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Posts from — January 2012

Book Review: Death by Facebook by Everett Peacock

Title: Death by Facebook
Author: Everett Peacock
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 4th 2011)
Genre: Mystery
Read: eBook
Stars: ****/5
Summary: (GoodReads)
A vacationing soldier in Hawaii…
Earth’s most active volcano, anxious to repeat itself…
Two murders involving love, madness, friendship, hippies, tsunamis, and the great hereafter…

DEATH BY FACEBOOK by Everett Peacock
Be careful what you say online

Review:

The story plays out in Hawaii where James and Janet have gone for a vacation before he gets deployed to Afghanistan. Janet murders James and the book is about why she did that and the consequences of the murder on the island like a butterfly effect but much closer.

Death by Facebook has a lot of characters but each adds to the story. I found myself relating and feeling for each one of the many characters on the island.

Other than the murder Everett Peacock describes a volcano eruption and its impact on the people on the island. The mix of the kind of people he chooses to tell the story are varied – from a hippie to the police and scientists. The views and reactions of people in crisis fascinated me.

When I picked up this book I thought it would be all about Facebook and a murder but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Facebook played only a small part in the large story. There was so much more happening. The book is written well and grabs the reader. The pace of the story is good with a lot of action.

The book got me thinking about Facebook and just how powerful it could be both to do good and evil. Just how far reaching its messages are and its impact on people.

It also questioned good and evil. Janet starts her journey through the book as an evil person who murders her fiancé but as I went along with the story getting to know her better, I started to question if it was she who was evil or her situation.

I’d recommend this book to all who are looking for something different to read that is still enjoyable.

January 31, 2012   1 Comment

Is Amazon trying to monopolise the book readers market?

Amazon seems to be getting very restrictive recently both towards authors and readers. It seems Amazon is trying to increase sales and monopolise the market by forcing authors and sites such as GoodReads to link only to them.

Amazon is forcing authors to restrict their books to only Amazon and I’ll talk about how they’re doing that in a few days.

With readers Amazon seems to be playing a different game. Its targeting sites like GoodReads that use the Amazon API for book data. The new terms of the Amazon API licensing agreement are very restrictive. Amazon requires that books on GoodReads link for sales only to Amazon.com. No other book sites are allowed. The other requirement is that the API data not be used on mobile sites and apps.

This may not impact GoodReads but it impacts us readers. Amazon in simple words is saying we can buy only for them and no one else. That is an infringement on our freedom to choose. GoodReads has chosen to not give in to Amazon and instead move away to other data sources. This means we can continue to compare prices across bookstores. This also means that we can continue to use GoodReads both as a website and an app on the mobile.

Good work GoodReads!

GoodReads has sent out emails to users telling them about moving away from Amazon and asking for help with book details. Here the email I received.

“Dear Freya,

We want to let you know about a change on our site that is impacting some of the books on your shelves. It’s important that you read this and take action by Monday, January 30.

For years, we’ve used Amazon’s data for information such as the book title, author, and publication date. Unfortunately, the terms required by Amazon have now become so restrictive that we decided it makes better sense to work with other data sources. However, the deadline to make the transition is Amazon’s, and they have told us that we must stop using their data by January 30. We have to meet this deadline.

We’ve been adding data from other sources and now know which books still need help. You are receiving this email because we need new sources for 2 of the book on your shelves.

First, please be assured that none of your reviews or ratings are in danger. Not a single review, comment, shelving, or rating will be lost in this transition. We have a system in place to preserve your reviews and comments for any books at risk until we can find new sources. That’s the most important thing—your data is 100 percent safe.

What can you do? The good news is you can rescue your books. Saving a book is easy. Just click the “Rescue Me!” button next to each book edition that needs help, and fill in the information on the following page. A few keystrokes can help preserve these books for millions of future readers.

It takes only a few clicks, and you will be doing your part to make sure these books remain available for other readers like you. We appreciate the passion you bring to Goodreads, and we apologize for the short notice. If we could have prevented this inconvenience in any way, we would have done it. Ultimately, this change will be better for the members of Goodreads and long-term success of the site.

If you don’t want to rescue your books, you can also export your books to a spreadsheet so you have a record of them.

All the best,
Otis & Elizabeth
Goodreads Founders”

I rescued two books and am happy and proud to be a part of GoodReads. Amazon monopolizing the book market seems so like what publishers have done for ages; it should be stopped.

What do you think? Should Amazon be allowed to monopolise the book market? Have you help out with books on GoodReads? Do you support GoodReads?

January 30, 2012   No Comments

Pics of the Week

Photos of me with the dogs are rare, I guess I can’t be in the picture and take it too 😀
Here’s one with Cuckoo that I really love… Its one of those rare moments I have with her :)
The photo wasn’t posed, she did come and sit that way with me in a moment of coziness.

