Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Venice Project - First impressions

Quick post. First impressions of the Venice Project:

Looks very cool when it's loading up the first time :o)

I like the channel interface but it took me a while to find out how to
get out of full screen mode (it takes over the whole monitor).

The Cassy video on the Diddy channel looked like it might cause
epileptic fits but I didn't see any warning before it came on (though I
dunno if MTV would show a warning either?).

The advertising seems very regional.. T-Mobile, some brand of chewing
gum which I'm not sure is out in Ireland. Will advertising be country
based in future? (Update: Advertising is apparently localised but not localised to Ireland yet)

Will it allow user submitted content? The FAQ says they're working on it but has no guidelines yet as to whether there'll be content restrictions (i.e. copyrighted material) or anything like that.

The channels are good for a starter but could be a lot broader. Good coup to get the Diddy channel and some MTV stuff!

The FAQ says that in an hour of viewing approximately 320MB of data is downloaded which is impressive considering your average BitTorrented tv show of 43 minutes will require a download of at least 350MB!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

It's that time of year again (Dublin Film Festival)

Unfortunately the film listing isn't out yet but the site placeholder is up and they're looking for volunteers!

In previous years the festival has had an excellent line-up of films and I don't expect 2007 to be any different :o)

The festival runs from the 16th to the 25th February 2007.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A quick rant

Blogging on Christmas Day.. that's not healthy..

Anyway I just felt like I should get back into blogging. To get started I will use an old reliable: the rant. It's not going to be a big rant or a long rant or an expletive-filled rant. Just a small, plain rant.

Try skimming through this blog -> Gautam Ghosh

At the top you've got so many ads and cluttered graphics. There are actually two ads for Firefox linking to the same url. If they're paid ads I can sort of understand, but still why is someone paying him to have two ads for the same thing?

Moving down a bit, his About Me is hidden between a donate graphic and graphics of his email addresses. The colours of the graphics on the page seem to overpower the colour and font of the text so that when I skim the top of the blog it seems like a lot of colour noise and no actual content.

Further down, the "B-List blogger" link reminds me of those links to nerd code where you can specify what your interests are and then publish them on your home page (remember those?)

The guy last blogged on December 25th 2006. Why is he telling people he won "Indiblog of the year 2004"? I can understand being proud of it but it reminds me of restaurants where you see they won some award a couple of years ago and you think to yourself "Why have they slipped enough to not win it since?" Also, do blog readers actually subscribe to blogs based on awards the blog won two years ago? (Heck, does anyone subscribe to a blog based on an award it won this year??)

I also see he has a Hit Counter? Do they still make those?? I thought people stopped using hit counters because no one ever patched them to deal with the Y2K bug?

All the above issues really made me switch off from the blog, but I have spent so long going through it and nitpicking these issues now that I did finally notice the content :o) Some of the content is pretty decent. I like some of his predictions for 2007 and as an Indophile I always am interested in any takes on Indian business and education, of which he has heaps.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Why Time and Newsweek are wrong

In an odd bit of either bandwagon hopping or editorial copycatting, Time, Newsweek, and The Economist have had large features within the last few months on the rise of India and Indian business.

Due to a maturing China, worries (mostly in America?) about an undemocratic "Communist" state becoming an economic superpower, and a general desire to be first to spot the next big thing, various pundits are rushing to hype up India as the next big thing.

There are many figures given by said pundits to explain and extrapolate India's rise. Time says, for example, that since 1996 the number of Indian passengers on airlines has risen sixfold and that 50 million people travel on Indian airlines a year. To put that particular figure into perspective however, 50 million is only about 5% of the total Indian population. 95% of Indians don't travel by air at least once a year would be another way to read that factoid.

When comparing China and India, the one main positive where India is claimed to trump China (because it doesn't in other KPIs such as quality of infrastructure, government commitment to genuine development, per capita income, etc. etc.) is that it is "the world's largest democracy". It's never really clear what benefit this is supposed to bring, or why it means that India's rise is inevitable. Indeed people who sing China's praises say that its biggest advantage over India and some other Asian countries is that government's ability to turn on a pin when it comes to making decisions. The Chinese government does not to have to wait to pass legislation and make sure ministerial posts and other favours have been granted to ensure other lawmakers and parties are on board. If anything, being the world's biggest democracy is a disadvantage. Anyone who follows Indian politics will know it's highly fractured and coalition governments are ridiculously huge. To give one indication of the size of Indian government: There are currently 34 cabinet ministers, 7 ministers of state (independent charge), and 38 ministers of state. If anything India's development has been handcuffed by the sheer range of vested interests and local concerns that have to be taken into account before any significant change happens.

A recent BBC article explains why China is still poised to be more successful than India. It's what prompted me to write this post and I think it more succinctly makes the point than I can.

Having said all that however, I wouldn't count India out. The Indian people have a lot of faith in their country and a positive can-do attitude. Indeed if there's one nation on earth more like America than any other in terms of the people and their personality it's India. They just have a long way and a lot of introspection to go through before they achieve the feats the pundits have already laid out for them..

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Stencil graffiti?

This blog has suffered from being neither urgent nor important for me at the moment. Work and other things are taking priority and poor little blogger is a footnote at the bottom of my To Do list..

Anyway I felt I'd update this with something light. Stencil graffiti is my name for graffiti where it looks like the artist used a stencil to create the image. I love good graffiti but I'm not au fait with the various terms so if someone knows the proper term for such a technique I'd be interested to know :o)

Here are some pics of stencil graffiti I've seen while walking around various cities. I have more pics but I seem to have misplaced them.. they might be on my laptop..

(Edit: Images removed from this post to avoid messing up my blog template.. d'oh!)

Hong Kong

Malacca, Malaysia

Mexico City (1)
Mexico City (2)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

How the World Works

Just a quick post about "How the World Works". It's an interesting blog on, an American Arts & Politics web magazine.

The content is free apart from having to watch an ad to get to it. I think this is grand as it's quick enough to get through to.

The material is definitely worth it, the journalist Andrew Leonard spends his time researching globalisation, the BRIC countries, and related issues such as global warming and posts up about books he's read and new research papers and items in the news. For anyone interested in globalisation with a middle of the road viewpoint it's an informative read and a good way to start your day. He cuts through a lot of politically or ideologically biased accounts of globalisation and is a staunch defender of globalisation without ignoring the realities of global inequality and the potential for abuse of some global frameworks.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mexico City (El DF)

My bags are packed, I don't have to check out for another 45 minutes, and my friends are running late due to home renovation and car issues. What all that means is that I can kill some time with another blog entry :o)

I've been in Mexico City this past week for work and staying in the busy Hotel Presidente Intercontinental, a great hotel which merits a post in itself. It's only my second time in Mexico City (or "El DF" as some of the locals call it.. short for "El Distrito Federal") but this second visit has reaffirmed my love for Mexico and Mexican people.

This morning I realised that I've been in awe of so many cities now that I almost have a top 10 list of cities I'd love to live in. Mexico City is definitely on that list for the same reasons that the other cities are:


For me true diversity in a city is not about the percentage of foreign nationals or various ethnicity in the city, but about the diversity of the city itself.. areas which are different in their flavour, from their architecture to their residential, commercial, or industrial composition, sleepy suburban streets far away from the noise of traffic and busy nightlife areas heavy with booming sound systems and packs of beautiful people.

Mexico City has all of that. In fact it's bound to given that it's the world's most heavily populated city, full of various barrios, shopping districts and industrial areas stretching from the valley up into the surrounding hills.

I've only seen a small snapshot of Mexico City. I think you could live here for years and only ever see a fraction of the various areas.

One of my favourite areas is the quiet La Condesa, a leafy area of art studios and the peaceful Parque Espana and Parque Mexico which comes alive in the evenings when the area's bars and restaurants start to fill up.

Another nice area is Polanco, home to a lot of embassies as well as the interesting Anthropological Museum which shows the diversity of Mexico's many indigenous people. Polanco has some very trendy bars, a generous helping of Argentinian restaurants, and a feeling of constant activity.

Contrasting with Polanco and La Condesa is downtown, location of the famous zocalo and the arena for many displays of traditional healing ceremonies which people queue up on the zocalo for. It's also right here that the President celebrates Mexican Independance Day, waving the Mexican flag and shouting "Viva Mexico!"

Getting lost

Another thing I love about big cities is that there's always somewhere off the beaten track, always somewhere you can escape to if the 9 to 5 and relentless consumerism gets too much.

For me in Mexico City, La Condesa was that place.. always quiet and full of shops, restaurants and cafes that seemed to fit into the discreet nature of the place, never standing out too much but being there when you needed them. I'm sure there are many many other places that fit the bill in this city but like I said above, I feel like I've only seen a snapshot of El DF.

Nightlife and Cool, Interesting, or Beautiful People

Maybe I'm somehow shallow or prejudiced, but I think an area's image is improved a lot by the image of the residents and hanger outers of the area. In Mexico City there is a lot of diversity in the people and a lot of hip, odd, or beautiful people to awe you or suprise you.

With nightlife, nothing is worse than a place where going out means going to the same couple of clubs or pubs every weekend. I love big cities for the variety and continual development of the nightlife scene. Mexico City is full of clubs and bars for all musical tastes and social groups from posers to goths.


The style of life in international cities can vary because of their weather and geographical location. Unlike other cities on my list such as New York or Delhi, Mexico City avoids the extremes and remains comfortable all year round. The only issue is pollution but I've hardly noticed that in my time here (apart from seeing the smog hanging over the city some mornings from my bedroom window).

Ok it's time to check out now but I hope I've described some of the reasons why I love Mexico City and given a good picture of El DF :o)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Change of course

I'm Conor O' Kane and it's been three months since my last blog entry.

As I said in my last blog entry, I needed to think about whether I wanted to continue blogging, and if I did, what I would blog about.

I'd be lying if I said I had given it a lot of thought, but I have given it some thought. I don't want to blog about IT and areas relating to my work because (a) I don't want to put myself in any risky territory regarding discussion which may be in conflict with my work, and (b) there are a lot of more knowledgeable people out there in relation to IT and I don't want to blog about something where I may sound stupid(er).

So what can I blog about? Well one topic I feel on safer ground talking about and something I have such a passion about that I don't care if I say stupid things is travel. I travel a lot both with work and on holidays and so I feel well placed to offer a soapbox slash high horse opinion on travel and areas such as cultures and globalisation.

So that is what I will mostly blog about from now on. The following caveats, disclaimers, and health warnings apply:

I will namecheck a lot of places and so I'm sorry in advance if I come across as name dropping but I am passionate about travel and will write about what I love.

Some of my posts may be ill-informed, highly opinionated, or downright silly.

Since I work for a large consulting firm, there's a good chance I may mention companies which are clients of my employer. Anything I say is my own personal opinion and is not related to my work or the opinions of my firm.

Unfortunately (but fortunately for my productivity) I don't spend as much time on the Redbrick boards as I used to. With that in mind, if anyone follows up on the boards to my blog there's a good chance that I either won't see the post on the boards before it expires, or won't get around to following up to it before it expires. If you want to draw my attention to something or want to ask a question or make a point then please leave a comment on the blog.

With that out of the way I think I'll post about Mexico :o)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Decision time

You're right, Marge. Just like the time I could have met Mr. T at the mall. The entire day, I kept saying, 'I'll go a little later, I'll go a little later...' And when I got there, they told me he just left. And when I asked the mall guy if he'll ever come back again, he said he didn't know. Well, I'm never going to let something like that happen again!

After reading the FT Magazine's hype-bursting article on blogging last weekend I was discouraged about maintaining my blog, to say the least. It's an excellent article and it brought thoughts and doubts to the surface which had been nagging me for some time. Just like Homer Simpson in the quote above I had been putting off thinking about what exactly I was going to blog about and what the aim or message or tone of my blog would be. Then when I got to the "mall" (i.e. when I looked at my blog after a year of on again off again blogging) I realised I never had that sit down with my invisible friend to think about why I'm blogging and what I want to blog about.

I had originally wanted to improve my writing skills through practise from writing entries on the blog. The theory being that regular writing would help me get the creative juices flowing and help me put flesh on various ideas and thoughts I have. However I haven't written the articles I wanted to write due to a lack of time to develop the ideas. A tight supply of time and a free flowing supply of laziness and distractions have been my twin weaknesses which I struggle hard to resolve and master.

Shimoda's excellent new blog has taught me that a blog well-written can be interesting even when it's not an established writer doing the writing (as discussed in the FT article). So I am resolved to attempting to improve my blog and slightly change my blogging style.

From now on I will (a) think about what my blog is for, and (b) try to put thought into what I post. There is a large temptation to add exceptions to (b) but for the time being I'll try not to.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

m-flo loves Shadow the Hedgehog

I read about a lot of new websites and applications but will rarely even look at them unless there's a compelling reason or someone has recommended it to me.

