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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unfortunately, links to categories, pictures uploaded and permalinks to posts will be broken here, as Radio Userland has closed down.

New Blog URL - http://dinamehta.com/
Subscribe via RSS 2.0 - http://dinamehta.com/feed/
Subscribe via Atom - http://dinamehta.com/feed/atom/
Comments feed - http://dinamehta.com/comments/feed/

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Monday, October 8, 2007

This is my last post on this blog. Radio Userland has served me well since I started blogging in 2003. I will post more details on the transition, at my new blog - for now I just wanted to make this announcement, and provide the new url and feeds.

New Blog URL - http://dinamehta.com/
Subscribe via RSS 2.0 - http://dinamehta.com/feed/
Subscribe via Atom - http://dinamehta.com/feed/atom/
Comments feed - http://dinamehta.com/comments/feed/

The new blog will also be called Conversations with Dina - it's just a new blogging platform - but the same old blog! I do hope you continue reading and feeding it.

My old blog will be archived at its old url (http://radio.weblogs.com/0121664/) and I will keep the archives going. Stuart, who has worked out the platform for Conversations with Dina on Wordpress has done some neato hacks - one that I love a lot is that the search function will not just search the new blog archives, but also my old Radio blog archives. And he has managed to transfer some of my posts over too. That's so cool!!! Lots more needs doing there ... and that will emerge I'm sure.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A picture named 7610 black.jpgWhile on mobile phones, just last month, I got the cover for my Nokia 7610 changed - my three year old white cover was badly bruised. I was in Delhi and went to a small shop which had all the latest models of phones. That's where I got a good look at the N73. I also looked at the N93 - it is a very clunky phone.

Anyway, back to the new cover - the shop owner first showed me a black case with a really good-looking blue streak on it for Rs.350 (about 8 USD). Despite much tugging and pushing, it did not fit well. I was quite surprised with what he did next - he took out a brand new 7610 box - it was sealed - he opened the seal - took off the casing of the phone, and gave it to me. I had to pay double the price of course, as it is an 'original' in his words. When I asked him how he would sell that phone, he said no worries, he'd fit another cover on it. Am sure he'd sell that one as the 'original' too!!!

And a bonus offer for me - he wanted to buy back my phone which is now almost three years old for Rs.6000 (approx 135 USD). Not bad .. I should have taken him up on it - little did I know I'd get the N73 so soon!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

...... isn't so bad.  Not when you get a brand new cell phone - the Nokia N73!  :):):) (apologies Jabberwock, but I can't help feeling like a smiley person).  

I haven't played with my new phone much yet ...  but I love the large screen, the sliding cover over the lens and flash, and the photo slide-show function which I played with on a friend's phone - it was just awesome.  The phone part of it is just fine - its become a necessity today and there is little differentiation between models on that front (this isn't wifi-enabled though). And it feels great having a real digicam ready-to-shoot, in your pocket 24/7.  (Their website states "Inspiration can come to you anytime"). I can't wait until I start clicking away.
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Here's a detailed review by  Ken Camp, with some drawbacks highlighted.

And I love the tagline in the N73 ad - "the future of photography is connected" - it clearly re-positions cell phones... ooops digicams.  Smart!

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Friday, November 3, 2006

Interesting ... YouTube plans to go mobile by the end of 2007. While you can upload videos via a mobile phone, this will allow you to view videos on-the-go. Mobile TV :)

I wonder what the mobile carriers feel about this. As a user I see it as a simple equation ... I pay for access to the internet ... what I choose to do with this access is my business and not theirs!

Update .. I just found this neat piece by Paul Whitaker called The quagmire of YouTube mobile which sets out scenarios for YouTube mobile!

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

"A new report from the firm says the portion of low-cost handsets with basic cameras is high enough that, during the next 10 years, "hundreds of millions" of Chinese and Indians not only will have their first phone experience via a wireless handset, but also their first camera experience." TelecomWeb.

This is so true .. it is amazing how often you see youngsters particularly taking quick pictures with their cam phones and sending them to friends via SMS and bluetooth. Stuart, in a series of observations on India, shares his experiences observing camera phone usage in India:

"Now imagine a world where no one growing up had a camera. Where photos were taken at a wedding, relegated to studio shots for the rich, or Bollywood snaps appearing in the press. In a gross generalization, photography in India was 50 or 60 years behind the rest of the world until the mobile phone arrived."

"....Each time I frequent one I'm always seeing people taking pictures. They pass the phone around. They take them with each other's phones. They display a real delight of just discovering photography and they just keep on snapping. Camera phones will impact society differently here. There was no progression from a camera. The mobile phone for many, is their first camera. They never learned to shoot with film or the constraints and expense of film. They never looked through a viewfinder. Photography for them starts on a device that is better at shorter distances. They are learning photography in a digital age. As a result India is about to experience an outpouring of imagery."

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

A great transformation story - For India's Traditional Fishermen, Cellphones Deliver a Sea Change.- by Kevin Sullivan at the Washington Post. [link via Bala Pitchandi]

Two excerpts:

"Rajan said that before he got his first cellphone a few years ago, he used to arrive at port with a load of fish and hope for the best. The wholesaler on the dock knew that Rajan's un-iced catch wouldn't last long in the fiery Indian sun. So, Rajan said, he was forced to take whatever price was offered -- without having any idea whether dealers in the next port were offering twice as much. Now he calls several ports while he's still at sea to find the best prices, playing the dealers against one another to drive up the price.

New Balance of Power

Rajan said the dealers don't necessarily like the new balance of power, but they are paying better prices to him and thousands of other fishermen who work this lush stretch of coastline. "They are forced to give us more money because there is competition," said Rajan, who estimated that his income has at least tripled to an average of $150 a month since 2000, when cellphones began booming in India. He said he is providing for his family in ways that his fisherman father never could, including a house with electricity and a television."


"Rajan's phone rang a half-dozen times in a half-hour, with calls from dealers in different ports, buyers and other boat captains. Rajan talked quickly and kept hauling. When most of the net was in, the crew used small nets to scoop the fish from the water and dump them into the 45-foot open boat that is towed behind the Andavan.

By 3 p.m., the open boat was loaded with fish and the Andavan turned toward port, an hour away. Standing on the deck soaked with sweat, Rajan started returning phone calls. He dialed the number of the wholesale agent at his home port, who offered about $13 for each 110-pound box of fish -- about 12 cents a pound.

Rajan agreed to the deal. He said if his load had been bigger and it had been earlier in the day, he would have called around to check prices at other ports. But he said for a smallish load late in the day, the first price offered was fair. And he said the dealer was forced to offer a decent price, knowing that Rajan could still go elsewhere. As insurance, Rajan returned the call of the other dealer who had called him, just to keep good relations for another day.

Rajan said that without his phone, his catch might have gone to waste. Because he called ahead to the port, buyers there knew that he was coming, what kind of fish he had and the size of his catch. In the past, Rajan said, he would sometimes arrive at port late in the day only to find that all the buyers had gone home, unaware that another boat was coming. His catch would go unsold, and he and his crew would go unpaid."

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So finally mobile operators in India wake up to the power and the money-spinning potential of blogging and social networking.

The Economic Times this morning has an article - 'Now, mobile phones invade the blogosphere' with service opearators like Reliance and Idea Cellular offering up moblogging sites.

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"Reliance Communications (RCL) is set to be the first operator to host a blogging site in India. "Our subscribers, who have MMS and video capability, will be able to send blog entries using mobile telephones. In case of other phones, only text blogging is possible," Mahesh Prasad, president - Reliance World, told ET.

RCL has partnered with the Hyderabad-based mobile content provider IMI Mobile for moblogging. RCL will charge Rs 5 per MMS/SMS for posting a blog. Users will have to MMS picture or video to 1234 with the keyword 'mblog' and they will be automatically registered on mblog. A return SMS specifies the user's password and the website URL for her blog.

"Bloggers can have a 'buddy list' specified from the phonebook, which can include both Reliance and non-Reliance subscribers so that everytime a blog is posted, they get an SMS alert informing them to check out the specified URL," he explained. To view the blog, one has to visit www.relianceinfo.com/mblog and key in their password. "The community of bloggers is growing. We want to ensure that pictures taken on mobiles are not left just in the phone."

".... Idea Cellular is offering moblogging through mygamma.com, a mobile networking community. Idea users can log on to this website and upload their pictures and messages and share ringtones. The service can be subscribed to for Rs 10 for a week or Rs 25 for two weeks (with online points). The company receives around 3,000 renewals every month for this service."

Earlier this year, Nokia launched Nokia M-Blog for GPRS-enabled N-series mobile phone users - however this may be restricted as you need GPRS to moblog.

The Hindu had a review of rediffiland, the first Indian portal to offer moblogging, a short while ago:

With technology like this, no government can ever hope to gag or throttle public opinion, or restrict it within its own boundaries. The Moblog knows no boundaries. Indians could read about Moblogs, but had difficulty in experiencing the excitement, because most free blog services are not tailored for direct uploading from mobile devices. All that has changed this month with the inauguration by India's pioneering portal, Rediff, of a special site tailored for mobile blogging. The site can be accessed at www.rediffiland.com. Once you have registered at the site, you can use your mobile phone to create your own Moblog, by SMSing the desired text. Mobloggers will also have the added advantage that they can reach the huge audience of Rediff's regular viewers numbering around 40 million. Right now, the Rediff Moblog service is in beta or test stage, and is free to use. There is even the possibility that Rediff might share revenue with bloggers who drive traffic to their sites. That may or may not happen, but the ability to create your own personal blog content is now only an SMS away."

And Mobylog seems to have taken off too.

Om Malik, who feels camera phones are the biggest opportunity to make money, has been saying "any company that makes it simple and easy for users to upload their photos directly from a phone to their website/weblog, will find itself in the cat bird seat."

Veer Bothra, our Mobile Pundit, feels:"With mobiles in India having four times the population of PCs, it is natural that the growth in blogging would be driven by mobile blogs or moblogs."

I'd be interested to see whether these moblog opportunities build communities around sharing, and how. And how they deal with communication that is so essential in a social community - read Robert Young's feature on The Future of Social networks - Communication - where he says "The value of the wall (at MySpace) points to a very important dimension of building and running any web property that's driven by community...that communications ultimately serves as the anchor feature and the driver of retention and growth"

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I discovered and enjoyed a series of qualitative user research reports by Nokia researcher Jan Chipchase, who takes some amazing photographs and blogs them with observations at Future Perfect. [link via Chetan Kunte via Adaptive Path]

Interesting to read about informal repair cultures in India and China ..

A picture named Nokia_RepairCultures_vFinal-thumb.jpg"What sets these locations apart from cities in more 'emerged' markets? Aside from the scale of what's on sale there is a thriving market for device repair services ranging from swapping out components to re-soldering circuit boards to reflashing phones in a language of your choice , naturally. Repairs are often carried out with little more than a screwdriver, a toothbrush (for cleaning contact points) the right knowledge and a flat surface to work on. Repair manuals (which appear to be reverse engineered) are available, written in Hindi, English and Chinese and can even be subscribed to, but there is little evidence of them being actively used. Instead many of the repairers rely on informal social networks to share knowledge on common faults, and repair techniques. It's often easier to peer over the shoulder of a neighbour than open the manual itself. Delhi has the distinction of also offering a wide variety of mobile phone repair courses at training institutes such as Britco and Bridco turning out a steady flow of mobile phone repair engineers. To round off the ecosystem wholesalers' offer all the tools required to set up and run a repair business from individual components and circuit board schematics to screwdrivers and software installers."

Not so different from what I had described in this series on culture of business in India.

And more - some observations and insights into non-literate communication practices - wow - this is a staggering fact -
"Everyday many of the 800 million non-literate people in the world use phones and mobile phones to communicate."

"We noted that textually non-literate users of public call offices often took a scrap of paper with a phone number scrawled on it to the owner and asked them to dial the number. This system is open to errors caused by inaccuracy, either because the number was not clearly transcribed, or simply because the paper on which the number was written was worn and faded from being carried.

User interface designers often talk about the user's mental model of a system, and how it maps to the reality of how a device actually functions. It is typical for designers to use metaphors such as the 'desktop' or 'soft keys' to support the building of an accurate model. Textually non-literate users will not have access to textual cues, so their mental model may well be poor. Whilst a poor mental model is not a problem within a limited range of (rote learned) tasks, if and when errors occur users may adopt the wrong strategies to correct the problem. Designers use a myriad of audio, visual and textual cues to support the user's understanding of how the mobile phone works. Literate persons are able to quickly absorb (and subsequently ignore) this textual information and apply the knowledge in practice. A positive outcome reinforces their understanding of how the system works and helps build an accurate mental model. Textually non-literate people are required to make assumptions for the textual prompts based on how the device responds to their actions. A plausibly positive result is sufficient to believe that is how the system works regardless of how well it maps to the actual system."

A picture named mobile-essentials-02-thumb.jpgThere's also a brief report on 'Mobile Essentials - Field Study and Concepting' (download paper, 0.4mb). The paper introduces three interrelated ways to understand human behaviour - centre of gravity, point of reflection and range of distribution.
"The second idea is the Point of Reflection - the moment when leaving a space when you pause current activities turn back into an environment and check you have the mobile essentials. Typically this involves looking at the Center of Gravity, sometimes tapping pockets, sometimes speaking aloud. Not seeing the objects where they are supposed to be (the Center of Gravity) can be a sign that they are already carried."

Great stuff ... and no wonder then that Nokia is always stretching the boundaries of mobile phone usage in India. All images here are from Nokia and Jan's blog ... thanks for sharing these reports and observations ... it is is not what most 'corporates'
believe in or do.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Economic Times reports that Indian Railways has plans to make ticketing via SMS available to its customers:

"Talks are also on with Reliance Infocomm for developing a programme to make ticketing via SMS possible."In India, the penetration of internet is still not as wide as is the penetration of cellular phones. There are over 10 crore [100 million] mobile phone users and this creates a huge opportunity for offering customer conveniences. Ticketing via SMS will save time and effort and can also turn out to be a money churner," a Rail Bhawan official told ET.

Here's what is being planned. A 24/7 call centre will be set up for booking tickets and answering customer queries. Thereafter, once ticketing via SMS is introduced, all it will take to book a ticket is a call to the call centre and a customer identification number. The customer ID will be stored on the computer and the berth and seat number will be SMSed to the buyer. The payment will automatically be credited to the phone bill in case of a post-paid connection or will be deducted from the pre-paid card."


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Friday, June 16, 2006

This is the last in the series of Cultural Insights for doing business in India. Just wanted to say these observations are based on learnings over 18 years of doing qualitative research in India. It's interesting to see how some things have changed, while others remain constant, over generations.

Part 4. Technology Perspectives

  • Technology adoption doesn't always follow trends in the West
    • India is leapfrogging the PC stage - cell phones are becoming our gateway to the internet
    • From no cameras to cam phones - digital cameras are being squeezed out
  • 4.5 million cell phones are added every month, 95 million subscribers in March 2006, 200 million projected in 2010; landlines a little over 50 million
  • Most turn off power to hardware when not in use to save electricity, and avoid power surges due to fluctuations. Less of an 'always on' perspective in India.
  • Belief that cost of technology is dropping - so no point planning purchase in advance.
  • Little DIY - cheap service is available
  • Assembled goods and second hand goods are freely available from the grey market
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  • Upgrading is not a natural habit - the average consumer is not tech savvy, and technology products are usually used until they break. (Exception being cell phones, esp.among youngsters as they can be a status symbol).
  • Upgrading often needs to be driven by buy-back/replacement schemes offered by
  • Choice of brand and model often made by price/discounts/deals
  • Celebrity endorsements rampant for tech products - playing on image and low role of product or features
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  • Trend towards 'all-in-one' gadgets - e.g. cell phone + camera + mp3 player. PCs play multiple roles, for instance as the household DVD player, communication medium, gaming system, etc.
  • Trend towards laptops which is the fastest growing segment - costs dropping, mobility, status associations are key drivers.

The complete series:

Part 1. Culture of Business, Service and Consumption
Part 2. Attitude towards Rules and Regulations
Part 3. Value for Money Equations
Part 4. Technology Perspectives

Many thanks - to all those who have commented and linked to this series of posts - I love the conversations around these issues - keep them coming - and I will add my two-cents shortly!

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Tuesday, June 6, 2006

I found this neat site that compiles statistics on India, called NeonCarrot:

"Following are various stats, facts and figures on telecommunication and the internet in India , picked out of newspapers (mainly Hindustan Times), magazines (mainly India Today), the BBC and various sources on the web. These figures are not meant to be comprehensive lists, but rather statistical trivia or factual snippets. For basic general facts and figures about India as well as several Indian states, please see the Quick Reference popups on the right hand side of this page, or go to the main page of India statistics, facts and figures . For a full list of links to our statistics pages, see the About India index or the bottom of the right navigation bar on this page."

There's a whole section on Indian Telecom and IT sectors - some Internet figures with source are:

- * number of Internet users in India: 2004: 25 million -- Nov 2005: 38.5 million [HT, Jan 2006]
- * number of internet subscribers in India: 6.13 million [IndiaDaily; Jan 2006]
- * Broadband subscribers in India: 835,000 [IndiaDaily; Jan 2006]
- * target of high-speed Internet users by end of 2005: 3 million (not achieved) [IndiaDaily; Jan 2006]
- * price for BB (available from): 199 Rs per month [HT; Jan 2006]
- * previous numbers of Internet users in India: 1992: 1,000 -- 1995: 250,000 -- 1999: 2.8 mil -- 2000: 5.0 mil [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * Internet users per 100 inhabitants: 2004: 1.5 [GTF; 2005]
- * Internet users per 100 inhabitants: 2001: 0.68 [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * number of travel related web searches by Indians during xmas & New Year period 2005: 8 million, estimate [Business Standard, Dec 2005]
- * percentage of Internet users who access government services via internet: 2001: 22 % -- 2002: 31 % [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * PC availability per 100 inhabitants in 2004: 1.2 [GTF; 2005]
- * number of computers in India: 1992: 0.4 mil -- 1995: 1.2 mil -- 1999: 3.3 mil -- 2000: 4.6 mil [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * number of internet cafes in India: 105,000 [ConSu; Nov 2005]
- * number of jobs created in Internet cafes: 600,000 estimate [v2020; Apr 2003]
- * annual growth in cybercafe market in India: 45 % (average over past 5 years) [ConSu; Nov 2005]
- * estimated number of computerised bank branches: 12,000 (out of a total of 45,000) [v2020; Apr 2003]

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All things Web 2.0 - a huge huge list of Web 2.0 applications running into hundreds.They are categorized under:

Audio, Blog2Pod, Blogging, Bookmarking, Browser, Calender, Chat, Collaboration, Collect, Comix, Communication, Community, CRM, Debase, Design, Dictionary, Ecommerce, Economy, Elearning, Email, Filesharing, Financials, Fun, Gambling, Games, Hosting, Identity, Images, Imaging, Jobs, Knowledge, Lists, Mapping, Marketing, Memo, Multimedia, News, Office, OS, Outlook, Personal Manufacturing, Polls, Porn, Portals, Powerpoint, Projects, Publishing, Read, RSS, Scheduling, Search, Software, Stats, Tagging, Task Manager, Text, Text2Speech, Time Management, Track&Trace, Video, Voice2Mail, Voicemail, Web2Feed, WiFi, Wiki, Wishlist, Word, Write.

Wow... I am humbled ... I knew of less than 50% of these. [link via gapingvoid]

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Thought I'd share some great blog posts and papers I had bookmarked and finally got down to reading:
Rashmi Sinha has some really good essays on Tagging.  She has a whole category dedicated to this area, and I found the following posts particularly useful:
A cognitive analysis of tagging (or how the lower cognitive cost of tagging makes it popular)
A Social Analysis of Tagging (or how tagging transforms the solitary browsing experience into a social one)
- "Tagging: From Personal to Social" - a powerpoint presentation here.

Some good tips in An Adoption Strategy for Social Software in Enterprise by Suw Charman.  She suggests that its key to identify users "who would clearly benefit from the new software, helping them to understand how it could help, and progressing their usage so that they can realise those benefits". I still struggle with tryig to figure out how we can enable the lowering of perceived risks in using such technologies. 

Doc Searls introduces the concept of the Intention Economy turning on its head the Attention Economy conversation that focusses more on the 'seller'.  He says:

"The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don't need advertising to make them.

The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don't need marketing to make Intention Markets.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don't have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer's purchase. Simple as that.

The Intention Economy is built around more than transactions. Conversations matter. So do relationships. So do reputation, authority and respect. Those virtues, however, are earned by sellers (as well as buyers) and not just "branded" by sellers on the minds of buyers like the symbols of ranchers burned on the hides of cattle.

The Intention Economy is about buyers finding sellers, not sellers finding (or "capturing") buyers.

In The Intention Economy, a car rental customer should be able to say to the car rental market, "I'll be skiing in Park City from March 20-25. I want to rent a 4-wheel drive SUV. I belong to Avis Wizard, Budget FastBreak and Hertz 1 Club. I don't want to pay up front for gas or get any insurance. What can any of you companies do for me?" ó and have the sellers compete for the buyer's business."

Reading this, and with my limited understanding of the Attention Economy, am wondering .... does one follow the other ... from Attention to Intention ... or Intention to Attention?

Tracking the Future of Telephony ... a great transcript of a very interesting by Norman Lewis director of research for France Telecom at eTel.  Really good stuff ... some snips:
"The fundamental point is voice and audio now just becomes another application on the Internet. And that is incredibly exciting, as far as I am concerned, because it is like time, it is now liberated, it is not a stand alone application anymore. It is embedded in everything we doÖTime has became intrinsic in everything. I think that is where voice is going in the future. I think that is truly revolution".

"... we have that possibility of taking that application [voice]Öand liberating it [voice] from that kind of stranglehold that I think telcos have had in the pastÖ and now we can begin to do things we have never done before. ÖIf you just look at the recent period with Ebay-Skype...voice is becoming something of an adjunct to other services and will open up new possibilities...I see this as a huge golden opportunity for immense innovation...What we [the telcos] are doing is re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic. That is essentially what a lot of us are doing in our companies. The innovation landscape has changedÖ"

"It can actually create a sweet spot for all of usÖfor me innovation is rarely about identifying problems our customers have got and trying to solve them. Real innovation is about social change. It is about adopting, it can be incremental, it can also be very disruptive. But if really had to begin with real social motivations, of why people are doing things. What kind of things that they really want to doÖ it is a social consequence that they [ìdigital childrenî] introduce technology into their lives in ways we do not quite fully understandÖ understanding customers [social] behaviour and motivationsÖthat is the coal face as far as I am concernedÖAre we going to develop Internet apps that really embed voice in everything we do, and fundamentally transform that whole experience. I think that is the question."

danah who is a really really smart researcher, ethnographer, media-ecologist, digi-culturist, sociologist, (she's looking for someone to bestow upon her an 'ist') explains Why Youth Heart MySpace.

Geeks in Toyland - a Wired article on how Lego managed to effectively convert their customers to their R&D labs and effectively re-wrote the innovation game! [link via Steve at All this chittah-chattah]
"Some Lego executives worried that the hackers might cannibalize the market for future Mindstorms accessories or confuse potential customers looking for authorized Lego products. After a few months of wait-and-see, Lego concluded that limiting creativity was contrary to its mission of encouraging exploration and ingenuity. Besides, the hackers were providing a valuable service. "We came to understand that this is a great way to make the product more exciting," Nipper says. "It's a totally different business paradigm - although they don't get paid for it, they enhance the experience you can have with the basic Mindstorms set." Rather than send out cease and desist letters, Lego decided to let the modders flourish; it even wrote a "right to hack" into the Mindstorms software license, giving hobbyists explicit permission to let their imaginations run wild.

Soon, dozens of Web sites were hosting third-party programs that helped Mindstorms users build robots that Lego had never dreamed of: soda machines, blackjack dealers, even toilet scrubbers. Hardware mavens designed sensors that were far more sophisticated than the touch and light sensors included in the factory kit. More than 40 Mindstorms guidebooks provided step-by-step strategies for tweaking performance out of the kit's 727 parts.

Lego's decision to tap this culture of innovation was a natural extension of its efforts over the past few years to connect customers to the company."

I tested VoiFi ...was disappointed with the basic sound quality.  Uninstalled.

Bookmarked ... and still to read/play with:

When The Long Tail Wags the Dog and The Long Tail of Popularity

- On quick glance, basic orientation by Paul Beleen in a whitepaper called Advertising 2.0 (pdf), on "what everybody in advertising, marketing and media should know about the technologies that are reshaping their business"  Printed, to be read in detail on my flight to Delhi later this week.

- Veer, who has an excellent blog that I recently discovered on the Indian mobile revolution, has launched MyToday, a public RSS aggregator, with Rajesh Jain.  Haven't yet played with it ... will soon!  I like that it has a mobile phone edition too.

- A collection of articles on Creative Thinking [link via Chuck Frey's Innovation Weblog]

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Thursday, March 9, 2006

Two sets of interesting figures that caught my eye:

From i4d online :

According to a survey conducted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) there are estimated 4.6 million Internet users who are banking online now, and this number is expected to grow to 16 million plus by 2007-08.

This includes both mobile and online banking. The full research report is available here, absolutely free.

A headline at a post at ContentSutra, which is fast becoming my favourite resource on the digital media space in India, states that "CDMA Subscribers In India Touch 19 Million In February; GSM + CDMA = 82.21 Million As Of Today". More details here.

And this bit of news ... nothing like a bit of competition to spur better offerings and services .... "The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has today recommended number portability for mobile subscribers. This is expected to bring about more competition among the mobile operators since customers do not have to worry about changing their numbers as they move from one operator to the other." [via ContentSutra]

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Monday, February 27, 2006

The Blank Noise Project has called for a Blog-a-thon :

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"To recognize Women's Day, and as part of an effort to build a core constituency that is aware of the Blank Noise Project, we're organizing a blogathon for Tuesday, the 7th of March. Blank Noise is asking other bloggers to post about their experiences of sexual harassment - as a victim, perpetrator or bystander - at work, at home or in the public sphere. Or deal with the subject anyway you like. On International Women's Day, which is March 8th, it would be exciting to see the theme of harassment become audible on the Indian and diasporic blogosphere."

I remember many instances, as a teenager, way back in the 80's being 'harrassed' on the street and in public buses. At the time, I didn't know quite what to do about it ... it was almost embarrassing to mention it to friends or family, it seemed like such a personal 'attack', and in my growing awareness of my body at that age, it wasn't something I could share easily. Neither was it something I could 'prove' in any way, it was sometimes just that brush of a hand against your body, sometimes more blatant than that. I remember many times in a really crowded BEST bus where you're squashed among bodies, smelling armpits as you cling to the handle, when a hand would snake around my breasts and try and squeeze them. Or I'd feel a hard groin against my back. Though I hated it, I thought then, it was just part and parcel of travelling by bus. I didn't even realise then it was 'harrassment' of a kind.

Just the once, did I actually retaliate ...I will share that story on March 7th !

I'm happy to see a space that encourages people to talk about this, one that tells you that it is wrong, and inspires you that you CAN do something about it.

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Images courtesy the Blank Noise Project

(And heh .. just came across this blog that's called Holla Back NYC - which asks people to send in pictures of street harrassers ... it even has a Holla Back Hall of Fame. Cam phones make it so easy to do! Its also a little scary ... )

Do spread the word for the Blog-a-thon ... and share your experiences ... and tag it with this code :

Updates :

Annie Zaidi has a really powerful post on her experiences and lessons learnt in navigating the streets of Delhi and the local trains in Bombay.  She also brings up another aspect worth thinking about ....

There is another aspect to this that I can't help thinking about: it creates a never-ending trap of dependence that many men resent equally.  We women depend - are taught to depend, are left with no option but to depend - on men for our safety and survival.

We can go out, but with 'ghar ke ladke' to take care of us. The brother, husband, father, cousin or boys known to the family will escort us - to a movie, to a mall, to a party. At best, you might be able to manage if you're a big group of girls. But how many times can you walk around as girl-gangs?

We learn, consciously and sub-consciously, that we cannot do anything alone. And if we do, we're going to have wage war every inch of the way.  That lesson is etched in so deep that conceiving of 'life' alone is... No wonder you need men. No wonder you need marriage. No wonder you cling to the man, because how will you manage alone?

And Stephanie at HumLab joins in with a twist : "We will attempt to capture 'being a women' through audio, text, picture, collaborative sidewalk art, as well as giving women a change to blog in their own words. There is a twist, however! You get the chance to participate by sending in your digital pictures to our flickr account. The theme is, of course, 'on being a woman'. The email address to send in photos is

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I'm watching this space .. it's not live yet, but seems to have potential.

"An internet blogging network that lets users create content and express opinion on well-known brands and products, is being supported by Honda (UK). The 2TalkAbout site will provide a trusted community-based environment for users with similar interests and tastes to share unbiased information. Honda is the first major brand to commit to the project.

Visitors to 2TalkAbout can publish their views, respond to what other people are saying on the community and gain unbiased opinion and information about particular products and services. The Honda-sponsored site (www.2TalkAbout.com/honda) is aimed at anyone with an interest in Honda cars - particularly the new Civic. Although the content will be completely independent from Honda, engineers will regularly log-on to contribute and respond to feedback, providing users with direct access to the brand." [More here.]

I've been talking to some clients about building community spaces among users and potential users for their brands ... just yesterday I had a great meeting with a media agency, where we discussed how we could pitch workshops around education and buy-in among advertisers. I rambled on excitedly, about how we could empower customers and stakeholders in a product or service or brand, through community building tools like blogs. I think the point struck home when I gave them a small anecdote - there's a really popular reality music show on TV called Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (the Indian notes for Do Re Me Fa So), where each participant has a mentor who is well-known in the Bollywood music industry, and competes with others for the top slot. And their success depends on viewers at large - they send in their votes via SMS and phone calls.

It is hugely successful - the channel , Zee TV attributes it to :

"The immense popularity of the show can be gauged from the fact that it helped Zee TV reach the No. 2 slot in the general entertainment channel (GEC) rating. In the last four-week period (between January 10, 2006 and January 27, 2006) ëSa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005í scored a gross TRP of 3.53, which is higher than that of Sonyís ëIndian Idolí at a gross TRP of 3.31.

Said Kaul, ìThe reason for sustained growth and popularity is due to the fact that ëSa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005í has its objective very clear and defined in terms of offering a platform to real, hardcore, top of the line playback voices and not creating marketing chipmunks. It is only because of this objective that ëSa Re Ga Ma Paí as a platform and ëChallenge 2005í as a series have given some of the best singers to the film and entertainment industry that it has today. ëSa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005í is and will always remain a platform for nothing but the best playback singers.î

I think there's more to it than that - while there is no doubt about the better quality of participants than in Indian Idol, and the tone of the show is much more about 'serious' voices, what's interesting to me is the fact that they are getting many millions of SMS messages and call-ins every episode. Controversies that create buzz notwithstanding, viewers seem to feel they have a real stake now in who wins, and are voting en masse. There are also several online forums that are discussing the show. Forums and user groups have existed for a long while. What strikes me about this buy-in for Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, is that viewers are really empowered - they know they can make a difference in who wins, and simple technologies like SMS have made it so damn easy. Imagine then how much easier it would be for advertisers and marketers to reach this already captive audience - small eg - run a sponsored contest among 'voters' for instance.

In this context, I re-visited Stuart's (am glad he's back to his insightful blogging at Unbound Spiral - there's more than one book in that blog!) paper called COMsumer Manifesto, where he talks of how "through technology the Internet is framing a new revolution, changing the underlying ecology and enabling a new form of empowered consumer to emerge". He had listed out 3 core areas as the trajectory for COMsumer Empowerment - information aggregation; customized personalized interactions and empowered COMsumers participate in personal information markets.

"For years we've accepted that organizations provide products and services to customers. Some even claim unsurpassed customer satisfaction! What follows is a typical "hourglass" story; measuring the elapsed time since the hourglass was last inverted. Time is running out for the old view! The hourglass is about to be flipped over from commerce on top, and powerless customers at the bottom. What happens when we flip the hourglass over? The traditional flows of goods and services via channels to consumers is re-specified by massive flows of customer information, needs, and desires which continually create new markets and opportunities. We could consider this a simple switch from supply driven to demand driven models, but it is more. Initiatives will be directed by buyers not by sellers (see following diagram of the various types of demand and supply driven business options), and thus form a more profound revolution. A move to communities of interest and action rather than an individual personalized customer market focus."

It's pretty cool and very Web 2.0 ish - despite being written in 1999 and published in 2000. What's interesting too today, is that this basic philosophy isn't just about the internet, it is pervading our mobile social lifestyle.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

This report indicates good news for India - the government is working on a system whereby disaster alerts will be relayed through mobile phones in several Indian languages, and specially set up wireless public address system in their locality in less than one minute.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Day 2 - Digital Summit 2006.

Moderator: V Ramani, CEO, Mediaturf

  • Naren Chandra, Head of Marketing, International Banking, ICICI Bank
  • VL Srinivas, CEO, Maxus, Asia Pacific
  • Kedar Sohoni, Director, Cross-tab
  • Lloyd Mathias, Marketing Director, Motorola
V. Ramani sets off the session with some posers :
  • are marketers really interested in this medium?
  • are traditional agencies equipped to handle online medium or are they masquerading as experts. Do we need experts? Why then are CMOs reverting to traditional agencies to handle their digital accounts?
  • should traditional marketing companies have an additional CMO for their digital markets? will marketers be forced to build special digital marketing teams?
  • do they realise that the internet can be a large research tool?
Lloyd Matthais - Motorola

What drives the digital medium - personalization, expression, immediate access, inofrmatio/content, viral capabilities - the internet enables you to build relationships.

The challenge for marketers -
1. Don't use online for building on your traditional media campaign - create communication specific for the net using its inherent advantages
2. Get your creative partners to think that way - the net is not just a medium - it is a creative experience
3. Look at holistic media measures
- industry standards are needed

Benefits - quicker, more flexible, higher response rates, real time tracking and emasurement, interactivity. The relationship changes - the customer is in control and the relationship is based on information, and the service based in real time.

Examples - Make it my Moto campaign which leveraged the need of customers to personalize their phone experiences.

Question from moderator - are their discussions with creative heads on the digital media - are the budget outlays large enough to justify it? Answer - honestly no. Agencies and marketers are equally at fault. As the net spreads, marketers willynilly will have to wake up to the need for specialists. But it will be a gradual process.

Naren Chandra, Head of Marketing, International Banking, ICICI Bank

Brief overview on how ICICI bank has gone global. Started off 4 years ago - needed to target indian customers and corporates abroad - NRI's. Apart from using mass media for NRIs - TV, print, events - they felt they needed to be more effective with reach, and at lower costs. He never needed had to justify his decision to go online to seniors - it has paid off.

Started off with typical stuff like cricket and news. But that has evolved. Also used online world to test out hypotheses - through forms of research, using email, chat even. Tested new sites, channels, media, products this way.

Key challenges - because it's an international target group - you need different content, style, creative, tone and value propositions. Also, need to be really active about competition.

Now they have launched an online savings product in Canada and UK - where local customers and not just Indians can open accounts. That is a first ! And it is all centralised in India. Lots of pride :)

Q - ICICI is one of the most advanced in scaling the digital media and marketing ladder. Whats the next challenge? A - how to take search forward into reaching the customer when she is thinking of the product - need to ascertain when a customer is reading an article on a topic, my ad pops up.

Dinesh Sharma - Samsung CDMA

CDMA is targeted at lower end of the market. As a technology, it has great potential for the upmarket segment as well.

Marketing approach - 360 degree marketing
Web marketing initiatives - target net savvy populations - we are experiencing pull traffic. Support provided to consumers - value-added services like ringtones, colour etc. Also internationally have registration and CRM programmes.
Web B2B - dealers and distributors - you need to deliver digitally to them. Building a Distributors Extranet.
One point made that struck me - in terms of online research, there is a lack of human and qualitative elements in online research.

Comment from moderator - when you engage with traditional research agencies, do you get involved in the actual fieldwork - all marketers need to do this.

Q - Why don't they spend more of marketing budgets into the mobile media? A - we have concerns and media experts need to convince marketers. Lloyd adds - traditional media will always be critical as we will always need to go further down to newer segments of potential customers.

Kedar Sohoni, Director, Cross-tab

Online market research firm - many other markets have moved away from F2F interviewing into telephonic interviews and online research. India still isn't comfortable with this new medium. Over 260 MR firms in Europe and N. America use online research. Been around for 10 years now. It's greater than a $ 1 billion industry worldwide. Massive projects, spread across different marets can be managed centrally and easily. Faster results. Automated so data is clean.

Some advantages - monitor results of a study as it happens in real time, reach exclusive and difficult to access respondents, no chance of data entry errors, get frank and honest responses to sensitive questions.

Online qualitative focus group screen shot shown - right hand side - chat window - left side is the client room - where the client can pass on virtual chits to the moderator.

Q - What kind of advice would you have for clients who are accustomed to traditional offline research. A - we face a lot of questions and some resistance quite often - they are comfortable with status quo.

Sudhir Nair - Grey Interactive

Reality check - we have imposed on this medium too many stringent measures in delivering clicks or leads. And we haven't even begun to understand its potential. The future is surround compaigns rather than integrated campaigns. Language will play a role.
Upshot - please set objective of the campaign and then craft our your digital marketing campaign. It cannot just be measured by brand leads.

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Day 2 - Digital Summit 2006.

Sundip Agarwal - Enpocket

Mobile medium is an always-on medium. We wear our mobile phones. Data feed is available to operators. There is a wealth of data - which can create accurate profiles to focus your marketing on. Type of data -- spend levels, time spent, demogra[hics, location, where they go, interests, usage patterns, contextual usage, etc .... its tremendous data. Research has its place, but we already have so much data we can mine.

Case Study 1 - Orange - objective was to drive adoption of data services --- need to increase user adoption and reduce weight on the call centers. Approach - customers segmented as heavy and contextual SMS users - just cross-tabulating the existing customer base helped them with this objective.

Krishna Durbha, Head Business & Marketing VAS, Reliance Infocomm Ltd

Digital ad medium has been under-used. McKinsey study on segmenting Indian consumers, throws up a mobile population that is huge. Profile users of RWorld -- typcally, 25-32, graduates, self-employed, salaried and students, and geographically distributed. Mobile ad options --- push-based --- blasts ... SMS and voice but these can be intrusive and have poorer responses. The Pull based Portals like R World (include data and voice) - ad optios thru sponsorships, advertorials using rich media, market research polling, product info and listsings, customer care zone. These are more effective. Examples of success - product lanches by building brand zones, advertorials where you have cideo with interactivity for companies like Maruti, LML, Hyundai.

What's interesting to me was also, that the market research poll was hugely popular - and customers really seem to enjoy taking these polls.

What has worked for us - we need to be really innovative because of the size of screen. It can lend to high engagement, it is very personal, you need to go multilingual. It really is the best medium for personalization, online directory assistance for sales and service chaisn, its also great for simple mass market research. And results are directly measurable.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It is really disappointing that an industry seminar such as Digital Summit has no provisions for wifi, and neither was I getting a signal on my Reliance phone. So all my plans to live-blog vanished in the first few moments. Still, I took some notes and posting them here during the breaks. Forgive the typos and absence of links!

Session 1 : The Potential of Internet Access via Mobile
Moderator : Neeraj Roy, MD & CEO Hungamamobile.com

Panelists :
  • Rajesh Sawhney, President, Reliance Entertainment
  • Arun Gupta, COO, Mauj Telecom
  • Arvind Rao, CEO & Co-founder, Onmobile Asia Pacific Pvt Ltd
  • Ravishankar, Country Head Direct Banking, Yes Bank Ltd
  • Mohit Bhatnagar, VP- New Products Development & Strategic Alliances, Airtel*
Neeraj Roy talks about growth - 4.7 million consumers added in December, talks about two different delivery modules --- wireless connectivity to pc, laptop and 2. better bandwidth, edge, 3 G, EVDO and better hadnsets - experience of Blakberry and the launh of Messenger and email on mobile.The 3 's --- Connect, Commerce, Content.Learnings from the Internet and Dot Com era --- great opportunity for accessing internet via mobile - mobility. Clearly more than email. Commerce and transactions are enabled. Convenience anytime and anywhere. Challenges -- the GSM world continues to face challenges on networks and spectrum, settings, and screen size and application adaptability.

