Friday, June 2, 2017

Ola and Uber - An Experience

I have been using either Ola or Uber for my daily commute to work for the past few months.  I had a conversation with Drivers quite regularly, ranging from Politics to Movies.  I became interested in how their experience with Ola or Uber was like and how they felt about their customers.  They shared some funny and some scary incidents.

Some points that were repeated way often:

1.  Ola's business model does not help drivers, almost to the point of being predatory.
2.  Ola passengers (yep, us) are quite rude and demanding.  Uber's passengers are relatively more accommodating and polite.
3.  Ola's app is unstable, clunky and crash prone.
4.  Uber's initial plans for drivers were awesome, not anymore.  Less payout nowadays, but still better than Ola's (Uber suffered $780 million Losses this FY)
5.  Uber's app is super accurate and robust.
6.  Passengers don't understand the concept of Uber Pool/Ola share.  They just look at the low price, but don't grasp the fact that the low price comes with an increased travel time.
7.  Customers trust Ola more than Uber.

Overall what I could gather is that Uber has a far superior technology and platform and is cheaper than Ola.  Consumers, however, are more comfortable with Ola.  But the tide is shifting with consumers steadily adopting Uber.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Space as The Final Frontier - The ultimate High



Movies like Interstellar or 2001:A Space Odyssey always make me feel insignificant and hopeless.  It leaves me in despair.  But also accompanying it is a sense of grandiose and greatness, it's a mixed and confusing feeling that feels like an afterglow of a drug binge (metaphorically), quite difficult to put in words or even describe orally.

What I can describe, though, is the sense of adventure and camaraderie I feel towards humanity and the earth after watching those movies.  We don't take Elon Musk seriously enough when he says that humans need to be a space faring civilization.  We cannot leave all our eggs in one basket, aka the Earth.  There are very high chances of a global extinction event over a long period of time.  It could be caused by anything among disease, war, extra-terrestrial objects hitting the Earth, climate change, a gamma ray burst etc.  It's a question of 'when' and not 'if'.  And as the current species roaming around aimlessly on the planet, we have to start acting in that direction, else our progeny would never forgive us.

But apart from acting out of the fear of the impending doom, it's the sense of adventure that moves the needle for me.  It's exploration for the sheer sake of it, like pure mathematics or like when the medieval explorers went out to range over the then formidable and unconquered seas.  Space is the next frontier, and in a few hundred years, we surely could and should have a colony on Mars.  By then, hopefully the rocket technology will have advanced enough to send humans beyond the Oort cloud to the nearby stars to search for our neighbors, just like medieval explorers did (although it did not turn out very good).  It's going to be humanity's blind ambition and hubris that will take us there.  Everyone alive today won't be there to see it happen, but we owe it to the future generations.  We owe to expand the knowledge we have of our past and future.

So what's to be done?  Bask in the glory of current scientific achievement.  Dream big and hope bigger.  Some people claim that we might have reached the end of Physics as we know it, but so was felt in 1920s when relativity was known, even before the giant called Quantum Mechanics was in its infancy or DNA hadn't been discovered.  Such is the nature of Nature.  Layers of mysteries that lead to further questions.  An endless race towards finding the grand unified theory, the ultimate truth of the cosmos.

Feels good to vent the High out.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Days of our lives at Work and Workplace

Let's talk about Work and Workplace.

We spend around 40-45 hours a week at work, considering a 5-day work week.  It amounts to 26.7% of our week.  Over a long stretch of time, we must be spending at least 25% of our LIFE at work.  That's a quarter!  And considering we sleep for around 30%, work amounts to 38.1% of our conscious lives!

Those exclamations aren't just out of place.  It struck me like a brick.  It is common knowledge, but there is a difference between knowing something, realizing it and it cutting through your conscious.  It was an unnerving realization.  If I am miserable at work, I am unhappy for a quarter of my total life, and more than a third of my conscious life! That's 5 years in an active carrier of 20 years.

I went meta to understand what caused this sudden surge of spirituality; I concluded it could be mid life crisis, a time when career, personal life and unrequited dreams surface from their graves.  However philosophical it might seem, I gave it some thought.  We, the middle class working people, indeed do spend quite a lot of our life working.  It just does not make sense to be miserable at work.

The major factors causing distress, in my opinion, in decreasing order of wretchedness, would be:

1.  Supervisor/Manager/Boss
2.  Sense of Purpose - Kind of Work
3.  Pay
4.  Colleagues
5.  Workplace ergonomics
...

Some of these are out of an individual's control, after all we do not get to choose our boss.  I have also observed that no matter how awesome your workplace is, you are bound to get bored or annoyed of it at some point in time.  After all people leave the Googles and the Facebooks to join the Ubers and the Airbnbs.  But let's discount that case for this discussion.

