexual preference while also being able to talk about such a taboo subject. He also allows Chandini the use of his blog to connect people with the resources with the people in need. I am a little bit confused since she also seems to have her own posterous for this.  She also spams (forwards emails but she uses spam as  a smaller word for this) people to get this done.

Manoj was the last speaker of the day. He spoke of how he got into blogging after being bored by the assignments offered by media houses. He also talked about his experience of going around the country during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections raising awareness about social causes and the various NGOs working for them. His latest effort is called Canary Trap, where he hopes to provide access to documents which are only stated in the media but one never gets to see in print.

After lunch, Moksh Juneja opened the floor for discussion on the monetization of blogs and some of the “ethical” practices that could be used for such monetization. The question was whether or not to provide a realistic review of a product/book/anything if paid. The consensus seems to be to ask upfront the type of request the company providing such an offer is making. Some members of the audience also thought a disclaimer would help decision making. Moksh managed to put me in a delicate spot by asking why it was so difficult to get a Wikipedian to create content for money. To me, it seemed odd that people would pay money to people when they could edit it themselves and also the fact that Wikipedia patrol would quite easily catch such instances. All I could manage was something on Wikipedia edit principles and to answer “no” when he asked whether I would edit an article if provided with all resources required to make a Wikipedia article (note: this would not make it a good Wikipedia article). The conversation then veered towards the blurring lines between journalism and blogging. Members of the audience shared pointers on how to select content in an era of perceived mis-trust in main stream media.

I was not able to live-tweet the event after a point because of both lazy battery charge and poor network availability. My thank you to the organizers for putting up a great event!

reading and doing

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com/. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on Ocober 16, 2006 as per the timestamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Everyone consumes the web differently. Web is a thing to be consumed differently. There are people who post regularly on the web and then there are people who read what has been written. They think and think. Say what wonderful work that all of them are doing and appreciate them for bringing forth a fact and then do nothing about it.

At least, that’s how I worked. I read blogs like GlobalVoices [link]. I say that what they are doing is a great job and then go home and do nothing about the things that were reported there.

Do you do anything after reading such posts which request you to use your power and freedom to make a difference?

If yes, please do not reply on the comments. It’s very easy to talk about things that you do do. What is more difficult is owing up to the fact that you don’t do anything. And, to all those people who do do something, take a bow. And the people who write these things that cause other people to do, take a bow.