Tuesday, December 31, 2013

14 Lessons I learnt this year to carry into 2014

  • Your reputation precedes you wherever you go.
  • Just like a brand represents you, you too represent the brand and what it stands for.
  • Convenience is the mother of adoption.
  • A thief believes everybody steals.
  • You can only grow as big as you aim, as big as you dream. No matter what you do in life, you will always be limited by your own abilities, your own imagination, your own knowledge, or the lack of them.
  • Inches will win you matches only when all the other complexities have been taken care of. The last mile, can matter only when you can walk the miles prior to it.
  • To get the must-haves done, all you need is an unreasonable man. A man who is unreasonable  and unbending in his demands, actions and expectations, madness personified. All it takes to put everything in order is this one unreasonable man, who won't allow compromise of any kind to perpetuate while he is there.
  • It is our choice who we want to be in life - the storyteller, the surviver, the fighter, the victim. How much we strive for being who we want to be dictates what we actually become
  • You spend your time doing whatever you find the most engrossing, whatever captures your imagination the most.
  • An organization of one kind is no different than an organization of another. If you can manage 10, you can manage 100 or 1000. Its just a matter of dividing and arranging people properly.
  • There are limited number of tasks that you can't do if you are truly smart. But the time you have is limited, and hence you must wisely choose which ones to do yourself.
  • Justice, Equality, Freedom and like notions are a luxury. They are hardly available to the masses, masses who always have more primal, animalistic needs and fear - food, shelter, and their immediate family.
  • Nothing is one, One is nothing. Philosophy is like a sphere; the joy is not in finding the starting or ending of the circle, but in tracing paths on it, again and again, discovering ways not previously visible to your own self and finding how one line of reasoning could ultimately be used to lead to the complete opposite of the intended conclusion.
  • Life is a sequence of events, and every event has a probability attached with it. While logic is binary, and hence helps dissect the possible from the impossible, it is the probablities which dictate which among the possibles is most likely to happen, and thus give you a better sense of how to use your own abilities to shape the final outcome.

  • I couldn't gather the list of books I read last year, or this one, so post to detail them isn't happening. 
  • Happy New Year!

Monday, December 02, 2013

The last mile

This one will be the one of the longer posts I have written.


1) The curious case of office internet

This is a rant against the pathetic internet in my office. This is a first, and I hope, the last.

We have a team of 8 engineers and total around 40 folks in all. And amongst so many people, there is a leased line connection of 4Mbps. I have a 4 Mbps connection at my home, and that barely serves 5 of us flatmates well enough. Even if its a leased line, I don't understand how it can take care of 40 people.

The problem has been raging for months, and yet we haven't been able to find a satisfactory solution.

It so happened, on this particular day, I was expected to turn in some work urgently. Aware of the pathetic internet in office, I decided to work from home during the first half, and had done the major pieces of the task from my home itself. However, some other pieces remained, and I was planning to extend the WFH for the entire day, before I checked in with people and was told how the internet should now be working fine with a new 4G connection.

So I headed for my office, went to my desk and switched on my laptop. And then I started waiting. I started waiting for my laptop to connect to one of those 4 routers we have in office. And I waited for a good 40 minutes, and yet it won't connect.

So I took a tea break. And came down to my desk. Almost 1h since I came in, and the internet had still not connected. Routers were restarted. Mobile hotspots and internet dongles were used. But no stable internet. The ruby gems simply won't download.

I ended up waiting another hour, trying all kind of tricks. And yet, there was no bloody internet.

And thus, I had a short conversation with our COO, packed my bags and left for home. All furious and anguished. Because I knew I would miss the deadline.

I usually walk back home and throughout , I couldn't stop thinking why something so stupid had been allowed to stretch so far.

All startups face issues, but so many months for internet?  For something which is at the core of the entire business! I mean we are an ecommerce website at the end of the day, how am I supposed to work if there is no internet? As far as my memory goes, this is the most amount of time I have wasted in a single stretch on an occasion when I had no intention of wasting any.

Its not like we are on the verge of dying out,  on the contrary, we are quite well funded, enough to be able to spare an extra 100k $ on infrastructure. And I find it irritating that people prefer solving problems like weekly Yoga classes or a fruit a day over something as essential as this.

Just a simple calculation would make tonnes of sense to solve this problem on priority - say average employee expense is 50k per month, that makes it 2k per working day. Say even 10% of all people face the problem on a given day, the company loses a direct amount of 8k bucks every day. Not to mention ripple effects, compounded productivity losses etc.

Made me realize quite a few things
  • No matter what the requirements, always prioritize the must-haves above the should-haves
  • The light in which management sees a problem is rarely the same in which the people experiencing it see. Only empathy will save you from your own ignorance of neglecting the finer details of an issue. Develop it, nurture it.
  • To the credit of whoever had been handling this problem, there had been a lot of actions. However, there was inadequate planning and decisions without right knowledge, which is as good as having no plan.
  • When you start getting pained by something, start seeking out a specialist. Within constrained scenarios, a specialist will lower the inefficiencies and decrease time to reach the goal.


2) A conversation from work

During the current project, for the first time, I think I had the view from the top with absolute clarity, with others having to rely on me to get the actual picture out. It was an interesting experience in the sense that I got to test out a lot of my theories, and came across lots of unconventional wisdom.

Consider the conversation:
X: "we are breaking an important earlier assumption of the system"
Me: "We are making a new system, there is now way in the world we can be stopped from modifying it to work according to our business cases". 

Reflecting on it later made me realize that at the end of the day, making decisions just boils down into making 2 sets of assumptions, the first one for those you can never break, and the second for the ones you will break later. They are, if you were to think of analogies, the same as the foundation and the gravel around it.


3) Theories

You spend your time doing whatever you find the most engrossing 

I have realized that this is precisely the case with me. Its true that a normal person can at max think of 7 different things in his short term memory, and yet there are physical limits to what he will devote his maximum attention to among the 7.

And I have reached a conclusion - that I spend my time doing whatever I find the most engrossing during that time - that is, whatever catches my imagination at that moment.That's the reason why I can work for longer stretches than most other people around me - because the work catches all my attention. That is also the reason why I can read books for a longer stretch of time.

You are the smartest guy you will ever know
And you are the dumbest person you will ever know.

The devil is in the definition.

Lets define smartness as the number of smart things a person does on an average day. Since you will mostly observe yourself, the number of smart things you do per day will be greater than what, say X does on a given day. Unless you spend the whole day just observing John, in which case it wouldn't be an average day.
If we define smartness as rate of smart things done (#smart things/#total things), then we have a selection bias in place, as .
Similarly, you will be the biggest idiot out there. In case you think you observe someone else more stupid, you will again fall into the trap of selection bias.

Of course, this makes sense only from your POV, not from an independent observer's POV.


The last mile

With all the updates over, and this post almost one, I feel completely out of my wits right now.
In any case, lets be done with this.

I think I have made a lot of improvements over the last year. I find myself a lot more confident and aware. Still, I believe I have a long way to go forward. The key here would be focusing on the last miles, where thought meets action.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.

There is a lot of catching up. I will try to keep this as short as possible.

1) 'Cut the Crap' - CTC rule

I realised that I spend a lot of my time typing redundant sentences in my mails and communication. So there is a rule that I have come up with - 'Cut the Crap'.
Example statement: The thing that I would like to know is how does this change impact us.
Example statement with CTC: I want to know how this change impacts us.

The aim is simple - Use precise statements with same meaning in lesser number of words in all my communication. Saves your time to say them, and the reader/listener's to digest the meaning, resulting in faster communication from both ends. So now, I apply the CTC rule to all my outgoing mails. And in the limited time I have had, I observed that my mails are shorter by 25-30% .

2) Playing Doctor Doctor, and the hospital experience

This month, I had to rush to D in a hurry. My father had been admitted to Fortis. He was diagnosed with Tuberculous Meningitis, and is recovering at home now.

I had a lot of things to observe in the hospitals.

Staff management, Drug administration, Sampling for tests, Patient Record maintenance, everything had a process of its own. A perfect example of how responsibilities can be decentralized, and managed in a timely fashion to scale up the services.
An organization of one kind is no different than an organization of another. As Sun-Tzu would have said, If you can manage 10, you can manage 100 or 1000. Its just a matter of dividing and arranging them properly.

There was one more lesson that I learnt during the whole period. Beyond a point, Personal efficiencies come at the cost of inefficiency in some other person's/ system's time. This was based on experience interacting with an unrelated super-specialist highly recommended doctor. The timings were 11AM to 1PM, but the doctor would come in only at around 12-12.30. By this time, all the patients would have already come and waiting for some time. The attendant would place the file of the next patient on the desk while the previous ones left and the next patient entered. By the time the next patient sat, doctor would ask 3-4 questions, measure any vitals, and write the recommended instructions in the file,, and shout out next. Here the patients would leave, and the attendant would bring the next file. In all, he spent around 1 minute on the average with a patient, and would manage to see 45-60 of them within an hour. Of course, his system was premised on the collection of waiting patients. Thus, every patient would wait for around 1 hour before getting the 1 minute with doctor.

3) A question of perspective

Till some time back, I never really understood why certain people are the way they are, or why we need certain type of people/things in a department.

For example, I did not value the presence of HR in previous organizations. Its only now, that I can witness firsthand the work and perspectives which HR can handle, that it has started making sense to me how each person is important within an organization.

If you are truly smart, there will be really limited number of tasks that you can't do. Maybe you can't fix the pipes, or maybe you can't arrange for gas. But the time you have is limited, and hence you must wisely choose which ones to do yourself.

The point never is whether you can, or cannot do it. The question always is, to manage it as best as possible, or to manage it within acceptable limits.

And that's the whole point of having specialists, to do the specific things as good as possible, as fast as possible. To extract all those increase of efficiency and leverage the gains in other functions. No matter how uninteresting that work seems to you. Because it will definitely be interesting for some other people. And therein lies the difference of perspectives.

4) The value of HeadStart and Social media systems

I have started accepting those recruiter requests I was getting on linkedin. Reason was simple, out of every x such requests accepted, there would be y number of people who would endorse me. Why, and for what I don't know, but they will do it based out of their usage habits.

So the more such people you have in your network currently, the more endorsed you become, and the more your profile image starts getting boosted up. The earlier you have them, the better.

And that's true of headstart in any system. The earlier you start, and the faster you move, the better.

Example: Imagine you (A) and some other person (B), neither of whom I know. If that guy has 20 people endorsing him for a skill, and only 5 people in your case, I am already biased in his favor for him having some knowledge of that thing. Its not like I am going to ignore you, its just that, he has a soft win in his favor already. Now imagine you have 70, and he has 99. I am sure it is irrelvant now.

Point is, its not the deciding factor, but its definitely a mildly influencing factor. And when you aggregate a lot of such mildly influencing factor, they become the deciding factors in absence of other deciding factors.

PS: The title of the post is inspired by some lines spoken before the Rumble In the Jungle that I was just watching. "I wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wind of Change

I am timing this post to see how much time I have to spend on writing average posts, so this one will be smaller

So quickly, let me put 3 points which will be the theme for this post:
  1. Trip to Tiruchirapalli, Pondicherry
  2. Aam Admi Party launch
  3. The power of not understanding things
And we begin.


1. The trip

So we went to Tiruchirapalli (T) and Pondicherry (P) in a group of 7.  At T, we visited two temples, both of them really old.

The first one of them was at Srirangam. It had lots of temples within the main compound, and as soon as we entered, we could see three of them together. Even before I could search for a place to wash my hands, a couple of pundits (the priests) started calling us out to their small temples. For few moments after our entry, God had become a fish, we the fish buyers, and the pundits the fish sellers. The place had many beggars, who were occupying one or the other pillar in the complex.  touching your feet and trousers, begging for money. And the indifferent people and pundits, some cursing the beggars, others doing charity by giving coins to each one of them. So much for the peace you are supposed to find in a temple.

There was one temple in the whole compound, among the myriad devoted to various forms of the deities, where I could feel some levels of peace, and yet the experience was short lived, for as soon as I came out of the temple, it was the usual site once again - priests calling you out loudly to visit their temples, beggars pestering you and the clueless crowd pushing you around.

So pissed off was I, that at one point, I was thinking how the smaller temples could be thought of as being small business units, each making its own profit and losses, the master temple as the main consolidator group. It didn't take much to imagine from there, how the loss making temple would eat the resources earned by other temples, the main temple board having its own cost centers and profit centers.

Ok, enough of the blasphemy.

The second one was at Thiruvanaikaval. It was maintained much better, and here the compounds were much cleaner. 

The grandiose levels of architecture made me marvel about the amount of human effort that would have been spent in constructing it. The scale at which it was constructed left me wondering how the maintenance of it would have been handled for centuries, since it was built in around 10th century, and has more or less retained its current structure.

Needless to say, the experience was much more profound at this one, where we were lucky enough to have reached just before the temple was going to be closed.


2. Aam Admi Party launch

So yesterday, the Aam Admi party was formally launched here in B, and I, along with a couple of my friends tagged along for the 3hour long event at New Horizon School.

It was inspiring to see thousands of well educated and literate people of the city turn up for this event. A couple of times, I found things to be a bit cheeky, but overall, it was definitely good. 

One thing that I will surely remember is the passion with which Arvind Kejriwal spoke.
I don't know whether he will win or not, but I know for sure that he will bring about immense amount of change to the system, if he is successful in entering it.

The only goof up happened, when while answering the queries, he said he was happy with the way the state unit was functioning, and said, that the team gets really tired working day in and day out in Delhi, and the energy he found here was refreshingly new and had charged him up like anything, and that he should come here every month to recharge their batteries. He was quick to correct himself in the next breath and say recharge the mental batteries.

It is just one example of how his earlier statement in isolation could have been used for propaganda to say that he meant recharge monetarily from the unit here (substantial funds were raised during the event).

Nevertheless, I still believe it is a long road ahead before AAP can make a visibly large difference to Indian society. 


3) The power of not understanding things

I was recently watching a Steve Jobs video, an interview that he gave in the initial days of the mac in the 1980's. (I am a Steve Jobs fan, but then, who isn't?)

And during the whole video, I couldn't wonder how a man so smart trying to explain things logically could be so unreasonable in his demands. And then it dawned upon me, he wasn't unreasonable because he couldn't understand reasoning behind the decisions, rather he was unreasonable by character. It was his way of forcing people around him to give their absolute best, and nothing less.

If we were to think of it, the sub optimal happens because someone somewhere makes some compromise, which is not in the best overall interest. But once you remove those compromises, once you start thinking only in terms of the best inputs, you reach the best output.

And the same is true for any kind of profession or trade.

The system is rotted because people *understand* why things are happening the way they are happening, and once you can *understand* those things, you can be made to compromise.
And all it takes to put everything in order is an unreasonable man, who won't allow compromise of any kind.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - G.B. Shaw


PS: It took around 2 hours to write this full post. Also, the name of the post is inspired by point #2.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Its something unpredictable.

1) The social world: Part 1

A while back, I had noticed a couple of random people following me on twitter. After following me for a week or so, they both stopped following me.

One of the accounts, when it was following me, had some 10000 followers and was following 40000 accounts. After a while it had unfollowed me, and I checked to find that it was still following some 40000 accounts, but now had around 30000 followers. A while after that, It was following some 10000 accounts, and had now amassed some 40000 followers.

If you think of what is happening behind the scenes here, you will realize, that a behavior very peculiar to the users of social media twitter is being exploited here.

The usual behavior on twitter is, you follow people who interest you
However, there is another behavior, to which a lot of general public / twitterati adheres, And that behavior is, that if someone follows you, you follow them back. Think of it as a way of saying "Hi", as a means of how you respond when someone extends a hand of friendship towards you.

And this behaviour can be statistically and programmatically exploited to gain massive number of initial followers.

You follow people, keep it to your business. If you follow say a 100 people every day, and even if half of them follow you back within a week's period, then when you unfollow them all, you have 50 new followers. You do this repetitively, play around with the x and y of equation, and you can easily amass an initial z number of followers.

Who followed whom and when did that happen is anyways not a public information. Also, when someone wants to do a credibility check, the best they can usually do is go through the timeline, check out the tweets, interactions, the number of followers and so on, all of which can be maintained if the perpetrator is an intelligent person.

2) The social world: Part 2

Now imagine if you could do this and say, have 500 or 1000 or 10000 different accounts with each having a reach of say 10000 distinct followers on the average.

Then you have successfully created for yourself a powerful mini network within the world of twitter, and if you can tweet intelligently from a subset of those 10000 accounts simultaneously (say from 500 accounts amongst 10000), you can basically create twitter trends, and just sway public opinion.

The public opinion changes, because people don't know most of the other people who are tweeting.
With that follower reach, even if 1% people re tweet, and from those 500 accounts out of 10000, if 2 tweets are sent on the average from each of the 500 accounts, then, you have .01*10000*2*500 = 100000 re tweets.

Its enough to start a trend, and the average people just need a slight trigger - The average human is anyways not smart enough to understand he is being conned. I think this makes for a fantastic marketing tool :D

You can easily create guerrilla campaigns which endorse your products and services. Of course, doing all that at scale requires numerous resources, and this tool can also be used for bad mouthing a competitor. 

If it can't be used for evil, its probably not a superpower,   

And in this case, there are tonnes of opportunities for potential gamification.

3) Social Media - Part 3

So I tried to do something similar with a fake facebook account (anagram of my name, account later removed), and guess what, within a period of two weeks, I could increase my friend count by 200+ people. I ended the experiment when I crossed total 350 friend list.

Of course, facebook blocked me from sending out any more useless friend requests for a month, so you can gauge the number of requests going out of my fake account. But the key lessons here were:
  • People are more accommodating in accepting friend requests, if you have more mutual friends. Say 50. I tried to have minimum 10 in majority of cases
  • There are always some open networkers, who accept friend requests from all people with decent enough profiles. 
  • You target the open-networkers first - they are easy to find, they usually have number of friends in thousands. Until you have found some 20-30 of these. Than you start sending out requests to people who are at next level in network chain
  • Again, even here there will be a probability, that only x% (say 40%) of your friend requests are accepted and so on. Make it count, Dont send requests to people whom you have nothing in common with. If someone turns down your request, they can always mark you as unknown, in which case facebook can block your account from sending friend requests faster :P 
  • Use graph search extensively, it helps to elongate/extend your potential network, based on you current network of friends
  • The shocking part was the humongous amount of private data and information that people were willingly sharing online. Agreed that they were sharing it with friends alone.

4) Corporates vs startups

I was having a discussion on startups vs corportates. and there were some good observations we made to each other based on my limited experience and our small discussion.

  1. The style of estimates
    At a regular corporate, if you can finish something in 4 days, you say you can do it in 5. At a startup, you say you can do it in 3.5, and try to do it within 3 days.

  2. Roadmap
    In a corporate, you almost always know, what you are going to work on, what the roadmap will be to achieve the goal. In a startup, the whole roadmap may change within a week, and the final product will more often be something radically different than first envisioned.

  3. Work pipeline
    At a corporate, you try to work less, because there is always a work pipeline, and if you work more than the average, more work gets pushed at you. In a startup, you like your work so much that you just want more of it

  4. Access to key people
    In a startup, you almost always know the key people well. All your ideas can be directly discussed with the higher ups, in the raw format for you to learn. In a corporate, there are additional links in the chain, the time is far more scarce a resource and a significant amount of toning down of message and response might happen. not to mention, the time taken is of course more.

  5. Job description
    A corporate hires you to think in a particularly constrained manner, A startup expects you to simultaneously be responsible for multiple angles of a problem. You may have to think like a Product manager, break tasks down into technical requirements like a business analyst, and code it like a technologist, even though you are just a software engineer.

  6. Time To Go-Live
    In a startup, it takes really small amount of time to see the fruits of your work in action (days?). In a corporate, it takes much longer for that to happen (months, years?)
5) Philosophical thoughts - questions of existence

Every time I have a doctor experience, and I can't start pondering over the question of existence. Who am I? Does the world as I know really exists, or is it just a figment of my imagination? How real am I? When someone dies, then doesn't the world, as that someone knew, also dies with him? And how can you be so sure of dying one day, until and unless you are actually dead on that day? And when you are dying, what part of you is actually dying anyways? If the world is a matrix, then how many such matrices are possibly there? If we live in a 3D matrix, doesn't someone who belongs to the 4D matrix become a god for us? And then, don't we become the gods for creatures of the 2D matrix, the gods of death and preservation. We can help them survive, we can kill them. but we can't create them from scratch. or can we? and if there are different levels of the matrix, what is the highest level in the matrix, is it a 10D matrix, where 10 are the number of unique dimensions? 

