Friday, June 29, 2007

Gone for a while

Will be offline for a while or for a long time. Just want to have more immediate experience.

Looking Inside

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Presidential election in Democracy

What does president of India do? He is a figure head with minimal legislative powers, mostly representing spirit of country and acting as conscious keeper of constitution. We might argue that post of president is a legacy we borrowed from our system of democracy which was based on British system and is a redundant post. Who is this Pratibha Patil, the new presidential nominee of congress for president election! Just around till two weeks back not many in this country would have known who she is! Then why is she president candidate? Because she was hand picked by Sonia Gandhi! What are her qualifications! That she was some ex whatever minister and she was quite and calm and uncontroversial! Or is it that she is a woman and hence if elected, which she would be because she is nominated by party in power, would become first female president of India. As if it was really important to prove gender equality and female empowerment by electing a female president. Such symbolism means nothing. We are anyway a country replete with symbolism. So why would we need another one? I am not trying to say that she is not capable or eligible for post of president! . But if she is; then lots of else are also. Why not any ex minister! Why not any other woman!

The point is that nobody in this country would knew her just 2 weeks back and suddenly she is in limelight and has already put her foot in her mouth by commenting about veil and how it was enforced on women during Muslim rule. So she needs to get her history and PR right, and the moment there was limelight on her, she came out with controversial statement also! Why not choose Abdul Kalam for another term! He is popular, one of greatest Indians, is apolitical, is tremendoulsy knowledgeable and importantly has by and far topped all the media polls for popular choice as president! If we are a democracy then why not give second term to a highly popular president even if it is just for namesake! Why to elect a little known person just because she happens to be a pliable woman close to a certain family.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rushdie, Knights and Intolerance

There is lots of humors in world. Salmaan Rushdie , the controversial writer who wrote Satanic Verses and then spent entire decade running and hiding from people who perhaps never read his book but wanted to chop off his head, was recently awarded knighthood by UK. That is funny. I mean, I thought Knights belong to bygone era. I just can not imagine Salmaan Rushdie as a mounted combatant, carrying sword and galloping on a horse with a nice damsel for a company. Stereotypes.

I think these days everybody is in good humor, or how else would you respond to this news that "Pakistan parliament protests Knighthood honors to Rushdie". Parliament in Pakistan!! Hello! I thought Pakistan had military rule since last few years so what does its parliament do, apart from arguing and dreaming over Kashmir endlessly! Another funny reaction is from Iran which accused British leaders of Islam-o- phobia , which though is quite understandable, given the recent hostility between two countries.

Now call it clash of civilizations or whatever and enough has been said and written on it. But what these guys protesting over Rushdie do not perhaps understand that countries like UK are free, tolerant , liberal societies where an individual enjoys rights and freedom of speech and opportunities which most of people in countries like Pakistan, Iran etc. can only dream of. These countries also dont persecute people based on religion as much as other supposedly slef-righteous countries do. I will give an example from my own experience. Couple of years back when I was working in UK, on one of lazy Sunday afternoons I happened to be in city square in Birmingham where about 3 dozens Muslim (quite visible form skull caps and beards) protestors were gathered to protest against I don’t remember exactly what. There were half a dozen Policemen watching the whole proceeding from distance and a thin crowd of curious onlookers mostly made up of weekend shoppers. One of the protestors, on stage was lecturing and bemoaning the persecution of Muslims in Britain, intolerance of British society and how they were made to suffer in UK. I found it funny since here was a muslim man who was living in UK and was free to stand on city square and criticize the country and people which had given him home when he had probably come looking for job and better life. Is this persecution! Is this intolerance! Nobody hurled a stone at him, nobody stopped him and nobody from white crowd jeered him, the same people he was trying to accuse in his talk. I felt like asking him, if his own country which I presumed from his talk was Pakistan, would even let anybody so openly stand in city square and do someting like him without risking injury or jail! If you are in Iran perhaps and happen to be let’s say Christian and you gather on Tehran’s city square and do the same thing, you would perhaps be butchered! If you are a hindu in Iran , would you be allowed to build temples and follow your religion without fear! Now how much is that for tolerance and accusing others of phobias and intolerence .

