Monday, May 25, 2009

Interwebs, media and such…

Horrible load-balancing problems struck every large Indian media site on counting day, one even boasted that their ‘servers went down’. Doh! The biggest and most dramatic failure was Election Commissions own site – – and I wondered why on earth NIC can’t set up a load-balancing server set-up for themselves. Try accessing the budget site on budget day, impossible. But NIC knows that there are occasional spikes and really should gear up for it.

Media companies on the other hand don’t. And this led to serious issues during the MumbaiAttacks in November where several sites collapsed under the stress. But is changing and spending massive sums of money for the internet worth it? That question is being answered in very strange ways by different organizations and a couple of them are saying, ‘You know what, it isn’t!’

What does not help is that traditional reporters, including yours truly, don’t really want to contribute over and above for online editions. The argument being that our jobs are stressful enough before you add the web to the mix. The honest reason being that most reporters are seriously lazy, heck you see that in the rampant ‘stealing’ that takes place every day, so much so that using the internet to find a story and then rewriting it has become par for the course. Attribution and acknowledgement have become dirty words. I’m a features writer, so believe me I know the pain of seeing data and facts you dig up stolen by imbeciles. But like Indian highways, all you can do is shrug your shoulders and move on and hope that sooner or later things change.

So, back to my point, there is still a severe shortage of genuine and good online content in India. Most news sites carry the same Press Trust of India rehash, and some sites prioritize story A over story B. Which, given PTI’s habit to hyperbole and claiming things that might or might not have happened is usually entertaining. Blogs are just blogs, opinionated examples of bad writing, and I would put myself in that bracket as well. I don’t really think too hard when stringing together paragraphs here, and only do so when I have the time away from talking about technology.

But technology is moving towards more and more access devices but access to what is the question? There ain’t that much to see online in India. Yes, there are some really cool blogs and sites, but nowhere enough content to satisfy a content whore such as me. And then again, far too many of them are discussing the rights and wrongs of what was discussed in India, so you have a situation where people are stringing together half-truths to debate the half-truths broadcast and printed in the mainstream.

The mainstream, where if reporters wanted, genuinely good web content can be created doesn’t really give a shit. Heck, on counting day both HT’s and ToI’s websites were far, far behind the channels. Updates from reporters were slow in coming and there was still far too much of sameness, too much PTI.

And then you have the features magazines, where there is decent content but no clear direction on ‘how to’ monetize that content. Putting everything up on the internet really doesn’t seem to solve the problems, instead it creates some that didn’t exist before. But, I do believe that features writers can take a lead on news writers when it comes to the web, because so much more work is going into the story. There are so many pictures that are not used, so many quotes not used and so much more than the 4,000 words that were written. Heck, equip everyone with a Nseries phone or suchlike and put A/V content based around the story. Think out of the box, Fortune is.

You know the biggest problem with the media internet in India. A lack of people. It is the same group of idiots who hop, skip and jump from one group to another. There has been little in the way of fresh thinking or communicating to the core assets. Internet newsrooms don’t work, your core assets are still the main reporters – get them to contribute – make web reportage part of the job.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rumour Mill

Now that everything is done and dusted politically - well other than ome random sulking here and there from the DMK, the media is back in business. And the media news is not that Raghav Behl seemingly went ballistic at his anchors on air, ballistic or excited I really don't know, but the magazine is ok. That it, Forbes India isn't bad, but ok, and I'll want to wait out two-three issues to see how it really is. The issue test is important because while Open has retained design integrity, content is haywire after a couple of months. Anyway, as I was saying one Republican has his product here, the other (former) one, is getting his product here too. And much, much sooner than you think because it won't be a bootstrap channel rather a rebrand of an existing one. Wait and watch.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What a weekend!

For Sonia Gandhi. Her son prove his mettle and her husband's murderer, well murder planner, was gunned down. Well, so much for India having an overtly right of centre government but I've argued before, until the BJP comes to terms with 2002 nothing will change. The left and the right might have been battered in these polls but India's GOP needs them around to define itself. Well, let's see if MMS survives, literally, for five years but as an Indian proud of democracy I wish the government well and hope they don't f*** up too much.
The nature of governance is such that they will screw up once in a while and I hope the opposition will be an an opposition for once instead of the walk-out cry babies they were last time. And as a Bong I'm still flabbergasted by what happened in Bengal.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Counting Day