There are may questions like these, that I would love to discuss and deliberate upon.

Anyways, if for a while, you start believing that the world exists because you think it does, it potentially opens a lot of powers of the subconscious. 

Why would you fear anything, if it were all your imagination?

You just need to keep imagining the world. And redefining it.

6) The importance of head start, and upbringing

Head starts make a world of difference. I often wonder, why some people are more successful than others. And the reason is usually head start.

Every small thing we do, say using the computer, or driving a car, everything has a head start. 

So take for example a kid (A) who started using a computer at a very young age of 10, vs someone who first used one in his college (B) , and both graduating from the college at the same time and age. The former is clearly at an advantage - he is more comfortable, and if both of those guys have an equal interest in computers, he will be more knowledgeable than the latter on their graduation day.

Extend that duration a couple of years more, for some job role. If both these guys work up their job with equal enthusiasm, once again, A is at an advantage.

The thing with head start is, it accumulates over a period of time.

And the thing with success is, it requires a lot of head start, and/or a brilliant strategy to game your opponent(s).

7) Thoughts on the value of time

So a while back, I talked about how the time should be measured by value you have created, and not by hours or days. Going forward with the same theme, let me give an example of how you can choose to utilise your time.
Say you earn 36000 rupess a month. Now, that translates into 1200 rupees a day. That translates into 50 rupees an hour. You might spend an hour sleeping, or you might idle it away, or you might do work in it, whatever.
But if you want to grow, you have to create a value of more than 1200 in those 24 hours, on the average. Example - Someone will pay you 5000 bucks only if he is extracting a value of 7000 bucks out of you, and to be paid 6000 bucks, you will have to show potential to create a value of 8000 bucks within those 5000 bucks constraints.

So suppose, you need to buy groceries. Now either you can go to the supermarket, spend an hour there buying stuff and standing in a queue. Or you can order the same things online and save on your time spent in those transaction. Of course there is the traedoff when the supermarket is running special discounts, and you are saving more there. But in general, the discounts will be smaller at physical store, and the cumulative output due to increased hours can shoot up your productivity.

Take another example. You need to buy a bean bag. Now in the local market, it will cost you 1000 bucks, but if you go to another area, located an hour away, you can get it for 800. In this case, you will go through a bit of physical fatigue, which may degrade the quality of your next couple of hours, you will idle away 2 hours which means a loss of 100 rupees. So, the net savings will be what, some 50 bucks? And imagine if you spent those four hours doing something more productive, you would have been able to extract more value out of your time.

The above examples were both of something you absolutely needed to have done. Now take the example of a pool of tasks, that you need to do, and none of them are critically blocking you, but all of them are important to you. The answer, to how you proceed ahead, is the answer to how startups function in general - Picking tasks that help you create more value faster for non critical tasks, while picking up blocker tasks on priority.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bunch of Thoughts

How much thinking do you need to do in a startup?

You dont need to be a rockstar product developer.
You dont need to go for the ultimate sophisticated features needed.

You need smart customers, who can tell you what they need. Once you have a base product ready (which people call minimum viable product - MVP), you just need to go get those smart customers, and they will tell you what all they need, what all you should prioritize for development, and what all you can leave for future.
The end users know their requirements far better than we can estimate, and this need-driven approach really helps in quickly getting out a broadly usable product.

Of course, there is a flip side, that you should know which feature request you should take in, and that you should be able to realize what is the common underlying theme behind all such requests.
But my assumption would be you are smart enough to do that analysis, and gritty enough to resist the pressures.


How big can you grow?

I said, I want to expand the horizons of my thought,

This is because of an important lesson I have learned recently.
You can only grow as big as you aim, as big as you dream.
In life, you will always be limited by your own capacity, to think of a solution to a problem.

Let us take an example.

Think of the biggest writable number you can instantly think of. Thought it?

Now give it a thought, can you think of a bigger number than that? The answer is of course yes - say you thought of the number for 1 minute, now try thinking for two minutes. You are bound to be able to think of a bigger number.

You can counter me, that its the result of time, that during the second attempt, you had more time, so you could come up with a bigger number. But imagine if your brain could come up with numbers faster, then what do you think would be limiting the answer? The limitation will still be the ability/ rate at which brain comes up with the number.

And that is true for almost everything in life.

We are limited by our own abilities to achieve whatever we want to achieve. While it may be true, that all our abilities are not limitless, and that we are bound to hit a glass cieling sooner or later; Fact is, most of the times, we don't push ourselves enough - We stop a lot before we hit that ceiling.

And that's where all the difference starts coming in.

If you have heard, inches win matches, this is the kind of scenarios in which it matters the most to have the inches on your side.

If you shoot for the stars, you might end up on moon at least.
But no man who shot for the moon can ever land on the stars.



So the civil services prelims exam was held this last Sunday. One of my wingie came to Bangalore to appear in it. Another wingie, and a current flatmate has started preparing for it as well.
On the other hand, UPSC released the results and detailed marks/cutoffs for previuos year's exam last week.

If anything, there are two things I can surmise.

The UPSC cutoffs showed that a guy with score 1107/2300 made rank 7, a guy with score 1197 made rank 1. That's a clear cut difference of 100-150 marks from last years, when the topper would score around 1290 marks, and by around 1230 the top 10 ranks would be gone.
What this tells us is this - UPSC is trying to remove predictability from scores needed to clear its exams. Score from last two years are enough to create uncertainty  about how high you need to aim. So all those coaching classes that tell you to score minimum 1050 in mains can screw themselves

Its what the IITs did during my times with JEE. The rank I got at my marks, would have been the rank someone from previous year would have got if he scored some 30 marks lesser than me. And in the subsequent attempt, I would have to score another 15 more marks to get the same result I got in my first attempt.

Combined with the fact that UPSC has reduced the number of optionals from 2 to 1 this year, and has made some more pattern changes with respect to mains, there is no way to predict how high you need to score to get throughOne just can't risk aiming low.

The other thing is about the decision, of when should I appear for CSE. For now, I know the answer is 2015.

Thoughts on interviews

I have conducted some 6-7 interviews now, over phone call, Skype and face to face. The people I have interviewed - many of them were smart, and each and every one of them was more experienced than me. And there are a lot of learnings that I think I should remember for my own personal good, and will note them down here.

  1. Focus on the question that is being asked. Don't violate the conditions of the questions, but if possible, add some out of the box thinking. If a solution can't be though of within the system, there has to be a way to think of it outside the box.
  2. You have no way of knowing what the interviewer is actually trying to assess when he asks a particular question. You can make a guess, and that's that. Know what you are getting into before you walk into an interview room. Don't expect to be given opportunities to make stupid assumptions.
  3. You might make through in spite of those questions that you answered wrong, or you might not make through even though you feel you did it good. its all the interviewer's judgement. The interviewer has certain expectations, you beat them, you go through, you don't meet them, you don't go through. Its not about your expectation wrt an answer, its about the interviewer's expectations.
  4. If possible, always think of relevant questions that you can ask your interviewer. Most interviewer's want to check your approach to a problem, and its best to keep talking to them, feeding them tidbits of your thinking before you solve a problem, so that they can judge how you think. Remember, its not about solving the problem alone that they are looking for, its the approach, the temperament, and all those things that you can't judge in a written round.
  5. Be a good judge of time - how much you can take to answer a question. An interview is about taking the best foot forward in a balanced way. On the average it will hold for > 50% of the interviews.
    Take an example. Most interviews start with a tell me about yourself question. Let us say I have 4 mindblowing and 8 not mindblowing things to tell about myself. Now let us say I can tell one thing in 10 seconds. How much of an impact I make will depend on the approach I take up, plus on the time I am allowed to take up. Usually, you can only estimate how much time you are allowed to speak up.
    Thus if you speak up only good things, and are given 120 seconds to speak, you will stay silent for 80 seconds (Underutilisation), and it might give an impression you don't have much to speak of yourself
    If you speak good things first and not so good things later, what persists in the mind of the interviewer is those last things (The last recall)
    If you speak not so awesome things and then the good things, you risk being interrupted in the middle and not being able to tell all things, thus underutilising.
    The best way is to mix and match. Something like G-B-G-B-B-B-G-B-B-G-B.
    That ways you create multiple impacts, the variations make the impact stick - that the candidate is a smart candidate.
    You must make the impact stick. Its not about a question or two, its the whole experience that matters.
  6. Its most probably a person like you - either he is someone as good as you, or someone as good as a future you who is interviewing you. Be courteous, polite, amicable. Its just an interview. Stand with your words, but don't let the tone to impart any unwanted message.
  7. At the end of the interview, the interviewer must have enjoyed talking with you.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ideas and reasonings

An important assumption/conclusion that I have been making since long is that you are fighting a battle against yourself, that you have to become better the better you every day. And that alone is the aim in life.

While the statement is correct, in actual life, you don't get to grow to 30 years when talking to a 30 year old guy. The time is always now, to compare yourself, to judge yourself with respect to others.

Imagine a jungle, with me, and an 18 year old more active athletic guy. If a tiger were to come, he wont wait for the 18 year old guy to turn 23.5 and give us both an equal chance.

Life is like that, it doesn't wait for you to grow up and give you a fair chance.


I have seen people measure time by hours. I think that is the wrong unit to measure time.
That unit works from an external point of view, lets say, the view of the manager, or that of the company.
They don't have any other way of measuring time objectively for everyone, so they have to make do with the unit that is available to them - hours.

I think, from a personal point of view, time should be measured by the amount of value you have created, plus by the amount of learning you have amassed. The first one needs a good measure of the impact your tasks are creating, the second, the intensity of your learning curve. 

Hours, days, weeks - these are for worldly goals.
You should define your own time limits. This is another lesson I  have learnt recently.

Personally, I have always found it distracting to work on something for a small amount of time.
So I can't study for half an hour, I can't play a game for just half an hour and so on. Hence I have to devote at least 1.5 hours and I can easily devote upto 3-4 hours working on the same thing.

Every person has his own way of achieving that flow - discover it, and use it.
Remember, there is no way for other people to judge the intensity with which you work, accurately. That doesn't mean, they cant judge it within fair amount of limits - they can, only that it wont be accurate. Define your own time limits.

Whatever work you do, its important, you make both these kind of times come into sync and play together, the worldly one, and the personal one.

Know that externally, your work/output will always be measured by the hours, but also remember, that you alone are the best judge of your time. You can lie to everyone, but not to yourself.


Over a period of last few months, I have come to realize, that life is heavily dependent on principles from Physics, and Probability.

So, take for example, Physics.
A lot of the times, you will find person X telling other person Y: I dont work enough, I am not smart enough, I am an idiot and so on. And they just can't believe their ears. The reverse can happen frequently as well.

The reason for that is frame of references.

There are usually three frames of references that exit for every person involved.
So for me, there will be  -
1) the point at which I started,
2) the point at which I have reached, and
3) the point to which I want to reach.

Whenever someone else is talking something about - he will now have 6 such frames of references -
4) the point at which he started,
5) the point at which he thinks I started,
6) the point at which he is at,
7) the point at which he thinks I am at,
8) the point to which he wants to reach,
9) the point to which he thinks I want to reach

And there in lies the catch.

Very few set of two people can do the job good enough of estimating all these frame of references correctly. Some can be sure of themselves individually, but it truly takes a genius to be sure of all.

The rest, either underestimate, overestimate, exaggerate or underplay.

And thus, almost all of the points of references they are thinking of, are wrong.
They just don't get it why X calls himself an idiot - he am thinking from point 3, which is how smart X would want to be; and Y can at best think from point 7 and 9, which lie much before 3.

Over the period of last few months, I have started putting the above frames of references in perspective whenever I am having a conversation, trying to understand what exactly people try to mean, when they speak something.

Anyway, if you want to outgrow yourself, you should definitely work with the smart people - they are the ones who can push you harder than you can yourself


A lot of the times, I look at some higher ups, and can't stop thinking, am I incapable of making the kind of decisions like they do? The answer is I am actually very capable of making those decisions.
But if there was any fact that you can take for given in a professional setting - it would be that you dont make just one decision, you make hundreds, or thousands of them, and you make them fast.

So yes, for an isolated singular instance, it is very much possible that I make the same kind of decisions as them, in fact, it is very much possible that I make a better decision than them. But on the aggregate, they will have a better strike rate compared to me, by virtue of their experience.

Same is true for most things in life.

You will find not so smart people, higher up in the ladder, reason being (though not the only reason), they have better strike rates in what matters, or that they have a good enough strike rate, for what matters.

You will find so many people telling you, that you should work hard now - because that's a fool proof way of bettering that strike rate. Its a different matter, you need to be smart about that advice, because beyond a point, mindless working for long hours alone won't hep you enough.

Its one of the reasons why you should work with smart people, because they have been there, done that, and you can learn a lot from their experience, their mistakes.

its one of the reasons why you will find people, who were not so smart early on (the ones who went to  not so hot schools) are able to catch up later on - because beyond a point, talent alone isn't the only requirement to increase the strike rate.
Talent just helps you get there faster.
Smartness just helps you get there faster.
Beyond them, persistence and practise matter.

I think this is one fundamental lesson that I have learnt recently.

As a kid, I always used to think that I can be the best and so on, but now that I think of it, I always had the potential, but I never had a strike rate good enough to convert the opportunities I wanted to.

So the aim of life can be, to better those strike rates in things that matter, 
let it become a habit over a period of time, 
so that the average expectation rises on its own, 
by virtue of that better strike rate.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Time to do something

A lot of times an idea strikes me.
And I realize how smarter I am becoming smarter day by day.

A lot of times I want to talk about such ideas with others.
And it is then I realize, they already know of it.

They have already been there, done that.
They know the line of thinking in and out.

And they know the value of the thoughts.
Beyond a point, the thoughts stop making much difference.

One of my favorite law from computer science is Amadahl's law.
What it states is, that if a system is made of 2 components, and you improve one of the components by a 100 %, the overall improvement is proportional to the contribution of that component only.

That is, say you were designing a computer, and you have a hard disk for read and write, (85:15 % ratio for read vs write access), and if you could somehow give enough effort to do one of the following (Say doing either requires same amount of time, manaul effort, and you have to choose to do which one first)
either take 50% the read access time (make reads 2x faster),
or take 10% write access time as earlier (make writes 10x faster),
your overall system would be more efficient by
case-1 : 100 / (85/2 + 15) = 1.74 times
case-2 : 100 / (85 + 15/2) = 1.15 times

A smaller improvement in something that impacts more give you more performance boost easily .

And beyond a point, lets say you were able to make reads faster by 1 unit for every 1 day of effort
on day1     2x => 100 / (85/2   + 15) = 1.74 times
on day2     3x => 100 / (85/3   + 15) = 2.31 times
on day100 101x => 100 / (85/101 + 15) = 6.31 times
on day200 201x => 100 / (85/201 + 15) = 6.48387 times
on day201 202x => 100 / (85/202 + 15) = 6.48475 times

So yes, beyond, say a 100 days of such sustained effort, you are not going to see much improvement in the overall system if you focus on one thing alone, because something else would have become a bottleneck, no matter how insignificant it initially was.

A similar thing is there with the thoughts as well.
Beyond a point, you will get more improvement in you as a person, if you start spending more time doing stuff rather than thinking about it.

All those people, who say that first step is important, are right, it is important but only at the beginning.
Once you have crossed a threshold grey area, it won't matter whether you ever started or not, what will matter is what you are doing now, for your present and future.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My first interview experience

So I recently took my first technical interview. I sat on the other side of the table, and interviewed a candidate for a good 50 minutes. All in all, an experience in itself.

I realized why hiring is so tough and painful in startups - the amount of time you spend on hiring say 2 guys, will be simply huge, and given your team size, might be a complete drain on your resources.
There were lots of thoughts raging in my mind, regarding tips I would like to give myself for an interview, so I will try to document prominent lines of thinking here:

1) Bullshit with care 

You might realize that the interviewer doesn't know everything about a particular question, but he still might know something about it. You can try bullshitting your way inside, however, you try to bluff wrong about something he knows and you are gone down the drain.

2) Before answering the question, think from the interviewer's point of view

Usually, the interviewer wouldn't remember all the details about the question. In fact, he might be impressed if you give him an answer which is correct, which he hasn't thought of yet or that he wasn't expecting.
So before you answer, take your time, try to think what might be a good follow up question from the question currently being asked.
Try to think of something you would like to be asked about, from that question.
The more you lead them to asking questions you anticipate, the better.

3) The interviewer is also human, know when to stop
Sometimes, you might be done, but there will be no expression on the interviewer's face. Know when to stop answering. Keep the interviewer(s) engaged, as much as possible.

4) Listen carefully

And ask for clarifications, as many sensible ones as you can think of. No interviewer appreciates a candidate acting smart and answering non sense because he wasn't listening

5) Value the importance of time, both yours and the interviewer's

You have limited time with an interviewer. One goal is to maximize the difference between the good things he knows about you before and after the interview, while minimizing the amount of bad impression formed during it. There is no real metric to measure the two, but I hope the idea helps. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Ideas regarding the barrier theory, non linearity of time and idiots

Let me talk about my ideas regarding my barrier theory today

Though I don't know if something similar exists, and I haven't completely thought it off (its still half baked right now).

I have been watching a lot of videos these days, some of them related to rape victims, some others related to gun violence, yet others related to crimes and murders; basically, atrocities that humans commit against fellow humans out of their own insecurities and insanities,

And one thing, that people usually say for any new measure is, if someone wants to do it, they will do it, no matter whether you reduce the number of guns in the market, no matter whether you remove those window films for car tints, no matter whether you close pubs at the right time, no matter if women wear long clothes.

The argument boils down to having a better policing, rather than focussing on all such measures.

While I agree with them, that the perpetrators will do it no matter what, I think what people miss out from the bigger picture is, the barriers.

As a law enforcer, a civil servant may not be able to prevent all the crimes. The civil servant belongs to an organisation, all organisations have finite resources. No matter how huge they be, most organizations are not as big as the number of possible perpetrators. Which practically can involve anyone not part of the organization, and might also involve some internal members because of internal inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. Thus, they/ their agents cannot stop all the crimes (each and every instance of a crime).

Yet, some steps, like law, punishment, deterrence, help them increase the barrier to committing crime, on the average.

So yes, one cannot prevent all rapes happening behind those blackened windows in cars, psychos will rape no matter whether there are tinted windows or not, but you can, definitely reduce the average number of such cases.

Its because most people are not intrinsically bad (or good, they are in the grey zone), they have their moments of lapse of judgement  and effective policies that increases the barriers to stop them from committing the crimes can be good enough in short term.

Of course, just preventing the crime is not good enough, it doesn't kill the thoughts from people's mind. But then, Preventing such thoughts from people's mind, providing them a good upbringing, making people as better human beings is  not something for the police to achieve, its the education system. The former is a short term measure, the latter, a long term measure, and both are important for a society to maintain its standards of sanity.

I guess why people frown on measures like these is, because these measures tend to shift focus from the real issue. Its basically like, lets say the system works 50% of the time, for effectively curbing, we need to make it work to say 75% of the time, with barriers we can probably do with system working for say 67% of the time. People are not frowning the barriers (always, though many a times they do), they are frowning that in the name of the barriers, the workingness of the system will be ignored, and it will stay at 50% rather than move up to minimum 67%.

So the bottom line is, there is always a tradeoff - you increase the barriers for stopping the bad from happening, and you need lesser amount of manual interventions. But you still need a minimum amount of intervention effort to be able to handle situations correctly. The barriers work only beyond a certain point of parity.

An effective system is one, which continuously keeps lowering the barriers for people to commit good, while increasing the barriers to stop people from commiting bad.


So, now I think I can move on to another theory of mine, non linearity of time.

A lot of people believe that all humans are created equal.

I disagree. I believe most humans are created almost equal. But there are mild differences. Some are created faster than others, some are created smarter than others, some are created sharper than others, and so on, IMO, the original belief usually stems either from the fact that all people are equal before the eyes of the law, or from some socio-religious preaching. 

Anyways, the problem starts arising, when people start comparing their times with someone else's time.
I have 24 hours in a day, so has the prime minister of India; However, the amount of change he can potentially bring in 24 hours, will be much higher than what I can bring, at this stage.

