Saturday, May 31, 2008

Taj Hotels

Father's Day is coming up ... and Taj Hotels is running an ad ... where they are asking you to bring your Princess ... to assure her that you will never go away (which of course you will ... the next official tour is round the corner? if not the tour, of course ... there is the day when you need to go away ... forever!), and to tell her that she is your cherished Princess ...

Beautiful ad ... if you have a Daughter. Of course, in true new age style, Taj Hotels believes that if you have a darling little Prince, or a cudly little brat, either you shouldnt be telling him how much he means to you, or, even if you want to do that, please, please ... oh, please ... dont do it at Taj Hotels! Now, of course, this is just symptomatic ... What I wanted to write about ... in today's day and age of political correctness, somehow, whenever they are talking about the high flier, the achiever, they are using the word her ... not usual that i read him when it comes to someone calling the shots ... while this is very nice ... or, it would be very nice if it actually reflected a difference in the position of women in society at the ground level ... i find it rather funny to read this.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Discovery ... The Key!

I was accessing a blog written on KM ... There was a nice link on the blog ... of sharing the blog on facebook. Now, being quite active on facebook, i thought this was quite a neat thing. First thing i did ... went on google, and searched for a widget to enable this link on my blog. This can be an exercise which can consume a lot more time than you would think.

And, this i believe, is one of the major challenges we face as knowledge managers ... that of discovery. How best one can enable the discovery of content, as well as of expertise in the corporate intranet. There usually are so many siloes, that this is all but a simple task. And this is where web 2.0 technologies can play an important role. One thing links to another ... though one could argue that this was true of "web 1.0" as well. However, with web 1.0 the content that you would link to would be comparably static content, compared to the dynamic nature of content, once the contect creation is enabled for everyone. Though, of course, the "circular problem" still exists ... Start from point A, explore links to several links from point A, and quite soon, you will either have forgotten what you were searching for, or you would go down a link which would take you back to point A. And this is where aggregation needs to play an important role. Aggregation of content in a way which is accessible in a simple and easy to use way, and content which can be presented to users in a way which is simple to read, and easy to assimilate.

Trusting Bloggers

I came across this interesting post by Bill Ives ... The question is an interesting one ... whether people trust bloggers or not. My two bits on this ... and, since you are reading this, i can safely assume that you at least trust what i write, if not completely trusting me! :-)

Well well ... coming to the idea of trust that more traditional media command ... they do get it wrong, too. In that, i remember reading a news piece (this was around 8 years ago, and i dont remember where i read this ... i am gtting old, you see!), about Microsoft being the largest ERP vendor in the world (this was in a different context, but that was the message ...). Now, this is definitely not correct, but this came from one of the most respectable business dailies. Now, this is just an example. And, if we are to be told that the research firms always gt it right, thats also not correct.

About the blogosphere ... the fact is, that even today, there is no way you can actually aggregate what the "blogosphere" says about a particular topic. And, considering that blogs are a conversation, which essentially represent opinions, there is no aggregate way to search for opinions. Even if we leave that aside, the fact is, that like a lot of markets, the blogosphere has ways of making sure the fakers are not lasting for too long in the heart of the conversation. Lets face it ...

Ye jo Public hai, ye sab jaanti hai!

or ...

This Public, this public knows everything!

Fact is, on the aggregate, the "blogosphere", if seen as a marketplace, knows a lot more than it lets on, and would definitely be far more reliable than the editorials of a newspaper, or the thought processes of a research firm. Which is why, i wouldnt even look at the "blogosphere" for instant replies, but rather, for opinions based on which i can derive my thoughts, and also, for an understanding of where the world is headed, more at the aggregate level.

Even at the granular level, if we are to consider a specific event, the fact is that the market (and in a way, the "blogosphere" can be a proxy for one ...), is far more suited for making predictions on the outcome of a specific event than an individual is, which is why, they usually get it right before the others.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Continuing on Bongs ...

OK ... I found out the original ... The post on Bongs comes from another post. Of course, there are a few things which need to be added. One that comes to mind ... Daak naam! And, of course the bhaalo naam. For the uninitiated ... daak naam is the name by which you are called ... the nick-name (which is assuming that everyone would be calling you by this name). Which, if you were a Bong, you would dread ... being called by all and sundry by a name like Phuku, or Piklu, or Kaju, or Kishmish, for that matter, or any such smattering of names, which not only have nothing to do with your name, they dont even have anything to do with any recognizable human language. The other name you would have, the bhaalo naam (good name, based on the assumption that the daak naam cannot be bhaalo ... a confession?), is the name you are known to the rest of the world, who are unfortunate enough to not be in on the secret of your daak naam.

