This Blog is worth… how many $$$$?

Ever done a search for your own blog? I did… just yesterday. I tried, in vain, to find the log in button on this page, so later I Googled for wordpress login along with user name. What do you know? There was a site that stated what this blog is worth. I was aghast! Not by the $$$$ number displayed, but by the idea that some random no-name company is using some vague algorithm (algorithm being a rather fancy term for something basic we learned in middle school – “the step by step procedure to calculate e.g. to solve an equation, etc.”) to determine the value of my thoughts and the written words.

Now, can anyone explain to me – step by step – why anyone should attempt to calculate the worth of my personal diary – my web log? What business is it of anyone but myself, as to what the value of what I jot down here is. Do I go out to estimate the value of some random house on this planet? I don’t need to unless I’m in the buyer-seller market for real estate, and interested in buying or gauging the worth of my own house. Or am I out searching for information on what the true worth of that company is – the one that’s trying to put a $$$ value on my blog?

This is the problem… why can’t folks just mind their own business? Have I assigned anyone the task of estimating this blog’s worth? No, I have not., and I can bet that most of us have not done so. One can understand that companies, corporations, non-profits, others who receive funding from others to run their business (apart from their own monies in the venture) need to estimate the goodwill, or brand value to put it on their annual reports as their asset/s. Just in case they wish to liquidate them, or have intentions of selling their business, or perhaps need more financing to expand or manage their current business. I have none of these intentions!

When businesses attempt to gauge the value of someone’s assets, when they have not been assigned to do so, it should be deemed as encroaching on someone’s privacy. I have my own reasons to write, blog, fill the space here – whether it’s trite, useful, serious, helpful, nonsense, humorous…  is not anybody’s concern, but my own… as long as I’m not encroaching on anyone else, or anyone’s privacy. How many visitors this blog has, how many likes, how many followers, how many…,  how many…, how many…! How many times and for how long will we be subjected to this marketing madness or social media mania of gauging popularity? Does everything have to be converted to indices, measurement and minutae for even further dissection? So companies, please stop your nonsense of determining “What is your personal blog worth”!

Had trouble finding followers?

That’s the trouble… why do we even think of this as trouble. Are we Pied Pipers driving the art of writing to its death?

Those who truly think independently, don’t quite care about a fan following. The real independent thinkers and philosophers wrote their ideas or expressed them. Because they made sense we read about such people, read their books, or follow their ideas, believe in their philosophies, or ponder over their thoughts.

Writing can be triggered by something you saw, read, or experienced… anything could serve as a stimulus. The idea about having platforms like wordpress, or twitter or blogspot or even facebook… if each of us did our own thing, write our own ‘think’, create content that we actually believe in, it would be so much more fun than just circulating ‘forwards’ from hotmail to gmail, or worse, re-posting it as your own content (aka plagiarizing).

How much of all that we read, or is written is truly meaningful? What I write today on my blog (web log i.e. my diary) here, will the words sound dated five years from today, or five months away, or say in five days? Recall, blogs first started out as digital diaries that you could revisit someday. These diaries were personal, not items and writings that others could pry into. If someone laid even a little finger on it, leave alone leaf through its pages, the diarist would be hopping mad. But a page in a diary gives a glimpse of the person who wrote the words. It may give a hint into a person’s character. What interests me are human relations, how the mind thinks… why it thinks the way it does, what transpired in the person’s life to bring about such thoughts? You can weave an entire story… stories are telling. We will forget products but if there was a story around it, we tend to remember it more.

Today, though, many of us tend to clamor for a large fan following. Just the other day, I recall either tweeting (or blogging) about why anyone should care how many followers I have on Twitter, or how many tweets I posted… or for that matter should it matter to anyone but myself how many folks I follow? What does matter is whether or not my content, words, tweets, chirps hold meaning, have some interesting take or twist on a subject that I read, or found interesting. e.g. on Twitter, I’d be more eager to see a tab that displays counts of re-tweets, or favorite-d strings of 140 characters. But all we do is post link after link without giving our take on it, without expressing our views or what it was that piqued our interest, or held your attention if even for just a moment. We’re in such a grand rush to move to the next subject… all in a hurry, rushing to nowhere in particular.

So here’s what I believe… you can create your own content, or you can curate content that others have created. Yeah, someone will likely turn around and say this is jargon, old hat, content curation is a term used for years now. But my point is, even if it’s been used for years, have we all learned how to do it? Whether as companies, or as individuals, how succinctly can we summarize what we read and present it in a coherent, or more interesting manner, or more pertinently, can we add our two cents to it?

