Sunday, September 28, 2008

Relativity Of Time ...

I am not sure what I am writing about … the only thing I am sure about is what I am thinking. And this is always the way it is, right? Don’t we say … we can always say more than we can write, and we can always think more than we can say. Well … my thoughts on KM aside, this one is not about work … not that the last few have been, actually.

I am reading a book these days titled In the Shadow of the Great Game … a book about the untold story behind India’s partition. Ok, so if you are going to be politically correct, you might want to refer to this as the partition of the sub-continent. But this event was too big, the impact so catastrophic, and the lessons to be learnt so massive, that I would much rather not delve into politics on this issue. This apart from the fact that this is so close to my heart …

But this is not what I am writing about. While reading this book, there is a part which talks about conjecture about the shape of global politics in 1960, as seen in 1945. And the timeline got me thinking … I have heard a lot of stories about India … especially pre-Independence India … about Lahore, Amritsar, Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Karachi, Peshawar, Srinagar … a picture which almost seems alien in today’s geo-political situation in the world. My grandfather used to tell me stories … stories about a time which seems so far away.

Coming to the point, the stories he used to tell about the time in India between the two world-wars (this, incidentally, was the time he grew up in Lahore) relate the instances of life … a life less ordinary, and yet ordinary in its extraordinariness for someone from that slice of time, from that part of history, and of geography.

But that’s again not the point I am trying to make. The point I am trying to make is this … those approximately 40 years of the last century seem to be a small interval in time, while, if I were to think about the next forty years, those would seem far longer. And this makes me think … something I had heard quite some time back … about past perfect, present tense, future imperfect! Not really true, but this is something that keeps cropping up in the minds of people. But the fact is, the past seems to have flown by so quickly, while the future doesn’t seem as if it would oblige the same way. And this is where the relative nature of time comes in.

Though, of course, when it comes to memories, the past can sustain … the past lingers, forever and ever, in our memories, in our thoughts … the past, in its fleeting moment of presence seems to have engendered eternities.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Romance Of, Romance At ... Flury's ...

There are a few places which look very beautiful at specific times during the day. Some look very beautiful by day, and others by night. And then, there are a few which look beautiful any time of the day. Standing at Bandstand even with its proximity to Lucky’s (arguably the best in Mumbai when it comes to Biryani), or Persian Darbar, about which I have blogged earlier, is primarily an evening attraction. Nothing matches peering onto the horizon over the Arabian Sea, the majesty of Bandstand around you. Follow this up with a few drinks at Janta Bar, or Toto’s, with a few friends, and Dinner at Persian Darbar, which you could follow up with a nightcap at Hawaiian Shack, and you have a wonderful evening.

On the other hand, however, there are places which can attract your attention, and bedazzle your senses any time of the day. Park Street is one of those. Whether you are sitting by the window at Flury’s, having Breakfast at a legend in Kolkata, and a name which evokes dreams in anyone who has even remotely been attached to Kolkata, watching Park Street waking up in the pleasant morning breeze, people walking past the windows into a wonderful morning, or whether you are sitting by the window at Flury’s, sipping Assam, or even better, Darjeeling Tea, with Sandwiches, for a late-morning Brunch, watching the day mature into the noon-time of Calcutta, with the charm of Park Street slowly getting unveiled for the eyes of those who care to look (and those who don’t, and either know what they are missing, or don’t even have a clue), or having sitting by the window at Flury’s having Lunch, watching the crowd either pass by Flury’s to another restaurant for Lunch (and there are quite a few of those, most of whome are wonderful places to eat, and also, as good as Flury’s, though of course, this one is about Flury’s, so I will stick to the point), or waiting at the gate, to enter the wonder domain with the charm of the grand old lady, Flury’s, or a late afternoon snack of Pastries and Iced Tea, watching people sedentarily getting ready for the evening, or a cup of Tea late in the evening, before you head out for a sundowner (Olypub, anyone?) and more (definitely, if you are going to Olypub, you wouldn’t stick to a sundowner, would you?), Flury’s is one of those places which casts its magic on you, no matter what time of the day you come here, and no matter what you want to eat.

About Breakfast, well … Breakfast at Flury’s … has been a byline for the perfect Breakfast in Calcutta for a few decades now. The variety is nice, though the All-Day Breakfast is the all-time favourite. With Eggs, Bacon, Toast, Butter, the works … filling, and something you must have with your loved one, to start the day. Or, settle for the Beans on Toast, if you would … which are altogether wonderful, especially if you make full use of the chopped Green Chillies and Onions they give to accompany. Do make sure to puff contentedly at your Cigarette as you sip the Tea (not for too long, I would think, though …). If you are planning Brunch, you could also settle for the Mustard Chicken Sandwich, or the Mayonnaise Chicken Sandwich, or choose from the number of Sandwiches on offer … believe me, most of them are very good, though I prefer the Mustard Chicken, or the Mayonnaise Chicken … among others, of course. Quite difficult to make up your mind, but that’s par for the course if you are a Fury’s aficionado. Should you plan Lunch, try the Chicken Stroganoff. This is one of the best I have ever had. Of course, there are a number of choices which you could go for. No matter what you choose, do make sure to top if off with one of those wonderful Rum Balls which Flury’s is famous for. Or, the Tiramisu … my favourite, though, are the Chocolate Logs … with grated Peanuts stuffing! You could definitely do well to top this off with a Strawberry Shake. Late evening, too, the Chicken Sandwiches which I wrote about are a wonderful idea … little white triangles full of taste. Accompanied with either one of their wonderful shakes, or better still, try the Iced Tea to go … unless you are one for Darjeeling or Assam … though, of course, their Masala Tea is not bad either.

Of course, all this says that Fury’s is a place which you could go to any time of the day. Though, of course, I seldom venture there after 8 pm, for the simple reason that after that, the attraction of Olypub, or one of the other establishments which give Alcohol to go with Dinner, work much more wonders than the charm of Flury’s.

During the day, however, sitting by the window of Flury’s, watching the street waking up, and coursing through the day, can be an experience which, to my mind, cannot be paralleled by many. Sitting lazily, smoking, reading a book, watching the myriad faces pass by, from all across the world (I have come across people from myriad nationalities, as well, of course, from almost all parts of India here), most of them not being able to resist catching a glimpse of Flury’s as they walk by, if they are in a hurry, or stepping in, for a little portion of some of the delights Flury’s comes up with, can be a wonderful way to pass the day.

The Aged ...

I am these days trying to do something which i thought would be far simpler than it turns out to be ... I am looking for health insurance for my parents. Simple? Not at all. Well nigh close to impossible. None of the insurance companies who are willing you sell you the moon are willing to even touch anyone above 60 with a bargepole.

Now, i have a question ... at an age above 60 is where people require insurance the most, isnt it? And thats when insurance is not available. In other words, arent we saying, somehow, that insurance is there for you only as long as you dont need it. When you need it, dear customer, sorry ... we dont believe in customer relationships.

Three such situations come in mind ... First, health insurance for senior citizens. Second, the recent exclusion of natural calamities from the list of things covered in auto insurance (prompted by the money the insurance companies hads to pay, post the Mumbai deluge). Third, terrorism. In short, auto insurance doesnt cover floods (acts of God), nor does it cover terrorism (act of man). Why do we have insurance, someone please remind me?

Coming back to the point about insurance for the aged ... Medical costs are rising (not to add that doctors are becoming more unscrupulous). Our parents lived most of their lives in a situation where medical costs were low, and insurance was not required. Now that they have aged, they suddenly find medical costs have sky-rocketed, and insurance companies refuse to cover them. Isnt it time that we, as a society, and as a nation, do something for the elderly in the country? Or, are we to let them just with away?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tung Fong ... Or Chinese Food In Calcutta

If you thought there wouldn’t be many more coming after I managed to tempt you with the Arsalan Biryani, think again. Here’s another one … another post, another institution. Another one … again Calcutta. But then, what to do … the city is so ancient (figuratively) that the list of ancient names is almost a legend by itself. Ask anyone who has lived in Calcutta, and you will understand what I am talking about. Folks here almost drool at the mention of these names … well, who am I to complain … so do I.

Coming to the point … this time I am writing about another legend … Tung Fong! One of the venerable names when it comes to Chinese food in Calcutta. And it could safely be said that Calcutta is the first city when it comes to Chinese food in India … which would make Tung Fong one of the most revered names for Chinese food in India … Mainland China notwithstanding.

