Sunday, February 22, 2009

About Slumdog

Much has been said, talked and written about the strong Oscar contender movie, Slumdog Millionaire, by Danny Boyle. One friend told me Danny has shown India in bad light. Someone else told me that the movie didn't impress him at all, he found it all a hype. And some other friend told me that the movie has been making so much media coverage and is a strong Academy award contender because Danny Boyle is not an Indian.

I appreciate constructive criticism. However often people forget to see the positive aspects of whatever they are criticizing. If Slumdog showed India in bad light, brought out the poverty our fellow people face, showed how little kids have to face "life" at such a tender age, isn't it true? Just living in metros, working in a software company making shit products for clients here, eating Rs 1000 dinners or sipping coffee from Barista or appreciating India's lunar mission doesn't change the reality in these slums. If a movie is made around that theme why is it bad?

Guys, please get rid of this Indian and not-Indian judgment. Why can't someone appreciate the movie as a piece of good Art? I mean what is the problem appreicating someone as a human-being, without bringing in distinctions based on color, race, community or country? At the end of the day, we are all human beings right? And if someone makes a movie vividly showing the reality faced a bunch of young kids in a slum in India, what is bad in it?

To this context, let me tell you this experience I just had while I was browsing Facebook. I usually don't click on the ads you get on your right hand side toolbar, because most of the times they are not useful to me. But today I saw an ad which led me to this link, giving the context of the Slumdog movie:

I was very intrigued to find such a manner to use the ads on social media sites. Moreover, I am glad the movie Slumdog is being used for a generous non-profit cause. This is for all of you who have been criticizing the movie - did DDLJ had the caliber to make such a societal impact? No, of course!

People, learn to appreciate others, respect their talent and their endeavors. That's the only way to making yourself a little better! Criticism doesn't have to be a fad. Appreciation and criticism need to go hand-in-hand. After all, we are all trying to build a better society together, isn't it?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sometimes Winning is Everything...

The real research is one which springs from your real life observations of small things. And how those small things relate to a bigger philosophical endeavor. Research is neither for earning money, nor for being famous neither about merely being sincere at work. Unless there is a high level motivation to relate your work to the bigger picture of the society, please don't consider this line of thinking!

I am a newbie in this never-ending run for getting better, precisely called PhD - with an experience of about 3.5 years, where your sole job is to do "path-breaking research". I am yet to make a mark in the sands of time with my work, but I have learnt one thing clearly, that unless you can convince yourself why you are doing what you are doing, there's no point carrying over a hollow endeavor. You need to be as much convinced about your work as you can explain it to a stranger you meet in the subway one fine morning, and after listening to you, he or she would be ready to think that your work is going to be the technology which would redefine the world tomorrow!

Success I believe is bound to come that way; should you culture this passion. And also, PhD is not another degree. It is about living your life all over again, in a new light, and where you see your work getting inter-twined as a fine thread in the numerous strands coloring our daily world. Right from sipping a cup of coffee sitting at a cafe, to your turning off the night lamp before going to sleep, you should be able to reflect on your research problem in some manner or the other, in some nook and corner of your life.

Research is an alter-life, and PhD a road you tread to reach that goal called excellence. It transcends all boundaries; all you care for thereafter is the well-being of one and all, even the strangers you meet everyday in the subway...

PS: This post is precisely meant for those of the readers who think they might consider doing PhD at some point of time. Or for those of us who are new to this world called 'research'. Question your instincts before you take the leap. Bring out the creative artist in you even if you have an engineering background - trust me, all it takes to do good research is a innovative eager mind, and a desire to better yourself everyday!

I would like to conclude with a few lines from the title song of SRK's movie 'Chak de India':

Sometimes winning is everything...

As a researcher, this needs to be your sole aim in life; winning being bettering yourself every morning you wake up, and then using your better self to contribute something meaningful to the world. Because as they say, winning is not about competing with someone, but with your inner self...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another Crazy Analogy!

Long back, since my high school days, I always used to love fundamental science, and Physics in particular. Though I no longer do the basic sciences, working in an area like (online) social networks which is of widespread interest to people spanning over multiple disciplines, as economists, sociologists, physicists and of course computer scientists, I can see a lot many correlations with fundamental sciences, especially when I am thinking at a high level!

Have you ever heard of the popular one-liner taught at high school on Mechanics - it is easier to pull a cart than to push it? I found a very interesting correlation of this idea with the on-going research by Duncan Watts on refuting the Influentials' Hypothesis - that the idea that a few handful people trigger big sociological phenomenon is actually a myth.

Imagine a company interested in marketing their business idea / product over a community interested in technology-savvy products. Whom should they spend money on? The influentials (if they exist) who would "push" their idea / product; or a set of susceptibles (people prone to accepting new ideas) who would "pull" novel ideas / products from external sources?

The analogy looks very obvious with the Mechanics example of distribution of force while pulling / pushing a cart. A pull takes less effort (less expenses in the company context) to market a business idea :)

A very crazy correlation, but could not help thinking on the line of distribution of force in the context of high school Mechanics!

PS: More "pull" based models based on recent discussion with AK (Teddy): any web-based search (or any search thereof) is a "pull" model because the results are supplied based on queries from the user who is trying to pull in relevant information. A very challenging "push" model to cater to useful information to a user could be for example, automatically filtering RSS feeds (e.g. Google Reader) of users to "push" them only "interesting" information. A recent work from me on these similar lines of motivation has been done here. It has been accepted to be published in WWW 2009 to be held in Madrid, Spain in April.