Hello India, we’re still here…

…but other sites are apparently blocked.

There are a fair number of readers here from India, where some ISPs have started blocking many blogs, including all of Typepad, Blogspot, Geocities. So you might have thought this site was also blocked if you came by yesterday, since you would have gotten something like “Connection refused” or a similar error message.

Fortunately / unfortunately, it’s just Dreamhost having some hardware and network problems, which took down many of their clients for several hours yesterday, and is still behaving badly today.

BarCamp Bangalore

In catching up on e-mail and feed reading, I see that Chris and Tara are heading out to Bangalore for Barcamp Bangalore. Looks like there are several scheduled in India, I see Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and Mumbai on the calendar.

A number of the regular readers here are from India. If you’re reading this, chances are you’d enjoy participating. Here are some of my notes from (the first) BarCamp last summer in Palo Alto. If you’ve got some time this weekend and you’re in the area, check it out.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Login at 9am
Sessions start at 10am
Official end of sessions 5:30pm
Venue available till 10pm

Lunch 1pm sponsored by Yahoo! Bangalore

Dinner at 7:30 PM sponsored by Riya.com.

Day 2- Sunday, April 23
Maybe here: Fireflies


Yahoo! Software Development India Pvt. Ltd.
Embassy Golf Links Business Park
5th floor, Augusta building,
Koramangala Ring Road
Bangalore – 560 071.

An expensive typo – first day trading in Tulip IT

As financial systems become more automated, there more opportunities for humans to key in an extra zero or transpose a digit or two, with instantaneous results. Last week there was yet another “fat finger” trade, this time in India on the Bombay Stock Exchange, during the first day of trading for Tulip IT Services. Someone offered to sell shares at 25 paise (less than one US penny), a fraction of the market price of 171 rupees (around US $3.80), and found many takers.

It looks like the buyers are going to have to pay the market rate after all, though.

The BSE today said some trades executed at 25 paise in the shares of Tulip IT Services on Thursday will not be settled at this rate.

The exchange said trades executed below Rs 96 would be transacted at Rs 171.15. This means that investors who bought shares at 25 paise will have to pay Rs 171.15 and sellers will get the money at such rate.

A followup article in the Hindu Business Line recaps some notable fat fingered trades, and notes:

However, the record in fat finger trading is still held by a trader of Mizuho Securities, the broking arm of the Mizuho Financial Group of Japan. The trader had managed to sell shares worth £1.6 billion in a local recruitment agency, J-Com, which had just been floated and had a market value of little more than £50 million. The December 8, 2005, “sell” order, was mistakenly placed for 600,000 shares, despite the fact that J-Com had only 14,000 shares in issue. The order had created chaos in the market and had resulted in a 301-point fall on Japan’s main stock market index, the Nikkei 225.

Along these lines, there are some entertaining (staged, I think) cameraphone photos of the Mizuho trading floor over at TripleWitchingFriday (via Paul Kedrosky). More on the Mizuho trade here.

Update: 02-17-2006 12:16 PDT – Various participants in the Mizuho trade are donating 20 billion yen (US $170 million) to a fund for improving Japan’s stock trading system.

Terrorists in Bangalore?

Catching up on the backlog of feeds, some discouraging news from Bangalore:

Last Thursday’s Times of India:

An armed assailant killed a retired IIT Delhi professor and injured four others in a daring assault on delegates of an international conference at the premier Indian Institute of Science (IISc) on Wednesday evening.

The unidentified attacker — police aren’t sure whether more than one person was involved in the strike — fired indiscriminately through his AK-47 rifle from the parking lot at delegates coming out of the auditorium after the second day’s deliberations ended.

One person was killed, two other attendees were shot, and a hand grenade (which misfired) was found in the driveway .

This doesn’t appear to have been a large or politically interesting conference. MC Puri, the retired professor who was killed in the attack, was one of 36 attendees at an operations research symposium.

