March 8, 2016

The missing social network in India!

With Facebook and LinkedIn being so ubiquitous, we have all the social network that we need and more, right? Think again. We are missing a social network for one of the most important communities in our lives: the neighbourhood. By neighbourhood, I don’t mean just your apartment complex. Everyone in Marathahalli or Velachery should be able to connect with each other and form a private network that they can tap into anytime. As an example, US already has a popular neighbourhood social network named Nextdoor.

Why should we care about Neighbours?
In December last year, all hell broke loose in Chennai due to heavy rains. Most of the city was flooded with some homes surrounded by upto 10 feet of water. Chennai residents who had never seen such a thing happen before, did not leave their homes before the flooding. As a result, they were stuck in their homes with no electricity and little food/water for upto 3-4 days. Amidst all this, something magical happened. Neighbours who they have never seen/talked to before started helping by providing food packets, water bottles and rescuing elderly people/kids out of their homes. I am sure several folks in chennai realized the importance of having good relationship with neighbours. Imagine what if these neighbours were already in touch via a social network. Starting from communication to collaboration, everything would have been easier.

Benefits of a neighbourhood social network

Apart from finally getting to know the people living nearby, neighbourhood networks have many other uses. This has been proved by the unicorn startup Nextdoor in US. Started in 2010, Nextdoor has millions of users in 93000 US neighbourhoods. Registered neighbours discuss about security issues/car thefts, get recommendations for good plumbers or other service providers, sell unused household items to nearby residents etc. Nextdoor even ties up with government agencies and police departments to serve their users with updates regarding their neighbourhood. 

The case for Hyperlocal classifieds

Classifieds works best when it is hyperlocal. Ask yourself, would you buy a pre-owned mobile phone from someone two streets away maybe after multiple visits or would you travel half way across the city wasting time, energy and fuel just to find out that the screen is broken? When I decided to move from US to India in June last year, I found Nextdoor very useful to sell many household items to neighbours. Even the popular classifieds platform Craigslist wasn’t very helpful because there’s too much noise there. That’s when I realized that a social network like Nextdoor would be great to have in India too. And that’s how was born. Just one month after release, we have 2000+ users in Bangalore and Chennai. Our users are helping each other to find good PG or apartment, to find basketball/shuttle courts and players or to find neighbours with similar interests.

To conclude

The more you network, the more you benefit, they say. Why miss out on the neighbourhood network? Maybe you can borrow a used book or find a job opportunity from a neighbor who is in the same field as you. With some luck, you may even find a good friend or life partner! Start exploring!


November 25, 2013

Office humor

Back in 2000 or so, office email was "normal". People just asked their colleagues their questions and gave technical feedback etc with an occasional thanks if the other person did something really helpful. Around 2003 or so, i started noticing a strange trend. Few people started adding Thanks at the end of many emails. This trend got picked up and soon, everyone started adding Thanks to their emails. I started doing that too because I didn't want anyone to think that I am disrespectful. But some folks started taking this too far. They added a permanent "Thanks" to their signature. Even if THEY were helping ME out, they would end up thanking me because of this. It was like, "hey thanks for giving me a chance to help you, you are so good". Some emails would be like:

Subject: Thank you!
Thank you for sending me the document.
Thanks again!


At some point, I got fed up thanking profusely for every silly thing. Now I only thank people who are really doing a favor to me. I just use one of the variety of Regards like Warm Regards, Best Regards or Kind Regards (whatever that means).

We all know that some people are really good technically but they can't use correct grammer in emails. one such incident. One of my previous managers sent an email to all the team members with subject "Take leave today". I seriously thought "wow such a good manager, he is asking all of us to take leave. maybe we worked so hard, wow great man!". So, I immediately took off. Only on the way home, I saw the full content of the email. It seems HE was taking the day off because he was sick. His email subject should have been "Taking leave today". many times, i had to read the email twice to even understand the english part.

Another mishap that usually happens is forgetting to attach documents. People send really long description of their document like, "this document covers this aspect, that aspect" etc and forget to send the document itself.

Even with all these, I prefer emails more than meetings because of the comedy that happens in the so-called brainstorming meetings. They would call for a meeting with numerous folks from multiple teams who have no idea what each other are doing. Just setting up this meeting with a time when everyone's calendar is free itself would be a nightmare. After struggling hard, they would book a conf room for some half hour as if the hardest problems in the world were solved in half an hour!

There will be 10 people in the attendees list and 5 of them will come late (standard 15 mins). Somebody would start drawing something on the board slowly and by the time he finishes drawing using his less-than-stellar drawing skills, there will be only 5 mins left. Nothing will be decided in that 5 mins and they will resort to emails later. This is the peaceful version. There is another World War III version where everyone will fight tooth-and-nails to get their point of view across which no-one will accept anyway. Instead of all this drama, a simple email thread is far better, right?

November 22, 2013

Facebooker Taxonomy

I joined Facebook much earlier than many others I know. Initially I allowed some random people in my friends list who I had never even met (some random gmail contacts). The moment I decided to use Facebook regularly, I removed all those folks. Also, I don't accept any work colleagues as my friends (they belong to another place - LinkedIn). I have a short and sweet list with only close relatives and friends who I can trust. In case you are wondering why I am saying all this, you will find out towards the end of this post.

In my observation, I have seen four types of Facebook users.

Silent Monks: This category belongs to those who decided to join Facebook at some point as a favor to someone who pestered them to check out Facebook. They are still cursing themselves why they did it. They only post mugshots of themselves at random times with no explanation and they never comment on or like anybody else's updates. They post cryptic one line messages mostly during travel to inform the arrival/departure to the wife and never bother to answer the comments from other friends driving them crazy. Somebody should tell them that Facebook is not supposed to be used like that and you can use simpler things like SMS or voicemail to leave messages to your wife!

Family Fanatics: This category of folks will leave Facebook if it stops supporting photos. Because all they do is posting family pictures and checking which of their friends liked the album. If you like each individual picture in the album, you can become their close friend. If you forget to register any like, they will take revenge on you by not liking your next batch of photos. How dare you? hah...

Cautious Conversers: These folks have to check the political correctness of their status updates before they can post it. What if it offends the "Onnu Vitta Maama" (distant relative) who recently joined Facebook and demanded to become his friend over phone (which he accepted with a lot of hesitation). This syndrome arises because they would have allowed anyone to become Facebook friend. When you have 500 "friends" as audience, who knows what will be offensive to whom. They will mostly post articles from the web because you know, if somebody finds fault with it, they can put the blame on the original author and escape. Off late, they are worried about NSA reading their posts and stopped posting anything related to politics.

Facebloggers: These are ex-bloggers who got bored with blogging and decided to use Facebook as a blog. They will post re-eeally long text or use Facebook like a loudspeaker to announce their opinions about various topics which they can't resist anyway. Sometimes they will comment on their own posts before others comment on it! (I belong to this category)

So, choose your friends wisely and it's not all that wrong to remove random folks from your friends list for the sake of freedom. Happy facebooking!