A word about the bhaalo naam, too ... something i had observed, and which was corroborated by other sources, too ... probably every alternate Bong child must be named as a variant of Deb (God!). So, he is either the son of God, Debkumar, or the blessings of God, Debashish, or any linguistic or spellings variant of the word ... look at the way he behaves, there would be no way you would have been able to guess!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Princess and the Gardener ...

So not me ... but i felt the impulse to write a story ... inspired from something i had read long years ago ... dont ask me, i dont even remember. Here goes ...

There was once a princess … She lived in a beautiful palace, in a kingdom which was vast, and prosperous. The king was a kind and just king, and the people were happy. They were kind, too. The people would always help each other, and build beautiful buildings. They also grew exotic flowers. In fact, they were reputed far and wide for growing beautiful flowers. And the most beautiful flowers grew in the palace. It was said that the beauty of the flowers depended on how good the owner of the house was. And, the king was indeed a good man.

The palace garden was tended by a gardener. It had he lawns, but they were tended to by a single gardener. He was a loving and kind man, and he loved all his flowers a lot. Though, the flower he loved the most was the princess. And, unknown to the gardener, the princess also took a fancy to him. They were in love with each other. And then, one day, it came, as it must … They met, their eyes met, and they found out about their mutual feelings.

From then on, they would meet every day. Every day, they spent some wonderful moments together. Soon, word went out, as it must, and their love became the talk of the town. And it soon reached the king. The king, being a kind man, was in a dilemma … He couldn’t let this happen, and he couldn’t stop this, too. At this stage, he called his minister, and asked for his advice. The minister, a wise man advised him. The king followed his advice, and asked the gardener to move to another city in the kingdom where the king had got a new palace built. He had to go there to grow the same beautiful flowers that he grew in the palace garden. But, he must not tell the princess. Otherwise … The gardener had no choice.

Then one day, the gardener left at dawn. The princess, of course, didn’t know. She waited for him in the garden, but he didn’t come. Days turned to weeks, and weeks to months, but the gardener didn’t come back to the princess. She was heartbroken, and more so, she was angry. Angry at the way he went away, after playing with her heart. It was in this frame of mind that she went on a holiday. She went to the hills, where she sought to find solace. The hills indeed were soothing, but not to the princess. Then one day, as she was walking along the cliff, she saw him. He ran to her. They met, he from love, and she from anger. As he walked towards her, she brushed him aside. He tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t listen. She was angry. The gardener walked towards her, and as he did so, she pushed him away … Little did she realize that she was standing at the edge of the cliff … and as she pushed him away out of rage, he lost his balance, and no matter how much she tried to hold on to him, he fell. And she had to let go … for he fell to the bottom of the hill, to his death.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

E 2.0 Going Forward

I was reading an excellent post by Andrew McAfee about The Friendster Years which sort of rang a bell. Interestingly, the phenomenon he talks about need not simply be restricted to IT. We have seen this happening all over. Remember the days of the radio? Fast forward to today ... See the face of the radio. Nobody would be able to recognize the two as similar things. Or computers ... i dont remember the last time i saw a floppy disk. Or, cassettes, and the way they morphed into CDs, into mp3 ...

Moving to technology, one could say the same of the internet ... what started with a particular shape has morphed into a rather different one. To my mind, it would be a reasonable assumption that this would be applicable to web 2.0 tools as well. Simple networking sites have been around for some time now ... Close to a decade? But, the shape SNS is taking today is rather vastly different from what it was back then. Similarly, we could assume that other tools, and by extending the logic, E 2.0 would morph (based probably on concepts similar to what they are today, though with differences) into something which is more in line with the requirements of the organization. We are already seeing it happening ... Read this. Second Life began quite recently out there on the web, and today, is being taken within the firewall ... quite a bit of morphing, wouldnt you say? If anything, the rate at which technology is morphing is increasing, which only means the next steps for E 2.0 might not be too far away from now. Which is why i would agree with the student in Andrew's class ...

