Looking for the right excuse

26 May

Looking for the right excuse

This is the first warning sign that a project is in trouble. Sometimes it even begins before the project does.

Quietly, our subconscious starts looking around for an excuse, deniability and someone to blame. It gives us confidence and peace of mind. [It's much easier to be calm when the police car appears in your rear view mirror if you have an excuse handy.]

Amazingly, we often look for the excuse before we even accept the project. We say to ourselves, "well, I can start this, and if it doesn’t work perfectly, I can point out it was the …" Then, as the team ramps up, bosses appear and events occur (or not), we continually add to and refine our excuse list, reminding ourselves of all the factors that were out of our control. Decades ago, when I used to sell by phone, I often found myself describing why I was unable to close this particular sale–and realized I was articulating these reasons while the phone was still ringing.

People who have a built-in all-purpose excuse (middle child syndrom, wrong astrology sign, some slight at the hands of the system long ago) often end up failing–they have an excuse ready to go, so it’s easier to back off when the going is rough.

Here’s an alternative to the excuse-driven life: What happens if you relentlessly avoid looking for excuses at all?

Instead of seeking excuses, the successful project is filled with people who are obsessed with avoiding excuses. If you relentlessly work to avoid opportunities to use your ability to blame, you may never actually need to blame anyone. If you’re not pulled over by the cop, no need to blame the speedometer, right?

(Courtesy: Seth Godin’s blog. No doubt all his posts are absolutely realistic and make you think hard about realities of life, businsess, work, ethics, thinking, human nature, decision making, responsibility, ability and various other aspects. This one about excuses makes you truly go back to your earlier life and think when you must have created excuses and used them to hide your failures and avoiding responsibilities)

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Book Review : Kingpin: The Hacker Who Took Over the Billion Dollar Cyber Crime Underground

9 Apr

This much niche book came in my purview when I started searching for hackers and books related to hackers, after I completed the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson. One of the characters in the three books is Lisbeth Salander, who is a top class computer hacker. The kind of hostile takeover of another person’s machine was her specialty.

As a kid I used to read a lot about hacking, did programming, wanted so much to be a hacker. I used to go to the cracks and hacks website every now and then, using my 56kbps modem internet connection that would drop off every now and then. The slow connection and the relatively low exposure to internet in India, and in the town I hail from, probably was the reason I was never able to know or learn more about hacking. It was most possible that if I had access to internet in my very early years as a kid, I would definitely have become at least an amateur hacker

This book gives a clearcut picture about the credit card frauds that haunted the US, Russia and the FBI in the 2000’s. Got to know about white hat hacking, black hat hacking, credit card frauds, loopholes, backdoor trojans and orifices. If you have studied computers anytime in your life, you would get these concepts and would get bored if you are a total non-nerd.

It is surprising that people exploited the technological disabilties of the computer systems in the early lifetime of the computer networks and internet, so easily. They actually built empires of fraudulent credit card, debit card and all type of identity selling.

The book also discusses about various websites like darkmarket.ws, cardersmarket.com that were pinnacles of these frauds. Global networks of swindlers and grifters on the internet who were scavengers and hunters for any unprotected identity lying around or an ope door to get inside on the computer networks. Hostile takeovers using backdoor trojans was such a prevalent event at that time. Remote control softwares and VNC softwares were flawed and could be used to get inside the computer.

There were many loopholes that were exploited by the hackers viz IE, VNC softwares, Point of Sale softwares, magstripe (the black strip on the card, which is easy to imitate), SQL injections etc.

This is story of Max Butler and similar other computer geeks who were addicted to hacking, but did not find the right "white" job for their skills. They had an inherent want to search for broken systems and try and fix them. The feeling of profiting from this came after they had to earn money but couldnt do it, or may be they were in love with hacking more than legitimate work

Max’s story of staying invisible behind his own computer and at the same time breaking into systems to flush out credit card identities and sell it out to the fraud CC market is unbelievable. You only see it in movies. What’s more interesting is to learn that running an underground cybercrime market is not so easy. Max did it, and also took over its competitors. He took down rival forums engaged in the same business.

When one programmer named Mark Zuckerberg was busy building a global socian network called Facebook, there was another master programmer and hacker called Max Butler who was builder and underground social network and forum to facilitate black trade. If you have noticed, a lot of banking security and online transaction related issues started getting addressed from 2008. There has been a tremendous shift in the amount of security that happen online these days, although the "swipe" based transactions at retail store still remain the same. The global effect of the fraud was realized by all the major banks who were affected by the cybercrime.

Kevil Poulsen has been very straight to the facts and using very simplistic vocab has put across facts and figures about the whole incident that took place over the span of around 7-8 years, including multiple imprisonments for Max Butler, and his rise and fall in the dark side

This book will remain one of my most cherished reads of all time.

Book Review : Millenium Series by Steig Larsson

8 Apr

Finally finished with all the 3 books under the Millennium Series by Steig Larsson

In my previous post here I had quoted the first book in the series : The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The story surrounds a girl suffering from Aspergers syndrome, but is subjected to varying levels of mental, physical and sexual torture for all her child life. The surrounding conspiracy related to an underground spy, a fraud businessman, a new post editor and owner who is hell bent upon finding out truth, and a lot of other consipiracies that are entangled together.

First book deals with the discovery of the girl, Lisbeth Salander, when Blomkvist is on a mission to unravel the truth behind a mysterious disappearance of a girl, which in turn leads to events and findings that are truly mysterious.

The second book, The Girl who played with Fire, deals with the story of the girl, her sufferings and the major event that builts her criminal image in the media

The third and final book, The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest, deals with the search for truth and confrontation by Lisbeth of all the truths. Her fight fo survival and life and justice, where the other character play a major role.

You cannot keep the book down, its not just possible. In my case I would say I couldnt keep my iPhone down.

Steig Larsson has created the masterpiece in such an eloquent manner that with every page, you are presented with so minute details that you are watching a movie getting build inside your head, the characters seem to act in front of your eyes.

Technical aspects used in the book related to hacking, business, reporting, policework and psychology are synced with care to create non-incredible effect. Very logical and very connected from start till end, the book has all the aspects viz. mystery, murder, thriller, courtroom drama, detective work, sex, psychopaths, hacking etc

One of the best reads I had in years in fiction category

Book Review : March 19, 2011

19 Mar

Few book reviews I have been reading or completed last week

It Happened in India
by Kishore Biyani, Dipayan Kashyap

A very bold narrative about Kishore Biyani’s journey while building Pantaloons and Big Bazaar. Gives a clear picture about how the EDLP based model started and succeeded in India and how foreign brands could not really realize the Indian middle class psyche

One thing that struck me about Kishore Biyani is that despite all negative remarks he always made a point to spend money on marketing and branding, probably because his target was the middle class whose decisions are mostly taken not logically but on emotions, feelings and liking. Low price was always there to support that fact

This book was with me for almost 2.5 years, but never read it completely. Last week decided would finish it.

Assholes Finish First
by Max Tucker

The mere mention of the name of this book might raise eyebrows and that’s what exactly what reading this book does. The author Max Tucker claims that every incident in this book and the previous book "I hope they serve beer in hell" are real life incidents that happened with him, or to put in a better way, he did them

Rash, in your face, full of abuses and absolutely hillarious but still filled of crap stories, that actually make you laugh and think what kind of a person this guy is. He fully owns the books and incidents in it, and a guy needs balls to do them and them write a book on them

And to see why I read this book, you should read wikipedia page of Max Tucker and his success story. These books sold over a million copies.

If you want to read something crappy but still entertaining in your spare time, read this book

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larrson

Just started reading this book a few days back. Not just another mystery/crime book as per resources. The last book has been a bestseller and been transformed into a movie. Although I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I plan to, until I read all the three books in the Millennium Series by Steig Larrson

Stieg Larrson is into intricate detailing when it comes to characters and plots. He doesn’t leave any threads loose. I have never read his earlier creations, probably because I never knew about him till I started reading this book

Decisions, Character and Knowledge

15 Mar

DECISIONS
You may take decisions in life and a lot many of them. Decisions taken very fast, on the blink of an eye

It is very easy to take decisions, what is difficult is to stick by them and fulfill the rational behind taking those decisions.

If you do not fulfill the rational, does that mean that you were wrong in taking it. NO, but yes you were incompetent to take those decisions at that time, but not totally wrong

Making those decisions worthy of themselves is probably difficult. Most of us do not make the decisions worthy of the time and reason they were taken.

A lot many more times, the decisions are taken in awe of something bigger than yourself and which defines your next future overall strategy about life

A lot many many more times decisions are taken on half or less than half knowledge.Knowledge hampers the quick decision making process and creates chaos


CHARACTER

Hidden most of the time from ourselves

We in fact never ever can know what our own character is. In fact, the least we ever think about ourselves in our entire lives are is our character.

The easiest thing is to pass quick judgement about other person’s character

Building a character does not take a lifetime, its built by few early life events and incidents, one’s level of exposure and one’s countering decisions

A characterless person still has a character but he/she realizes that it cannot be changed

Most truthful fact in the world is that one cannot change one’s own character ever in a lifetime. Its a hardcoded sequence in one’s brain


KNOWLEDGE

The truthfulness of a person is partially dependent on his knowledge but more so on how much he spreads and shares it

What we know is seldom used as a means to decide what we should know.

This anomaly or a contradiction is what fuels capitalism and the abuse of being wealthy or becoming wealthy

I would like to quote from Nassim Nicolas Taleb’s "The Bed of Procrustes" : Wealthy is meaningless and has no robust absolute measure, use instead the subtractive measure "unwealth", that is, the difference at any point in time, between what you have and what you would like to have

Sums up greatly what a lot of people think that being wealthy is all that makes you big in life.

Also, apparent presence of knowledge is not necessary the qualities of a wise person. He may be stinking of a half baked vision of growth.

Dhobi Ghat – A Blurred Memory of Unfinished Events

24 Jan

Dhobi Ghat doesn’t blow your mind off, nor does it make you say the “Awesome” word at the end of the movie
But it does make you think for a while after you cross the “Exit” door. There is no hidden message in the movie. DG is like a lullaby that fails to make you sleep

Dhobi Ghat, not at all for the masses. Agreed there are some funny moments here and there, but its definitely not an awesome movie. Its a narration of 4 different lives, which do not culminate at a point, but stand in their own paths, waiting for something..

Movie doesn’t leave a mark in your mind, after its over, very unlike other Amir movies. Kiran Rao, could have done a better job. Movie lacks the appeal. Background score remains an anonymous and sleeping beauty that doesn’t hit your ears. At times, it seems that the movie has become very silent, with silent moments also rendered, music-less

Characters of Amir, an artist; Prateik, a dhobi+rat killer+wannabe actor; and Monica, a banker on sabbatical. Do they really gel together? NO… They do not. They seem rather absurdly distinct and disconnected. With four stories, running their own course and without no reason, why they should culminate, it seems rather odd for the audience to figure out if there is going to be something crucial happening as the movie progresses.

Almost all the characters, in the movie are loners. Including the ones, who are shown to be socializing.

I personally felt that almost half the scenes in the movie were unfinished, and NOT at all in a way where audience can think of finishing them. The movie has nice cinematography and nice views of real mumbai (as we love to call it). Yasmeen is also an unfinished part, although she is shown to have died after having come to mumbai, but that doesn’t really mean the part was finished.

In the end, Amir’s character is shown to be just a wanderlust, with no idea what exactly to choose between going to home and choosing a new place to stay. His family in Australia is just another loose end. Prateik just ends up moving from one place to another, still wanting to chase the girl who is confused. Monica ends up trying to understand whether she loves or doesn’t love Amir. Yasmeen’s story makes Amir, feel bad, but about what? Loneliness?

