Tagline: How little things can make a big difference
I was looking forward to reading books by Malcolm Gladwell and finally got my hands on The Tipping Point. It is not a very big book and I managed to finish it in three days, reading only in my free time. Most of you might be aware that The Tipping Point is popular bestseller and a highly appreciated book. I am glad I was able to take time off to read this one.
About the Author
Malcolm Gladwell covered business, science and medicine for the Washington Post before becoming the New York City bureau chief. Currently he is a staff writer for the New Yorker. He has also authored another popular book by name Blink
The Tipping Point
The Tipping Point is a book in which the author tries to explain why certain things happen the way they do. In the numerous examples that he explores, he shows that for a big-time change to occur, very minor change (involving the right set of numbers) tends to be the cause. For example, Fashion changes regularly and lots of trends become a craze with the masses which the author calls social epidemics. This book analyses such fashion trends and how they came out of nowhere to become a social epidemic. In addition, it gives a general basis for why and how such things occur and the key players in the process.
The author incorporates data from a number of research reports by various professionals to provide a solid basis for his analysis model and with seemingly flawless knack for generalization uses the same model over and over to analyze a wide variety of problems like the rise and fall of crime in the New York city, the problems of corporate management and governance, trends in suicides and effect of celebrity suicides, truth about addiction to smoking.
This book clearly provides a scientific basis for the kind of solutions that we might discover by trial and error and convert it to convention wisdom. The author shows how making seemingly unnecessary changes in the way information is presented can make it more useful and productive by leaps and bounds.
One thing particularly fascinating about this book is the huge number of sources from which the author draws out raw information, converts it into simple language and puts it in front of his readers. The number of examples, varying from individuals to corporations, is very good and well placed.
While reading the chapter on suicides, I was able to think of similar situations that had happened in India in the not so distant past. Once there was a case of a child committing suicide because he was frustrated with academics and felt overwhelmed by studies during his examinations. Once the news of the suicide and the reason for it came in, a number of similar cases from all over the country started to appear in the print media and television. People were suddenly worried about the increasing load of education on teenagers and I observed that they started dealing with them very cautiously. For example, in my Junior College (that’s last two years just before start of bachelor courses), lecturers stopped roughing up students for not completing their home-works or scoring low in weekly exams because the teachers’ committee was too scared to even imagine some guy from their college committing suicide for study-related reasons.
The Tipping Point vs. Freakonomics
The Tipping Point covers a few topics like crime rates and parenting that were also covered in a recent book called Freakonomics. While the Gladwell does not say much about parenting except for the well proven facts that parents do not have much control on what kind of person their kid turns out to be when he/she grows up.
However, in the chapter on crime, the authors lists many of the reasons like aging of population, stringent policing by cops etc as contributors to the fall in crime rate while Freakonomics dismisses them as “of lesser significance”. While abortions can have a good affect on the crime rates and fairly suddenly in demographic terms, I do think reasons like aging of population cannot be overlooked. I am not sure how Police has contributed to the whole thing. Gladwell mentions the Broken Window Theory of crime and also talks about how it was employed by NYPD and the underground railway department to a tipping point effect. However, one thing to be noted here is that this is only about the crime rates in New York (as Gladwell explicitly mentions) and not about the whole of America (which Freakonomics tries to explain). So it sounds like a case of New York in particular (America in General) vs America in particular (New York in General). I think, may be all these factor came together and acted at the same time thus resulting in a sharp dive in the crime curve which otherwise would have gone down gradually as each of these factors started to have their affects.
In all, The Tipping Point is a book that I recommend everyone should read at least once.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Tagline: The Globalized world in the Twenty-First century
Hanging around for almost a month with The World is Flat, I finally completed it despite all the time constraints I was under. I have never read such a thick book back-to-back in my life until this one and this book is very special not just in that sense. I could have completed it within a short span but the sheer density of information and ideas in this book forced me to read it slowly and in parts. So I used to read a couple of pages and then sit back and ponder about them in my free time in order to assimilate the information well.
After reading the first few pages of this book I understood how important and dense this book was and to beat the density which posed such a challenge, I actually used a pencil to underline important points as I read this book. Why? This isn’t just a book to be read and kept in the cupboard to gather dust; it can serve as a great reference book for a variety of purposes.
About the Author
Thomas L. Friedman works for The New York Times and is one of the world’s most respected journalists, renowned for his expertise on international affairs and economic issues. He has won the Pulitzer Prize three times and is the author of international best sellers like “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” and “Longitudes and Attitudes”.
The World is Flat
In this book the author has charted the technologies that have affected our lives most profoundly and made the world a much smaller place (or Flat) by breaking the barriers to communication and cultural exchange. This book is a dense store house of information which covers stuff from 11/9 when the Berlin wall came down to 9/11 when the tragic WTC attacks took place and beyond. It tells us why the world shrunk and what technologies and players are responsible for this.
In the next set of chapters the author discusses the affects of the Flattening of the world on America with clear emphasis and the out-sourcing phenomenon and moving of jobs from America to Asia. The author is rightly concerned about the falling number of fresh American engineers and rising average age of the existing group of engineers. He emphasizes on the need for America to revamp their education system at the school level so that it continues to drive the world into new frontiers of innovation and technology. The author talks about the kind of jobs that can be outsourced or automated and the people (which he calls The Untouchables) that cannot be affected by this out-sourcing phenomenon as they always stay one step ahead of it.
Then there is a chapter about developing countries in the Flat World. The author highlights some of the short comings of various developing countries bring to forefront the lack-luster performance of the respective governments in certain cases.
The author also discusses about the people who have not been able to take advantage of the Flat world i.e. poverty stricken people in various developing and under-developed countries and people living in closed societies which have made themselves impervious to external influences. He has also written at length about certain obvious and not so obvious forces that hamper the flattening process of the world and also talked about how terrorists are using the Flat World platform to their advantage.
In the chapters pertaining to the affect of Flat world on America and the Developing Countries of the World, the author has mentioned many points which are very unique and innovative in my opinion. What he has mentioned seem to me like the characteristics or the directive principles to any country to become a superpower in this world. Another very good point in my opinion is the idea of America moving to alternative sources of energy and reducing its dependence on oil imports which will help cut down on pollution, Global Warming, exhaustion of non-renewable energy sources and also shut the income sources of certain dangerous state and non-state players which are a threat to World Peace. I think this is not just for America but can be extended to many countries like India and China which are contributing massively to Global Air Pollution levels.
I have spent almost a month with this book and analyzed the length, breadth and depth of ideas mentioned in here. The author has traveled to many countries, spoken to many people and learnt many new thing while writing this book. Tremendous efforts have gone into the development of this book and no wonder this book is so dense with ideas. I was glad to learn about the early nineties era of technology which I knew about only in fragments because I sprang up on the I.T scene only around mid 1998 after seeing a computer game called Shadow Warrior at a Friend’s house :)
Immediately after completing this book, I had felt that if some one in Year 3K will look back at the beginning of the Millennium and try to study the history of technology and its influence on the world, one of the books they might like to refer to will be this one. I have not read any book from this author before but after reading this one, I am convinced that I got to read his previous works as well.
P.S. If you have a flare for I.T. and Business quizzing, this can be a good book to lookup the names of major I.T. companies, their founders and CEOs.
Friday, October 13, 2006
You might have come to know by now that Google has released a service called Google Docs & Spreadsheets . In this service, one can use an online text editor (similar to Microsoft Word and others) to create posts and publish it to their blog.
With this service, you can:
- Have your documents published online (as a webpage) to share it with others (dedicated URL to each document, as in Google pages)
- Export your online documents in word, openoffice, HTML and PDF file formats to store it on your hard drive.
- Import various document (.htm, .doc, .txt, .rtf, .odt, .sxw) and spreadsheet (.csv, .xls, .ods) file formats into this service and publish them online instantly or save it to your hard drive in a different format. So if you want to convert a Microsoft Word file into Adobe PDF format, you can do it easily using this service.
- Collaborate and work with others on projects and set access permissions to files.
- Post to other blogging tools (other than Blogger) like wordpress, LiveJournal etc and also use with custom hosted sites.
To learn more about this service, you may visit this page.
1. Unable to Login to Blogger
While editing my posts yesterday, I noticed that Blogger had even added a small side-box on the edit post pages to inform users of this service. That’s how I came to know about this service. However, when I used this service, it could not authenticate my blogger beta account (even after my providing the correct login credentials). I knew this was a bug and it was confirmed when in the evening, I noticed that the side-box no longer appeared on the edit post pages.
Once this service is ready for blogger beta, I need to check how this thing works with the tables. If you are used to copy-pasting text from Microsoft Word you might remember that tables cannot be pasted into the post editor in blogger.
2. Formating issues with spreadsheets [Updated (14th Oct, 12:36)]
There are formatting issues with imported Excel files (as seen in the images above).
3. Issues with Spellcheck
I noticed that the spell check is not up to the mark:
Google needs to fix this problem at the earliest, because if any bloggers were to use this service, the bare-minimum they will look for is proper functioning of basic features like spell-check.
Other than the usual support by Google, there is a Google help group for Google Docs & Spreadsheets, where you can post you questions, concerns and suggestions regarding this service and share your experiences with other users.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a powerful software/service but lots of errors and problems need to be ironed out before its ready for use (thats why its in beta stage). In a recent news article, I had read that Google's CEO Eric Schmidt wants his developers to focus on improving current software/services. I couldn't agree with him more. In the recent years, Google has brought out a range of powerful softwares and services from its labs but its the continuing improvement, feature additions and support for these services that will win the day for it.
Update (Nov 12, 2006 IST): It appears that the connectivity problems between Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Blogger Beta is now fixed. So go ahead try using this service now.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
I wrote a post on spam, praised Gmail and now I get a phishing e-mail that even Gmail couldn’t block.
Whosoever wrote that mail was such a dumbo. It had a glaring spelling mistake. They “tanked” me for my patience :)). Here is a picture of the e-mail with a link pointing to a bank’s website. The link appears to be legitimate and normal at first glance.
And once I hovered my mouse cursor over the link, the real link underneath was revealed. Also, observe the “Tank” right underneath (lolz)
To know more about phishing check this wikipedia page. Until next time.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I have been receiving a huge number of spam E-mails in my inbox and I was wondering how these spammers work.
I don't know much about how spammers work and the title of this post might sound crazy. Those who have been following my blog closely might have noticed that I have changed the default e-mail address associated with this blog. The reason was incredible amount of spam in my Gmail inbox. However, Gmail is very smart and it keeps the crap in the crap box (spam folder) but still one thing I do not understand is that how do so many people (assuming that each spam mail comes from a different person/machine) actually pickup e-mail addresses from so many blogs and websites and spam those addresses. It looks like spamming is their sole profession :))
I had only recently removed my original e-mail address, put a new e-mail address in my profile and on the blog and boom! The spam count is running into hundreds already. I was wondering if these guys use crawlers to hunt for mailto: href tags in the HTML code and pickup the e-mail address there in to spam the user's brains out.
Update (8th Oct, 15:23)
I found this article on howstuffworks.com where in its mentioned that spammers use a spidering technology popularly called spambots.
"The second source for e-mail addresses is the Web itself. There are tens of millions of Web sites, and spammers can create search engines that spider the Web specifically looking for the telltale "@" sign that indicates an e-mail address. The programs that do the spidering are called spambots." - howstuffworks.com
Great! What I was imagining, turns out to be old school stuff. Smart spammers, eh?
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I am not sure if this is a new feature or an old one that I missed. I was moderating comments on one of my recent posts when I came across this feed link under the post. It is a feed to the comments that appear only on that individual post (not the entire blog).
To view this feed link just click on your post’s title (for example you can click on “Comment Feed for individual posts” in this post), and scroll down to see the following text:
“Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)”
This appears on posts that have comments as well as the ones that have no comments.
For people who have removed (or wish to remove coz they use feedburner etc) the “Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)” link (that appears at the bottom of the posts section on the blog’s main page), this comment feed link will not appear on the post page. Here is a work around to have the comment feed link displayed while keeping your main page settings intact.
It requires a very small modification to your blog's template. So, if you do not wish to display the “Subscribe to: Posts(Atom)” link at the bottom of the main page but still want to display the comment feed link to an individual post on that post's page, add the lines in bold to the code in your blog:
<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'>
<b:loop values='data:links' var='f'>
<a class='feed-link' expr:href='data:f.url' expr:type='data:f.mimeType' target='_blank'><data:f.name/> (<data:f.feedType/>)</a>
It is a simple “if” condition and to work with it you need to search for “ class='feed-links' ” and add the code in bold as shown here.
How do they make it work for an individual posts?
I don’t really know that, but let’s look at the URLs of the feeds:
Comments feed my previous post:
Comments feed for this post:
I am not sure what these numbers i.e. “2189603568115404259” and “2453519588050438240” are. I guess they refer to the total number of posts in all the blogs on blogger at the particular moment when you create a post (your post's simplest possible unique-ID across the entire blogger i.e. your post number). I am also not sure of this feed's exact purpose. Few people, who tend to have an elaborate discussion on a particular post, might prefer to use such a feed, otherwise I see no use. Whatever it is, it sounds like a good feature. Its presence might be useful to certain readers and its absence does no harm.
Update: I have replaced <b:if cond='data:blog.homepageUrl != data:blog.url'> in the above hack with <b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'> because the blog's default feed link was not displaying on the main page but still displaying on the label and archive pages.
Friday, October 06, 2006
I was browsing through instabloke and in it I came across a link which contains a very good explanation of a non beta blogger template. If one wishes to learn blog hacking, one must know thy template well. I recommend you go through this article to learn more.
The writer(s) have actually use a picture of a sample blog and provided each section of the blog with its relevant CSS and HTML code. In addition, I also like their blog's design and certain page elements. Good work done by the author(s)!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
This is an extension to Han’s hack on social bookmarking links. Please view the original hack here.
Code to be replaced:
If you require any help, please let me know.
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© 2006 Vivek Sanghi a.k.a Stubborn-Fanatic