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Yahoo! Open Hack 5 – The Experience

August 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Before we even start, here’s the idea which we hacked up during the 24 hour contest timeline. Brand horizon – When all the social media focuses on the count of re-tweets or share (or whatever they’d like to call it) None of it actually gives you the count of people your product update reached out to. That particular missing link is what addressed in Brand Horizon is. It’s not actually how many shared your update, rather it is who shared your update. The most influential person’s share would spread the word faster. You hit the right nerve, you get the information across faster.

Well before the event:

After Yahoo! Open Hack 4, the expectations were really high for the next edition. The two day weekend at The Lalit Ashok Palace Bangalore during July 2011 hiked up the anticipation for this one. The date was fixed for August second weekend at The Sheraton Bangalore. Two weeks prior to the event, me and my co-hacker came up with countless suggestions for the hack we were about to build. Some of it were: Rupyaa++ – a social media based money management tool which would help you split up the costs of a group hangout or a trip. TwitVote – a voting system with crowd sourced data from twitter. A sentiment analysis based system which gives you a pulse of the crowd’s thought over a given subject. We even came up with some fun hack ideas – A guy-bot who changes his emotions based on tweets he receives and a Guess-the-movie-based-on-its-quote site.

Just before the event:

As the event neared, the official categories for the hacks were published as: Digital Communications, Digital Media & Advertising, Multi-media Experiences and a wide bucket category called “Surprise Us”.  The last one was quite tempting. Although we chose to take the defined category of Digital Media & Advertising and that’s when we brought the idea of Brand Horizons to the fore.

The event:

Like any of its precedents, fifth edition had all the usual elements: Swanky hotel, Yahoos, A huge crowd of eager developers and none other than Anil. He’s Yahoo’s secret sauce when it comes to YDN and developer engagement. After the usual sessions from Murray, Saurabh, Jai – we drove straight into the hack and started with our product. We learnt a lot from our mistakes at YOH 4 which we vowed not to repeat this edition.

The Issues:

Well for starters, the WiFi gave away and we lost precious time after the 24 hour countdown started ticking down. Those wonderful Yahoos wracked their brain to help us connect, but our laptops just wouldn’t give up and connect. Next, once we started querying Twitter through YQL console we never got what we wanted. Turned out, due to multiple pings to Twitter APIs through YQL, Twitter blocked YQL. So our original idea of mashing up data from Twitter and Facebook was given up and the product specifically focussed on brands based out of Twitter. The last one was, neither of our team members, knew in-depth PHP. So we had to struggle overnight to complete the app which required a good use of OAuth.

Panel Evaluation:

The 24 hours counted down to 00:00:00 and we wrapped up our hack with a good description, a screencast on youtube. We were given the first slot for presentation, yay! And We were ready for the panel evaluation.  Our panel was of 3 judges with one extra time-keeper. We were offered strictly 2 minutes with 90 seconds for the demo and 30 seconds for any Questions from the judges. The key person on our panel was Shouvick and was indeed a pleasure to see our product examined by an industry leader.

The presentation went well although sadly for a remark that the prototype was constrained just to Twitter and there were other competitors like TweetReach with similar ideas. This gave a clear idea that our prototype didn’t make the cut, Nevertheless we were satisfied we could come up with a complete working prototype in under 24 hours.

The actual winners:

The final few hours of the event were made of the very popular open bar, and the presentations from the selected hacks. As remarked by one of the judges, not all ideas were worth selling but only a few were. And those were the ones which made the cut. Later that day, saurabh announced the winning hacks through the YDN website Brock, vibration reduction, pictrends, i am bored, bookmafia, beamOS. All deserved the accolades. It was a real experience into the world of startups where in a simple idea turns into something worth making money out of!

 

Book-Shelf : The White Tiger (Part 1)

April 24, 2012 1 comment

Of all my investment, I’d call my books as the best. I ensure a new addition to my book shelf every other month. Finding a reading time between a heavy schedule of work and family is tough, but it is just wonderful to turn off the annoying cell phone, shut the attention-seeking laptop down and get back to the wonders of the written word.

Literary prize winning books are never fun and it’s the general truth. The pleasure a Brown or a Sheldon gives is in no way comparable to such a prize winning book. But on the contrary I say you can appreciate a prize winning book only if you possess the eye for that. Two of the Man Booker Prize winners adorn my bookshelf – one from Ms. Desai “Inheritance of loss” and the other Mr. Adiga’s “The White Tiger”. And this particular post is about the latter. I know it’s a bit late, not just a bit – a good 4 year delay. But I blame myself for being on and off about my reading habits. If you haven’t read this one, go ahead and knock yourself out. If you have, then choice is yours to continue reading the post or just quit.

You’re an ardent reader or someone who’s just getting into this hobby? I’d gladly suggest Adiga. For one, his is the standard simpleton Indian English anyone could appreciate. None of those fancy buzzwords or words with more than 10 syllables. Two, and almost “The” best reason – you’d for once be supporting an Indian Litterateur.

Coming back to “The White Tiger”, here’s what I’d like to say about it (probable spoiler alert):

The plot – To give a very high-level overview of the story, it’s about how Balram Halwai from The Dark turns into Mr. Ashok Sharma of the White Tiger. The back cover describes Balram as The White Tiger, Servant, Philosopher, Entrepreneur, and also as a Murderer. The story runs from describing about a boy named Balram from Gaya who takes up the job of driver at Delhi and finally evolves into an entrepreneur Mr.Ashok at Bangalore. The story revolves around Balram’s philosophical musings and his experiences with the Indian society at large.

Storyflow – The story unassumingly begins as a one-sided rant (letter) from the author on the eve of Chinese premiere’s visit to India. Dark humour ensues with how the Premier would be treated in India giving him a Green Grass Image of India – when the ground realities are much worse. The story continues over a week, mostly through the nights with the author reminiscing his entire life under an eerie chandelier. In some way, tying the narration to a current event kept my pulse beating on the story and I could never skip a page.

… Part 2 to continue

Mistakes: To err is human, so is to fret about it.


Life is so full of mistakes. You see your friends making irrecoverable mistakes, but you can still offer them a shoulder and console them. You always can afford to say it’s not a big deal – there are far worse problems.

But when the same happens to you, you’re stumped! You feel it’s the end of the world, your days feel gloomy and dull. All that you can think of is that mistake you did. You replay those moments over and over on your head – fantasizing if things didn’t go the way it did. You painfully anticipate the harvest of your mistake. Every moment, every happening around you seem to be an excruciating reminder to that mistake.

Here are some things you can try doing:

Confess – Not to a confidante, not to a friend, but directly to the person whom your mistake impacts. It gets a huge load off your chest, and who knows you might have corrected your mistake by just this act!

Be proactive – Never wait for something, time will increase the impact of the mistake. Act swiftly.

Introspect – Would you remember this problem 5 days from now? 5 months now? 5 years from now? If no, then stop worrying. It wouldn’t even matter in the long run.

Learn – To err is human. But to learn is humane. Forget the specifics of the mistake, but understand the dynamics of your mind which put you there in the first place.

Having listed down, sometimes these might not suit everywhere. There are places you need to be cunning. Times when you need to wait out. After all, you were destined to make that single mistake and worry for a week.

Pseudo-elusive career switch : A change waiting to happen


For all those of you out there, struggling to make sense out of your moronic work routine – this one’s for you: http://productivitymentor.com/2012/03/08/point-17-stop-going-to-work/

If you really visited the above link (It’s a very short article, I’ll wait for you until you’re done – and do come back here) what I intend to write is precisely about point 3.

It’s the same pothole that seem to appear every often, and it’s necessary that we look at the problems rather than the symptoms and identify a workable solution. @productivitymentor’s above article is more than just inspiring. May be this was just the kind of perspective we needed.

Stepping away from this and introspect the reason for work becoming mundane, a little social experiment reveals – not everyone is doing their current work as a matter of choice. Many in fact are poly-skilled or have deep passion in areas other their current areas of work. And why they still hang on to this, is 1. Either they look at this as means to “eventually” reach their passion or 2. They are just too comfortable with how things are. What is required for you to make that elusive shift is efforts and what more, persistent efforts.

Unless you are persistent in your efforts, you might just slip from category 1 to 2

So what keeps you persistent to reach out to your work of passion? Besides monetary and financial security, I believe, confidence in yourself to excel in your passion plays a pivotal role. If you’re shaky, then you might not have the spirit to take that extra stride away from the pavement.

Introspect if what you’re doing is in line with your goals, Build confidence, Equip yourself with necessary skills, Make persistent efforts, and Step out of the line – walk your way!

#20, What’s with India and Exotic foreigners?

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Yingluck Shinawatra. She would’ve been less famous in her country compared to here at India at this moment. Can anybody recall the last year’s guest for R-Day? You did? Well, Hats off to you. For those who did not, it was Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – Indonesian President.

For the second time within a year, I reckon, we’ve gone mad trending over the attractive foreigner who visited our nation. (I’ll shortly return to the first time, just hold on) Just moments after the announcement or after her visit to India, couple of days ahead of R-Day, the first picture of her posing in front of the famous Taj Mahal floated around the Internet. I’d call that the first spark. We never knew about Thai leaders, let alone her. And suddenly the exotic foreigner, Ms. Shinawatra (Is she a Ms btw?) caught our attention.

