What if Search engines didn't exist

I'm an avid surfer, and browse through numerous sites a day. I spend a lot of time looking up things, and am overtly dependent on search engines. It just struck me as to how it would affect me, or a billion other people if search engines didn't exist. So here's a case study on a search done without a search engine.

Search Term: Trekking in India

Find out the web address for trekking agency(s) in India

I started doing what I would normally do if looking for an address in the real world: look in the phone directory, or in this case look into internet directories. By the way, please remember that you don't go looking for directories you have never heard of. I applied the same approach; I only knew of Google Directory and Dmoz, and thus I only searched on these sites

  •  Google: The screen shots will tell you that I ended up with nothing
Home Page- Google Directory
 Category Page (I clicked on Hiking)

  Hiking Page

  •  Dmoz: Failed again (Screenshot below)

 Hiking Page (Similar page resulst as Google)

  1.  If search crashes on the internet, we are lost (people might argue that this will never happen but I'm just exploring the hypothetical case that it does)
  2. Internet directories aren't the best. In fact they are unfriendly to a great extent and did not inspire a lot of confidence in me
  3. These directories are a repository of information as submitted by people, website omners etc. There is no validity or logic to all the data.
  4. Long live Google, Bing and all the other search engines. Simply cause if they crash, or cease to exist, the web would collapse.
  5. Search engines have made us dependent; dependent on them for even looking for the simplest things for which we earlier had another search engine called Friends' reference
  6. It does make sense distributing pamphlets with your web address on it
  7. It makes even better to give your web address out along with tissues :) (Visit Japan to experience this)


Twitter Lists

The latest fad to take over Twitterverse is the inclusion of lists. You can now add people to a list, or  a bunch of lists. The blogosphere, as well Marketing sites are abuzz on how Twitter Lists can help us.

Here's other people's take:

Measure influence: This is the one major point which people have highlighted. Influence has always been the major 'Pull' point of Twitter. Lists are being seen as the next big thing in influence measurement. So, if you figure on 1 million lists you are really influential? Or is it just going back to that old adage on Twitter: "Quality and not Quantity".

My take: The same old people will remain as influential as before. People will continue creating lists and adding people for other people to follow them. Makes no difference.

Where I think lists might make a difference are the following:

Tweep-Tweet selection: It has helped me cut the clutter, and I am now able to see Tweets from Tweeps who matter. It's not that I don't look at the other tweets, but my list almost adds as Google Reader; it allows me to read what I want

Syndicate: You can syndicate the feed from a list to your reader. This allows you to keep updated on relevant information and find good Re-Tweetable content

Suggestion: Your list can act as a good point of suggestion for new followers to add.Tweeps who you follow suggest other Tweeps all the while. Their suggestions will make more sense, than just randomly following people.

Build Personas: How about trying to build personas by looking at lists? For example: If you look at my list, research the people I like, you might be able to infer what I am interested in. Although Yahoo Mojo might confirm that I am a Concierge, Twitter Lists can help you drill down the information further.

Groups or Tribes: Godin talks about them. You can finally make them now. Technologists, family, people who spam, Awesome Ideators... anything. In the end, the choice is yours! It allows your information to flow in streams created by you. This again allows for control over that unmanageable Twitter Tweet stream.

These are some advantages I can think of. Any comments on what else?


Osaka Journal

Some random photos from Osaka. Two from the giant Ferris wheel in Osaka, One of Universal studios and another of me in front of Hard Rock Cafe (that's a first. My photo)






Vodafone Sucks

I've really had it with Vodafone. This post comes after about 8-10 complaints to them. Here's what I think about them:

  1. Don't care about the customer
  2. Advertise falsely
  3. Don't care to respond back
  4. Call center executives are always looking to shove off customers
  5. Most call center executives are dumb beyond belief
  6. Lack of communications
  7. Don't want to solve problems