Rajesh Sawhney - Reliance
. Correct a perception that only 2 mn users of internet - Reliance alone has a base of 17 mn folks of which 10 mn use the Rworld portal at least once a month.
4 screen paradigm for entertainment :

Cinema ---> TV ---> PC ---> Mobile

Mobile is the most pervasive of all. Its with you anytime anywhere. In sheer numbers, mobile phones dominate. Nos. Cinema : 1200 , TV : 100+, PCs : 12 mn, Mobile phones : 80 mn. By 2010 - forecasts that it will grow to 300 mn.

All of these are transitioning. Changes in cinema / tv - single screens to multiplexes, plasma and IPTV and DTH , PCs - broadband and triple play services.

He sees the evolution of a Universal Mobile Device - cam phones, music devices.

Entertainment is definitely getting digital and mobile. Key enabler - broadband. Content drivers - Movies and derived from that music. Sex and gambling. Sports and gaming. Entertainment is beoming short and capsuled.

Analog technologies are the forces of control and digital technologies are the forces of freedom. Consumers want control and interactivity - digital entertainment is becoming user generated.

Arun Gupta - What is internet on mobile - how do you define it.

10-20% of the phones GSM are capable of browsing the internet, the estimate is only about 15% of that is infact browsing.

By 2010 expect that the number of java-gprs enabled handsets will go up 10 fold. The challenge too is how do you get consumers to use it. For a lot of people its just too painful currently.

Arvind Rao - manages and runs the voice portal across every mobile operator. On Mobile, they use speech as the interface, and not sms or wap. Trying to simplify the user interface, need to make it easy not just for consumers but also for operators. Services launched - biggest use is music and entertainment, also online dating service called checkmate, call from your cell and ask for the score, and also listening to live commentary of cricket matches.

Corporate and M-Commerce - entirely thru voice and speech recognition. Interesting to note that only 20% in English, 30% in hindi and the bulk is in vernacular languages.

Why voice - because it is handset independent, network independent, user-friendly, intuitive, vernacular version available

Limitations are hi network equipment deployment, operations complexity so hi investment reqd, billing and reconciliation complexity. 600 mn calls per month - increasing to 65-70% per annum. Linear presentation of content.

What's interesting is these are walled gardens - on top of them you can launch media portals - where you can have TV channels layered in.

Ravishankar -
Yes Bank. For everything online, the challenge today is how can services collect payment - how can the services be made easily accessible, and how can I get customer buy-in.

Mohit Bhatnagar - Airtel

Get geared for mobile operations, its going to be huge.

Customers earlier were looking for simplistic things like cricket scores and astrology.

Key consumer insight - need to personalize his mobile equipment.

In next three years, gaming will be huge, and then serious digital entertainment.

Challenges in the market place - too many commoditized content providers, we need to start thinking like service providers instead. Need to step into the retail space, where the customer can buy his groceries from his phone.Youth in India buys because friends buy, not necessarily because its advertised well, so how can we use that. SMS spam - will have to take care of that.

2 trends predicted :Corporate and SME world will adopt this world more seriously - there will be a lot of opening up of portals - currently smart plumbing model with brands, but this needs to transition to Pipe activities that will only get larger. Traffic will move from sms and voice into data services - so businesses need to morph their businesses from simple text and sms into rich multimedia environments.


From the perspective of entertainment, are we really only snacking still or are we getting into it seriously? A - it has to be habit-forming, if that doesn't occur, it will always be snacking. Mobile industry must reserve the tea-time where consumers snack into a regular habit

What efforts are being taken to make tech more user-friendly - speech has made it easier, try to make the call flows easier, number of steps to get there less. Also, background noise is very high in India, so the customer should be able to press buttons to complete transaction.

Opening up of walled gardens - the end game is there will be a subscription to hit a url, they will be able to find content free - and then there will be premium content. Also, there will be a gate where the user can actually move to a different url. Shopping on the mobile - world experiences? Korea and Japan (close to 40% pf all auctions happen on mobile phones, and 60% of these transactions are made by women) really are the two markets where it has taken off - auction sites in the US tried it but didnít work - the form just wasn't easy. Here in India, we need better browsing experiences and handsets here for this to take off. Infrastructural issues need to be sorted first.

A smile at the end of the session - how soon will we have a national 'donotcall' list for mobile operators :):):) No answers of course !

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Since today seems to be my day of linking, I thought I'd also shoot out this list of things that have caught my interest recently ... many are from bloggers I read regularly - Nancy for instance is a huge repository of resources. I've bookmarked many of them with Furl too.

Conversation as a form of social inquiry - emerging out of Goethe Kaplan.pdf (application/pdf Object)
The Individual is the new group
From Push to Pull

Some of these links are sooooo Web 2.0 ... yeah I know, I know many feel its just a buzzword or marketing hype. But I'm really ok with the term, it's easy on the tongue, it is more of an attitude than a technology, a renaissance. And, it is easier to explain 'social software' to the uninitiated, with some help of course :). . Jory des Jardins, in a comment here says :

"2.0 encapsulates both optimism and caution. It applies logic to illogical impulses to connect, share, and inform. It pulls the collective experience of kids straight out of college, with older folks (like you and me), and corporate older, older folks who are ready to move beyond the rules that have guided their careers. 2.0 seems to be this point of convergence. "

Web 2.0 sort of stuff I found myself playing with last week:
Face Recognition - My Heritage

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