Archive for October, 2012

Some Local Sights

October 21, 2012 1 comment


Today I took a bit of a walk – 3 kms out and 3 kms back – to look around near where I live.  To the west of me is Koregaon Park, somewhere I know pretty well now, an upscale area (for Pune) of restaurants and shops.  Today I headed east to see what I could see.

There was no shortage of livestock out today. Here a young man was leading a herd of goats. Goat-meat here is called mutton; in US, UK and most western countries we take mutton to be sheep or older lamb.


I saw many buffalos as well, like this large specimen browsing at some trash:


These animals just burst out into traffic, I had to scramble to get a shot as they galloped by:


(Where they ran out of was the access road to the Hard Rock Café.  Perhaps they know something about the culinary practices there that we don’t?)

This station was setup on an empty stretch of the road, apparently a service provided by the government:


An impressive list of ailments, to be sure.  None of the locals seemed to be interested, however.

I passed a playground, with kids playing, and older women in saris sitting by and watching:


A more common sight is this, where kids in humbler surroundings play with whatever is to hand: stones, sticks, an old tire:


About half-way out on my jaunt I saw this lady:


I expect she was coming from the market, which I reached just a bit further on:


There were many fruits and vegetables here, and doubtless more workaday goods in the lanes and stalls further back.

Anyone who comes here will quickly get used to billboards like this:


I have to say I find the juxtaposition of these fantasies of luxury with the day to day reality of corrugated metal lean-tos and goats in the backyard to be more than a little jarring.  I’ll have to do a post dedicated to this; like the sentiment above, “Only the attitude is real”, these Indian ads intensely emphasize pampering yourself, that you deserve luxury, and that indulgence is good.

I’ll close with another ad I saw, one a bit more practical:


Now that is real.

Categories: Expat life, Pictures Tags:

A Visit to Seoul

October 19, 2012 2 comments


This week saw me on a work trip to Seoul, S. Korea.  The work part was very productive, but the highlight was the hospitality, including dining on Korean barbeque.  Above is a long table of various IBM colleagues.  The silver tubes are chimneys that take away the smoke of the barbeque.


Here’s a close-up look.  What’s grilling here is pork cheeks.  The fire is actual charcoal that when brought to your table is bright cherry-red with heat.  When the morsels get to the desired level of crispiness, you grab 1 or 2 with chopsticks, dab with salt, wrap in a lettuce leaf or a perilla leaf, maybe add some spicy bean paste, then munch away.  Other accompaniments: braised sweet potato, similar to this recipe; gyeran jjim, a steamed egg custard kind of like Japanese chawanmushi; and of course several kinds of kimchii.

And lest I forget, all is washed down with liberal amounts of beer and soju, the rice wine of Korea.

So as much as I’m enjoying the cuisine of my adopted home, India, this trip was much welcomed by my carnivorous side.  I’m hopeful I’ll be back before too many months go by.

Categories: Pictures, Travel Tags: ,

What is Social Communications? Part I: People who talk to People.

October 16, 2012 3 comments

prarie-dog-3The current buzz in the unified communications industry is that UC is itself undergoing a transformation, to social communications. In a previous post I talked about the explicit/immediate nature of realtime communications and how that complements the asynchronous nature of social applications like wikis and activities. But the mood of the industry isn’t that UC and social will be side by side, it is that there’s a new thing called social communications — for example, the "VOIP Now" LinkedIn group I belong to changed its name to "Social Unified Communications". More bluntly, ModelMetrics asks, Is Unified Communications Dead?

Let’s look at what some analysts say. Forrester describes the UC –> SC transition like so:

… a new generation of social enterprise apps will finally deliver the productivity businesses desire by systematically grouping and rating people, information, and processes required to answer business needs. By creating a social layer between information workers and the applications and communications infrastructure, social enterprise apps will overcome the adoption malaise that has affected UC&C.

The nugget here is there’s a "social layer" that makes UC more consumable. Gartner, some time back in its "Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2011" called out a category of Social Communications and Collaboration, consisting of 4 components: Social networking — profile and social-graph capabilities; Social publishing — capabilities like communities and feeds that enable social dissemination of content; Social feedback — ratings services and opinion tracking; and, Social Collaboration — blogs, wikis, file sharing, plus all the functions we know and love as part of UC … instant messaging, online meetings, VOIP, video and more. The net here is, again, that UC gets value out of being part of a larger social machine.

prarie-dog-2What I can’t tell from this sort of description is whether "social communications" is really anything new, or is just plain ol’ UC with a bunch of social stuff around it. I do think if we’re all going to be using this social communications stuff we ought to start putting down what that means. I get that an IM will always be an IM and a video a video, but there has to be something substantial about social communications, apart from the name.

So, where to start? Seems to me the first place where SC diverges from UC is in organizing and finding people to communicate with. I think we all naturally get that social is about people — it’s who your friends are and who their friends are, and so on. The social graph is what gives social its power — when our network of contacts provides links or other content we generally will be interested, because we tend to like or be interested in the same things our friends like/are interested in.

A social communications capability has to leverage this. First, instead of its own static and unconnected list of people, SC needs to work with the network or networks you already use. Second it has to show you context from those networks — it’s not enough to see the name, you have to see that person’s last post, their last microblog, or their last location. And last, it has to give you access to not just your contacts, but to people in the extended network — for example people who are not your friends (yet) but who respond to your friends’ posts.

Don’t forget that wherever people are, some scheme for privacy is needed. IM products have created a lot of features here; for example in Sametime you can define white-lists — lists if people explicitly permitted to talk to you — or black-lists — lists of people who are blocked from talking to you. We still need that, but we also need to extend these concepts to recognize the social graph — for example I might say my friends and friends of friends can always contact me, but those who are 3rd order contacts and higher get a different experience, perhaps triggering some opt-in prompt asking if I want to grant them access.

To sum up, for a system to provide social communications there has to be some way to leverage the social graph – there’s power in your network and that power needs to be harnessed to help you communicate.  In future posts I’ll be looking at other defining properties of SC – meanwhile don’t hesitate to share your comments on this or other UC topics.


[[Today’s social animal is the prairie dog, renowned as a communicator.  Some researchers have found evidence that the warning barks of prairie dogs comprise a simple language.]]

Buffalos in the Streets

October 14, 2012 4 comments



Out doing some errands yesterday saw these cows – or buffalo, actually.  I came upon several other small herds walking the streets, one quite close to IBM buildings in downtown Pune.

Folks from US ask me this all the time – “Are there really cows walking around all over?”  Yes there are, but in the city at least they are not free-ranging.  They have caretakers who look after them, is the best I can say.  A common sight in the outer districts is a cow or cows browsing through trash piles for scraps.  Also there is a difference between cows, which are mostly white, and buffalos like those above which are black or dark brown.   The cows are the most sacred beasts, while buffalos are working animals.

I don’t yet understand everything going on here, but a few searches will show you there is considerable conflict centered on the cow, as seen in this example article.

Categories: Expat life, Pictures Tags: