Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bing + Alpha Even better!

Few months ago, I blogged about a niche new search engine Wolfram Alpha is serving and its product positioning within that space. Turns out, Wolfram Alpha and Microsoft management is moving into exactly that direction. Microsoft's Bing is licensing technology from Wolfram Alpha to serve niche results. This is even better! Now Wolfram Alpha is getting mainstream traffic and serving outstanding search results within its special niche, while bing will serve most other results. This is win-win case for brilliant technology of WFA and promising counter attack by Bing...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

is facebook defying gravity?

Social networks usually have a very strong network effects. Meaning, I don't give a damn about ANY social network unless I have my friends/ family on the network. So I would not care about facebook otherwise, but since most of my friends are on facebook, I am on facebook and vice-a-versa. (Ok you can imagine other example of network effects, eg. Phone! I have a phone because other people have a phone and I can call them! ok enough of being pedantic..)

IMHO, establishing a new product by breaking these network effects is as good as defying gravity. I'd not put my money on such product/ service. But it's apparent to me that facebook is eventually going to beat Orkut in Indian market. Not long ago Orkut was the norm. Everybody is/ was on Orkut in India. But something happened, and suddenly people are moving to facebook. In my small test sample of my own friends, I have added 100+ friends on facebook in last 2 months who also happen to be my friends on Orkut. I have over 20+ wall posts on facebook, and have just under 5 'scraps' on orkut...

What you think? What could be the reason behind this kind of abnormal phenomenon? What is the secret sauce facebook have that orkut doesn't? After all, orkut is a Google venture!

Update: !so Google - Orkut's response to stop the exodus to Facebook - stor from tech crunch

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Digitizing Books One Word at a Time

UPDATE: Google buys ReCaptcha | official one

Original Blog
Continuing my curiosity with CAPTCHA's, I came across this amazing initiative here.

This project involves digitizing books using solved CAPTCHA's. Over 200 million CAPTCHA's (words) are decoded by real people everyday. So this novel idea involves using this effort to convert books into digital books. In the past we have used OCR (Optical reader) software. But OCR's are not accurate enough. Combining OCR + human intelligence with CAPTCHA's is a killer idea!

Similar efforts were implemented by Google to improve its image search results called 'Google Image Labeler'. But reCAPTCH project is taking social human intelligence to the next level.

What can be other ideas of using human effort to make meaningful contributions? Few ideas I can think of are - music tagging, video tagging, using spelling mistakes as a feedback to spell checkers.... What else? Any suggestions?

Related Blog: CAPTCHAS that make me feel illiterate

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kai Fu Lee and doing web business in China

Last week Google China VP Dr. Kai Fu Lee left Google to start his own venture capital firm to back China based high tech innovation. Last year as a student at Carnegie Mellon University, I had a chance to listen to his interesting lecture on Google's China strategy. I highly recommend watching his full lecture to anyone who is interested in understanding China's technology landscape, and how it is different. He shared some very interesting observations like -

In China - people do not have access to Wikipedia!
It is belied that to be successful in China one needs to take long term view, Google fully understands this -
"We will take long term view in China, China has 5000 years of history and Google has 5000 years of patience in China" - Google CEO, Eric Schmidt

Finally, the way Chinese users view a search page is far different than the way americans do - here are the results of an eye tracking study of a Goole search page!

Here is the full lecture -

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Solving maths problems using Wolfram Alpha

Recently, I won a maths challenge (ok, I am kidding... but anyways), and the secret sauce behind my quick problem solving ability was - Wolfram Alpha.

Lets look at how it solves some complex high school maths problems -
1. Find LCM (least common multiple of 5, 21, 87) = LCM(5,21,87) = answer

2. Remember quadratic equations ? Lets give it a try, solve 3x^2 + 6x -15 = 35
3. Moving on - solving linear equations? Lets try to find values of x, y and z from following :
7x + 8y - 3z = 80, 2x - 3y + 4z = 35, 6x + 2y + 3z = 50 - here is the answer
4. Finally, (I was lost by this point) - remember chain rule for solving differential equations ? Lets try differentiating (4x + x ^ -5) ^ 1/3 and the answer (Tip: All steps included)

Btw, here is complete list of examples. Wish I had this cool tool when I was in school - and the case for not having one, and a smart get away.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Last week two of my friends launched their own businesses - this blog is a tribute to their promising ventures -

My Carnegie Mellon friend Ankush Gupta - recently launched his venture Vigyaapan technologies - a targeted advertising product focused on leveraging social networks. Unlike most ventures of ad-targetting on social networks, Vigyaapan is building product based on social connections (network) formed over a "phone" network.. His venture was also featured under "top 10 hottest start ups" in India.

My high school friend Vipul Shah has also launched a very promising business - Trias Advisory - Firm aimed at providing financial advisory solutions. Vipul and his partners hold an MBA from reputed institutes and vital experience in wealth and financial management.

So, if you want to market your product, contact Ankush, or if you are rich and need a new and promising money manager contact Vipul. My best wishes to both these ventures...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Miles Miles Miles

If you are a "semi frequent" flyer - or a frequent flyer but not really loyal to an airline - there is a good chance that you will end up with "miles" way away from 20000 or 25000 miles required to get your free round trip.. This is your dead beast - essentially of no use but the savings number. Recently I figured out a way to use this dead beast rather meaningfully -

It turns out we can subscribe to many news papers and magazines at relatively cheap miles! Here is a quick summary of what you can get for round trip miles that you have earned on your last NY-SFO flight...
Fortune Magazine for 12 Months (1200 Miles)
Forbes Magazine for 12 Months (1400 Miles)
Wall Street Journal (Daily) for next 8 Months (2600 Miles)
Barrons for 12 Months - (1200 Miles)
Your Local news paper for 2 Months (600 Miles)
Econmist (51) - 3100 Miles

I guess thats an impressive list - if you are one like me - who loves reading all these business articles - and specially in a print format this is a free treat with your dead miles - Enjoy!

