What is Bit coin and why you should bother ? – an Inquisitive Guide

Unlike most people, I had not really heard about the Bitcoin used at large. However, now that I think about it, I think I might have come across the BITCOIN phrase in passing when looking through the internet for some cracks, yes I did search and no I did not find what I was looking for. Getting back to the whole topic of Bitcoins. A couple of weeks back a friend Megha, posted the information about the BitCoins on facebook, and I have been reading about it from then, to get a good idea about BitCoins. Here is what I have found out, simplified for all.

Like everything on the internet, from the internet itself, this is revolutionary. It is a new form of currency, completely online and something that all of us can use. This post is an indepth guide to the Bit Coin and what you can and cannot do with it. Like everything on the internet, there is a major real difficulty among all people to accept it, there are discussions on the god and the bad of the BitCoin all over the internet at this time. So I will not divulge into that for now.

What is BitCoin ?

BitCoin is a new currency – it wants to shake the entire global economy. And some people think it might! It’s online money—an alternative to dollars and euros. Well what’s that mean? It’s complicated, but I will break it down over the next few posts. Yes, there are some simple infographics that help in making it easier to understand, I will add them here below. I will however tell you there is one part which is not so clear and that is how the coins are generated.

Bitcoin is underwritten not by a government, but by a clever cryptographic scheme. For now, little can be bought with bitcoins, and the new currency is still a long way from competing with the dollar.

Again, BitCoin is Digital ..

BitCoin is not real money. It’s an online “currency”—virtual tokens that can be exchanged for goods and services at places that accept it. The list of which is fast growing.

In 2008, a programmer known as Satoshi Nakamoto posted a paper outlining Bitcoin’s design to a cryptography e-mail list. Then, in early 2009, he (or she) released software that can be used to exchange bitcoins using the scheme. That software is now maintained by a volunteer open-source community coordinated by four core developers. Like real money, It does have a market where its value against some real world currencies are mapped against, check it out here http://www.bitcoinwatch.com/, while writing this post the value of a BitCoin was nearly $14.

The programmer Satoshi wanted people to be able to exchange money electronically securely without the need for a third party, such as a bank or a company like PayPal. He based Bitcoin on cryptographic techniques that allow you to be sure the money you receive is genuine, even if you don’t trust the sender.

If you look at the first video above, its from the four core developers and they are thinking big, they are looking at BirCoin as a way to revolutionalize finance, just as how the internet revolutionized publishing.

How do I start. I.e the Basics

Once you download and run the Bitcoin client software, it connects over the Internet to the decentralized network of all Bitcoin users and also generates a pair of unique, mathematically linked keys, which you’ll need to exchange bitcoins with any other client. One key is private and kept hidden on your computer. The other is public and a version of it dubbed a Bitcoin address is given to other people so they can send you bitcoins.

Crucially, it is practically impossible—even with the most powerful supercomputer—to work out someone’s private key from their public key. This prevents anyone from impersonating you. Your public and private keys are stored in a file that can be transferred to another computer, for example if you upgrade.

A Bitcoin address looks something like this: 1H4NSNzoP7eoYnL69HCvehVTZBPJoyMzK9. You can transfer a donation to me on the attached BitCoin Address. YOu can also go to some online stores where you can use these BitCoins to buy real world goods.

Transactions with BitCoins and how they occur

When you perform a transaction, your Bitcoin software performs a mathematical operation to combine the other party’s public key and your own private key with the amount of bitcoins that you want to transfer. The result of that operation is then sent out across the distributed Bitcoin network so the transaction can be verified by Bitcoin software clients not involved in the transfer. [ This is important as this is the step where the internet and BitCoin software clients perform the function of banks where they confirm the person is you, such that your current value of Bit Coins is calculated and the balance given back to you]

Those clients make two checks on a transaction. One uses the public key to confirm that the true owner of the pair sent the money, by exploiting the mathematical relationship between a person’s public and private keys; the second refers to a public transaction log stored on the computer of every Bitcoin user to confirm that the person has the bitcoins to spend.

When a client verifies a transaction, it forwards the details to others in the network to check for themselves. In this way a transaction quickly reaches and is verified by every Bitcoin client that is online. Some of those clients – “miners” – also try to add the new transfer to the public transaction log, by racing to solve a cryptographic puzzle. Once one of them wins the updated log is passed throughout the Bitcoin network. When your software receives the updated log it knows your payment was successful. It takes a bit longer than banks in this step as the cryptographic puzzle that they solve is also part of the BitCoin universe, more on that later.

The nature of the mathematics ensures that it is computationally easy to verify a transaction but practically impossible to generate fake transactions and spend bitcoins you don’t own. The existence of a public log of all transactions also provides a deterrent to money laundering. The global public transaction register is a register that keeps track of the history of every single Bitcoin through that log, from its creation through every transaction. Yes there is a bit of a problem here.

Identity, since every BitCoin is tracked it would be possible to know how much money each person has in the system and who is performing transactions. I dont really think its a problem, In fact its better. Considering whats happening in India these days with corruption and black money, there will be none. Everyone will have as much money as they are worthy of, so this is really a blessing in disguise. However unlike the real world, it might be an issue to some, as very rich people can be targeted for crimes like kidnapping, extorsion etc. But hey, at least we can keep our blood sucking politicians at bay.

How are these coins created and how can you obtain bitcoins? 