False advertising: They've put up boards all around my office, as well as in office, advertising .50 paise STD rates. To avail them, you need to contact their call center and top up a Rupee 49 amount. When I did call up, the executive, Anil, told me that there was no such scheme existent for postpaid, and even in prepaid, I had to go for a certain plan. When I told him about the advertising, he simply started repeating my rental plan back to me. After insisting that I was not a moron, and that I knew about my own plan, I asked to be transferred to the manager. Pat came the reply " The manager is in a meeting" .
This is their standard reply, and they have no other when faced with no answers

Billing: While shifting from Mumbai to Hyderabad, I made sure that I informed them that I wanted to terminate my connection. Their call center directed me to their store, where I did go to, in Mira Road Bhayander. After checking my outstanding, they asked me to pay that amount, and then confirmed that my account had no outstanding and it was closed.
Voila! Next month I received my bill asking for a further payment of Rupee 150. Though not concerned by the amount, I called them up, and asked the reason why I was being charged this. At this point I was in Hyderabad, and the call center in Hyderabad asked me to speak with the Mumbai one. So, I spent 20 bucks, called their center, and spoke to another nitwit named Saif. He was as usual unable to solve my problem, and as already stated, when I summoned the manager, He/She was in a meeting.

Connectivity: I was facing call drops, and called up, and got the same sort of dis satisfactory reply. Connectivity remained the same and I continued facing call drops

I am not alone though. I've taken some links highlighting the pains one faces when they take Vodafone. As I have told Vodafone, unfortunately, this is India, and I cannot sue them for these. Otherwise, they happen to be on of the worst Mobile service providers on the planet.

Other aggrieved customers:
  1. www.consumercomplaints.in/complaints/vodafone-india-c19306.html
  2. www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/vodafone-india-c33126.html
  3. www.consumercourt.in/.../3340-complaint-against-vodafone-customer-care.html
  4. http://broadbandforum.in/vodafone-india-mobile/52947-my-fight-against-vodafone-india-and-lessons-learnt/
  5. www.mobileindia.info/.../vodafone-india-hutch-prepaidpostpaid-customer-care-info.html 

 Note: These are 5 out of 443,000 results in an India specific Google search. 

And oh, they are NOT "HAPPY TO HELP" 


Patterns and Marketing

Early in my marketing career, I learnt a very important lesson. Customers follow a 'PATTERN' . Seth Godin calls them "Tribes".

My ex boss, and my friend Abhay very recently, always spoke of 'Patterns'. They kept insisting to me that if one can deduce the patterns of customers, one can sell more effectively. Somehow, I've always felt this is a good way of understanding customer behavior (an area which intrigues me most). It was only when I looked at Google Analytics, and then at Trendsmap (a tool which shows Twitter trends from all around the world), that I got thinking. What if one can integrate what both these tools do, and integrate it with various marketing tools, so as to emerge with patterns.

The image below is a screenshot from Trendsmap

The next image is from Google Analytics

Now, imagine an integration with a survey, or with that email campaign you sent. Suppose you have a survey question: "What influences your soap purchase?" and the answers are

  1. Smell
  2. Not harsh on skin
  3. Economical
  4. Neat design. 
Now assign different color flags to each answer; red for option 1, green for option2, yellow for option 3 and blue for option 4.

Then suppose we integrate online surveys with Google Maps, so that you can watch results pop up in real time. Imagine the flags popping up with each click on your survey. The color coding makes it easy to identify, and the density of a certain color can help you detect the said "Patterns".

Here's a few uses I can see for this sort of data:
  • Surveys: Imagine the patterns that can emerge over a period of time. You can easily compare the color flags over a period of time to see pattern changes. Strangely, if you watch National Geographic, they've used this technique to track migration patterns of animals.
  • Emails: Tracking email links is a tedious job. If you have a newsletter, it becomes even worser. Looking at patterns, one can have tuned, targeted mails for various regions, based on user trends
  • Social media: This is pretty easy, and a lot of it is already being implemented
  • Sales team: Will be of great use to them. They can keep tagging their sales made on an interactive map, which can be shared with the marketing department. This can help he marketing team further establish usage trends, areas where products/ services are selling, product/services sales in respective areas, revenue maps for customers etc.
  • Website: Create a map (2D) of your website, and track links. What would be interesting is if we can have a 'linktrail' of each customer; i.e. where does he click first, his 2nd click, and so on. If the entire trail can be mapped onto a pattern map, you have a consumer behavior map for your website. Optimise as much as you like after that.

Avinash Kaushik, of Occam's Razor and Google Analytics fame, remarks that analytics are easy, and unless you drill down, the simple mind cannot ascertain the key points from the data exhibited.

Perhaps this 'Pattern' detection will make it easy for the amateur researcher, or marketing executive to provide reports. Also, it might help make marketing a more reportable part of business (which it isn't right now).


One little Twitter bird sat on the wall

                                  (Courtesy of Dilbert.com)

I've been a pretty mute spectator on the Twitter thing. After having joined it in February, I've watched it grow. The fanfare has been getting extremely loud, probably too loud. Here's what about seven months on Twitter has taught me. My analysis on any subject tends to be simple, with focus on the benefits and the misfits.


  1. It's instant. Possibly the instantest (forgive the word twist)
  2. It helps you learn
  3. It's an instant database (not a long-term one though) of the best sites, information, snippets, you-name-it-you-got-it, on the internet
  4. It can/might help you influence people
  5. It has a SUPERB SEARCH option (real-time)- You can read this great post by Ann Smarty of SEOsmarty fame
  6. Superb way to increase website visits
  7. SEO: Links, backward and forward, Click throughs, optimized clicks, customized landing pages and much more
  8. It helps increase a company brand value (Personal brand value also)
  9. If you are the celebrity lover (which I am not), you could follow a lot of them (none follow you back of course), message them(expect no reply) and feel good about it


  1. It does not help you make friends. Common misconception. If that's your intention, head over to Facebook 
  2. Horrible for ad placement- Too many reasons. If you post now, it might reflect at any position on your followers Twitter Dashboard. Also, your ads will disappear with the occurrence of fresher tweets. This compared to email where you Ad remains in the Inbox, and can be read later if need be
  3. It is ruled by Narcissists, spammers, porn artists and people with pointless tweets
  4. Contrary to belief, it does not really help you influence people- Suppose you follow a company on Twitter. Has their publishing a white-paper influenced you
  5. It does not help sales
  6. Most people are busy tweeting. It's akin to you conversing with someone, but the conversation is one-way; while you are talking about soccer, your freind is talking about the next rock concert
  7. It is SPAMMY- Financial help, PORN (parents should never allow their kids, though Kids hate twitter anyways), Learn how to add a Zillion followers and the list goes on.
Marketing angle

If we take a marketers' angle (I am a marketer), here are few things one should consider before joining the Twitter bandwagon:

  1. Be very clear on what you want to Tweet about
  2. Don't just join for the heck of it. Formulate a plan of how frequently you are going to tweet in a day, what you are going to tweet about, and what kind of customers you can hope to influence
  3. Twitter is a 24/7 machine. You will require a resource (s) who must monitor your account
  4. Don't neglect your followers. Make sure you reply back/ Direct Message on time
  5. Don't expect sales from Twitter. It's a platform where you can hope to influence and not sell
  6. Twitter to me is the best substitute for word-of-mouth. If you tweet something of substance, which gets retweeted, you could expect a Pingomatic (My word: I'll elucidate in my next post) effect.
  7. Use an URL shortener like bit.ly. It not only helps you track your tweets, but also helps you get Retweeted
  8. Always Tweet within a limit of 100-110 characters. This allows for better Retweet value, and also the possibility of Follower remarks
  9. Try and Rewtweet also. This shows that you care about the community at large.
  10. Don't expect 1000 followers a day. Always remember the "Quality is better than Quantity" motto
  11. Give back: Have incentives (the #moonfruit campaign), offer prizes, organize competitions, have charity auctions 
  12. Last but not the least, remember that Twitter is social media. You do not thrive in society by being alone, not interacting with people and just living on an island.

