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Design, My View, Notings

Why I dont like reading digital books

I don’t think I will ever abandon the physical book for a digital one in the long run. Granted that when travelling, an ebook reader makes more sense than a suitcase of books but it’s not the same thing when you want to curl up and read it in leisure at home. I bought a tablet last year to read ebooks while on the go but since then I’ve read less digital books than the fingers on one of my hands. I somehow find the act of reading an ebook cumbersome. First of all, there’s the trouble with powering/charging up the device. Ebook readers that I am aware of just do not seem to replicate the size of the book or the number of pages accurately. To me, the physicalness of the book is something very intimate to the experience of reading. With the move to the digital, this gets lost. Further more, I am often distracted trying to keep a track of the number of pages I finished reading on the digital book but I hardly bother doing so when reading a book. Coffee table sized books look bad on a 7 inch screen and their non-existent weight makes me feel disconnected. Searching through the book is probably easier but where you once used your memory you now end up resorting to a dumb search to find that elusive sentence. Bookstores are slowly disappearing and don’t even get me started on new book smells. The physical book is truly a wholesome sensory experience and sorry technology, but you are not there yet.

Image Credit: Jose Hernandez

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Food for Thought, NID, Nostalgic, Notings

Design School : Year One

After last semester, I wrote what I had learned. At the end of this semester I was confused what really happened in that one semester. So I thought I could use this post to talk about other things that I experienced this year.

Being a Quizzer, you end up having an ego because you have all that information in your head, ready to spout out at the slightest notice. I really believe that that knowledge repo originating from a well read childhood is one of my strengths. Still I was humbled in Girish Dalvi’s typography workshop when I couldn’t answer any question that he threw at us. I mentioned last semester that reading is crucial. But this semester was when I realized that the reading stack is hundreds of books high. Actually, its infinite.

Open Elective although a major disappointment (atleast I got to meet some awesome people) had a good theme this year – Old age. Our world is increasingly getting older but most companies out there are busy trying to solve endemic problems. In one year, I might end up in the same industry and that actually made me wonder if I should try to end up someplace else where I can really make a difference.

Good research is important. Last semester made me realize that. I also realized that surveys, interviews mostly masquerade as research methods. I have lost faith in both of them while at the same time learning that custom research methods(like this one) make for better insights. I have begun to believe more in end user testing.

Talking about things make them better. I learned that getting people to critique your idea or talk to them about it is the best way to get out of that creative rut that you find yourself in. When you are working on it all by yourself you will not see be able to see what it is that is not working with your design.

I learned and built my first grid based presentation which was well received by the Jury. Except for my Cognitive Ergonomics work, the rest of what I presented seemed to have been appreciated. This is a big improvement from last semester where I was mostly clueless about the work I was presenting.

I’ve realized that the design process you follow is really important. I still have a long way to go before I learn to use it well. Working on MSR’s Design Expo this year made me realize the value of a good process. When working on Meteorites, I somehow formed a process unknowingly and it did help me to produce the end result. It’ll help you where your skills wont.

And you can learn anything given that you want to. At the end of last semester, I only knew Photoshop which I had largely picked up while at TCS. Now, I am comfortable with Illustrator and I even made a short film on Adobe Premiere Pro. A desire to create things in crunch time really helps me learn faster. Hence deadlines are good.

Hard deadlines are even better. Work only gets done if they are enforced. Most of last semester’s projects did not turn out so well because I kept procrastinating. Maybe because…

I fear big projects especially due to the lack of experience. We have not done anything big academically and I wonder how equipped I will be to deal with full projects all alone. Hope I can confront that fear this semester. Geronimo!

One of my favourite moments of last year was lying on @nid_b’s roof and looking for shooting stars. The cold, the company and the squeals when you spot a golden trail all made that night magical. Also worth noting are the Paldi campfires. This time next year, I shall be lamenting the end of 2 years and I shall miss ‘this’ life dearly.

You can read Rasagy thoughts on ‘Year One’ here.

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NID, Notings

What I learnt in the 1st Semester at NID_B ?

..and just like that the first semester breezes through.

So what did I learn? Looking back I find that most of my learning was crammed into just a few important days.

  • Everything is design; learn from good design, learn from bad design.
  • Being a student of IID, You should learn to visually communicate your ideas, so that your design speaks and not you.
  • Tune your visual sense.
  • Read a lot to justify your choices.
  • Realize the importance of colour and type.
  • If you choose a medium, do things that justify the medium.
  • Dont fall in love with your first iteration.
  • Sketch, sketch and then sketch some more.
  • Think in Context and use a scale when designing products.
  • Get out of your mindset.

These are the most important things I learnt this semester and most of which was crammed into the 4 days of Jury. I am hoping to make the most of this one month holidays so that i can prepare myself for the next semester.. just noting down learning’s is not good enough.

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Food for Thought, Mind Clutter, My View, Notings

Why big IT companies are wrong for you?

Its 2012, startups are making big bucks. You are studying engineering and have dreams of someday coding the next Big thing and when placements happen you happily jump towards the big IT companies who usually come first. Well if being a “rockstar” or a “ninja” is what you crave, then you are going down the wrong path, my friend.

