“Free” costs Rs.5/day – Airtel

Blatant unethical marketing has become the norm of this society! Companies believe that using buzz words and catch phrases are often enough to pull in subscribers or customers – irrespective of the merit and honesty of the advertisement.

The most recent such ad that stirred up this new category of posts on my blog is from Airtel which describes its latest offering of “free” unlimited national roaming at Rs.5/day. My only question is – How can something you pay for, ever be ‘free’? An oxymoron at best that tries to make morons of its customers.

The ad is displayed on its Facebook page and also on the website.

Airtel-free-National-Roaming

While such practice of wording advertisements is nothing new in the Indian telecom industry, there’s more to note. On it’s website, Airtel claims:

Here’s another first from airtel. Now enjoy FREE incoming calls on national roaming!

Another first from Airtel? – Hardly. BSNL launched a similar campaign back in 2011. And I’m confident that also wasn’t the first time.

FREE – Notice how this word is capitalized? The first thing they teach you in business communication is to avoid capitalization of words – it signifies the act of shouting! After all, an advertisement is the most primary form of business communication, right?

How could this be better worded? How about – Enjoy unlimited incoming calls on national roaming for Rs.5/day. – now, was that so difficult?

Will TRAI ever take notice to stop this menace?

P.S.: Thanks to @TheMangoFellow whose tweet brought this to my notice.

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.

Adobe Flex – Redefining Web 2.0

Yesterday, I had been to “Flex Boot Camp” – a seminar on Flex conducted by Adobe.

For people who don’t know what Flex is – it is a framework on the top of Flash which works provides an interface to create complete websites in Flash giving it more OO classes and functions, and HTML components with base coding in MXML (Macromedia XML) and ActionScript.

Initially through the seminar, I liked the idea of a whole website working just like AJAX-amplified. The demos that they showed and the ease in which you could implement everything was amazing. According to the claims, web apps created using Flex, save bandwidth using the HTTPService() call pretty similar to AJAX. Also, Flex adds a semantic accessibility to your web application that a normal HTML page lacks. Though AJAX proves to be a strong competition to Flex, the fact that its a ‘hack’ in JavaScript might just limit its capabilities in the future. (Web 3.0?) Anyhow, Flex proved to be an eye-candy. As I’m writing this, I’m downloading the Flex SDK 3.0. Though I’m not sure how to transcend from my native web programming language (PHP/XHTML/CSS) I’m hoping that this article might help.

Coming to the general idea of how the web will welcome Flex, it all seems a little sweet and salty right now. Any webmaster would want his website to conform to high standards of:

  • Functionality
  • Design
  • Reach

Functionality

As a webmaster, you’d look to make your website incorporating all the functions necessary for your users to get the best experience from the site and when they click the close button of their website, they leave with a satisfaction that their experience with the site was such that it would bring them back again. Having said that, the functionality may be the core navigability, a search feature, security functions or even the basic accessibility feature which lets the user choose the font size of the text that he reads on the website.

Doing all this not really an easy job. Especially if you don’t have a team of developers backing you with every module of the site. Comparing this in reference to Flex, Flex provides an exhaustible set of components and controls which makes the developer’s job much simpler. It combines aspects of component interaction with the end users as well as the interaction between the components themselves.

Design

If “Content is King”, “Presentation/Design is Queen”. The design of a website is very important; in terms of enhancing the aesthetic value and also providing readability to the users. Design also focusses on the content presentation, ease of navigability and color sense. Though most of these are decided by the webdesigner to suit his needs as per his wishes, the feasibility of design increases with the use of Flex. Flex also provides support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for certain elements (mostly HTML elements, rightly so). Some of the designs that were shown in the seminar were really good, seamless and clear.

Reach

What is the use of a website which provides perfect functionality and has beautiful design if it does not reach out to its potential users? Yes, I am talking about promoting your website. There are three ways to do this:

  • Peer to peer – Website promotion relies on word-of-mouth, tell-a-friend ways. Though these ways are ineffective in terms of reaching out to large number of users, it will certainly build a loyal readership.
  • Advertising – Publish ads relating to your website, describing its features to woo new users.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization is a hot topic in today’s web. Every webmaster’s goal is to have his site properly indexed by a search engine. It would not be wrong if I said a proper SEO optimized site does not need any more advertising. (Of course, this also depends on the site’s services and content)

The disadvantage of using Flash (to design a complete website) is very evident in Flex. SEO is something which hasn’t been thought about by the adobe team, perhaps. However, the community is trying hard to tweak the way the Flex coding appears in a browser to generate a SEO-friendly code on the backdrop of a Flex UI. Efforts such as this and this have certainly caught many a developer’s eyes.

Like I said, after deploying a website, a webmaster expects to reach out for a good slice of internet traffic to come his way. Flex does well is providing an innovative approach to design and develop an amazing web application. However, I really feel there is a lot to be done regarding a Flex site’s visibility on search engines. More research will be necessary into the usage of robots.txt, possibility of coming together with the search engine companies (It may already be underway) to help index SWF better.  Once, Flex is improved based on these lines, I’m sure webmasters will be able to create websites which keep users coming back to it.

To know more about Flex, visit these links: