Sunday, October 15, 2017

Medium - you disappointment.


A place without the Social Media noise.

A place to go to read what the great minds are thinking.

A place without Advertisements or Clickbaits.

That place was Medium. It is no more.

But isn't Medium a business?

It is a business at the end of the day. There is no free lunch. Medium has to pay its staff. The investors need an exit.

But shouldn't knowledge and thoughts be free?

Human Kind has progressed with the free flow of knowledge. Whenever knowledge was dammed, chaos reigned. Human progress slows down. When knowledge is shared, we grow by leaps and bounds.

Tesla made all its patents open source. So other electric car manufacturers can develop on it. Volvo invented the seat belt and opened up its patent. They saved millions of lives.

In contrast.. Apple and Google and Samsung - the Mobile Phone giants are patenting the smallest of idea - and stiffling innovation in Mobile phones - so no new ideas can come to life - except the giants.

Or like India not having access to  Cryogenic rocket technology - which the Superpowers hold it within themselves and so we still haven't been able to launch a human to space.

Venkat, you got fooled so dont blame Medium

Agreed I misled myself. I believed Medium to be this utopian watering hole I go to read about Productivity Hacks, Entrepreneurs, Cancer Survivors. I love(d) Medium.

But it all has come to an end. Medium is now forcing me to pay to access this content.

Can't you just pay the 5$ a month?

Yes, I can. Mostly I will. Medium is where I turn for inspiration or book ideas or stimulate my mind and curiosity.

So what is Venkat's problem?

If writers start writing for money - will it not again get into the clickbait territory. The writers get paid based on the claps they get. So they will start writing for more claps. What gets claps? - Sensational stuff. Things that appeal to the darkest part of the human mind. Things that make you say eew and aaw.. and yet you will read. Things like the accident on the road when a crowd surrounds it - you want to peek in.

I just described above - the Tabloid Newspapers, The News Channels, The Articles on Social Media

Medium was free of all that. Because writers wrote freely with no monetary carrot dangling in front of them.

The whole concept of Medium is shattered.

So what is the solution?

Medium was started by the co-founder of Twitter - Evan Williams. I can bet it does not take billions of dollars to develop and run Medium. Evan Williams could have just sustained single handedly from a fraction of his annual income.

Heck. If Medium had just asked for donation like Wikipedia - people would have paid.

There are so many sites still running - Ad free - Wikipedia, Craigstlist, Angelist..


You Devil called Money. We hate you but we cannot live without you.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What I learnt from fasting for 30 days

Few of my Muslim colleagues and friends were starting the month long Ramzan Fast.In Tools of the Titans book I had read how the health nuts go on long fasts and the health benefit they get.

I had to jump into the fray. 

I started researching on the month long 12 hour fast without food or water. I knew I could manage without food but water - that was the big doubt I had. I am someone who always goes around with a water bottle in hand.

Here is the story on what I discovered in the 30 day fast. 


Keto State

First some Biology.

There are 2 mechanisms how energy is distributed in the body.  The first is the normal one. We eat food - and the Carbohydrates gets broken down to glucose and blood carries this to all parts of the body. When glucose content is low we feel depleted and low on energy. Body refuses to move, brain usage slows down - and it will start searching for the next food - and the whole cycle repeats. 

However, when things are not normal - when food is scarce - an alternative energy distribution mechanism called the Keto State will kick in. In the early Neanderthal humans - when a drought or famine comes along or there is no more game to hunt -  these pre-historic humans will have to go for days without food or water - they cannot sit still and complain but they have to migrate or travel longer distances to find food. During these emergency situations the body then starts breaking the stored fat and produces “Ketos”. These Ketos give the energy to move and also burn their brain cells to find new territories and fend off hostile predators and environments. 

The performance of both mind and body is enhanced - significantly.  Otherwise because of lack of Carbohydrates if the human body had shut down - we as a species would have got eliminated long back. 

This enhanced state is the “Keto State”. Body burns Fat instead of Carbohydrates. 