(Btw, now you know secret behind my daily wall street - Also eventually no one is going to pay any money for this - you can read this case here)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Between friends and foes

(Don't they look similar?? :-)

As Google announced new OS this week, and Bing made advances - rivalry between two tech titans is getting interesting...

Picture Courtesy - WSJ and related article

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trust and Fraud

Today, Bernanrd Madoff gets lifer for his gigantic fraud/ ponzi scheme that hammered US Financial system. Madoff's fraud was discovered only 6 months ago - and verdict is already out with 150 years of punishment.

Perhaps, what Madoff is to US, founder of Satyam - B Ramalinga Raju is to India. Satyam's fraud came in light around similar time as Madoff's, and he did exactly what Madoff did - took trust out of the system...

Looking back - Madoff is already convicted and is in jail, and as our Indian judicial system goes - matters are still under investigation, at least few light years away from final conviction...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Story of the Graduation Commencement Speeches

Update: 50 Must Watch - Incredible/ Historical Speeches

Today I graduated from Carnegie Mellon, and as part of the commencement, we had a chance to listen to the finest commencement speech by Google CEO - Eric Schmidt

It was a great speech - and definitely the one that will make every single Carnegie Mellon graduate proud.

But speaking of commencement speeches - Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford remains historic one

Just blogging - two of the the finest commencement speeches together - connecting the dots, and graduating with the Information...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Don't be afraid of polarizing people

I am not talking about Political parties here, but rather - designing products. Some products will appeal to most, but there will be certain products which polarize people. And more likely or not these products will serve 'niche' markets and can actually make decent money!

Google is being central in search engine space... But I always believed there are areas around this central space which should serve niche areas. yes Google is the best - but it only fulfills 80% of my needs - I need niche product for remaining 20%...

This week, I found one - WolframAlpha- they call themselves computational knowledge engine... Search Engine product designed to address computational queries. You can find more information here

If these guys manage to churn out successful venture - there will be more people going after more niche products. And that could be beginning of the end of Google's super monopoly. If not - I don't see any threat to Google in foreseeable future. So lets wait and watch the alpha launch...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Just for the kicks

Do you like predicting what would be next? Do you like thinking about the future trends? Do you say - "oh I knew it" - after the result? Well... at least I do... And hence, I am sticking my neck out and predicting the result of the Indian General Elections 2009 - (well who cares about my predictions ? ok - read the title of this blog then)

Form of Government - Coalition (no brainer)
Leading Party - Congress
Opposition Party - BJP
What about others? - Sorry no predictions here.

Alternative scenario could be - unstable government with outside support of Congress, and then we will have reelections soon. But otherwise - its UPA/ Congress back in power.

Ok do you like to predict? Go ahead - and write your predictions in comments box.

Finally - I liked these readings here, here and here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Origin of 'Soap' Operas - And Great Depression

Today media is filled up with stories of recession and comparisons to great depression. But funny things happened during the great depression. As with the economy Proctor & Gamble - a producer of household items such as soaps, was heavily suffering through economic tumult during the period of great depression. But P&G came out much stronger company towards the end of recession. How did the soap giant beat the Depression? Companies marketing team started heavily advertising on afternoon spots, and even started its production house to create radio shows and TV shows aimed at housewives. These shows turned out to be so successful - that these shows were further recognized with the name of 'Soap Operas'. Of course, P&G came out as much stronger corporation.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vote Chooser - Indian Version

Recently I came across this interesting site - This site is simple way to allow people to decide to vote between Obama and McCain based on their respective policies. Site poses simple 10 questions - and bang you know whom you should support at the end of the questionnaire. (By the way, I was supporting 7 Obama policies out of 10 total questions).

Since, Indian general elections are around the corner, I thought building similar website would be very useful. Despite many differences, most of the Indian politics revolves around UPA, NDA, and Left forming two and half major fronts. So the concept is simple - posing 10 questions, answers to which should lead you to vote for either NDA or UPA alliance.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find 10 differences at policy level between UPA (Congress) or NDA (BJP)! I checked Congress's website - a major party in UPA alliance and BJP's website again a major party in NDA alliance for possible publicly declared manifesto/ policy document. But there is nothing on those two websites.

So my quest for VoteChooser Indian version has hit the major road block in the absence of 10 major differences between two poles of Indian politics. Irony is that parties representing 1.2 billion people do not have policy agendas on things that matter such as infrastructure, education, health care, foreign affairs etc. This is surprising, may be I am missing something. Any suggestions? Can you lead me to form those 10 questions?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Captchas... Kaptchas that make me feel illeterate!

Well, I know Captchas are an invention by Carnegie Mellon guy, and we all are so proud about it and all.... but hey look at these captchas... I just can not read them!

These funny things were originally designed to identify 'human' user from a script attack. Later people wrote scripts to crack these captachas. So programmers added more complexity to make them 'unreadable' to a script. Unfortunately, we have reached the stage, where even humans can no longer read the words in those capchtas!