Monday, May 31, 2010

How I overcame by Attention Deficit ?

The Problem:

That is my iGoogle page, i.e my personalized homepage. See how many tabs I have. I follow some 40 blogs and assuming that each one updates atleast one post I read 40 posts. And blogs like techcrunch and techmeme post more than one post per day. So even though I was working on some other thing, I would alt-tab to this read one blog post and continue working. Now a  days there is twitter too. Somebody tweets a link and I will read it. That way I used to read read and read. If I am reading something, then I will not comeback to my work till that article is done. Sometimes, there would be more links in the main article and it would some serious time lost before I come back to my work again.  Now imagine my productivity. I used to do just fine before when my work was a little less and when I had no time constraints. Now a days due to some reasons I have to work with 8:30 -4:30 and this distractions were killing my productivity. Now as you know humans cannot multi-task well and guys are even bad at it. So I decided to do something about it.

Working For a Solution:
So I decided to see how much time I was working and how I was getting distracted. I observed that looking at twitter or igoogle was the main reason I was getting distracted. But I simply couldn't stop myself from doing that whenever I have to wait for a build or deployment. I saw my results in rescuetime and saw that my productivity was very very low.

So I was to somehow overcome the addiction to news, opinion and breaking news But the problem was I liked it. So what should I do? 

I tried to tackle it in two different ways. First, I have to read but I should not read every breaking news. But I shouldn't read during the time I am working simply because it is a big loss to my productivity. I have read in may time management solutions, that if there is something we want to do at a later time, our mind tries to remember it by recalling it again and again for the fear that it will forget it. And the easy solution to it is to write it down somewhere. So I decided that if I come across a good article sometime during the day, I will use the ReadLater bookmarklet to bookmark it. Also, there is a better chance of avoiding it if the environment is clear of it. So I have decided that I will not open chrome browser during working hours. Because of its ease of use, though I open it for some work related search, I tend to open igoogle and get stuck. So I would use IE and then because of the unfriendly interface, I will close it after the official work. And then I scheduled some time in the evening to read all the articles I have scheduled to read later. This way I was able to concentrate well on what I was doing. Basically, I made it less exciting to get distracted then (unfriendly browser) then postponed it as a reward for getting it done (Read Later)
The second way in which I tackled was getting more clarity in what I was doing. I would get a deluge of requests and I would handle them as they come. Hence as a request comes, I would stop the current one, go and look at the new one, reply to it and then come back to the old one, which took a lot of time in context-switching and lost me a lot of time. So I stopped doing that. I would write down all my tasks in the outlook

This helped me keep perspective and be mindful of what I am doing and hence helped me do my work more productively and writing down the tasks helped to eliminate the mind chatter. There was also an option of setting reminders which helped in following up on the tasks. Here I  put everything into tasks and worked on them sequentially. Ofcourse, I had to prioritize but mostly I stuck to what I decided.  
So this helped me to increase my productivity to a different level. I am sharing this becuase in this information and social media age, there will surely something which will catch our attention and we can get easily distracted. But it feels good to use technology to beat the ill effects of technology. Hope it helps you.

Bookmarklets that I use regularly

What is a bookmarklet?: Bookmarklet is a small javascript code which helps you achieve something directly from your browser without leaving the page. To use a bookmarklet, just drag the link in the subheadings below to your browser bookmarks bar and just click it for the desired functionality.

Readability bookmarklet: Open any Indian news site like rediff or times of India or Economic Times. If you want to read any article, it is very distracting. One very good bookmarklet which can make your life very easy is 'Readabiliy'. You can customize how you want to see the page and it will be rendered like that. No ads no distracting flash. Try one and you will not look back. sidebar : You are reading a good article and you want to tweet it to your friends. You can press the retweet button on the site or go to twitter copy the url and send. But in the first case, there is no easy way to enter your comments and in the second case, the url is very big so you cannot write your comments. This sidebar opens on the side after you click with the url shortened. You can enter your comments and tweet it.

Share on Tumblr: You are reading something interesting. You wanted to save  few lines of it for yourself. You can do that with tumblr. You can have a tumblog and using this bookmarklet save text, pics and videos to tumblr directly. See my tumblog here. Visit it for amazing quotes.

Add Zemanta: This is a helper in your blogging. Suppose you are blogging and how good it would be if somebody directly help you link important text, related blogs, contextual images and good tags. That is Zemanta for you. If you are a blog, this will surely help you.

Delicious: The best bookmark manager of the web has a bookmarklet too. You can save your bookmarks by just clicking a button and after saving you will be redirected to to the original page. And whats more, you can even tweet directly from there.

Read Later: If you have opened too many windows for reading and suddenly you feel that you don't have sufficient time to read all of them now you can save them later for reading and read them later. There is another site or ReadItLater also which is also quite useful. But I like the Instapaper's presentation better.

Try them out and  suggest any good bookmarklets that you use.

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I'm Tagged - Things I love

My friend Sandy, has tagged me for two things..

Tell me three good things about myself..and tag others. and notify them in their blogs to carry on the tag.

Tell seven things that nobody knows...and tag seven others and notify them..

So three good things about myself...

1. I always make a sincere effort at being honest. I don't like to cheat anyone even the government.
2. I will take life as it comes and accept whatever happens.. .
3. I generally live by the motto - 'sontha labham koncham manukoni porugu vadiki todu padavoyi' said by Gurujada Apparao - which means (We should sacrifice some of self-mindedness and help our neighbours in need)

Now seven things which others don't know about me... Not many if you see my profile, you will know all about them..but let me say them again.

1. I am a big dreamer.. I always dream of a place where all the people of the world live in co-operation, honestly . All the crime and this cheating in the world perishes. etc. Following these thoughts, I supported LokSatta which promised a just society. And I also introduced non-conventional ideas like single world govt and VenusProject here.
2. I believe that lack of proper education in values is the main reason for the current ills facing India. Hence education is one topic which is close to my heart.  The current system of education doesn't really make use of the individual abilities and interests of the students. Many alternative approaches like homeschooling - (A homeschooling student was the youngest to clear IIT JEE this year.) and non-degree education are being practiced in the world. I have written extensively about it in Parikrama foundation profile, to this govt I vote. If you need a full perspective listen to this talk by Ken Robinson, about how schools kill creativity, and Atanu dey's posts on education.
3. I am big supporter of Renewable energy production methods. You all know how the electricity situation is in India and hence exploring the sources of energy is important. I have written about how U.S govt is supporting them and written about the possible future here.
4. I love reading and I think in an average day I read atleast 20 different blog posts. And ofcourse I like music and movies too. I am a regular visitor of idlebrain, and movie buff blogs  I think there is ample proof of it in this blog ;)
5. I am a fan of Google and the way they have revolutionized the internet.I have publicly shown my love for them here and here. I am also a tech enthusiast. I regularly visit Techcrunch and Techmeme. Currently I am very much interested in Android and Android development.
6. Something critical of me: I think I am easily distracted and I am not practical enough. Ofcourse, seeing all the things above, you could have easily figured it out. But I am sure big dreams are required now. It might seem big for India at the present moment but I am sure this is possible and will be done someday. And for my part will have to stop living in dream world and come out to make those dreams a reality.
7. Lastly, I am an atheist and have arrived here with lot of thinking aloud. To know my reasoning read my arguments here and here.

Thanks to Sandy for tagging me. This has been a very good post, mostly summarizes the themes of this blog.
Now to tag people, I don't know anyone. All my followers don't have a blog and those who have already have been tagged. But I ask any of the commenters to carry this tag forward.
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Imagining the Future...The Venus Project

I would like to tell you some stories... First two individual stories of Henry and Nitin... 

Henry were having a treat at their home because his daughter, Jane got admitted into Yale University. But the next day the family was aghast to know that they cannot send Jane his daughter to Yale. The reason was that Henry was laid off when his corporation downsized sending some of their jobs to offshore. Henry's job was fitting the precision gears in a car manufacturing company. It was a very specialized job and Henry was proud of it. He pretty much worked on the same thing his whole life and now suddenly he was left jobless. All the competitors of his company had also outsourced that job to some other country. There was no way he could get a new job so soon. All of his family's dreams were finished now. He just took a home loan to buy housing which was available cheap due to the collapse of the housing bubble. In just a few days his life became upside down..!!!

Nitin loved dancing but his father always wanted his son to study in IIT and hence pushed him. He would never allow him to practice dance and added to that he sent him to various coachings for IIT entrance from VIII standard itself. Grudgingly, Nitin moved forward till his +2. And the pressure from his father was increasing daily. On the results day,  Nitin's corpse came home. He couldn't pass his +2 exams. People who came to pay their last homages reminisced how well he had danced in the annual day celebrations in his college. 

