Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An awesome place to work from

After having been used to working from home for almost 9 months, it was really tough to get my ass up and going to work from a new office. But the excitement of setting up a new office and being responsible for it was giving me quite a high. However it turned out that the excitement of setting up a new office was short lived. The reason was that we were considering trying out a new idea namely co-working. For those of you who don't know what co-working is head to http://blog.coworking.com/ get a hang of it. If you want to know in short, read on. Co-working is relatively new idea(6 years old). It is popular in US, Europe and countries like Japan. But in India the fever has just started. There are enough number of good reasons to try Co working. Two reasons why I personally prefer Co-working to working remotely are you won't feel lonely and helps the offices go green.

Now that we had decided to go for co-working, we had to find a suitable place. We listed down the criteria for the selection of the co-working space.

  1. It should be close to me and Chakri. If not at-least the ride should be a one without much traffic hassles. 
  2. The ambiance of the space has to good. It should be a creative space rather than the normal office cubicles.
  3. It should have good Wifi connectivity.
  4. It should be a place where fellow developers would like to hang out in the evenings with a beer.
  5. We should be able to host events where we can evangelize Drupal.
Though we were not able to find a space with all these qualifications, we zeroed in on a space which we felt satisfied most of the above mentioned points. It is located in Koramangala First block. (Yes that is 13 km from my home :( ) But after having a look at this space I could not say no. Since this is a co-working space, it hosts few other companies like http://www.questalliance.net/ , http://blindboys.org/ and few interns from http://www.frogdesign.com/ I am yet to familiarize with the folks here and currently I am waiting for Chakri to come here so that we can go for lunch. There are quite a few eat-outs here as well.

If you are wondering how our new Bangalore office is check out the images below. This images doesn't cover the whole office, they just cover the exteriors and the space we work from. You should check out the whole office some time. Its like a castle :)

Side view

Front view

The main gate
Greenery and sitting space inside 

A room
The yellow structure is the space we work from

The view from my workspace

@azrians : I know I know. If you have any plans of shifting to Bangalore office, I am open to accepting gifts from you(may be an iPad :P) so that I can put across your case to Mohan and Venky ;) By the way don't let him know that I told you this.

Oh here is the address : 108, 6th Cross, 2nd Main Road, Koramangala 1st Block  Bengaluru, Karnataka 560034

Monday, November 28, 2011

Open source has more reasons to thank the cloud

Cloud computing has always been seen as a game-changer. If not today at-least a few years down the line Cloud is definitely gonna change the way we function. A developer, an entrepreneur, a end user and a common man will all have their own version of how the CLOUD changed their lives. But however, as the title suggests, my motivation for writing this article is completely different.

I was at the OSI days 2011 on behalf of Azri solutions, which was held at Nimhans convention center Bangalore. There were a good number of informative sessions and a few workshops which did help many attendees to get a hands on about the the technology being discussed. There we companies : big and small, developers : novice and  pros, marketing teams : strategic and in your face types, students : studious and get-swags, opinions : pro and anti. But all in all, there was a lot of activity happening(business cards being exchanged ;) ) and the awareness about Open Source was raising. Everybody there had a reason and by the end it looked like most of them were happy with the outcome of the event.

But  there was one thing that I could constantly observe behind all this hungama. The marriage of proprietary and open-source software(or their makers) and cloud was the match-maker. Be it the key-note by Gianugo Rabellino, Microsoft or the session "Using Open Source to commoditize your technology" by Gil Yehuda, Yahoo message was clear. 

Remember Gandhi's lines? First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. If we modify this quote for the current scenario it would be First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they accept you as in integral part and the world wins. 

They = Proprietary and you = Open-source

First they ignore you : They did this for too long. They behaved as if open-source didn't exist. Reason? Open-source didn't eat into their pie yet, at that time.

then they laugh at you : Yes that is exactly what they did. They called it ridiculous. They asked "Why would somebody write code for free".

then they fight you : Yes they did fight too. But not directly. They said the features sets of open-source are not exhaustive. They questioned the credibility. They cautioned about business continuity taking a hit. "Lack of support has a ripple effect across an Open Source CMS project", a Sitecore white paper pointed out (You should check out the interesting debate between site-core and Dries here).

then they accept you as in integral part : Though I consider most of the points they point out(in the last paragraph) as not true concerns, that last one is something which I feel the open-source should handle well. And that is exactly the void that proprietary software based companies like microsoft, yahoo can fill. Support is something which is number intensive and big guys can do better. Other areas which have space for collaboration are 3rd party integrations, standard compliance and security measures. These are the ways in which the open-source can benefit from biggies like microsoft and yahoo. What about the reverse direction? The inertia of bigger companies generally prevent them from innovating quickly and the need for standard compliances prevent them from embracing the newer technologies. This is where open-source can be of great help to them.

