Sunday, August 31, 2008

Election Viewpoint

Sunday, August 31, 2008 3
Yesterday, a certain Mr Bhattacharya posted an entry on his blog, where he beautifully articulated that politics at our college is way more serious than it’s supposed to be.

Tasteless mortals and others might view upon that post as an attempt to bastardize the political activities that go on inside the closed gates. In its current avatar, the political scenario is almost always dominated by two secular parties for each post and you have to pick sides. At first glance this seems rather contradictory since the common man (and moreover an engineering college student) is opportunistic and has high hopes and aspirations, but a closer introspection might reveal that many able men/women are already post holders in some club or department. So that takes care of half the eligible people. But what about the rest? Surely they would want to go for the post? There can only be one reason that can explain this. It’s at times like this that you really respect the college. A consensus between nearly 1500 students for 4 posts really shows the maturity levels of the students.

This is probably a perfect example of the “Invisible Hand” that Adam Smith talks about in his Bible for Economics, The Wealth of Nations.

The theory of the Invisible Hand states that if each consumer is allowed to choose freely what to buy and each producer is allowed to choose freely what to sell and how to produce it, the market will settle on a product distribution and prices that are beneficial to all the individual members of a community, and hence to the community as a whole. The reason for this is that greed will drive actors to beneficial behavior.

During the election period, the college is divided into three groups. One of them is a massive group A, with little scope of individual thought process and they mostly follow the crowd (a classic case of recursion in case you haven’t figured that out).
Another is a comparatively smaller group B (split into further smaller groups B1, B2 so on) also with little scope of individual thought process however a little more persuasive. Mathematically (and ideally) speaking, it’s a many to many-many (or presumably two way) communication process where these smaller groups go around convincing the larger groups by giving them logical and seemingly obvious reasons to support them in all their endeavours. Experts in this domain also claim that this results in some sort of “My candidate, my family” feeling.

Apart from this there also exists a blimp C, which comprises of n people (n<10)Nazgul. They trot this dystopian earth with a strong sense of conviction. This attitude is evident from the following two points witnessed by those who aren’t of kin and are confronted or cornered by them:

• Expressionless faces
• A copy of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four in the vicinity

They sometimes receive sympathy during dire times in the form of “It’s a dutty job but someone’s gotta do it” and condolences in the form of gtalk status messages.

Now the seriousness that Bhattacharya talks of is basically oozing from the interactions that these three groups have with one another. By themselves, they are informal and a factory of rumours (often witty and scandalous and sometimes sick) and jibes, but in presence of foreign company, this wit and humour is replaced by:
• Jargon and Threat (if the interaction is between C and A)
• Constitutional talk and Jargon and Threat (if the interaction is between B and C)
• Reassurance and concern (if the interaction is between B and A)
(Reminder: Associative property might not be applicable here)

Mr Bhattacharya’s proposal to entertain a more informal election process in BITS can easily be implemented if action can be taken to ensure that the formal relation between these three groups be dissolved.

This can be easily achieved. All that remains is for the following points to be implemented:

• The use of animals for campaigning purposes should be made permissible.

• Merchandise promoting a candidate should be allowed, this can include caps, tees, sports bras et al

• Utilise the Department of Photography for generating campaigning budget. It is almost inhuman to expect the campaigning to proceed on such a shoestring budget. Clearly a campaign budget of 1200(or 1500) rupees isn’t sufficient to carry out the campaigning activities.

• Candidates should be allowed their own entrance themes while entering the auditorium. The candidates can also seek the help of the Department of Lights to ensure there is a sound-light coordination. Even in cricket matches such a move has been welcomed by the International Cricket Council(ICC).

• For the entertainment of students and publicity of clubs/departments, they should be allowed to make special ads for the audi debate (save Dpeartment of CCTV). Something similar on the lines of the Superbowl ads.

• Lobbyists should be allowed to defend their candidates in the audi debates.

• For the benefit of A, the group C should actually collaborate with B so as to ensure a steady kayfabe. The very occasional Screwjob has be tolerated.

And above all, during Audi ragging:

Right to free speech should be introduced where the candidates can show their true identity to the audience. It’s sort of tough to do with an elite panel interrogating you and then not letting you speak your mind.
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

KK Birla passes away

Saturday, August 30, 2008 1

As I switched on my monitor this morning, still bleary eyed, I got a scoop of this:

KK Birla, noted industrialist and former Rajya Sabha member, died on Saturday morning at his residence in Kolkata after a brief illness. He was 90.