Monday, June 18, 2007

Web 2.0 and Grandma

Just been involved in IT a bit more than I usually. A usual topic of discussion these days among guys who keep abreast with technology is about Web2.0. People keep asking what it means to us and how our company (I don’t mean place where I work, but generally) can use Web 2.0. Web2.0 could be a larger discussion and simply put it is another milestone in Internet's evolution from a simple network of interlinked pages to whatever it is going to become in future, but what lots of us fail to understand, specially in IT companies, is that web 2.0 is also about a mind shift. It is democratization of information, more participation; everybody is welcome kind of thing. Ok may be not. That’s a separate discussion. But, essentially it is about tools which have reduced entry level barriers to internet and IT for those who know or care nothing about PHP, Java etc. I mean take blogging for example. Even grandma can blog and have her recipes shared on internet. How easy has it become really. And imagine what it can do (not blogging but open approach) industries which rely so heavily on knowledge and know hows of its people. Call centers, IT companies to name a few.

But try telling this to traditional thinking, control freaks at work who talk about knowledge management and take the management part bit more seriously than the knowledge they seek to manage. They would not understand. They seek to control knowledge as this is what gives them power they can wield. What does Web 2.0 means for enterprises where bosses communicate to employees through emails which are written by them and sent to their secretaries for forward to employees, as if they never heard of thing call mailing list!! Can any employee be open to approach his boss who communicates to him through email sent by his/her secretary! And anyway, email is so heavily misused. I mean how many times have you got important documents, newer versions of processes, templates, resumes, umpteen numbers of communication delivered through email! And then you would have scoured through your mail box to find them when needed. I have seen departments launching portals with fan fare, portals where all you find is some crap about what department does, as if nobody working there knew what it did anyway! And then there would be flurry of congratulation mails and some people would be happy and portal would be forgotten. It is ironical but most of IT companies which earn their bread and butter by claiming to have skills in solving their clients’s information management problems, can not manage their own information and knowledge which keeps getting scattered all around employee mail boxes and lost soon enough in cyber black hole. IT companies are slowest when it comes to adopting the technology they preach their customers. One can argue that it is about putting heads to job and for internal work that is a problem, problem of who is going to foot the bill. But I think it is more about poor leadership and lack of understanding that little investment in their own IT systems can give them huge benefits, even impacting their bottom line. And then it is also about making fewer managers and lessening barrier to information. How many companies have simple system where they can go and check what were new projects in what domain in what department when they were on bench and looking for suitable projects. This simple information would be locked in couple of guys heads and you need to chase them to get these million dollar information. It is about controlling information. That’s what power is about and unless that changes Web 2.0 is a nice topic for discussion among bunch of people who like to be addressed as architects and not engineers as if being engineer was a lesser thing to do.

But before we understand that or change ourselves, we need to get used to emails a bit more. I mean if you can type your email then surely you know how to send it too unless it makes you feel powerful and important. Web 2.0 till then can wait and grandmas can share some recipes even as some people in bar camps ponder over what humanity would become because of blogging. But that’s for later.

These are my personal views which I dreamt last night and have no connection with my profession.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tickets and Holes

Have not written anything of lately. Been baking some cake and cookies and having some boring routine.....

9.30 am : Reached Office. Have to login in to internal knowledge system to put up project information for team members. Had put up request for creation of user id 2 days back (yeah, we still do that and it takes 2 days) and hoped that I will be able to login but I couldn't. I raised a trouble ticket, ticket 1.

9.45am: Have to fill my timesheets for week today. Have to log timesheets in 3 different systems. Same information , three sytems, three different passwords, 10 differnt codes, for three different set of people to look. I do it on two systems successfully and feel good.

10 am: Third system is new, I am using it for first time. Atleast it lets me login. System is just not accepting the inputs and pages are all garbled up. I fiddle with it for sometime and realise that it uses javascript which just wouldn't run on firefox browser. Cyber pollution anyone!

10.30am: Enough of seeing JS and HTML errors, I quit firefox , open my IE browser and remember that IE wasn't working for quite few days and anyway I dont like IE that much. Employer's policy is to use IE. I log trouble ticket to get IE fixed on my system. Ticket 2.

10:45 am: I see my mails and find 2 mails from guys claiming to report to me and asking me to create thier goal records. I login in to another system with another password and find out that I dont see them in my records in that system. I am confused. I call them. They tell me I am thier supervisor as per another system. I check that another system and find out that it is indeed true. I am confused. Which system is right. I raise another trouble ticket. Ticket 3.

11.30 am: I get mail for trouble ticket 1, saying it is fixed. I check it, it doesn't work. I call up the guy. He checks something and tells me there is perhaps problem updating database. I reopen ticket 1.

