Do it yourself Lobotomy - Tom Monahan - Creativity! Monday, October 27, 2008

Creativity. What does this mean? I never read a book on being creative till now, still trying to be creative unknowingly. This is a wonderful book, i took it in random from a collection of mind books. I want to share thoughts about this book and creativity

"The human mind is capable of infinite imaginary thought, as proven
daily by our children. But kids have an advantage over most adults:
Their minds aren’t filled with knowledge. "

could be this is the reason Dr.Abdul Kalam advocates so much for kids and he loves them too (like me :-)).yes kids are interesting. now i remember something piccaso told

Its taken me all of my life to have mind of a child – picasso

This is a fundamental thinking of what creativity is and it also answers why kids are creative where adults are commonly not. When your mind is free you can think, this is it! The initial chapters of the book was very interesting, author talks about the paradigm shift from manual work to knowledge workers of today.

Here's the amazon link to the book

Ads are closing in! Sunday, October 19, 2008

Watch out... It might be standing right next to you.

I almost never pay for anything I take from the Internet. Of course all of these are free stuff, for which these web sites get their visitors. I live in India and this is the way it works for most of Indians. Advertising campaigns are effective on Google, the most important reason is that they keep throwing the same ad across all the sites you use. The same ad shows up on all sites that I visit, that has partnered with Google on adsense. This is one of the hundreds of tricks that Google uses for advertising on web sites. The ad that is right on top of my gmail's inbox an one line text ad grabs my attention, because of its placement.

When Google launched Chrome, I saw it running on my friend's computer, I dint like it. I chose not to download it on to my computer. But guess what Google did to persuade me to get chrome, it placed that ad in the right place, as a text ad above gmail inbox, after it showed up for a series of sites where this ad was chasing me, all of those places are where I avoided ads. Look! this ad followed me till my gmail inbox and finaly I clicked on to see what the heck this chrome is all about. There comes the funneling strategy, showed up a good squeeze ad page for Chrome and finally I downloaded it.

I wonder what would happen to the music industry if content distribution is not controlled, well is there a way to control distribution? I'm not thinking about the possibilities like digitally preventing copy theft or something like that. But the large user base held by peer to peer software users could be controlled to some extent but cannot be eliminated. In India, the ISP s never do anything to prevent the spread of illegal music, up in the Internet cloud, probably because they have enough bandwidth to feed their hungry downloaders. But this situation will change when more people get connected to the Internet. There will be a time when an ISP X who slows down P2P downloads and another will make it by not doing it and gain market share. I'll probably choose the second option :-)

Quest for search Thursday, October 2, 2008

This was originally posted on Vidya blog - Digital Information Archive at Amrita

Here's the post for blog :-)

Quest for Search Ended

All this started when I met Ajai Narendran sir(Vidya's architect and's webmaster). For the first time, it was just a normal meeting. I always wanted to have a search engine that works for Vidya, a huge archive, which makes life a lot easier. Sometime when I met him while talking in general, I told him that a search engine for Vidya must have a place where you can add new archives so that they also become searchable. He replied me something like "human imagination has no bounds", he was right and that was imagination at its peak. Because I've been into search engine optimization for the past one year and I had the background on how search engines work and how to make a web site that show up on search results. I knew I could try solving this problem of finding a search engine for Vidya. I was sure that once I find a search solution, Ajai sir will let me deploy it on Vidya. Knowledge is not enough. We must apply! He is always open to new ideas. I went ahead to find a solution, taking this not so seriously but just like I explore any other thing. I took this also on the exploring list.

Being practical, I did not move on to write a search engine on my own. It was clear to me that there are open source products on Enterprise search. I analyzed products like Nutch, from Apache software foundation. Google, the king of search engines has a product that fits into an Enterprise and makes all documents searchable, not for free as on Internet. It costs a $2,995 which is the minimal Google Search Appliance, a hardware plus software product. It is a monster with 16GB of RAM and tera bytes of storage space. An amazing product at an amazingly large cost. Then I stumbled upon a product called simplexo, downloaded it, its a open source startup company from UK, offering and enterprise search solution. Having this in mind. Hey wait! I asked myself what is the equivalent of Google search appliance by Yahoo? These giants compete each other in a big way. There comes the answer, I googled for "Free enterprise search" and Google showed me the results that took me to a product called IBM OmniFind Yahoo! Edition. There was nothing surprising at first because it was yet another product that I stumbled upon. Downloaded it, deployed it on Linux. The installation was just by three clicks. Never before, there was a search product that is so easy to install. The next day I made OmniFind crawl 4000 pages from Wikipedia, it was more like downloading the whole web site. I tried some search queries and the results where perfect, very relevant to whatever I searched. The next day I crawled many thousands of pages and surprisingly, after indexing 8000 pages the collection occupied only 400MB. I found this incredible. I couldn't wait to tell him about what I've found. I can keep talking about its features, there are a lot more and its free! After onam holidays, I made a demo to Ajai sir and he also found it awesome. We deployed it on one of Vidya's server class machines. We freed a 25GB partition to store the index of the crawled data.

The day one, after installation just after 12 hours of installation, it indexed 15,000 documents on vidya. It includes all content inside the pdf books and not just the file names. Its when I found this server coming alive. It acted like a living being(my pet!!), always working and crawling files then stays idle for a while when it re-organizes the data to make optimal storage size. I looked at the crawler statistics whenever I got time, looking forward towards the launch of search engine. A thing that could make the Vidya's user experience better than ever and a lot of people will find it useful. It took two days to crawl 200,000+ documents and still crawling more files. I really love the way this search engine works, its easy to manage and gives good quality of search results.

Here I am today on Gandhi Jayanti, spent the whole day with Ajai sir working on one more thing that I've promised him to do along with search engine. Its to bring blogging into Vidya for sharing knowledge. It took me a week to figure out how to work with an unfamiliar environment which was Windows 2003 server. Today I've finally used all the learning about the server. Carefully and successfully installed wordpress, a blogging software and a server-side program. The blog's theme after we customized it for Vidya is something beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. The blog is meant to be a platform for knowledge sharing.

This evening while walking with Ajai sir, after a day's work, with a sense of satisfaction from a job well done. I was able to figure out that Ajai sir felt the same everyday since 2001 when he started building Vidya. I would say Vidya is "built with passion and love" for knowledge sharing. I wonder what would have been the joy of doing a great job with a passion. It was exciting to work with him, for an array of reasons. He is a friend, teacher and sometimes he takes a parental perspective. Owing to the openness, he is like this "If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it". Lot of learning happened when unexpected problems popped up while installation, in fact he was also learning new things with me. I've never worked on such a large data set until we deployed the search engine on Vidya. I owe thanks to Ajai sir for giving the opportunity to work on Vidya's server for which he trusted me.

So its finally launch day tomorrow, we're taking search engine and blog public on Vidya. I'm thrilled to see the search engine in action. You can reach it at http://vidya/search .

Have a good day. Happy Searching!

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create." - Albert Einstein

End of post***