Bitcoins are “mined”. When you set your Bitcoin client to a mode that has it compete to update the public log of transactions. All the clients set to this mode race to solve a cryptographic puzzle by completing the next “block” of the shared transaction log. Winning the race to complete the next block wins you a 50-Bitcoin prize. This feature exists as a way to distribute bitcoins in the currency’s early years. Eventually, new coins will not be issued this way; instead, mining will be rewarded with a small fee taken from some of the value of a verified transaction.

Mining is very computationally intensive, to the point that any computer without a powerful graphics card is unlikely to mine any bitcoins in less than a few years.

Other ways of obtaining BitCoins are exchanges like Mt. Gox, which provide a place for people to trade bitcoins for other types of currency. Some enthusiasts have also started doing work, such as designing websites, in exchange for bitcoins. This jobs board advertises contract work paying in bitcoins.

Money is made to spend right ? So, Where can I spend these coins ?

There aren’t a lot of places right now. Some Bitcoin enthusiasts with their own businesses have made it possible to swap bitcoins for teabooks, or Web design (see a comprehensive list here). But no major retailers accept the new currency yet.

My thoughts

The BitCoin is in its infancy, however it has corrected some of the loopholes that current fixed currencies have. However, at the end of the day this is the first of its kind in this space. However, like most software and services on the Internet (which is what I look at it now) it will evolve, and might come up with a new variation of this concept and that will be the one to look out for.

Current world currencies do not have to be threatened by this new currency. As financial masters and grand masters analyze and dissect this form of the currency they will point out some of its flaws and what will come out of it is a clean workable currency format that all of us can eventually use. For the time being it is a nice to know fact that there is an alternate currency that is not government controlled and neither bank influenced. This might just be the spark for the actual online currency to come into being. Lets hope it does.

Some Resources

BitCoin and What is it: http://weusecoins.com
BitCoin home page: http://www.bitcoin.org
Bitcoin Trade: http://www.bitcoin.org/trade
BitCoin Economy Watch: http://www.bitcoinwatch.com
Bitcoin Exchange: https://www.mtgox.com
Bitcoin escrow service: https://clearcoin.appspot.com
Bitcoin e-commerce platform: https://www.mybitcoin.com
Fun with bitcoin http://witcoin.com – the bitcoin q and a .

Inquisitive Interviews : Vishal & Samir Bharadwaj – Graphic Designers (Freelance)

Another Sunday and I am proud to present another Inquisitive Interview for this week. Usually though I try to get the interview on  a single person. This week however we have 2 brothers at the interview together. I did think of splitting it, but somehow reading it over and over I thought I enjoyed it as being read together. Both are friends I have made in Dubai and I should tell you that I am more than happy to have got in touch with them for the interview. Right through to the end of the interview there are links to their blogs and personal and professional websites which do carry some really interesting posts in them, they are definitely worth a read as well. Witty, creative and awesomely interesting with the conversations, this is a must read even if you have been skipping on the previous interviews.

For the uninitiated, Inquisitive Interviews, the feature was born out of the requests by some of the students who read this blog, requesting information regarding careers. And with a view to help them make a better choice, I have started to feature various careers from different people, starting with people I know and hoping to slowly reach many different people. The Inquisitive Interviews feature would not only help the students reading the interview but also the interviewees providing them with some Online PR of sorts, the benefits of which I mentioned in another post earlier.

[Q] Tell Us something about yourself (Things like Name, how many years you have been working and anything else you would like to add.)

Vishal: I’m Vishal Bharadwaj, but not that famous guy who makes those movies. I’ve been working since 2003 when I finally wrenched myself away from the clutches of Academia with most of my vital organs intact.

Samir: I’m Samir Bharadwaj, and I’m Vishal Bharadawaj’s brother. No, not the famous guy, the lesser know Academia wrestler. It’s sometimes difficult to make the distinction between when I wasn’t working and when I was, but I’d say since 1998 or so in various freelance capacities.

[Q] What do you Do for a living and Where ?

Vishal: I’m a graphic designer, mostly web & identity design, with a healthy side of illustration. I work from home, which means that, yes, I do not have to dress up and go to work. Pants, in fact, are optional.

Samir: Graphic Design is the official version of what I do, but it does vary from web design to more traditional print design, to illustration and even writing when the need arises. Generally, design covers all of it. I also wear pants, most of the time. I leave the well ventilated artistry to my esteemed colleague.

[Q] Is the job what you had expected it to be ?

Vishal: This is a hard question to answer since I rarely think of it as a job, more a craft that I sometimes use to make me money. I could say yes, because the kind of actual work I do and the skillset I bring to it is entirely what I envisioned using my brain & hands for. I could say no, because (at least initially) I thought I’d be doing the majority of my creative work for other people in a strict client-designer setup, rather than today, where most of the truly creative work I do is for myself, and the client work is just what pays the bills.

Samir: There’s an initial idealism which comes with getting into any field of work, especially in creative fields, when you imagine you will have the complete freedom to do what you want and produce the best work. You imagine you will not need to compromise with clients and other human creatures who don’t always know better but still have a say. Thankfully, I didn’t really have that phase of idealism, because I had my first client experience almost before I was doing any major projects for learning. It’s a useful lesson to learn. However, I’ve gained my idealism at a later date to make up, and am now more selective about what and who I will work with. It’s a choice to be made, to either do what you imagine doing or do what is required. What is required is always far from ideal, but it is easier.

[Q] Is the salary what you had expected it to be ?

Vishal: There’s a SALARY? Samir, you never told me!

Samir: I neither confirm nor deny the existence of a salary! Unless I’m asked by the authorities, in which case I’m paying myself handsomely and have a wonderful boss. Vishal is a CEO, you know? This is why he makes the big sacrifices. I get to pretend to have a bigger salary than he does, so that I feel wanted and nurtured by our design studio, Primordial Soop.