The same went for You Tube which is a video sharing site. You can upload your own videos or just search for and watch other peoples' videos.

I was sent there by a friend to check out the MadTV spoof of "House" - an American tv medical detective show about a rogue doctor who plays by his own rules (as played by Hugh Laurie!). It's an ok show, as far as I can tell having only watched one episode. The spoof is pretty good anyway and pretty accurate, Laurie playing one of those tv characters who people wouldn't tolerate in real life due to his gruff nature and bitter sarcasm.

A few days later I was checking out m-flo's new album "Beat Space Nine" on the iTunes store - another first time visit to a site for me. Since iTunes sell music videos I did a search to see if they had the videos from the new album. Oddly enough they didn't, though they had the album itself. I remembered YouTube and decided to see what a search for "m-flo" threw up there and found a load of videos.

This really showed me how great YouTube is. They even had the video of the remix of Tripod Baby made to promote the new Shadow the Hedgehog game which has the band dancing with Shadow the Hedgehog :o)

Incidentally a search on Google Video throws up only two m-flo videos (one of which looks more like a kareoke video than the real thing).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bollywood Fight Club!!

Bollywood directors are famous for ripping off Hollywood films, but this really takes the biscuit.. A Bollywood version of Fight Club is in the works! Seems to be true.. and it sounds truly awful from the description on the website and Tian's description of the trailers.

PS Also on that website, some hilarious Brokeback Mountain parodies including "Brokeback to the Future". Genius :o)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Imagining a Google future

(I'm on a blogging spree today.. don't know why..)

Interesting article on CNN Money with four predictions of Google's future:
1) Google is the media
2) Google is the internet
3) Google is dead
4) Google is God

Fun speculation :o)

On that whole Google China controversy I take issue with both sides of the argument.

It is a shame that there is such censorship in China, however I think people are being unrealistic about how much leverage companies like Google, Yahoo, and MSN have.

These companies basically have two choices: Don't go into China or go into China. If they don't go the Chinese government won't care, they have indigenous alternatives like Baiku. Indeed I read recently that for every American Web 2.0 site there is a Chinese "sister" site doing a similar application. If the companies do go into China, they can only do so with the blessing of the government (as in any other country) and must operate by the laws and regulations imposed by the government.

On the other side, I think it is a bit disingenuous of these companies to say that by being in China they are helping to make information easier to access, or helping improve the internet experience of Chinese consumers. Like I said above there are already local companies doing the same thing. The reason these companies go into China is because there is market pressure on them to enter what will be a huge market (Chinese broadband adoption will pass US broadband by 2008).

If there's one thing the coverage of internet censorship by the big three shows, it's that for all the talk of community generated content, of blogging being a tool of democracy and so on, most information on the internet is controlled at very centralised points. A handful of companies host most of the blogs in the world. A handful of companies are used by people to search the internet. It's very easy to turn off the flow of information should someone powerful enough choose to.

How does Technorati work?

Searching for Dublin International Film Festival on Google Blog Search brings up my blog entry about the forthcoming festival. Searching with the same term on Technorati doesn't include my blog entry in the results.

Does anyone know how Technorati search works?

Ok this is weird.. a second ago it was missing my site.. now when I search again it has it there. What's up with that??

If you want to volunteer..

When I wanted to do some volunteer work a few years ago I found it really hard to find out how to contact the charities I wanted to work for. When I did contact them the response was less than the "Wow, someone wants to volunteer to work for us!! Great! When can you start?" attitude I expected :o)

Irish NGOs are modernising in terms of the way they manage volunteers. There was an interesting article in the Sunday Tribune today about the ways in which volunteers in the 21st century are different from 20th century volunteers and the challenges facing people who make a new year's resolution to volunteer with an organisation.

In the 20th century volunteers were people with a lot of free time who were willing to give their time to do a job without expecting much and without questioning how the job was done. In the 21st century volunteers are time-poor and demand professionalism from the organisations they volunteer for. They are also more interested in what they can get out of the volunteer role and want to do interesting and challenging work, not staffing a charity clothes shop. At least that's according to a study done by a think-tank in the UK for the British Scout Association.

For willing volunteers the volunteering business can be tough too, they can find that charities may already be over-subscribed with volunteering offers or only hire volunteers at particular times of year. Also, sticking with a volunteering commitment is at least as challenging as any other new year's commitment.

Volunteering Ireland is a great site if you want to look at the various volunteering opportunities available within Ireland and abroad.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's the year of the dog since about five and a half hours ago. At least if you think the Chinese New Year begins at midnight in China. I watched some of the gala event on CCTV over the web but didn't understand a word of it :o)

There was something about picking out names for a couple of pandas too.. I'm not sure what the deal was with that. There was a competition on the website to vote on names for them and if you picked the name which was the most popular then you go into a draw for tickets for the 2008 Olympics. A friend of mine correctly predicted that names (团团 and 圆圆) which were close to the word for "reunification" (团圆 - or is it "reunion"?) would be the most popular, and they were. So now she's in the draw for free Olympics tickets! Guess the Chinese public are keen on bringing Taiwan back into the fold :o)

In previous years there were fairly big Chinese New Year events in Dublin but this year they couldn't get funding so only a few limited events at various venues are on instead. It seems not enough resources from the Chinese community in Ireland were committed to the event in previous years and the council was bearing the organisational burden which is a pity since I can imagine the event would have been even better and more "authentic" if it was organised and run by the community rather than a government department.

I guess the Chinese New Year is more of a family event (as far as my limited knowledge of Chinese New Year goes) so the immigrant community aren't really that interested in going to the trouble of organising stuff to commemorate it?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Dublin International Film Festival

Last year's film festival was great, showing many many enjoyable films from around the world. Hopefully this year's will be just as good. The full programme of films is out on Feb 1st.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Davos blogged to bits!

It's that time of year again!

The World Economic Forum is on at Davos. It's a big talking shop for the great and the good to discuss what's going on in the world and what's to be done about it.

It's being blogged a lot this year. Mike Rake, Chairman of KPMG, is blogging for the FT. The forum itself has set up a forum blog where various attendees are uploading articles and podcasts.

As with anything remotely related to world affairs or business these days, India and China will get a lot of focus and press at Davos. The Indians seem to have made a splash this year, at least according to the FT, between opening their retail market to increased FDI the day before Davos and then sending triple the amount of representatives to Davos and hosting a lot of the side events and free drinks. The retail news from India is interesting.. I'm looking forward to seeing what affect it will have had when I visit India next. I'm sure Anand Sridharan will have a very informative article on the potential impact in the next while. He's a great blogger and very much a quality over quantity blogger (unlike me, I'm neither ;o)).

Speaking of podcasts.. they seem to be really taking off.. at least based on the fact that some managers in my office are listening to them now. My Dad even listens to podcasts! I think the convenience of podcasts helps them compared with blogs which you have to sit still to read. I'm not a fan of having to pay attention to what I'm listening to when I'm on the move, I prefer music as a background noise and to be left with my own thoughts rather than trying to absorb someone else's. But most people seem to disagree with me on that viewpoint :o)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Why RSS is not email

I only found out today that you can sync up NewsGator and FeedDemon so that you can track the feeds you follow in FeedDemon from other computers (props to Plop@rb for that info!). I googled to find out more and came across some interesting articles on why FeedDemon is great and why aggregating RSS via Outlook sucks.

I'm an agnostic in this debate since I've never used an RSS aggregator other than FeedDemon (great product and great brand, call me a typical consumer but it'll be hard to make me switch :o)). However I do like Steve Makofsky's statement that "RSS is not email". In particular I work very much in line with point 2, I specifically fire up my separate blog reading app when I want to read blogs. That way I have a nice clean distinction between time spent reading blogs and time doing anything else. Also it forces me to go out of my way to read blogs rather than if it was embedded in my browser or email client where I might be tempted to "accidentally" slip into reading a few articles.

I wonder how most people fit RSS reading into their workflow. Do most people read blogs in their personal time, or when work is slack, or do you consider it relevant to your job and justify reading it during the work day?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Blog demographics

Apparently there are millions of blogs out there. We're told by blog evangelists that blogs are the new media. Yet looking at who is consuming this new media is hard to tell.

Take the popular blogs on Technorati, one of the most popular blog search engines. Of the top ten blogs, three would fall into the popular culture category (Boing Boing, Post Secret, and maybe the Chinese language one at number ten which I have no idea about), two are oriented towards people interested in gadgets, and the other five are blogs about American politics.

Iraq war aside, American domestic politics (Alito nomination, Tom De Lay scandal, etc. etc.) gets very little coverage in the "MSM" outside the US. Therefore the fact that five of the top ten most popular blogs on Technorati are about American politics shows that either a vast majority of the blog consumers are Americans keen on politics or that coverage of American domestic politics is something sorely in demand by citizens of other countries left unsatisfied by the sparse coverage in their national print media.

Actually a strict interpretation of Technorati's ranking mechanism means that what this actually means is that when people who write blogs ("bloggers", if you will) link to content on other blogs (let's not forget that Technorati doesn't count traditional sites in it's ranking, except in the separate news ranking which is also American-domestic-news-heavy) a lot of them link to American domestic political news.

Looking at the top 50 sites as a sample reveals some interesting (and perhaps even meaningless) stats:

37 of the 50 are English language
9 of the 50 are Chinese language
3 are Japanese language
1 is Spanish

Of the nine Chinese blogs, all of them are on MSN Spaces.
Of the top 50 blogs, none of the non-Chinese blogs are on MSN Spaces.

Of the 37 English language blogs, 12 are about American domestic politics (and another one, "Igf", is a disturbing blog which seems to be one long rant about the various political situations in the Middle East with a distinctly anti-Arab slant).

The number of sites linking to these blogs falls from ~19 thousand for the number one blog, Boing Boing, to ~five thousand for the number ten blog, to ~three thousand for the number 50 blog, to ~two thousand for the number 100 blog. Is this the "long tail" in action? A handful of extremely popular/interesting blogs and then a few hundred ones of interest to various sub-demographics?

With nine of the top 50 blogs being Chinese, does this indicate the rise of a parallel internet of Chinese language content? One that is unintelligible to most non-Chinese internet users? Also, what does the popularity of MSN Spaces with the most linked Chinese bloggers mean? Are Chinese internet users getting into blogging through msn messenger? (On my own buddy list I'm noticing more and more people start to use MSN Spaces, some for uploading photos, some for blogging as well)
If we were to look at a broader sample of blogs, would we find the trend similar for most people who have started a blog in the last year or two? Certainly the "My MSN Space" button in MSN Messenger is a great way to give people easy access to their blog, and advertising peoples' blogs through their buddy list contact cards helps spread the meme of blogging like a worm through the international MSN Messenger web of buddies.

There are still lots of unanswered questions about the blogging market and medium such as "Why does it matter to anyone other people who advertise on blogs or own a blogging company?" (to which I answer "Touché") and "Who cares about stupid blogs anyway?". These thoughts I've posted here are my off-the-cuff observations late in the evening on having a bored glance through the Technorati popular blogs. Wan an.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The annoyance of getting a taxi from Delhi airport

Sonia Faleiro writes about her experience getting a taxi from Mumbai airport. At first read I could have sworn she was writing about getting a taxi from Delhi airport. It's the exact same experience.

The first-time international traveller to Delhi, unless they have a driver waiting, will nearly always makes the rookie mistake of assuming that they can just walk out the arrivals gate and find a taxi rank. They assume at the taxi rank it will be just like Dublin airport, or Budapest airport, or Mexico City airport where someone is on hand to wave a taxi in and kindly ask you where you want to go and help you put your luggage in the boot and send you on your way with a clean and sober driver.

The reality is there is no taxi rank. If you do pass the money exchange and walk into the arrivals hall, you are landed in India with a couple of men clamouring for your attention asking you "Which hotel?" "Hello, how are you?" "First time in India?" (that last one is Hindi for "Just how gullible are you?"). Their friendliness is merely a sales pitch for a very expensive taxi journey. Don't assume that just because it is expensive you will be driven in a nice car.. you won't. And don't assume because you have told the driver which hotel you are staying in, that you will be brought there. They may decide other hotels pay a better commission and bring you there instead, insisting your hotel is closed or burnt down or was merely a figment of your imagination.

If, on the other hand, you pick up your luggage after getting through immigration and think "Ok, I'll keep my eyes peeled for some sort of tourist information desk or taxi booking desk" you'll spot the taxi booking desk just beyond the customs check. Delhi airport is actually very open plan, you can see the luggage belts from the immigration queue, and can see the arrivals hall from the luggage belts.

At the taxi booking desk you'll find one or two women who make the bookings, and a dozen or so various hangers on and taxi drivers. Once you indicate your desire to book a taxi, one or two of these hangers on (you could call them porters in that they carry your luggage but that really would give you a mental image of someone much neater, tidier, and trustworthy) will take your luggage from you. You won't see your luggage again until it's in the boot of the taxi and the porter is standing there explaining how the exchange rate is 50 rupees to one dollar and therefore since one dollar is such a small amount you should give them one dollar of a tip. There are very poor people in India who live on less than one dollar a day. That should give you some indication of how much of a tip 50 rupees is when you think "How much money would someone poor in need to survive for a day?" and imagine giving that amount to a porter in your own country as a tip.

When you have stated where you want to go and paid the requested amount to one of the women in the taxi booth, she will give you a slip of paper which you are supposed to give to the taxi driver once you reach your destination so that he can prove that he didn't kill you before bringing you to where you wanted to go. Funnily enough, one Delhi airport taxi driver did actually kill an Australian woman about a year ago. He was out of his head on drugs at the time apparently, and the booking system allowed the police to capture him fairly quickly. This goes back to what I said above, you expect a clean and sober driver. Delhi airport taxi drivers are usually neither of these things.

The good news is that there are apparently plans to extend the Delhi metro to the airport. That would be great for both Delhi citizens and local and foreign travellers by taking the monopoly out of the hands of the taxi interests.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BusinessWeek goes online, Fortune goes free

Following on from my post yesterday, just a quick bit of news: Fortune, Business 2.0, and Money are putting all their content online for FREE.

I said yesterday that there was plenty of good content online for free, now there's even more. I'll still read Fortune in print though, and happily pay money for it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

BusinessWeek abandons its international editions

Rest assured I was on the internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.

Ok so "abandon" is a strong word, what they're doing is moving the international content to their website and stopping printing the international editions. All subscriptions to the international editions will be cancelled and subscribers will be given refunds or given accounts on the businessweek website where they can view the relocated content.

The editorial gives three reasons:
  • BusinessWeek's online readership has "exploded" and "many" of the readers have told BusinessWeek that they read the content online before the printed edition arrives at their doors.

  • The only way to "efficiently reach an expanding class of business reader everywhere and especially in emerging markets" is "with digital delivery".

  • BusinessWeek "can develop a real conversation with you online and accommodate your interests" via blogs, podcasts, yadda yadda...

They are all good reasons so I'll give two main reasons why I'm not sure I'll bother to continue paying money to BusinessWeek if it means that a subscription only gives me access to their content via a computer.

  • I already spend at least eight hours a day in front of a computer, I don't want to spend another four hours or so reading BusinessWeek content. One of the things I like(d) about BusinessWeek offline is being able to relax at home and read it without having to look at a computer screen. Or read it on the bus, or in a cafe, or on a park bench.. You get the idea.

  • There is already a lot of similar online content (e.g. BBC, Om Malik, etc.) which is well written and.. free. I like BusinessWeek's content a lot but I'm not sure I could justify paying €X a month for content which doesn't differentiate itself enough and which I may not read every month due to time constraints (I'm not in front of my computer when I'm in bed or in front of the tv or on the bus.. these are all times when I can read an "offline" edition).

I find the emerging markets point funny because these (BRIC, Poland, Egypt, Turkey, etc.) are countries where widespread internet access is not as easy to come by as in most Western countries. And yet getting rid of the printed international editions of BusinessWeek is supposed to increase their access to business consumers in those countries?

I started out reading BusinessWeek by buying it in airport newsagents as something to read on the plane. I have an interest in international business and current affairs and its content is great, informative and interesting, but I wonder how young business people and business students will find out about BusinessWeek now that it will no longer (I assume? Or will they hawk the American edition in the newsagents of Dublin, Warsaw, and Beijing?) be available on newsagent shelves?

I don't feel sorry for BusinessWeek, they've made their decision and they'll prosper or perish by it. I feel sorry for myself, because I've lost my subscription to what was a great offline read.

Monday, January 02, 2006

"anti-RSS hype"


Scoble wrote yesterday, in a post titled "The anti-RSS hype", that there's an anti-RSS thread going on at Slashdot (which I don't read myself because it looks so ugly and hard to read). The thread was started because Yahoo and Ipsos did a survey which found that only 4% of users are using RSS.

Scoble is pretty dismissive of this and compares anti-RSS heads to the people who failed to predict the rise of the personal compuer and the people who failed to predict the rise of the GUI.

(Incidentally if you don't know what RSS is then here's a definition)

Now while I'm a fan of blogs, I have to disagree with Scoble's anti-hype hype. First of all, were personal computers and GUIs as hyped as blogs are before they broke into the mainstream? I haven't studied much computing history so someone else is going to have to tell me the answer to that, but I can't imagine they were that hyped?

Secondly, Scoble says in his post
In the meantime, you try to read 743 Web sites in a browser.

Who has the time to read 743 web sites at all? Whether using an RSS feed or using a browser? RSS feeds automate collecting the content, but you still have to read it and follow the links and so on. I don't have time to read blogs daily. Scoble himself writes at least five articles every weekday. Not all of us are paid to publish and read blog content all day long.

I think blogs are useful, and RSS as a way of making it easier to track many blogs is a very useful tool. I think it's not something most internet users need though. How many internet users want to go through a large amount of content online on a daily basis? Most users want to read and write emails, chat with friends, and go online for specific tasks such as uploading photos, searching for jobs, searching for quiz answers, etc.

It's too early to dismiss RSS but equally I think it's too early to dismiss the doubters.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year resolution week

I only remembered around midnight last night that I should think up some new year's resolutions. In a hurry I scribbled down some resolutions which I lifted from the "lifer" part of my ongoing To Do list. These are the things you mean to do but require a level of commitment which makes them hard to stick with. On top of that they're goals which you can't just do in one go, they're not discrete actions which you can do in one day or a few hours.

So my New Year's resolutions include improving my Chinese, Hindi, and Spanish. Heh... will I actually act on any of those resolutions? Only time will tell..
There's a host of other langauges I want to learn but have decided to just focus on improving the languages that I have a slight grasp of already, as opposed to ones where I literally only have the cúpla focail (like Russian and Japanese).

In the meantime, I've decided that this coming week will be my "New Year Resolution week" where I reflect on what I want from 2006 and make some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic, Timely) resolutions.

On a slight tangent, I just googled "SMART" to make sure I had the right words and I note that various websites seem to use different words for the 'A' and 'T' but agree on the rest. Wikipedia disagrees with me and other websites on the 'R'. What do other people think SMART stands for?

Wow.. I wonder if my blogging style will ever vary from rambling babble :o)

Can I have FeedBurner style?

I setup my blog on FeedBurner today. FeedBurner acts as sort of a proxy for any RSS feeds to your blog. By sitting in the middle it can log details such as where the visitor came from and what browser/aggregator they are using to view your feed. What can I say, I like stats :o)

Anyway, I looked at my blog as presented at FeedBurner, and I much prefer that style to the style I have on Blogger at the moment! Only thing is it's missing the comments links (it's just a feed and they don't include the comments) so I'll put up with my blog style for now. That FeedBurner style looks a lot easier to read to me though.

Can Mass be made better?

Despite the stereotype I've sometimes encountered abroad, most young Irish people don't go to mass every Sunday. This is for various reasons; some don't believe in God, some like the ol' Sunday morning lie-in, some don't want to participate in the Catholic religion (because they have a different faith or are developing their own personal faith). However I think there are some young people who would go if mass was just.. more interesting.

In asking how can mass be made better, I mean how can it be made more interesting and engaging for people. Not just young people but the congregation as a whole.

There are obvious answers: Hold the premieres of big Hollywood films at mass, replace the priest with a celebrity (can you imagine receiving communion off Scarlett Johansson or Colin Farrell?), replace communion bread with a nice fry. These answers aren't quite in keeping with the tone and intention of mass though. So, within the boundaries of taste and respecting the solemnity of the church, how can mass be made more interesting?

I think (from my own personal experience) one thing that can be improved straight away is the presentation skills of the priest. Maybe the Church should require that all priests get involved in Toastmasters so that they become better at writing engaging and interesting sermons. Sometimes the sermons which priests read out sound very much like rote sermons, discussing the holiness of the particular time of year but without really engaging the congregation or keeping them interested.

The atmosphere in the church is also something which contributes to a mass I think. The larger the audience, the more there's a sort of communal feeling which contributes to the experience that everyone has. For masses where there is a smaller attendance maybe there should be smaller churches or a different format for the mass to reinforce that community feeling.

Any other suggestions on how to make mass more interesting for those that would be attracted to the sprituality but put off by the boring-ness of mass?