The chairman of Hindustan Times and several Birla group of industries is survived by three daughters Nandini Nupani, Shobhana Bhartia, who is vice chairperson and editorial adviser of Hindustan Times and Saroj Potddar.

Birla was ailing for the last two weeks and the end came at 7.30 am, family members said.

His wife Manorama Devi Birla died about a month ago.

Reports Hindustan Times

Amongst a host of things, the gentleman also happened to be the Chancellor of our college. Rest in Peace sir. You shall always remain a BITSian.

Moreover, people on campus will realize why this slightly ironic.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

On Cricket Quizzing

Thursday, August 28, 2008 0
ESPN logoImage via Wikipedia This summer I represented BITS Pilani at ESPN's Champions of the World, a cricket quiz. Along with Navin. A chance to sit on those toilet seats again at Eagle Studios, Noida while Harsha fires trivia questions at me. Ah, sweet memories of the good ol' ESPN School Quiz days. It seems only yesterday that I was humiliated by those little rascals from PSBB Nungambakkam (who made quite a pair since both of them were victims of Down's syndrome) who edged past our team(2004) or that bugger Aravind Vijayasarathy and Pranav Ramkumar who would subject me to a neatly organized session of bondage, rape and then eventually and almost poetically, murder(2003).

Aravind is now a loving senior at college. A fine example of this love was showcased when he invited me over to his room one and said that he had a gift for me. It was the video of him pwning my tush on national television.

I realized 2 years at a coaching facility which trained me for an exam, whose individual subject cut offs these days fail to get off the mark and then another two years in an institute where every question has to be workoutable (lest the quizmaster wants to be lynched); had crippled me and I was clearly a n00b amidst those fine Bengalis who could probably recognize David Johnson from his baby pictures.

I have realized that any quiz that is to be hosted on television has to be trivia based and should involve no room for working it out. The thrill for the viewer then comes from keeping the score and awaiting that nail biting finish.

We're all horses then.

The ignominy of being knocked out in the first round has hurt me, so I'm here digging into my past, ghoting random bits of trivia about Herbert Sutcliffe and Frank Worrell.

Feels good.

P.S: Everyone in my wing is addicted to Bradman's Best. One of the finest sports books that you'll ever get to read. Do give it a try.
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

On Quizzing

Saturday, August 23, 2008 0

We recently had the Fresher’s Challenge at BITS Pilani. It’s a quiz cum wordplay event held annually at the beginning of the year to find out the best quizzers in the batch. It also mostly transforms into a confidence shattering two hours. The scores are generally not too high, reason being the transition from school quizzing to college quizzing. School quizzing giants enter the campus with past laurels such as the success ESPN School Quiz, Bournvita Quiz Contest, Limca Quiz et al and are humbled by the level of quizzing at the college level.

Though trivia and obscure statistics is fun, college quizzing demands more of an analytical approach and the overly clich├ęd Steve Jobs advice of “connecting the dots” rather than memory alone. So why is this done?

Flattening the playing field might be one of the reasons. As Amit Varma elucidates on his blog:

A good quiz question is one in which, even if you don’t know the answer, you can work it out through clues given in the question…

I guess it’s also more to do with the fact that in hardcore trivia (read school or corporate business) quizzes it’s merely about knowing the answer. You either know it or you don’t. There aren’t any brain cells put to use. In such a case, a participant might feel cheated or as my British friends would put it “It’s simply not cricket”.

Quizzing then is also about setting good, workoutable questions. This means that the answer, in most cases should be something that everyone is aware of, however only the worthy can deduce that from the information presented to them.

For example one of the question asked during the Oasis Quiz(or simply OQ) last year was:

“Throughout history, the best pictures have always come in a yellow box.” Whose ad line?

The most obvious answer (probably due to 2 key words Pictures and Yellow) that comes to mind is Kodak, or probably some other variation a similar company. However, on closer inspection one notices something odd. The word History. Clearly Kodak is old, but not that old. Something doesn’t fit in.

The answer is actually National Geographic.

I wont deny that it does take a little getting used to for its so much more simpler to simply blurt out the answers which you are already aware of rather than sit and work things out. However the joy of deciphering the code that makes a good question is unparalleled.

Compared to the South, college quizzing in the North is still catching up. Lack of a high number of quality quizzes might be one reason. Another reason why the south is so good is probably due to the prevalence of the biggest quizzing clubs such as KQA, QFI etc.

Let’s refrain from talking about Kolkata :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Media as an elective at BITS Pilani

Thursday, August 21, 2008 7
Electives form an integral part of the academic structure. I would consider myself lucky to be in an institute like BITS Pilani. The vast number of electives it offers its students is almost intimidating. Besides, for some, who landed in Pilani accidentally because they somehow managed to clear the exam, and absolutely detest all the courses that form the part of their curriculum (since everyone might not get the branch of their choice), electives provide solace and possibly a hike in the CGPA(cumulative grade point average).

According to me, the students have as much of a right to demand an elective (given the constraints of the college of course). What I mean is that the college academic board should take feedback from the students regarding what sort of courses would they be interested in. BITS Pilani has a special set of technical electives under the category Emerging Areas(EA). I would love to see New Media under EA. BITS Pilani has a large number of bloggers. While many do it for the joy of typing out their thoughts for the world to read, there are some who seriously need the internet to survive and feel orphaned without digital media. One could start it off as an Audit Course(one which doesn't affect your CGPA and you either pass it or you don't) and then possiby make it a regular course based on the response. As part of the course students can be taken to blog camps in Delhi on a weekend(unconferences are usually held on a sunday/saturday) or probably invite successful bloggers/social media experts etc.

Obviously it goes without saying that the instructor has to be someone in the middle of all the action. Because of this, getting a teacher to the campus is going to be a big problem. I suggest then to organise classes via skype(what better way to lear new media, than to actually use it for teaching). Obviously this is just me thinking out loud.

It's time we start experimenting.

And echoing Rachit's thoughts, we should have our own blog aggregator.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Startup Lunch at Hyderabad-23rd August

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 0
Charminar, the most enduring symbol of the cityImage via Wikipedia

Startup Lunch, the recruiting event which is loosely based on the concept of speed dating, is finally coming to Hyderabad. The scheduled date for the event is 23rd August.

Hyderabad has seen a lot of growth, in terms of start ups, in the last couple of years. Naturally, all start ups require good hardworking people, willing to put in that extra effort to make the venture successful. This event is an excellent opportunity for start ups as well as those willing to work for another.You can also check out the presentation uploaded on Slideshare.

Successful Startup Lunches had been held at Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Delhi (which is going to conduct its third start up lunch soon).

Why should you, as a prospective team member, be part of this initiative?

1. One to many interface - One event, many start ups. Imagine the amount of time you would save by meeting them all in one place?

2. Align with your interests - Given the number of start ups and the interaction with their top management, you can decide which one to go with!

3. It's cost effective and helps you meet other people with similar interests.

Why should the startup be part of this initiative?

1. It's cost effective - Bulk recruiting solutions don’t work and customized recruitment is too expensive. This is the middle path - a relatively cost effective way of reaching a group of interested people.

2. It's targeted - Finding the "Eureka" person is tough. This helps enterprises get in touch with those who want to take the risk.

3. It's convenient- A meeting over lunch, a couple of hours to meet a great gang for working or hanging out with

Startup Lunch is an initiative of and is being held on the 23rd of August at the Intellecap Office in Hyderabad. All the contact details can be obtained from the wiki itself.

Being stuck in Pilani, it's a pity I can't attend the event.

For those of you who are content with their jobs and would rather engage in something else, head over to the Google office by 10 AM for a workshop on Cloud Computing! This one is packed with speakers from abroad and biggies back home.

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Image representing Zemanta ltd. as depicted in...Image by Zemanta via CrunchBase I've been trying Zemanta for nearly three months now. I am a bit frustrated with the number of pictures (creative commons) it offers, however, the service as such is quite interesting. Recommending relevant pictures for every three words, along with useful tags and links. Personally, I think it works better with Wordpress. I can see it to be quite useful for journalists in the future if these guys start including better links (I wasn't entirely satisfied by the links provided).Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Entering 3rd Year!

Thursday, August 07, 2008 0
Back at college.

Many seniors that I knew here have left. A fresh batch has arrived. Most of whom are forced to wear formals and are terrified by my hirsute and sometimes slovenly appearance. Almost instantly it feels like the first day of college where almost all the faces seemed unfamiliar. Yesterday, I had entered a class (haven't exercised BITSian flexibilities as far as attendance is concerned, yet) and most of the faces seemed alien to me.

The part that is different this time is that no one is cornering me.

Its my turn now.
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