This is the same thing that happens during Full Marathons - after the runner depletes the stored glucose between 24-28 KMs - they come across this wall when the body has to start burning Fat. If they cross this barrier - then they can keep running - even beyond the 42KMs - even 100+ in a day.. what Ultra Runners do regularly.

My experience in Keto State

Once the body switched to Keto state -  I had a  certain euphoric feeling throughout the day and I felt always energetic and alert. I had dropped coffee - being a diuretic I was sceptical of having coffee during fasting. Yet did not experience any slow down or lethargy in spite of no caffeine in the blood. 

At times for longer periods during the day - I felt the exact “clear mindedness” I get after running for 2 hours / a hour long Sudarshan Kripa / dip + meditation in Isha dome - It was amazing. 

I seemed to have tapped into an infinite energy source within myself. Once I went on a marathon training session from 10AM to 4:30 PM. Around 1PM the participants took turns for lunch. I kept going. Even at 4:30 I was still going strong. I am someone who gets drained after a couple of hours - not a human interaction types person - meetings and training’s mentally drain me. I was pleasantly surprised it was the same me - that too running on empty.

Another time - I had to walk around a bit - and around 1:30 PM I was totally drained. I think morning whatever little carbs I ate - got used up and body was shutting down. The next meeting was at 2 and I found a chair and slumped into it. Took a quick nap and once the 2PM meeting started - I had a tremendous burst of energy. Kept going till evening. 

Yes, there were some down moments in this as well. 

First few days in the evenings I will get a mild headache which went off after breaking the fast. Did get angry and irritated more than my regular quota. Also noticed in a few people who were fasting were getting irritated and were short tempered. Or could be it was me - the world gets coloured with the vision of ourselves.  Started my regular Sahaj meditation and it was brought under control. Had to start using Mouth wash twice a day - to fend off the bad breath. Other than these there were no other issues I faced.  

The Vegetarian Faster

Fasting is the only way to get to Keto State. We have to starve the body of Carbs. I picked this from Paleo diet -  they eat Fat and only fat and they completely avoid Carbs. 

It is tough for a plant eater. To get to Keto state fast - one has to cut down all carbs and switch to a fully fatty diet. Fat is in abundance in meat. Vegetarians get fat mainly from Milk products and Egg. If you are a Pure vegetarian - Eggs are a no go. If you are a Vegan - even milk is a no go. I don’t think Vegans can go to Keto state. 

I am in the path to be a Vegan - so had cut down on Milk and Egg. My morning cup of coffee is my only milk intake. Eggs are rare. 

I had to go back to my Milk and Egg diet. Milk in the form of Paneer, Butter and Cheese. 

I will wake up around 5:00 AM and stuff myself with Paneer, 2 Eggs, Sprouts, Butter with 1 bread, a banana and chug half a jug of water. After a week I reduced to half of what I was eating. I will try to finish it all off before 6:00 AM. I was not following the strict sunrise to sunset my Muslim friends were following - but from 6AM to 6PM or to 7:30 PM depending on when I get home.  

Dinner I will eat a roti or two with some Chenna or Paneer based Sabzi - and will have lots of veggies, sprouts, soaked peanut, fruits etc. 

In my research Sprouts and Dates are a must - and are the magic food that kept me going. Once I broke my fast in the evening, but did not eat sprouts. Dinner was not ready and I felt drained and almost slept off without eating dinner.. Later I made sure I eat the sprouts both times of the day. 

Is this healthy?

I should have done a blood test before and after. Kicking myself for not having done it. There is scientific evidence on the cleansing of accumulated toxins these intense fasts do. I checked my weight before and after - remained the same. Might have dropped in the middle. 

However, it is not to be done for elongated periods of time - beyond a month. Then the returns diminish and might end up hurting the fragile ecosystem of our body. Paleo dieters should do the carb free diet once or twice a year for a month. 

Another tweak I am doing going forward is to reduce Carb Intake. Swap the portions of Rice and Side dish. That is Side dish takes over the Center plate, and rice moves into a cup where the side dish was. 

Fasting is present in every religion - Hindus typically do it around Moon cycle - planning to adopt this in my routine. Christians have Lent. Muslims have Ramzan. Jains have even more intense fasts - 24 hours I believe. 