(All icons courtesy of Smashing Magazine)


The marketers guide to creating a website

This post describes how Marketing Personnel should approach website creation/ design/ development.
These are some easy to execute steps, with references to various sources I use for inspiration, ideas, as well as guidance.

Step I: Research, research, research

One of the most critical but oft neglected steps. Even before you begin creating your website, try researching about topics like    : 
  •   Content:
    • Website writing is the exact opposite of book writing  
    • Write the conclusion, and then move into the explanation
    • Try reading statistics on average time spent on a page. Two minutes is pushing it on many sites  
    • Research reading heat maps
  • SEO
    • Learn
    • Try learning a bit of HTML and CSS 
    • Learn about Google Bots and other search bots
    • Get to know how pages get indexed
    • Read this cheatsheet
  • Design
    • Read about
      • Navigability
      • User interfaces
      • Clicks and how to maximize them
      • Customer click studies 
      • Typography 
      • Color palettes
      • Sitemap: Design, importance and how to make them 
     Step II: Customer research

    So you’ve read up all about how to create a website, but do you know who the customer is. Some questions I ask myself are:
    • Who am I marketing to?
      • What type of business am I trying to market? B2B, B2C, B2A etc.
      • What makes the sale?
        • Ask your sales team for this information
      •  If you have a site existent then you can get a few tips off it
      Oh, BTW, if you are creating a website for a social cause or for a non-profit organization, I suggest you read this
      Step III: What should I use to build it
      • Identify if you want control over the site content or not!!?
        • If you do, then the choice is a CMS, like Joomla, Drupal, DotNetNuke etc.
        •  If not, get hold of a really good website designer
          • Check her/him for: Design skills, platforms skills and web design knowledge (Basically you need to know more than him thus)
        Step IV: What are the elements?

        Image from : apple.com

        • Identify your website elements like
          • Frontpage: Key and very important
          • Inner pages
            • How many to create?
            • What will their design be like?
          • Photos and Images: What, which and how to use
          • Navigation
          • About Us page: Believe it or not, most customers want to know your company first. Unless you are a fortune 20 company
          • Contact Us information
          • Search box
            • Where will it be located?
            • Check out good sites for search box functionality. Apple has a great option
          • Footer design
          • Error Pages

        Step V: Action stations!
        Image Courtesy: thelostjacket.com
        • Critical step of all: Identify Call-to-action
          • What will they be? Will it be
            • Email us
            • Contact Us
            • Contact forms
            • Download collateral
            • Product download: registration
            • Share options
            • Chat with us
            • Offline support
          •  Where will they be located?
          • What, if any, action button on Frontpage?
          • What actions to place on which pages?
            • What location? Right hand side, left hand side, top menu
        Step VI: Wire it out

        • Create a wire frame diagram of your website for ( I use this)
          • Frontpage
          • Inner pages
            • Helps you get a clearer picture of the layout

          Step VII: Approval, dummy!


          • Very critical
          • Send the wireframe, design ideas and all other stuff to your management for review
            • If you don't then you might have to redo it!


          Great Cave diving photos (Courtesy of Wired.com)

          Link here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/gallery_cavediving/


          Futagawa festival

          Diwali 007

          Diwali 013



          Random Japan photos

          Thought of putting up some random photos.

          1) My Girlfriend's teddy bears

          Picture 069

          2) My University Computer Hall Hamamamtsu

          Picture 019

          3) Rarity: Me in front of my University- Second Last Day in Japan

          Picture 030


          Osaka Aquarium

          Some snaps from the Osaka Aquarium