Sunday, 24 September 2006

Mousetrap - 71

Performing seal
Official Seal Generator

If you’ve always wanted your very own personal seal, and you’re not good with image-editing software, this site could make your letterhead’s dreams come true. A quick selection from the set of drop-down menus to pick your symbol (there’s a wide selection), borders, colours and decoration, enter your text, and hit the “Go” button. Now, you can be the envy of your friends. Those few, those unhappy few, that don’t read this column, that is. (Alongside, for your viewing pleasure, a quickie I created for this column in about 30 seconds.)

Seeing stars
Perez Hilton
The site styles itself “Hollywood’s Most-Hated Web Site” and certainly takes pains to justify the tag line. It’s a hilarious blog, well-written, and adds its own little twist with blatantly retouched images to make its points. [Link via Sonia Faleiro]

Moom walk
The Museum of Online Museums
If there’s one place that has more museums than the USA, it’s the internet. And MOOM want to help you find all of them. It’s divvied up into three sections, the Museum Campus (real life museums with cool sites), a “Permanent Collection” with links that will interest those in design and advertising, and “Galleries, Exhibition, and Shows,” with a constantly updated list online collections and galleries, from the very personal and weird to the downright fascinating. Oh, and if you have a web exhibit of your own, they want to know.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 24th September, 2006.

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Sunday, 17 September 2006

Mousetrap - 70

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur
Latin Quotes and Phrases
Veni, vidi, vici, you know. And if you’re an Asterix fan, chances are you know a few more. Like perhaps, nunc est bibendum and alea iacta est. (Of course, if you’re a lawyer, you can probably write a dictionary yourself.) Many of the words we use today in English (and indeed many other languages) have Latin roots, but while that’s a good reason to study this small index, the fun bit is finding a few more shall we say, not-so-classic terms. For instance, the Latin for “That's the way the cookie crumbles,” which is “.Sic friatur crustum dulce.” Or “Obesa cantavit,” which means “The fat lady has sung.” The title to this paragraph, by the way, means “Anything said in Latin sounds profound.” See what I mean?

Breaking up is hard to do
Ruined Music
Yeah, it was your song, the song that meant so much to both of you, filled with meaning, tied to special events and great times. And then s/he dumped you. And just hearing the first bars of that song is all it takes to send you into depression. (Or perhaps rage?) There, there. You’ll feel better soon. Promise. Well, maybe not so soon. Meanwhile, why don’t you hop over to this site and read about the songs other people have had ruined for them for ever and ever? You’ll find the most unlikely songs there—Macarena, would you believe?—aside from the soft ’n’ sentimental. And the site encourages submissions, so perhaps want to write about it?

Less is more
The 5K
Recently, while I waited for my ISP to install a new connection, I had to spend several hugely frustrating days using dialup. Most web designers these days take their audience’s broadband access for granted, so even seemingly simple sites take ages to load down a phone line. As I turned the air blue, I remembered this competition from around the millennial year. Its challenge: produce an entire web page, graphics and scripting included, that was under five kilobytes. Considering that today’s designers consider ten times that too little, they should go see the wonderful, quirky, original work that came out of that contest. Unfortunately, the 5K contest moved to its own site after that contest, but the archives don’t show up there now. Lucky for you, though, that I had this bookmarked: the list, and the 2000 winner.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 17th September, 2006.

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Tuesday, 12 September 2006

I'm blogging this

Over the last year or two, from the disaster relief blogging phenomenon that redefined online collaboration, to the furor over the advertisements of a certain business school, to the more recent block on blog sites by our government, blogs, blogging and bloggers have proved that they can be responsible; that they can contribute positively to the world they live in, that are here to stay. And what better way for an increasingly influential segment of society to assert its presence than a conference?

As I write this, the first ever BlogCamp India is winding down, with an informal quiz. The sponsor booths are being dismantled, and little knots of people dissect the last couple of days.