To put this in context, if Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India, this would have been sort of like going to an information theory conference at Stanford or a Palo Alto hotel and ending up under attack by guns and hand grenades. It’s not something that we worry about here today, and it hasn’t been something that people have worried about there much up to this point.

In an Times of India update today:

Central security agencies have established links between the mastermind of the attack on Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore and Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, sources said.

Three persons were detained–two in Bangalore and one in Hyderabad–in connection with the attack on the evening of December 28 and security agencies have found evidence of their links with Al Hadees group based in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, the sources said.

I wouldn’t make too much of an international or domestic terrorism angle yet, as the situation is evolving, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on as there is clearly potential for a lot of disruption.

See also:

Bangalore to be renamed Bengaluru

Looks like Bangalore is in line for an official renaming to either “Bengaluru” or “Bengalooru”. Times of India:

Chief minister N Dharam Singh told reporters in Gulbarga on Sunday: “We will rename Bangalore as Bengaluru on November 1, 2006, to mark the launch of Karnataka’s Golden Jubilee year – Suvarna Karnataka – on that day. I have issued a directive to chief secretary B K Das in this regard.”

The name, however, may undergo another change, for Ananthamurthy told The Times of India: “The name should be Bengal-oo-ru.” The CM spelt it out as Bengal-u-ru.

See also: Bangalore boom, traffic congestion

Bangalore boom, traffic congestion

Today’s (Sunday) San Jose Mercury News features a cover story on Bangalore, India, and draws some parallels with the Bay Area. The headline reads “The tech boom didn’t die. It just moved to India.” I find that I unexpectedly run into people from the Bay Area quite often during trips out there, and there has been amazing growth in salaries and real estate prices which reminds me of late ’99 here. At the same time they seem to be hitting resource limits of various sorts. The water and power supplies can be spotty, the storm drains routinely flood the streets during monsoon season, the roads are overloaded, there’s often a shortage of hotel rooms, and the airport is remarkably bad, considering that so much of the local economy depends on foreign business travel.

Bangalore, the tech center of India, is booming as the Bay Area once did, becoming a world-class hub for tech jobs, economic activity and, increasingly, innovation. While Silicon Valley still retains a hold on high-end tech jobs, countless lower-level positions, particularly in software — and now some sophisticated research and development work — are shifting to this city of 6.5 million in southern India. The emergence of Bangalore — and of India — as a tech power signals a new world economic order that is both opportunity and threat to Silicon Valley.

The article also mentions the traffic (and the fact that it can take an hour to go a few miles). Reminded me to go dig up some video clips I’ve been meaning to do something with. Nothing spectacular, but as I travel, I find the differentness of the mundane aspects of daily life interesting, and there are lots of little things to see in these. (WM9 only, no Quicktime, I don’t have an encoder handy at the moment.)

See also:

I wonder if the Mercury News found the same cow that hangs out on Hosur Road. There are a few that are always wandering around along the side of the road, they must live nearby somewhere.

StarSight – Solar powered street lamps with wireless access points

solar lamppost
This project seems like it could be a good fit for developing but urban settings where there is fairly high population density, a budget for deploying infrastructure, and enough community support to limit problems with vandalism or theft of the equipment.

Starsight (Starsightproject.com) is a project designed to supercharge street lighting and power in developing counties. Essentially it is a network of pylons, each with a solar panel, linked not by cables but by antennae which use wireless internet protocol.

The Starsight idea came out of the involvement of London-based sustainable development specialist the Kolam Partnership in an urban street lighting initiative in Cameroon.

Reliable street lighting can help a country to develop – a study by the Kenyan government recently found that street lighting reduced crime by 65 per cent. The benefits are even more widespread – aid workers and foreign businesses are more likely to stay on in a country if they feel secure.

One of the project partners is a Next-G, a Singapore-based wireless manufacturer which is building the pylons. If the project scales up, perhaps they can find a way to set up in-country fabrication of the poles, rather than importing them.