IPL Coming Into It's Own

The match played yesterday was amazing ... King's XI Punjab versus Mumbai Indians. How much closer can it get, without going to the bowl-out. The difference of 1 run off the last ball ... A game which was amazing, and probably one of the best games of the tournament. The second match yesterday ... Chennai Super Kings versus Bangalore Royal Challengers. A wonderful match, and honestly i had gone off to sleep with 10 overs still to go. The result, as i found out this morning, was amazing. Not only would it gladden Dr. Mallya's heart, it also brings out another thing ... that the teams are more or less balanced. That the clincher is how well the team is clicking. Another thing that comes out ... the matches are getting to be more and more interesting as the finals near.


There was an amazing match played last evening ... Mumbai Indians versus King's XI Punjab. The point that i thought was noteworthy ... actually, two of them. First was Sachin Tendulkar's reaction when he was run out. He knew that Mumbai would have won the match had he stayed at the crease for the remaining overs. And, they would have, the way he was playing ... Vintage Tendulkar. However, when he did get out, the way he turned back to Robin Uthappa and seemed to almost be taking the blame for the run out, and encouraging the youngster to stay on till the end ... that to my mind is a wonderful example of leadership. One would look at the leader at times like these, and the leader not pushing the others down in a crunch situation like this is a wonderful example.

Another was the way Yuvraj Singh led the team ... It seems to me that he was the appropriate mix of authority, shouting at teammates for mistakes, and in the end, leading from the front ... effecting the run out when it mattered most ... Another wonderful example of leadership.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bongs ...

OK ... so, this is not original, but nevertheless, true in large part! Also, this still means that i love the Baangaalee, though ...

"What the horns are to a buffalo ,deceit is to the Bengali. Large promises, smooth excuses, elaborate tissues of circumstantial falsehood, chicanery, perjury, forgery, are the weapons, offensive and defensive of the people of the Lower Ganges." said Macaulay about my brethren (not sisters, remember ...).

Overview:There are two kinds of Bengalis that I know. Probashi or Expatriate Bangalees, a fairly large and diverse group about which I can't write as I am almost (phew) one of them. And Bengalees who are from Kolkata. This group is incorrectly known as Bongs, as they are merely a subset. However, this is the only group which matters. Gokhale told of them, long years back, "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." To which Rene Descartes responded, "I think (today), therefore I am (Bengali)." Like all other Nobel Prize Winners, Oscar Awardees and most successful Indian cricket captains, Rene Descartes was also a Bong (this fact is not known outside of Kolkata, and never would have been, had it not been for the generous soul who authored this!).

Physical Description:

The Bong has a large head, glasses, glistening hair and dark skin. Older Bongs develop an ample stomach to balance their large heads.This happens by the age of 25. They smell of Keo Karpin. The averagelife expectancy is 65 years. What is even more impressive is what they do in those years. Outside Kolkata, regardless of weather, sex or age, Bongs can be seen in Monkey Caps. This is a must-have accessory as well as a sign to recognise other Bongs. (please see second update for more).

The Bongling can often be recognised in either over-sized or under-sized school uniforms. The Bong mother's second biggest fear (See diet for the biggest one) is that the "porer bochor o lomba hoye gele abar notun skirt kinte hobe!!" or "Next year, if you grow taller,we'll again have to buy a new skirt!!". Thus, the school uniform is selected to last at least three years. Thus the uniform sits as conspicuously on the Bongling as the plumage of a macaw.

Early Years:

While most Bongs are born with innate talents in singing, dancing, painting, film-making, cooking or embroidery, their creative talents are honed even before they can start speaking. Frequent meets are organised between infants and their successful ancestors and other relatives. MA degrees (preferably from Cambridge, at least from Presidency or Jadobpoor) are displayed over the cots. The infant is exposed to the best of Bengali thought - Marx, Bentham,Kalidas, Tolstoy, Chekov*. This increases the sizes of their heads and the height of their ambitions. Similar examples, though rare, can be found in European tradition as well, like in the case of Mozart. In India, however, Bongs have the sole preserve on such activity during infancy.

Soon, when they grow up a little, their characters are honed in the best of schools. Here, I am not referring to the South Points, LaMarts, Don Boscos and all. They are important in the nurture a Bong child goes through. What is even more important are the schools the Bong child passes through before school and after school. Many a Bong child wakes up at five o'clock in the morning to attend swimming classes. After one hour of swimming, he attends tennis coaching before rushing off to one of the South Points, La Marts etc. mentioned above. School finishes by two or so, from where he scoots along to Singing/ Instrumental Music/ Dance Classes, then tution (for atleast three of all five subjects). He rounds off the day with coaching on either Debating or Quiz. Many a Bong mother will carry the child along through this day, feeling equally energised. This behaviour is again not restricted toBongs. It also seen within kangaroos in Australia who rush along from one clump to another bush.

Growing up:

Soon the Bong attains adolescence, doesn't find friends of his age (since everyone is competing for the Nobel Prize or the Indian captaincy) and finds intimacy in conversation in his/her parents and poems of T.S. Eliot and Pablo Neruda.When school ends, they move on to the good colleges- Presidency, Xavier's or IIT Kharagpur. The best of them, though, move straight to Joo (Jadobpoor). However, in recent years, Dilli (Stephen'sobviously) is becoming the preferred destination for some escapists. In colleges, they decorate their rooms with books or portraits of Robi Guru (Tagore). On the opposite wall, men would have posters of Che/Maradona and women would have Enrique Iglesias, thus expressing solidarity with Latin American culture. All of them share equal interest in the Bong-Rock (Bhumi, Chondrobindu, Cactus, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple).

Later Years:

Bongs mature early. Critics have said that they grow old early, but that is nothing but old hat. Years of toil and Eliot would obviously bestow wisdom. The reason they look older is because the sole purpose of a Bong's life is to win the Nobel Prize or the Oscars (and in recent years, captain the Indian team). With great responsibility comes great age. Add to it the chlorine in the swimming pools and you know why Bongs grey prematurely. As far as their mission in life is concerned, they have been very successful at it. Every Indian Nobel Prize winner has been Bong. So have the Oscar Awardees. And most succesful Cricket Captains. And Bipasha Basu.Once Bongs have kids though, their mission on life changes. The only raision de'etre for them is making sure that their progeny achieves the heights that they could (or couldn't). Hence, they (mostly the female of the species) are mostly found outside of schools, colleges and tution classes. The male of the species doesn't stay behind. Not only do they contribute to their child's success by polishing their Black shoes (Mostly Bata's Bubblegummers) every morning, but also they create aculture of achievement and challenge. Every morning, they wake uparound five-thirty or six to run to the market. The best fish has to be found and somehow, every Bong family gets the best fish in the market every morning. This fish sometimes helps in making murighonto or brain food, which can't be explained to non-Bongs and doesn't need to be explained to Bongs.The other way the Bong creates and maintains a challenging environment is by standing in lines and gathering in groups. Many aBong father has refused to go to the office on entire days, if he has spotted some michil (literally, a rally; mostly, six people standing in a line), on the way to work. They will instantly join the line at the end and start protesting or challenging. Sometimes, they find that the others in line are not aligned to the cause. A famous 'challenger' stood in a 'ration shop' line for two hours, protesting against atrocities in Vietnam all the time. Some Bongs also get to start such movements. Everyone will claim that they did. This is analogous to finding the best fish.


Diet is as important as Robindro Shongeet. There's nothing that a Bong can't eat. However, they prefer protein over other food groups. The largest source of protein for them is fish, then meat, and then mishti (sweets) made from milk. More than fish itself, it is the knowledge of fish which is coveted and enjoyed. Carbohydrates are tolerated if they are fried in oil or if it is accompaniment to fish. Luchis (somewhat like a Puri), Telebhajas(pakoras) and Phuchkas (Paani Puri) are the favoured source of carbohydrates. The young Bengali though invariably always has Farex, Lactogen and Waterbury's Compound. As far as they most important meal of the day is concerned, please do note that what dieticians have been saying in the last few years,Bongs have known for centuries. Breakphast/ tiphphin is an occasion where the entire family comes together, to watch the office-going Bong male and school-bound Bonglings eat. The Bong woman's biggest fear is that "Shokale bhaat dal mach bhaaja na kheye beriye gailo" or "In the morning, He went out without eating rice, dal and fish fry." To round off the calories, Dal is often accompanied by aaloo bhaate, aaloo bhaja, potol bhaaja and various other heartily fried stuff. Not for the faint-hearted.

Mating and procreation:

A few Bong end up being in relationships, which lead to love marriage. This is sometimes shown in movies and song. However, most do not have any such social malignancy and end up marrying the woman of their mother's dreams or men of their father's choosing. This results in mixing the right genes for the next cycle of Bongs. Love marriage, by its very nature, is random. It sometimes results in tragedy, like marrying into another country (like India). Hence, it is avoided, wherever possible.

Social Life:

Adda, robindro shongeet and cha. Repeat. Do note that the young Bong doesn't have a social life (at least not till he wins the Nobel or gets a Government job). And phootball. The Bongs have had an illustrious history of achievement in football. Every para (neighbourhood) has stories ofwhen they won the World Cup at the expense of the next one. The last time it happened in my parent's para was in 1986, when Argentina won in Mexico. Diego Maradona, who looks Bhodrolok enough, give or take afew lines of coke, scored famously using his hand, a skill which he learnt in Kolkata. Over the last few years, Brazil has been gladdening the hearts of many Zicos who were born in Kolkata around1982-86. The only team which is not Bong is Germany as they play with more efficiency and no creativity, which thus is not amenable to adda. Do not ask of a Bong doing anything on the phootball field as then the Bong will keep you occupied about Jakarta, 1962. "Chuni Goswami je Ball tule dilo PK ke. Match-er aagei bolechilo, "Ekta Ball debo. Daam kore maarish. Gol hobe"." Chuni Goswami put a football up for PK (Banerjee). He told him before the match itself, "I will give you one ball. Hit it with a bang. Goal will happen." Obviously, it is also the crowning moment of Indian phootball.


While you may find a Bong in other places (like occasionally in offices), the best time to observe a Bong is in his natural habitat - the best of colleges, the best of schools, the best of coffee houses and the best of culverts on top of drains or on verandahs on the side of roads (aka the Rock). It is here that he will tell you about Balzac while she will recite poetry with gay abandon. To mix in with the Bong, apply Keo Karpin to your hair and carry a jhola. Hopefully, they won't notice your small head. Do not worry about not knowing the language as the Bong likes being heard.


A Bong's language is Bengali, which is amongst the top 10 languagesin the world. However, it can be asked, as corrupted by CLR James,"What do they know of Bengali who only Bengali know?". A non-native speaker can make the mistake of asking "How are you?" to a Bong. In most non-refined languages and cultures, this is a question which is answered by a Fine or a Sehr Gut or a Getting along. To a Bong, the question is an invitation to a discussion on logic and philosophy. And the state of the digestive system. The Bong will not say, "Bhaalo Aachi" (I'm good) to "Kaimon Aachen?". Instead hewill tell you about his piles, his pituitary issues, the prawns he ate last week and the stress he is going through at work which is the cause of his mother-in-law's ulcers. Frequent mention will be made of "Amasha" (dysentry) and "Ombol" (Burning sensation in the stomach). These are not to be taken lightly, in life and in conversation. Hence, if you want to get in the good books of the Bong, carry a strip of Gelusil or Pudin Hara, or even better, a bottle of Jowaner Alok. At the very least, drop those names frequently. Soon the discussion will reach rarified heights of Hegel and Kant.

Famous Bongs:

Many famous Bongs have been referred to in this extract. Hence, this section is used to debunk that big myth about Bongs. People believe that Bong men can't be hunky. If so, then what about Abhishek Bachchan (via mother), Saif Ali Khan(via mother), John Abraham (via girlfriend), Hritik Roshan (via grandmother) and Tapash Pal?

Bongs in Literature, Film, Art:

Everywhere you care to look.

Closing Word:

Being Bong at the end of the day is a state of mind. Or, a case of being discovered by them. Best of Luck.

The best part? Rings true! :-)

Virtual Worlds ... Evolving?

I came across an interesting article ... Virtual World Gets Another Life ... The interesting thing this article brings out is the fact that virtual worlds seem to be moving towards a scenario where they can be deployed within the organizational perimeter. This is a distinct move away from the initial intent of virtual worlds, but nevertheless, this seems to be an interesting move, because this could help unleash a large part of the potential of virtual worlds.