What’s it all been about then? One way to describe this would be to tell you about the various sessions. Sections on corporate , commercial and professional blogging. Geeky sections about very complicated things only die-hard geeks get excited about—or even understand. Broader topics like the place of blogs in the media, freedom of speech, censorship, responsibility, legal problems. But you get all that from the schedule on the wiki. Blow-by-blow descriptions of each session? Heck. With around 200 bloggers in attendance, most of them—or so it seemed—live blogging every session over free WiFi, an IRC channel which had a bunch of people logging in from other parts of the world, cameras of all descriptions catching every moment on still and video, live streaming video feeds, and heaven knows what else, I’ve been scooped before I even got my hands near a keyboard, for, alas, I possess a dilapidated laptop which doesn’t have a WiFi card. So I’ll just advise you to feed the words “BlogCamp India” to your favourite search engine and take it from there.

In the meanwhile, I’ll tell you this much. It was the first of its kind in India, a conference, or rather, an unconference (simply put: no audience, everyone is a participant), that brought together Indian bloggers from all over the country and a few from abroad as well. The mix was a lively one. While most of those present were young, male geeks, there was more than one grey head and receding hairline, and quite a few bloggers from the distaff side. Backgrounds and history varied wildly too, from one of India’s first bloggers to newbies who’d just about got their toes wet, from a very successful professional blogger to people who people who abhor the very idea of commerce on blogs, techies, researchers, utopians, marketers, poets, bloggers in Indian languages (a newish, growing and exciting area), people with new products and ideas to promote, others just there to meet and socialise, and yes, a special appearance by Sunil Gavaskar, a guest of the main sponsor, who was there in his role as a podcaster. (A podcast, named after the popular music player, the iPod, is a blog in audio format rather than text.)

Sponsorship by some big names—and not just from the e—world—indicates that as far as corporate India is concerned, the blogging community is worth befriending. Coverage from traditional media leads one to believe that blogging is taken a wee bit more seriously by the MSM (bloggerspeak for “mainstream media), that it is much less of a mysterious, niche activity than it was not too long ago.

A sum up? There was more than one glitch (and I admit to this as a member of the organising team) but I do think even the harshest critic will admit that it worked out pretty well. The issues and ideas that were discussed will continue to be debated, on blogs, naturally, but also at the next BlogCamp. For BlogCamp, like its attendees, is now here to stay.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 12th September, 2006, in a much edited version.


Monday, 4 September 2006

Mousetrap - 69

Online Etymology Dictionary
Etymology, the study of the history and derivation of words, is fascinating. And has many surprises in store as you dig around this excellent, well-written and -researched site. At the very least, you’ll have lots of fodder for small talk. “Camera,” for example, is worth the look up—and then you’ll find out why it sounds so much like the Hindi “kamara.” Or you could figure out the relationship between my first name and the Hindi “pathar,” both of which also share meanings and Indo-European roots. Actually, just look up “the.” Or “mean.” Much fun. Oh, did you know “radical” is closely related to “having roots?” Go. Goof off. (And yes, they’re related too.) Enjoy. Speaking of which, did you know... Never mind.

20 Year Usenet Timeline
In the days before the web and networked communities as we know now them, there was an online community called Usenet. Its members observed and commented on many of the developments we take for granted today. In 2001, Google made twenty years of Usenet archives available through its Google Groups service. At over 800 million messages, they claim it is “the most complete collection of Usenet articles ever assembled and a fascinating first-hand historical account.”. That it most certainly is. And this page lists links to some memorable posts and threads, including the first mention of emoticons :)

Navel gazing
India’s bloggers are planning a national meet for the first time. Based on the BarCamp “unconference” model (basic principle: there is no audience; everyone participates), the two-day camp in Chennai next weekend will feature informal chats, debates, presentations and demos by bloggers, about blogging and things related to it. Can’t make it to Chennai? Not to worry. There are plans for live text, audio and video feeds, aside from, of course, live blogging and reports on blogs.

the four Word film review
Do I really need to explain this site? Naah. I’ll just say that my opinion of most films is usually one word. Any guesses?

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 4th September, 2006.

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