As an aside, solar panels are commonly seen at road intersections in Bangalore. If you look carefully at the top right of this photo, you’ll see one on the street sign pylon behind the tree branches.

Public domain Soviet maps of the world

During the initial planning and survey phase of the Kuppam project a few years ago, I discovered it was nearly impossible to obtain high resolution topographic maps (or any other sort) for rural India. The government-operated Survey of India has high quality data, but it hasn’t generally made its way into the equivalent of US Geological Survey 15-minute quadrangles on paper or the DTM / DEM data sets. The best I was able to come up with was some old Soviet military maps from the 1950s.

Hadn’t thought about it for a while, but I see someone else has found out about these:

Paul sez, “Soviets mapped the entire world at various scales between 1940 and 1990.In some areas the Russian maps are still the best available maps. Amazingly, none of the maps are copyright.

BoingBoing, Soviet Military Maps of Britain

Free computers for rural (but connected) communities

Asiatotal.net, a Hong Kong-based company, is planning to distribute “iT”:

iT is a compact, ultra-simple, portable desk top computer complete with everything necessary to connect to the Internet, home entertainment devices, printer, USB card reader for reading the memory cards of digital cameras and many other USB peripherals.

It has been developed, designed and manufactured to be distributed free in order to enhance the lives of the millions of people in the world who – for economic reasons – are not connected to the Internet. A way to move them out of the digital underclass.

The device is based on Windows CE, and comes preloaded with IE6.

From the Business Standard:

This device has a conventional keyboard with 14 additional keys, 10 of which will be sponsored by firms that want to tap rural markets, like a firm selling seeds or crop insurance. By pressing the relevant “hot key”, farmers can directly access firms’ websites where product information will guide them to making the right purchase.

A major near term challenge will be the absence of an internet connection in many of the target communities. Asiatotal is explicitly not providing the networking service. This might work in places such as Kuppam, where there is already wireless broadband service, but many other places would have on-demand service only, dial up or perhaps cellular data service, which is rapidly becoming available in many rural markets.

I’m not sure about targeting seed vendors or crop insurance though. Based on my recollection of the Kuppam web traffic logs, they could probably do better with horoscopes, cricket scores, and matrimonial services…

The firm says it intends to distribute 3 million iTs across developing countries like India, China, Brazil, Mexico, and those in eastern Europe. It will be shortly rolling out these devices in Brazil.

I hope they make some progress with this. If they’re able to make the business economics and user adoption work with this device, using the 100 dollar computer instead of a Windows CE device should be a piece of cake.

(via ContentSutra and Business Standard)

Map My Run

Map My Run is a new Google Maps-based application for plotting and measuring your runs. I just tried plotting one of my usual loops around the Stanford campus and it’s pretty close to what I get with my GPS running watch.

You can plot routes by clicking points on the map, or upload a GPS tracklog (didn’t try this, though). These sorts of applications are great for estimating your mileage when you don’t actually have a GPS or some way to measure the course. Unfortunately, Google’s map coverage is still somewhat limited outside the US, so it works great for plotting runs around London’s Hyde Park but not so good for loops around the Vidhana Soudha or Cubbon Park in Bangalore, although if you know your way around you can use the satellite view to make a rough guesstimate.

As an aside, it’s remarkably hard to find a good online map of Bangalore, given the huge number of technology-related business travellers that visit there. Maps of India has a reasonable city overview, but if you want street-level detail, try this one from Superseva (only seems to work on Internet Explorer). It’s an interactive scanned image of a paper map(!).

