Hail the web and the blogosphere: Finally my blog has had ‘real impact’

I have been updating this blog somewhat regularly now. I have often wondered whether I write this weblog for a particular audience . Perhaps the diverse nature of posts (yes I go all over) suggests that I don’t. So why do I then bother to use tags, categories to make my blog more search friendly. However I have been proven wrong and I am thrilled!
Regular readers (sigh!) will remember a few weeks ago I wrote about my rather funny but adorable roommate from Russia, Mikhail Safronov on this blog. I had forgotten about this post altogether. A few hours ago Mikhail came running to my room, excited and blurted out loud ” Harsh, A real Bhains ki Aankh has happened. My parents saw your blog and now are making fun of me and my mom is a little worried that Barack Obama should not see this blog !”

We were amused that how did they get to this post. I used the word-press dashboard to see what search terms had been used recently to get to this blog. And found that someone on 2nd Feb 2010 had used the phrase “northwestern university safronov” to get here. So now Mikhail knows that his parents (or their colleagues) try to stay more informed about their son than his phone calls can inform them. Maybe the economist will elevate his views about a PhD in Media, Technology and Society!

So a piece of content produced in the USA which perhaps appealed to only one unit in Russia – Mikhail’s household – reached there in less than two weeks after it was produced. The recipients had to be just more active in seeking what they wanted to read/view. I hope Mr Safronov gets to read this one too!

Has user generated content killed old ‘media logic’ ?

Recently, at a graduate students’ party somewhere in Midwestern United States, two short and sweet videos got very spontaneously produced.

What intrigues me is that all it took was a gathering of a cross cultural group, some high “spirits” and these two videos got produced .At absolutely no cost, in absolutely no time. Yet a platform like YouTube ensures that they can be viewed by as many people, anywhere as many times – all for free. This is free automatic production and free consumption at its best.

I make no claims that these two videos are potential blockbusters. But then how often does prime time television or cinema for that matter produces hits? With a little bit of costs and promotions some of these nuggets can also assume blockbuster proportions as a fellow media enthusiast writes about Charlie. Charlie is one such success story among thousands.
Remember the funniest group dance. No one created it as a media event. But at 40,000 views, 88 high ratings, and 56 text comments, it has made its impact. It has engaged a larger community than MICA , a communication school in India where this was a dance performed at an annual function.Someone just videotaped and decided to share it online – the hyperlinked society ensured the rest

These are stories that question conventional media logic. The logic which involved high production and distribution resources, and subsidies from advertisers and consumers. In other words,does the concept of Free spell the death of culture industries?

Let me know if you have answers

I am ‘Harsh; Just Harsh’: A Russian Economist

“Hindi Rusi Bhai Bhai” – These were among his first few words after moving in as my roommate.
Let me introduce Mikhail Safronov a very Russian, Russian indeed. Eats potatoes for 50% of his dietary needs and the other 50% are met by boiled spaghetti. Here to pursue a PhD in Economics, he is an extremely bright chap. A physicist who switched streams to Econ as his scientist father told him that as an Economist he can return to Russia, but as a physicist he’d rather stay in the US

Now here are a few things he has learnt about the States and the world outside Russia:
1. Barack Obama is some man who gave an extremely long and boring speech during his convocation from New Economic School in Moscow

2. Obesity is a problem in USA because the squirrels are so fat, compared to the squirrels in Russia .After confirming from me that squirrels in India are also thinner, this hypothesis is now a theory

3. Linguistic department at Northwestern is stupid as they refuse to give him an English proficiency stamp, even though he says “Once More” if you address a long question in English. ( Takes immense pride that he was admitted despite 300 in verbal GRE)

4. A South Park addict he learns about American cultural symbols from it, for instance about ‘Fags’ and ‘Hippies’

5. He asks every Indian he meets if they know what ‘Bhains Ki Aankh’ implies

However this takes the cake :

Earlier today I was trying to locate my phone in the house. I reached out for his cell and searched my number. Optimistic that he would have saved it, I found my number saved as ” Harsh Just Harsh” . Amused, I asked for an explanation behind this really innovative name entry. And the explanation instead of writing a last name he wanted to emphasise that “Harsh, Just Harsh” was enough!

How I ‘met’ and ‘poached’ my roommate -I

Roommates (well Flatmates) and House Hunting make up a large part of the other 50% (out of office) of an immigrant Bombayite’s life.

