Month: February 2020

Monday Reads – 10/02

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on

A mix of tech, culture and food in this week’s collection:

Tech in 2020: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – What’s next in the world of tech, not that over 4 billion people have a smartphone? This is the question that tech analysts, Benedict Evans, attempts to answer in this presentation. A data point that was new to me – ‘China and India use more mobile data than the rest of the world combined‘.

Pop Culture’s Rate of Change May Mirror Organic Evolution – A fascinating research that compares the rates of evolution of certain cultural phenomena—pop music, automobiles, medical literature and 19th-century novels—with those of the scarlet tiger moth, the Darwin’s finches of the Galápagos Islands and two other well-studied creatures: a snail and another moth. And the conclusion is that “the evolutionary pace of modern culture is generally the same as that of many animal populations—which is to say, it is a lot slower than people think.

Inside Google’s Efforts to Engineer its Food for Healthiness – Almost everyone knows Google has a tech / data company. And almost everyone with some knowledge of the company would know that it’s very famous for its free food policy. I have been fortunate to have visited a couple of Google offices internationally. Our team would eagerly look forward to these visits as it was an opportunity to have the food there! This is an in-depth look at how Google is applying its famous policy of experimentation to get their employees, especially in the US, to eat healthier. “What Google is attempting here is culture change…And that’s the level we have to reach to transform behaviors and health for a lifetime.”


The Magic of Movies

palm trees near projection screen during nighttime
Photo by Roberto Nickson on

As a child, I was not a big fan of watching movies, especially in darkened movie halls. This changed when I went to college. The four years I spent in Pune while doing my Engineering degree went by in a blur of activities, not least of which was watching as many movies as possible in darkened movie halls of all shapes, sizes (and smells!).

This happened nearly three decades ago, well before the advent of smartphones and mobile data. Which meant that the only form of entertainment available to us were watching movies (and the occasional music concert). It also helped that movie tickets were ridiculously cheap in Pune in those days (less than Rs. 10, or $0.20). The fact that our hostel was located bang in the centre of the city also helped as we could walk to most of the movie halls. And these were almost always never planned decisions. The call would go out around 9:15 pm to round up the usual suspects. A short discussion to finalise the movie and we would be off to the theatre for the 9:30 pm ‘last show’. Fun days…

I continued watching movie regularly through the first few years of my working life. Again, I was lucky that I spent a few years in Bangalore in the early part of this millennium, when multi-screen theatres had still not come up. There was still a romance in going to old-fashioned single screen movie theatres like ‘Rex’ and ‘Plaza’.

It was when we had children that we, by necessity, had to cut down on watching movies in a movie hall. By then, the age of satellite TV was well established, so we could still catch up on movies from the comfort of our house. And now, with streaming media, we hardly watch movies on the big screen. And I can’t say that I really miss it.

Anyway, all of the above was just to set the context for the main story.

I just finished watching Disney’s ‘Dumbo’ with my young kids. We streamed it on our TV, as we typically do these days. I am lucky in that I have a decently sized TV connected to a good speaker system. It can never replace the experience of watching a movie in a movie hall, but it provides a reasonable decent ‘movie’ experience.

And I enjoyed watching this particular movie with my kids. The cinematography, background score and (some) good performances encapsulated, for me, the ‘magic’ that movies provide. It was fascinating to watch the effect of it on my kids. They have typically been watching animation movies so far. And the first few minutes tested their patience. ‘Too many bid people talking‘ was my daughter’s comment. But as the main character made his appearance, they started getting swept into the action. And by the finale, they were hooked.

Yes, the movie did not receive very favourable reviews, but for me (and my kids), it was a wonderful couple of hours spent.

How is Design Impacting your User Experience?

Juice Dispenser

I have been fortunate to have worked closely with graphic designers during the course of my Digital Marketing career. I am primarily a data-driven performance oriented marketer, but I do have a keen interest in art and design. I might not be able to draw to save my life, but I can appreciate aesthetics and good design.

But this post is not about web design or UX Design. It is, unfortunately, a bit of a rant triggered by a few observations of items that I use daily.

The first exhibit I would like to present is the image above. I am sure you will agree that it’s a very aesthetically pleasing design. I was observing people consuming juice from this dispenser at my co-working place. I guess it must be very obvious what the design flaw is about this dispenser. Yes, the tap is placed not at the very bottom, but a few centimetres above. And, as you might have guessed, it means that a good amount of juice at the bottom of the dispenser cannot be extracted easily. Surely, the better design would have been to move the tap closer to the bottom. Yes, it might not be as aesthetically pleasing as the current design, but, surely, far more practical and useful?

Mobile Phone

The second exhibit is my mobile phone. Without revealing the brand, it is a standard design for a smartphone with a relatively large screen. No physical buttons anywhere on the front, but it has a power button on the right towards the top and volume levers across this on the left. These are both fairly well designed ergonomically. Except for one irritating flaw. If I am holding the phone with both hands, as one does fairly regularly, then I have discovered that there is no way I can switch off the display without pressing the volume lever on the opposite side. And pressing both these switches simultaneously triggers the screenshot capture. I have lost count of the screenshots I have taken when I meant to switch off the display. Again, I am sure there must be a way I can programme it such that pressing the two switches together does not trigger a screenshot capture. But it is too much effort to research and act on. So I just grumble whenever this happens, delete the image and move on.


The third exhibit is another device that I use almost daily – my laptop. And the irritating piece of design is very similar to my mobile phone. The power charging socket of the laptop is on the right, at the very top of the keyboard close to the screen hinge. And on the left hand side of the keyboard, towards the middle is the power button. Every time I use my left hand to firmly hold the laptop as I insert the charging socket using my right hand, my fingers on the left hand brush against the power button, putting the laptop to sleep. Which means that I have to remember to pay close attention when I am doing a mundane activity such as connecting the power charger to my laptop. Something that I will be happy to do without really thinking about it.

For sure, these are not critical flaws affecting the usability of the products (except the first one). But when one is a regular user of these products, these flaws can prove to be a cause of irritation. I might not change these products due to this flaw, but I will definitely consider other brands when I am purchasing my next phone or laptop.

This leads me to wonder – why is it that such large and leading brands have such basic design flaws? Is it that they are not aware of the existence of these flaws? I am sure they must be doing User Experience Testing as part of the Product Design process. Is it that they have not tested for these use cases? Or is it that they are aware of it but decide to let it slide as there is no simple solution for it? Irrespective of the real reason, it feels like they could probably do with being more ‘customer obsessed‘.


Monday Reads – 03/02

pexels-photo-3626622 (2)
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

We are into the second month of the new decade already! It’s been an interesting weekend, especially in sports, with the Australian Open Finals and the Super Bowl, not to mention the Six Nations Rugby.

This weeks’ articles focus on culture in tech.

Social Capital in Silicon Valley – A very interesting read on what really makes Silicon Valley the centre of tech innovation and entrepreneurship.  “Silicon Valley works the way it does, as successfully as it does, because it has a rich social contract that governs everyone’s behaviour. Without that social contract, Silicon Valley tech becomes just another industry, or just another bubble.”

Some More Reflections On Silicon Valley – A continuation on the above theme, but a more personal and direct take on the culture in Silicon Valley.

How do Indian entrepreneurs differ from their Silicon Valley counterparts? – India has a much shorter history when it comes to tech start-ups. This article touches upon some of the ways the culture within the Indian start-up ecosystem differs from Silicon Valley’s.

How Startup Culture In India Differs From The U.S. – Some more points of differences.

The Indian Startup Circus – A no-holds-barred look at some of the stuff that does not get discussed much about (at least in public) when it comes to Indian start-up culture.


So in how many years does Pop Culture repeat itself?

acoustic amplifier artist audio
Photo by Mike on

One of the ‘truisms’ of pop culture that I grew up accepting was that pop culture fashion reemerges every 20 years. Not that I analysed it or researched it, I just accepted it. One of the reasons could be that, the soundtrack to my growing up years in the 1990s was dominated by bands such as Led Zeppelin who dominated the airwaves in the 1970s. Followed by the sound of grunge music, which again, can be said to be a reinterpretation of the generally angry and pessimistic decade that followed the glorious 60s.

I dropped out of the pop culture bandwagon soon afterwards, when my taste in music settled into the classic rock of the 60’s and 70’s. But I just hung on to this belief as just something that pops out of my consciousness and goes back again.

Finally, today, I decided to do some research into this. Not a lot, just some casual search online (on a Search Engine that was getting popular 20 years ago). And, not really surprisingly, found that there is no real consensus on this topic. This article, one of the first I came across, perfectly encapsulates this uncertainty.

Digging further, another article confidently put it down as 30 years, backing it up with some interesting analysis. But hold on, it’s not 30, but 40, states this article with references to ‘Mad Men’ and other examples.

One thing of which there can be no doubt is that we are now living in the Digital Age. With attention spans getting shorter and shorter, this article puts out an interesting hypothesis. The age of 20 year cycles might be over, to be replaced by shorter, possibly 10 year cycles.

So what started out just as an exercise in curiosity turned into something more thought-provoking? Will the 20 (or 30, or 40) year cycle continue to hold true for future generations? Or would the rapid and on-going lifestyle changes, driven by the digital revolution, mean that cultural trends are going to be more unpredictable going forward? Just another of the glorious uncertainties of this Information Age that we are fortunate to be living in!