We have added a feed for the comments feed on the site. I don’t get too many comments (about 1-2 a day), but the comments are definitely worth reading. Somehow, the posts seem incomplete at times without the value-add that comments provide. You can access the feed here to add into your aggregators.
Today, I complete a year of blogging. The year has seen a total of 1767 posts in the past 365 days for an average of almost 5 posts daily. Blogging has now become an integral part of my daily life. Even though I have been writing the Tech Talk column daily Mon-Fri for over two-and-a-half-years, it was the blog which has helped diversify my reading and writing, and put me in touch with a lot of new people and ideas.
The on thing I try and do is to blog daily. This is one lesson I have learnt from publishing on the Internet: it has to become a habit in people’s lives – for both the writer and the reader. This is perhaps the one secret to blogging – whatever you do, whever you do, make sure you post daily.
The blog now is for me an extension of my memory – almost everything I have read (and found interesting) and thought in the past year is here. The one thing I want to now add is an “Outline/Personal Directory” which can categorise the posts not by time, but in a taxonomy so that there is a wider context available to the ideas that I am working on. Am hoping to do this soon. This will be the first step towards building the Memex, as I’ve been writing. The other thing I want to do is to get myself a new design!
The hardest part about blogging is making a beginning. It took me many months before I started. I wanted to be sure that I’ll be able to write, and perhaps more importantly, that I’ll be honest and transparent on the weblog – will write what I think. I owe that to the blogging community which has helped shape my thinking by their act of sharing ideas. The blog is thus a small way of saying thanks to them, and making my contribution in the space. So, if you are reading this blog, make a start – blog. First for yourself – it will help you clarify your own thinking and create a “mirror world” of what we are seeing around, and second, for all the other bloggers whom you read – its a way of saying thanks to all of them! May our tribe increase.
I updated the “My Best Writings” section which appears on the right panel of my blog. Have categorised the writings, added some more of them into the list and also put a date next to each. The date is very important – too often I see writings or links without an inkling of when it has been written. The date gives a context to the reader, and also an indication of how recent or old it is.
Listing out the entries in categories helps readers know my thinking on the three primary areas whhich are my interests (Affordable Computing and ICT for Development, Enterprise Software and SMEs, and Information Management). Have also written a few articles on Entrepreneurship – more of personal experiences in my decade as an entrepreneur.
To just give you an idea: my daily (Mon-Fri) writings as part of the Tech Talk series (wherein I take a topic and write about 500 words daily for multiple weeks) began in November 2000, and my blog began in May 2002. Writing and Blogging is very much an integral part of life now. I cannot imagine stopping!
I have added a section in the right column for my Presentations. Have given links to the blog posts which link to the four presentations I have made in the past 6 months.
Much of the thinking for my presentations happens in this blog and the Tech Talk columns. What a presentation does is nicely summarise for others what one is thinking. A limitation is that the presentation is at best an outline. It does not present the complete thinking the way elaborate writing (or talking) does. But still, they give a quick flavour of what I am thinking.
The single largest traffic generator (referer) to this blog is Google (see yesterday’s post). That by itself is not surprising or news. What is interesting is to see the variety of search terms that help get people to this blog. And this is where blogging becomes important.
Getting linked from other bloggers and sites increases one’s PageRank (my current PageRank is 6/10, my BlogStreet Rank is 2282 / 80699 and BlogStreet BIQ is 1821), and consequently, one shows up higher in the list of sites when people search, increasing the probability that people will know about the blog. Thus, blogging helps build up mindshare for one’s thoughts (and ideas and solutions), provided one can get connected into the ecosystem of links.
In that sense, one’s blog can be thought of as a marketing tool. The key lies in building up credibility and trust in the world of bloggers, to begin with. The time spent is well worth it. The results may come after time, and there are no shortcuts. That is why it is a good idea to start early and blog well enough to become an integral part of the web.
A milestone in terms of traffic for this blog – Tuesday (Feb 11) had more than 500 unique visitors for the first time. Total page views were 1826. The home page had 180 page views. So, I guess there’s a lot of traffic coming via news aggregators, as this list of the the top 5 referrers shows:
In response to a recent posting on “Emergic Turning Points“, a few commenters asked where do I get the time to blog so much.
I consider blogging as part of my job and business. The blog focuses on technology, and helps me share my ideas and get feedback. It also connects me to people I would otherwise have never met. The blog also helps build trust and reputation, a sort of “digital identity”. It also servers as a searchable repository of articles and ideas I find interesting.
Viewed in this manner, I view the blog as a critical component in our efforts to get traction for our ideas. As someone I met said the other day, “Today’s business is a battle of ideas.” And there, my blog comes in useful – it is a low-cost way to market our ideas.
I do read quite a bit. It is a habit inculcated in me since childhood. Reading widely is what has been very helpful through the years in building up a vision for what the future will be, and what we should be doing to stake out our place in it. Blogging as an extension of reading (and thinking) takes up only a little extra time. My estimate is that I spend about 2.5 hours writing the 5 Tech Talk columns each week (normally on Sundays), and an additional 20-30 minutes a day blogging. So, a time investment of 5-6 hours may seem a lot, but spread over a week, it is easy to do, given the benefits.
A few tips and suggestions:
– Determine to blog daily. Blogging has to become part of the day’s routine. In case I am travelling or know that I will not be able to update the blog on a specific day, I try and create posts in advance, thus ensuring that readers find plenty of new things daily. This is something I learnt from IndiaWorld – we updated every site of ours daily. Things have to become habits – for both readers and writers.
– Read widely. One may not understand everything, but over time, one gets the lay of the land. Maps start forming. Stories acquire a context. And over time, the linkages between developments start becoming apparent. They prevent us from tunnel-vision. In today’s world, it is very important to have a wide-angle view.
– Think aloud. The one thing I decided when I started blogging is that I would write what I thought. This means I don’t have to worry about whether I need to “protect” this idea or not. Write everything. And that makes life simpler!
– Meet people. I find some of my best ideas come when I am meeting people and talking. Something they say or how they react sparks off a new thread. This reinforces the underlying thinking or sets me off on a new path. Either way, more fodder for the blog!
– Start. Even when I feel I may not somethign to say, sitting in front of the computer changes everything. The words just come. I find this happening with uncanny regularity especially for the Tech Talks.
– Always keep a notebook (paper/pen) handy. Ideas come by anytime. So, I jot them down, and then build upon them for the blog later.
A quick comment on the point about Indian computer comapnies starting to sell Linux desktops: the reason is not love for Linux but more to stay competitive against local brands (like Zenith) and assemblers (white box sellers). Windows on the desktop get pirated anyways by most users, so companies like Compaq are ending up being more expensive (and uncompetitive) if they bundle Windows XP. Their solution: rather than just selling a PC without an OS, they are giving a lower-priced PC option with Linux, letting end users decide what they want to do. At this point, my guess is that most users just get a pirated copy of Windows and replace the bundled Linux, saving Rs 5-6,000 (USD 100-120) in the process. Everyone wins, except Microsoft!
I expect the trend towards Linux being bundled on desktops sold in emerging markets to increase quite dramatically. Hopefully, this will also make many users aware of what Linux can do and popularise it among new users. At least, they have to now through an extra step to get Windows, rather than getting it on a platter!
Have believed for some time that the route for Linux on the desktop in emerging markets (the “next users”) is via the server in networked environments: use low-cost / low-configuration desktops which cost USD 100-150, and have the performance of the newest and fastest PC because all the processing and storage is being done on the server. Also makes management of these thin clients easier. We have to look for markets where affordability is more important – and in emerging markets, the cost of hardware (a new PC still costs USD 500-600) is a bigger barrier than the cost of software (which for most users is still 0). A thin client-thick server solution can bring down the cost of desktop hardware by atleast 50-70%, even counting an increase in the server cost. This is where Linux (in its terminal-server avatar) can start making the biggest difference.