January 29, 2012   No Comments

Pics of the Week

This one got my attention for the detail – an old mirror, a fan, a old cupboard, a hangar… and a guy who looks like the caretaker of an old bangla.
I like the old grungy look, it reminds me of ancient places with lots of memories…

January 28, 2012   No Comments

Why Do Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses Need a Social Media Strategy?

The last few years have seen a rise in the use of online networks in India. More and more people are going online now and Facebook has become a common word. A year ago my Mom got herself a Facebook account and today my Granny asks us to login (to the “Diary” ask she calls it or Facebook as we know it) so she can check on her Grandchildren’s updates and photos. My Granny is 85 years old and that says a lot about the use of social media in India.

The age of children using the internet is dropping and more adults are getting comfortable with the internet every day. Facebook and Twitter are now used to share more than photos and life updates – they are a place to share successes, failures and most importantly voice opinions. This is why if you do not get on this bandwagon now, you may lose the race.

Here are a few reasons why you need to take notice of Social Media and Plan a Strategy –

The Way People Buy Has Changed
The way people buy products and what influences them has changed. Today people don’t get swayed as much by ads; that’s where the process starts. An average Joe would see an ad and like what he sees. He then goes online and does a bit of research. He reads about the product and checks reviews. He posts his desire for a product and asks his friends for their opinion on a social site like Facebook or Twitter.

Today this is a crucial point of sale. What his friends say can make or break the sale. Their opinion is an important part of his decision making. So it’s not enough to just sell to him, it’s important to make sure that his friends feel good about your product and promote it.

People Will Talk Even If You’re Not There
My husband recently bought an iPad. He thinks it’s the best tablet device available today but since it comes from Apple – a proprietary company it has its drawbacks. Last week he updated the software and in the process a lot of things stopped working. He has been very vocal about just how upset he is with the iPad and Apple on Facebook.

Consumers today may not always talk about how great a product is but they definitely will tell the world if it doesn’t work. It’s an old sales adage – a happy customer may tell one person or two but an unsatisfied customer will tell TEN.

Customers are talking about your product online – they may say good things or bad, but they are definitely talking about it even if you are not listening.

It’s Not Just The Sale!
It’s no longer about a sale. In this day and age of active participation on Social Networks, you need to win over a customer before, at and after the sale if you want a successful business. Your sales approach, how you conduct the sale and your follow-up will be talked about.

If you have won over a customer on all three counts you can be assured that he/she will evangelise your product and bring in more customers.

Online Communities
Facebook and Twitter are just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of niche communities and groups have sprung up around topics lately. You can start a group on just about anything on Facebook or networks like Ning – from your favourite washing machine brand to your views on Gandhi.

These communities share views and opinions among themselves but a lot of it is also public. They post reviews on sites, comment on blog posts and voice their opinions in conversations online. Their views can make or break your sale.

Today to reach out to your customer you need to move from the traditional ‘push’ marketing method to a ‘pull’ strategy. You need to listen to them, understand their needs, plan your social media strategy and make your information available to them when they want it.

January 27, 2012   1 Comment

Ask and You Shall Receive

In recent conversations I’ve come across this question often, “people come to my website, check it out but do not return”. This is a problem a lot of small entrepreneurs and businesses have when they start out. You create a website/product based on what you think people need (if you had researched this before creation, great!) and then you go out and tell them about it. People come and check it out, maybe use it and then leave. But a high percentage does not return to your site repeatedly.

If you want people to come to your website you’re going to have to give them what they want. Understand that you may have researched what they want earlier but this has changed with time or what you offer isn’t enough. The best way to find out is to ask them what they want.

You may have a feedback button on your site but people don’t always use this or tell you what they want upfront. It’s kind of like when you go to a restaurant. The restaurant may have a table or stand with forms asking for your feedback. But how likely are you to fill one? If you had an exceptional meal then you just might but not otherwise. On the other hand if I gave you a form and a pen at your table I am more likely to get feedback and suggestions from you.

So ask your audience, question them in your newsletter. The size of your mailing list does not matter, even if its just 50, ASK. We humans like to suggest and have our suggestions implemented. So ask your audience what they would like to see on your site or in your product.

Don’t limit yourself to your newsletter, go out and ask questions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks like Quora too. All feedback is valuable.

And most importantly act on the feedback and suggestions you’ve received. That’s what you went through all this trouble for :)

January 26, 2012   1 Comment

Starting the Year At The Movies

This year just like the books I’ve read I’d also like to list and rate the movies I’ve seen. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of movies but can never remember them all. This would be a good way to document them.
This year started with the Movies – we watched 3 movies back to back on 1st Jan – The Adventures of Tin Tin, Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Mission Impossible.

