Small problems with big data!

Conversations on Twitter have a unique ability to set off reflection and propel further conversation and thought. This invariably builds and shapes our collective ecosystem of sorts.  Especially so, when the conversation is between people who you watched from a distance, making a difference! 🙂

This post is a thought assortment, after spotting a conversation thread on Twitter.

It went like this.


Cards, badges and trinkets

Every conference, breakfast / lunch / dinner interaction, round table and other professional meeting usually left me with a few things. An array of thoughts, usually. If I was lucky, a bouquet of ideas. At other times the chance acquaintance of a someone who had a wavelength that matched and was generous with the sharing. These obviously happened on my lucky days. How I wished it happened in all conferences.

But there were two ubiquitous results from every single conference.  One was a guilt ridden memory of having indulged in the dessert a tad more than what I could afford. (sigh)!  Another was a clutch of business cards from fellow attendees.

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of some spring cleaning, I unearthed many stacks of business cards, collected with a fervour matching a fanatic, from a slew of conferences over time. Were they another form of paper , like say currency, I could sit across the Sultan of Brunei and give him a complex. That much. Unfortunately, these were plain business cards.

At the moment of exchanging cards, each business card was pregnant with an opportunity for a conversation and an exchange of ideas. But now, in the midst of the spring cleaning, the silent sighs announced the still born scene sans melancholy. Passing around business cards suddenly seemed a meaningless ritual.

Of course, they carried a logo, a designation, a name. But obviously, these were dead cards. Devoid of a voice. People had moved companies. Or companies had moved addresses or moved company themselves : morphing into new conglomerates or disappearing without a mention. If that were the case with companies and their addresses, less said about titles and telephone numbers, the better.

The cards made people and their positions seem yawningly ancient. ( If you have been to enough conferences, I can safely bet that you would have had the experience of someone telling you, ‘this is an old card. Am transitioning into a new role’, even as he/she is presenting the card to you).

It didn’t take a long while for it to dawn on me that my business cards would have similar antiquated positions in several stacks in peoples homes and offices, bristling with the ignominy of having been ignored! The people that really desired to talk to me, found me nevertheless. So was the case with people I wanted to connect to. We spoke. We continued the conversation. On twitter. On the blog. On Linkedin On Facebook. On Pinterest. On Google Plus. Most found the good old mail box!

The ‘distribution’ of business cards, it became obvious, was a static activity incoherent with the order of the present day world. A ‘in-the-moment’ world, where I am almost always available for a conversation. I just had to make known where I am most available! (Unlike business cards, I could have different places that I would point people to, in different contexts and situations).


Upon a whim I decided to stop using business cards and thought of a badge and a baggage tag as an alternative. The #TechHR14 conference organised by People Matters was the ground for experiment.

The result has been more than merely ‘interesting’. Of course, a certain degree of novelty would have perked the eye. Twitter friends loved it! 🙂
Sunder put it out on twitter  later in his fabulous video of the conference as well, and the rest of history is still happening.

There were some interesting conversations on the sidelines though. Here they are. Three of them. Awesome reasons. Read on.

#1. A friend on seeing the badge spoke of ‘immersive connection’ that looking up the twitter handle and a conversation would lead to versus, a ‘passive connections’ that one more business card in the bag will have. It sounded so profound that I felt strangely proud!

#2. A complete stranger, a fellow conference attendee, complemented me on the badge. Proceeding to give me a low down on the history of business cards and them being more a preserve of aristocracy, and how with one action of mine I had helped reiterate the message that the internet doesn’t tolerate hierarchy. It sure sounded as though I had single handedly won a war or something.

#3. Yet another friend, spoke of how my wearing my twitter handle as ‘my identity’ was a massive thing and he couldn’t imagine doing it. I was convinced I had won the world championship in some sport!

Before these read as rotten fatuous self praise, I must confess that these didn’t occur to me at all before these people said it. Truth be told, I was just solving a problem of business cards piling up! Of course, I nodded in knowledgeable agreement and thanked each of them. They were all right and sounded so solemn.

But I was more than merely impressed that this had struck a chord. If you would put me behind a pulpit asking me to deliver a ‘victory speech’ it would go like this :  “People, this is 2014. There is global warming that is leaving a gaping hole somewhere up there. The internet is breaking down walls and ways of working. All the feedback that have come my way has only reinforced the belief that the era of the business card and what it stood for is clearly in the past…..”

Of course, I’d be silent on how some folks felt that it was plain wrong (‘bordering on arrogance’) to assume that most people would be on twitter and would want to connect with me on twitter. ( ‘Business cards provide options’, was also heard!). For now though, that argument isn’t going too far with me. Will keep you posted. Also, at the end of this conference, I still have a clutch of business cards to sort given to me by people. I only have the satisfaction of not having given out any.