11.45 am: I have to download this software I want to evaluate, from internet. Site is blocked. I am confused. It is a tech site run by a freelancer!! His name is adam so his site is adambalahblah.something. Adam==eve==Sex. Proxy doesn't like it (!!). I raise ticket to download the software. Ticket 4.

12:30 pm: I am irritated. I need a break.

1.30 pm: I check my mail. I have a mail. Ticket 3 is fixed. There is system A and there is System B. System A has same information , system B has same information. Both exist for two differrent departments. You update A, B has to be updated You update B, A has to be updated . Manually. Sometime we miss it. So we create tickets.

2-6pm: Meetings, meetings and calls. 2 min work takes 30 min. Tickets open and tickets close.

6:30pm: Time to go home. Big traffic jam. BMC is digging road to replace underground wires. This is for 10th time in as many months. Same road, different holes. 20 people working on it for weeks. 10 dig with primitive instruments, 5 carry the soil and dump and and rest 5, well they rest.

Have human resources. Lots of them. Spill over everywhere. Make use of them. In creating tickets, in solving them, digging holes and filling them. Fine with me. Spare me some tickets and holes and let me bake some cake. Eat it and keep it too. But it is my choice. So I will come again tomorrow for more tickets and more ..........

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Caste wars - Gujjars burn public property

Recently around 140 countries agreed to make October 2 as international day of non violence to respect Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of non violence. In his own home country though, what we have witnessed last week was not only shameful shameful but also made a mockery of rule of law. Gujjars, who are some sort of caste and tribe in Rajasthan, went on massive protestation throughout the north India to demand them being categorized as Schedule Tribe (ST), so that they could get benefits of reservation in education and jobs meant for other lower castes listed as SC and ST. If we ignore violence which these men resorted to, I find it funny that there are people who so vehemently want to be categorized as lower caste tribe. Talk about upward mobility here! I am always perplexed by staggering number of castes and sub castes we have and how we keep sticking to them instead of making such archaic ideas redundant. I don’t know if Gujjars deserve to be listed as ST and given benefits of reservation or not, but what really stands out from the whole episode is the utmost disregard these men showed to public property and other citizens who had nothing to do with Gujjars getting into ST list. Crowds of these men went on rampage, blocking highways for days, burning, looting and destroying public property at will. Many of high valued machinery used for National Highway project in Rajasthan was destroyed and whole work on highway construction was brought to halt. What were these people trying to say? That they don't need highways and buses! Didn't they know that by doing all this they were only harming other innocent people caught in cross fire and this way they would have lost any goodwill they would have had! Even Capital Delhi was untouched by the violence. In one of the visuals shown on news, a dozen protestors were seen burning buses in full view of camera. After burning the bus, they unabashedly, stared at TV cameras and laughed and smiled as if they had just done a great act of bravery. Anybody who follows news regularly would see a pattern of behavior here. Group of people resort to violence mostly without any provocation, and in their minds protest is equated with burning and looting, and unless highways are blocked, trains are stopped and cities are brought to standstill, protest is not said to be effective. Then they openly peek into TV cameras and celebrate as if they are heroes. You don’t need to be expert to tell that such people who indulge in such activities understand nothing about what they are demanding and are mostly people who are bored in life. It is such a shame that nothing is done to punish these people. The rule of law can not be relaxed because a group of men, a caste felt that they were denied something legitimate and were angry with the system which they think is hijacked by another caste of Meenas. It is not an excuse to cause extensive damage to public property and cause nuisance and inconvenience to others. There are other means of protests and raising your demand, burning building and buses are not any of them. I think, it is high time that an example is set and police should catch all those who were captured in TV burning buses and blocking highways and persecute them. Come on, people, you are not fighting some foreign regime here.

How stupid it all sounds. Gujjars were demanding listing in ST category and Meenas (another one of 10 million castes) who are already in ST bracket started opposing it fearing that thier benefits from reservation would be diluted if Gujjars were also to be listed as ST and we almost had a caste war between Gujjars and Meenas. What will be next! Would it start a race where someone would be trying to prove that they are more backward than the others and others would fight back saying that only they are backward! So utterly ridiculous. A social problem, instead of being socially mended has been hijacked by politicians and lines of divisions are being further accentuated. May be it is not right to blame just the politicians alone as the fact is that we don’t have leaders in this country anymore, we just have men who are doing business of politics, otherwise so called leaders of Gujjars would have known that they can only lead their community into next century by making it aware of education and opportunities beyond few government jobs which they want to get through reservations. But regardless, all those who indulged in senseless violence and destroyed public property should be caught and put in jails.