Tucked away on Freeschool Street, a short walk from Park Street (oh, this has to be the centre of the world for all foodies … no matter what the French say!), Tung Fong is unassuming … till you step in, that is. Ambience which is delicately upheld by soft lighting, brings out a luxuriant atmosphere. Some beautiful murals, and elegant vases adorn the walls, and overall, this is a place you would like to go to.
Coming now to the core aspect of what I am writing about … food! One aspect of the restaurant which stands out is that they don’t believe in force-feeding you. This is a scenario which I find in most restaurants. If you go out to eat alone, you will find that the portion sizes are too huge for one person, which means either you waste food, or doggy-bag it. Here, on the other hand, they take care of the varying appetites of people … so, they serve most dishes in three sizes … from single (which serves one), to double (which serves two), to large (which, yes you guessed it, serves three). So you can choose which portion size you want to order, depending on how hungry you are. Or, even if you go out with friends and family, instead of ordering large portions of two dishes, say, you could order smaller portions of larger dishes … more variety to the meal!

We began with the Chicken Wanton Soup … this has to be the best soup I have had. Just the way it should be … enough flavour, and the tastes blending into each other with natural ease. Add to it just a dash of Vinegar, and a little bit of Honey-Chilli Sauce, and you have probably the best Soup ever. We followed this up with the Schezwan Chicken, Mixed Fried Rice, and the Garlic Lamb. The Rice is wonderful … a taste which is different. This reminded me of Malaysia … actually, the Rice tastes somewhere between the usual Fried Rice you get in Chinese restaurants in India on the one hand, and a Chicken Satay on the other hand … rather unusual taste, which brought back memories of Penang. And these just added to the taste of the Rice. The Chicken Schezwan was par for the course … not something which you would trek to Tung Fong for. The Lamb, however, is in a different league altogether. Here we had Lamb which was almost as tender as what you get when you go for Mughlai food, while at the same time, the flavours of the Lamb did bring out a taste which is quite original, and something which, while putting your tongue on fire, is definitely something you would remember, and walk down Freeschool Street for, again and again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In One Place ...

I came across this wonderful post ... it references a diagram by Forrester, posted by Wong Tooi Giap ... you could check it out here. Indeed, for a change i have found Forrester coming up with something which is actually quite useful.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


There are a few names in a city, which are names which are synonymous with the city … at least in the minds of the denizens of the city. In Calcutta (sorry folks, I still refer Calcutta, if I am writing in English), there are more than enough such names to go around. Of course, most of them are institutions by themselves. These are names which are revered, and well … in the case of the name I am writing about, drooled about. For generations, Calcuttans have drooled about one such … Arsalan! Yes, an institution by itself, Arsalan is a name synonymous with good Mughlai food in the city.

The original Arsalan which most Calcuttans identify with is at Park Circus … though we didn’t quite go there … tends to be a hot idea to go there and eat on a hot Calcutta afternoon … we went to the new outlet which they have opened at Circus Avenue. You have to be careful to not miss it. And the place is every bit worth the drive there. Getting there could be an adventure, depending on which part of the city you are driving from (we were coming from Camac Street), and this can be quite an experience at 1 pm (what with the traffic direction changing and all …), but its worth it. The ambience, as you can see, it quite nice. Its reasonably comfortable, without being overbearing, or for that matter, arrogant (ya, I find a few of them arrogant in their plushness!).

Coming to the food … we tried the Mutton Kasturi Kababs, which are the dream nuggets of a connoisseur. A dish which must be tried if you are even remotely interested in food. Definitely lip-smacking, though one has to be careful … don’t chomp off your fingers in the act! The Biryani (Chicken) here lives up to the formidable reputation of the establishment (generations have grown up on this Biryani, you see …), and the quantity is just right … doesn’t stuff you, and at the same time, you don’t feel hungry.

And of course, such a meal has to be topped with Dessert … and, whats better than a Firni at an establishment as revered as this? Calcutta, in fact, I find, consumes more of Firni than Delhi does (remember, the Firni is a native of the northern reaches of the country) … no, I am not complaining. Though, the Firni left a bit to be desired … nice, definitely nice, but … could have been better.

Coming to the service … well, we were a little early … in fact, probably the first ones to reach … but the service is definitely nice. Not too lax, and not too rushing, either. And, definitely pleasant!

Though, I wouldn’t like to end this on such a note … I would recommend Arsalan as a restaurant which is more than worth a visit next time you are in Calcutta, or the next time you go out to eat. And of course, if you would rather be home, then the take-away would be just what you could ask for.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Central Repository ...

My friend Nirmala has commented on my post about whether an organization should jump straight to "KM 2.0". And she makes an important point ...

A common repository means common taxonomy...a common way of identifying and locating artifacts. A common repository means a visually rich big picture that tells you about all sorts of possibilities....not one that is carved out of a narrow search term!!