I will be back in 2018 and will do the the Ramzan fast. So I can continue dishing out such dialogues as “I am a Buddhist, who fasts like a Muslim and listens to Shiv Slokhas”.

New Achievement unlocked in Game of life.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Man's Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl is a difficult book to read - if you are the types who get sucked into it. I typically read before sleep, and I could not go to sleep while reading this book.

Victor Frankl is a Psychatrist by profession and he and is wife are picked by the Germans and sent to the camps.

The first half is all about Victor's experience in the Nazi camps. How the prisoners are shepherded from one Camp to another in train - with no knowledge if they are being sent to the Gas Chambers or to another camp.

I strongly recommend this book - will give a new outlook to your life.

"He who has a why to live forcan bear almost any how"

"Mental health is based on a certain degree of tension - between what one has already achieved and what one still has to accomplish"

"What man needs is not a tensionless state but rather striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal"

"Live as if you are living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now."

"No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. "

"Man is ready to suffer on one condition - to be sure - that his suffering has a meaning. "

"He is not only unhappy but also ashamed of being unhappy. "

"Lying on your death bed ask your self - was your life meaning full "

Monday, May 01, 2017

Tools of Titans - Book Review and Actionable Items

I love Tim Ferris and his hacks. [ 4 Hour Work Week ] 

In Tools of Titans he has put together a bunch of show notes from his podcast interviews. Very shoddy and all mixed up and very difficult to read because of the links he has provided all over the place [ How am I supposed to watch a YouTube video on Kindle? ]. This style might not be digestible for some.

Other than this little downside on the messy format - each and every chapter has some good take away or the other. Each of the celebrities [ from Startup, Tech, Media... name anything ]  have a few habits which has made them successful and they have shared it in this book.

This book is like a Gold mine. Lot of actionable items. 

Ok - here are some of the key take aways I am making it part of my daily routine. 

1. Cold Showers. After an intense workout, the athletes sweat it out in a  Steam Sauna, then they immediately plunge themselves into a bathtub filled with ice blocks. These are what an Olympic Athelete Trainer makes his athletes do for quick recovery. Well at the least I can take a cold shower - which itself has tremendous benefits. The geyser in our bathroom has conked off - why fix it? Let me see if I can continue through the Bangalore Winter. 

2. Meditation. 90% of the interviewees either do TM or Vipasana Meditation. Every time I came across this while reading the book, I started feeling guilty. I used to do Sudharshan Krista (SKY) once or twice a month - or whenever the top story gets clogged. I used this guilt as a fuel and since last 1 week from Monday thru Saturday I started doing SKY. I could see the results immediately -  my resting heart beat went from an average of 74 to 72 and at times even saw 66 - all within a week. [ Measured with an Apple watch and it is damn accurate. In January I had compared the Apple watch reading real time with an ECG machine when I did the Treadmill test - so this is not just an apple fanboy's assertion ]

3. Early to Rise. Obvious isn't it. Wake up early and use the time to work on a hard problem or a creative pursuit or do meditation. Surya Namaskar ( 10 minutes ) + SKY ( 45 minutes ) + Sahaj Meditation ( 20 minutes ) with breaks in between takes close to 1.5 hours. Also I have now started running on alternate days. All these cost lot of Morning time.

The average wake up time for all these Titans is 4:45 AM. And it is a good sweet spot - not too early, and not too late to do the Meditation + Run. I now wake up between 4 and 5 AM - with no alarm.  On the days I do both SKY + Run - my brain does not get tired at all - even when it turns 10 PM. I produce so much during the day that it is unreal. 

4. Affirmation Journal. Dilbert's Scott Adams - before he became the famous cartoonist + office politics satirist - once attended a Mensa Meeting. One of the participants with an IQ of 180+ told him - daily write your wish in a diary 15 times and watch it come true. Scott Adams thought if a 180+ IQ person is suggesting such a thing - it cannot be stupid. "What the heck - let me give it a shot", he said to himself and suppressing his doubtful part of the brain - he started on an affirmation journal - by affirming daily that he will write a Bestseller. And lo and behold in 4 years his book became a bestseller. When he started writing this affirmation - he was still in the Corporate world - he had not even published a single cartoon. Could be part universe, or could be his own belief in himself. It worked. 