ALthough so many questions remain unanswered, still at the end, you are not left with a mark that “Oh is this Mumbai?”, or “IS this how the life in mumbai would be?”

Dhobi Ghat is a noteworthy try by Kiran rao, to try and make a not-for-the-masses, art-type movie. I would not say its a must watch, but it surely is a good watch.

Quora and Why It Is Different

15 Jan

Quora and Why It Is Different

Let me start with the three major building blocks on the internet that are building not just networks but also relations

  1. Facebook quenches the thirst of humans for social interaction
  2. Twitter enables to shout endlessly and whatever they want
  3. Quora tells them, if you have something worth to share to what people want to know, make a knowledge base out of it

 

What are the main center points or pivots on which all above three reside?
A pivot is what the whole concept relies on and has taken a leap from there but in all the cases, the pivot will always stay the same, as it creates the foundation for each of the above entities

 

Facebook (www.facebook.com)
Pivot is people.

Revolves around people and their networks and their wants, doing, opinions, thinking, mistakes, changes etc
Signifies the early stage of human evolution when we wanted to be in groups.

Internet taking over as a parallel life form for all of us, we all want to be there. So we evolved here too. In groups, n in network we stay happy. Believe me for the depressed person, or one who is alone, or thinks nobody cares about him/her is given facebook, it would really ease up his feeling of seclusion and depression. You wanted to be known, and recognised as a face and as a person, and more by your friends and what they also do.

 

Twitter (www.twitter.com)
Pivot is temporal relevant/irrelevant events/happenings/cribbings/sharings

Signifies a human being basic need to shout and let others know that I also exist, and I have lot of share, take what you want, or don’t take, it doesn’t matter to me

Revolves around nothing, truly nothing. Just like a shoutcast where you shout what comes to your mind. Place/time/purpose/audience is irrelevant unless the tweet is targeted to a specific “tweeple”. In this case there is a mention of the specific tweeple while tweeting. So if the particular tweeple gets back to you, its good, its nice and useful.
Tweeple is what a person who is in the twitterific-universe called as.
Overtime, twitter gathered huge noise and useless tweets. Everybody wanted to shout even if nobody was listening. Next phase was that nobody is listening to what you are saying. Everybody just wanted to shout. When a lot of API’s started automation of tweeting from other platforms, it became a “shout-hub”

 

Quora (www.quora.com)
Pivot is Authentic and Voluntary creation of knowledge bases, that will have multiple touch points (questions) but will still be connected sematically to each other

Quora has a clean interface and simplistic design. It is not re-inventing the wheel, by having its own user base, but is relying on already authenticated networks of Facebook and Twitter. And anyways, every sane guy in this world has opened their doors, to FB and TW integration, because if they don’t they are gonna lag behind
That way, it is trying to ensure that the userbase is going to be authetic since current user creation onf Quora is on invite basis.

Here you will find that although your answer is getting voted, or can be voted, you are not driven by that fact. But you are driven by the fact that you need to put authentic opinions and information in the conversation.

 

What is the difference? Isnt wikipedia better than this?.Wikipedia is a fact-building machine. Whereas Quora is a authentic conversaton building machine, that focuses on semantic connections.

 

Although there are various other ways to interpret Quora. One being the fact that it does help you get in touch with people who think, read, write and are interested in similar things as you are. Which in terms means that even if there is no hidden agenda of creating a social network, it will still get created, making sure authentic people who share similar interests contribute effectively

Another thing that went dead was Google Wave. If you closely see Quora, it has similar looks of that of GW, but more clean and less cluttered. Had GW made itself open to FB and TW integration with a better interface, who knows it might have been a success

 

Did we forget LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is there to stay. As I was FB-iscussing with a friend today morning, LinkedIn is more business focused and hence premium memberships are there on it, and it will never go away. Because the purpose of LinkedIn is pure busines connections and networking and promote ones professional status.

You can never have premium memberships on Facebook, Twitter and Quora. This would entirely defeat the purpose of all these networks and collaboration tools.

Views and comments are invited