We never lost a moment and immediately started discussing about her over any medium possible, especially twitter. Ms.Shinawatra is still trending you know! (May be not as herself, but as Thai PM) The discussion goes even as far to compare our septuagenarian male PM and regretting why our leadership isn’t attractive as others’? (True, couple of tweets did fret over that)

This isn’t a post to accuse anybody of anything. Yet, happening for the second time, this made me wonder. We’re from a land were Lakshman never bothered to look at an exotic Surpanakha, and foreigners like Ravan were projected as people who coveted foreign beauty (Sita).

Coming back the first similar incident – ever remember Hina Rabbani Khar, and how we went gaga over her visit to our land? 🙂

Categories: Personal

#19, An Interview at ThoughtWorks – Experience to share

November 25, 2011 13 comments

One of my colleagues mentioned about the “very different” recruitment process at ThoughtWorks. Something about writing code initially and further process based on modifications on the initial code. Well, that intrigued me! I’ve always wanted to be part of such innovative organizations. Hence, I took my first step of applying for the post Application Developer at their website.

As immediately as within two days, I get a call from HR at TW. Very pleasing gentleman, the call was pretty routine. From projects executed to my favourite pastimes, he inquired all. There was even a question on some of the awards I received. This went on for a while, and the HR on his part briefed about the recruitment process at TW. I vaguely had an idea, but I preferred to let him explain in detail. So here they were:

1.Logic Analytical thinking

2.Coding round for a problem provided

3.Pair Programming/Extension

4.Interview I

5.Interview II

Fine! I was very eager to start with the process. I was asked to drop in at their office* at a day of my comfort.

The first was the Logic test. I was given 11 flowchart problems. It was pretty simple but required intense concentration. I had to go back few questions once I completed all 11, just to see I’ve made mistakes. But I believe, when I handed over the booklet, I got most of it right. The HR dropped in 10 minutes later informing the candidates who cleared this round. (There were more than a dozen who were part of the process) Those who didn’t clear were asked to leave, of course courteously.

We met around for the Coding round, after a sumptuous lunch – courtesy TW. I was offered two choices – A game of life problem, a Sales Tax Problem (Feel free to Google, the Internet is full of them) I picked Sales Tax Problem, for one simple reason – It was more practical. I had been reading up about Calisthenics, Design Patterns and OODP. Hence, I perfected my code with as much good design as possible.

I left home after this exercise. The immediate next weekday, I get a response from the HR that I’ve been selected to go through to the next round. And my next visit to TW office was fixed.

The third part of the process – Pair Programming session. One of a seasoned ThoughtWorker met me with his laptop. We started with explaining my code, the philosophy of my design, etc… He asked me a few questions/doubts, few – Why this way and Why not the other way. Since we spent a lot of time on this, he chose to discount me of the huge extension to the code that was planned.

We chose a small extension. He left the floor to me, so that I can start designing the extension. I took the white-board and illustrated the new classes/behaviours that needed to be added. Then took to the laptop and started coding. The behaviour was simply to say True or False based on the condition if the string conforms to few conditions. To clear out my mind, I went ahead with pseudo code form of the logic. The code executed fine. He pointed out that it can be simplified using Regular Expressions, which I too realized but confessed that since I couldn’t recollect the expression type I didn’t venture into that. He confessed to the same, but since this was just an exercise we completed with a simple regular expression. He left the room, after a customary QA session with me.

Few minutes later, the HR came in. Briefed me that, although my design and analytical thinking was pretty good – my language skills (Not English, but C#) was not at par with my total experience. And I needed to focus on improving the language skills by more self-interest projects, etc… I politely agreed. And the HR walked me out of the office.

Overall the whole process was a great learning experience. I completed a record 5 design patterns in less than two weeks. And now I have a sense of direction as to what I should aspire for in my coding skills. Not to mention, I’d try to get back to TW after 6 month stipulated break.

*Office – Being at an organization which looks like a whole city, TW office seemed petite and cute. But what struck my notice where – Cubicle-less rooms (only the HR had cubicles) , Casual dress-code on a weekday and surprisingly no desktops.

Categories: Personal

#18, 2 is to 5

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Why does it have to be only two days for every five days? I really fail to see the design goals for that!

Two for five, roughly works out to 28 per cent. It’s okay, but not nearly enough. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the Weekend to Weekday ration!

May be that’s the thrill you get from entrepreneurship. You get to fix that per cent. May be you go ahead and toil that 100 per cent or all 7 days. Yet, you enjoy it. You devour each moment of engineering and management. Something you get only when you do something purely from your spirit and interests.

Categories: Personal
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