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My Wife Vs The Superior Lounge at the airport

My Wife says I need to slow down and learn to enjoy the moment.

I always thought “Well, Easy for her to say… I have only 73 things to focus on right now.”

 

I sit now in one of the posh lounges in Delhi Airport waiting for my international flight, where I am flying business class, thanks to my employer.

One can easily get used to the luxury of the upgraded Business/ First class. You are the first to get into the plane and the first to get out. Baggage comes early. You can bypass queues everywhere, or atleast they are much shorter. The access to lounges gives you free high quality food and not to mention free high speed wifi and comfortable couches. The flight experience itself is so smooth with so much leg space, proper sleeping posture and the superior food…Flying business on someone else’s money (ha!) is definitely worth it!

 

It took me a total of 40 mins to reach the business lounge from when my previous flight landed. In this 40 minute timeframe, I have rushed through queues, looked at TV screens for information, asked 4 security personnel for directions, deviated from the general section to go to the lifts, went to a wrong lounge on the wrong floor, walked through a long, narrow alley, went to the right lounge, completed the formalities, figured out the extra steps to get wifi access, set myself next to a TV screen so that I can keep track of departures and have finally “settled down” on a comfortable couch with a internet connected laptop on my hand.

And so, here I am, sitting in a corner of the lounge and thinking of what I am going to be doing next and then the next thing after that and so on. My mind seems to be always busy – thinking, planning, typing, analyzing, assessing, re planning at the same time all the time…

 

And in this whole ordeal of trying to get to a internet connected laptop in a lounge room, I missed out admiring some of the beautiful architecture in the Airport; there was a 2 member music band who were playing live soothing music; Observe people and how they go about their lives; or just plain look out the window to see planes taking off! No sir, no time for all that… gotta get to that internet connected laptop in a lounge room. And once you get there, you are already thinking of the next thing, planning for it, assessing your resources, optimizing for time…

 

Well, STOP!

 

Maybe, my wife is right. I need to slow down. We all need to slow down. We need to understand that, while our lifespan of 70 years is a long time, it is very short in context of how big the world is and how much of each thing there is. There are 7B+ people on earth and yet we are all but ONE species. Scientists reported that 1 trillion species are estimated to be on Earth currently with only 0.001% described. Two weeks ago, we found 7 other planets which could potentially have life like in the earth. We are but insignificant. It makes a lot of sense to stop, observe, explore, experience and enjoy!

 

Aptly enough though, the background music in the lounge is playing the instrumental version of “Hum jo chalne lage” from “Jab we met”. In the song, there is a verse which roughly translates to “As we travel on this road to our desired destination, the road seems more desirable than our destination”. Maybe thats what Life is about… It is the journey and not the destination that matters.

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The Everyday Magic in our lives

One of the earliest memories of my childhood is the one where my father used to keep me on his lap and sing this one particular song – “Chinna Chinna Ooraniyam” – A tamil song by Kannadasan. It used to be always this one song, over and over again. I might have been 2 – 3 years old then.

Its a very touching song about a mother sparrow and its baby. When the mother bird is away, the young bird tries to fly and drops out of the nest. The song then details about the plight of the mother when it returns and finds its baby missing. The intensity with which the mother worries is very well captured in as few words as possible.

Over the years as I grew up, my relationship with my father became strained due to a lot of circumstantial and family reasons. We had a troubled relationship till he passed away in 2006. However, I just couldn’t shake this earliest of my memories that I had with him.

I tried to search for this song a lot, so that I could listen to it. But try as I did, I could never find it online. I wrote in community forums, searched on Youtube and even pirate sites, with no luck. My mother could neither recollect the lyrics nor the instances when my father used to sing it. In the absence of my father, the song became a very personal memory with me being the only one who remembered it in the world. I shared this with my wife on how I miss that song and have forgotten the lyrics and that it was one of the few happy moments I shared with my dad. It was just not available anywhere in the internet. Years passed by.

And then, it happened. My wife excitedly sent me a link on YouTube “Is this the song you talk about?”… and yes it was! Someone in the world had uploaded it a few months back and it had a few hundred views. Google had indexed it. The uploader had provided a link to the song on iTunes and the song is now commercially available.

Here’s the song

I watched the song. I cried. A lot. It took me back to the days where I was still a baby and sitting in my father’s lap and listening to it. It was a wonderful closure for me and my childhood memories.

Why do I bring up this incident?

Paulo Coelho famously said in the Alchemist “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”. It is so true!

There are engineers and teams working on Youtube, making the platform easy for people to upload and share videos. There are strangers like Easwar Gopalan, who upload videos they casually like. There are your close friends and family who share their life with you and know what you want…and the magic happens.

And this is not the first time that I have to thank the universe for all the help I have got. The universe of unknown and random people continue to “collude” and “conspire” to bring such magical moments in your life. All it requires on your part to make the magic happen is Perseverance and Faith. We are on this planet for an average of 70 years. That is quite a LOT of time! A lot of time to go through these magical experiences, to learn, to impact others through our actions and leave a mark on the world. If you need inspiration, all you need to do is look around and see these magical moments happening live around you.

May the magic continue.

Interesting: Average timespent on top ecommerce sites

I am doing some research on user engagement metrics on the web and noticed the following w.r.t the top eCommerce sites (source: http://www.alexa.com)

Website Alexa Rank Avg Pageviews/ user Avg Timespent / User (mm:ss)
Amazon.com 6 12.31 11:24
apple.com 41 3.94 04:03
walmart.com 137 5.94 06:02
etsy.com 151 10.15 09:41
target.com 209 5.81 05:34
ebay.com 18 13.53 13:12
taobao.com 10 8.58 08:23
tmall.com 24 6.48 05:21
flipkart.com 87 9.26 09:10

The unique insight across ALL these ecommerce oriented sites is that timespent/ pageview is very close to 1 minute. Compare that to content oriented sites and you get a different trend

Website Alexa Rank Avg Pageviews/ user Avg Timespent / User (mm:ss)
cnn.com 88 2.76 05:22
reddit.com 31 11.66 18:30
youtube.com 3 7.85 17:51
facebook 2 13.76 21:22

While it might be logical to assume that timespent per pageview on content oriented sites should be more, Why-oh-why is the ecommerce timespent at 1 minute per pageview?

Btw, this is actually a global trend since the ecommerce list contains tmall, flipkart and taobao as well. I am sure there is a lot of user behavioral insights when I dig deeper into this.

Online Privacy is a Moot Point

(republished from my post on linkedin)

Jan 28th is “Data Privacy Day”.

The purpose of Data Privacy Day (Data Protection Day in Europe) is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices. It is currently ‘celebrated’ in the United States, Canada, and 27 European countries.

Wikipedia
For many years now, we have been debating on our online privacy rights, with arguments around “Right to Anonymity” and “Information Privacy” and “Personally Identifiable Information”. I believe all these are only a temporary phase in the way the internet is growing and how the world is coming to terms with it. Bottom-line is that only a few hundred thousands of people (at most) online really care about this issue and the larger billions of people don’t really have an opinion.

No, really. Discussions around expectations of online privacy is moot.

Today, my name, phone number, demographic data, personal address are present with at-least 50 different eCommerce players, 10 different travel service providers, a dozen online government agencies and not to mention the global social networks and the hundreds of installed apps on my mobile. And these are unknown corporate and government entities that I have WILLINGLY given access to my personal data. I haven’t seen the face of the owner of my personal data in any of these entities nor do I know that they are guarding my precious personal data with the same zeal as they protect their own. Plus there are other entities that I haven’t given my data to, but they have access to it thanks to ONE of my connections sharing it with them (Truecaller, for example).

Seriously now, where is this “privacy” that we are arguing about? On the one hand, we willingly give our private details to unknown parties and then complain about the trust issues related to them and how they are using our data. We voraciously consume articles on the private lives of celebrities, but are touchy about our own? On the internet, everyone is a Celebrity in some sense! Some system is always capturing what you do online. It could be your Operating system or your ISP or the website you are on or the people you are connecting to. A few, separate, non personally identifiable information, when added together can uniquely identify you online. There is no way any entity in this world can restrain this.

So what do we do about the current situation? The harsh truth is: Embrace it. Don’t care about it. Its hardly worth worrying about. Its a change in mindset that we have to go through. Its pointless to resist this, because its hardly a cause worth fighting for. Sure, there is a possibility that our online information can be used against us. Its highly likely that information and behavior shared online can be used as a judgement criteria for the person. But that is the smaller downsides of a future you cant stop.

Its unnecessary to fret about your online privacy, because probabilistically speaking you have a very minute chance of being adversely impacted due to the data collected about you. Frankly you should be more worried about some hacker who gets your data out of a government database or your Bank records.

If you want to know what the future looks like, take a look at how teens and kids are using the internet. The larger trend is that they care less about these issues and are actively contributing to the content of the internet – whether it is text or image or videos! and that really teaches you that once you don’t care about how you are being judged, you will express yourself more freely.

Learn to hold the fort…

…When a feature needs to be delivered before its time.
…When a critical issue needs to be fixed before the root cause analysis is completed.
…When expectations from top are too much for your team to deliver.
…When you have to stand for the user, even if it means a loss in revenue.
…When the demand is unreasonable and the supply is full of constraints.

Hold the fort!

You need to play a protective role – for your users, your team and your product. and then deliver. and then deliver again. and again.

Your role as a Product manager is deliver a great product, in spite of constraints. well, otherwise, If you cant defend your fort, whats the point in owning one?

The Curse of the Programmer

There is the story of a sculptor who crafted a large statue of a God for a temple. It turned out magnificent and everyone considered it a stellar piece of art. But the sculptor never felt the happiness that the statue brought in others. One day, when prodded by his son, he spoke out

“The third ring on the left ear has only 3 minor stones whereas the rest of the rings have 4. Try as I might, I am unable to look at the magnificence without overlooking this flaw. While the world looks at it with awe, I have always suffered incompleteness because I didnt deliver it fully right. My passion to my profession is my boon…as well as my curse.”

This is so true in our technology world as well. A programmer, who does the actual grunt work in getting a product out, is the only one who understands the true nature of the flaws in the product. The rest of the members in the team only get a abstracted view of the programmer’s output. No matter how many QAs test it, no matter how many millions of users you use for the beta release, there will be undetected issues.

I have had many programmers, who confess, during the celebratory product/feature launch event, that there is this obscure bug which hasnt been found by anyone yet, but will crash the application. The bug will be difficult to reproduce and more difficult to fix. This is the curse of the passionate programmer!

I still vividly remember some of the hacks I have put in, while coding. I can still visualize the exact steps to reproduce the issue and its repercussions. I dont know how to fix those. I live with the imperfections of my code.

I was reminded of the sculptor story when I read this article about how a programmer took a short cut to solve an impending problem, but would have set the wheels in motion towards chaos a few months down the line.

Its amazing how the world turns around even with all these imperfections!

Too many reasons…

… for why something didnt happen.

… for not doing, what you want to do.

… for why things are, the way they are.

… for why change is very gradual.

… for not taking the decision, that needs to be taken now.

… for leading an average, passive life.

And finally, the day passes away with nothing to show for

And before you know it, a generation has passed by.

An individual can change the world. Why is it not you?