Mumbai Blasts

The past week has been a tough one for Mumbai. First, the rains. Then, Sunday’s actions by the Shiv Sena in response to the alleged desecration of a statue of their leader’s late wife. Finally, yesterday, the series of bomb blasts.

I was in the car en route to drop a friend to the airport when I heard one of the blasts. It was 100-odd metres away from us as we were passing Matunga station. We did not realise it at that time – the horror of what had happened dawned an hour or so later.

I managed to drop my friend to the airport, and reached home late at night. Mobiles were not working for the most part — only a couple calls got through. SMSes were long delayed or were simply failing. What was working fine – amazingly – was the mobile internet (via GPRS) on my phone. I sent emails through our mobile mail service to colleagues at work and family at home.

I hate to say it but today’s urban life is going to see terror and other bad events happening. One has to live with this reality. The question is how can we best react when these things happen.

The Long Tail

The Economist reviews Chris Anderson’s book:

The niche, the obscure and the specialist, Mr Anderson argues, will gain ground at the expense of the hit.

The cover of Mr Anderson’s book promises to answer the question: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. But his book may alarm as well as help businessmen. Karl Marx once described a communist society in which nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes…to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner. Mr Anderson suggests that the long tail is bringing about something similar. The tools of media productioncomputers, desktop printers, video camerasare now so widely and cheaply available that a generation of young people are becoming amateur journalists, commentators, film-makers and musicians in their spare time, rather as the philosopher imagined. Amateurs offering their work free of charge will contribute a significant portion of the long tail, so at the very end there will be a non-monetary economy, says Mr Anderson. If true, that could prove to be the most fascinating long-tail effect of all.

Wired has an excerpt from the book.

Click Fraud Problem

SFGate writes:

Internet advertisers paid $800 million for bogus clicks on their marketing messages last year, shaking confidence in the industry and prompting many to reduce spending with Google, Yahoo and other Web sites, according to a study to be released today.

The survey, by Outsell Inc., a market researcher in Burlingame, is one of the most detailed looks at the nagging, high-profile problem known as click fraud. Advertisers have long complained that major Internet sites don’t do enough to combat the practice or, at least, disclose the extent of it.

Mobile Messaging

C. Enrique Ortiz writes:

There are two major messaging usage patterns – deferred communication (SMS, MMS, e-mail), and direct communication (IM). There are other adjectives used to describe this kind of usage patterns such as “offline or passive” for SMS/MMS/e-mail, and “active, dynamic or real-time” for IM. But in both cases, from the mobile perspective, it is about small bursts of person-to-person communication (messages), and the related immediate and/or deferred interactions. But what will change from the perspective of mobile messaging usage patterns is the addition of “new” bits of data, new media, and enhancements that include presence, location, multimedia, general social aspects (user-generated content, groups, invites, sharing), and context-based messaging, that when all combined will enhance the general mobile messaging user experience. This next level of messaging will be driven by the “usage patterns” and “user experience” themselves, and not the underlying protocols – the network is second.

Networked Journalism

Jeff Jarvis writes:

I think a better term for what Ive been calling citizen journalism might be networked journalism.

Networked journalism takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

In networked journalism, the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story; well see more and more of that, I trust.

TECH TALK: Video on the Internet: The Technology

Esther Dysons Release 1.0 last year laid out the challenges:

First, consumers need some sort of Internet-ready device (or worse, a combination of devices!) to get high-quality video onto a TV set. The hardware may be a PC running Microsoft Media Center, or a more specialized, less expensive piece of gear such as a TiVo PVR, the Akimbo Player, XTV box or the 2Wire MediaPortal. These devices have on-board hard-drives for stashing content. Traditional cable and satellite boxes might also eventually be linked to the IP network, but without hard drives, they will have to rely on content that is stored and streamed from servers. None of these devices is designed to facilitate burning IP TV content onto DVDs easily.

Next, consumers need to find the available video content. Again, there are parallels to the early Internet, including experimentation with a wide variety of models. Content marketplaces (similar to early portals) aggregate video content from various sources, either by generating it themselves, licensing it from partners, or by offering up (or selling) storage space and content-serving capacity to grassroots content producers.

The videos are then delivered to the end-user, often relying on content distribution networks such as Akamai, Kontiki,VitalStream and Limelight Networks to speed the delivery of video files to viewers. Depending on the hardware the viewer is using, the content may be streamed to a set-top box for immediate viewing or stored for later.

It is now easy for an individual to put video on the Internet and share it with others. For content owners wanting to put up a digital storefront, the challenges are greater. One needs to worry about digital rights management to ensure that the content is protected. Encoding needs to be at a very good quality so that users are satisfied enough to pay for it. Decisions about pricing are always tricky. How long can users keep content if they download it? Or should streaming be the only option? In addition, bandwidth for video is still not cheap enough to be ignored from the equation. Finally, money needs to be collected.

We have faced a host of similar issues in Rajshri Media (a company I have invested in) as we seek to build a broadband portal. From our reading and understanding, I have concluded that there are three ways to do video over the Internet. The first is via IPTV, which requires the telco to provide a set-top box. The second is the approach used by companies like YouTube, Brightcove and Entriq which deliver video directly to the browser using a plug-in. The third is to use P2P distribution networks like BitTorrent.

Tomorrow: Set-Top Box

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