What happens when you join a big company is that they see you as a raw material, ready to be moulded as they desire but you obviously have other plans. Before you know it, you will be branched into streams and your “rockstar” career may just go up in smoke. There is no measurement of aptitude for the job just seemingly random distribution into the various streams. This is the easiest way of tackling with the ‘how to split these people’ problem. Academics play an important role in this filtering. So there you are , getting trained in a technology that is either boring or getting obsolete by the year and your passion for the profession is slowly being sucked out of you. Once you are done with the “training”, you get allotted to sections of the company and your IT career begins.  You normally start being a team member, answering to seniors and initiated into the project. Appraisals happen and your pay increases by a measly amount every year and you dream of going “onsite”. You are no longer a “ninja” and most probably are cozy in this simple life. If thats how you want to end, well my friend, all the best. But if you really want to be somebody step outside the mould, live life, take risks, code a side project, learn what you want, get enlightened, dream big, execute ideas and be honest to yourself. We are all unique, we are not assembled. Today’s freshers are more likely to revolt atleast that’s what i see around me. Attrition rates are quite growing. Consider this, for every 100 new freshers joining , approximately 60-70 experienced people are leaving IT companies. This results in a vacuum of middle leadership and thats why companies recruit all year long. Most people leave because they are unhappy at their current job. In a recent survey conducted by Karthik, the results seem to confirm what we already deduced. 25% every morning, don’t look forward to go to work. 34% feel their work is mundane, and not challenging. 20% feel that there is no clarity in the work and process. 45% are currently planning to change jobs and 75% are in their first jobs! Alarming statistics actually.

If you fall in the unhappy lot, then well i suggest its time you sat back and reflected on where you are headed and decide if thats the road that you want to take.

P.S. This was meant to be part of a bigger post which i abandoned because i got busy with work and the transition from work to college life again. I currently am studying ‘Information and Interface Design’ at the National Institute of Design, Bangalore. I wrote this post out of frustration and it was based on the real life situation around me at that time.

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Net stuff, Notings, Startups, Technology

Being Social

Pair is the latest app/social network that is creating a buzz in the west and most people would be wondering why anyone didnt think of it first ?  Actually they have but none have been successful.

A social network targeted at couples and especially at those maintaining a long distance relationship is quite a well thought fork to the idea of social. The Y Combinator backing they have is also giving them the essential technology press so that they will need to sell an idea that has been thought of before but never well executed enough to survive.

Pair also has some unique features like the “thumbkiss” which will surely be the next “poke”. Monetizing this app also would be simple and easy.

However i wrote this post not to share this app with you but because i was pondering on the unique negative scenarios that this app would produce  if it became the next big thing.

  1. An app can be installed only once in a phone, therefore would this reduce cheating ?
  2. Could this app actually help people cheat ?
  3. In case of a breakup, would an option of deleting the app signify an end to the relationship ?
  4. How about a new relationship ? would that mean that you would have an option to start using Pair from scratch ?

Also you should have noticed by now that the idea of social is shifting from the “have more friends”(Facebook) to “share with close friends”(Path) and the emphasis being on your “friends” being a very close knit group. This is the future of Social networking. Privacy concerns are the reason for this shift and come on, you wouldn’t really want to share many of the parts of your life with your entire network. That is why when i realized that, i stopped updating this blog in a diary like manner and its become more of a article like blog. Because you never know who’s watching.

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Learning, Net stuff, Notings, Technology

2012: The Year of Online Learning.

If you have been an avid reader of Hacker News these past few months, you would have noticed a host of startups launching around the idea of teaching learning to an everyday person. Codecademy was one of the first out of the stable. The people of Codecademy introduced many of us to the world of Javascript for the first time. I was overjoyed about Codecademy but eventually realised from their usability that it was intended at a reasonably computer literate user. Their problem was that the forgiveness that they employed when teaching the programming novices was not very intuitive. I dont consider myself to be the dumbest guy out there but i was befuddled by the fact that their UI was not responding to an answer that was right but not in the way they had instructed us to code. Still they are getting there slowly, CodeYear was a great way of pushing ahead[1].

At around the same time, the Stanford online classes started off. Prof. Thurn who started the  ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence class’ gave up his tenure at Stanford and started a new online university called Udacity. I was not very interested in the first session but now i have enrolled for a class[2]. Lets see how that goes. MIT also decided to jump onto the bandwagon.

Then the trickle turned into a torrent which flooded the internet. Some of the websites i came across include

Ruby
RubymonkTeamTreehouse, tryBloc, tryRuby, RubyLearning
Clojure: tryClojure
Web Design/Development:Beginner’s Guide, TeamTreehouse, Codepupil.
Design: Method of Action

I also came across these two Reddit pages filled with resources. And last but not the least, I love the work Salman Khan is doing with his Khan Academy.

If you know of any interesting learning resources, do let me know in the comments below and i shall update this post.

Update: Another list of Learning resources includes Coursera.

Update 2: Knight Center is offering courses in journalism (They have courses on information visualization). Also adding Stanford’s Venture Lab.

Update 3: Now there’s uReddit, where anyone can set up a MOOC.

Footnotes:

  1.  Codecademy recently started out CodeYear to get more people to start learning. NYC Mayor Bloomberg is one among the many who has vouched to code this year.
  2. I have signed on for the ‘Human Computer Interaction‘ class which will start on 30th January 2012. Check out the entire Winter semester course list here.
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