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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tidbits on Outsourcing

Well, unlike the previous US presidential elections, outsourcing to countries like India does not seem like a hot topic for the upcoming US presidential elections. However, outsourcing still happens, but sometimes, a lot different from popuplar perceptions.

If you thought India was the only country out their stealing American jobs, let me tell you about Trilogy. Trilogy, where I worked earlier, is a privately held company and all its shareholders are Americans. In 2000, they decided to move a lot of their Software Development (SD) to Bangalore by building up their own Development center in India. Nothing new, one would say. Most companies like Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft and Google do or did the same.

However, in 2005, they decided that it was best to use India for innovation and they believed that SD has become routine job, which should be outsourced further. The result is that mundane tasks are outsourced to partner organizations in Ukraine, where apparently you can get PhDs at half the cost of a Bangalore Engineer, and other not-so-mundane SD work has been moved to Trilogy's China office. So, has the predator become the prey?

This story is best exemplified in the movie Outsourced, a very hilarious take on outsourcing. Asif Basra, Ayesha Dharker and Josh Hamilton have done a wonderful job. There is a bit of exaggeration here and there, but all in all, its a really well done. I laughed my stomach out.

While on the topic, Wallstrip did a nice take on Wipro, one of the outsourcing giants from India.

Gesture recognition and the like

When I was working on my thesis at IITK, my guide, Prof Mukerjee was also involved in another field - gesture recognition. At that time, I was always a bit skeptical on whether gesture recognition will find an immediate (or short term) commercial use. Turns out, it will indeed be used. Recent reports on Venture Beat suggest that Gaming will soon be using gesture recognition in interesting ways.

At IITK alone, my junior and good friend Rahul Banerjee's work was focussed on gesture recognition, and so does Mondal, Maji, Pal and Mukerjee's work point to some work in gesture recognition.

Interesting Google Feature

As you might have noticed that I use Google Adsense on my blog. I don't earn much money, but I like to use it to see what kind of ads are presented on each topic. The most impressive part of Google Adsense has always been about the way it automatically detects what ads to show. Context senstive ads helps publishers in having relevant ads on their sites helping them make money. Of course, it can go horribly wrong sometimes, but generally its okay.

So, today I was very surprised to see this on my blog.

It seems Google has introduced a new feature where you can simply request an ad for a particular topic instead of the Google guys doing it for you. Or does it mean they got no clue on what to show and therefore decide to ask readers of my blog? The last post was about acting. So when I typed acting in the box, it took me to this page.
I can't understand why the same ads could not have showed up in the previous page? Interesting days these are.....

Remarkable debut - Immaduddin

I have been spending the last few days watching a bunch of movies. I watched Oceans' 13, Dil Dosti etc, The Rookie, Yun Hota to Kaisa Hota, completed watching Phir Milenge etc. When I was watching Dil Dosti etc, I found the acting of Immaduddin Shah remarkably good.

Various questions were popping into my head about this rather unheralded but good actor. Out of curiosity, I looked up IMDB. Figured out that his debut movie was Yun Hota to Kaisa Hota. I had already bought that CD sometime back. Thought this was the best time to watch it. I found Imaduddin's acting in that also very good. His delivery of pure Hindi dialogues reminded me of Chupke Chupke.

Also, turns out that Imaduddin is the son of legendary actors - Naseerudin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah. The lineage of fine acting seems to be continuing with Imaduddin also. Imaduddin has every chance of becoming as good as his father. All the very best to him. I will eagerly await Little Zizou, his next movie.

ps: On a side side, I was wondering if he could anything about that rather unorthodox and shabby looking hair-style of his. :-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Knol and the like...

For techies like me, it was another week where Google has launched yet another initiative. The list of fields they enter into, or intend to enter into, is getting longer. Android for Telephones, Green initiatives on Google.org, Bidding for telecom spectrum, GOOG-411, Open Social and the latest - Knol. Knol is their initiative to build up an encyclopedia based on community inputs and is expected to compete with Wikipedia. This project has got me thinking.

The code word Knol was given because it is supposed to be a "Unit of Knowledge". Since it is, I actually started thinking about how one could measure the value of a certain piece of knowledge into knols? For instance, how many knols would Theory of Relativity be? and how much would be Newtons Laws? or in Computer Science - how many knols would be Quicksort? What about Bubble sort which is not practically used? Would that mean its knol would decrease?

I am looking for answers, and if anybody got any answers, do leave a comment....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Me, Myself and TechNews

My day never seems complete unless I pick up my daily dose of news, specially Tech news. While my appetite for regular news is fulfilled by the Good Old Times of India paper edition delivered to my home, much of the tech news I consume come from a bunch of blogs. My personal favorites are TechCrunch (Michael Arrington, Eric Schonfield and co.), Digital Daily (John Paczkowski), Boom Town (Kara Miller) etc.

Recently, I found two innovations by separate companies very useful in my constant search for good content in this space. First is Google Reader's Discover option. I use Google Reader to consolidate all my subscriptions and use it as one place to read all content. Now, they introduced "Discover" feature which lets you know other related blogs using a bunch of parameters. I discovered the Docu Drama Blog, Venture Beat, Serving Both Sides and Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed using this feature.

The second is LinkedIn's "Most read Articles" pertaining to your company. I love this. It is kind of still buggy as it announced Yahoo's Reorg news as the latest which, in fact, is a one year old news. I have already reported it to LinkedIn's customer service. I am sure LinkedIn will fix this bugs in near future, but as it is it is still a very attractive feature. As I blogged earlier that I love LinkedIn for its various features, but this one does make me comeback each other and check up interesting stories. :-)

Today's picks for me:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Startups Galore

I am back from my trip to Delhi/IITK. It was an eventful trip, but nothing as striking as to come in touch with 3 people all planning startups. Aditya Chadha, my good old classmate from Delhi University days had already touched base with me 3-4 weeks earlier about getting some info about a Mobile-payments based startup out of India. I have allowed him good use of my networks and promised him whatever logistics support I can give him.

Similarly, when I landed in Delhi, I met a junior who is working on an idea in the Health care industry. When I further travelled to IITK the next day, I called up one of my professors who was immediate in inviting me over for dinner. Over dinner, he told me about one of his students having incorporated a company and asking me about whereas options of funding it and the process involved in building up a team. While we were still at it, another of his students, Mohit Mundhra walked in (and I knew him from my days at the campus) and he informed me that he has started off a company (Aurora Systems) in Bangalore and is waiting for his thesis to get started on work.

Thats exposure to 4 people planning startups in a gap of month. Its rather striking how so many people want to throw in a promising but predictable career to have a go at a startup. Mind you, these are not guys who want to work for a startup, but want to start something off on their own.

I myself started off in a start-up and worked for one more startup before moving to Yahoo recently. I think it is very courageous but the right thing for these guys to do. They have an idea and the passion to go after it and nothing but to take that step.

My best wishes to all the 4 parties involved and I hope I can contribute in whatever way I can, within the restrictions of being in Yahoo.

Update: Michael Arrington at TechCrunch wrote a really good piece - "The Twice Shy Entrepruener" about old guard versus new guard startups and their techprueners. Read it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Back in Bangalore

I am done with my long trip to IITK/Delhi. The campus recruitment got done and Yahoo offered 9 people a good career with Yahoo. It was a very eventual and tiring trip. Some key incidents include mock-hijack-drills, start-up discussions, stripping-searching-shoes-at-airport, and working till 3.30 to get things done.

I am more than glad to have Dennis, Mahesh, Deepanshu, Rishi, Zulfi, Prashant, Maneesh and Yogendra on this trip with me. They were a fantastic bunch, fun-loving and very mature to be on a trip like this. We also had to make some key decisions in making the final selection list and these guys all contributed to their best.

The selection process was simple - one written test, one personal interview, a programming test and voila - you are done. Each round was eliminating a bunch of the applicants. We started off, I believe, with about 100 and ended up with 9 selections.

We selected a bunch of those upfront and rejected a lot of them. But the key decision making always comes down to the border-line guys. You can't decide. Any candidate was evaluated by at least two guys and one written test.

But sometimes, even with all that data, you can't decide whether to pick or drop them. One 3 guys in such a list, the whole bunch of recruiting team sat down from 10 PM in the night to 1.30 AM to make the key decision. We ended up favoring of them and rejecting one of them.

Incidentally, that one candidate came up to me and asked what was the reason he didn't get selected. I spent a good 15-20 minutes chatting up with him, explaining what the process was and how we had to do all this brainstorming to arrive at this decision. I also gave him some candid feedback about where things might have gone wrong with him. It happens that you have good profile but have a bad day. It happens that having to select among so many people, you come up with a criteria where some guys get dropped. It Happens... Eventually, I wished him all the very best and I really hope he gets through some other companies offer in a day or two.

After all this, the Student Placement Office (SPO) wanted some feedback and we offered them feedback on how many of the candidates were lacking in specific skills and how they can be better prepared. More on that later.

There is so much more to write about this trip that I am gonna split it into a bunch of posts and hopefully finish off this week.... :-)

Update: "Start Ups Galore" and "On a Hijack High" links have been updated.

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All tech posts have now moved to http://tech.shreeni.info or you may subscribe to its RSS feed. In due course, I shall be moving it out completely, so if you follow my tech posts, please shift to following that blog.