On a more serious note, being your own boss and being in a creative field without a “steady salary” is not for the light-hearted, or for the smart-phone-laden. Freedom comes at a price, especially as you try to build things up from scratch, and that price is often in the form of living a monkish existence. You sometimes even come to prefer it in some ways.

[Q] What is your average day like ?

Vishal: This is the part that sounds enviable; I wake up pretty-much whenever I want (unless I need to be somewhere, say a client meeting), and spend the better part of an hour sitting in front of a computer screen slowly caffeinating myself, and revving up my brain with idle tasks like twitter & checking mail. Then it’s onto the tasks at hand, be it client work or personal projects. Somewhere between then and 4am the next day some actual work may be done, as well as the rest of daily life. The downside of working for yourself is you often do not know when to quit, and concepts like ‘weekends’ and ‘quitting time’ become far-forgotten things. Honestly, if you asked me what day it is today, I’d have to look it up.

Samir: I concur with Vishal on all the above. Except for the caffeinating myself thing. I prefer using a slideshow of kitten images. When I can’t take it anymore, I force myself to work. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the kittens win.

Working for yourself can often mean doing everything for yourself, and this can be a huge variety of tasks from administrative paper work to making invoices, communicating with clients and doing the actual work you get paid for. All of these things are very different and require different schedules and mental disciples, so the days vary depending on the tasks at hand. But invariably, design today involves a lot of computer time, and pacing while you try to figure out an idea.

[Q] What’s the most interesting part of your job ?

Vishal: The design itself, and certainly in the broad ways we define it there’s enough to keep our interest. In a regular job the term ‘graphic design’ means something very narrow and is increasingly fragmented (identity, UX, UI, etc etc), but since it’s just me & Samir — and we like to work on everything — our job involves thinking of everything from aesthetics to technical aspects of, say, putting a website up, mucking about with HTML & CSS, choosing a proper light source when doing an ink drawing, user experience, getting a magazine to offset print correctly, making music for an animation, and so on. It’s the variety that truly keeps me going: in a single day, on a single project, I can and must bring several skills into play.

Samir: Yes, I agree, the variety is the most interesting part. Having said that, there is also a certain sharp focus that happens when you work for long on one aspect of a project, especially things like HTML/CSS coding or a series of illustrations, when you really get into the flow and issues get tackled with a natural comfort. Those are good moments too.

[Q] What’s the most challenging part of your job ?

Vishal: Deciding on what to do next. It isn’t so much a matter of ‘time management’ as seeing the big picture with regards to both the projects at hand & other projects down the road, and what you need to do now to make your life easier then. It takes a month to make a website from scratch, more if that site is for yourself and you need to create content too. Motion graphics take a lot of planning. And then there’s keeping your skills up, educating yourself in new techniques & technologies, and honing your skills with things like illustration — practice, practice, practice. It’s easy to neglect one or more aspects of your life and discover to your horror that you haven’t drawn anything for six months.

Samir: The balance between doing, dreaming and planning. These are all essential to our kind of work and to most visual and creative fields. Cutting out any one of the three will hamper your success, but the entangled nature of the three aspects of the work mean that it’s very difficult to consider them all and never get anything done. Keeping on track and on time is always challenging when there isn’t someone telling you exactly what to do every single hour of every single day. Add to that the fact that things can never be perfectly predicted, with each project being unique, and you have a lot of uncertainty that requires plenty of thinking on your toes.

[Q] What’s the part of the job that you don’t like ?

Vishal: Education. I don’t mean school or college, but the inherent gap — especially in this market — between what you’re offering a client and what they think they’re getting. It’s fair to say that most clients we’ve encountered don’t have a proper understanding of how graphic design or the internet works, how they can use it as a business tool, and ultimately how much they’re willing to pay for it. Let’s put it this way: if you think you want a website for your business ‘just because everyone has one’ that is the worst reason, and chances are the price we ask for the project is going to make you scream. We’re expensive, but not if you know what you’re getting and how to use it to make your business money.

Samir: As Vishal mentions, getting people to understand what they are getting is a big stumbling block. And there is also the issue of clients behaving as if they are buying a commodity. A service is not a product that can be bought per-kilo, or based on how many pieces there are. Designers charge based on time, effort, and often simply based on what the service is worth to the end-user. We’re constantly getting clients who want to get a break-up of what we are charging for each part of our service, and frankly that is usually a dead-end mode of thinking as far as we are concerned. You don’t buy a car based on how many kilos of steel there are in it, and we can’t really make a logo for you based on that measure either.

[Q] Do you get bored at your workplace at all ?

Vishal: Frequently. Not the actual physical desk, but certainly Dubai. All creative jobs require constant stimulation — it’s the fuel that runs your idea engine — and all the tall buildings and malls, or even browsing every design website in the world, is not a substitute for being plunged into someplace that keeps your interest.

Samir: Ditto. Garbage in, garbage out.

[Q] Do you report to someone ? How much of an impact the person you report to has on your job ?

Vishal: I report to Samir, and Samir reports to me. We’re constantly communicating on the work we’re doing, be it client or personal. We either work together on a project or apart, and it’s pretty fluid as to how much we look to each other. In the initial stages of a design we tend to work alone on ideas each may have, and consult each other when there’s a first draft. By the end of a project we may be working together at the same station squashing bugs and fixing graphics, working through a checklist. It’s good to have someone right across the room I can call over for an opinion, a set of fresh eyes.

Samir: Nothing much to add to that, except that my boss is always drinking at work, coffee that is. Also, I don’t see why he gets to have the larger imaginary car.

[Q] Do you use all the skills that you learnt in school / college ? or where did you pick up the skills ?

Vishal: My course was focused more on software than design theory, and in the initial few years it certainly helped just to get things done. Were I looking for a regular job, the skills may have gotten me in the door. But software goes out of date, design trends change, new technologies are introduced. The way we make a website today is almost completely different to the way I was taught, and this has been a gradual change over the years as new tech is introduced & assimilated into my workflow. My aesthetic sense has been honed by thousands of hours of looking at better work, seeing what I like, trying to emulate it, failing, trying again, failing better, and eventually making some leaps that lead to good, creative work.

Samir: Education can help but only to a point. I found that almost everything I actually use I learnt by reading and exploring things myself. I had no training in web design or HTML, but I taught myself as I was working on freelance web design projects. Ultimately, doing something for actual use is the best teacher. No amount of dummy projects and practice sessions can help. If you want to learn how to do something, do it. Where education can help is in putting you in touch with a variety of people (hopefully), with varying thoughts on the subject. The rest is up to you.

[Q] Whats your Alumni ? Where did you study ??

Schooling 

Vishal: Indian School Muscat, mostly. I spent a few months in Our Own English High School Dubai. I got my O-Levels from Grammar School Dubai.

Samir: Indian School Muscat was my school for almost all my schooling years.

Pre University College 

Vishal: I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree. I got a diploma in graphic design from a college in England (I did the course in Dubai) that I literally do not remember the name of off the top of my head. It was a piece of paper. I think it has my name on it. I hope. (See what I mean about wrenching myself away from the clutches of Academia?)

Samir: I did a year long technical course in general IT, databases and such which certainly gave me a good grounding in the technical aspects of computers. Again, I can’t say what I learnt there was of any specific use, especially since Windows 95 was a revolutionary new thing when I was there, but it helped me know what to learn and what to read up on when I need to.

Bachelor’s Degree 

Samir: I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. I’ve been a fine bachelor ever since … What do you mean that’s not what it’s meant for?

Vishal: That is indeed what it’s meant for. I should add that you passed with distinction, which makes you a distinguished fine bachelor.

Master’s Degree

Samir: Study more? In a classroom? I don’t know if I’m ever going to be that bored.

Vishal: I’d rather invest the money in Victoria’s Secret futures.

[Q] Would you advice younger people to join in your industry ?

Vishal: Definitely. Even if all you’re interested in being a low-end art monkey in some ad agency, it sure beats digging coal for a living. I can complain about bad & lazy designers all I want, but the truth is it’s fun if you’ve got some creativity in your bones.

Samir: The levels you can work on vary wildly, and most people in the design field will always be doing low-end grunt work, but if you are the regular job kind of person and you can’t stand digging though spread sheets instead (I can’t promise you’ll be saved from Power Point, in fact I can guarantee you won’t), then there are a lot worse things to be doing that making layouts and editing photos and making websites. If you enjoy this sort of work, it can be extremely satisfying.

[Q] What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry ?

Vishal: The internet is a vast resource that rewards deep research, but is also a death trap of productivity. Stay off it & a computer as much as possible, and never give up on a piece of paper & a pencil — it’s where the best designs will be born. As long as you keep picking up new techniques/software one at a time and discarding any that are outmoded, you’ll do okay — but ultimately what software you know is secondary to your aesthetic sense & ability to put out work of a high technical proficiency.

Samir: Read a lot, look at a lot of art and movies, try to find patterns. Try to experience as much nature as you can, because if there is a design idea, whether visual or otherwise, it’s a good bet nature already thought of it before you. Feel free to steal. Always go around with a small notebook and pen (or equivalent high-tech device if you absolutely must), and write down ideas and questions that come to you. Sketch things you see. You can’t imagine what a treasure trove your notebooks can be. Always be curious. Make things.

[Q] Anything else you want to tell the readers ?

Vishal: Working for yourself is not glamorous. Graphic design only sounds cool from the outside, to other people. Like everything else, it is a serious profession and 99% of the time you’re doing dull, tedious work. The good news is you can step back once the work is done and you might have made something truly good. And if you didn’t, learn and move on. The next great idea is always around the corner.

Samir: Not only is graphic design not glamorous, but it is a lot of hard work. Even in regular jobs, office hours can often be disregarded in this profession, so beware of that. The only way to improve you experience of it is to do better work and hence get into better positions based on your talent. When in doubt, ask someone whose work you admire for advice or pointers, but be polite and understanding about their time. Beyond their mad schedules, people are usually willing to share insights or provide guidance. Listen to what they all have to say, then do only what seems exactly right for you. Experiment, experiment, experiment.

[Q] Any online resources you recommend for people taking up this profession ?

Vishal: There’s a million design resources out there, but specifically for freelancing, http://freelanceswitch.com/ is a nice portal.

Samir: This is a great talk on graphic design by a well experienced designer. It’s worth a listen: http://www.ted.com/talks/paula_scher_gets_serious.html

You can check out their Facebook profiles and other contact information below where you can get in touch with them.