The Adventures of Tin Tin
****/5
I watched this in 3D and absolutely enjoyed it. I can’t wait for the sequel. I’ve always loved Tin Tin and enjoyed the cartoons that would come on TV. I even have them on VHS tape 😀
Tin Tin in the movie turned out to be a great looker but I felt Captain Hadock had something missing. Maybe it was his nose that I didn’t like.
The movie is packed with action and there isn’t a boring moment.
We discovered something accidently too – for a 3D movie the front row seats are the best!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
****/5
I enjoyed this movie though I think I’d need to watch it again to grasp all the nuances. Be warned this movie needs your full attention or you won’t be able to tie up the loose ends.
It’s a detailed story of finding the traitor in the highest levels of the British Intelligence. There are 4 suspects and it’s a tale of elimination to arrive at the traitor.
A Must Watch!


Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol
***/5
As always Mission Impossible is a full action masala. movie The movie is made well and should be watched on big screen. The visuals are stunning.
I was very excited about seeing the Burj Khalifa scenes and they didn’t let me down.
A good watch if you’re looking for a mindless masala movie. 😀

January 25, 2012   No Comments

Bheeshma’s bhishana pratigya and Amba

I’m currently reading ‘The Palace of Illusions’ which is the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view. It’s an interesting take on the epic and it’s got me thinking.

One of the sub-plots is the story of Amba and Bheeshma, which concludes during the war of Kurukshetra. Amba vows revenge on Bheeshma for not marrying her and redeeming her honour. But my question is what stopped Bheeshma from marrying her or why didn’t she just marry his brother Vichitravirya?

Some background: Bheeshma is the eighth son of King Shantanu and Ganga. Ganga had married Shantanu on the condition that he would never question what she does. Back then women didn’t do drastic or crazy stuff I guess so Shantanu didn’t think much of making the promise. But Ganga went on to drown seven sons she bore. At the eighth Shantanu couldn’t stop himself and questioned her. (Why did Ganga drown her sons – these were eight Vasus who had been cursed to be born as humans. Seven had been granted reprieve, so they would be released from life as soon as they were born. But it was the eighth that had master minded the stealing of the wish-granting cow Nandini from Rishi Vashishta. He would be punished with a difficult life.) Ganga did not drown her eighth son Bheeshma as she knew his destiny but she did leave Shantanu.

Shantanu went on to fall in love with a fisherwoman Satyavati. Satyavati’s father was a smart man (so I think), he knew that Bheeshma was next in line for the throne and so turned down Shantanu as Satyavati’s children would not rule. Bheeshma wanting his father to be happy promised the fisherman that he would remain celibate and that Satyavati’s children would inherit the kingdom.

Later he abducts three princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika to marry his half-brother Vichitravirya. On reaching Hastinapura Amba tells him she loves another King Salwa, so Bheeshma sends her off to Salwa but Salwa turns her away saying she has been in the company of another man for too long. This brings Amba back to Bheeshma asking him to marry her to save her honour. Bheeshma of course refuses on the grounds of his vow and Amba goes away vowing revenge.

Why did Amba get angry only with Bheeshma, she should have been furious with Salwa for belittling her love. Why didn’t Bheeshma marry her to save her honour. He was only vowed to celibacy, not to being a bhramacharya. And most importantly why didn’t Amba just go ahead and marry Vichitravirya who she had been abducted for in the first place?

January 24, 2012   No Comments

Book Review: Little Blue Envelope Series


Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Paperback: 319 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (October 1st 2006)
Genre: YA
Read: eBook
Stars: ***/5
Summary: (GoodReads)When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn’t know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel.


Title: The Last Little Blue Envelope
Author: Maureen Johnson
Paperback: 282 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (April 26th 2011)
Genre: YA
Read: eBook
Stars: ****/5
Summary: (GoodReads)Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

Review:

These two books from Maureen are about Ginny who receives 13 envelopes from her Aunt who has passed away a short while back. Her Aunt is an adventurous spirit and the letters set Ginny off on an adventure that will change the way she sees the world.

There are questions that raise themselves as you read – the fact that Ginny’s parents allow her to embark on this journey, especially since Ginny is not allowed to carry a phone or any travel books. The trusting way that Ginny accepts the challenge of the trip even though she isn’t the adventurous type then.

But all that said the books are interesting and if you are a travel person you will relate to the books. Ginny’s adventures are fun and she learns some life lesson’s from her travels. Maureen describes the places and the people well; I could see Ginny walk down many of the lanes described. Ginny doesn’t travel to the only to touristy sites, she also goes to many hidden away parts of the cities she travels too. Kudos to Maureen for the research and travel involved.

I did find a few catches though, like – in book 2, Ginny is travelling in a two door car but at some points in the book Maureen writes as if it is a 4 door. 😀

The characters are described well and I related to them. Guess I’ve met people like them while travelling myself. The heroes Keith and Oliver are very real and I liked and felt for them both.

I liked the second book more than the first. That’s one of those rare things :)

The books are a quick read and worth reading!

January 23, 2012   No Comments