I think she has got it bang on. Today, there are tools which can enable you to share documents right off your hard-disk. Create a document, put it into a shared folder, and there you are ... others can find the documents right from there. Contrast this with a common repository ... Create a document, save it on your hard-disk, and then upload it onto a repository. And, you dont even know what half those taxonomies mean. This being the key. And, this is where a repository plays an important role ... that of getting people thinking about how others think, getting people thinking in terms of a common terminology, giving some form of uniformity (its nice, at times ... remember McDonald's ... the same taste wherever you go). You got it ... how could i not write about food?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

IBM And Social Networking

IBM announced the IBM Centre for Social Software ... i am sure all of you must have already read about it. I am usually quite slow at tracking news. But then, i eventually do get round to it. So, thats that ...

But, what am i writing about? A simple statement which Erica Topolski, a spokesperson for IBM Media Relations made ...

Do a few conversations about nonwork topics take place? Of course, just like they do in the hallway at work. What we hear from customers and have experienced internally, however, is that these do not interfere with an employee's ability to get their work done.

This is quite what i keep on saying wherever i am talking about social software. This is one of the major refrains that i have heard ... the link to loss of productivity. The question i usually ask to this is ... How many times have you been to a business meeting where the talk was only about business? Never, i would think. Why would it be any different here? Probably no reason. To begin with, when we are talking about social computing within the organization, we need to take into consideration the fact that people have objectives and targets to meet ... everyone is conscious of that. Add to this the fact that even without social software, there is part of the conversation which happens everyday, which is not work-related.

What is even more interesting is what they are hearing from their customers ... that these dont interfere with people's ability to get work done ... which is related to the first point i just made ... people know that they are going to have appraisals, that they have to meet their objectives.

Another question which comes up is that of the impact on confidentiality. What i say here is that since most of the organizations are talking about internal implementations of social computing tools, this issue may not actually be an issue.

Mosque Takes In Child, Mother ...

OK ... this one is going to be a mixed bag. Though, i would like to see this as a far more positive thing than anything else. There are news reports ... about a child, and his mother, who have been abandoned by his father. The reason? The child has a hole in his heart, and this requires surgery. What is the beautiful part about this story is the fact that this brings out an important tale ... that all hope is not lost. A mosque in the city of Lucknow has adopted the child and his mother. And the elders are making sure the little child has a chance to live. They have collected money from among the members of the congregation for the child's surgery, which is to happen in the month of October. Hindustan Times writes that after they broke the story, they have received a lot of requests to help the little one.

Contrast this to a prominent social activist venting anger at the police in Gujarat for a strange incident ... during the post-Godhra riots, a police constable found a little child, and took him in, and handed him over to a couple to take care of. The issue is that the child is Muslim, and the foster-parents Hindu. And, the child, today (according to reports in newspapers) doesnt want to go to his biological parents. The activist believes that the constable acted irresponsibly. One wonders ... whether love should be considered supreme to professed religion? That too the way we are using religion towards a myriad number of ends?

Now, the question ... why do i think this story is bitter-sweet? Simply because, when i searched the websites of some of the leading newspapers for this story, i just couldnt find it. This is the strangest part ... a story which brings out some of the best elements in humanity is so well hidden in the inner pages of a newspaper that its so difficult to find ... one wonders ... do we really care?

Generalizations ...

There has been a lot written about the advent of the digital native ... of the generation Y (or was it Z, or an unknown alphabet after that?) folks entering the workforce, and forcing companies to move more and more towards media of interaction they are comfortable with. And, how they are so uncomfortable with email, and how they want their collaboration and communication immediate.

While this is one side of the story, there is the other side, as written about, for example, by Siva Vaidyanathan, about not all people being tech-savvy. Quite an interesting reading. One thing i believe in, and the reason why i have not written about the Gen-Y aspect of the boom in social computing, is that there is no such thing as a Gen-Y-er. I mean, each and every individual is distinct, and while there are statistical trends, these are at best averages, and the way i see it, far from the ground reality.

Let me explain ... Lots of studies have been done ... reams of data generated, and analyses published. Great! Question ... how come i dont see too many studies coming out of China? Or India? These are two countries which are bringing the largest number of young people into the workforce. And, this is where the difference lies. In India, for example, there is no such thing as a Gen-Y. Sure, it is there as an abstraction ... but, the digital divide is so huge, that it makes any kind of generalizations extremely harzardous, and i wouldnt make any predictions based on these generalizations. Sure, there are trends ... But, how far are these percolating to every section of society? I am not too sure they are. Though, of course, I havent read much about China ... would appreciate if anyone could point me to resources about the emergence of the Gen-Y in China?