For some this quest for an ideal house and housemate combo turns out an elaborate exercise like perhaps an arranged life partner search. Some of my friends in Bombay those days can vouch for the interesting tales I presented them with those days

I have adapted the title of this post from a famous telly series – as to me this real story of the meeting of Ram and Harsh (yours truly) (henceforth referred to as ‘we’) for the first time – is no less than a drama akin to reel life.

Lets rewind to some date in May 2007 – and revisit each one’s life then:

Ramanathan – A bangalore boy, has suddenly become a management consultant, after shunning a lucrative job with a global bank – has in the process decided to shun a well settled comfortable lifestyle in Bangalore to move to well, Mumbai!
Like everyone who moves to Mumbai, he has just about begun looking for houses.

Harsh – A chandigarh boy is chasing a dream even he doesn’t vividly remember anymore – but the last significant transition in life brought him to Bombay with a global news broadcaster.Little did he know that there were many transitions in store and not at the workplace.
Initial Few Months
Harsh began as a paying guest with an elderly lady – not cranky at all , rather sweet. Constrained by the paying guest code of conduct, he moved on to share a rented accommodation with a live in couple, Mukut and Tarana. The added flavour being the female of the couple was an aspiring film actor. Tired of the antics, which included dance practices on kajra re in the living room, harsh quit the house with no alternative accommodation in mind and no flatmate to share his costs!

His biggest problem was , an affordable house for a single person was too small and he was yet to find a suitable partner to split the cost of a decent livable flat. Harsh had already started camping at a friend’s place waiting for some divine intervention.
The Accidental Hook Up
One fateful Sunday of May – he went to pack his remaining luggage from the place he decided would no longer be home. As he was packing, a courtesy question to make conversation he asked Mukut , ” have you found my replacement” Mukut emphatically replied a guy just joined KPMG in mumbai from IIM Calcutta is coming to see the room! Harsh asked,” when?”. Mukut replied very matter of factly ” Now”

Harsh had, by now, reached a stage where every man or woman, straight or otherwise, looking for a housemate or a house was high potential. His broad based search though, had not led him anywhere. He decided to spend longer with his luggage packing and wait for the KPMG guy. He was curious to see what kind of a reaction will the whole arrangement of living in with a live with couple evoke from what seems from his credentials, as described by mukut,a reasonably sensible man.

So Ramanathan arrived with his cousins – who being Bombay residents since birth were helping him with his search. It was discovered that Tarana and Sapna (Ram’s cousin) had historical linkages ( which Harsh later discovered were not particularly pleasant) Harsh tried hard to read what was going through the prospect’s mind and made a mental note – high potential flatmate. Confirmed that Ramanathan was batchmate of a close friend and hence made a mental note that the guy was traceable and was a second degree connection
The Poaching Game
Harsh waited for 3 days and decided that this was enough for ram to have decided on the film actor option. Meanwhile he had identified a flat he liked near King circle, of course a flatmate to split the cost was to be the catalyst for this conversion. Managing his number from the common connection he gave Ram a confident call. Assuming as if at that one meeting, where they didn’t even talk, they had established a chemistry of sorts, Harsh asked Ram the proverbial question: Do you want to take a place together, and without waiting for a yes or no – blurted out – i have seen this nice 10th floor place in king circle – this is the broker number – see this tomorrow and then let me know

103, 8 A Sewa Samiti , Somewhere in Bombay……7:30 pm (both not late)
That is where the first formal meeting happened! By now Harsh was sure that mukut and tarana were behind in the race for Ram and this flat could do the trick

Ram said he liked the flat and harsh thought ” I must pursue this one”.
A dinner at udipi followed – a gruelling interview harsh subjected Ram to ( see the paradox here , he was so desperate to get anyone , yet paining the one potential he got)

Harsh pursued! Ram – in no hurry to get a flat – was indifferent. Harsh asked for final answers, commitments and got the broker and owner to agree to all terms that Ram had posed. A deal being struck and post dated cheques being given on both our behalf with Ram merely confiriming on sms that he was on board –
Something told harsh he won’t back out! He was too relieved to think of any other possibilities – he was getting a house and a housemate – albeit an unknown one – a complete stanger ( a one not recommended by the common connection – that is the topic of another post though)

So June 2 2007 was the fateful day when the second meeting set the agenda for the next 12 months , well almost did !