Every platform that is built – either as an app or web tool – is sort of latched on to by marketing departments to promote their brands, products etc. What started off as a space for ‘you, me  and us types of individuals’ now turns into an overcrowded platform used by professional corporate bloggers, content providers, content curators. There’s just so much information out there about everything and nothing. If there’s any particular topic or subject of interest, sift through it to find what interests you, present your views, and create a fabric that appears interesting when you look at it as a whole. If it is linear it won’t be quite interesting, but add dimension, give it depth, add color, bring in elements to enhance the entire picture. But as in any picture or photograph, if there’s a singular focus it will appeal to many. Some may like the picture for the color, others may enjoy it for its texture, but most will enjoy it as a whole, unable to quite pinpoint what it was they liked about it, nevertheless they do like it. Well, in a nutshell, that’s what I think is the purpose of content creation, and content curation.

Dancer, Photographer, Soprano Singer, Writer, Director, Movie maker… Dreamer?

A short while ago a couple of people ‘followed’ me i.e. this blog. Now that can seem mighty flattering, if you too blog, be it on Blogger, WordPress, or wherever else… By the way, can someone tell me if there’s a ‘word’ for someone who blogs on WordPress?

Pronto, like for the 99.99% out there, curiosity got the better of me so I checked out these followers, and whoa, what do I see? One of them is an actress with her very own IMDb page. But for me, this lady is accomplished in ways that hold a greater significance. Well-traveled across four continents, that too solo; a photographer, a dancer, beautiful and bold enough to battle with a baboon… no, kidding I’m not! I won’t plagiarize, or re-post what Lena has posted, photographed or written about. To get to know a bit of her very interesting character, you may want to begin here, and she will lead you thereon. 😉 Thank you, Lena. I recall visiting your page many months ago and then again moments ago. What a fantastic journey you’re on. Lovely, and my best wishes to you for even more exciting times ahead.

Another person that I listened to yesterday is a soprano singer. It is simply amazing when I learned of her achievements. It speaks to her sheer dedication, and in no small measure her determination. Searching for a link to add here, I visited Charlotte‘s blog even as I’m typing these words. It’s just fascinating to see the dreams of people taking shape, in one form or another… music, dance… wow!

Recently, I wrote about an indie film. It took the writer/director over seven years to bring his dream to fruition. I do wish his film too meets with the success it deserves… both, for his effort, for taking on a subject that is both intricate as it is difficult to explain in a few scenes.

Thank you people, for allowing me, and the world, to peek into your vast universe that’s brimming with dreams. Pray, where’s the dream catcher?  About some of the others I will write again another day. 🙂

Who skips the sex scenes… while e-Reading?

What someone enjoys as bedtime reading, or what twisted tale a storyteller wishes to spin, matters little to me. But out there, like Peeping Tom, loads of companies are snooping on you to note whether you’re a diehard romantic, or whether racy violence is your page-turner. Do you speed-read, or is pausing after every paragraph your scene. Whether you play, re-play, or ponder over the written word… or perhaps pause to grab that bag of popcorn. (Pardon me, but that last bit of popcorn was a stretch of my imagination!)

Now, do reviews on Amazon tell the real story of how many folks truly enjoyed a book, or do start ups have a better handle on the true facts about real reader interest in all fiction. A new war seems to be looming, one that’s more than likely to draw writers away from their desks or out of the wood-works, to battle on virtual grounds. Data, collected by tracking reader habits, and made available by companies, may steer astute writers towards domains that seem to sustain reader interest. Those who enjoy writing may have put pen to paper, or clicked away on a typewriter, or keyboard… for the sheer pleasure of writing. Deep within, most writers seeks readers, yearn for their feedback, their appreciation and if that’s a critical essay, could one ask for more? (No, not everyone is Naipaul.)

In an era of e-books and self-publishing, competition is not only from other authors in the genre, but is also from blog-writers, advertisers, endless Facebook time, tweet time, YouTube viewing, TedTalk, reality shows, extreme everything… to get that rush of adrenaline. With this continual battle to grab a moment of quality reader time, it’s time to morph a veritable passion for the pen and turn it into a killer sword. Your hard-bound novels are likely to be pirated to be made available on Scribd; your paperbacks may be sold in wholesale… a dime for a dozen. Dreaming of the Pulitzer, or are you of Pearl S. Buck caliber?  Beware, or at least be cognizant of the Oyster tracking your work, which follows readers, to determine which of the pages are skipped, or which make for a thriller. As readers, or authors… we will all be manipulated, one way or another. Now the question is, as a writer, will you survive by the skin of your teeth, or do you have that killer instinct that will allow you to thrive in the deep jungles of the vast Amazon?

One more rebel… yet again, an American!

A sick mind, a sickening situation, or is it the beginnings of a sick nation???