See also: Gmaps Pedometer, Favorite Run, Walk Jog Run, Motion Based

via Google Maps Mania

Six Low Cost Computers for Rural ICT

CNET has put together a photo roundup of several low cost computing projects from the past few years:

  • The Popular PC initiative from Brazil in 2001 was intended to cost around $250, but ended up around $600.
  • The Mobilis Wireless laptop from Indian technology firm Encore Software features a 7.4-inch LCD screen and six-hour battery life. It costs about 15,000 rupees, or about $277.
  • The Mobilis desktop is powered by Intel’s XScale PXA255 200/400MHz processor and has 128MB of SDRAM. It comes with a carrying case that hides a full-size, roll-up keyboard and opens up as a desktop stand. Its price tag is 10,000 rupees, or $230.
  • MIT Media Lab have a plan for getting $100 laptops in the hands of millions of people around the world. One notable feature of their prototype is a hand crank for providing power in places where electricity is undependable or unavailable.
  • The Personal Internet Communicator from Advanced Micro Devices features Microsoft software, including Internet Explorer, the Windows Media Player and a version of Windows. The device is sold through Internet service providers, which will set the local price; it was listed at $185 without a monitor when it debuted.
  • The Amida Simputer is a product of the Indian companies Bharat Electronics and PicoPeta Simputers. It runs Linux, uses a stylus, and has a 206MHz processor, 64MB of RAM and two USB ports.

Voltage Stabilizers and Hidden Costs of Rural ICT

Came across a couple of posts which prompted me to dig up some of my backlog of material from the Kuppam program.
Voltage Stabilizers at Kuppam i-Community Office
Voltage stabilizers are uncommon and almost unknown in the US, but in India, voltage stabilizers are household equipment. Although the electrical service is nominally 240 VAC, in many rural areas the grid is underpowered, with priority given to agricultural users. This leads to scheduled power outages and wildly varying line voltages. While it is possible to run computers and other IT equipment directly from the AC line, this commonly leads to rapid equipment failure due to repeated undervoltage and overvoltage conditions.

Solar Panel Array at Kuppam i-Community Office

The Kuppam i-Community program office is equipped with rooftop solar panels, diesel generator backup, and a voltage stablizer system. This site houses a computer training center, network servers, wired and wireless network routers, and various desktop computers for staff use. There are classes and activities there throughout the day, and the servers support network traffic from the entire region, so there is a premium on keeping the facility running as much as possible.

Diesel Generator at Kuppam i-Community Office

Although the cost of the IT equipment continues to decline rapidly, the cost of power systems has remained fairly constant. Fortunately, the general trend is for lower power consumption devices in the developed markes, which leads to trickle-down availability for the developing markets.

While most rural IT installations will not be as elaborate as this one, the indirect cost of providing power is an important consideration in building and sustaining information utilities for rural developing areas.

A sarcastic look at stabilizers sales boosting India’s GDP

But think some more: why do we need stabilizers in the first place? Because the voltage of the electricity that’s supplied to us fluctuates wildly. That happens because of inefficiencies in the generation and transmission of electricity. In India, we are so used to these fluctuations that we don’t even think they are abnormal: we simply buy stabilizers and use them like any other consumer product. Hell, they are just another consumer product.

We likely also don’t think, as we buy stabilizers, that we are pumping up the GDP of the country, which we are. But if we did think of that, we might find a small perversity here. Since we tolerate inefficiency in one part of our economy — the generation of electricity — we need devices whose production and purchase shore up another part of our economy.

One person’s recollection of life with stabilizers When Stabilizers Don’t Suffice

Around 1988, what we had was farm that needed lots of power, a tube-well that needed lots of power, and a house that needed a little power. We also had an authorized three-phase line, which used to supply some electricity everyday. It was another matter that for the few hours a day that we had it, we needed an ammeter to figure out whether we had power or not. When the rest of the city was moaning about power cuts, we felt blessed to have any power. We also had local generators, that could run for nine or ten hours, producing electricity at four times the cost, and consuming precious diesel, before requiring a mechanic, but those were needed to run the farm. Get us our daily bread, butter and cup of water.