Facebook Profile

Vishal: http://www.facebook.com/allVishal

Samir: http://www.facebook.com/samir.bharadwaj

Twitter Profile

Vishal: http://www.twitter.com/allVishal

Samir: http://www.twitter.com/SamirBharadwaj

Any Other Profiles?

http://www.allVishal.com

http://SamirBharadwaj.com

http://www.PrimordialSoop.com

I am sure that you guys enjoyed the Interview as much as I did when reading it, it has been an absolute pleasure working with both of you for this interview, am sure the readers really liked it. That’s it guys from the Inquisitive Interviews desk for this week, more interesting interviews coming soon, until then Be Inquisitive.

Google Plus or Google + : Are Facebook’s days numbered ?

For most guys who read this blog, you will know that we love Google here. And when Google tells us that they have a product that is competition for Facebook of course the excitement levels around here are way too much. Although I do not believe that Facebook will be overthrown as yet, it is clear that the Giant has competition. Google + as its called, looks quite interesting from the sneak preview given through the videos below. A few months back when Eric Schmidt confessed on National TV in the US that they misread the social media scene and did not read the signs of social media it made all the news. Especially considering that he is the CEO of one of the most influential companies in the world. Their products that flopped included Google Buzz, Wave and many similar attempts at Social Media.

Now Google has not only fought back, but by the looks of things it looks a very interesting platform. Google has close to a Billion visitors a month on their site and what this means is that they already have a large user base. Facebook has very loyal supporters, but if you remember s did myspace at some time. The undoing of Myspace or the rise of Facebook was largely attributed to the increasing number of parents and elders into a platform that was started off for college students only. Facebook today has similar issues. People are leaving Facebook just cos they don’t want their parents to see some drunk brawl pics uploaded by a distant “friend”. So will Google + be able to fill up the gap ? Well yes and No. Early adopters are going to love Google +. But the success of Google + completely depends on how it would evolve, just like Facebook.

What Facebook did and what Google was unable to do was provide a face and an identity to their users around the Internet. Google has struggles to pull this off for so long. But with the Google Profiles, Gmail and Google + the offering is going to be pretty strong from Facebook. The identity provided by Facebook was among the first in the industry, it will be keep to see how Google might utilize this to their advantage. It is ironic that I am posting this rant on Facebook to talk about the death of Facebook and possible rise of Google +. Google has the knowledge of all the things that Facebook did wrong, and all the things that Facebook could not pull off. Add to it the innovative nature of Google and we might have a pretty strong offering on our hands.

Not to forget Android. It is a known fact that Android is taking over the smartphone market with a storm, and it is also a known fact that the future of the internet is mobile, Google + deep integration in Android will just make that offering so much stronger and desirable in the days to come. The service is currently invitation only, just like most of Google product releases. This means they will work on the curiosity of the users to being them to the product, however the success is completely going to depend on the usability, privacy control and the new features that the product brings. I am already excited, and have applied to be invited. Videos and the link to get your own invite below.

Google + a Quick Look

Google + and Circles

Google + : Explore Settings

Google + : Mobile Explore

Google + : Video Chats with Hangouts

Google + : More interesting stuff with Sparks

Google + : Circles

Google + : Hangouts

Google + : Huddle (Group Texting)

Google + : Instant Upload

Google + : Sparks


You can read about what Google’s thoughts are when they made this on their official blog here. Want to see what it really looks like well check it out here.

Watch out for sites that mash up both Facebook and Google + to bring you a combined experience as both platforms are going to be pretty strong for a while. Hmm, someone know any developers who might be interested in working on this ?

Three Awesome Google Logos that Distracted the World

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com. If you would like to contribute an article to the Inquisitive Mind, please get in touch at the contact page. I will be more than happy to add in the relevant post on the blog.

In today’s society, life is about speed and productivity. With the evolution of new technologies and the internet, we expect instant gratification for any query we might stumble upon. While things in internet-land are constantly moving and changing, one site and enterprise that has remained ever steady is Google. Google is like the god of the internet. It seems as though they can do nothing wrong. With a beautiful search engine, great emailing capabilities, and even a very useful browser, Google has perfected the art of speed and productivity. While Google has certainly made our lives run a lot more smoothly in many ways, it has also caused an internet traffic jam on more than one occasion. The Google logo is one of the most recognized logos throughout the world. Since 1998, Google has been doing Google Doodles with the highly recognized logo. These three Google Doodles are believed to have cost the world a significant amount of money for the time wasted by internet users (awesome).

Les Paul Google Doodle

1. Les Paul Logo: On June 9th 2011, Google celebrated the 96th birthday of Les Paul by displaying an interactive electric guitar doodle as the logo. The doodle is one of the only Google Doodles that is interactive. This logo was displayed worldwide and was a huge hit in the United States. Users could hold their cursers over the strings of the doodle to strum the guitar. You could also activate the keyboard to strum the guitar. In the United States, users could record their strumming for thirty seconds and then a URL is created for your recording. This Google Doodle is possibly one of the coolest yet. With users around the world creating tunes on their browsers, there are rumors that the Les Paul logo alone cost the U.S. millions of dollars in productivity for the two days that it was displayed.

Pacman Google Doodle

2. Pac-Man Logo: On May 21st 2010, Google celebrated the 30th anniversary of the arcade game Pac-Man by displaying an interactive logo of the game itself. This was the first interactive logo that Google had ever unveiled and was a huge success worldwide. Anyone who visited the site could play Pac-Man on the logo. The logo mimicked the exact features of the original game with ghosts, dots, and all of the classic sounds. Visitors could play Ms. Pac-Man as well by pressing the “Insert Coin” button twice. In this instance, two Pac-Man games show on the screen, allowing two people to play at once. The Pac-Man logo was one of the most popular Google tricks and now has an entire site dedicated to it (linked above).