In that case, from the above list, that leaves very little in our hands.  We can demand better conditions and more pay, or fake a sense of purpose, but that's about it.  What's the solution?  Honestly, I am not sure.  I would rather ride out the bad part of work whilst searching better opportunities.  I like to call it The Grunt, as Learned Helplessness never helps.  Again, it's very subjective, but chanting 'All Is Well' during finding a solution helps.  But the critical part is to keep looking for better in case of a bad workplace, and getting comfortable is quite impeding to this initiative.  And it's never too late, starting afresh does not mean a demoting experience.

As nicely stated in this article, "To not to have entirely wasted one's life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself". 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Adding to the noise - Agile is Dead, Long live Agile

The bugles of the death of Agile have been sounded.  Agile style of project execution is approaching its end of life, or so they say.  But what’s the alternative?  Waterfall gave way to iterative/incremental model which gave way to Agile, so then what’s next for Agile?  Pundits say it’s Continuous Delivery.  If you search Hacker News (search link) you’ll see a myriad of links shared.  It ranges from Agile was always wrong to begin with all the way to AI replacing all programmers and thus killing agile.  Like a smart guy once said ‘Generally, all broad generalizations are wrong’.  The irony is quite evident. 

So what’s it going to be?  Let’s see the current landscape of Agile adoption and how enterprises operate.  I checked a few surveys online to see how it’s faring.  The data shows that although a few companies are way ahead and have not only adopted agile but also embraced it in all aspects and have genetically evolved to fuse it in their culture, aka the DNA.  These companies have adopted agility and not just Agile, there’s a stark difference between the two.  
In other corporations, that are still clinging to the traditions for unknown reasons (or same reasons we see it happening in our society) it’s been observed that the Process Gurus are trying to fit the Agile model in a box despite of Agile being an amoebic figment.  Many seem to have forgotten the first statement of the Agile manifesto:

Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools


And that’s what has ruined Agile, the experts say and I agree.  If you have to write a book ‘Agile for Dummies’, then the purpose of Agile is ruined.  The term and spirit of Agile started being abused by the insecure enterprises that cannot see the control move to the teams, aka the Top Down management corporations.  Their adoption of agile is like setting birds free with a string attached to their feet so they can fly within a radius of some x meters. 




So let’s kill the word and practice of Agile and espouse Agility and Continuous Delivery.  Let’s break free of the Process shackles and deliver quality software.  Process experts don’t understand Tests as documents philosophy.  Let’s educate them, because collaboration is the cornerstone of Agility.  

Anything else in this post will be an attempt of blaspheming the spirit that is Agility.  So go out and do Agility (pun intended). 


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Down the memory lane - A blog I wrote to introduce a service my friend launched in 2011

I stumbled across my old blog post on introducing a service called Korpool my friend had launched in 2011.  It was a sweet moment for me.

EDIT - The service is no longer available.  It was launched by my friend Siddharth Naik.

"
Korpool is a new service that launched some time ago and was in a stealth mode for some time while we tested it with select people.  Now, we have decided to showcase it to the world.  It's an elegant solution to a problem which many face, but are hesitant to discuss.  

Corporations have internal social networks, which are strictly private to the employees and have a strict code of conduct.  Sometimes freely expressing one's views on such intra-corporation networks costs employees their jobs.  What if the employees of the company wish to freely communicate without worrying about their employers eavesdropping?  One solution is using external social networks, but Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn are too large and too open a networks to be entrusted with such a responsibility. There are just too many unknown and untrustworthy people out there.  There is a need for a solution which is pro-employee.

Korpool is our attempt at solving this problem.  We want employees from different corporations to trust worthily communicate with each other about anything, like buy/sell, befriending people from other corporations whom you can trust on their identity, leveraging referral programs, looking for alternate employment, carpooling for employees from same neighborhood etc., you name it and you can do it on Korpool; it's open communication with real people from corporations similar to yours.  Korpool verifies each member for their identity.  Though Korpool is for now open for employees of select companies, we are fast expanding and adding new features.  Our engineering and marketing team is hard at work for allowing official yet private communication between people of same careers, but different cultures and employers.

We recommend you to give it a try.  Access Korpool and request a sign up.  Please feel free to leave a feedback on facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Thanks,
Korpool team
"

The service is no longer active because it didn't gain any traction.  But it was a great experience.  Felt like sharing it again.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Thoughts on Employer switching

With the attrition season in full swing, I often hear people having more than one employment offers.  They are many a times very competing, and the decision is difficult.  Various factors come into play beyond the obvious ones (salary, designation, role etc.), like commute distance from home, brand value of the employer, the clientele etc.  In a few cases, even these factors are very closely comparable, making the choice all the more perplexing.