Coming to the other part of this article ... Where Siva writes about ...

Many use Facebook and MySpace because they are easy and fun, not because they are powerful (which, of course, they are not).

Thing is, this again seems to be a generalization. First of all, this seems to be based on something which is not really logical. I quite agree that a lot of folks (including me, i suppose ...) use facebook because its easy, and its fun! But, how does that imply that it is not powerful? Or, are the two unrelated? Even if they are, there seems to be an assumption that facebook is a tool which is of no utility at all. Mainly because its fun?

The way i see it, the utility of facebook is, in large part, due to its ease of use, and the fact that its fun. In a world like ours, where the distinction between the personal and professional spheres are no longer distinct from each other, we are seeing platforms which are making work more fun, and leisure a little less so (remember the last time you checked your work email on your Blackberry while on vacation, and you will know what i am talking about). Which is to say that there should be no relationship interpreted, between the fun factor and utility.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

At Calcutta ...

As i havent been to one of my favourite cities in quite a while, and am getting quite nostalgic about her ...

Getting around in Kolkata can be strange at worst, or an exhilerating experience at best. No matter which, it is bound to be an eperience you cannot forget. Nor can you replicate it in any corner of the world.

Commuting from Sector V, Salt Lake to Theatre Road (or to any other part of the world) could leave you breathless. And I tried to do this at half past eight in the morning.

Being the technology hub of West Bengal (for all that is worth as a tag), this place comes to life only at 10 in the morning. After that, posibly, but defunitely not before. For the enterprising Bengali spirit does not allow the bhodroloks or bhodromohilas (i am trying not to sound sexist here) to venture out before a certain hour. This hour varies from one member of the species to another but is rarely before 10. So this is the scenario that awaits you if you try to look for a taxi anytime before that hour. Because there just aren't any around.

Waiting for a taxi certainly gives you options. The first option to present itself was a private car, the driver ferrying the car from one place to another without employer supervision, making some money on the side. I thought I would wait for a taxi. Carried on waiting, but the taxi didn't appear. Quite soon, I was running out of patience and running into ample sweat. This was when the next option presented itself. Known in this part of the world as shaadaa mini, these are racing equipments (much like most other beings on Kolkata roads) disguised as buses. And one must see it to believe it. Well, this one was a shaadaa mini, to distinguish them from their non-shaadaa cousins from the (almost) F1 circuit. Getting a place to sit was not an issue.

I decided to get down to reading. Though the way the bus was swaying owing basically to the driver's demonstration of his geometric genius by drawing near perfect sine curves on the road in his attempts at getting ahead of every single living creature on the road, no matter it's denomination, reading was to be an exercise in futility.

So I decided to look out of the window. Wonderful day, with the beauty of nature being recently washed by rain. No wonder, I thought, about the person who had told me about the delight of watching the scenery outside the bus when travelling in these parts of the world ... After all, you don't have much choice do you? Not really given that you would much prefer to keep your eyes glued outside the bus, hoping to supplement the driver's sight if not his brains. And try to swallow your internals into the same place where they were before they decided to take an exit route following your alighting the mechanical monster. And trying to keep your legs steady once you are off it. That should keep you occupied enough to keep your eyes on the road ... And in the process also feel the soothing touch of Mother Nature... Specially along the Bypass.

You can also watch from the sidelines the highly intellectual debate between the bus conductor and a passenger about whether the fare should be Rs. 8 or Rs. 9, culminating in the passenger challenging the bus conductor's knowledge of bus fares (that's only his job after all, while being a topic of passion for the passenger) and the bus conductor inviting the gentleman to not avail the services of the bus.

PS: Park Street retains her charms even at this time of day. More about that when i go there next.

To "KM2.0"

There was a lot of discussion some time back about the assertion that KM is dead ... Luis wrote about it ... and the assertion that KM is moving more towards conversation from documentation. I have added to the words about conversation ... But all this conversation about conversation doesnt answer one question ... a question i am thinking about.

Lets take an organization which is yet to reach the "KM1.0" stage ... they dont have a centralized document repository ... they have siloes where information is stored, and retrieval of this information is largely a manual activity, because a lot of it is stored in team file-servers etc. Question is, should this organization move straight to a "KM2.0" scenario?

One way to look at this would be to say ... sure! This would make sense in theory, given the fact that all knowledge is directly or indirectly tacit. So, the logic here would be that if we ca get people together, either into communities, or into an internal blogosphere, we can actually get people to share information more seamlessly even without resorting to a centralized repository.