The article has some interesting examples of how organizations are working towards getting this environment within the firewall. The most interesting being that of Big Blue. However, the larger question would still remain ... To what extent would this be enabled within the firewall, given the misgivings of managers towards virtual worlds.

Learning Organization

Theres lots that has been written about this subject ... More than i could ever read. Though, i came across an interesting question over at linkedin ... About How we can enable an organization to learn faster. The question is quite simple ... What caught the attention was the responses that this generated.

My take ... the learning of the organization is essentially the collective learning of its people. Though, what distinguishes one organization to another is the willingness of the organization to work out an understanding of the collective learning, and to be able to apply this at multiple levels ... both in terms of strategic thinking, as well as in operational terms.

There was an interesting idea that came through ... Bryan Lund gives an interesting thought ... when he says ...

The trick, if I may is to stop assigning knowledge management to "someone" or a department so that they can run it like a project.

This is an interesting thought. And, something which is applicable to a large number of organizations. To what extent should KM be an externally applied initiative, and to what extent should it be driven by the people in the organization. Ideally, KM should be driven by the people in the organization itself, and i think, this is where some of the web 2.0 technologies could play an important role. More so because they are more about giving the capabilities to the user, with the user choosing how they are going to leverage them, and build upon the capabilities provided. And, like i have written before, this is where the technology folks have an important role, although slightly different from the way it is today, to play.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Training in the Corporate World

I came across a very interesting blog post ... Its discussing whether Training is Useless ... No, its not making that declaration, though i would have agreed with it if that were so ... In large measure, if not completely. The post goes on to make some very convincing arguments about why this could be so. In a nutshell ... this is because nobody really knows why training is required.

More often than not ... someone comes up and says my team needs to communicate better ... The training folks end up doing a keyword search in a catalogue for communication, get some search results, and "throw" the training at the problem ... without even knowing whether this is the right problem in the first place. More often than not, the real requirement for the training remains hidden behind layers of management jargon, which is why training methodologies never go one step beyond the Training Needs Analysis ... to where the root cause of the requirement lies.

The interesting thing this post is making is how the author went to attend a PowerBuilder training, only to come back and work on a VisualBasic project. Quite a few of us have been there, which is an indication that the scenario i am describing does exist in different forms in different organizations. Even if some folks were lucky, and went to the right trainings, the piece which is left missing is the post-training engagement. It is assumed that anyone who walks out after completing a training is a completely changed human being and is an expert on the subject the trainings was about. For example, if you went to an Oracle DBA training, your boss would expect you to be the champ at this when you walked out of the training room. Which is precisely why the T3 concept usually comes about. This tends to negate the value of experience in the specific subject. And this is one of the primary reasons people tend to not derive the kind of value from trainings, that they otherwise could.

If we are to look at how training fits in with the organization's goals, we would find that at some level, Knowledge Management as a discipline also aligns in a similar manner to those goals. This is not to say that these two functions are necessarily overlapping ... But it does mean that training needs to synergize with the larger knowledge management direction within the organization.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Academic Status for wikipedia

I came across an interesting piece ... About Jimmy Wales discouraging the use of wikipedia for academic research. Interesting piece ... and, some folks have written some interesting comments, too. One of the things there is that a student could get a F for citing wikipedia as a source for their research. This makes sense to me. While the powerful search capabilities available to us should be used to replace the tedious hours spent at the library poring ver books, this search cannot be a substitute for research. Add to that the fact that not many students cite an encyclopaedia (even Britannica) on research papers.

But, this does bring out an interesting point ... that wikipedia is inaccurate. Definitely it is ... But then, so is the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Ok, so the number of errors per article (which is a measure of the accuracy of content) is higher with wikipedia, but the fact remains what number of errors is acceptable and what is not (which seems to be a measure of respectability) seems to be a matter of brand equity.

To add my two bits to this ... i would say that wikipedia would be an excellent source for information on anby topic ... its a good first step. Can be used to gain a basic understanding of the subject, could be used as an aggregator for other, more expert resources on the subject, and can be used to build up a platform for knowledge sharing. This would imply that a wiki can be a very useful tool for facilitating the flow of information, and not just as a repository itself. This distinction is an interesting one ... the repository has the responsibility of being accurate. But the facilitator for information sharing is more concerned about source, destination, and channel. And, the source and the destination ultimately are people, while the wiki itself can be the channel connecting these. A step in the direction of a knowledge marketplace?

Minggl ...

I came across a really neat tool the other day ... its called minggl and the tag line says ... Socialize from anywhere on the web. Its quite an interesting tool. What with the proliferation of social networking ... i am a member of a few ... it becomes a bit of a chore getting access to your friends on different social networks in different sites, and minggl helps you to do that. They do have a rather neat demo of the tool, and the best part is that this allows you to actually keep your social networks online even when you are working on something else, via a toolbar. Quite cool, actually ...

Monday, May 12, 2008


OK ... So, I am adding to the web 2.0 cacophony. At the cost of doing that, allow me to say that today, after a long time, i was reminded of the basic axiom of web 2.0 which is:

Web 2.0 = DIY web

Interesting ... if you would see, i have added a widget from the official Dilbert site to the blog. This means you could read Dilbert off my blog. Sounds cool? Well ... cooler still is the fact that a technological dinosaur like me could achieve something so technically complex. And this is the sheer wonder of web 2.0. The DIY nature of this.

However, this is not something which delights traditional Information Technology folks. SOme folks would feel that they lose control over the technology landscape within the organization in a web 2.0 world. However, this need not necessarily be true. The role of Information Technology could be redefined to facilitating the adoption of web 2.0 ... of defining the platform, the technology, and of maintaining the levels of DIY which the user community demands. In simpler language ... on the web, there are folks out there who develop widgets which anyone can use. In the organization, the Information Technology organization could assume this role. This would require them to be in much closer contact with the user community, and would give them a greater understanding of the requirements of users, making Information Technology more central to the scheme of organizational things. And this could change the way Information Technology interacts with the rest of the organization. And, to my mind, for the better.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Basis for a State

I am reading The Indus Sage (i am sure you would know this by now, but for those of us who dont ...) these days. So, for the next few days, you can expect more on the subject. One issue the book raises is that Indus (modern day Pakistan, the geography around the Indus river, and its tributaries), and India have always been two distinct civilizations. By and large, i agree with the hypothesis, but there are areas of the argument which Mr. Ahsan raises, which i cant get myself to agree with.

First of all, i am not too comfortable with the idea of defining a civilization based on geographical characteristics alone. While historically, we have talked about the Indus Valley civilization, and most ancient civilizations flourished around sources of water, the scenario today doesnt necessarily seem to be the same. The importance of having big cities close to rivers is not as much of importance today as it was in ancient ages. This is not to undermine the importance of water sources, but this is taking into consideration the way human civilization has evolved over the last few millenia.

As such, i am more comfortable with defining a civilization culturally rather than based on proximity to geographical characteristics by themselves. This, to my mind, is a definition which tends to be far more robust. This doesnt really tend to go down well with the modern definition of Pakistan, but then a lot of other things dont either.

1. I get the feeling that the entire idea of the Indus civilization is related to Islam. Historically, it may not have been, since the region was primarily Hindu and Buddhist over a period of time, but since the advent of Islam, the identity seems to be more and derived, and even more so since the creation of Pakistan, the identity of Pakistan seems to be have been defined even more based on Islam if Mohajirs are people who reverted to their Indus heritage, even if they find their home and roots in the Gangetic plains. Having said that, i do agree with Mr. Ahsan that Islam is not the defining characteristic of the Indus civilization. More about this in point 3.

2. If the civilization is going to be defined based on geographical characteristics, then the logic holds true, but if it is not, then the entire argument of declaring Kashmir an inseparable part of the Indus civilization loses its entire foundation. For, culturally, Kashimir can in no way found to be congruous to the Punjabi or Sindhi. Besides, if we are to define a civilization based purely on geographical characteristics, then maybe Tibet should also be a part of Indus, since the Indus river originates there. This doesnt stand to reason.

3. None of these considerations (except religion), can define the true nature of Indus, considering East Pakistan being a part of Pakistan. But, this by itself proves that religion is not the founding stone of the Indus of today, given that if it were, the centrifugal force which created Bangladesh would not have existed.

In a nutshell, i agree with Mr. Ahsan that the culture and civilization of Indus is distinct from an Indian civilization. I just dont agree with too many of the conclusions he seems to draw from this fact.

Knowledge Intersection

I was reading a blog some days back (cant seem to find it now, or i am just too lazy on a Sunday morning ... not that theres anything special about Sundays) which was talking about looking outside your field to get new ideas. Usually, you been to one conference, you been to all of them. So, the novelty usually tends to be the drinks!

I have been thinking how this concept impacts the entire idea of knowledge creation. Lets take a team ... which is purely inward looking. Theoretically, if they never had any interactions with anyone from outside the team, i surmise that they would come up with ideas from within a given pool of ideas, and this pool would never grow. That the ideas and thoughts and learnings would continue to recycle from a given set, and would simply go round in circles. Anybody disagree with this premise, i would be more than happy to read more about it.

Anyway, if we build on this premise ... The logical consequence of this would be that new knowledge is generated at the intersection of existing bodies of knowledge. If we were to take two teams, or individuals, with their own given set of ideas and learnings about the world around, it is in the region of intersection of their "information sets" that new knowledge is generated. It is in this intersection that ideas are exchanged freely, and ideas of the one are understood by the other, and built upon, to create completely new ideas. If these two folks didnt have any area of intersection, they would simply be like a Hindi speaking, and a Tamil speaking man put together in the same room, neither understanding what the other is saying.

The important point i am trying to make out is that we often have certain information about the world. We have knowledge ... and, this combines with knowledge from others, to create new forms of knowledge.

One implication ... we as KM practitioners, must look outside the field at other areas to look at newer ideas of knowledge generation, discussion, and sharing.

For example, I am reading a book titled The Indus Saga written by Aitzaz Ahsan. And, i am definitely learning so much about a country we in India dont know much about ... Pakistan. So what if we are neighbours. I believe that it is at the intersection of knowledge about our respective selves and our world views that new knowledge would be created.

The question this brings out ... how best can the intersection be shared between two people. This is where the importance of "mental models" cannot be overestimated. One must understand where the other person is coming from, and where they are going. And, to illustrate their point, must relate it to the image of the world the other person is carrying. And, this is where stories play a vauable role. This is where a story, using simple language, and building the essential points, can be highly effective to create an understanding of each other. Read The Indus Saga, and you would find out.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Something I Am Reading

These days i am reading a book ... The Indus Saga ... From Patliputra to Partition, by Aitzaz Ahsan. The book is a well written, well thought out story about the civilization of what today is Pakistan. Nice book ... Though, there are a few things i wanted to write about ...

Firstly, the Gurdaspur Kathiawad line ... Mr. Ahsan makes the argument that this is the line which divides two different civilizations. While i do agree that culturally, the Gangetic plain is quite distinct from the Indus civilization, i think the line that Mr. Ahsan has drawn comes more from a sense of current political geography rather than anything more concrete. For instance, this line traces quite well the Radcliffe Award. Is this just a coincidence? Probably not. Which would suggest that the positioning of this divide is more than scholarly debate.

Another thing that stands out ... the creation of Pakistan. While the civilization of the Indus region is distinct from the larger Indian civilization, the fact remains ... the creation of Pakistan was not a civilizational consequence. Nor was it a religious consequence of the deep divide between the Hindu and Muslim populations of the subcontinent. If it was a religious consequence, Mohammad Ali Jinnah wouldnt have declared Pakistan as being a secular state, where the religion a person professes to would not come in the way of how the nation treats him. Which leaves one aspect ... the political aspect. This goes to suggest that the creation of Pakistan was purely a political move, and shouldnt be seen as anything else. That this is backed by civilizational differences probably doesnt bear on the debate.

Another thing which i dont quite agree with ... that the Mohajir is an Indus person reverting to his roots. How does a Mohajir, who may come from Lucknow become an Indus person? How does he lay a claim to the history of Indus, that is larger than that of a Punjabi Hindu, or Sikh, who hails from the Punjab, whose Father might have called Lahore or Rawalpindi home? This argument suggests an Islamic connection to the civilization of Pakistan, which is definitely not the thesis of the book.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Public Apathy?

The news rewported that a gentleman bled to death on the roads of Delhi, as traffic just flowed by. Until a gentleman, who happens to be a doctor, stopped, fuelled by his spirit of love, to try and help. Its a different matter that the accident victim had already bled to death. How is this world turning out to be? Have we come to a situation where there is no value whatsoever attached to human life? Could a life just waste away right in front of our eyes, while we just "flow" past?

Saving grace ... CNN-IBN