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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 9,000 times in 2010. That’s about 22 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 32 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 638 posts. There were 4 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb.

The busiest day of the year was January 10th with 188 views. The most popular post that day was Colour of bra — is breast cancer a joke?.

 

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, maddy06.blogspot.com, twitter.com, facebook.com, and mail.live.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for mangalam dam, shopping stress, kim clijsters husband, blauk, and kim clijsters jada.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Colour of bra — is breast cancer a joke? January 2010
27 comments

2

Kim Clijsters’ 2009 US Open win — a tribute to motherhood September 2009
4 comments

3

Vandazhi visit May 2009
11 comments

4

Shopping: a stress buster for women? March 2009
12 comments

5

Back with BBC’s Test Match Special July 2009
3 comments

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Weblogs — of all hues — have been around for quite a while, but there’s this perennial debate on what purpose do they serve and for whom. Of course, ardent bloggers are least bothered about the debate, only the non-blogging academicians are.

Here’s some proof of what good blogging can achieve. In Brooklyn, New York, bloggers helped the police bust a drug racket. “…. peering turned to blogging, and blogging turned to action, as neighbors started filing complaints….” More

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In journalism there is a concept called “fair use”. It’s related to copyright. Basically it means, a publisher or an editor can quote from another, usually copyrighted material, in his or her publication to the extent that will be considered fair; or in other words, what is quoted shouldn’t amount to deriving commercial or any other type of advantage.

As far as I know, there is no fixed number of words one can safely copy from another person’s work, even by giving credit, so that it wouldn’t amount to unfair use. For electronic media too I don’t think there is rule that says a clipping shouldn’t exceed so many minutes. Please correct me, if I am wrong.

Some five to six years back, when blogs exploded on to the mass communication scene, this was a major topic of discussion. In fact, earliest blogs themselves had only weblinks to interesting articles. But as more and more people got on to the blog bandwagon, many people began to blindly copy-paste entire articles from copyrighted, well-known publications. Still you will find many anonymous bloggers who merely copy-paste. The only saving grace is many do give  due credit.

In fact, I too initially used to do that when I had to refer to a particular article. For the benefit of my readers I had, on a few occasions, copy-pasted the entire article, in addition to giving the weblink. But later, I realised that I could probably be putting into public domain an article that is not otherwise freely available on the web. I stopped it, and now I quote only a para, and then give a link to the original article. There are many magazines like India Today and The Economist which have premium content that is available only to subscribers. So, it would definitely be an infringement of law if some subscriber were to copy-paste that material for the whole world to read free of cost. (Link to my blog post on this is given below)

There are two views here: one which says a limit is essential otherwise it makes a mockery of the copyright principle itself. The other view is that freedom to copy-paste actually only gives publicity to the original article, so there should logically be no objection to someone giving free publicity.

The Media and Advertising section of yesterday’s New York Times carried story that has renewed the debate. The story talks of the Associated Press news agency (which is widely subscribed to by the media in India too) issuing a notice to the Drudge Report asking it to remove seven items that quoted from AP articles. Following strong reactions, AP has had second thoughts and is reconsidering its actions. But apparently, AP is considering to formulate guidelines on how much of its articles and broadcasts can be safely copied by bloggers and other websites.

There is quite a lot of grey area here. A cap on the number words or duration in terms of minutes is definitely a good idea. But that won’t solve the entire problem, since ideas aren’t easily quantifiable. Sometimes 200 words may not do as much damage as 20 words. This is what I feel:

— Some amount of freedom should be given to quote, provided due and full credit is given.

— There is should be definitely a complete ban on copy-pasting (whatever be the extent) without giving credit.

— As long as the quoted material is only meant to substantiate or add value to the article, there should not be a problem.

— But if the quoted material itself is being projected as an article itself then it is unfair.

Links

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I am back on the blogosphere. I haven’t blogged for two full weeks — quite a long stretch for me. However, I found that people were visiting my blog and some were leaving comments. So, to that extent my blog was alive!

Over the recent past, I have been noticing unusually more number of invites for joining social networking sites. Looks like these sites are proliferating at quite a fast rate. Most of these invites are auto-sent, because the person who has signed up has blindly clicked on a link which sends these invites automatically to everyone on their contact list.

Earlier — even though I knew that these invites were not personal, intended ones — I used to sign up. Then I realised that I was getting invites faster than I could keep pace with the existing ones. Now I just ignore these invites unless there’s something very striking about them. For now, I am sticking to LinkedIn, Orkut and Facebook, though, I am on many other networks as well.

I have seen that many people use these social networking sites to chat when the other person is online. That could anyway be done with existing devices like Gmail, Yahoo or MSN. People also use it to upload photos and videos. But that function works better on devices like Youtube. So, at the end of it all, I find that that more than as an instant communication medium, these social networking sites serve better as a good database of people one has interacted with — from friends to total strangers — by virtue of the detailed profiles that are available.

I feel blogs are much better networking devices than these sites. On networking sites, there is nothing more than a number of “hello-s” and “hi-s” being exchanged, or at the best, “O, it is such a long time, where have been hiding” types. There is no substantial exchange on anything of each one’s interests.

I believe, one gets to know of another person’s interests much better through blogs than through networking sites. Blogs reveal an individual’s personality better than social networking sites. Networking sites generally lack depth or any meaningful content. Therefore, acquaintance or friendship or even a more stronger relationship which has grown out of interaction through blogs will be more steadfast and strong than those that have grown out of networking sites. Personally, I have got to know more number of people through blogs than through social networking sites. I don’t find that surprising. I guess teenagers and youth are on these virtual social clubs more for fun than anything else.

I chanced upon an interesting post by Pramit Singh on 9 solid reasons why E-mail still beats social networking.

Well, just to add to what Pramit has written, social networking sites are beaten not just by emails, but by weblogs as well.

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Well, I was expecting this, but not so soon. Blogger announced it on 12th here.

The first indication of this was when Orkut had the option to type in south Indian languages — Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. Blogger had introduced Hindi transliteration some time back. What’s remarkable is out of the five Indian languages provided, four are south Indian ones, including Malayalam, my mother tongue. ഇനി മലയാളം ഫോണ്ട് ഡൌണ്‍‌ലോഡ് ചെയ്യണ്ട — I mean, now I don’t have to download Malayalam fonts.

I can see that Google family engineers working on Blogger have done their research well to find out that while Hindi binds north India well, there is no one common language that binds the south in a similar manner. One can survive with Hindi anywhere from Mumbai in the west to Kolkata in the east, or even further north east in the the Seven Sisters. But each of the four south Indian languages are so distinct unless one knows each of them it is difficult to survive in the respective state.

During the eight years I was in the north, I had no difficulty travelling from place to place or even communicating with the local people. But when I came down south, I felt out of place, even though I am from Kerala.

So, it’s not without reason that Blogger has provided four south Indian languages and Hindi. However, I am sure it will provide other major Indian languages like Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali etc. also.

Hats off to the engineers for the facility that has been provided to get the spelling of the transliterated word correct. Type out the word in English; if the trasliterated word looks inaccurate, then just click the word; a menu drops down, from which the right form can be selected.

Wow, this looks wonderful. The only glitch: the spell-check has stopped working. Hopefully it’s getting fixed.

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Most bloggers write from the comforts of their home. Definitely there are not many are like Michael Yon who reports from Iraq.

“He went to Iraq believing that the mainstream news media were bungling the story, and he still often criticizes the media’s pessimism. But he has also praised particular reporters from major outlets, or defended the media in general, explaining how difficult and dangerous it is to cover the war.” Read this NYT report. His webjournal is: http://michaelyon-online.com/.

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Not so often I am away from blogs. As regular bloggers would admit, this online journal stuff can get addictive. The maximum duration I can stay away from blogs without any adverse effect is a week. It’s mostly more important and immediate work that keeps me away from weblogs. But, before long, the urge to find some time to blog becomes compulsive.

Last week, Mr Henry Whitfield was back with us. He is a family friend of ours who first came to India from the UK in 1968, and has been coming back quite frequently; one, to pursue his passion of climbing mountains in the Himalayan region and two, to see — not the glitzy side of India’s development but — the heritage and traditional features of the country. One of his interests is rocks and minerals.

He is easily one of my best and closest friends, for one simple reason: his attitude and approach to life, the amazing realistic view he has to everyday situations; his ability to soak in and enjoy the precious moments that life has to offer. That’s possible for him because he has loads of patience and he is in no hurry to flee the present to some unknown future.

On 25th, he reached Bangalore by the Rajdhani Express around 8.30 am, some 2 hours behind schedule. As we drove into the city, his initial comments were that traffic in Bangalore was much more organised and less chaotic than in Delhi. But the next day, Friday, his impressions changed. He discovered how it had deteriorated since the last time he was in the city a year back. We got caught in a awful jam for more than half and hour near the Ulsoor Lake. We abandoned plans to see a few places of interest and instead decided to get to shopping right away.