Though the above mentioned factors have been pushing for the union of proprietary and open-source for quite a few years now, the pace has picked up only recently. The reason? You guessed it right, its cloud computing. Having realized the true business potential of cloud, all the companies are pushing the concept of cloud. (Did I tell you that microsoft was giving away blue tooth handsets for registering to Azure? at #osidays ?)  Now the question still remianing.  How does cloud computing motivate the union? The answer yet again is a simple one. The very concept of cloud has led people to imagine that most of the technologies are supported in the the cloud services that they choose. If the support for proprietary softwares are not provided, the cloud computing providers have a valid reason(the licencing fee), but they have no valid reason for not supporting a open-source CMS, CRM or any software for matter as they come free. And hence naturally the users expect the support for all the major open-source software for free and for sure ;) To provide support for these softwares they need at-least a small team who are well versed with these technologies as then need to provide at-least the basic support once they are providing it in their cloud stack. And the good thing is that it doesn't stop with the small team :)

    Open source has more reasons to thank the cloud.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Drupal CXO Panel Meet : Managing a Drupal consulting firm

Dries lighting the lamp. Image : Vasudeesha

After an early morning flight from Bangalore to Delhi, and a ride in the Delhi Airport Metro Express (DAME) and the Delhi local metro, I was late for Drupal Camp Delhi. Unfortunately I missed the Dries' keynote speech. But however the Panel discussion was still in progress and the volunteers ushered me to the Panel Discussion Hall. Being a speaker at the camp did help after all.

The room boasted off  CXO's of most popular small and medium scale Drupal houses from India. [For those of you those who don't know what CXO is, basically X can be replaced by a meaningful letter. So CTO, CEO, CFO, CLOs ... all fall under CXO]

These were the following points that caught my attention during the panel discussion.

Lack of Drupal Talent : This was one issue that every CXO in the room agreed to. Being a Drupal developer myself, I could not agree more. The number of calls I keep getting regarding the new opportunities to shift is just a testimony.

The response from Dries & Ron was that even Acquia faces the problem, and their solution was to start the drupal training by themselves and then create a in-house talent pool. The CXOs too felt that this is the only viable option that was available to them. But since training a talent pool in-house is not cheap either, most of them felt that a group of companies coming together to have a common training was something that they were willing to try out.

Specialization is the key :  It was interesting to see the CXOs swear by their companies that they would not work on the projects that don't pay them well (read as 15$/hour projects). Looks like they have learnt their lessons the hard-way. The problem with the 15$/hour projects is that they don't give the companies enough scope to innovate but takes up the resources of the company. One of the CXO went ahead and said "I would rather have people on bench rather than working on one such project". 

Irrespective of the companies and the regions, it is a know fact that Drupal houses in India work very cheap. Their per hour rates are abysmal. Not many India companies are in a position to charge more than 50$/ hour for the development. The key here is specialization. The companies can cross this border only if they have a niche and they can promote themselves as specialists. Specialization doesn't come cheap and companies have to invest their time and resources on them. But the results are worth the efforts. The other advantage of the specialization is that it gives the companies an easy exit from the projects. So the companies have a definite deadline. They know when their entry is and they can plan when their exit should be. "Don't be a slave of your own creations" somebody from the panel rightly quoted.

Scaling Drupal Companies :  Drupal is good for a freelancer. It is good for the startups too. But what next. How can Drupal companies scale? This was the question. Partnerships, Mergers and Acquisitions was the answer. Most of the Companies have European and UK partners who bag the projects and these companies take care of the executions. There was a CXO in the room, whose company was recently acquired. (Rahul mentioned this after taking his permission.) 