No, its not about his age alone, you take the prime minister and another random guy aged 77, and the dear prime minister can still cause much more change than the random guy could possibly make.

Its about the responsibility a person has, the number of things someone is responsible for. That makes his time non linear, more important than the time of the other people around him. Because, each of his minute can have possibly more ramification than those of others.

Interestingly, even the same person, lets say I, will find that my time is more valuable now than it was an year or two ago. (That is, if I am on moving up in life) Because now I am responsible for more things than I earlier was.

There are many ways to view life, I think one of the ways to view life can be to view it as a maximization problem  - you try to increase the value of your time by as much as you can. 
Yes, time is money, and you have to invest it carefully, so that its value grows over a given duration.


A third thing I wanted to talk to talk about is about life of idiots. I was (and still am) reading a book - The Dilbert principle by Scott Adams. Scott mentions how we spend a major part of our day being ignorant idiots at different times in the day.

So one day, I was just thinking, when finally the realization set in how we are all idiots.
Basically, if I haven't invested my time to learn anything new yesterday, I am an idiot for whiling my time away. If I have, then I was still an idiot, since I knew less than what I (potentially) might be knowing today, I would be less smarter than what I was today.
A flipside is, I keep forgetting a lot of things as I grow, hence I am still an idiot, I know much less today, in comparison to the sum total of all that I have know for my life (Think every piece of knowledge added over every day of my lifetime)

For me, being an idiot is all about being ignorant.
Its funny, how there are so many idiots all around us, yet no one likes being told on their face that they are an idiot. Its kind of a bubble in equilibrium - Everyone believes that they are smart, while we are all only smarter than what we were yesterday and what we forget tomorrow.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Philosophical Thoughts

So I will try to document some stray philosophical thoughts in my mind, that I constantly keep losing track of.

A lot of discussions, I seem to find are based on individual instances; Instances of horror, Instances of people making all kind of wrong noises for all kind of wrong demands, and so on.
And one thing I have come to realize  is that even though all these instances matter, these are singularities in the graph. When getting involved in a discussion, the different sides choose singularities, that seem to justify their points of views. The winner is the guy who listens to both the sides, and is then able to form a continuity out of those singularities, something that holds valid for most of the singularities.

I have been reading and learning about the animal kingdom a bit, and it just marvels me how we are all like animals - fearing the unknown, attacking when feeling vulnerable, focussing more on the immediate needs than focussing on the larger picture and so on.
I think, to understand the humans, we need to first understand how they evolved into who they are right now. I thus must finish reading some books - 1)The origin of species 2) guns germs and steel - the history of everything for last 13000 years.
On a funny note, if you are inside a meeting or something, where the environment is highly tense with people fighting each other over petty issues - try imagining the people as monkeys in your head. You will find the situation absolutely humorous.

I have always wondered how one form of death is different/more painful than another. So you die in a truck accident, where its a scene of gore, your head is completely crushed, and people have a tough time separating you from the road. Or you die in your bed, having lived a life till 80, with wife, kids et al. Would it matter to you how you die?
I guess all these ways of death matter a lot more to people who are still living on the earth - the gore shocks their inner self, because they haven't imagined life to be so fragile.
 Dying young means a lot of things unachieved, dying in accidents means things ending abruptly - and thus, many a thing which were meant to be achieved left incomplete, unachieved.

When I think of it, would it matter to me if I die in either of the ways? I dont know. I think it wont matter, though I would love to finish whatever all I started, and there are intermediate phases in life when you complete one thing and are moving on to another. But I dont get it why one form of death has to be more painful than other.

I have been reading a lot of books and blogs lately. One thing I have come to realise about people is, that they are not bad or good; they just have their moments of failure when their character fails. For some, this turns into a habit. The reverse can also be said to hold, people just have their moments of success when their character succeeds. For some, this turns into a habit.
The lesson is, Life is however you want to look at it. Life is whatever you want to make it to be. You are both good and bad simultaneously; what separates you, is the choices you make.
What defines you, is what side you choose to be on, the good or the bad, the positive or the negative.

Then finally there is love. I have been thinking lately, on the meaning of love, and what value it holds in our life, why is it important and so on. I watched a movie, A beautiful mind, and its had one such deep profound thought in it, in the acceptance speech, when John Nash says "you are all the reason I am". I just can't stop reflecting on it.
People define their lives in terms of god, in terms of religions, in terms of causes, in terms of impact, but what is underlying under it all, is love. What you love comes to define who you are. You love religion, it comes up to define you. You love God, and you get thusly defined. It might be worldly, non worldy, living, or non animate. But what you love defines you. It truly is all the reason you are.

Life. And rocket science.

Life in a startup

I have been working in this startup for four months now, and the learning curve has been wonderful.

The discussions, the lunch breaks, the food jokes, the office mail threads, the environment - everything has been a good experience. As a company also, I think we are doing all right.

But what I find the most exhilarating is the width of learning startups offer. For example, I can discuss on need for an inventory predictor, and how we can design it with someone with huge experience. Or I can talk about a customer communication system and how we can integrate order and call data. To be able to share thoughts with someone heading very high positions, to discuss thoughts so freely, with people far more experienced than you, thats what has made the startup experience worth having.

I talk to my friends, and many of them ask me, are you getting a hike. I know hikes are important, but  such an atmosphere is enough to convince yourself that you are not working here for a hike or the money. Money is important, but there are more important lessons I am learning, which a hike cant compensate for.

Questions to ponder over

I tore away the two questions that I had put on the wall. 
Did I give it my all today? Is this the best I can do?

In practise, I found them to be an overkill. I can't expect myself to give my all everyday, nor can I expect to do the best everyday of my life, both are beyond human limits.
I can only try to give it my all today, and I can only try to give it my best everyday. Sometimes, the result may be beyond me for externalities I don't control, and which I may not realize at the time.

I think this was result of an important realization, one cant keep touching the bar everyday, and raise it simultaneously, forever. Heck, this wasn't even the target, the aim was to higher my own standard, and its better to allow some inefficiency in the system, rather than be burnt out while trying to mechanically achieve something repetitively.

Its more about a state of mind. I realized its not about the peaks I achieve but life is an area under the curve problem. Hence, a less precise but more prolonged state of mind is better than a highly precise, but temporally diminished state of mind.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Age of Realizations

There were some important realizations today.

The first one started with a gtalk buzz from S, with whom I have worked in the past. As are the times these days, he was told, that the whole department of the company was now being shut down and to start searching for another job. He asked me if there were any jobs in my company, which as far as i know are none.
He then asked me not to tell about this to anyone. "Sab mazak udayenge mera". Everyone will make fun of me.

It made me realize, how big a role the fear of humiliation plays in our lives. So much mind space this stupid thought eats, what will others think/say, when actually one should be focusing on moving fast and getting a new job. It also made me understand better why few months earlier, some of my friends started crying when they were told that all freshers are being asked to resign.