That day, much after the conference, I was checking in at the airport. I didn’t realise that my shirt continued to sport the badge. An old lady with a quiver in her voice that didn’t energy and curiosity, was seated next to me at the airport She was visiting her grand kids in Mumbai she said. We spoke about the weather and such else. After a while, she asked, ‘what is that trinket pinned on your chest’?

Now, it had been a long day. I was tired. I took a moment to gather my energy and wondered where I should begin. She wasn’t in any mood of waiting though. With a smile and mischief filled half wink said, “Whatever it is, it looks good. I haven’t seen it before. Besides, its close to your heart”.

That settled it well!

Keeping count

We were all set to get into a meeting and the phone rang. I had a few minutes. I picked the call to hear a lady with an impeccable accent speak.  She cut through the basics as only accomplished professionals can. “We work on getting you more followers on twitter” she said.

In another few minutes of conversation, it was widely apparent that she not only knew what she was talking about but was also good at speaking about it. It boiled down to this: For a fixed fee, my follower count will magically increase. It was a tiered approach. Different fee for different slabs!

I was more than intrigued for several reasons. For one, she gave me stats about my twitter account that I hadn’t quite bothered to keep up with.

Second, ‘enhancing follower count’ was a ‘business model’ that merited an outbound call to an individual (and not a brand). After all, getting marketer friends to think and talk beyond buying ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ on Facebook and Twitter has been an uphill trudge of sorts.

But to an individual?

An individual buying more followers (“Grow the follower count inorganically” as the lady put it) seems very creative but doesn’t cut much respect. This of course is my perspective and I can frankly do with some education here.

Forgive me if this sounds clichéd and you can’t help letting go of a yawn. I come to twitter to learn. That learning is from conversations. And benefiting from all the stuff people around the world are sharing on a continual basis. The follower count and all the statistics thereon, matter much less, relative to all that I am garnering from the place. It is a fantastic market place of sorts filled with rich conversations often blossoming into relationships and influence beyond borders.

Short cuts come with compromises.

“Isn’t it easy”, I asked her, after recovering from the initial surprise, “for anyone to click on the “followers” you are promising to get, to figure out that most of the followers are eggheads”?  Or at best, a smorgasbord of flotsam and jetsam. Or people with absolutely no relation to what I tweet about usually. Isnt it a sure fire way of destroying reputation? Wasn’t it flirting with disaster?

By now, I guess she realised, that there wasn’t much of a point to her continuing the conversation with me. “Look, who has the time to click into your follower list and verify?”, she said with mild irritation. “And lots of people are doing it”. That was the last straw. Of course, I know people who are doing this to themselves. It saddens me, but then, who am I to judge.  Perhaps a few calls like this one went lured them or tipped them over. Whatever! I hung up soon after, thanking her for the midweek lesson and politely told her that I have no names to offer her as ‘leads’ (after she asked).

The ask on twitter is simple, it is to give! It is to participate in conversations and exchange ideas. Or at least that’s how I work it. If there is an interesting point of view or a conversation thats on, I relish and jump in. Irrespective of follower count.


From Hugh MacLeods @gapingvoid Daily Cartoon for March 10, 2010

Euan Semple wrote a fantastic post on ‘agency’.  The stuff that he didn’t write about there, is that it takes time to build relevance and agency. It takes hard work. Buying your way into ‘relevance’ doesn’t work. For in most cases, it so easy to lose what you build when word spreads!

Another fantastic post that I came across some time ago is this.  Do give this a read. It is about crafting your story. Not just the story, but to live a life that is worthy enough to tell that story with pride!

The lady was right. I dont have the time (and more importantly the inclination) to peer into anybody’s follower count to check if we should chat. A point of view, a pointer to a resource with respect and fun is nevertheless going to get me and most people started on a conversation.

I guess the classic ‘goals & measures’ debate applies. The goal in some quarters is to ‘have fun / influence / learn etc’ on twitter. Sometimes that gets measured through follower count. In the melee to get more “followers” the goal of being ‘really successful’ in twitter is missed. And slowly the primary goal becomes increasing the ‘follower’ count and voila, the measure has morphed to become the goal. When measures become the goal, mayhem follows.

Am not sure if there is anything more than a sustained enthusiasm to evolve and revolve around sharing and being of help in the stream. Wichever stream. Followers and reputation will happen, with engagement and relationships over time. “Pay to magically grow your twitter followers” doesn’t quite add up in my mind. At any point in time, it can singularly ruin a reputation.

I am sorry if this post takes a ‘holier than thou’ hue. Thats not my intention. To experience a marketing campaign that attempts to lure people down the wrong road (or so I think) raises a few heckles in me.

Sometime later, I read this “Eulogy for Twitter” (with a subtitle which read “The beloved social publishing platform enters its twilight.”) and this response to it on Slate. Of course all via twitter.  I thought again of the impeccable accent and the call. Several things began to fall in place.

Now that the rant is over, here’s wishing you a fantastic week ahead. May we all work at the arc of possibility and create futures that we can be truly proud of.

Rants & pictures !

They don’t call it Gods own country for no reason. It provided some wonderful opportunities for playing with light and the camera. Here are some snaps from a Kerela trip that happened some time back.

Just as the snaps load up on your screen : My MTNL internet connection is woeful at home choosing to go on strike on a whim. I am hastily pushing through this post, when it has chosen to show me that it ideed can work at top speed and this months bill will include charges for internet !

To compliment that, to blog on such esoteric topics from the workplace, well, err, is not allowed. So, please people, put up with my silence.

In the meantime, I continue to shout out into the world through the twitter accounts and I don’t have a modicum of memory of what all I have shouted out to the world. The chief twitter account I use is @KavisMusings . Well, that’s a subject for another time.

For now, here are the pictures.

Silhouettes have fascinated me since the time I knew they were called ‘silhouettes’. I used to hate the spelling but quite liked the way the word is pronounced. With a twang that has almost an Italian connection !

All these snaps were taken at places somewhere around Kottayam. ‘Panchali Medu‘ is one such. I don’t raise an eyebrow everytime we go far off, deep inside Maharashtra or down into Kerela where there is folklore around the exiled Pandava brothers with Draupadi in tow having lived there for a while. Panchali as Draupadi is better known in the south, has this hill named after her.

She is supposed to have taken bath in the local pond etc etc, details which I omit writing on, and leaving your imagination to do its work.

The modern day ‘medu’ (RTT : raised plateau) has 14 crosses. I wont tell you why. For I don’t know myself. I only know that the place has an extravagance of ‘awesome’. There is an endless breeze, a feast of green for the eye. The clouds rolling over your head and tease you to reach and touch them if you can.

Off Kuttikanum is another green zone : Wagamon. Sometimes spelt with a ‘V’ instead of a W. Whatever, it is , It doesn’t alter green beauty. Green as in GREEN. Meadows. Plateaus. Hills. Throw in some mist. Some people who are ever willing to help. Water bodies that tempt. Well, in sometime, you could have romance brewing in the air.

Value for money romance. For the place is relatively unexplored ! Some unconfirmed news has it that Wagamon is called the ‘Scotland of Asia’. I haven’t seen Scotland. But I can go as far as I can and tell you, Wagamon is a lovely place to go to.

If any of those didn’t get you excited enough to pack your bags and include Kerela a big mindshare for your next travel, here is something that will do the trick. I ooze confidence in stating this.

Chips. Slices of a particular type of plantains. “Plantains” was to give the humble ‘banana’ a twang of fancy. Nevertheless, slices, deep fried in authentic coconut oil. You just cant stop with one or two for that matter. Two minutes on the lips and a lifetime on the hips. For sure.

But those two minutes they are on the lips, they give you a lifetime of yearning for the next time you will head to Kerela !

Earliers posts on the same trip are here, here, here and here !

Twittery Wittery Bit

I logged into Twitter about a year back. And for a year, it sported one message : ‘Am back’. As soon as communication lines got restored ( a.k.a internet connection at home), i got more curious about twitter !!

The tagline on the site read interesting. As i slanted my head and read it through : “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

Of course, ‘What are you doing’ is a de rigueur question which takes many avatars like ‘wazzup’ if you are a dude, ‘whats new?’ / ‘hows business’if you are in the corporate world. That’s such a straight question.

The next time someone is going to ask me that question, I retain the right to guide him or her to this space. There is greater resolve to stay more active on Twitter !! Especially after discovering the joy of uploading from my phone!!

I was telling someone who was all set to post a three page article on a blog, that blog posts ( in my opinion, of course) should be like adfilms. Crisp story, well told. In a short 300 – 400 words. With Twitter the ground shifts further : Its more like writing haiku ! Whatever you can in 140 letters!!

If editorials were test cricket, then blog posts are one day. And twitter, you guessed it right : 20. 20 !!

I guess writing on Twitter can be fun ! Just as I discovered today. Do take a look at the twitter box on the side !! Finally, some place in this blog will witness activity and stay updated.

Atleast a twittery wittery bit !