Few of the CXO's were of the opinion that Acquia should partner more with the India companies and give them the much needed credibility, which the bigger corporations expect. But Acquia was of the opinion that they can only partner with the companies in India if they have a particular niche. Acquia also made it clear that they were not partnering with any companies in India, as most of them were into the whole development cycles and didn't have a niche of their own.

Exit strategies : This was something which I had never thought of until I attended the panel discussion. The fact that these people are thinking about the exit strategies proves that these people are considering Drupal seriously as a money making instrument, which is good for Drupal in particular and open source in general. I was just wondering if Acquia also has an exit strategy and what would that be.

If this was one perspective, Mohan from Azri solutions introduced another interesting perspective namely "Exit strategy from the clients". Most of the companies would have gone through this. Though the project if functionally complete, you still need to spend lot of time with the clients doing the menial tasks like content creation, formatting and changing the texts... Mohan rightfully pointed out that educating the clients is the best solution for this. Have a workshop with the technical team of the clients and transfer the most of the responsibilities to their in-house team so that our valued time can be spent on something more productive.

Lack of visibility :  Visibility of the Indian Drupal houses to me seemed to be Abysmal as always. Drupal houses from India not even featuring in the top ten for searches like "Drupal Companies India" only makes the things much worse. One of them brought this to the notice of the panel saying that when he actually wanted to give out a project to a Indian Drupal team, he was not able to find the names of most of the companies in the panel room. Pity! . The only SME that everybody felt had a better visibility was Srijan.

At-least in this angle, Drupal India still has long way to go. I have just reserved a domain called www.drupalenterprise.in I am planning to make it like a portal where drupal companies can list themselves, their details and their projects, so that it will be easier for the clients to find them. If you have any ideas or want to contribute to this project, write to me nkgokul at gmail dot com

Friday, October 28, 2011

Google+ and you : The same rules that apply in life apply in google+ too

Google+ = +You 
Be yourself on google.
But you are different to different people. You have circles on Google+ You can be a writer in your writer circles and a zombie in your zombie circles.

Know what you want in your life. Know what you want from Google+ and Google+ can be that for you. You just need to know the right chrome extensions and the settings. If you want it to be like facebook, it can be. If you want it to be like twitter, it can be. But have patience, especially if you want it to be like facebook because your friends are gonna take some time to be on Google+.

Your life is boring if you don't have a good circle of friends. The same with Google+. If you don't have interesting people in your circles, then your stream is definitely going to be boring. Go find some interesting people. More the merrier, interesting the better.

They say "A man is known by the company he keeps" . In G+Arena we call it "A plusser is known by the people in his circles and the people in whose circles he is". You find some interesting people circle them and through them you find more like minded interesting people. For the second part(to be in interesting people's circles) keep reading.

When you see a bunch of people discussing your favorite topic, you join the conversation. When a see an interesting post go drop your opinion,add value. Adding comments to a post can be a great way to find like minded people. And once in a while skim through the comments of some interesting posts and you will find many like minded people who fit into your circles.

When you have too many friends, if is difficult to catch up. This can happen to you on Google+ too. Don't be in a hurry too add to many people into your circles. Thanks to circle sharing, if you are adding hundreds of people in one go you are not doing it right. Even if you want to circle people from shared circles, I suggest that you go through their profiles before adding them to your circles.

If you want to be famous,  you must be interesting enough. If you are on Google+ to build your followers, then you must post interesting content regularly in whatever field that interests you. There is no shortcut :P

I am not popular but I am happy.  I don't have thousand of followers on Google+. But I am still happy with Google+, because it has given me a chance to meet and converse with many interesting people. If not for Google+ I would never have been able to exchange a formal greeting with them, forget about discussions.

Live life your way. Don't follow others advice when you are happy with your life. Similarly all these are just my experiences  that I thought might help you too. But if you are happy with Google+ the way you are using it now, I see no reason you should follow my advice.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hey Girl!! Are you celebrating Independence Day?

Come tomorrow we will all be celebrating the Independence Day. Few are just happy that they have got a three day weekend and they would be snoring away to glory tomorrow. There are other few who bring out the patriotism that was hidden with them for almost 365 days, barring a day or two when India beat Pakistan in cricket or when India won some sports tournament. There are very few others who will remember those great men who sacrificed their lives and freedom and so that we have freedom of speech, expression and taking the responsibility of our lives.

Tomorrow we will see so many guys riding up on biked holding the national flag, their head held high that they are living in a nation which uphold independence. But the irony is that the same guy would have asked his sister/wife to stay back at home. The same guy would have asked his daughter to stay back at home. On one side we feel proud about ourselves for upholding these ideals on the other side we are blind to the Freedom that is snatched from our own sisters, wives and daughters at home. What is more disturbing is that this has never occurred to our minds. Why so? The only thing I can think of as reason is the kind of upbringing we have had. In most of the families, a girl who wants to be independent and live her life on her own terms is always seen as liability. Isn't it strange that, "When a guys wants to do something on his own, people call him independent. But when a girls wants to do something on her own, she is termed Rebellious". We live in such a hypocritic society and everybody seems to blissfully ignorant about the same.

The issue is not just with the guys. Its the same with the girls too. If you are a girl there is a high probability that you have heard these dialogues from some Old lady somewhere some time – “Girls these days have changed, they don’t have any responsibility they don’t know how to cook, they won’t wear sarees, they won’t wear burka, they won’t follow traditions..culture, and they don’t respect elders so on and so forth”. The irony is that the same girl who felt suffocated when her parents thrust so many rules on her, when she goes on to become a woman will, try to thrust the same rules on her daughter. What a pity! Coming from their mothers who are considered as the source of wisdom by many girls, they give in. And hence a girl who was a topper in her class till her degree, all of a sudden turns out into a unrecognized (sorry recognized at home) house-wife, who will cook a good meal and raise her kid. All that her degree was worth is to help her kid to do home work (wow topper in degree to a house-wife doing some daily chores). What a life? or should I say what an irony of life .

Haven't you come across a friend of yours(a girl) who has wants to be independent but gives up her job as it is not a tradition in their families to work after marriage? Haven't you come across a colleague of your who doesn't want to come for a trip as her parents don't agree? Haven't you come across a friend of yours who is always lively and bubbly, but suddenly goes silent because her boy-friend is over possessive? Haven't you come across a friend who has felt ashamed in-front of a crowd because she has got to go to a rest room as she is having her cycles? What do we do in such circumstances? We all maintain our golden silence. We may not be able to do much, but our understanding of their problems and our small reassurances can give them a mountain of hope.

So what can you do as a boy?

1.) If you have a sister at home, make sure that she gets the same treatment that you do.
2.) Never tell her things that can shatter her self-confidence and do your bit so that she gets what she rightfully deserves.
3.) If you have girl-friend or a wife, you can be protective about her. But make sure that it doesn't suffocate her.
4.) When a friend in your gang says or does something that might hurt the modesty of a girl in the team, educate him.
5.) Try to suppress your MALE-EGO which has no logical reason. Stop being a MCP.

What if you are girl

1.) Stand up for yourself and speak out. Remember you can't blame somebody for spoiling your life, if you don't stand up for yourself. But when you stand up you got to take the responsibility for you life. And when you don't speak for yourself, you are doing the greatest harm to yourself.
2.) When you can't stand up for yourself, at-least speak for yourself. When you can't speak for yourself at-least make sure that the person who is doing the injustice to you feels guilty about it.
3.) Whether you are part of a gang of friends or team at office or family at home, try to establish a system where there is reward for good treating girls well and a high cost of treating girls badly.
4.) Nobody wants to be seen as an individual or an organisation that doesn't respect women. This is independent of what they are actually. When somebody treats a girl badly, make sure that the other guys in the team chide him for that. As an individual one may treat girl badly, but in-front of a group nobody want to be seen as MCP. Use this to your advantage.
5.) One of the things that you should be familiar is the MALE-EGO. You should tie the good treatment towards women with this. After all he is no man who cannot respect a woman. Imprint this in the minds of men who are around you in your daily lives. A real man respects a lady, and his lady respects him for that.

(Few of the above may go wrong for girls. So make sure that you have the support of at-least few good men. And I strongly believe there are at-least a few good men irrespective of where you belong)

I have taken up my Independence Day resolution. What about you ?

A society in which a woman is not entitled to have her self respect, shall decay in the course of time; as depriving a woman of her self respect is like disrespecting the very essence of our existence : Motherhood.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Right to Information Act

Recently I came across a video about RTI. It was 44 mins long. So I had to postpone watching the video 4 times. I thought it is better to put down the important notes from the video, so that at-least lazy people like me can know the gist in few minutes. These are just my observations from the video . Please visit RTI site for the authentic data.

Question 1 : What is RTI?
Answer      :  RTI is an acronym of Right To Information.

Question 2 : How is RTI a part of our fundamental rights..?
Answer      : Right to  freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right. People cannot speak or express when they don't know. So you are entitled to your right to information and and hence RTI forms a fundamental right.

Question 3 :  What are the rights I am entitled to under RTI?
  1. Ask for any information from the government.
  2. Inspect any government document.
  3. Ask for photocopies of any government document.
  4. Inspect any government work.
  5. Ask for sample of materials of any government work.

Question 4 : How do I apply for any information under RTI?
Answer   4 : Write your application in a plain white paper, like you do for your leave application ;) and submit it to the public information officer(PIO) in the government office from which you want to collect information. Keep a photocopy of the application.

Question 5 : Whom to contact?
Answer   5 : Every government office will have Public Information Officer(PIO) and you submit your application to him by paying a nominal fee. Don't forget to take the receipt for your payment.
629 post offices have been designated as Assistant Public Information Officer(APIOs). This means that you can go to any of these post offices and submit your fee and application at the RTI counter in these post offices. They will issue you a receipt and acknowledgement and it is the responsibility of that post office to deliver it to the right PIO. The list of these post offices is given at http://www.indiapost.gov.in/rtimanual16a.html

Question 6 : What if I don't get  a response?
Answer   6    : Your RTI application is supposed to get a response in a max of  35 days, failing which the salary of the employee is liable to deduction.

Question 7 : Has RTI been successful?
Answer 7      : RTI has been successful in many cases. And it has been effectively used by the poor and deprived. So there is no reason it can't be successful with the educated ones like us.

Question 8   :  IS RTI really powerful ?
Answer 8        :  RTI application can be a powerful alternative to bribery in the government offices. When you pay a bribe the officials are not liable to you, but when you file a RTI they are liable to answer you. RTI along with lokpal can bring about the much awaited transparency in the government offices. RTI will make the babus liable to disclose any information that people request whereas Lokpal would make all the offenders punishable irrespective of their positions. In total these laws will put the power into the safest hands in a democracy : People.

Question 9  :  What can I do after knowing all this ?
Answer 9       :  As an assignment try to file an RTI in the government office nearest to you. You can request for  information like who the contractor for the incomplete road is, why the METRO project is getting delayed, why there are no enough government in your office route, list of all the MLA's of your area in the last 20 years. You can think of many more such information that might help you to know more about the government spendings or which will prompt the officials to think twice before doing something wrong.
You can also create awareness about RTI among your friends and colleagues,

Question 10 (taken from RTI site): How does this law help me in getting my work done? Give me a proof
Answer 10   :
Let us take the case of Nannu. He was not being given his ration card. But when he applied under RTI, he was given a card within a week. What did Nannu ask? He asked the following questions:
  1. I filed an application for a duplicate ration card on 27thJanuary 2004. Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?
  2. According to the rules, my card should have been made in 10 days. However, it is more than three months now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?
  3. What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?
  4. By when would I get my card now?
In normal circumstances, such an application would be thrown in a dustbin. But this law says that the Government has to reply in 30 days. If they don’t do that, their salary could be deducted. Now, it is not easy to answer these questions.
The first question is – please provide the daily progress made on my application.
There is no progress made. But the government officials cannot write in these many words that they have not acted for so many months. Else that would be admission of guilt on paper.
The next question is – please provide the names and designations of the officers who were supposed to take action on my application and who had not done so
If the government provides names and designations of the officials, their responsibility gets fixed. Any officer is most scared of fixing of responsibility against him in this manner. So, the moment one files such an application, his/her pending work is done.

For a full list of FAQs about RTI visit RTI site

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Sometimes you have to set your eyes off the target to enjoy the race. You loose the race, you can be happy that you enjoyed the race at-least. And you win the race, Bingo. What good is winning a race if you didn't enjoy the race at all.

Caveat : I do believe in goal setting and slogging for your goals. It' just that I don't slog, when I don't like something.