Saturday, December 31, 2005
P2P will save the telcos
Telcos are laying fiber like crazy, hoping that video-on-demand will fly, but here is another option for them:
Regular people are becoming mega content generators - writing blogs, taking pictures, audioblogging, videoblogging, mixing their own music, creating their own videos. They are also sharing more of their content than ever before - narrowly (photos) and widely (blogs).
The exciting part is that because of search engines, they are finding an ever-larger audience. For example, this blog gets 4 to 5 visitors every day via search engines. Yet, the content generators are not getting much benefit out of their own content. The benefits are most going to the search engines and aggregators of various kinds.
By letting individuals serve their own content through P2P networks rather than through centralized sites such as Flickr or Blogger, telcos can get a piece of the content action, and can help individuals make more of the money that is currently going exclusively to Google and others. It won't be easy - but the telcos have the wherewithal to make it work.
There are lots of reviews out there for the book, mostly positive. I liked it too, and it was a quick and interesting read. It is a summary of some of the interesting research carried out by the author, a University of Chicago professor (I think). I was a bit surprised that this is all classified as Economics - it seemed like journalism or sociology, but mostly it's some cool data mining/statistical analysis of the beer/diapers type.
Sangharsh means struggle. BJP sees its mission as “Sangathan, Sangharsh, Sanrachna” (Organisation, Struggle, and Growth). AID's mission is "Sangharsh, Sewa, Nirman" (Struggle, Service, and (Re)Construction).
And yet they sit at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
I have a feeling that I overestimate myself for things I like doing, and understimate myself at what I don't like. I'm noticing the same trait in others too.
Friday, December 30, 2005
US stocks very unpopular
For those of drinking the S&P 500 Kool Aid for the last several years, the recent articles from gurus of small investors (like Jonathan Clements in the Wall Street Journal) amount to a kick in the rear. These 'experts' now tell us that we were stupid to invest in S&P 500. Their reasons: (a) S&P 500 does not represent the US stock market as a whole, and (b) the US is going to grow very slowly in the future.
Now (a) is a weak argument. In the 90s, these gurus convinced us to refrain from picking individual stocks, and to go for index funds like the S&P 500 funds, since "5, 10 or even 50 individual stocks in your portfolio can't mirror the variety in the stock market adequately."
I am not so sure anymore. When these same gurus talk about market performance, they quote you the Dow numbers - and the Dow average is made up of just 30 stocks. So if an index of 30 stocks is enough to tell you whether it was an 'up' year or a 'down' year for the economy, it should be good enough for my portfolio too, assuming I want a portfolio that moves in lock-step with the American industry.
(b) above is equally troubling. We heard throughout the 90s that the stock market will give us 8-10% returns year after year. But now that we all have figured that out, they say it won't be possible to get those returns anymore.
All this backtracking is based on some strange assumptions: since there is more money available (pension funds et), they say, the returns will go down. That's almost anti-capitalist: one should be able to get better results with more money, no? And why is there so much more money available for investment when the American saving rate is so abysmal? Isn't it just foreign investment? So if foreigners are investing in America, why do these investment gurus recommend increasing the foreign component of our portfolios? I think these guys are just running scared since the last couple of years have not been very good for the US stock indices.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Let's assume for a moment that the attacks in Bangalore were organized and/or executed by Kashmiri terrorists. It's hard to come up with a good rationale for their actions. If they are trying to scare the tech industry, they are not going to be particularly successful. They will have to work a lot harder to scare the foreign investors also. Bangalore is quite far from Kashmir and they are not going to be able to attack very frequently.
The only reason I could think of is this: They are not getting any more international attention by attacking targets in Kashmir or Northern India. By piggybacking on the Bangalore craze in the international press, they want to bring their cause back to the front pages of international magazines (like Time).
It is of course possible that this attack had no connection with Kashmir at all. It once again confirms India's position as the most violent country in the world today, barring none.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Hang my head in shame
When you think mass graves, you think Holocaust Museum, Schindler's List, Srebrenica... But Lunawada? Pandarwada? God Almighty!
I have actually been to Pandarwada. I had gone to Yogesh's wedding in Pandarwada - driving through some of that idyllic Panchmahal countryside... 1995, was it?
It is a sad, sad day for Gujarat. Will Gujarat ever atone for the sins of 2002?
RSS in a death spiral
Sunil Joshi's downfall seems to show how unpopular RSS has become, even among the BJP folks.
This is not necessarily a bad sign for Indian politics. If BJP breaks its 'umbilical cord' with the RSS, we might get a political system with two centrist parties, which is usually a sign of a mature democracy.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Under the Banner of Heaven: Jon Krakauer
Krakauer is the guy who wrote the definitive book on Everest folly - "Into Thin Air." "Under the Banner of Heaven" is on a completely different topic: the Mormon faith. Ed recommended it highly, and lent it to me and it's an excellent read. There are two interleaved parts to this book - one set of chapter tells the story of a gruesome sets of killings by fundamentalist Mormons; the other part describes the history of mainstream Mormonism.
Since Mormonism is such a new religion, its history is completely documented. Joseph Smith, the charismatic founder, climbs to the top of a little hill and gets the text of 'the book' from an angel. He designs a modern religion for our times - Mormonism respects labor and is very capitalist in its practices. Joe Smith attracts many followers, faces persecution and moves to Ohio, and then to Illinois, and gets killed at the age of 38. His followers move to Utah and set up their base there. Mormonism is the fastest growing religion in US today.
The parallels with Islam are everywhere. The mountain, the angel, a modernized, prescriptive religion, a charismatic Prophet, and a bunch of fundamentalist spinoffs. The practice of polygamy, it seems, was an afterthought added to the religion by Smith who just couldn't stop womanizing. Polygamy damaged the reputation of the church more than anything else.
I skipped most of the sections that deal with the fundamentalist stuff and the gruesome killings in this book. Crazy fundamentalists are the same everywhere, and I just don't think it is right to blame religion for their acts of extremism, even if religion is used to justify these actions.
The summary of the fundamentalist story is this: there are several hamlets of fundamentalist Mormons who practice polygamy in Canada, Mexico and the US. They are not really connected to mainstream Mormonism - which has outlawed polygamy for at least a hundred years now - anymore. Some of these fundamentalists have been convicted for gruesome murders, kidnappings etc.
The book set me thinking about the evolution of religion. We always discussion reformation within religions - within Islam, within the Catholic Church and so on. But really, that'll take too long. It's more likely that new, more modernized religions will replace the old ones. So the question is where are the hot new religions of the 21st century? Who're the charismatic leaders ready to replace Muhammed in the Middle East?
There are some parallels between Swaminarayans and Mormons too. Swaminarayan is also a thoroughly modern and fast-growing sect, but with some strange traits that are out of whack with the times - like the sadhus are celibate and try not to speak to women. These are also both very wealthy religions that are run like modern-day corporations.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
NBA on TV: Must be the Heats
Miami seems to be the most televised team in the NBA. 10-12 years ago, when Star Sports first started showing NBA games in India, they were invariably Miami Heat games. That seems to be the case on ABC here in the US too.