Let’s celebrate National Unfriend Day

As William Shatner* says, “Those people on Facebook. They’re not your friends.”

The host on this video has a simple test for your friends: announce that you are shifting home. Those who come to help are friends. Unfriend the rest.


Okay, there will be a huge raft of disagreeements. Your old chuddy buddy whom you lost sight of twenty-five years ago but found again on Facebook.

Um, you learned to live without each other for twenty-five years. Why intrude into each other’s lives now?

Okay, okay. Your real brother whom you lost in the kumbh mela twenty-five years ago but found again on Facebook.

Um, you learned to live without each other for twenty-five years, but he is your brother. But didn’t you have a more romantic way to find him (Family song, two halves of a locket, any other Manmohan Desai method) instead of Facebook?

All your college pals whom you had so much fun with. How can you think of unfriending them?

Um, they’ve moved on life as you have, right? There might be a number of things that were fun to do in college, but you’d not like them to be mentioned in front of your kids. (Or put in a place, like Facebook, where your kids can find them.) You still don’t want to unfriend them?

The thirty-three people who are so critical to your progress on Farmville, even though you’ve never seen them.

They’re friends? You haven’t even seen them right? Can you borrow even Rs. 50/- off them?

That lady who posts such cute pictures of her trips to South Africa and the Amazon? Or that guy who posts really witty status messages. Or that guy who posts amazing videos you’d have never seen otherwise?

There are photoblogs for South African images, if you haven’t seen enough on Discovery Channel. There is ThinkQuote to read really witty stuff. (Witty updates on Facebook are often recycled from these. There’s even an app to do so. Or two.) And what was YouTube for, if not to see videos you’d never see? Why are you doing these things on Faebook?

Well, before you get more defensive, why not just ask all of them to come to your house for free chai-samosa? Those who don’t come for freebies even, they were never your friends. Forget about the house-shifting.

And let me repeat William Shatner’s* message to you:

“Those people on Facebook. They’re not your friends.”

*I have no idea who William Shatner is. That’s another reason why National Unfriend Day is important.

Posted in Miscellania, Social Republic | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hollywood’s Top Parasatires

An earlier post mentioned the word parasatire. I must admit I’m fascinated by the word. A satire that not only spoofs another movie, but releases in the afterglow and makes a decent bit of cash too. What a way to make a living.

So I did a wee bit of looking up, and came up with some commercially successful parasatires. Here’s my list:

Scary Movie – horror films, esp Scream – $818 million
Austin PowersJames Bond – $676 million
Johnny EnglishJames Bond – $160 million
Meet the Spartans300 – $84 million
Dance FlickHigh School Musical – $10 million

(Data from Wikipedia, where else?)
(The millions of dollars represent worldwide collections.)

Clearly people love being scared even when they are being tickled. And James Bond is something of a victim; I suppose everyone loves taking potshots at the philandering, invulnerable, never-at-a-loss alpha male types. And I thought 300 was bad enough without a parody (since it seems a parody of Thermopylae itself), but clearly there was appetite for some parasatire. 84 million dollars cannot be wrong. But why?

And it spills over into advertising too. Some of the ads I like best are parasatires of other ads. Coca Cola’s Sprite runs its entire campaign spoofing the other brand colas (Remember the one that said ‘Yeh hai Hindustan, meri jaan’? or the much earlier one about ‘dakaar‘?). It sells quite well. At the least, I’m loyal to this brand, and I find it in most shops.

And there was Avis Car Rentals and their famous slogan “We’re number 2 but we try harder”. Hertz which was number 1, hit back with a parody of that ad that they were #1 and they didn’t have to try. They remained there. (This was the 80s. No idea who the market leader is now.)

But this is my list. Cook up your own and tell. Would really love to know. You’ll notice no Bollywood (or any other -ollywood) flicks make the grade, simply because I have no idea where to begin. So do please enlighten me on those too.

Posted in Creativia | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cometh The Time, Cometh The Word!

This blog has a (not not much used) section on new word coinages, many triggered by the internet. While we do recommend that as a good read, when that section is not being updated, we direct you to Ben Schott. “Ben Schott Who?” you may ask.

Ben Schott is an opinion contributor at the New York Times, and maintains a popular (in America, which is not the same as popular) blog called Schott’s Vocab. He is in some sense a successor to William Safire, the globally well-known wordsmith who once predicted that the whole world will one day have to speak Indian English.

This blog is a good read for those who need a new word (or phrase) every day. You might enjoy camois (pug-nosed), blackberry jam (Collision between smartphone-distracted pedestrians.) or the Mumbai Consensus (Mumbai’s answer to the Washington and Beijing Consenses) among recent entries. My personal favourite is parasatire, parodies of movies that cash in on their success and make some money themselves.

Apart from new words, there’s a lot to learn from words trending round the web (including the very trending word ‘trending’), and a lot of word play. The current game is ’emotive conjugation’:

I am firm.
You are obstinate.
He is pigheaded.

If you are deeply in love with words as I am, this blog is good for a long weekend read.

(No apologies for posting this after the long Diwali weekend has ended.)

Posted in Blogosphere | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Keeping up with the Phoneses

I’m a bit slow I suppose, or this blog would have been up four days ago, as the story broke. TechCrunch started it all, saying that Facebook was secretly building a phone. Apparently it’s a top secret project that no one but the two developers (Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos) knows about. A phone that is hardwired with Facebook, i.e. you’re logged into Facebook if you switch on your phone.

This was going to happen. Google has a phone (the Nexus One); before that Apple had a phone. So why would Facebook, among the biggest computer guys, not have one? Phones are hot, the PC & laptop experience, while richer isn’t really mobile. All the coolness is really in a handheld device now.

Facebook denied it; their CEO let himself be interviewed on Techcrunch. In the interview, apparently Zuckerberg came round to admitting there was a phone project. (Emphasis on apparently. It’s Techcrunch’s claim; the language isn’t clear). Though it wasn’t about the hardware, but integrating FB on a phone, which INQ is doing. In Techcrunch’s words, “Facebook is working with INQ Mobile on two smartphones that will first hit Europe, and then come to the U.S. to potentially be sold through AT&T. These phones are believed to run on Google’s Android operating system, but likely a modified version with deeper Facebook integration.”

This story made its way around the web, and landed on the BBC website, where I first saw it.

Nevertheless, it’s still something of a sensation. It’s going to invade the last redoubt I have. Luckily I don’t have a smartphone, and don’t intend to buy one. (I keep losing phones, so I stick to the cheapest voice-and-sms phones I can get.)

Posted in Webindon | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Facebook Cheat Sheet

Tridib called Facebook a “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game” in which the objective is to make as many ‘friend’s as possible. So how does one go about it? Here’s a cheat sheet at cracking this Great Game.

This comes from a one-month experiment by Tom Weber of the Daily Beast (which is, with the Huffington Post, among the world’s best recognised online-only newspapers). It pondered a particular feature of Facebook: although one may have hundreds of ‘friend’s on Facebook, why do we see the feeds from only a few? And why is that these feeds are not necessarily our closest friends, but a strangely random selection? Well, it turns out it isn’t random at all, but based on Facebooks’ idea of what you should be seeing.

[Aside: Why is Facebook so concerned about what we should or should not see? Isn’t this dangerously like what Google has been suggesting recently? Isn’t this what the People Republic of China does anyway?]

We’ll cite the conclusions of the study verbatim here:

The Daily Beast’s one-month experiment into Facebook’s news feed yielded the following discoveries:

  • A bias against newcomers
  • “Most Recent” doesn’t tell the whole story.
  • Links are favored over status updates, and photos and videos trump links.
  • “Stalking” your friends won’t get you noticed.
  • Raise your visibility by getting people to comment.
  • It’s hard to get the attention of “popular kids.”

The Daily Beast got a volunteer to open a fresh Facebook account (he had never had one before). So Phil Simonetti, 60, created an account and added about two dozen ‘friends’, who were other volunteers in the experiment. Everything he did on the network, was directed by the experimenters. This went on for a whole month.


1. Facebook discriminates against newcomers: As the Daily Beast puts it, “If there’s one thing our experiment made all too clear, it’s that following 500 million people into a party means that a lot of the beer and pretzels are already long gone.” It leads to a piquant situation. Your status updates and other activities (links, pictures, videos) don’t automatically show up on your friends’ feeds. So joining up & typing away isn’t really useful unless your friends help you out.

Daily Beast Recommendation: Try to get a few friends to click like crazy on your items.

2. Facebook decides where you show up: If you’ve noticed (and many haven’t), Facebook delivers you stuff in two ways. ‘Top News’ is a selection of what Facebook decides is good for you, and ‘Most Recent’ is supposedly all the latest news. Posting updates and having your friends ‘like’ and comment on them isn’t enough. It’s not the quantity that matters, but the quality. You might think ‘Most Recent’ shows you everything, but nope, Facebook still decides what you need to see.

3. It’s all about stalking: Following what your friends do, replying to their updates, seeing their photos….well, that’s what Facebook wants you to do. It wants you to spend a huge amount of time so that some of that time filters through to the ads. But there’s no reciprocity – your own updates are not going to become popular. (In a real world, somebody will be obliged to say something nice about your activity as a polite way to respond to you saying something nice about their activity. On Facebook, theyll never see it in the first place.)

What you want to be is Lady Gaga. Do not give a half damn for what others do, but be the kind of person whose every move is followed. The more people respond to you, the more they stalk you, the more popular you get, and then your actions show up on your friends’ feeds. In other words, you need to be a bit popular already to get even more popular. It’s like getting rich: you need money to make money.

(I can testify to this. Once I was a non-entity on Facebook; now some friends complain I show up everywhere. But then, I’ve had an active account for four years now.)

4. Your activities have a hierarchy: Thought up that clever one-liner? Don’t post it in the hope of getting lot’s of wow comments. Facebook considers status updates anodyne. It likes you better when you post links. The Daily Beast speculates that “links are more effective at driving “user engagement,” which translates into people spending more time on Facebook”. And photos and videos are even better. “Facebook likes clicks, and photos deliver them.”

5. Comment Express: If your post attracted a few comments, it’s more likely to feature on someon’es wall, attracting more comments. So if you want to be popular and have friends loyal enough to help you, get them to comment away everytime you post. This lesson isn’t really very different from #3.

6. The Maven effect: A ‘maven’ is someone with a huge list of contacts, as Malcolm Gladwell defined it in The Tipping Point. As a newbie, you’re not going to attarct the attention of a maven much. So when you go about ‘friend’-ing people on Facebook, don’t target the mavens. Try being one yourself, get ‘friends’ who have fewer ‘friend’s than you. They’ll see your messages more often, interact more often and hence push you up more often. At 462 ‘friends’, I’m no way near the top Facebook mavens, but given most of my ‘friend’s haven’t that many ‘friend’s, I’m something of a mini-maven from them. The result: you get people wanting to ‘friend’ you, which is some sense the objective of the game.

So I hope you’ll find this little cheat sheet useful as you play the MMORPG that is Facebook. Better still, do read the whole Daily Beast article.

P.S. Please don’t neglect your real-life friends and family, as some seem to have murderously done.

Posted in Social Republic, Webindon | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

No cLIChes for Diwali!

How does India’s largest insurer, and one of our biggest clients, usher in Deepavali online? With a big bang of course! So virtual crackers and Diwali lights show up all over the internet as LIC greets India a Happy Diwali!

Look out for our YouTube innovation, the first time YouTube has tried it in India. It is live all day on 4th November. The innovationcombines a virtual cracker on a flash banner animation along with a video carousel showcasing the brand’s latest video commercials. In addition, there’s a gallery of promotional messages from LIC.

To complement, there’s an MSN India roadblock on the same day, full of twinkling lights and a cracker that you can set off!

Plus, we’ve got a bunch of interstitial banners on these sites:

zapak.com: Interstitial on Home Page
webdunia.com: Interstitial on Home Page
indiatimes.com: Interstitial on Home Page
timesofindia.com: Interstitial on Home Page
economictimes.com: Interstitial on Home Page

Posted in Creativia, RKSI News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batty about farms: are you addicted?

Video games can be addictive. Very addictive. So addictive that you can spend hours playing them, without realising what’s going on in the real world. But are they as addictive as narcotic drugs?

For a long time, the medical profession hasn’t really taken video game addiction seriously. We know they give us pleasure, but we don’t know the way they affect the brain like narcotics, nicotine or alcohol do. The general public too, shares this sentiment. After all, it might be an unhealthy obsession, but we think it’s easy to de-addict. Shut the game off, drag the person into real society, and s/he might be okay. Perhaps not.

Now I must admit I like these games myself. They are a good relaxation agent after the day’s work. But I’m not yet in the addiction stage (though my family thinks so). If presented with a good book, a good conversation or even a good TV show, I’m happy to let my virtual crops rot. But other people seem to think differently.

A series of murders around the world this year have drawn attention to game addiction. A 41-year-old taxi driver, and his 25-year-old wife in Korea got quite fond of raising a virtual baby on a game called Prius. They got so fond of it, they played the game almost 10 hours a day. They reached home one morning after an all-night gaming session. Their real-life baby lay dead, severely malnourished.

The couple was sentenced to prison sentences for negligence leading to death. On October 27th, A 22-year old mother pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of her baby son. His fault was to cry loudly while she was playing Farmville, Facebook’s hugely popular social game. By American law, she might spend the rest of her life in a jail cell (and without access to a computer). A 33-year old mother has been banned from going anywhere near a computer because she neglected her household while playing games. Her pets starved to death, her three children managed to survive by scavenging bean tins.

Games are cute. Virtual babies produce no messy diapers or ear-busting noises. There’s no potty training required for virtual pets. Virtual farms never experience drought or floods. The temptation to escapism is strong, to go into an ideal world where you are the king. Everything happens your way. You are all that you want to be. These are the feeling you get with narcotic drugs too.

The problem is becoming so widespread that detoxification and rehabilitation centres are springing up for game-addicted children and adults. Medically, addiction must meet two criteria:

1. The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to keep him going.
2. If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, he becomes irritable and miserable.

Game addicts meet them, and that’s already creating the kind of troubles that drug rehab centres face. Patients undergo severe withdrawal symptoms. They become violent and try to escape back to their addiction. As this case from China shows. Fourteen teenagers and young adults escaped a detox camp to go back home and start playing games again. (One had played for 28 hours non-stop before his mother packed him off to the camp.) They beat and tied up the camp supervisor, before escaping, but were caught after they couldn’t pay the taxi fare. There’s a trouble of scale – China reports 40 million youngsters who play online games.

So it might be a bit of luck that internet penetration is low in India, and broadband even lower. But as the spread of the net grows, especially as 3G mobile technology rolls out, the danger is likely to grow. And it might drive parents to ‘shock tactics’, like these parents in China are up to.

I used to think Indians were dangerously obsessed with cricket. But perhaps giving a child a bat and ball, and dreams about being the next Tendulkar are the best thing a parent may give him. At least it keeps the computer firmly switched off.

Posted in Webindon | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Will you be my Friend err… Facebook Friend?

Recently a small “SOUTH PARK” video is doing rounds on Facebook.

Direct Link to You tube : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SgkfghupFE&feature=related.

Or View it here:

[You can see HQ version of this video if you “make me your friend” 😉 ].

Considering the number of “Likes”, “Comments” and “Shares” this video has, it’s quite evident that people (netizens of Facebook) do understand the subtle inner meaning of the video. a) Your father will still be your friend if you don’t add him up as your friend in your facebook profile b) Your “Ready for Heaven” ailing grand mom won’t die “insulted” if you don’t add her up as friend in your Facebook c) Your Girlfriend won’t consider you jerk if you prefer not to OR unintentionally forget to add her up as your friend.

But still, what drives us in this game? As one netizen rightly pointed out “Facebook is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORG) in which the primary objective is to “Collect” “FRIENDS”. It’s hilarious but so very true. What drives us to add people as friends? I have at least 300 odd “friends” but how many do I really chat with everyday or relate to? How many of those I have added as “Friends” are actually mere acquaintances? Are we scared that the person will feel offended if we haven’t added him/her as my facebook friend?

Why does this matter to us? I have some very strong friends whom I haven’t spoken or chatted with online for months, but when we connect we set the house on fire. Does adding someone in your facebook profile really matter to him or her or you?

So what’s the urge that drives the human race (I am only considering the human race – I don’t know if other inhabitants of this earth are present on Facebook or other social network sites) to this “Friend Collecting” game? Is this about a few seconds of fame for some of his/her big/small achievements in life? Is it the urge to get a “Like” or an “awesome comment” on the new saree or denim one has bought? Is it the push for some “fantastic remarks” one gets after copying and pasting some comments/ remarks/ thoughts or critical analysis of any news from somewhere else or from some friends? Is it simple “Time Pass” without any rhyme or reason? Or is it information sharing and keeping oneself updated without being present everywhere?

An amazing fact: Mark Zuckerberg – The main brain behind this “Friend collecting” game is himself one of the most introverted and fiercely private persons. He doesn’t like to speak to the press, and he does so rarely. He also doesn’t seem to enjoy the public appearances that are increasingly requested of him.
Read more

So does this Social Networking game making us social or un-social? Aren’t we becoming loners from inside? Can we ask ourselves how many times we make the effort to meet a friend in person since we almost regularly connect through social network sites?

This Diwali can we open our door and wish our next door neighbor with a Mithai box rather than wasting time in making the same person “Your Neighbor” in Farmville or helping him/ her with cleaning the weeds in their “Farms”?

Posted in Webindon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

RKSI’s innovation for Dassera is a hit!

We had an interesting assignment this month. Digital Direction suddenly came to us and said that LIC wanted banners for it that were radically different. So far we had been adapting press ads into LIC banners, but the client did not want that anymore. For Dassera and then Diwali, we had to do new creatives using our own brains, for the net only. What an opportunity!

So rack, rack, rack your brains till you get the big idea. Everyone’s on the job – Tridib, Prashant, Vinayak, Raamesh, Shirish. And we come up with a humdinger of an idea, drawing from mythology and tradition. What about making a Ramlila celebration online? Complete with a bow & arrow & an effigy of Ravan. And we made it interactive, by letting the viewer shoot the arrow (by clicking on it). The Ravan was lovingly drawn by Prashant, and then we all got into the act, animating the banner. And in record time it was finished, sent to client, approved, sent to publisher, QCed and made live on Dassera!

You can see the banners on the links here:

MSN Roadblock: http://www.rkswamyinteractive.com/dussera-blog/road_block_001.html

Shsoshkele: http://www.rkswamyinteractive.com/dussera-blog/Dussera-Banner-470X280.html

Truly one of the most exciting few days we’ve had, and now we’re looking forward to Diwali banners!

Posted in Creativia, RKSI News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Internet: Professional Provocateuress par excellence

Maureen Dowd is one of the English-speaking world’s bestknown feminists; her column in the New York Times a bellwether for the movement. So it comes across as interesting when she was described as a Professional Provocateuress by Kathleen Parker, another well-known feminist & columnist.

(A quibble with the word though. It is made by adding -ess to the French word provocateur, which is someone who says or does something intended to provoke a reaction. But the French way to do it is to make it provocateuse. But it’s only a quibble.)

After refudiate, this is a refreshing word from America. And it has its uses. It’s a word (or phrase rather, if you include professional) that neatly describes a few people. Who take an issue that the mainstream quite neglects, and bring it to fore. Or perhaps bring across a new perspective that wasn’t there before.

Julian Assange is probably one. With his WikiLeaks expose of the US Army in Afghanistan, he brought to fore many things many people didn’t want said. Maureen Dowd clearly is one; at home Shobhaa De possibly fits that role. But the biggest Professional Provocateuress isn’t a person. It’s the internet.

Despite my reservations on using the internet as an effective platform for activism, it has many positives. It certainly is an indicator of what people want. It is easy to censor overt speech on the internet in spite of what its many defenders say. Just look at China. But it is a rich medium, involving sound, visual, text, and animation. It can do subtly, and perhaps that way more effectively, what it cannot do overtly.

There are podcasts in which one can express oneself, the tone of voice conveying the actual message rather than the actual words. Or the visual could be something, the words completely different. Woody Allen made full use of the latter technique in his film What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, but I’d like to point you to a popular YouTube video. It takes visuals from a Chinese Army song, but the soundtrack is Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’. The effect seems no more than a hilarious joke to a non-Chinese person. But for Chinese people forwarding it to one another, it is a subtle act of rebellion. And you can see a lot more such parodies here.

The BBC reports an even more interesting phenomen, through virtual gaming. These games allow Chinese citizens to get back at government through violent fantasy. In Pedlars vs. City Enforcers, you can play act the role of a street hawker fighting officials trying to evict you and destroy your livelihood. You climb through ten levels, fending off thugs who get tougher and ougher.

By Chinese law, many of these hawkers are illegal. In India, they can take the government to court and win their rights. In China, they cannot. They play the game instead.

One can have two views about this all. One, the cynical one, that it is a brilliant diversionary tactic. Vent your frustration in a game, not the street. The other view is that this is a way to send a subtle signal. At a time when overt calls for free speech, like Charter 08 and the letter by 23 senior Chinese officials have been very quickly suppressed.

The internet’s founding promise was that it would be democratising and unpredictable – a true professional provocateuress. It might yet prove to be so.

Posted in Webindon, Wordsmithville | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment