A Certain Shade of Green

Now available: reviews on music, art, fiction and film. STATUTORY WARNING: May induce nausea, enlightenment, nirvana, or all of the above.

my new blogs January 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 1:03 am

I’ve always loved tumblelogs. Short and sweet focused posts on nicely designed templates – a winning formula in my book. I used to actively update my first tumblelog, which I’m currently resurrecting. I’ve also started two new ones – one for my tech/web/download/gadget findings, and one for my photography. Check them out!

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Jimmy Wales in Bangalore January 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 5:23 pm
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Jimmy Wales in Bangalore 2008

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, was in Bangalore (13 Dec, ’08, at the Bangalore International Centre), to talk about the world’s favourite free encyclopedia, and what we can expect from it in the near future. I’m a huge fan of Wikipedia not just because one can find information on just about anything, but also because of the way it works. In my mind, Wikipedia represents the future of knowledge, in that it adds the element of knowledge being freely available to anyone regardless of his/her background. It’s a step, in a larger sense, in allowing everyone an equal footing.

Jimmy spoke at length about a number of topics for over an hour, including the ideation and working of Wikipedia, its current growth, how he sees it panning out over the next few years, Wikipedia in languages other than English, Wikipedia in India, and so on. I wasn’t surprised to learn that its the 4th most popular website in the world, or that Wikipedia has articles in over 250 languages. However, what intrigued me most were the questions I’ve had for some time about the site: how credible is Wikipedia? And will Wikipedia adapt to the expectations people have of Web 3.0?

Jimmy answered the first question by saying that articles on selected topics from both Wikipedia and Brittanica were analysed by experts in those fields, and they found Brittanica articles to have an average of 3 errors per article, while Wikipedia articles had 4. He also said that the interesting thing is not how the two compare, but how each party reacted: Brittanica attempted to file a lawsuit citing the study to be a defamatory exercise, while Wikipedia users asked for a list of the errors so that they could go fix them. I believe that this says a lot about society is slowly beginning to see knowledge as less of a commodity and as more of a right.

As to the next question, I have an idea myself. If the web is going to get more semantic, it should understand your needs and objectives, and give you the information you want. So let’s take a scenario: Wikipedia can have an article on guitar pickups, which is accessed by people from various backgrounds (an accountant with a passing interest in guitars, a musician, an engineer, etc.). Each individual will want different parts of the article – one person may want just the basics, another may want news on the latest happenings in the world of pickups, and yet another may want to know about the workings of a pickup. Wikipedia already has version tracking – this allows anyone to see all the changes that have been made to an article. This feature could be expanded to include tags for each change, which define what the change entails. For example, if someone writes a paragraph about the working of a pickup, he/she could tag the change appropriately, and based on a user’s preferences,browsing history and a trace of how he/she has reached that page, the appropriate information can be displayed.

The Q&A session answered most of my other questions, related to controversial topics, edit wars and so on. I’m glad that Wikipedia is growing as fast as it is, given that this is exactly what we need – for knowledge to turn into a freely available resource – in order to progress as an intellectual society.¬†

The Bangalore International Centre hosts lots of interesting events, so be sure to check out their website, as well as Time Out Bangalore for more listings. I’d like to conclude with a video of Jimmy Wales speaking about Wikipedia at TED.

Images Copyright Bangalore International Centre and Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
 

Stuff it August 15, 2008

Filed under: Blogroll,social — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 11:00 am
Tags: , ,

It’s not outdated until you’ve seen it, understood it, and started acting on it. Annie Leonard’s short film, The Story of Stuff (released Dec 4 ’07), explains the process of consumption as we know it and the problems associated with the massive growth in our habit of acquiring, well, stuff.
The 20-minute film shows the gritty side of how corporations go about obtaining resources, manufacturing products, fuelling mindless consumption, consumers’ careless trashing of ‘obsolete’ products, and destructive disposal. It’s simple, and eye-opening, to the point that I began to wonder where I fit into this with my career in advertising.
Leonard tells her story with a simple diagram which in its design itself shows us the basic problem: the above-mentioned processes are all in a linear system. Products start out as natural resources and end up being consumed and finally incinerated, with no point of renewing what is being used up. On a finite-resources planet. Not the smartest move we ever made.
The part I found most interesting was the one on industrialist-engineered planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence. It’s chilling to know that there are people out there thinking about how to integrate this into everything you buy. Surely this adds fuel to the already-raging ‘the-corporations-own-us’ fire. My worry is that it’s actually beginning to make some sense.
After I watched the film, I started to think about how much I contribute to this system (Leonard essentially deals with US consumption statistics and patterns), since, even if we’re not American, we’re no angels. I’ve noticed that my buying habits with respect to products subject to obsolescence are more beat-the-system-ish rather than careful: I try to buy electronics with replaceable parts, with all the features that I know I’ll use, and which are future-proof to a reasonable extent. All so that I don’t have to run to the store the minute a new model comes out (I commented on my brother’s blog post about wanting to get an iPhone 3G, read my comment here). So in essence, I’m buying less, but not out of my concern for the planet. Another issue is that those of us in other countries are trying to emulate the lifestyles of people in the US. (Un)Consciously, we’re buying more cars than we have passengers for and pocketing more phones than people want to call us on.
The Story of Stuff is a great way to start learning about the dangers of our ways of consumption and disposal. It’s a matter of grave concern, but there are so many things we can do to stop things from getting further out of hand. To start with, download the film, watch it, and tell others about it too. Link and trailer below.

 

Funny or Die October 12, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 7:16 pm

I just stumbled upon this great site that has funny shorts featuring a variety of celebrities including Bill Murray and Will Ferell. Do check out The Landlord.

 

stargazer September 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 6:43 am
Tags: , ,

Shifting shapes in the sky
Always fascinate her at night
Sparkling eyes take in the sight
Shining stars feeding her light

She’s a stargazer
Heavenly bodies in her eyes
Stargazer
Lines to go before she sleeps

She sees constellations
In her scattered powder
Names The Great Bear, The Twins
Before she inhales the white

She’s a stargazer
Heavenly bodies in her eyes
Stargazer
Lines to go before she sleeps

twitch

—————-
Now playing: Zero 7 – Home

 

Laughter, the best medicine September 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 6:10 pm

It’s been three days already and my flu has refused to leave me. However, that hasn’t stopped me from living my semi-life. For those of you not in the loop, this includes reading my RSS feeds, cranking up some tunes, and discovering dark, damp corners of the fair city of Bangalore.

I’m currently reading the most recent title in the Adrian Mole series, which sees our inimitable protagonist in his 30s, living life like an awkward adolescent but never quite seeing the big picture. Sue Townsend is one of the great comic geniuses of our time, in my opinion. And speaking of comics, I’ve been watching a lot of great stand-up comedy lately. I really enjoy the specials on Comedy Central. If you’re looking to get in on the action, start with greats such as Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock (notice a trend here, you racist?). You can then move on some more recent comics like Lewis Black, Gabriel Iglesias, Aron Kader, Maz Jobrani, Demetri Martin and Frank Caliendo. What I love about stand-up is the various elements that make up an act. There’s a nice article here that puts things in perspective.

A good comic will try and establish a consisent character, even if it’s himself being natural. Next, he/she runs through a set of jokes, and the stronger the connections between each the better. One of my favourite techniques in stand-up is the callback, where a comic refers to a joke he made earlier in his set later on in a different context. Murphy does a really good job of this.

You know what else is funny? Miss Teen South Carolina.

But that’s not half as killing as the animated explanation to her response to a question in the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant. America, we salute you.

 

Vista-schmista March 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 1:19 pm

Windows Vista is supposed to be the greatest thing to happen to the PC since, well, Windows xp. For most people who choose to upgrade, they’re not going to see much of a difference from xp, save for some cosmetic changes. That’s fine, especially since we had Windows Me, which didn’t really have anything new to offer. So I guess Vista could be written off as another embodiment of the trend over at Redmond. But what really gets me is that the company is also boasting better performance, faster-running applications and so on.
Well, of course you’ll have better performance! Vista needs a machine with lots of processing power, RAM and hard disk space (did someone say 14GB?) to run smoothly. With that kind of rig, xp would do quite well, too. So Vista is no miracle from the sky, even with all their new managed code and API. If Vista would run on my current PC, started up Photoshop in 5 seconds, burned a DVD in 1 minute, and took up less space than xp, then I’d upgrade. Right now, I don’t think its even worth taking the time to pirate.