See also: Ethan Zuckerman’s post from PopTech on Negroponte and the $100 Laptop

RFID and retinal scans for cattle

One of the applications investigated for the Kuppam i-Community program was using RFID or other tagging system for tracking cattle. Much of the farming there is in small herds, so they don’t typically have a large animal management issue, but it turns out that cattle are commonly used as collateral for securing small loans from the bank. There are a number of problems with the same animal being used as collateral for multiple loans, or being declared lost, missing, or deceased.

from BoingBoing:

New Mexico State University researchers are testing a retinal scanner and radio frequency identification (RFID) tag system for cattle. Part of the USDA’s planned National Animal Identification System, the technology could help identify and keep tabs on animals that may have been in contact with diseased livestock.

Wikipedia in Telegu and Kannada

A note for my friends working on Telegu and Kannada local language projects for rural development projects in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, India.

From the August 2005 Wikipedia News:

The Kannada Wikipedia has reached 1,000 articles.

The Telegu Wikipedia has reached 1,000 articles

One of the reasons we selected Mediawiki for use in the Kuppam i-Community program was its strong support for local language content and localization. It would be great to see some of the local language content in the Kuppam wiki make its way into the Telegu Wikipedia.

There are other local language Wikipedia projects for Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Gujarathi, Marathi, Kashmiri, and Urdu.

Korea becomes the largest foreign investor in India

After many trips back and forth, I’ve always been struck by the prevalence of Korean products in India. There are ads for LG and Samsung appliances, Hyundai cars, and they seem to have collectively gotten the hang of building “locally appropriate” products, as opposed to attempting to go to market there with a “global standard” product.

From Newsweek on MSN (via Indian Economy Blog)

Sept. 19, 2005 issue – In one whopping megadeal, South Korea has become the largest foreign investor in Asia’s second emerging giant, India. On Aug. 31, Korean steelmaker Posco established a local subsidiary in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, paving the way for a controversial mill and mining complex that will cost the world’s fifth largest steelmaker $12 billion and employ some 40,000 workers once it’s fully operational in 2010.

South Korean firms like Hyundai, LG and SK Group have carved out a notable presence in the country—the world’s second largest and a potentially huge market for products like refrigerators, washing machines and television sets.

The Posco deal in Orissa, though, is a completely different sort of project. This is a big natural resources project, to line up access to iron and steel to meet increasing manufacturing demand in-country within India. In addition to a dire need for basic infrastructure improvements (roads, highways, and airports), more people are moving to separate homes, or larger homes, and filling them with more white goods and electronics.

United Villages proposes Rural Wireless Broadband in India

Now that the 2.4GHz spectrum is approved for unlicensed outdoor use in India, a number of projects based on WiFi, 802.11, and related commodity wireless data networking technologies are emerging.

The Kuppam i-Community program in Andhra Pradesh, which I was involved with, also has a network based on 2.4GHz wireless radios. At the time we had to get experimental licenses, after many meetings and much paperwork, because the 2.4GHz band wasn’t approved for outdoor use in 2002 when the project was started.

From Times Of India (via ContentSutra):

Rural India has now some serious chances to go Wi-Fi, and that can be for as cheap as Rs 50 per person a year. United Villages Inc (UV), a US-based low-cost internet service provider, has asked the government for permission (foreign direct investment or FDI) to set up base in India. It will provide rural WiFi broadband, which has the potential to reach out to about 30 crore people living in the villages.

UV has developed a communication technology that provides internet access using mobile vehicles that connect to already set up hubs. As the vehicles drive through rural areas, wireless communication equipment within them automatically exchange data with access devices in each village. This unique low-cost communication concept for the developing countries is often called “internet-on-wheels”.

Using UV’s mobile internet technology, acronymed VAN (Village Area Network), people in the rural area can send and receive email and voicemail, and can also browse through cached information from the web and local intranets, the company said in its FIPB application.

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, is one of the investors in United Villages.

See also: Cantennas deployed in Kuppam

The Inevitability of Blog Outsourcing

The blog outsourcing topic has rolled along while I’ve been spending the day at the Blog Business Summit, listening to discussions on commercializing blogs. There’s now a post about it (Outsourcing bloggers in China) at CNET, which turned up a few other skeptics, and it’s looking like the Blogoriented guys are probably a hoax.

