Shourie and Tharoor on India

A set of articles look at India’s present and future, and reflect on the past. Arun Shourie in Part 2 (Part 1) of his series writes:

The point is the successes we have encountered are not fortuitous. India has a score of strengths that others do not.

Cost is one of them. Nor is it a marginal advantage. Indeed, the difference between the cost at which we can provide services and many commodities of comparable quality and what those cost in the developed world is so vast that, should those firms and economies shut themselves out from our supplies, they are the ones who will be severely disadvantaged, they are the ones who will be making themselves un-competitive.

Why not look upon the opportunities positively? Why not institute courses in our law colleges on Germanys legal system, in the accounting systems of the US and thereby capture the markets there? Why not multiply the number of nurses we train, and have them learn Japanese? Why not enable private firms to open world-class universities in India, and thereby become educators to the world?

A couple articles by Shashi Tharoor talk about India’s early scientific heritage [via Atanu and Reuben]: Why Indian Science Scores and The things Indians knew first.

UI Design and Discoverability

UIWeb (Scott Berkun) defines discoverability as “the ability for a user of a design to locate something that they need, in order to complete a certain task.” Some suggestions on what to focus on the UI:

Things that most people do, most often, should be prioritized first. Things that some people do, somewhat often, should come second. Things that few people do, infrequently, should come last.

If you want more detail, here is a deeper prioritization of how to think about the relative importance of tasks and features:

1. Things most people do, most often.
2. Things most people do, somewhat often.
3. Things some people do, most often.
4. Things some people do, somewhat often.
5. Things few people do, most often.
6. Things few people do, somewhat often.

Web Advertising Bubble

John Robb echoes a point I had made obliquely earlier:

There has been a troubling recurring trend in Web advertising. It’s called monetizing the margin. For a short period of time, it allows certain content owners to print money. We saw it once, and we are seeing it again.

Three years and lots of pain and suffering later, the Web advertising model has gained some IQ points. Advertisers don’t want impressions anymore, they want click-throughs (for the most part, most advertisers still don’t track click-throughs all the way to purchase, so they are still in the dark on how these ads are performing). This new philosophy has led advertisers to search engines to provide contextual advertisements on a per click-through basis (in the hope that better contextual information will help people click-through more often). Performance is now the watchword of the moment.

Unfortunately, the search engines have figured out how to monetize the margins of this advertising model too. There is a way to manufacture click-throughs on “contextual” content. The first step is to put advertising on weblogs that are “qualified” as contextual content through an automated mechanism of keyword analysis (Google’s Adsense). A flawed mechanism if there ever was one. The second step is to trust that visitors to weblogs are very likely to click-through on Adsense text ad in order to provide, at zero cost to themselves, a small stipend to the author of the weblog. This “click to contribute” impulse will grow until the system breaks down.

We are about two years away from this collapse. During this time Google and Yahoo will profit and the advertisers will squander lots of money (and lots of small players will find ways to make a modest income gaming the mechanism). The Web’s advertising model will break down again.

The future will see us move to a publish-subscribe web. Advertising helps connect people – it can become much easier through RSS and syndication.

Blogs and Money

The Economist looks at efforts to monetise weblogs:

The most obvious way to do thischarging bloggers for the software they need to upload their commentary on to the webis probably not the answer.

A better way to make money may be to target advertising at those users. This is how search engines became profitable.

A simpler idea is therefore to run member-only blog pages and charge advertisers to sponsor them. This is the model that Tony Perkins, a founder of Red Herring, a now-deceased new economy magazine, is pursuing for his new firm, AlwaysOn. Meant to be a super blog, says Mr Perkins, AlwaysOn will let only good, insightful bloggers (if such can be found) post journal entries on its pages. This will draw a higher demographic of readers and thus better online responses to posts, says Mr Perkins.