Recently (specifically, on November 13), Tech Talk completed 2 years. Tech Talk started as a daily (Mon-Fri) column on Tech Samachar, where it is still published. [Archives Page] My first series (from November 13-24, 2000) was on the “Mass-Market Internet”. Fittingly, this week sees the start of a series with a similar theme – bridging the digital divide, and taking computing and communications to the next 500 million users. It is a topic I’ve talked about often, using which series to fine-tune and incrementally build upon the ideas.
When I started Tech Talk 2 years ago, I was quite depressed about my pathetic knowledge about technology. I have always been a voracious reader, but the few years prior to then had kept me very pre-occupied with managing IndiaWorld and had narrowed by reading quite dramatically to portals and dotcoms. I had to get out of that and build a much wider perspective. So, inspired by Red Herring’s “Catch of the Day” column (which has since been discontinued), I ambitiously decided on a daily Tech column, with each column being in the range of 400-500 words. I wrote out the first series of 10 columns quite excitedly, since that was what I had been thinking over the previous months. That was enough for 2 weeks.
At that time, I had thought I’ll probably run out of topics in a few months, but let’s write anyways. We’ll see what happens later. I knew that I had enough topics for a few more weeks. And so was launched Tech Talk.
Two years on and 500+ columns later, the Tech Talk tradition continues. I have not yet run out of topics! I may repeat a bit of myself at times, but I think each column brings with it a least some fresh thinking. I try and follow a simple principle: write what I am thinking. Some of these ideas are also what I am trying to apply in my business (Emergic), so they are not just academic, but also incorporate feedback from the marketplace.
Also, to whatever extent possible, I do try and cover a diverse set of topics – entrepreneurship, books, the New India, and so on. But its still a somewhat narrow sliver. I am an entrepreneur first, and writer second!
My writing habits for Tech Talk have changed somewhat over the years. Earlier, I used to write the daily column, well, daily. That was too much pressure. Wake up in the morning with the deadline looming! That did not help thinking. So, over time, I decided to write a set of columns together. Now, since the past year or so, I write a week’s columns together on a Sunday. It takes me about 2.5-3 hours. This has helped in ensuring a certain continuity and making me actually enjoy the writing.
I also quote (quite liberally sometimes) from others but make it relevant to the point that I am making. I have found that others do write better than me, and so, if they make the point, or provide a take-off for what I want to say, let us quote them. This is perhaps why Tech Talk will never become a book. (Of course, the other reason is that I will not have the patience to read and edit what I have written!) Online is the best place for Tech Talk to be.
My writing has increased since I started my blog in May this year. At that time, I wondered if I should just discontinue Tech Talk and stick to the blog. But I realised that the value of the Tech Talk lies in its length and deep thinking style. That I would find it hard to replicate in the blog’s microcontent style. I am glad I left Tech Talk untouched.
On a personal level, I love writing and sharing. It helps me clarifiy my ideas, and forces a discipline of reading and thinking. The feedback from readers over the years has also helped a lot – introducing me to new people and new ideas.
So, here’s on to year 3, with a promise to continue the spirit of Tech Talk.
The past 10 days or so, my blogging has become a little less as I have been spending a lot more time thinking about Emergic and the path we should take going ahead. I will share some of this thinking in the coming days – much of it is to do with Emergic Freedom.
I have realised that there is no “fast-track” in thinking. One just has to go to through the entire process, minute by minute, hour by hour. And this has to happen even as continue with the existing set of activities. One does not have the luxury of isolating oneself from the present, going to a desert island, and then thinking. It takes time and is painstakingly slow. Yet, there are no short-cuts.
So, now that some of the thinking at least has been done, I will write about it here, and do more blogging.