Despite that, I also think it’s inevitable that we’ll see at least a couple of real projects along these lines within a year, not aimed at simulating teenaged girls, but rather at building blog networks, filled and buzzed by creating inexpensive original content and editing search feeds that target specific niches.

David Sifry at Technorati has a good summary on the growing problems of spam blogs and fake blogs, and all the search engines are likely to make progress against what are essentially the next generation of link farms. Unfortunately, as discussed in this afternoon’s sessions on web advertising and affiliate models, if you can get traffic, there’s potential for a lot of money to be made by simple manipulations of the system, at least until the search engines improve. Content picked up by the blog search engines gets indexed immediately, leaving a way around some of the the sandboxing and other mechanisms used by Google and others, and makes profitable links visible immediately.

It’s cheap and apparently effective to implement spam and fake blogs. I’ve noticed the volume of junk e-mail is decreasing, while the number of spam blogs in search results seems to be increasing. It’s going to take cooperation among multiple parties to fix this, but everyone recognizes this as a problem, so it’s going to get better. (Here’s Mark Cuban’s take.)

I think that a follow on issue is that genuinely “original” content, in the “first author” sense, rather than in the “new idea” sense, can be probably be reliably cranked out through a well defined process. Think of something like an Indian call center or coding shop crossed with a daily news bureau, supervised by an editor who picked topics with some guidance from Wordtracker, Google and others. You’d get low cost, original writing, around an editorially consistent, topically relevant set of themes, and perhaps even with some interesting domain expertise, all tuned to be informative and keyworded to be search engine friendly.

Many of the same processes used at Wipro, Infosys, and other software and BPO outsourcers could be adapted to this application. Why cheat the search engine rankings when you can just reduce the cost of production and actually receive ranking benefit when the search engines get better at filtering for contextually better results and get rid of the “really fake” blogs? The Weblogs Inc blog network model seems to be working so far – Jason Calcanis says they’ve just hit a $1M annual ad revenue rate. Reducing the content production costs can’t hurt. I’m sure they could apply some of these ideas, if they haven’t already, and if they don’t, some other new blog network will certainly try.

This approach to farming out the process-oriented writing tasks should apply equally to a number of periodicals, such as magazines and newspapers. The difference between the news content in many newspapers is already often just the local editor’s preferences on the AP or Reuters newsfeeds and what fit in between the committed ad inches.

I don’t think this sort of blog or content outsourcing would be “bad” or “evil” in the sense of creating lower quality content, at least in some topic domains, since a pool of skilled professionals already exists offshore, and is growing rapidly. If you got a good editor in place, it might even improve the overall quality of online content. It’s not misrepresentation, unless you tried to pass off your authors as being something they’re not. But I wouldn’t even bother with attempting the nuances of local US culture with a staff of offshore bloggers, despite the availability of cultural indoctrination programs they run call center trainees through. That would work about as well having US bloggers cover cricket or Bollywood gossip or Korean K-pop singers for their respective local audiences.

This seems to leave American pop culture as a secure niche for a while. Unfortunately, I’m incredibly bad at celebrity gossip. Although, now that I think about it, I did meet Cher once at her house in Malibu…

Putting on my evil genius hat, here’s a hypothetical approach for building an astroturfing blog empire, filled with posts from simulated teenaged (18-35) girls. Start by extracting common phrases, topics, and contexts from some LiveJournal and MySpace blogs. Next, build some auto-blogging agents resembling Weisenbaum’s Eliza program crossed with some modern chatterbots. Finally, set it loose on LiveJournal, Xanga, and MySpace and have it start forming its own blogrings and online cliques, responding to filtered inputs from comments, selected feeds, and topical news, biased for the current hot keywords and with statistically plausible content and linkage…any Emacs Lisp and SQL hackers want to take this on?

