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Comment FB did everything wrong... (Score 2) 32

Maybe the Free Interweb idea had its merits, but FB and their advertisement / PR goons went about publicizing the worst way possible...the ads showed poor people beaming with joy as if internet access is going to eradicate hunger, poverty and other social ills. This was the 21st century version of "fairness cream" advertisement.

What FB should have was test the service in selected areas, or may be one or two circles before planning a pan-Indian roll out.

Also, I doubt if the feature phones used by a majority of poor / lower income strata citizens (including some of the tech agnostic well off crowd) will have any meaningful browsing experience.

Comment Does he make sense? (Score 1) 172

Hossein Derakhshan's became a political prisoner for voicing his opinion.

Countries like China, Saudi and Iran leads when it comes to imprisoning you for voicing an anti-establishment opinion, or highlighting their idiocies. In India you will be trolled, and sometimes authorities (or their tools) may take you to court. I guess its a mix of everything if you are in Russia...including executions.

That said, I don't think his complaint is very valid. Let me quote him...

Blogs were gold and bloggers were rock stars back in 2008 when I was arrested. At that point, and despite the fact the state was blocking access to my blog from inside Iran, I had an audience of around 20,000 people every day. People used to carefully read my posts and leave lots of relevant comments, even those who hated my guts. I could empower or embarrass anyone I wanted. I felt like a monarch.

He is upset he is not getting 20000 people every day. The original audience he will have to rebuild and it will take time (whether on Facebook / blog.) Once he does that and if his audience finds him relevant - this is the tricky part - the quality and quantity of comments will increase.

Will he be censored on Facebook? The answer lies in the arrangement Facebook has with Iranian "Ministry of Truth and Harmony".

Comment Gates Foundation and Indian Television (Score 4, Interesting) 156

Last week I was at a post production studio in Mumbai. The editor was working on an Indian Hindi TV series - MAIN KUCH BHI KAR SAKTHI HOON (I Can Do Anything.)
The show is set in rural India, follows the usual Hindi or Indian cinema/television melodramatic hyperventilating style. Here is the beef...rather than inane plots on good versus evil, bad mother in laws and familiar Indian TV soap tropes, this show had female protagonists who were bucking the system and bringing out change in the society.
The familiar style they used made sure a majority of the audience will feel comfortable.
Gates Foundation was one of the Producers. This is thinking out of the need a bit of 'good old propaganda' to support you when you go to rural communities to change their perception on unhealthy practices.

Comment Doesn't matter (Score 1) 131

GMAIL / EMAIL (except in business environment) is more or less on the way of dodo. I am looking at my INBOX and most emails are from service providers like banks, utilities etc. not friends / family which has migrated to some sort of social media / messaging platform.

Facebook made the right call in buying Whatsapp. For all its smarts, self driving cars, robots, AI and what not Zuckerberg has an edge over Brin and his cohorts when it comes to interpersonal communication between human beings.

Comment Re:Will Ad Blockers Kill the Digital Media Industr (Score 1) 519

I am not willing to pay $10 p.m. for every single one of these; especially to only read any article very occasionally or only once

You hit the nail on the head.

The biggest success in the world of software and entertainment as far as adoption go is Popcorn Time. If there is a subscription model attached most of the viewers will be OK to pay a few dollars a month for unfettered access. (To an extent this is what Netflix is providing.)

Popcorn Time is not possible with online versions of print media. The closest you get is Google News - except for a few websites the links do not need a subscription. But then you will quickly go over the limit of free articles with no option but to pay full price / subscribe.

Even "Google Contribute" is not addressing this issue...its only to show less advertisement.

Comment Re:Public transportation in USA (Score 1) 395

I have lived and worked in both US and India - and a few others. I have used public transportation extensively in both these places as I dislike daily driving.
I made a comparison about an India and US in 2015. I would not make such a comparison in 1985. I specifically said "poor is better represented in the Indian political process as they are a bigger voting block."
Your perceptions of India and rest of the world may be coming from a limited world view. There is a phrase in Sanskrit - KOOP MANDOOK.

Comment Public transportation in USA (Score 2, Informative) 395

US is worse than many developing nations when it comes to public transportation.
There is no way most people can depend on public transportation in US for regular commute. The frequency, and reach of buses/trains are incredibly poor in most of US. The exceptions are the few big cities - NYC, Chicago, Portland etc., that too if you live in an area close to a station.
Not even Bay Area - a high populated urban area - you can depend on public transportation for daily commute unless you have an option for point to point travel on BART / bus. Try going from Hayward to San Mateo - 25 minutes if you drive, more than an hour if you take a bus. You only have to cross a bridge!!!
The same with many East coast neighborhoods - try Phoenixville PA to Philadelphia on a SEPTA bus.
It sucks to be poor. But in 2015, its better to be poor in a country like India compared to US as poor as a voting block is better represented and their needs better taken care of...and that includes public transportation.
To get a better perspective on what it means to be poor in United States this book is a good beginning -

Comment Trains - high and low speed (Score 1) 189

I have been a train traveler for more than three decades. I have used extensively four networks - (one of the biggest) Indian Railway, Amtrak, Japan Rail and China Railway.