So what did you fee? Did you feel that those two were unfortunate lot among all of us or that these are general trends in the society? 

What happens if all the jobs are outsourced and they have more people who don't have any work? What happens if the creativity of every child is nipped out in the bud and they are not allowed to do what they want to? What if a whole country has more people dependent on government subsidies rather than the money they earn? Do you find it difficult to imagine that in the future there might be water wars? What happens if a country doesn't have any energy and also doesn't have money to import it? These and many other thoughts were swimming in my mind before I gave up those thoughts. But by chance I discovered something called 'TheVenusProject' a project started by a scientist called   JACQUE FRESCO  who feels that we have all that is required to solve all the problems in the world. He says that we can go beyond politics, war and poverty and achieve a high quality of living for everyone. 

To give you a short summary of it. You all know that all the things we consume are coming from the earth only. If we need to produce something, everything physical is only coming from the earth. Money was invented as a means of exchange of value. But that is not sufficient now as with money it is possible to artificially alter the balance of correct exchange. Just imagine if there is no money. We can just walk into a shop and get whatever we want. See how much pressure it relieves on Henry's life. That means he need not worry about their food. If there is no obligation of earning money then why would anyone be stuck at a job which he doesn't like or why would Nitin's father push him to study in any particular college? It would grant human's enormous freedom to do what they want. Yes you might think then how will the work we do get done? There he takes the help of highly developed AI based machines which do most of our work. No, don't think tangentially like the bad robot in I, Robot. Robots are always machines and they just follow our instructions. You might get the doubts like how will people and what about the scarcity of oil and water? Jack again tells us various renewable energy alternatives and talks about building houses on the oceans. Now think about it again. Don't you think it is possible?

I certainly think that we are going in that direction only but the thing is that it might take a lot of time before people realize that money is not being used correctly. And the people who are at a a powerful position always want to maintain a status quo and hence it won't be short of another revolution before government stops using money. But then we would have moved into a  different phase of human evolution. It might not happen in our lifetime but surely it will happen. What do you think ?

There are couple of books available from his website. 
I it is way ahead of its time, but surely one day or the other this condition will be reached. And we as hopefuls can speed it up by spreading it. 
I am super excited about this. Hope it reaches majority of people in the world.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Amazing African Music Video...

I didn't understand a word of what he sang.. But the smiling faces, and the melodious music is enough to captivate you.. It certainly captivated me... Music has no bounds.. Watch and enjoy.. :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Renewable Petroleum - Will it finally stop the dependence on imported oils?

As a proponent of renewable energy sources, the news that the government of America has announced the Recovery Acts funds to the research of renewable energy sources. So I hopped to the list of projects selected for the funding and I saw the technology whereby petroleum is produced in a renewable way. An excerpt from the post
“Electrofuels” - Biofuels from Electricity --- Today’s technologies for making biofuels all rely on photosynthesis – either indirectly by converting plants to fuels or directly by harnessing photosynthetic organisms such as algae.  This process is less than 1% efficient at converting sunlight to stored chemical energy. Instead, Electrofuels approaches will use organisms able to extract energy from other sources, such as solar-derived electricity or hydrogen or earth-abundant metal ions.  Theoretically, such an approach could be more than 10 times more efficient than current biomass approaches.

See all the projects here

How does this work?
Scientists are modifying the genetic pathways in which bacteria like E.Coli uses to store its energy in the form of fatty acids.Fatty acids contain carboxylic acid and hydrocarbons. If we remove the carboxylic acid, then petroleum can be easily generated from the remaining hydrocarbon.

So how do they modify the pathways? LS9 Inc, a company working in this field, redesigned genes using a computer and synthesized them.When the genes are introduced into bacteria, they excrete the hydrocarbons in designed structure. They can be refined later to form usable petroleum. There are many more companies working in this field.

And these bacteria use the co2 from the atmosphere for creating these hydrocarbons. So these act as a sink to the already existing hydrocarbon. This is also added advantage of these technologies.

All these things have left me highly excited about the possibilities. I hope we are very near to realizing renewable petroleum and the day when India and other oil-importing countries stop importing oil and generate their own petroleum which saves a lot of money for other developmental activities.

Read more about the technology and the companies here
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