See also: Outsource your Blog, Reasons I Still Read Newspapers

Update 08-19-2005 12:32 – some discussion at My Heart’s in Accra

Update 08-27-2005 00:10 – See also Goofy algorithm generates web page about “Prostitute Phobia” (at BoingBoing), which comments on this site, which is one of a collection of automatically generated pages.

Outsource Your Blog

I had been speculating on something like this after reading an article last month about outsourcing personal website maintenance to India.

via Marginal Revolution, Content to Go

As I write this entry my partner Jeff is in the air on the way to our office in Shanghai. What Jeff and I are doing is simple but as far as I know we are the first. We are outsourcing blogs to China.

Our general business model is a two tiered effort to hire Chinese citizens to write blogs en masse for us at a valued wage. The first tier is to create original blogs. These blogs will pop up in various areas of the net and appear to the unknowing reader to be written by your standard American. Our short term goal for these original blogs is to generate a steady stream of revenue through traditional blog advertising like google adwords. We estimate that our current blogforce of 25 can support around 500 unrelated blogs. Hopefully a few of those will be hits. The long term goal is to generate a large untraceable astroturfing mechanism for launching of various products. When a vendor needs to promote a new product to the internet demographic we will be able to create a believable buzz across hundreds of ‘reputable’ blogs and countless message boards. We can offer a legitimacy to advertisers that doesen’t exist anywhere else.

The second tier of our plan is a blog vacation service where our employees fill in for established bloggers who need to take a break from regular posting. As all bloggers know, an unupdated blog is quickly forgotten. For a nominal fee we can provide seamless integration of filler.

I’m not entirely sure that the project is real, they claim to have raised $5 million US and the domain was just registered 3 days ago, but this caught my eye because I think there are some real possibilities for something like this.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with commercial blogging or professional blogging. However…their plan calls for deliberate misrepresentation of commercial interests as personal ones, on a large scale. This could be blog spam taken to the next level.

If they’re really heading off to put together an offshored blog content network, I think it could be done without heading straight for the “astroturf” market, which might give it a slower start but longer legs.

In my quick take on this idea, I’d probably choose India or Phillipines over China for basic English language skills, since the target audience is in the US, and have content editors with actual domain knowledge working with lower cost writers. This might not work for simulating teen LiveJournal sites, but should fit pretty well for topical blogs of most sorts. Hmm. That sounds like the direction the newspaper and magazine business is already heading…

Update 08-19-2005 – Followed up with more comments, plus ideas on how to build the evil astroturfing network in a new post.

Hey buddy, move it

kuppam-traffic-control-050701 IMG_2204

Ox cart being chased out of a no-parking area in Kuppam. The district collector, Shamsher Singh Rawat, came from Chittoor for the program review along with his security detail, and the streets were closed temporarily during the event.

Lunch at the cafeteria in Bangalore


This is a typical cafeteria lunch here. I actually took this photo a few months ago during a previous trip; since then there’s a new caterer for this building. They have round trays instead of rectangular ones, and they have added a non-vegetarian option.

The way the cafeteria works, there aren’t really choices of what to get. I generally bring a protein bar with me to have with lunch, as otherwise it’s hard to maintain an adequate protein intake to support my training routine. If you look at the tray, you’ll see white rice, brown rice, lentils, flat wheat bread, a chick pea/spinach/carrot curry, some fried rice puff thing, and some onions. There’s also some sambar on the rice, which is more or less vegetable broth.

The cafeteria lunch here usually has some milk curd which would provide some protein. I tend to skip milk products and fresh produce, though, since I’m not in country long enough to acclimate to the local microflora and fauna. Even the milk at the hotel has odd lumps floating around in it from time to time. The concept of “skim milk” is a little alien here.
So, without the milk or yogurt component of the lunch, I’m pretty much left with carbohydrates, carbohydrates, fat, and whatever proteins can be coaxed out of the combination of legumes + rice.

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