I feel the marginal improvement of 40 minutes via a new maglev line for 280KM costing $100 billion is sort of a boondoggle project...and may be a vanity project. The Shinkansen aka Bullet trains are already a costly mode of transportation, tickets frequently costing as much as a regular flight ticket. For the 40 minutes of saving in travel time what will be the hike in ticket price for a project costing $100 billion?

The other end of the equation is Indian Railway - frequently derided as slow, archaic, unsafe etc. by armchair analysts who has never set foot in a train.

A few weeks back I traveled 1800 KM, point to point on a second class ticket which took 22 hours and cost Rs 800 ~ $12 on an Indian train. The ticket was booked online, I produced only a confirmation text message (the website of Indian Railway has improved a lot and is better than AMTRAK.) The summer heat made for a roasting day, but it was safe - probably the cheapest and safest option point to point anywhere in the world. (Indian Railways are super safe compared to driving in an Indian road.)

The same travel will take may be six hours on a high speed line, but will cost $120 or more - which is what a flight ticket will cost in that sector. A majority of Indians who travel by trains will not be able to afford an extra zero in their ticket. (This is what the current proponents of high speed train travel in India ignore or do not understand.)

A version of the above exists for developing countries too...a few months back I was traveling between Washington and Philadelphia on AMTRAK. Only the wealthy - or a professional who gets reimbursed via his office - can afford an ACELA...the tickets were close to $100. Luckily there were enough "Northeast Regionals" for $40 - comfortable and faster than a Greyhound and only $10 more.

What a country like America requires is (arguably) a much more denser railway network (not as slow as the Indian network) but not necessarily a super high speed network where a majority of the population - the lower class, the lower middle class and even the middle class - is priced out. We always forget Japan Railway and China Railway has enough regular trains which are slightly slower but cheaper.

May be I am wrong...automobiles are the preferred mode of commute and the drop in oil prices means flight tickets - and driving - will stay cheaper. So the age of trains in US may be over, purely for economic reasons.

Comment Re:Autorickshaws market is tough (Score 1) 62

The situation has changed in most urban centers of India as far as auto-rickshaws are concerned. Most have electronic meters which are resistant to tampering.

About policemen owning auto-rickshaws - you may find some outlier cases in certain areas of India, but the way you generalize a whole country is illogical and untrue.

There are enough problems in India...but there is no need to exaggerate or generalize such a vast country in broad strokes.

Comment Re:Out of touch with the world she lives in (Score 3, Interesting) 538

Feinstein, the late senator Ted Stevens (Internet is through tubes) are senior citizens who are behind the times when it comes to technology. They may not be able to comprehend "internet" not because they are stupid, but because its a truly radical idea which is impossible to fathom for the many who did not grow up with it. This is one of the reasons you still have senators or congress members - mostly old - who does not use even email.

Recently Indian government tried to ban the documentary "India's daughter." The Indian home minister is a seventy plus Rajnath Singh. His first reaction is to "ban" the documentary. He knows "ban" worked in the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies.

Comment Re:I Don't Understand (Score 5, Interesting) 233

The explanation is that there is no 'plausible explanation'.
Bihar is THE poorest state in India by many metrics. The way out of poverty and squalor for a majority is getting a good score in the Secondary School leaving exams - or minimum pass the damn exam - where you qualify for state / central recruitment, military, admissions to college and so on.
Just like BRICS, India got BIMARU states - Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh to signify 'sick' states - BIMARU in Hindi means 'unhealthy condition'. Think of a BIMARU state as Appalachia or Louisana, but more downtrodden and poor.
Here is an anecdote from my uncle - who did his MSc in Physics way back in the late 1980's from Kanpur, a big city in Bihar's neighboring state Uttar Pradesh - another basket case. The college he studied is DAV College, Kanpur, next to the big cricket stadium Green Park.
During the exams students were three types of service by the local strongmen - mostly wannabe politicians, with support from the caste based political parties...the cheapest tier will allow you to copy from your notes during the exams. The middle tier will allow you to write the exam from your hostel room. The topmost tier they will find someone else who is an expert in the subject to write the exam for you.
These wannabe politicians later represent the state and its constituents in the local and central governments. And now you can understand where are how the criminality of the typical North Indian caste based politician comes from....its inbred. Only the toughest and the most criminal will survive.
I am from Kerala - an entirely different world from the BIMARU States. Think of upstate New York or Pennsylvania - but more tropical. The world described above is alien to us...just like its alien to you.

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