Indian Language Publishing

Mediaah quotes Badri Seshadri (ex-Cricinfo) about his new venture:

The venture: It is something I had already started over the last year with my involvement limited to part-ime. However as it was getting bigger and the opportunity far more exciting, I decided to move over completely. I am moving full time into this venture starting April (once the Pakistan tour ends). The plan is to create content in regional languages – with the content in the form of printed books, audio, CD, online (but subscription-based) etc. We are starting with Tamil (as I am familiar with this) and are looking at aggressively expanding to other languages. We will also produce some content in English but that is not our priority at all.

The opportunity: Basically there are over 550 million literates in the country and of this only about 25-40 million are English literate. Even amongst this crowd there are a fair number of bilingual readers, most of whom would prefer the content to be in their mother tongue. In any case close to 500 million or so are not being serviced at all with quality content. These people are perhaps not near a computer and in any case today’s computer and web services are not indian language friendly to the extent we want them to be. You need multitude of fonts and all you get at best are newspapers and low quality magazines on to the web. Where is the quality, knowledge driven , local language content on the web at this stage?Even amongst books that are published, there is a vast difference between books published in English and those that are published in local languages. Also an average English book is extremely expensive. The regional books are, on an average, priced one third of an English book (which is itself a reprint for India – in lower quality paper etc.). We studied the Tamil market and decided that we will enter in a big way and over a period of one year have created a very strong brand in Tamil Nadu.

I know Badri (and Satya) well and I wish them the very best. I’m sure they will transform the Indian language publishing space – just as they did with cricket coverage on the Internet.

Analysis Paralysis

Fred Wilson writes:

I was talking to an entrepreneur today and advised him not to surrender to “analysis paralysis”.

It’s tempting to want to analyze every option and figure out exactly the best approach before jumping in.

But it’s the wrong way to go in most cases.

As a contrast, I attended a board meeting today where the CEO presented the board with a post-mortem on some decisions he made that turned out to be suboptimal. That was a stand up thing to do and the board appreciated it. But I am not sure that the CEO in question did the wrong thing.

Because I believe that Teddy Roosevelt (one of my favorite Presidents) had it right when he said: “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

I think action and risk taking is what separates great entrepreneurs from the pack. I am not advocating blind risk taking, but I am advocating making a decision based on less than perfect information and going for it. More often than not, you will be rewarded for doing that.

Flickr Interview

Silicon Valley Watcher has a pointer to an interview with Flickr creator Stewart Butterfield. From the introduction: “Flickr boasts 270,000 users, four million photos, 30 percent monthly growth in users, and 50 percent monthly growth in photos. (As a datapoint, when I interviewed Stewart about ten days ago, those numbers were 240,000 users and 3.5 million photos.) And these numbers don’t even begin to tell the story. Flickr is a phenomenon, a fundamentally different way of using digital photography and the Internet. Flickr is simply the manifestation of the perfect storm of camera phones, consumer broadband, blogs, RSS, and folksonomy tags…Flickr is part of something else too, something radical: the massive sharing of what we used to think of as private data. Photos, bookmarks, and journals used to be considered personal. The social networking revolution–which encompasses everything from Flickr and to blogs and wikis to P2P itself–encourages us to share everything…The sharing imperative includes not only stuff but also ideas, such as how we think about things (tags) and how we program (APIs). From this openness spring galaxies of supporting applications, revolving around a core web service like Flickr.”


Silicon Valley Watcher has an interview with co-founder Joe Kraus:

JotSpot’s enterprise wiki technology has quickly earned a very respectful buzz since its beta launch in late October. It is simple, sophisticated, and easily adaptable for a multitude of corporate IT tasks, with the potential to make a good-sized dent in the enterprise software market. Understandably, Joe would rather not draw that kind of attention from larger players just yet…

…it’s plain to see that JotSpot has leveraged wikis into a software platform that fills a large unmet need: create specialized enterprise applications for which there are no vendors — without involving IT. It’s also plain that a lot of enterprises are paying huge amounts of money for bloated applications, and that JotSpot apps could deliver required feature sets for many types of corporations.

JotSpot allows groups to easily collect information and work together by combining a wiki interface, e-mails, Word and Excel files, and other mixed media, all in one server-side place. It includes unlimited version control, rollback, indexing for full-text search, comments, and permissions.

The app is especially suited for the SME market, where the large enterprise software players cannot play because their installations are expensive, rigid, and cannot be customized by smaller companies. “There’s a need for specialized apps that no software company can fill,” Joe said. “Today, you have to be rich to customize software.” JotSpot means to change that.

Joe pointed out that many small organization actually roll their own applications by creating lists in MS Excel and emailing them around. This tends to happen where the market is too small for a vendor to develop a shrink-wrapped product and the customers are too small to afford customized solutions.

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Perspectives

Let us consider some perspectives on todays search and the world of tomorrow.

John Battelle wrote (September 20, 2004) about a meeting with Raymie Stata of Bloomba, which was acquired by Yahoo:

[Stata] points out that search is not really the big trend of the decade, it’s the proliferation of data in the first place. I quite agree, search is our response to the extraordinary info-abundance in which we’re all awash. Stata is particularly interested in the “my stuff” problem – integrating search into what we believe is “our” information, and designing interfaces that take that point of view out to the web.

“I see search as falling behind,” Stata told me. “So much is accessible now.” He continued: “I don’t see how traditional search – crawl, take a 2.5 word query, and display ten results – can get much better.”

Stata believes search has a user interface problem, to put it rather simply[There is a ] metaphor that search is the C prompt of the internet, and that the interface is due for an upgrade. “Search is a metaphor,” Stata claims, one that users have come to understand, much as they understand nested folders on a computer desktop.

Ramesh Jain wrote in a white paper (August 2004) on next-generation search:

What happened to the web was unexpected and extraordinary. Even Tim Barners-Lee could not have imagined how rapidly the Web grew. But what is happening and what is coming soon is even more mind-boggling than what happened in the past. The volume of data is continuously increasing. More importantly, the amount of live sensory data is increasing very fast. Sensor nets are being designed for applications ranging from understanding birds nesting behavior to homeland security applications. Video and audio data is exponentially increasing. With cameras becoming integral part of mobile phones and service providers looking for applications to promote uses of those cameras, completely novel applications are just around the corner. The nature of entertainment is changing fast and that will be integral part of the web. First Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) like TiVO considered themselves a consumer electronic device and did not see any need for internet connectivity. Now cable service providers offer you directly a PVR on line and internet is becoming essential component of PVRs.

It is clear that in comparison to the Web of the last century, the nature of data on the Web later in this decade will be very different in the following aspects:
Volume of data is growing by orders of magnitudes every year.
Multimedia and sensor data are becoming more and more common.
Spatio-temporal attributes of data are important.
Different data sources provide information to form the holistic picture.
Users are not concerned with the location of data source, as long as its quality and credibility is assured. They want to know the result of the data assimilation (the big picture of the event).
Real-time data processing is the only way to extract meaningful information
Exploration, not querying, is the predominant mode of interaction, which makes context and state critical.
The user is interested in experience and information, independent of the medium and the source.

Effectively, the nature of the knowledge on the Web is changing very fast. It used to be mostly static text documents; now it will be a combination of live and static multimedia, including text, data and documents with spatio-temporal attributes. Considering these changes, can the search engines developed for static text documents be able to deal with the needs of the Web?

Tomorrow: Perspectives (continued)

Continue reading TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Perspectives