On Saturday, in the afternoon he made a trip to Lal Bagh alone. But it ended some disappointment: a plant that he bought from the nursery there got badly squashed in the crowded BMTC bus. In fact it was meant to be an addition to our little garden at home, but he was so upset at the way the plant got damaged in the crowd, he just dumped it by the way side. We felt quite bad about it. “It’s okay, I must understand that such things do happen, and it’s by no means the end of the world,” is what he said about the incident.

On Sunday Mr Whitfield was at the at the get-together of the alumni of Sainik School, Kazhakootam. He had taught chemistry in the school from 1968 to 1971 along with my father. In a short speech there he said how important it was for all of us to get into a routine that’s different from the usual one. “When I am back in the UK, I follow a particular routine. When I come to India, when I am at the foothills of the Himalayas, when I am climbing the mountains, when I am touring places, I follow a very different routine. It’s refreshing as much as it is educative. Such occasional changes from the normal, helps us widen our perspective.” A very profound thought.

On Monday, around 8.30 am we set off to Kolar, some 70 km east towards Chennai. The small town is known for the gold fields, which are now shut down. It was Mr Whitfield’s interest in rocks and minerals that prompted this visit. He was quite curious about the KGF, the geology of the area, the methods used to extract gold, the reasons why such a successful mine has now been closed down. He said a number of mines back in the UK had shut down simply because they ran out of the minerals and ores. We were very lucky to meet an engineer, Mr K M Diwakaran, who was very optimistic about the future. He is the president of the Bharat Gold Mines All Employees Industrial Cooperative Society Ltd that’s involved in efforts to revive the mines. His estimate is that in a year employees would be recruited and mines would reopen.

A section of the dysfunctional mine.

Another view of the mine.

Kolar Gold Fields is said to be one of the oldest mines in the world, though the modern history begins with the systematic mining by the English firm John Taylor and Sons in 1880. One of the first hydro-electric projects in Asia was built in 1902 to provide power to the mines. The Mysore government took over the mines in 1956, the government of India took over in 1962 and the mines closed down in 2003.

We visited the a portion of the mine and the mill tailing dumps called the cyanide dumps, because of the cyanide content. These expansive elevated plains of deposits are nothing but the mining waste and have accumulated over the years. The dumps which have in them gold worth crores themselves provide gold extraction work for so many years. At some places it rises to up to 30 meters. From the top one gets a good view of the town. It’s a scenic area and not surprisingly many movie shootings have taken place there. We understood that the mines closed down because of a variety of factors: lack of far-sightedness on part of the authorities, poor management methods, and the bureaucratic lethargy many public sector firms in India have become victims of.

A section of the vast cyanide dump.

Mr Whitfield, who has a keen interest in rocks and minerals, examines a piece from the dump.

On the way to the top of the dump.
A view from the top.

Kolar has plenty of interesting places to visit. Just heard about them, didn’t get time to visit. However, one wonders, why these places aren’t developed into tourist centres. For a huge country like India, the tourism potential is wasted untapped.

On our way back, at a spot some 35 km before K R Puram, we saw a large nursery, from where Mr Whitfield finally bought a plant, that bears bright reddish yellow flowers. The next day, Tuesday, we had lunch at the Tamarind Restaurant on the Ring Road near the Ramamurthy Nagar junction. “The ambiance is very pleasant. I must say this is one of the best hotels I have come across in India, and it gives, what we call, good value for money.”

After the lunch, we headed to the railway station to book his reservation for onward journey to Pune. He is going there with the hope that he would be able to see a quarry (quite unlikely since one needs to get permission, which he felt may not be easy) or at least meet someone who deals in minerals. I am yet to hear from him. Hope he has had some luck! He got a berth in the foreign tourist quota in the Udyan Express for Wednesday.

From the railway station we headed to the Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). He found the spiritual and tourist side to the place quite innovative and was quite skeptical if a similar thing was possible back in his country. He felt Iskcon has been able to combine both remarkably well.

I spent a lot of time talking to Mr Whitfield: our likes, our prejudices, our cities, our nations, the world we live in, the leaders, heroes, and villains. He has the typical British understatement, and of course, what makes conversations interesting are the insights he brings into a subject.

I asked him what brings him back to India over and over again. “One, obviously the mountains and the nature in general,” he says immediately. “It’s remarkable to be in the midst of people who are extremely calm; Indians patiently work around situations that are very difficult, hardships that we in the West aren’t used to… I must say trees are a refreshing sight in Bangalore. Roads in Delhi are broader but the city isn’t as green as Bangalore. I’m sure the roads here will get better the next time I’m here.”

Hopefully.

Links:

Last year’s visit by Mr Whitfield:

Friend from Britain
Business at Sangam
The Gumbaz

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