Facebook – a black hole of time?

Facebook is a huge phenomenon, that took the world by storm. Just when everybody was getting tired of Orkut, and sharing was limited to IMs and Emails, Facebook emerged with a solution to it all. It has email – your Facebook username works as an email id (username@facebook.com). It has chat, with video calling too! It has ways of sharing your thoughts, ideas, and your day-to-day activities so much so that it has shrunk the general perception of people’s privacy.

In the early days of Facebook (the last days of MySpace), Google became aware of what was happening and tried remodeling Orkut… and failed miserably. Anything Google tried doing with Orkut seemed like it was trying to create a Facebook clone – a bad one at that. Orkut had never taken off outside of Brazil and India. With the advent of Facebook, began the decline of Orkut there too.

While all of this may sound like an excellent advertisement for Facebook, it is not. Facebook has affected productivity and many studies have shown that employers have seen a decline in productivity compared to time before Facebook. Facebook is a black hole of time – I cannot think of one useful thing that I do on Facebook! Facebook reminds me of my friends’ birthdays; so I don’t take that extra effort to remember. It has somehow become acceptable to wish someone on their birthday on their “Wall”, as opposed to a call – telecom companies suffer meanwhile.

If you haven’t noticed, the right sidebar of your Facebook page is now filled with advertisements. If you are a business owner, you would do well if you published your ad on Facebook. Why? Because Facebook knows when I bought my last motorcycle (from my status), it knows my computer, it knows I’m a tech freak (because I link to a lot of Tech websites). It knows what exactly to sell me – well, mostly. Individual ad targeting is what a company would want. I never see an ad about a lipstick or a mascara – why? Because Facebook knows that I’m less likely to click on an ad of Lakme or Maybelline! So, every hour you spend on Facebook, some body makes money – no points for realizing that it is not YOU!

Another very sad thing about what Facebook has done is, that it has generated a false sense of action. I have seen many requests to “support a cause” – “Save the Tiger”, “Help Earth”, “Feed the poor” – so on and so forth. While the intention is noble, I quote my good friend who runs an NGO called Vanamitra (meaning, Friend of the Forest), recently posted on Facebook (ironically) – “Facebook has sadly resulted in a prolific increase in Armchair Activists”. Clicking “Support Cause” on Facebook does very little to help, but people I think, are experiencing a false satisfaction having been led to believe that they have helped in some way – NO – clicking on a button on a website does not count as helping!

Here’s an idea for Facebook – Why not verify these causes and donate an amount towards that cause each time a person supports it? Then maybe clicking “Support” makes sense!

All said, will this stop me from using Facebook? Maybe not, but I hope to audit how much time I spend on it and cut down to bare minimum. Like I have said before, Facebook is definitely bringing the world closer and at the same time, distancing relationships further.

Save some for us

It is very unfortunate that the ever-increasing population is depleting our already diminishing natural resources. We make such a hue and cry about every special day that comes and goes. Be it the Children’s day, the Valentine’s Day, the Mother’s Day, and so on. We spend lavishly on our loved ones; all deserving – no qualms there. However, when it is the World Environment day, it just passes with not a single voice raised.

I remember when we were kids, we celebrated days like the Vanamahotsava, the Environment day with real enthusiasm. It was more of a moral responsibility for us at that time. I wonder where all that enthusiasm has gone. Have we grown so indifferent to celebrate those little things in life? Have we become so busy that we cannot take time off to thank Mother Earth?

I very recently completed reading a book – “The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow – which talks about how the universe was created and how extremely conducive the Earth is to harbour life. The book says that if the orbital eccentricity of Earth’s revolution around the sun was off even as little as 1%, life would not have existed on earth. Further, if Earth was even a few thousand kilometres away from sun, the temperature difference would be so large that in summer all the water would evaporate and in winter it would all get frozen! Earth is such a carefully crafted jewel that bears life – so called intelligent life. We are in fact, lucky to exist let alone survive and thrive at this magnitude.

Every day, we see trees felled in the name of modernization; forests cleared out to satisfy the needs of the ever-growing population; fertile land consumed by large manufacturing units! And everybody is torn apart trying to choose between nature and technology. Is there really a need to choose between the two? Cannot preservation of nature and technological advancements happen hand-in-hand?

Technology should evolve to protect nature; not exploit it. It is up to us – the intelligent life forms – to innovate and invent not only user-friendly technology but also technology which is nature-friendly.

P.S.: The title “Save some for us” was a slogan for a model-making competition which I had taken part in my school days. The theme of the competition was preserving the natural habitat for the wild and endangered animals and stop over use and over exploitation by man.

The H-1B visa fee hike by the US is premature!

Very recently, US President Barack Obama signed into law a legislation to secure the US-Mexico border with $600 million raised by massively hiking work visa fees, ignoring concerns over a “discriminatory” provision that will largely hit Indian firms, including Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam.

There are two parts to this story – one, the US wants to strengthen its forces along its Mexican border to fight illegal immigration; and two, the US wants to secure the jobs for its citizens instead of ‘losing’ them to foreigners.

As far the first part goes, securing its borders is an autonomous decision any country can make and nobody (except the countries involved) can have an opinion on it. However, the money to fund that operation could have come from anywhere – perhaps a cut from the billions-of-dollar sanctions to Pakistan? Or even by increasing taxes levied on trade between the US and Mexico? It’s quite intriguing why the US chose to put the ‘burden’ on the IT industry. And further more intriguing because, it is completely failing at it.