3. Jules Verne’s 183rd Birthday Logo: On February 8th 2011, Google celebrated the birthday of French author Jules Gabriel Verne. Verne pioneered the genre of science-fiction and is best known for novels such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Google changed their logo to an interactive submarine exploration. The word “Google” was spelled out to look like the windows of a submarine. The user can control the submarine by moving a lever up and down or right and left. See tropical fish, deep sea divers, sharks, and monsters on your exploration. As a beautiful tribute to a fantastic writer, Google’s imagination shines as much as Verne’s.

 

Teach your parents tech, the Google way

With the internet and websites evolving, it is getting more easier to keep in touch with loved ones. Email, IM, twitter, and these days even Facebook. We tend to give tech as gifts these days to our loved ones these days, but sometimes we find that our parents and some children are really still struggling to catch up with the amount of tech we are used to, and it would become difficult for them to still work on basic tasks on computers, while using the computer or phone.

Well, Google to the rescue like always. And no I am not asking them to Google whatever they want. Google has set up a new initiative called teach parents tech where they have uploaded a lot of videos of how to actually go about doing simple computer tasks, tasks we feel are easy but some technologically challenged people find difficult. Yes I used the words technologically challenged and no I dont think its a real phrase. Getting back to Teach parents Tech, the initiative I believe is excellent, from changing wallpapers on your windows based computer right though to Web, Media, Finding Information and Communication. The best part is that you can customize a letter for them and select the videos that they are going to love to learn from.

Once you send your personalized email they can view the personalized playlist on YouTube with instruction videos. I guess there is not much left to say, but send it to those technologically challenged friends of yours, or that family member that asks for too many tech support questions. The website header itself says “Send your parents a TECH SUPPORT care package

On the down side, if you receive one of these emails, well that just means you know what your friends really think of you. Here are some video samples of the training that you can send.

How to create a strong password

How to copy and Paste

How to make text bigger or smaller

How to stop getting a newsletter

How to make calls from your computer

How to Chat

How to check spellings

I am sure that once the Android platform gets more famous, it will become more apparent that many people might need some help with it as well, and guess what I will be waiting for a new how to video channel for them as well.

Check out : Teach Parents Tech

Lessons from Google – 10 things

Google is one of the most recognized names on the internet and the doorway to the internet for most of the world. There are things that we can learn from Google based on their business sense and this is the best time to learn it, considering that there is a looming web app boom which might burst in the not so near future. Until then economies will continue to rise over this boom creating ample opportunities for all to make a good buck and a good living. If the growth is not a bubble all the more better considering that we will have a good basis to learn from. In fact these 10 things come from the largest Online company Google themselves. Here is what they want to say are the best 10 things they do to be who they are :

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

Or as it is commonly known in India, Customer is King. By tracking user browsing history, cookies and other personal data tracking (which is a privacy concern anyway) they have managed to keep the user at the centre of the operations, so that users will return for maximum value. The first and foremost step to take for me while working with some of my customers is also to track them. Be it through feedback forms, market research or other ways. You need to know what your customers want and give them that. You then have a winning business.

2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

Although we know Google does not just do one thing, they focus most of their energy on the one thing they do arguably better than anyone else. Catalog, Index and search the internet. We do know that their remaining products form the rest of the ecosystem around search. It is not a coincidence that most of their revenue comes through the ads on this channel.  All big companies who are successful follow a similar policy. Like reliance they are not just building one product but building a whole ecosystem around that product. Not only do they Make Vimal Fabrics, they make the factories that make the yarn and the fibre for the fabrics.

3. Fast is better than slow.

Case in point Google Instant. I mean it has transformed the search experience 4 fold by adding this feature into browsers, mobiles and now smart TV’s. Although the speed of Instant means that you do not get the right result you are looking for first time straight, but it learns what else you are typing and provides results accordingly. It just means that it is better to be proactive than reactive. We might get a few things wrong by bring proactive, but we can make up the rework because we were faster to make that mistake than everyone else. Gives you the additional time for rework.

4. Democracy on the web works. (or anywhere else for that matter)

Google has been a company that is driven a lot of the choice of its users. Unlike Facebook who is driven out of what they want to do and let users adapt. Democracy ! In business as well as on the web this is important. A boss who does not pay attention to the needs and voice of his employees and customers, will soon find out that he does not have much to boss over. This also means that anyone can become a competitor anytime, a former employee, a loyal customer anyone has the freedom to start something to compete with, but that is where point No 2 comes in. No matter how well they do one product, they will not have the ecosystem goodies that make that product the best.

5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.

The world is changing and business is growing mobile. More and more people are now looking at mobile apps and the internet on the go. With devices like the iPad, iPhone, Androids and the Blackberry. Smartphones are getting more and more accessible. What this means to business is that we all need to catch up, have a mobile enabled website, have your teams work across the internet for more flexibility. Business can very well benefit from the mobile revolution that is currently happening around us. We just need to figure things out correctly.

6. You can make money without doing evil.

Although Google tracking users is considered evil by many, the fact that they are able to provide relevant ads that fuel innovation from Google as well as free applications for all of to use just means that the fact that they do not do evil is highlighted. Until now they are not selling our personal information to others, and they will not do that in the near future. Businesses can learn from this, by giving back something to society and the customers businesses will be able to retain them for longer and thrive. You don’t need to pay bribes, just make their experience better.

