Monday, February 22, 2010


Nikola Tesla, famous inventor and genius, won the ‘War of currents’ against Edison by backing Alternating Current (AC). We owe to him for electrifying our homes, towns and our lives.
I was reminded of this lesson from my high school Physics when I read this piece in WSJ on how Tesla was increasingly becoming popular amongst geeks and teenagers. The author goes on to say that Tesla is ‘cool’ while Edison is not. Edison according to the author stands for the ‘boringly rich’ and monopolistic corporate power.  Tesla was the one who dared and eventually lost. In fact, he died in relative obscurity and penury.
Had he been alive now, this ‘romantic failure figure’ will be surprised to see his name adorning myriad products ranging from the high-performance electric cars as in the picture below to video games and electronic chips. It is an irony of sorts that in his lifetime he did not get credit for a lot of his work. For example, radio transmission that is credited to Marconi.
The story of Tesla’s life (and work) has enough fuel to turbo-charge our imagination. There is a sense of mystery surrounding his work that always raises the question ‘what if’. Movies like ‘The Prestige’ have only added to this aura of intrigue.
Tesla’s time has come. He is one of the original mavericks of the technology world. There is no doubt in my mind that his popularity will grow exponentially during our times and beyond. Little wonder that the scholar, the curious and the outliers are all clamouring to own Tesla, all in their own way.
Edison is great. Tesla is a cult.                                                                                                                
(Image courtesy: Portrait & Car)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Interesting mutations of the digital world

We are all experiencing and enjoying two interesting mutations or developments of the digital world. I decided to share my views on the two in the notes below.
Rise of the micro-curator
Brainpicker, Kottke and many like them are awesome in the range of interesting content they gather and share. They are master curators and little wonder that they have a large number of followers like me.
With the arrival of Posterous and Tumblr, blogging has become easy and curating infinitely easier. This has resulted in the rise of the micro-curator. One can argue that micro-curators were always there. True. It is just that their growth has been fuelled with the entry of Posterous and Tumblr.
Using these tools, regular bloggers have created Lifestream for satiating their appetites to stock and share items of interest. I must admit I too have created one and I am thoroughly enjoying the process. More importantly, it has enabled new entrants in the blogging world to curate based on amazing themes, like this one.
Micro-curators enable information to reach the extremities of the digital world. I liken them to evangelists who spread ‘the message’ to remote corners of the globe. Micro-curators also simplify the presentation of information (signals vs. noise) and provide readers with meaningful information in manageable doses. And as with the example above, many of them cater to special interests by taking on a specific theme. The growing success of Posterous and Tumblr is testimony to this fact. I would urge readers to explore these tools and have fun.
The world is getting local
The digital world has expanded our horizons with tons of information from around the world available at the click of a mouse. It is often used as an example to describe us as ‘global citizens’. That may be so. But increasingly, the same digital world is working strongly in the other direction. It has strengthened all things local. I am talking about conversations I see happening in Facebook and Twitter. I see the actions and connections that these conversations are bringing about. Be it jobs, tweetups, events or replicating actions that have been successful elsewhere. Information may be global in nature, but actions are very definitely local. 
So, what do you think?

(Image courtesy:aldoaldoz)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Agency is a business

I read this provocative post about the reasons for the decline and fall of the newspaper business in the US. The comments below made by two prominent personalities will strike a chord with anyone who is from the agency business.
Sean Paul Kelley says, “The primary culprit is the same as it is all over the country, in every industry and in government: equity extraction.
Let me explain, in short: when executives expect unrealistic profits of 20% and higher per annum on businesses, something has got to give. It's an unnatural and unsustainable growth rate. For the first ten or so years of a small to medium size company's life? Sure. But when you are 3M, or GE? Unrealistic and ultimately impossible.
That is what has happened to the news industry in America. The excessive obsession with unnaturally high profits has led to a vicious circle of cutting budgets, providing less services, which is then followed by even more drastic cuts.”
Michael Moore puts it across bluntly, “It’s their own greed, their own stupidity,”
Isn’t this true of the agency business, especially in the developed markets?
The unfortunate outcome of all this was that agency operations in booming markets like India were not spared. They were choked to ‘make up’ for the numbers lost in the developed markets. Pay cuts, hiring freeze and mad scramble for all kinds of business were symptoms of this malaise. Managers in the Indian operations of international agency networks were stressed (and stretched) beyond limits, with some of the offices were almost on the verge of a flameout. Now, this is a myopic way to operate.
India, China and other developing countries will continue to be a traditional media market for a long time to come. Read this case of Baidu vs Google if you want to know what I mean. To large corporations that run agency networks, these markets must be to them what California must have been to prospectors during the Gold Rush. However, instead of stripping it bare, they can reap far greater rewards (and bonuses) by nurturing it. Hire more people, train them well and pay good salaries. This is not wishful thinking but an inevitability that agencies will have to follow if they want to survive.
Newspapers in the US might die. Agencies will not, more so in countries like India. The Agency is a business, a thriving one at that. This is because the growth story in markets like India has just begun.  Hey, you never know. In the process of making tons of money, they might even produce some decent work!