Moving on to the second part, the US seems to be trying to kill two birds with one stone – birds: Mexican Immigrants and Outsourced Workers; stone: The New Law. Sounds a bit too desperate.

Anyhow, the price hike will hardly affect the foreign companies. Companies applying for H-1B visas to ‘migrate’ its employees to the US are definitely servicing US-based clients. The hike in the price of the visas will directly be transferred to the client and hence the money that the US wishes to raise will absolutely come from within! This could be understood as an indirect tax to its own commercial and industrial sector. Furthermore, this premature move only affects the inflow of talented workforce into the US which may have consequences rooted in the future.

To conclude, I feel the whole ‘securing the border’ drama is just an excuse and if the US was really looking to raise money for the cause, it could have directly taxed its people because, the issue is to keep them safe right?

Read between the lines!

“Buy 3, Take 5 FREE!”

“90% Discount – Limited Period!”

Its not surprising how our eyes light up when we look at an advertisement for a too-good-to-be-true (TGTBT) offer. Our hearts jump and a sudden surge of excitement rushes through our minds — “I should get that!” Our brain’s logical thinking takes a backdrop and out come our wallets and the transaction takes place. And we live our lives happily-ever-after.

Oh wait! Did I miss something? But of course, 90% of all those extravagant offers keep you happy only for a short while. The excitement all dies when you realize that you are over-paying, or you got duped for a cheap product or the after-sale service is hell!

A business man never ever sells something for anything lesser than what he bought it for, unless he’s gone mad. That’s a universal fact! All the offers that are advertised are a part of his long-term investment which is going to get his product recognition and establish it in the market.

That said, there is no denying the existence of legitimate TGTBT offers. But a 0-catch, no-strings-attached, TGTBT offer is very rare and illusory. If you happen to come across such an offer, control your excitement and do some logical thinking. Read the complete terms and conditions (Look for  ‘* Conditions Apply.‘) before buying. Verify the company that is making the offer and ask for advise from previous buyers. The easiest way is to Google reviews for that product/service.

Few years ago, Reliance Communications, when it first entered the mobile market, offered a “Dhamaka” offer giving away mobile phones + connections for only Rs. 500/- I still remember the long queues that spiraled around the Reliance outlets as people rushed in to buy a mobile. Later next day, a newspaper article described the entire terms in detail. The initial 500/- was only a down-pay for the mobile and the final bill amount spread over two years was Rs. 7200/- That day,  the length of the queue was drastically reduced!

Very recently, Reliance Broadband, launched an offer for their new 3.1Mbps plug-n-play wireless broadband service. They are giving away the USB modem and two months of unlimited usage for Rs. 3500/-

Link: http://offers.connectindia.in/reliance/broadband.jsp
Tarrif: http://offers.connectindia.in/reliance/tariff.jsp
Terms: http://offers.connectindia.in/reliance/terms.jsp

The “unlimited” usage is actually limited to 10Gb per month, after which each Mb costs Rs. 2/-! Now that’s costly! On the contrary, BSNL offers true unlimited wireless broadband (although at speeds of upto 2Mbps) at Rs. 750/- per month. That’s less than 25% of the Reliance’s offer!

If you are looking for a new wireless broadband connection, learn more about all your options and make an educated choice! 🙂

Turning a blind eye

“A person can explain anything to anyone if he can explain colors to a blind man.”

Its a hard, dark world for someone with no eyes. They see no light, no colors, and the beauty of nature is forever elusive to them. For them, everyday is a challenge, a struggle and a fight to stay equal with the rest of the world. The battle only gets harder as they are bereft of one of the most vital senses a person would need. Each passing day is dotted with a hundred bumps into people and things – sometimes embarassing, and many times, painful. But, I believe God has His way with life and everyone are created equal. When He takes away something from someone, He’s sure to have given them something greater to mask that loss. The real challenge for a blind person is to discover that uniquity in him/her and exercise all their efforts to excel in it. The brain-seed for this post was an incident that ocurred in the bus (on my way to college) that left me contemplating for a long time:

This happened two days ago. I was pretty late when I left home for college that morning but thankfully I managed to get on to a bus without having to wait for long at the bus stop. I managed to find a seat close to the door and settled down. A few minutes later at a subsequent stop, a blind person was helped into the bus. The person folded his ID cane and groped for something to hold on to. I got up, held his hand and guided him to my seat. While this was happening, another person who was standing in the bus thought I was going to get off the bus and had taken my seat. I told him that I had gotten up to help the blind person and asked him to vacate the seat for him. The person said: “Oh, I’m sorry I did not see”, and he gave up the seat. I said it was okay and helped the blind man sit down.

What struck me then was that a person with normal vision does not appreciate its true value. Also, that God, when He created people blind, expected the other ‘normal’ ones to help. Of what use are your eyes, if you do not use them to help a person in true need of help?

I’m pretty sure that a blind man will not be able to read this article of mine, and on the contrary, I hope the others who do will understand that its their moral responsibility to help and I hope you would consider donating your eyes – like Pavan urges everyone to. Its a good feeling to know that someone is still looking at the world through your eyes, even after you are dead.

(Thanks to Suda for letting me know of this clip’s existance on Youtube.)