7. There’s always more information out there.

When Google says something like that it seems very inappropriate, cos we usually go to Google to get answers for all our questions. But this just means that they are willing to believe that they have not yet achieved everything. Businesses no matter how big should realize that there is more out there that they can do, be it doing social good or just working with their competitors, there is more that can be offered to your customers with no additional cost. Its a question of the effort and the mind set to be able to do so.

8. The need for information crosses all borders.

The main catch word in this sentence would be borders. The global village as the world is now being referred to is a huge resource that people fail to tap extensively. From sourcing, to new customer bases from outsourcing to re engineering, businesses should not be stopped by the need to have new resources that are available only half way across the globe. Technologies enable us to get across borders now and we need to go around these borders to be able to make the best use of what is available.

9. You can be serious without a suit.

This is true and the world is warming up to this, but there are still traditional companies who are driven out of the fact that looks matter. Pleasantries included. If you achieve perfection it will be evident that looks are deceptive, what lasts longer is the quality of work and the quality of our products and services. Being serious at work is a mental thing and not a physical thing. I don’t believe the age old statement “dress for your next job” applies any more. But again the east is still to catch up on it, unlike the west.

10. Great just isn’t good enough.

Perfection. I don’t really think, the above sentence can be summarised better. If all of us aim for perfection in all the small activities we do no matter how large or small, we are for sure going to be successful. We will use less time to achieve the same task (no rework), have more content customers and employees. All in all makes for a better work environment along with having the best product. A business no matter how large can look at itself every few months to make things better. Just because it is done in a certain way is not the best way to do it, that’s what we need to have as our operations motto.

Wife Discovers Husband’s Murder Plan On Facebook

Its unbelievable what Facebook is turning out to be in or lives. From being a tool to connect to Friends to something like this is absolutely shocking and disturbing at the same time.

Was reading the New York Post today, and this article came up as an interesting read. But the more I started reading the more I learnt of how good Facebook turned out to be in this case. If Ram Gopal Varma would read this he might make a movie on this issue. As it turns out alls well that ends well in this case. A curious Wife, a smart ass husband and Facebook. An interesting stopy of Pati, Patni  aur Facebook.

Angela Voelkert and her husband David were undergoing a messy divorce. Well, the plot thickens when Angela concocts this rather lamebrain plot that gets David to do some pretty diabolic confessing via a fake Facebook account.

According to the New York Post, the 29-year-old wife decided to open up a Facebook account posing as a 17-year-old named Jessica Studebaker, and sent a friend request to her 38-year-old hubby David. He accepted. After numerous friendly exchanges with the teen about his marriage and custody issues, on May 31, David spilled his plans for the demise of Angela by revealing to Jessica, that he had placed a tracking device in his wife’s van that would keep tabs on her whereabouts at all times.

David even asked the teen whether she could supply him with a “gang-banger” who’d be willing to do the deed for $10,000. “With me gone with my kids, the police can’t pin anything on me as I will be in another state, so I will be fine,” he said in a message. The desperate hubby then had the audacity to ask the teen to run away with him once he brought the curtain down on his poor “unsuspecting” wife. The audio salesman was arrested Friday. He was initially charged with illegally installing the tracking device.

Apparently, he provided the courts with a signed and notarized affidavit from May 25, which was six whole days before he sent his eerie request to his Facebook pal Studebaker. The affidavit, published by the Smoking Gun, states that David knew all along that Studebaker was actually his wife, Angela. He claimed to have been playing along with his wife’s little cooked-up scheme and had absolutely no intention of killing her or running away with their children.

The important question is, people getting so used to spilling most of their lives on Facebook is a personal choice, but how much is too much ?

Proven, Creative job hunting techniques that will amaze you

Social Media is the buzz these days, but what really is Social Media. And there are people and businesses doing what ever it takes to get on to the band wagon of Social Media. But there are a selected few who are actually using it, in ways that would make us stand up and take notice. Job Hunt. Yes the field where you send in your resume wait for an interview to be arranged, and then hope you have done well to negotiate your job. Yes there have been really creative resumes, like the ones highlighted on another post here. But what if you could short cut the process with Social Media.

image credit

Well yes of course you have a Linked In profile and are findable on Google and yes your resume reads right as well, but still there are 100 Million other people on Linked In as well doing pretty much the same. And to make things worse, we don’t even use Linked In the way it is meant to be. So are you confused what to do, well these things should give you some inspiration. When faced with the unenviable task of searching for a job,  and marketing yourself,  the web and social media provides a variety of opportunities that wouldn’t work with other mediums. These creative job hunters have thought outside the box and leveraged the web to get themselves noticed.

Alec Brownstein

Alec Brownstein, a writer, needed a job. So he chose the names five top NYC advertising directors that he’d like to work for. Knowing that large bigwig executives would probably (like all of us) Google their own name, he bought an advertisement in Google that would be displayed when each person searched for his own name.

He got two job offers. The cost was just $6, a fine example of creative job hunting. He later published this YouTube Video explaining how it all happened, which itself went viral on the web – with nearly 1 million views at time of writing.

Talk about Social Media on steroids, this campaign was the reason I really started looking at some other similar examples, the next two are as good.

David Wood

David Wood, an unemployed Sales Representative from Bristol decided enough was enough after spending two years writing up to 30 job applications and scanning newspapers and websites for paid work. He decided to put an advert together on auction website EBay auctioning himself off to the highest bidder.

After some initial exploration on Twitter of using the medium of EBay to sell himself, David was approached by a PR firm who helped him create the campaign.Although his first advert didn’t make the cut (EBay don’t currently allow services to be auctioned on the site) he amended the advert to become much more product focused.

His advert reads: ‘For Sale an Experienced Sales Representative’ and describes him as a 1965 model who is ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘motivated’. With this his profile has shown up on numerous blogs, like mine, TV shows local newspapers, providing him with the reach that has kind of made him a local celebrity. Check out a screenshot of his eBay page below.

Victor Petit

Victor Petit is a french graphic design student looking for an internship. His recent Video on Vimeo shows perfectly how a little creativity in your C.V. can really grab the attention of your audience. His combination of mobile QR codes and an interactive experience is quite brilliant, taking the traditional C.V. and turning it on it’s head.

Absolutely fantastic work I should say, and we all know how QR codes are taking on the world. You can read about QR codes here if you are interested.

I dont really think that all of trying the same thing will work too, this is just for inspiration so you can think out of the box too.

Inquisitive Guide – RSS : Best way to visit many websites together

A few years ago, my mentor gave me a quick advice, which in turn has changed my life as clichéd as it sounds. He said I should make it a point of spending time online without using the usual refinements like Facebook, YouTube, email or other form of direct entertainment online. Initially targeted at spending an hour online, now I have some interesting hours online nearly every other day, which I should say has enabled me to even write about these Inquisitive topics. Eventually there are quite a few websites that I was reading regularly, blogs that I was reading and what came out of it was, that I started to spend too much time in visiting those sites / blogs to pick up the information that I wanted to read. Then I stumbled upon RSS.

Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, the expanded version of RSS is actually a web format that is used to read “feeds” from sites. What it means is that people with RSS feeds on their sites have set up a sort of a radio channel for their websites, where you will constantly pick up any changes or posts that they add, however the advantage over radio is that it shows them by posts, so you can pick to read what you want to, where as you can opt to not read ones that do not really interest you. The video here should help better understand RSS.

Why RSS? Benefits and Reasons for using RSS

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site’s email newsletter.

What do I need to do to read an RSS Feed? RSS Feed Readers and News Aggregators

Feed Reader or News Aggregator software allow you to grab the RSS feeds from various sites and display them for you to read and use. A RSS reader can be web based application, desktop-based standalone application, browser based application or a mobile device based app. Each of these readers has their own features and some are free while others are not. Those who have to access their RSS feeds from multiple computers prefer a web based RSS reader. Those who access RSS from a single computer generally choose the desktop applications. While choosing your desktop-based application, make sure that you are keeping into account the operating system platform that you are using. All recent browser applications also have an inbuilt RSS reader. These browsers also have a finder technology that automatically spots the RSS widget on the website that the browser is visiting. In addition, RSS feeds can be received on mobile phones. What more, you can even connect your RSS feeds with your social network channels like twitter and facebook. The services like twitterfeed and RSS graffiti makes this possible. RSS feeds can also be converted to emails and read from your inbox.

variety of RSS Readers are available for different platforms. Some popular feed readers include Amphetadesk (Windows, Linux, Mac), FeedReader (Windows), and NewsGator (Windows – integrates with Outlook). There are also a number of web-based feed readers available. My YahooBloglines, and Google Reader are popular web-based feed readers.

Once you have your Feed Reader, it is a matter of finding sites that syndicate content and adding their RSS feed to the list of feeds your Feed Reader checks. Many sites display a small icon with the acronyms RSS, XML, or RDF to let you know a feed is available.

As an additional step you can chose to beautify the RSS feeds with these plugins for popular browsers such that you can read the news from these sites easily. A great example of the RSS feed beautifier, aggregator and reader is the Feed.ly plugin for Google Chrome, that converts a boring looking interface into a proper magazine style interface.

At the end of the day the name of the game is pulling information from sites that you want and present it to you in the way you want it. So if Melvin’s Inquisitive Mind is on your list of blogs and or sites that you visit usually and want the information to reach you as soon as it is posted, well go ahead give the RSS a try on this blog. Its on the top right, just below the content slideshow.

Recent Changes to Facebook

This is quite an important post for everyone who uses Facebook for Business or Personal reasons. Have you noticed that you are only seeing updates in your newsfeed from the same people lately? Have you also noticed that when you post things like status messages, photos and links, the same circle of people are commenting and everyone else seems to be ignoring you?


Don’t worry, everyone still loves you and nobody has intentionally blocked you. The problem is that a large chunk of your friend/fan list can’t see anything you post and here’s why:

The “New Facebook” has a newsfeed setting that by default is automatically set to show ONLY posts from people who you’ve recently interacted with or interacted the most with (which would be limited to the couple of weeks just before people started switching to the new profile). So in other words, for both business and personal pages, unless your friends/fans commented on one of your posts within those few weeks or vice versa – you are now invisible to them and they are invisible to you !!

HERE’S THE FIX:

On the homepage click the “Most Recent” title on the right of the Newsfeed, then click on the drop down arrow beside it and select “Edit Options”, click on “Show Posts From” and change the setting to “All Of Your Friends and Pages” (you can also access the “Edit Options” link at the very bottom of the facebook homepage on the right)

Note: Business pages do not have a newsfeed however page owners should adjust the settings on their personal accounts.

The good news is: now you can now view all of your friends and fans again. The bad news is: YOU ARE STILL INVISIBLE to a large portion of your list. You must get the word out to ALL of your friends and fans by sharing this post with them or creating an event of your own so they can read the post and adjust their settings. To invite your friends: Click on “Share” below this post and then you will see an option to post it on your wall, make sure you click the arrow button on the left of Share and select everyone to make sure all your friends and their friends are able to see this.

Thanks to Gale Scott  for this tip