Having said this, would this work in practice? I dont know, but i tend to believe, it wouldnt. To begin with, information which is not in a repository tends to be difficult to identify. Much more so than something which can be attached to a somewhat defined taxonomy (whether a regular taxonomy or folksonomy ... i am including both in this). Second, and more important, a repository could be an important step towards building a mindset of sharing ... where it is considered a nice thing to share documents with others, leading to a more ready acceptance of some of the social tools.

Any thoughts? Please do write in, to let me know what you think should be the approach here. Of course, there are pros and cons of both approaches, and would like to hear from you, what you feel are some of each.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Communities ...

Here is an interesting post about communities ... about how to run communities ... Rob Howard has written a rather interesting piece about this. There are a few points here which i wanted to write about ...

Firstly, there is the point about generating value. This is an interesting part. Actually, this is the chicken-and-egg situation which i have written about before. With communities, people wont adopt till they find value, and communities wont generate value till people adopt. And it is this cycle which needs to be addressed by organizational intervention. Of course, different ways would be used in different scenarios, but one way could be to identify community evangelists, or managers, if you will, who can spread the word ... generate awareness about communities, and the value these communities can generate for people who join in. Of course, this would need to be supplemented by some sort of rewards program which the organization would need to bring in.

Of course, this idea of value also brings to the point that when people join a community, they are, more often than not, looking at getting, rather than giving ... and hence, the organization may need to invest expertise into building some content, some expertise sharing, to attract people to sort of follow the experts. This could be one way of getting out of the cycle. Of course, this still doesnt address the basic problem. If the only reason people join the community is to read the comments of these experts, the community would stagnate over a period of time ... how lang can one or two experts sustain a community? Not long enough, one would think. Which means, that over a period of time, there would need to be some means of inviting more and more people to write, to share, and give, rather than passive receivers. Some form of value for contributors to the community must be developed. Here again, different things work for different people, which means that a rewards mechanism which reaches out to a maximum number of folks would be helpful. Recognition, perhaps? Or, maybe, brownie points? Or, maybe this kind of mechanism for advertising the contributions of people?

The most important point Rob raises is about the value of the community. Since the community is going to oeprate in a articular context, it is a little easier to identify where the community should have reached, or what the community should have delivered after a period of time, and this should be more than simply number of posts, number of replies, etc. (which, by the way, is the way a lot of organizations i have interacted with measure ...). Having said this, there must be some form of balance between the achievement of the community, and the contribution of individuals. The temptation to hide individuals beneath the umbrella of the community is high, but it must not be given in to. Otherwise, over a period of time, you end up driving away people from the community.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Airports ...

I am sure you know this by now ... but, just to state the obvious ... India is in the grip of modernization of airports. Which is a very nice thing. If you go by the new airports which have come up (ok, so i think Hyderabad is the best, by far ...), you will find that airports have a personality of their own, have quirks which they can call their own, distinct identity. And, if you go there often enough, you would definitely find them.

Beginning at Delhi ... the airport believes that you should spend as much time there as possible. Especially if you are landing at Delhi, by a late night flight ... with a serpentine queue at the taxi counter ... one wonders why they cant have more counters, or, rather, do away with the counters, and simply have the Hyderabad/Bangalore way of hiring a taxi.

Onward to Mumbai, they are still renovating one of the terminals. Which is nice ... if the already renovated terminal is anything to go by, this one should be very nice. In the meantime, though ... they are playing a game of hide and seek. Should you have the urgent, insane urge to commune with nature, while waiting for one of your oft-delayed flights, you need to play the guessing game ... where is the washroom. You would seem to know where it is, instinctively, but not quite find it. And find it, just in time, if you are lucky.

On to Bangalore ... should you be one of the smoking kinds, or should you reach the airport too early for your flight (which is quite probable, given that if you leave from M. G. Road at 4, you would reach by 5, but should you leave by 5, you would, in all probability, miss your flight!), and think that one nice way of waiting, is to have a beer, or to light up, and burn your lungs with a cancer stick, cheer up ... they have decided that no one should be doing either, at Bangalore airoport.

Moving to Kolkata ... here again, the idea seems to be similar to that at Delhi. You must spend as much time as possible ... how else do you expect to reach the pre-paid taxi counter, which can seem to be a daunting task, once you set eyes on the queue.

A Wednesday ...

A Wednesday ... This is a movie which is quite a different take on terrorism ... this is not only a different way of telling the story of terrorism, this is also one of the few films which also look at the issue of terrorism, and our reaction to terrorism, as a society, from a refreshingly comman-man kind of attitude.

No, i am not going to spill the beans ... rather you went and watched the movie ... i watched the movie ... on a Sunday ... which was a day after the serial blasts in Delhi (at Karol Bagh, Connaught Place, and Greater Kailash). And, the blasts being fresh in the mind, the impact of the movie is altogether different. What was chillingly true ... the way they have narrated the reaction of people to bomb blasts ... we go through the news channels, see what each of the channles is saying, make a few phone calls, to make sure our friends and relatives are ok, and then, heave a sigh of relief and move on ... and this pattern gets repeated every time there is a blast.

There is another pattern ... someone had informed someone else about the blasts before they actually happened, the blame-game begins (it doesnt matter who blames whome, in short, over a period of time, we have seen everyone blame everyone and their uncle (read Pakistan) for these blasts), compensation is announced, and we move on.

Do we really care, as a nation, and as a society?

Sabre Social Networking

There is lot being written about the work Sabre is doing around social networking. And, there is a lot from what i am reading. There is a blog about the cubeless platform, and there is this case study in employee social networking ... and it seems quite interesting, what they have developed.

Seems like an application which could be quite a good platform for social networking within the organization. there are two things which quite catch the eye ... Firstly, there is the relevance engine. What they say ...

On Sabre Town, users can post a question to the entire organization, and the site's inference or relevance engine will automatically send the question to the 15 most relevant employees (based on what they've entered in their profile, blog postings and other Q&As that have been previously posted).

This seems to be the part which is quite interesting. What this implies is that the system, by itself, is able to discover what people are doing, based on their activities, and can identify who are the right people for a particular kind of thing. This, of course, would not be as adequate as people can do this, but this can be a reasonably nice starting point to build up some form of discovery in the organization. Having said this, we would also need to make sure this is supplemented with more adoption efforts.

Which is the second point ... the idea that this is designed for adoption. This is something i feel is the most important aspect of social networking, or indeed, for KM, as i have written before. What seems interesting is the kind of incentive it can give to people to adopt the platform. First, the number of questions you have answered, or asked, something they call Karma (i am assuming its something to do with helping other people out when they want some information) ... The important point to understand here is that there has to be some kind of initiative of this nature, whether on or off the platform, which works to encourage people to adopt the platform, and since this is about the platform, maybe this should be linked to the platform itself?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Knowledge Scorecard ...

No, i am not coming up with a new knowledge scorecard. Rather, some of the things i have been reading about ... about measuring knowledge. Rather interesting reading, though i would think they are based on assumptions which we might want to question.

The first assumption of measuring the knowledge inventory of the organization, is that the knowledge, and the person who holds the knowledge are two separate, independant things. Not only does this treat knowledge as a thing, it also makes the assumption that you can have knowledge even if you abstract the knower from the scene. This may not be an assumption that may be quite valid. Of course, when we talk about explicity knowledge, we assume that this assumption is valid, but having said that, once we believe that all knowledge is directly or indirectly tacit, this assumption breaks down. The question that then comes up is how does one measure something which doesnt exist on its own.

Another assumption is that knowledge is a "thing" which can be measured. This assumes that knowledge is an object which can exist by itself, which, as we have seen, is not something which is necessarily correct. Add to this the idea that what you cannot measure, you cannot manage, and the mix becomes heady ... but then, the question to ask here would be ... is the term management apt when it comes to KM?

The answer to this measurement dilemma, though, can be simple ... we can measure something based on its manifestation. What is the manifestation of knowledge? Improvements in the way things are done. Great ... this is a nice, indirect way to measure ... after all, if there is no mechanism to directly measure something, then we use something indirect to measure it ... think dark matter! Only thing is, this indirect measurement must change in different scenarios. In other words, something which is relevant to the context in which we are measuring it, as i have written before!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lotus And Virtual Worlds ...

There is an interesting news piece about IBM adding virtual worlds support to Lotus Sametime ... although there is not much information available except that IBM is testing this with select customers, this has to be a rather interesting development. This is because this brings a large part of the capabilities of virtual worlds to the enterprise ... something which has not been seen except in a few organizations ... like IBM!

Given the nature of interactions in the virtual space, this has the potential of far enriching the way people can interact with each other on a day to day level. Especially when it comes to demonstrating how to do things, and sharing knowledge which is essentially tacit. Put another way, this has the potential to enable experiential learning ... where people can experience what is being done, rather than simply reading about it.

Of course, as with any of the web 2.0 tools, the key here would be adoption, for if people are not too comfortable using the tool, it would be another one of those enhancements which doesnt get used. Wait and watch, i guess?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Executive Blogs ...

There are quite a few senior executives who are blogging. And, more are joining the bandwagong. I came across an interesting post about executive blogs, and the things you might want to think about before you launch on this.

Interesting reading ... there is, however, the other side of this, which i wanted to write about. First, when you ask your CEO to write a blog, and encourage customers to comment on it, be prepared to hear what you dont want to. More often than not, you will have customers writing about how the product doesnt work, and how they think the company is over-charging, etc., etc. ... you know, pesky customers! Of course, a mature organization would be able to hear these, without flinching. Acting on these is another thing, though. When folks write comments on a CEO's blog, they would think that something would happen, based on their feedback. When not much happens, you would only get more disappointed customers. This is to convey the impression that web 2.0 is a double-edged sword, and this must be grasped before embarking on this journey.

Maybe a better idea would be to treat web 2.0 as more than a marketing tool ... as a means for communicating with a wide spectrum of audience ... and this takes on a different shape. Why not have the Chief Executive, and other managers blog about the things the organization is doing, write about some of the recent wins, losses, strategy, etc. ... things which could be of more interest to employees. Thing is, most senior managers dont see the value of this, and the kind of benefits these could bring to the organization. Though this is where web 2.0 has the potential of generating far greater value, than as a PR tool.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Obama On Outsourcing ...

Mr. Barack Obama, a few days ago, came out harshly against out-sourcing. Mr. Obama is against encouraging out-sourcing of jobs out of America. Thats a fine sentiment ... after all, a politician has to play to the galleries ... say what the people want to hear.

Only thing, this entire objection to out-sourcing must be looked at in the context of a new, global economic order, where economies are dependant on each other ... where the markets are far more open than they have ever been ... at least in theory. How does high-cost manufacturing gel in with this new economic order is a question which would need an urgent answer.

On another aspect, it would also need to be seen, whether Mr. Obama is talking about only services outsourcing to, say, India, or is he also referring to discouraging out-sourcing of manufacturing activities, too, to, China, for instance?

NSG And The Art Of Proliferation

If the Nuclear Suppliers Group is the central body which governs all commerce related to nuclear material, and all nuclear technology, then it certainly stands to reason that all proliferation till date has been courtesy of this same organization which is supposedly meant to check it. If this be the cartel of nations which are the sole suppliers of all nuclear material in the world, then logically, unless someone is importing nuclear material from another planet, that must be coming from one of the countries which make up this cartel.

Physics Today carried a report by Mr. Thomas C. Reed, titled The Chinese Nuclear Tests, 1964-1996 ... this report brings out the nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan ... a collaboration which, over the years, has also resulted in the nuclear Wal-Mart of Dr. A. Q. Khan. Interestingly, the Pakistani and Chinese embassies in Washington, D.C., have not replied to requests for comments. One wonders why ... One also wonders how the NSG is able to justify its existence, while denying the right to nuclear technology to 1/6th of humanity. First, i think the NSG should have a lot of answering to do on this aspect. Unless they believe that you have the right to proliferate if you can bully them enough?

Having said this, maybe the Government of India should take a stand here, which is more harsh than the stand we are taking as of now. It must be made clear that in today's world, India carries much more clout than an Austria or an Ireland do, and India should maybe flex her muscles, and send stronger signals to the naysayers at the NSG. For starters, we might make it clear to the dissenters at the NSG that this episode may not be seen in isolation of other interactions with those countries. That maybe, out technical collaboration with Ireland may be developed based on a broader definition of technology than simply civilian hi-tech.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Drawing Parallels ...

I, for one, like to draw parallels between the things we see in day to day life, and some of the concepts which we wax eloquent about at work, in blogs, management schools, etc. As you can see, how i used to teach min-max planning and the sawtooth curve during training sessions. I find such parallels clarify the thinking, and the most important thing they achieve is to build a relationship between the new concept you are learning, and the concepts which you are already carrying in your head.

Which is why i found this blog quite interesting ... my good friend and colleague, Subash, has drawn a parallel between ... hold your breath ... the ubiquitous Masala Dosa, and Knowledge Management ... and too, between driving a motorcycle ... something i have been doing whenever i am giving a talk about KM ... focussing on the tacit knowledge piece ... about how difficult it is to document the amount of salt you want to put in the curry!

Though, i would add ... i am not sure how many folks would actually be able to make the Masala Dosa, reading the manual straight away. Not many, probably ... which is where the learning part comes in ... the learning by doing!