There was another story on Spanx - a young lady who had a rough life, no huge credentials, college drop out -  created a billion dollar company single handedly on her sheer belief by talking to the "Universe" and expecting the Universe to make things happen. 

My Spiritual Writer Guru - Paula Coelho - in The Alchemist says this same thing - When you want something badly, the Universe will  conspire to get it for you. 

I have also heard similar things said by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadguru, Mata Nirmala Devi - on the existence of "Cosmic Energy" and how opening up your Kundalani Chakras allows one to link to this Cosmic Energy - and things start happening. Everything is inter connected - we do not live in isolation. Looking back at my life I have witnessed such things - how all the bowling pins align themselves into one column and fall so neatly one after the other like dominoes.

Yes, I believe in the "Universe" or the "Cosmic Energy" - and ready to be plugged into this - like Keanu Reaves into the Matrix! 

I have now added Affirmation journal to my daily routine. Daily 15 times I write 2 affirmations - the contents will not share now - you will see the results in the coming years :) 

5. Fasting. Every athlete, ultra marathoner fasts. Either they do an intense monthly fasting for a few days, or go into a weekly juice diet. Fasting is extremely beneficial. I am doing research on how to fast - as a vegetarian - for the upcoming 40 day Ramzan fast. I might take the plunge this year. 

6. Writing Muscle. To do something well, you have to practise on it over and over and over. There were some good tips I picked up. 

Write something, anything - 3 pages a day. Dont worry if it gets published or what the reader will say. Think you are writing to throw it away - so write whatever comes to your mind. So later in the day, when you are composing that difficult email to a customer or an employee - it just flows and you are not stuck. 

The Writing muscle has to be trained and nurtured. 

Create 3 sections - Ideas, Drafts, Publish - and keep moving posts from one bucket to another. Sometimes when creative energy is high - work on the Idea bucket and add as much as possible. When there is a lot of time - move a post from Idea bucket to Drafts bucket and bring the idea to life. When time is short or creative energy is less or waiting for a delayed meeting or want to switch context from an intense coding session - move a post from Draft to Publish and clean up the post to Publish.  This way one is not stuck at the enormosity of the work that goes into publishing a blog post - but can keep working at it in chunks based on the energy level. Yet to implement it ( this very blog post I am doing all 3 at once ).

7. Becoming Strong. Forget the 6 pack or a flat stomach or a PopEye bicep. Focus on becoming Strong. Because that is what will help in old age - instead of being dependent on others. Now this is a good goal. 

I sorely lack in this area. I only do aerobics now. Have to start adding Strength training to my routine. 

If you pick up this book - your mileage will vary dependent on what you want to do with life. There is an entire section  ( book has 3 sections - healthy, wealthy and wise ) devoted to becoming Wealthy. It is how these Titans do investments. Will revisit after I have some stash built.

So that's all folks. 

With some disciplined effort + working out smartly + some help from the Universe - anyone can become a Titan.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Online Subscription Services

Yesterday I went for a demo. An elderly gentleman - Vice President of this Society asked me - why should I pay recurring and not one time. Just give me your software we will put it in this computer - showed me an old computer with a CRT monitor - and we are good.
It has been a while I had answered this question - "a while" being - might be 2 or 3 years. I take it for granted nowadays that Online Software as a Service ( SaaS ) is the way to go.
Here are the Online Services I use - on a monthly / yearly basis .
1. Apple Music - Rs.190 per month - for an infinite supply of songs.
2. Amazon Prime Subscription - Rs.499 per year ( introductory I believe - will be Rs.999 later )
3. - Rs. 2,750 per year - for well researched Indian startup news 5 times a week.
4. Art of living app - Rs.60 per month. For the Pranayama count mainly.
5. Apple 200GB Storage - Rs.140 per month
6. Magzter - Top Gear - Rs.670 per year, Readers Digest - Rs.370
7. Wired Magazine - Rs. 1200 per year.
8. Newton - Mail Client - Rs.1650 per year
9. Audible  - Rs.1100 a month - get 1 audio book a month.  

Had tried Netflix, Kindle Unlimited - but stopped them.
1. - Kickass Tool to track sprints. 20$ per month.
2. Jetbrains tools - PhpStorm, IntelliJ, PyCharm, Webstorm paid yearly.
3. Adobe Creative Cloud - for Photoshop paid monthly - some 70$ per month total
4. Zeplin - 20$ per month - for UX Team to upload design and Developers to use them
5. Github - 50$ per month
6. Marketing automation tools - 30$ and 50$ per month
7. Intuit Quickbooks - Rs.5000 per year - for our company's online Accounting
8. Google Apps for our email - Rs.150 per user per month. Bonus we get Google Docs and lot of storage space - to which we are migrating lock stock and barrel. Not using Dropbox.
9. Eapps, Amazon AWS and Linode Servers - Not disclosing :)
10. Microsoft Office 365 - but we are switching to Google Docs - 80% are using Ubuntu inside ADDA so we had to let go off Office. A few licenses are still being used when we have to communicate with the outside world. I have switched to Numbers/Pages/Keynote.
Yes, I do not own any of the Software or the Hardware. Enjoy the upgrades and benefits like backup and 100% uptime and can sleep peacefully at night.

Monday, February 06, 2017

I am The Product Manager

Of the various hats I have worn all these years - founder, Sales guy, Deployment Specialist, Level 1 and Level 2 Support, DevOps, Cheque depositor - I have come to realize I was a Product Manager all along - right from the get go.

Putting a label on what you do is extremely important. It helps you define the job you do, appreciate it, read more on it and helps you improve on that particular skill.

If you are the guy/girl in charge of making the Product among the Founding Team - you are the Product Manager. Say it out aloud - "I am the Product Manager". The fate of your entire Startup lies in your decisions.

All other designations - CEO, CTO, Director, Co-Founder all are important - for the outside world and your team-mates - but nothing is as critical as the “Product Manager” hat you are wearing now.

Strap the Product Manager Hat tight.

When I gave Sales demo - I was not trying to get a Cheque out of the customer. I was listening to their pain points, and my mind was frantically scanning to see how my Startup could alleviate those paint points. I was trying to find patterns among Customers - so my solution can solve them all. I was trying to see how much value we can give them, and price our product as a fraction of the value ( and not just features ).

When I was paying the monthly bill for AWS account - and saw it was increasing gradually, asked myself - Are such resource hogging servers really necessary - and promptly turned them off - and found better cost effective alternatives. Also when I plan a feature, I keep the cost in mind - I am not going to get sold on the hype of a technology [ NoSql I am looking right at you]

When I got a customer to go live - I realised how a few small features created some of the biggest headaches and heartburns. Promptly booted them off or tweaked them.

When I had to do Marketing - do SEO, or write content for Brochrures, or create Competitor analysis - I had to analyse inwardly as well as the competition and could identify the areas we were strong and weak. I knew what areas we could pull ahead of the competition - become more stronger, and what areas we had to improve - so we cannot be beaten down with.

If you are the Product Manager of a Startup - and working 9 to 5, doing a few customer interviews, talking to the CEO/CTO/Founder, browsing competitors website/Apps, STOP - you have to do more. [ ps : Startup founders, if you have hired Product Managers - here is what they have to start doing ]

1. Accompany the Sales guys in a few demos. In fact you should constantly do this - product keeps changing, market keeps changing, competiton keeps changing.

2. Get your hands dirty and deploy a few accounts - from start to finish.

3. Write the next set of marketing material, do the next Competitor Analysis document yourself - instead of just giving inputs.

4. Do SEO, plan the adwords campaign yourself.

5. Be the DevOps and/or pay the AWS bill from your pocket and get it reimbursed - and see for yourself that one cool feature which hardly anyone uses is costing a bomb.

And for my startup founders - Say it aloud. Stick it in big fonts right in front of you.

“I am the Product Manager"