Online activism..Collaborate don’t just aggregate

•September 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Change.org, Takepart, Avaaz etc – I am realistic about the need and impact of online activism but I think it is time these guys take a strong hard look at their approaches.

What happens when you start becoming associated with a new cause every single day and start hollering through endless email chains and requests for support – You end up desensitizing majority of populace to issues while giving them a quasi sense of satisfaction on having done their part just by clicking a few buttons. This world has no shortage of issues that need attention, but it is important that we realize that getting attention to a problem rarely resolves it. The rate at which these petitions are growing, I’d not be surprised if I find a child raising a petition online asking his/her parents to stop feeding spinach because some TV doctor and a panel of experts on HLN have figured out in’ breaking news’ that spinach causes kids to have bad expression on their face!

Here’s some solutions – Change.org, Takepart, Awaaz, etc – Hope you are listening

  1. Don’t become a petition engine–  Restrict the number of issues your site can raise by a voting mechanism , especially the frequency of emails sent out to not more than 2 a month;
  2. Collaborate don’t just aggregate – If someone else has already raised a petition for an issue , redirect your users to that site and ask that the petitioners to do the same. Engage the petitioners with debate and discussion , not just campaigns and signatures.
  3. Follow-up – Force petitioners to timebox their results and follow-up on what they did or did not achieve; And archive their petitions if they cannot show progress every 4-6 weeks in reaching their goals.
  4. Global yet local – Target your message mix with a portfolio of global and local issues, something like one global issue to 4 local issues. Everyone cannot and will not be able to constantly feel motivated by a barrage of global issues that need to be dealt with. You cannot wake up one day to problems in Afghanistan, have breakfast conversations on Rwanda, discuss Guantanamo over lunch, sip coffee over child labor in diamond mines and dine over the devastation of Amazon forests.

Online activism is an awareness and engagement tool – Badly designed operating models will permanently blunt its ability to engage with the audience.

A country of thieves ?? Or a country for the ‘ Expedient’ ?

•September 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Deepak Shenoy makes a reasonable case on  ‘ India, A Country Of Thieves? ‘ .. I do feel there is an element of generalization but he’s largely correct about how we happily chose to call others names without a change to their own behaviors. India is a nation where the political system is a full of feudal lords and the bureaucracy is full of people indoctrinated with a miserable blend of western economic philosophy and colonial ‘please the ruler’ mindset. What you get in the name of progress is  ‘The Expedient’ – So, that’s India , the country of the ‘Expedient’ where neither values, nor philosophy, neither vision nor action matters;  The country of ‘ Jugaad’ /’Chalta Hai’/’Swalpa adjust maadi’ – The ‘Whatever can be done now but not necessarily everything that needs to be done’ country.

It all starts with scarcity -‘ percieved’  or ‘real’ . In the socialist days, scarcity led to fatalism and nepotism, In the new found capitalist fervor and self-help seminars, fatalism has been replaced with a brutal willingness to take by any means what we can get. With the new focus on consumption driven economics, you should expect more stealing – After all, people steal because they think scarcity will push prices and they’ll be able to make more money out of what they’ve stolen from someone else . Every thief starts stealing because he or she believes they have to – At some point, they progress from stealing out of necessity to stealing for greed. Stealing out of necessity may only be solved by religious/cultural restriction but stealing for greed can easily be solved through better designed regulation ( not necessarily more/less/no regulation). The reason everyone behaves crazy in the traffic jam is because that’s how anyone anywhere behaves in a traffic jam IF you don’t have multiple lanes, road dividers, cameras and an army of people waiting to collect fines. The problem in India is that we are good at analysing and waiting for someone else to figure out the solution. The limited few in political and bureaucratic domains that try to break the mold find themselves getting absolutely no support from the crony capitalists, the feudal lords and educated ‘ I distrust the politics and hate the government‘ middle class.  When things go wrong, there is always someone to blame -‘migrant laborers’, ‘minority appeasing/ majority rule’, ‘caste’ , ‘reservations’ and the umbrella term ‘ corruption’.

We are good at slogans like ‘ Start with reforming yourself’ .. The problem however needs a systemic solution that is beyond the means of a single individual or groups of single individuals. Our system breeds a form of Darwinist capitalism that is worse than the predominant oligarchy you see in the west. It is never easy to set direction for large swarms of people and it is tougher in societies like ours where there really are no public administration leaders.  Grassroots attempts at change need a combination of  a bold vision and a cohesive economic, social and political plans. For example, the ‘India against corruption‘ team started with a lot of steam on its social plans and vision – But without the economic and political legs needed to operate in , it hit a wall. I hope they have real plans and more than sentiment and vision to support phase two of their plans. For now, I think they are spending a lot of time writing lofty vision statements and finding faults with the current state.

So we end up being a nation where one half drinks the cool-aid of idealistic mantras and the other half pats itself on its back for being pragmatic and smart enough to know milk the opportunity for what it is. What’s the solution – We should not negate the value of critical mass and leaders in societies.The solution is in defining an alternate vision for India and backing that up with real practical initiatives. We should avoid rampant negativism that tends to color everything in shades of reverence or disgust. The solution is in stopping the blind imitation of western capitalism and looking for our own unique ways of getting problems resolved. It is in stopping the mad race to construct freeways and flyovers and instead focus on building better public transportation( bus corridors, high speed rail etc). It is in stopping the craze that leads to aluminium and glass clad buildings because we believe they look fancy. It is is buying less cars and taking the bus/cycling to work. It is in setting aside our earnings to help get better aids and salary for teachers ( And I mean those who don’t teach at ‘International’ schools). It means staying away from gated communities and letting your child experience the ‘real’ India. It is in using our democratic voice to push for laws that encourage use of renewable sources.If we forget that ours is a ‘Socialist’ country , we are doomed – We don’t have endless capital beyond the social capital of a uniquely bound tapestry. We cannot consume our way to prosperity , so we need a new generation of leaders who don’t blindly ape what they’ve learnt from Ivy League universities and are slaves to some economic philosophy sown in the heydays of industrialization and financial engineering .