The second realization I had, when I was reflecting on a blog I read. I have always heard people around me telling me that they want to work for a company X for some time, before switching, because they want to build something during that time.

I never really appreciated their sentiments, up until today, when I realised that all that my college tried to teach me was the basic skills, the basics of computer sciences, the basics of mathematical theory. the basics of computer architecture and so on.
And throughout my life so far, that's how I've learned things - learning all the basics.

But today I realised, its not about the basics alone.
Even the most complex of castles are built out of bricks. Life is not about learning how to make good bricks alone. It is about learning  how to make castles, and one requirement of that is understanding how to make bricks.

So far, all I have are the bricks - the basic building blocks.

In order to make use of all that I have learnt, I now need to work on the arrangement of the same, to make castles of my own. I guess the same is the intentions of people when they say they want to build something.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Some thoughts - on social networks and questions in life

I observed that I was spending too much time on social networks - twitter, linkedin, facebook, quora.
Not that I was spending too much time on each one of them individually  - still the sum total was very high.
So just to counter it, I have deactivated my facebook, and I reroute the linkedin, twitter sites to google through my /etc/hosts file, so that, any impulsive triggering of the network get blocked.

I was having a discussion sometime back, on the need of facebook, linkedin and other social networks with a good friend.
The thing I have of late realised is, that only the good part of people's life is on facebook. That is, the moments where they are enjoying, the moments where they are celebrating, and so on. But the bad part - the tragedies that go in everyone's life are mostly absent.

So on an average day, my timeline is full of people sharing their trips' photos, their accomplishments, achievements and what not. Sometimes, people decide to be funny and post a witty status mesaage or two. Not all people do this everyday; however, there are almost 700 people in my friendlist and different subsets of them churn out different mix of data on different days.
So, what happens is, that instead of getting/remaining in touch with most of my friends and get to know whats happening in their life, i get to know only the good happening in the life of a subset of those friends.

And that somewhy gives me a complex.

I know, the problem here is with my perception, I get intimidated by the achievements of all those people surrounding me. But still, facebook succeeds in re-enforcing that feeling of being behind the curve. That life sucks in general. 

I know, that the kind of people I work with, the kind of work I do, I am much better off than most of those guys; still facebook succeeds in driving me to think that my achievements are insignificant, or nothing out of the ordinary. Because I dont go to a trip 7 times a day, but 7 different friends of mine might very well go for a trip every day of a week. I dont get witty things in my mind 10 times a day, but my 10 of my friends can easily get 1 witty thought every day.

So, the problem is, facebook pits me, the one and only me with both good and bad, against almost 700 people with only good.

And I cant stop thinking of how much fun the others are having, while I am just slugging it out. And this is not good. This is definitely not good.

And I am sure I wont be the only one feeling kind of depressed seeing the good in other people's life, while cursing myself for my shitty life. I am just another human being, and I have my shortcomings, and I get really distracted when I see that something good might be happening in someone else's life.
The problem, may not be with facebook as a product, its with that thought that it puts everytime I see an update from one of my friends - That I am not doing enough in my life. And over a period of time it can be very frustrating.

So I have started hacking around the way facebook works.
I am not "best friends" with most of the people in my friend list, which means I get updates from people whom I dont know well, and about whom I dont much care.
I have tried limiting the number of friends I have, (removing many of them from my friend list at a go), but that doesn't work. Because I somewhy want to stay connected, yet dont want to learn about each and everything they post every day.

Then there is the question of the content people share - memes, youtube vids, and others. Though most of them are good for recreation, they are not exactly the best use of time. There are other people, who share good stuff most of the time, but its very difficult to get the good things out of the noise.
So now, I keep all the feeds from each of my friend blocked, and have a separate list wherein I follow some 60-70 people who I care about.

I keep app requests banned from many of my friends (the farmville spammers).

I keep a tab on what I am liking, rarely liking any facebook page. Given how facebook's ad targetting work, the lesser number of pages you like the better, though you can always be targeted by the kind of likes your friends have. The point is not to stop it, but just to raise the barriers. (Because you cant just stop it, you are too insignificant to do that)

And when I still feel I am wasting a lot of time on it, (I am a human, and can get easily distracted like a monkey), then, every now and then, I try to go off the facebook grid. I deactivate my account. for months on the stretch. "Na rahega baas, na rahega basuri".

I know, that is not the best way to ignore, but it works, and thus is good enough for me.

Of late, I have observed that though my usage of facebook has dropped considerably, I have started spending too much of time on linkedin. It gives me a high everytime a new visitor visits my linkedin page, and I keep trying to figure out which amongst "One of these people viewed your profile" people might have actually visited my profile.

I am not really used to getting so much attention, so finding 6-7 random strangers in a day showed interest in my professional profile can be a distraction.

And then there is twitter - I follow some 8 accounts, most of them news, and some 15 people follow me back. Still, in my quest to remain updated, I keep hitting that refresh button on twitter every now and then, and end up clicking on news links and reading them

All this brings down the productivity levels, and these are truly impulsive actions.

Hence to control my impulses, I have started routing both linkedin and twitter to google when I am in my office. The aim is to kill that impulse, but still preserve the habit (since they are both useful).


The discussion I was having with my friend did involve the above, but it also involved a bigger question - why you must use some form of social network.

And the reason he gave me - why people should use facebook is that it gives a sense of security that everything is good in my friend's life. I dont agree with that line of reasoning, mainly because if someone is concerned about me, I wouldnt come to know of it this way. but whatever.

The reason I use social networks, like linkedin and facebook, is not just to remain connected with friends, but also to bring down barriers via increased visibility - if there is someone out there who wants to communicate with a person like me, they can now easily connect with me by whatever channels I am available, because of my increased visibility. 

I have seen college juniors ask me about the kind of experience they will receive at a place where I have interned, and I have myself been able to contact people whom I don't know with equal ease. The visibility helped in finding out the right person faster, and thus, getting the answers faster. It also meant I was contacted before someone else was, and thus, the opportunity cost is lower in my case.

The above deals with my social philosophy, and now, let me move on to some important questions, the questions related to life. 

Just to digress a bit, I have been reading tonnes of blogs of late. Most of them relate to technology and startups in general. Some of the best blogs out there - I have scourged each and every post on them out there.  There's been so much of reading, I haven't been able to focus much on my work. And the content I have been reading is really really good, so good, that I am not finding quora as useful as I used to find it some 2 months back, even though it occasionally pops up some real good questions up there.

I have been asking a lot of questions to myself everyday now. I dont know when it started, maybe it was the internship during which I was  reading books heavily. or maybe the final semester when I first tweeted, inspired by that one question from American history X - "What have I done to make my life better?". Or maybe, i always used to have a lot of questions, but I never took the pain to find out answers to all of them.

Whatever. Anyways, all my plans boil down to two simple questions, that I must answer for myself everyday.
  1. Did I give it my all today to whatever I did?
  2. Is that the best I can do?
I eagerly await a day when the answer to both these questions is a yes, for then I will have achieved my real potential.