Blind Spots

[via Sadagopan] Jeffrey Phillips writes:

Do you ever think about your blind spots? The beliefs and cultural norms that you have that may hold you back from doing things? Do these beliefs, tacit or not, conscious or not, hold you back or limit your thinking, your productivity, your actions or your ideas?

I’m certain that they do. We all have our blind spots, our innate beliefs and cultural norms which, in a different light or from an objective viewpoint may look strange or silly.

What have we been trained to accept, or overlook? What cultural norms hold us back from doing more than we could? Do you have a virtual cuff around your ideas or your business process that keeps you doing the same things over and over?

Google News Flaws

Phil Sim writes:

The fundamental flaw with Google News is that its based primarily on clustering, not ranking. Its ability to rate a story is limited to analysing how many times a particular story is reported. So it has enough intelligence to pick out the most reported story. Woop-de-doop. Thats equates to almost zero value add because by the time a story makes it to prominence on Google News, its already been reported by every man and its dog and subsequently Google News can only ever be a follower. Can you imagine a newspaper editor saying Ive got this really great concept. Were going to concentrate on reporting all the news, that everybody else has already reported!

At best, the Google News news pages serves a purpose as a backup source, enabling a reader to ensure they havent missed any big news stories. Again, theres that journal of record aspect.

The other related flaw with Google News is it has no ability to rate stories within a cluster. So where memeorandum gains the intelligence of ranking stories in a thread, by looking at the number of links a post receives, Google News has no such intelligence.

Taking RSS Beyond Headlines

Rich Ziade offers some ideas:

# Track Specific News Headlines. You can keep track of news on particular topics by subscribing to specific news search results. Heres a constantly updated news search on the Seattle Seahawks via Google. Heres another by Yahoo! that tracks the headlines coming in on the U.S. Supreme Court. To subscribe, just do your search and find the RSS feed link.

# Find Shopping Deals. Another cool use of RSS is the ability to get entries when a shopping deal or coupon comes along. Slickdeals (feed), Bens Bargains (feed) and MoreStuff4Less (feed) are just a few of the feeds out there.

# Track Packages. Nobody enjoys visiting a site and punching in a tracking number just to get shipment status on a package. Simpletracking.com allows you to create a custom feed that gets updated as your package moves along its route. UPS, Fedex, USPS & DHL are supported.

# Create a Calendar Feed. This is a cool way to share events with others. RSSCalendar.com allows you to create an account, add events and meetngs, and then share a feed for others to consume. They can use a standard feed reader or the RSSCalendar.com site to keep track.

Opera Mini

Russell Beattie thinks its the best mobile browser.

First, its small and easy to download and install. At 100k, even my GPRS-only Sony Ericsson W800i phone downloaded and installed it in less than a minute. This should not be overlooked – Opera has made the process dead-simple by providing direct access to the download (no registration, or multiple page views needed) and paid attention to the size of the app to make sure theres no bloat. It seems simple, but these two things alone separate Opera Mini from 90% of the mobile apps out there.

Next, the speed of the downloading is incredible. It makes GPRS seem A LOT faster – i.e. actually usable. Not only must they be doing compression and down-sizing of pictures on the server, they must be managing cellular latency really well. Latency is the nemesis for all mobile Internet apps. So where other mobile browsers will be dumb and create new requests to the Internet for each image or file that makes up a web page (taking latency hits each time) Opera Minis architecture allows it to make only one connection to the server and get perceptably huge speed increases as a result. Like I said, Im using it right now to browse around on my GPRS phone, it feels like a handset with a much faster connection.

Dan Gillmor on Bayosphere Lessons

Dan Gillmor writes after the failure of his Bayosphere – learnigns that entrepreneurs whould keep in mind. “As an entrepreneur, let’s just say I wasn’t in my element. The relentless focus on a single, limited project for long periods of time, combined with the inevitable compromises inherent in for-profit decision-making, turned out not to be my best skills. For almost 25 years I’d thrived on the constant deadlines and competition of journalism. So I assumed I’d easily handle the pressures of trying to create a business from scratch while also keeping my reporting and writing skills intact and helping other people join in. In reality, I was unprepared for what proved to be an entirely different kind of pressure, and didn’t handle it nearly as well as I’d expected. I allowed myself to get distracted, moreover, by matters that were not directly relevant to the project.”

TECH TALK: India Rising: Challenges

The India success story is not without its darker side. There are many issues that need urgent attention. These, if not addressed quickly, will hamper growth in the coming years.

Perhaps, the most important challenge is with infrastructure. From roads to ports to airports, India suffers from five decades (post-Independence) of inadequate investment in infrastructure. And even now, our policymakers quibble about building it out. Indian cities suffer from a lack of planning. The Bangalore success has been stymied by rising traffic jams and commute time, with a consequent deterioration in quality of life for many. Pune may be headed the same way. In cities like Mumbai, the need is for a metro and sea links. The ideas are there, but action is scarce. A significant portion of the city population now lives in slums. Delhi may be an example for others to emulate in terms of a city that has rebuilt its infrastructure but even that pace has been slow.

A look at our airports is enough to make one want to go back! And yet, the airport privatisation process has slowed to a crawl. The Golden Quadrilateral project had a good start, but it has not yet been completed. A hundred such equivalent projects are needed to build the transport infrastructure in the country.

Water and electricity are other big problems. As a nation, India is still too dependent on the monsoon. The risk of drought is never too far. The rising cost of oil, a lack of investment in alternative sources of energy, and poor power distribution within the country leaves much of the country susceptible to daily power cuts. Education and healthcare are other areas which need attention. Other than levying special taxes to raise revenues for these, the government seems to be doing little about it.

Fortune wrote about India in a cover story last October:

India, by contrast, is the global economy’s idiot savant. It excels at the impossible, turning out hundreds of thousands of brilliant engineers a year. Its software houses manage complex data across thousands of miles of undersea cable for the world’s most sophisticated clients. India has world-class business leaders and, unlike China, solvent banks. And yet India flubs the obvious stuff. The national roadway network is a shambles and the power grid even worse. Nearly a third of India’s population–and more than half its women–can’t read or write. India has moved grudgingly to lower tariffs and balked at turning money-losing state-owned enterprises over to the private sector. Red tape and corruption discourage foreign investment, as do restrictions on how firms deploy workers.

This bipolar development model is reflected in the crazy-quilt of wealth and squalor in cities like Mumbai, where billboards touting Mallya’s Kingfisher beer and Standard Chartered Bank’s investment-planning experts tower above sprawling slums, and urchins approach cars at gridlocked intersections hawking copies of Harvard Business Review. In Bangalore, executives visiting the immaculate campuses of software firms like Infosys and Wipro marvel that while their data can travel to the other side of the earth at the speed of thought, they must crawl along in bumper-to-bumper traffic for more than an hour to get back to their hotels.

In cricket, we have seen India repeatedly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Are we likely to do the same in the world of business? There are times when even the diehard optimist in me gets angry and frustrated. India has at its helm a set of smart people. President APJ Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram are respected around the world. The mystery, to me, is why they cannot bring about the much-needed obvious change. To understand this, we will need to turn to a Singaporean and another Indian.

Tomorrow: Lee Kuan Yew on India

Continue reading TECH TALK: India Rising: Challenges