Way back in July 2009, I referred to Bryant Neal Vinas, an  American rebel who trained with Al Qaeda; he had actively engaged in discussions to blow up the Long Island RailRoad in NY. Then, there’s the  case of Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado-resident, who, in 2009, had plotted to blow up NYC’s subway system. Then again, the case of David C Headley, age 49, a Chicago resident, also American, who colluded with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group, which caused havoc in Mumbai in November 2008. Since then, ostensibly, all these guys have co-operated with the FBI and/or other authorities, to reveal further details regarding proposed heinous crimes. There are others… many others, in the US, American-born rebels in their 20s who have been uncovered… many others may be in hiding, or in the making, who knows… until next time!

The Tucson terror last weekend is not likely to be the last, I’m so sorry to say so.

For the families who lost their loved ones, the pain must be deep; the anguish unforgettable! If it turns out that the gunman is “sick of mind”, it is unlikely to lessen the pain caused by the crime/s he committed…

For the nation, Tucson will be yet another event – sad – but again, sorry to say so… soon to be forgotten. After the initial angry outbursts, and a few op-eds later, each of us will get on with life. What’s more, some may even callously say, “So what, s..t happens.” Can’t you hear those NRA guys touting that? “To prevent that in future, let’s make it even easier, to procure guns…” Are Americans progressive in their thinking? Think again… if so, NRA couldn’t possibly have such a strong lobby.

Fallacies… and false hopes about Law School.

Talking about fallacies, going to law school in the hope of making millions seems to be a fallacy, as many recent law graduates are soon learning. If anything, enrolling at law school may spell doom, or gloom, for well over a decade; in this failing economy… consider it more of a prophecy.

Indeed, steeped deep into student loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars towards three years of law school, lawyers are finding it hard to find jobs in law firms. Instead, fresh lawyers may find themselves serving freshly baked apple pie, or a McDouble, while their hopes melt fast in bowls of Cinnamon Melt! Speaking of which, surely you’ve heard the cliché, “Law school is a pie-eating contest, where the first  prize is more pie!”. For those fortunate, who’ve found work at law firms, more hours on their time-sheets brings more money into their bank accounts… but wait, there’s a catch! Stifled in their lawsuits, chained to their chairs, or poring over law journals makes Larry or Lawrie a rather dull companion (persons), or wouldn’t you agree?

Worse still, while law firms here are eliminating entry-level legal jobs, someone must still do the grunge work! Well, what do you know? Outsourcing companies abroad, or temporary workers – locally, or abroad – are more than happy to take on these tasks, and I daresay, the law firms here meet with success, smug as they sit tight on their black bottom-lines!

So… think again, before you sign up at a law school, no matter how attractive they make it for you to do so! Be aware, that for every 25 students a law school attracts, that’s a million bucks directly in their coffers… on the other hand, you, from the word ‘go’, will be indebted to the Sally Mae’s of the world, for years to follow… Effectively, you may well kiss your youth goodbye, and say ‘hello’ to sorrows. Sorry, for sounding pessimistic about your dream-profession!

Consult another lawyer for their opinion on this, but do you think you’ll get an honest answer? As they say, stay within the law, but do try staying away from lawyers for as long as you can… you’ll be better off.

Fact checking by media… a fallacy!

Once upon a time, fact-checking, by journalists and reporters of merit, prior to publishing a story, was indeed a fact… but today, sadly, this fact is reduced to an appalling fallacy.

Look all around and what do you see on the news through television, or what we read even in the ‘ostensibly respectable’ press? We see either half-truths, or listen to blatant lies and read quotes that are more like ‘misquotes’!

In a culture where ‘rumors’ are forwarded as ‘truths’ at the push of a few buttons on a keyboard by newbie computer-literates, even ‘seriously professional’ media men – and women – are taking the easy way out. Cut-paste of images using a few photo-editing tools — to appear cool, or catty —  is no longer just fun ‘n’ games… it’s HUGE money-spinning business… scary, if you ask me!

Monetary value aside, at the stroke of a pen (or with the push on a few buttons), the media now topples governments. No, this was not unheard of even in a past era; indeed, the media has always wielded that kind of power. However, somehow, the sheer abuse of technology by lazy, hasty, and greedy reporters has wreaked a different sort of havoc in the world today.

The most powerful media – without doubt – is in the west. The rest of the world tends to emulate the west. Where will it all end, that’s if the end’s not already here? But have we, the people, lost all sense of reasoning? Are our minds now so warped that we are unable to see right from wrong? Is ‘discerning’ out of our dictionaries? Is it simply that the media now controls our individual minds (as opposed to ‘collective thinking’ which leads to superficial thinking) as well? Whom can we trust? Who should we believe? Is there true leadership (a guide) today? Or must we live in a make-believe world with warped values shaped by a manipulative media?

I’m sorry, these thoughts often plague me, but Thomas L. Freidman’s op-ed column in The New York Times… “Too Good to Check” triggered this post.

Somehow, I also recall the three apparitions (witches) telling Macbeth only half-truths… What happened eventually? Doom!

Fly’n’ Past Flickr…

Flickr… alas, I seem to have drifted away from here… this past year.

For those with abusive partners, walking away could possibly be an option… but for those with abusive parents?

What is the solution for their salvation!

Margaret comments, as does Karen of St Paul, MN, MW of MA and hundreds of others who respond to the provocative question, “What if you want to split from your parents” in the Mind Column of Science Times… “When Parents Are Too Toxic to Tolerate” by Dr. Richard A. Friedman.

A few years back, as a volunteer copy-editor, I was assigned a project that entailed editing copy for an annual report (marketing tool for fund-raising) to be produced for an organization that attempts to combat  domestic violence; that supports survivors and women who wish to escape from abusive partners.

It was at this time, the thought had occurred to me… there are numerous organizations, and innumerable researchers, studying domestic violence that seems to be rampant! But, are there any real organizations that will truly support children (and adults) who suffer for a lifetime, both, while living with their very own parents while they’re growing up, or even later! These folks are victims (or survivors) of angry, frustrated, or ill parents; parents with unfulfilled dreams, parents who attempt to fulfill dreams through their kids; parents who re-live their own abuse-filled childhoods by inflicting emotional and/or physical pain on their children with full knowledge (or unwittingly). Who can such survivors turn to for support?

Does introspection help to see the light? Or then, does cognizance, that indeed this is a case of abusive parent/s… forgive and/or forget for one’s own sanity? Easily said, eh? This would be outside the charter of Human Rights Commission for them to intervene… and yet, this issue affects millions across borders, class, creed or race… it’s hard to divorce your parents… but for your own survival, would you? Should you? Or would you worry about the world saying, “How could you”!

He wanted to be a “Quant”…

In the late 90s, my close buddy quit his well-paid job of ‘research scientist’ with a leading oil company. He wanted to be a “quant“. Lured, not by the money; that would follow (and plenty of it, although not quite as much as the obscene figures that Wall Street traders take home), but by the sheer mathematical elegance (I recall him using those very words way back then), which this new career would allow him to dabble with.  He spoke of the subject with a passion that sounded more like a woman’s dreams of luxury, silken sheets and Manolo’s!

His previously earned doctorate in hydrodynamics from M.I.T. was a mere starting point. He immersed himself in studying tomes of finance books – disciplined and motivated enough to “self-educate” himself on the subject. When he spoke of ‘vanilla’ or ‘exotic’ it had little to do with flavors of ice cream, or the fjords of Scandinavia. He pondered long over what he considered hot’ topics at the time – derivatives, futures, swaps and options – and seemed lost in a world of numbers!

To be honest, it was with immense difficulty that I had grasped the math entailed in regression analysis, linear programming and autocorrelation, towards earning credits for o-r and econometrics… in fact, I’m still fuzzy whether my present state is a result of “statistical error” or whether it may be deemed as a fitting error“. 😉 Random, or residual – why care! Instead, speaking again of my friend… when he first mentioned ‘modeling’, my brain – then skewed towards advertising, was farthest from ‘mathematical modeling‘. When he spoke of inverse problems my thoughts drifted towards micro-economics, juggling personal finances to fit month-end needs. Not in my wildest imagination could I have considered derivative pricing, or financial engineering.

Well, now as we approach 2010,  I can hardly pretend to have turned into some finance whiz, comprehending the jargon of Wall Street. Call it fate, or destiny, the events in the early years of this decade somehow did not allow my buddy with an opportunity to work as a ‘quant’ on Wall Street… something he had so deeply desired, and for which he toiled and sacrificed much, but which somehow eluded him.

Talking of predictions, futures, recent market volatility, financial debacles and gargantuan tumbles in the world’s financial capital, I am secretly thankful – at a personal level – that a perceived “failure” in finding a suitable position turned out to be a boon in disguise. For the past several years my pal has again immersed himself in science, and research towards what I consider a noble cause, and which, in my opinion, deserves far more genuine respect than what he would have earned through his computational genius on Wall Street.

Good luck to all those who have done well in their selected field, playing a clean, positive role, even in what is today deemed a maligned world, but which will undoubtedly rise again. When money begins to flow freely someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, memories of present times will fade, of that there’s no doubt, I’m afraid.