I’m worried about watching TV tomorrow, I genuinely am. Not because the results will hoist an illiterate misogynist upon India, or worse still a party of illiterate misogynists, but we’ll have to endure crap for hours on end. The Election Commission does have a decent website over at so you could check that out. Unlike the US election results we will not have down to country (taluk?) specific information, but tomorrow might be quite chaotic on TV. Chaotic and uninformed.
Have you ever seen a controlled building demolition, you can only see the rubble (in this case the rubble of Indian democracy) after the dust has settled. The dust won’t be settling until the middle of next week. That said, enjoy watching the results tomorrow, and do write in with comments on what you found better – which TV channel or which website. Even though there is a significant chance of a mid-term election maybe by 2011/12 unless tomorrow delivers a comprehensive ‘victory’ for one side or another, this is probably the golden era of TV election coverage, by the next election the internet will take over, whether on the PC or the Mobile.
As for me, I don’t plan to drink too much tonight and I will be up by eight tomorrow morning, crack open a beer, get some nice popcorn going and watch various anchors froth at the mouth. Before they have to start laying off everyone next month.
And from the comments feed, please do read this latest allegation.
And this is the new Green Day video.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The 62 hours that will pass between the end of polling on the 13th and the start of counting on the 16th will see some of the most lucid comments from political analysts and spokespersons. Nobody knows what will happen, they have some estimations, right or wrong but right now there is no horse-trading and no politicking. The calm before the storm. But what a nice feeling even though the news channels are desperately trying to create news. Should make for interesting manufacturing over the next few days.
You stay off the comments section for a few days and you should see the vitriol that flows out - someone has threatened to sue me for calling someone 'inept'. Erm, to the best of my knowledge 'inept' isn't abusive and please sue me, I need the plank. Ineptitude is what we've been saddled with for the past five years and I have a bad feeling no matter what combination comes to power in a few days we'll be saddled with ineptitude for five more years (at least I voted, unlike a single memner of the Indian cricket team). Anyway, to the others who think I'm a lying twat, I don't tend to embellish my stories. Just, FYI.
Anyway, I got a link from a friend for something that is seriously wrong with journalism in India. Now, I don't know how true these allegations are (see, how like ToI, I used 'allege' in italics, but that said that is the right thing to do) but they sound with some merit. The problem lies not so much in plagiarism but in non-attribution. Ideas and stories are stolen and passed off as 'original' or 'exclusives' when they're not. Critics will cite pressure, but I'll just cite a poverty of ideas from editors and reporters. Generating ideas ain't easy but it ain't that difficult as well. OK, so I work as a Features writer and things are relatively easier, but c'mon...
And if something has come from someone else don't pass it off as your own by saying 'Our Bureaus' - and this is aimed at a paper that likes taking stuff from FT and WSJ and pretending it didn't. No harm in admitting that you couldn't get something. Some things work out and others don't. But to pass off something something else as 'exclusive' - in a world that operates with timestamps. C'mon that is almost as inept as threatening to sue a blogger for calling someone 'inept'. I mean c'mon even Appam C***iya won't sue Fake IPL Player for making him an Appam. But that said, I feel really sorry for Appam, uska career ek-dum khatam.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Running around...

A lot of things can happen accidentally. Like your boss starting to like you and despite a carefully cultivated reputation of being lazy, he decides to throw that out of the window. Leaving me to blog through email from the back seat of a taxi in the middle of a traffic jam created by 2010. No really, I'm sorry, I've been meaning to blog. About all sorts of things. Like how Varun Gandhi makes his cousin seem highly intelligent. Or about how I voted and was pleasantly surprised by the turn-out. And how Times Now has the most balanced political panel despite an email interview expert who is also a closet Paki sitting on the panel. For obvious (and personal reasons understood by those who know me) I really enjoy Swapan and Paranjoy go hammer and tongs. Add CS and Shashi Tharoor to the mix to see four Cal boys from the St.Stephen's class of 1975 go at it would be highly entertaining. For me at least. Anyway, I really have to run and you know what, this E75 is pretty good for typing. Till I can invent some more time.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Casting my Vote!

Well, I got the chit which has my polling number and booth for Thursday and I'm really looking forward to casting my vote. I didn't cast my vote in the Assembly polls last year but I've voted in every general election (and a couple of municipal elections) to date. I'll post a picture with my (not middle) ink-stained finger. I have no clue what will bappen on the 16th, and I don't think too many other people do either. Internal polls by the parties are giving all sorts of crazy trends, but I wanted to add to the madness.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Soiled Undies

Is there any good way of going about lay-offs? Nope. I know a lot of senior editors and while people constantly get removed for screw-ups and non-performance, lay-offs are not those. Here, people, usually hard-working ones lose a job because of reasons beyond their control. But even then, information can play a huge role.
Telling employees that you have more lay-offs scheduled through a third-party seems strange and to many not honest. I have been lucky that I have worked under editors who believe at (a level of, any which way) transparency. Most of them have at least. I have always had issues with people who protect non-confidential or work-related ‘information’ – whether that is company information on employment or a phone number. No I don’t always want to know what launches are around the corner or detailed financials, but if times are tough I would like to know what the hell is going on and openness there is something that I respect.
When that trust breaks down, that reflects on the quality of reportage and the confidence of even your best resources. And trust can break down – and then the stories and the leaks start. Some true and some patently absurd, but because of the situation you actually even listen to them. There are stories that people have been called back from assigned for a ‘talk’ or that the really high-cost senior resources haven’t cut back. And confidence levels drop to the point that numbers start to fall. As do profits and it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
It doesn’t have to be this way, you know. But the trouble is that the business books will probably look back and write about this as a case-study in ‘How not to’ and that, frankly, is the worst condemnation you can get.

PS: It appears that other than the ICL, Subhash Chandra’s other ‘venture’ (which was a JV) is also facing trouble and is on the block with the JV partners looking to cede management control. Hmmm…
EDIT: Typo in headline corrected - 'Soiled Undies' I guess is the best interpretation and what I really wanted to say in the first place.