One factor, which I feel trumps a lot of minor ones and one which is often ignored by many, is the history of the employer in terms of the kind of treatment it metes out to its employees, especially during rough times.  This is perhaps, in my opinion, more important than most of the other factors.  Imagine, you join a company that offers good compensation, has good policies on paper and has a good overall brand value, but the core of it is rotten due to bureaucratic crap flowing down from top.  You would steadily burn out and probably leave the company disgruntled.  Money, brand etc. won't matter.  Such corporations slowly rot from inward out like a cancerous tumor and fall hard.  Investors and board members wonder what went wrong, only to reach incorrect conclusions.  the past is a witness to such events.

To quote a few examples; I know of a company that during the 2009-10 recession treated its employees like a herd of cattle.  It posted on the main entrance gate the list of the employees they had laid off .  The security guards were to check the names of the employees in the list and send back those whose names were listed. They didn't get an HR round or even a consolidating email.

 Laying people off is a business necessity sometimes, and I am not expressing an opinion about it.  The manner in which the lay offs were conducted was downright despicable.  People who had joined just a week back were let gone, and that too in an insulting manner.  Think twice before joining such a company.

In another case, an employee high up the hierarchy of a prominent e-Commerce giant, was fired because he raised some important ethical questions about the company's fraudulent financial policies.  Again, a big NO-NO.  People argue that it's just business, but remember that if a company can cheat its clients, it can deceive you as an employee with the least of ethical introspection.

One employer even asked its Managers to artificially create a vitriolic and hateful culture in the teams to make employees resign to save some severance money.  Hideous in my opinion.  There was another company which mandated its employees to sign a bond of 3 years before joining, and it wasn't a company into manufacturing or labor, but a technology one.  The same company made its employees sign a non-compete cause, wherein the people who resigned were barred from joining a pre-decided set of companies till after 1 year of employment termination.  Preposterous!


The best way to gauge this is going through online reviews extensively, sometimes even talking to incumbent employees in the firm, or reading news about the employer's past.  Company culture is very critical to its and your success.  There are many ways of making money for companies, but those firms who think about long term success think of its employees and associates and partners, not resources to be plundered. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The ultimate speed limit - Light, and why is it so

The movie Interstellar reinvigorated my childhood curiosity about the natural world.  Questions and wonder overwhelmed me.  My favorite subject during school and college was Physics.  I still love it and regularly read the new findings.  Interstellar got me thinking on many of the phenomena we don't observe; like what makes certain materials transparent and others opaque.  Why is the speed of light limited to ~3,00,000 km/s, what does empty space exactly consist of etc. etc.  A lot of thoughts came rushing.

I picked up a random one, why does light have a speed limit, what is the constraining factor?  I tried reading online and asked questions in science forums (like StackExchange).  Upon reading multiple sources, the response left me in awe.  Something amazing happened when stuff travelled through space.
A short answer to the question is:  The speed limit is not that of light, but the medium in which it is travelling.  This implies that ~3,00,000 km/s is the speed limit of the vacuum through which light travels. 

Long answer; all I thought I new about space and vacuum was inadequate.  To explain, let me draw an analogy with a compute memory hard disk.  Those of us in Computer Science would know that there is nothing like empty memory.  When we buy a hard disk of 1 terabyte space, the memory is not actually empty.  It has some junk data that is de-referenced.  Or in other words, when we delete a file from our computer, it is de-referenced from the objects in the system.  No memory location can point to the deleted area, but the data still resides there (Even after it is deleted from Recycle Bin, in Windows' parlance).  This is a security concern, as anybody with a physical access to the hard disk can extract the data.  Anti-Virus companies came up with a solution of shredding the memory.  This process basically overwrites the memory location with junk data, so the deleted data is lost permanently.  The important point here is that memory has to contain something if it has to exist, or there is nothing like empty memory.

This logic applies to vacuum as well.  Nothing can be empty in the universe.  Even space which seems empty  is a plasma of annihilating particles.  And this plasma has certain properties, one of which is the maximum speed of any form of energy travelling through it (remember, matter is a form of condensed energy).  This is what limits the speed of light.

Let me draw another analogy; let's say you are travelling from Pune to Mumbai, an average distance of 150 km.  You are travelling at a speed of 600 km/hr.  Assuming there's no traffic, you should reach your destination in 15 min.  But there are toll booths in between, which limit your minimum time.  If there are total 3 toll booths and each take up 5 minutes, then at any speed you won't be able to reach your destination before 15 min.  Similarly, there are electromagnetic doorways in vacuum space, which restrict the speed of any form of energy travelling through it.  Even though I can travel at infinite speed between these doorways, I will have to wait at the next door way until it opens.  I got goose bumps even typing this.


Click to Enlarge














What this means that in a parallel universe, there might exist such pockets where space and time geometry is such that it allows faster than light travel, without worm holes.  Scientists are exploring such possibilities.

This is a very naive explanation to a very complex phenomenon.  But that's the challenge, if I can't explain something in simple terms that a layman does not understand then it means that I myself do not understand the concept clearly.  It's wonderful exploring how complex the mundane phenomena around us are.