Despite the wishes of some readers who read this blog, I was sadly not blown to bits by the blasts in bangalore or Ahmedabad. Instead I was up in the hills of Himachal, near Kasauli to be precise, enjoying a short break from work. I must admit, the NHAI has done a fantastic job on some stretches of NH-1, the new panipat over-pass is brilliant. Well, that could be because it is only two weeks old, but passing through panipat was a mess, and now one just breezes through.
Interesting weekend to be away from a television beaming in news, I was depending pretty much exclusively on the mobile news sites of various news organisations - HT, ToI, NDTV and CNN-IBN, as well as the agencies and I must admit they were all fairly good though you did end up reading the same PTI copy in quite a few places (much like the web then). But when I did manage to watch some news on Sunday night, I realised that no major news organisation, possibly with the sole exception of CNN-IBN has managed to 'integrate' its regular newsroom with its web/mobile newsroom, and CNN-IBN hasn't quite perfected it either.
While I appreciated the availibility of XHTML sites on my mobile, particularly since I was rather far from a computer as well (hence no posts) there is still quite a difference between the news I see on most online sites and the news you read or view online or on your mobile. I know that networks are a major limiting factor for mobiles today, but with the government desperate to raise cash (and now firmly in the saddle, though I'm not so sure about the telecom minister keeping his post), I assume 3G auctions will happen rather shortly and that we should see the first 3G network deployments by sometime next year. I also know that the telecom companies will all say that 3G will primarily be used to 'enhance' voice, but the massive amounts of bandwidth available of HSDPA networks will allow for hardcore data-streaming. I seriously doubt that networks would implement a data-intensive mobile-TV platform, but YouTube clips on the go, or maybe more salicious stuff might become more popular. It will also mean that larger numbers of Indians will start seriously consuming media on the small screen.
And that is a huge opportunity for media companies. In fact, Indian media companies are not blind to the net. Most of them have decent websites. But the lack of integrated newsrooms leads to all sorts of issues. On TimesGroup sites for example it sometimes is impossible to find a link to an article, even if it was the flyer for the day - either on ToI or ET. Now, ET wants to build an integrated TV and print newsroom with rahul Joshi firmly in charge. Somehow, according to several ET print veterans, he is powerless about the web.Which might be the case, but I still feel ET can do so much better online. I mean, it is a leading brand, and it is very frustrating that sometimes when I read a story on the paper and want to send a link to a friend, I can't find it, forcing me to check out the 'epaper', find the edition and relevant page and then email the story. Five minutes instead of 30 seconds. And it is the same case with ToI. Oh yes, and then there are the page layouts online, but that is something several other sites are guilty of as well.
I must admit that for a fairly simple site and despite the often bewildering results a site search shows up, HT's basic site is rather simple and fairly easy. OK, so you have to increase the font size, but then I'm quibbling over minute things. It isn't a paragon of simple design such as the Guardian Online or The Economist online, which allow you to get pretty much zip-zap-zoom to a story.
Now, the problem according to some people on the technology front is not the lack of technology or that of money, but the desire of journalists working the newsroom. Almost everybody wants to be on the 'big' news team, not the step-sisterly 'web' team. But other than some people to maybe format the stories and sometimes enter links, a sort of 'web desk' why should there be two separate teams? The future is coming fast guys, and I don't get why so many of you don't want to accept that reality. I've thought very often of killing K off, because he is increasingly becoming a liability rather than an asset, but K gives me some sort of a pulse of what is going on on the interweb, I've learnt a lot from K. I've made friends, and more than my fair share of enemies and to some of them, I'm not against any media group in particular and big deal if my political opinions piss you off, this is a democracy right? That said, I seriously hope that V.K Malhotra stands from the new Central Delhi constituency, because leanings aside, it is very difficult to vote for the man if he was to stand from my 'new' constituency.
About the BRT story, it is the headline I had an issue with. I live near the BRT and I commute, or rather used to commute down that stretch everyday, now I route myself around it. Human blood vessels also route themselves around a benign tumour. I do not disagree in principle with public transport, because I've used buses and had the BRT been made when I was in college, I would have been a big votary for A/C buses, but the implementation of certain public projects. On NH-1 near the border, there are public works projects delayed for years, but the government wanted to force a BRT down our throat. If planned properly, which included the banning of all commercial vehicles on that stretch - that road is particularly dangerous and narrow at night when trucks laden with bits of the Aravali's are racing down - including all three-wheeled commercial vehicles, a slight widening of roads, better planning basically it could have so much smoother. I don't see why anybody should wait for 10 minutes to take a right turn at Chirag Dilli flyover. It is hot, petrol is expensive, and tempers will fray. And by the way, the AC buses don't take right turns at the flyover. I'm no city planning expert, but I can see the BRT every day and if you think that is a success, man you're smoking much better shit than I am.
Anyway, going through the last few days papers it seems that political adverts are getting whackier and whackier. Seriously, those guys should hire copywriters!