Sunday, March 18, 2018


Of course, it is a Pulitzer prize winning book, so it is a great book.

But here is what I liked about how it ticks the boxes in terms of what I really like in a non fiction book.

One, it takes a historically known something and tell you many things you did not know. In some cases takes something unknown and makes you aware. Or throws light on a new concept.

The second, it brings people alive around it. Brings to light facts, personalities, their quirks, how they worked, how they researched.

Third, it connects them - and Gene especially does this very well. Joins the dots beautifully in an intricate tapestry.

Fourth - and this is the bonus with Gene as compared to other books in this genre - is that it is very well written. It is page turning, like a fiction book. Like a mystery; well almost.

Fifth - the story is not a linear story. It goes back and forth, into new branches, characters pop up in one place vanish and show up in an another place - sometimes, across a generation.

And finally, it makes it all simple. In a way that even non-scientific person can understand.

Some books like Tipping Point, Thinking Fast and Slow, Sapiens - all tick most of these boxes.

Monday, March 5, 2018

On Beginnings

We sat there, watching a friend in his first ever yoga class. This friend has years of experience (the yoga teachers experience is measured in decades, not hours - he said). The class was being held in a not very posh place. It was simple. The people who came to learn were not people you will find in Nike ads.

One way to think about it is to say
Why does someone with so much experience have to do this?
Does he have to go through this grind?
He deserves so much more.
He should have waited and launched himself at a bigger place.

The other way is to say
He is trying
He is brave
He is working on his mission
He has brought his passion alive in a small way

Thats when it struck me. Beginnings are small. All beginnings by their very nature are small. Take any dream, any business. The beginnings are almost always messy, untidy and even unsure.

But they are beginnings...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

On Loco

Now, playing Loco has had a strange effect on our lives. Loco is all about general knowledge/trivia and suddenly the kids are interested in collecting general knowledge. This is good, IMO. Unlike a TV quiz show where you are shouting answers at the screen, this is visceral. You play, you get a response and you see others who got the answer right or wrong and you can empathise or feel jealous or elated depending on whether you reach the 10th question or win or lose on the way.

The second change I saw was startling. The kids are not very social in general - and take time to talk to people. But at a recent gathering, I saw them talk to people and get them to install the app so that we can get a 'life'.

I found this behaviour fascinating. Conversation is difficult in general, a sales conversation even more difficult. And the zillion times we have nudged them to talk to people especially at family functions - results have been mixed. But now that talking to people got them "lives", suddenly, all of them were on their feet talking to people, getting them to install the app - and many oldies let them do the honour as well.

This is where I believe virtual games and mechanics have a potential to drive real life behaviour. This is one such example. See Jane McGonigals great TED talk on this topic if you still havent... 

Monday, February 26, 2018

On milkshakes

Or milkshakes in a bottle to be precise.

A few years (maybe months) ago, somebody launched milkshakes in a bottle. And you could take the bottle home as a keepsake. This was a classic bottle - shaped like the old milk bottles and instantly was the talk of the town (in some circles atleast). I dont know who did this, but whoever did it had competition very quickly.

Soon, everybody came to serve milkshakes in their own version of classic/keepsake glass bottles and within no time the novelty was lost.

Couple of points:
Glass bottles are good - better than plastic and if glass usage goes up - recycling of glass - which is currently a problem - goes up - and all that I agree.
Keepsakes are good - atleast used to be good when I grew up - when every container worth keeping was kept and used in various hand-me-down avatars.
Milkshakes are milkshakes - the only real differentiator is the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the person who makes the recipe. Here I assume that milkshakes are real and not pre-configured essences mixed in a particular quantity and whipped to create a milkshake.

Having considered all the above points, a bottle for a milkshake is no differentiator. It is like a wrapper. One buys the product, not the wrapper (other things being equal).

So, the milkshake in a bottle is as common as, well, plastic bags. And nobody wants it.

Question to all of us is this: Is our product the milkshake or the bottle? And what should we focus upon?

Adios Clash Royale, Welcome Loco

So, after multiple deletes and reinstates to goals and promises, we finally deleted Clash Royale. After we reached the Legendary Arena, of course - we are no wimps. We battled the algorithm, curbed our instincts and did everything. It was tough saying no to Clash Royale. The mind doesn't take stop contracts very well said my trainer.

But we managed. This in in my mind is the end of Clash Royale in our devices.

In the meantime, we learnt about this new app called Loco. And Loco has a simple premise.

Ten quiz questions, live, 10 seconds per question and its a survival game. If you get all 10 answers right progressively, you win - real money. If you miss a step, you get eliminated. But, if you get friends to install the game and use your code - you can lives (one per game) and continue upto question 9 - at 10 - there no life.

For what it is worth, we started playing and won a little bit of money (think sub-hundred).

Now this is the start contract to rival CRs stop contract. The more we play loco, the less we want to play CR.

More about the psychology and the effect of Loco soon...

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Facebook effect

We all know what is Facebook and the many things about it, especially in the recent past. It was fascinating for me to read the story of the creation of Facebook in the book, the Facebook effect by David Kirkpatrick.

Quite a few things struck me.
About timing (there were quite a few social networks that fell by the wayside because technology was not good enough).
About ideas (Facebook was by no means the first social network, but many things it learnt from others failures made it better).
About being able to answer the deeper question (and this is really something - from the time it has started till about today -to think a bunch of college kids could think of something like this is inspiring to say the least).
About being to prioritize (instead of trying to do everything - at the start, it was very focussed on a few things and getting those right and then added features).
About having a clear direction (what we are, what we are not).

A must read for someone who is in the business of starting a new business - though I think all business stories are different and worth a read :)


We were in Goa and wanted to know of a way to get to another beach.

And we asked a man, "How do we get to the beach".

He looked perplexed with the question, pointed to the sea with an "obviously" gesture, drew a wide arc with his hand and said "like that".

It was our turn to be puzzled.

We had meant a land route and he meant a sea route. Thats when we realized that he was, after all, a fisherman and for him the obvious way from one beach to another was by water. It was as simple as that.

And we course corrected and asked him, "How do we get there by road?"

It was now his turn to be puzzled. He scratched his head and mumbled a few directions that we could not comprehend.

We thanked him and left and finally found someone who explained the land route in a few steps.

But that left us thinking about perspective. Very often, we see things only from our own perspective - land or water. And sometimes, for someone, it is the other perspective that is the obvious one, as obvious as our perspective is to us!