Quick Note – ‘Equal Treatment’ and ‘Equal Opportunity’

•October 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

‎’Equal Treatment’ is a lot more than ‘Equal Opportunity’ – It is an acceptance of the fact that social conditioning and prolonged periods of discrimination tend to make communities incapable of aspiration and productive behaviors and It means a willingness on part of the custodians of society( government etc) to invest in reasonable effort to support unlearning of learned behaviors .. If i punch someone and threaten them for centuries and then suddenly give them ‘equal opportunity’, that’s not going to benefit the society because equal opportunity to access food that is on a table 1 mile away means very little to a previously chained man who has never been fed. Liberty is useless without justice..

Emperor’s New Clothes…Your money is my money and my money is someone else’s…

•October 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Read this on NYT.. Great view of how the interconnected monetary games are coming to hit home!!

If Euro gets devalued,imports from EU zone will become cheaper for America and any imports from US will become more expensive.. America needs other currencies to move up or its exports may not be sustainably competitive and it will not be able to generate significant export volumes for its own recovery..The other option is for Americans to keep spending like crazy and keep importing until trade imbalances and high value of debt force exporters( China Included) to recalibrate their monetary systems into a higher valuation, but that will require a lot of government spending in the US just to push up sentiment – Republicans wont allow that( not at least until they’ve rattled Obama and got back into the White house) . Now if Americans allow all of America’s natural resources to be exploited at discounted price( much like the oil reserves elsewhere that they’ve exploited until now), keep currency artificially low by state-control of banks and convert those resources into mass-produced cheaper products for the rest of the world using cheap labor( from Mexico etc) ,well that’s another ‘China-Redux’ story with American endings ; Why does this sound like a miserable end-game to me ???? It is time to reconstitute Monetary and Financial economics and Fiscal policy within the framework of systemic social impact – When money goes from being a transacting measure of value to being a game that is played solely for what it’s worth, societies and people who generate wealth will become meaningless pawn in a destructive course.

Namma Metro.. The Seeds for a surviving megapolis???

•October 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The Bangalore Metro may not make profits from day one and it may be years before the typical bangalorean used to two wheelers will start liking the communal feeling of commuter trains.But I don’t care, not everything in life is viewed from economic perspective and the government’s role is broader than profit and loss.. I am saddened by how the ‘non-rich’ and ‘non-middle class’ are completely invisible to the nouveau and the new age Bangaloreans.I am hoping that the metro starts acting as that interface..When the guy travelling next to you at the end of the day is a sweat stained laborer whose daily earning is less than a 10th of what you probably make in an hour.We humans measure a product of convenience and time.A quick 10 minute ride in cramped spaces is often better than a 30 minute luxurious ride in a personal car. That comparative benefit will over a period of time lead to more people traveling on the Metro.. The Mumbai local trains are a rite of passage for every self-respecting Mumbai teenager, an introduction to cosmopolitan and economic diversity.. I am hoping that the Metro in 2025 will become such an experience for teenagers of that generation. Look at any megalopolis that has survived multiple economic booms and bust, you’ll find some form of public transit and speedy transportation that has always existed in that city, a river or a canal in the past and a railway system in the industrial age.

Note to the Netflix Team…

•September 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Netflix Team( including Mr.Hastings)

A big reason why I chose Netflix, was the ability to get movies in whichever format I wanted -DVD or Streaming- from a single website and account. I think you are designing your organization based on accounting rules and intrinsic view of how it should run,Not on the basis of what truly works for customers. You are taking a drastic step to resolve an incremental problem. The Netflix site has a miserable search capability and very poorly designed user-interface..But that can be fixed without shifting DVDs to a separate site. The shoddy website design often made it tougher to make a  ‘1-Click’ choice between streaming or getting a DVD subscription. Then there were issues with not being able to enjoy those ‘ DVD special features’ on the streaming version. Irritants, but never something that could not have been fixed in the old structure. With this new structure, i’ll have to maintain multiple accounts, track payments, keep logging-in and out to shift from wanting to watch something in streaming mode and getting a DVD shipped. And i wont be able to track ratings or maintain a unified view of my likes and dislikes…

When you hiked the fee, i didnt budge; The price change was steep in terms of percentage change but i think the deal retained value for money..However, with this new change,I think I’ll kill my subscription entirely – i dont like the idea of any organisation trying to dictate my usage habits to simply meet its accounting needs and organisational hierarchy’s career interests. The entire series of events over the past three months makes me believe that Netflix leadership makes hasty decisions with little or no ‘Outside-In’ thinking or atleast some sampling of potential diverse customer feedback.  I am wondering if this is an indication of a fundamental weakness in your business model..Is there something in the fine-print on your P&L account and Balance sheet that needs more attention ?

I Work Therefore I Am? (via Cedricj’s Blog)

•August 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Good concise view with some valuable suggestions!

The other day one of the authors had a long conversation with a highly educated Mexican tour guide. We were on a seven-mile hike through a national forest near our home in Mexico. We were discussing the meaning of work in our respective cultures, and he remarked, “People in the USA live to work. Here in Mexico we work to live. Sometimes I think people north of the border have gone crazy about their work. Everyone seems so stressed out.” It made u … Read More

via Cedricj's Blog