How would life be if you could tell your computer to cut down a 3-hour
movie to one hour?

Sounds impossible?

From what I understand of this paper called “Feature fusion and
redundancy pruning for rush video
summarization”

by the people at the Vision Research Laboratory at UCSB, it is very
much possible!

The basic idea is to find ‘distinctive’ parts of the video, for
example, someone talking at a high pitch or lots of moving scenes
which, intuitively, would be more important than a slow scene or
repeated shots.

They consider multiple facets of the video such as speech, camera
motion, significant differences in color, suppression of repeated
scenes and of course, identification of visually distinct segments.

The caveat is that their test data set are drama “rushes” video which
are raw footage including the clapboards, the color tones, repeated
takes, etc. This is very conducive to such an algorithm, which could
probably explain why they had such good results (details are in the
paper).

But if this is the state of things today, I can imagine that around
five years down the lane they would really be applying it to
commercial movies and television shows. It is amazing on what can be
done with a combination of mathematics, statistics and computers.

Interestingly, the final summaries were around 4% of the total video
length. If this was applied to the 8-year long Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi
Bahu Thi

show, I wonder how much it would be reduced to…

Update : Now Microsoft Research has done it for audio as well!

Yesterday, I attended The Smart Techie Startup
City
event. It was
intended as a showcase of startups as well as for
learning/sharing/mentoring.

I had taken some notes during the day. As I was expanding it into
a blog post, I realized I was just adding filler words which was
a waste of bits, so here it is as-is:

  • Ashish Gupta, Helion VC on “Concept to Success : Milestones for
    startups”

    • India is a startup (positive way of looking at things)
      • High energy
      • Lots of growth
      • Small absolute number (relatively)
      • Little infrastructure or process
      • Lack of talent
      • Lots of optimism
      • Need to innovate to survive
      • ⇒ Once in a lifetime opportunity
    • Significant change in dynamics (negative way of looking at it)
      • Whatever can be made efficient will be done so.
        • We can in turn get bangalored and some other country will
          benefit.
      • Creative folks will thrive.
      • ⇒ We have no choice.
    • Hardest evolutionary steps
      • Those that requires behavior change
        • For example, starting to think “Become cash flow positive”
        • Next level CEO, process, tech, business model, etc.
    • Put in place metrics to measure everything – will help identify
      whether one has already hit an inflection point.
    • Rules of thumb
      1. Focus on customer/issue
      2. Focus on continuous improvement
      3. Intellectual honesty
      4. Results matter – only for MEASURING (measure progress on
        a larger scale)
      5. ⇒ Same rules for person, family, company

Smart Techie Startup City 01
Smart Techie Startup City 02
Smart Techie Startup City 03
Smart Techie Startup City 05

(more…)

People often say there’s nothing much to see in Bangalore. But if you
get to know some of the old parts of Bangalore, you’ll slowly start to
see something special. Avenue Road is one such place:

This mini documentary was created by my friend
Vineetha who was a business
analyst at an IT software services company some time back and today is
a journalist at CNBC!

I did the Sunfeast 10K Open
Run
today. I finished in 1 hr
10 min 26 sec. Finally, a timing I am happy about.

Run Maadi Run

Best of all, it was a good run. I didn’t have any of my usual
performance anxiety symptoms, mostly because I made sure that I didn’t
plan or think about the run. I’d just get up late, hurry and reach the
place, just wait to run and hope everything goes well.

I’m thankful that it worked out exactly to a T and it was a good run.
A really feel-good steady-pace run.

I needed an extra boost in the end to bear the searing sun and that
was provided by “Get Up! Go
Insane!”
. Thanks Fatboy Slim!

There were people running for their charities, people running for fun,
people running in costumes, and even people running out of curiosity.
I was running to fight against my off-late tendency to give up easily.

On a different note, I must appreciate how well-organized the entire
event was. After the run, they gave everyone bun and biscuits. It may
not mean much in a normal situation, but after a run, it’s really
important and I was thankful they had thought to this level of detail.

After I came out of the Kanteerava stadium (the start and end point of
the run), I bumped into an old school mate after a really long time.
He looked at me and asked:

Him: Oh so you came for the run?
Me: Yeah
Him: So you completed?
Me: Yeah…
Him: (has the ‘not bad’ look) So how long did you take?
Me: 70 min.
Him: Oh. (face expression changes) I took 90 min. Okay. cya later.

So next time, don’t underestimate that fat people can’t run.


Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it
what you put into it.

— Oprah Winfrey

One of the hard lessons that I have learned this year is “Always
remember Carpe Diem“. The
corollary is that “If you don’t execute on your idea quick, someone
else definitely will.”

For example, long back Vikram had this
idea that there should be a company which takes care of odd chores
such as electrical maintenance or plumbing, basically handyman work.
Yesterday, I saw www.handiman.in on the back
of an auto rickshaw. I came home and checked it out and it does
exactly that. It’s a very useful
service and seems
reasonably
affordable, at
least for IT people. I’m sure lot of people in Bangalore will go for
it.

Today, Mrinal
pointed

to www.indimeme.com,
a TechMeme for the Indian blogosphere.

I started kicking myself.

I’ve had this idea for months but I couldn’t really move on it because
I don’t have the knowledge yet, for example, about clustering
algorithms. However, I did brainstorm it with a couple of friends and
thought we’ll work it out. But a single person beat us to it.

There is a range of reasons why such a website is a good idea,
probably the same reasons why TechMeme is indispensable too:

  • Allows people to see what are the latest topics that Indian bloggers
    are talking about.
  • Allows people to see the discussions across blogs, not just one blog
    and its comments.

    • Encourages the above type of discussion.
  • The portal can become the gateway of the Indian blogosphere.
  • For the website creator’s point of view, it can bring in a lot of
    visitors. And subsequently, advertisers.
  • An indispensable website means the creator of the website is
    indispensable too. Just like Gabe
    Rivera

    is everything behind the scenes of TechMeme. (Let’s face it, we’re
    all replaceable in our workplaces.)

And so on.

Anyway, the only downside I’ve noticed about IndiMeme.com is that the
clustering results aren’t good yet, but the thing is it is already out
there. It has been
executed
.
It needs refinement. And I’m sure it’ll get there.

I don’t know whether I should add this idea to my already-long
personal ‘deadpool’. Sigh.

When I started thinking about this idea, I came across one paper
called Mining blog stories using community-based and temporal
clustering
which
explained how this is a special type of clustering that takes time
into account. They call it:

“[the] Content-Community-Time model that can leverage the content of
entries, their timestamps, and the community structure of the blogs,
to automatically discover stories. Doing so also allows us to
discover hot stories.”

I was thinking whether the same idea can be applied to an RSS
aggregator and then I found that was done
too
as well.

I guess there are simply no low-hanging fruit left in this accelerated
world.


I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not
enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

— Leonardo da Vinci

Philipp Lenssen recently had a good post on tips on information
overload by various
people
. It got me
thinking about the various tips and tricks I’ve imbibed in the recent
past and which work reasonably well for me. So I tried to collate them
into one place:

Email

  • Always bring the inbox down to zero regularly. ‘Regularly’ is
    defined by you.
  • Never allow anything to be in your inbox > 2-3 days
    • If you’re not going to reply in that time frame, you never will.
      So simply archive it or reply with a one-liner saying you can’t
      look into it now.
  • If you don’t have anything to add, don’t reply.
  • Make sure you are clear on what is the action you are expecting
    from the recipient.
  • Reply in bullet points. Because everybody
    skims
    .
  • Once you’re done with the email (replying, taking action or
    reading), archive it.
  • If it is not actionable, archive it. Don’t let it remain in your
    inbox.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts.
  • Mailing lists go into folders. I simulate them in Gmail using “Apply
    label, Skip Inbox” in the filters. The reason is that mails not
    directly addressed to me are not urgent, so I can process them
    whenever I have the inclination. Whatever is in my inbox is what
    deserves immediate attention.
  • Minimize the number of times you need to check email. The minimum
    that is required for you to stop worrying about it. The beauty of
    email is that you can reply at your pace. Make use of that feature.
    If you end up constantly checking email, you’re better off resorting
    to phone calls or instant
    messenger
    .
  • [new tip] Before you send the next email, go through the
    checklist.

Feeds

  • Use your feed reader once in a few days. The world won’t stop
    without you.
  • Use a desktop feed reader because it is faster to
    use
    .
  • Have a ‘Try Before You Buy’ folder where you add feeds. If it
    doesn’t turn out to be useful, delete it.
  • Have a number in mind, say 100 feeds. If you add a new feed, delete
    an old feed that is no longer interesting.
  • If you end up doing a ‘Mark all as read’ on a feed 2-3 times in
    a row, delete it.
  • Separate them into categories and/or priorities.
  • Most importantly, read interesting things. Do not aim for reading
    500+ blog posts a day. Optimize, don’t maximize.
  • Remember that the goal is to derive some value out of this reading
    and that value is usually knowledge. If it is not helping you
    towards that goal, delete it.
    Don’t think twice, just delete it.
  • While working, if you feel the need to distract yourself once in
    a while or read something interesting, don’t use your feed reader
    but use good filters like TechMeme or programming.reddit or a good
    link-blogger on your subjects of interest. Have a separate dedicated
    time for reading feeds.
  • Take
    notes.
    Over time, you’ll judge if a feed is useful or not depending on
    whether you’re taking (any) notes or not.

Inlets

  • Cut down on the types of inlets – Email, Feeds, Twitter, IRC,
    Messenger, Phone, etc. (this one is particularly hard for me)
  • Spend at least 50% of your time at the computer with all these
    inlets shut down.

Focus

  • Personally I find productivity inversely proportional to information
    overload. The days when I’m productive and “in the zone” turns out
    to be the days when I’m less affected by information overload. The
    vice-versa is true as well. So if you focus on the right things, the
    information overload problem will get solved by itself.
  • Maintain focus by having a todo list. Have a big todo list and then
    pick random tasks from that list depending on your energy levels
    and get things done.
  • Never indulge in tasks outside of your todo list. If you’re not in
    the mood for any of them, don’t indulge in
    wilfing.
    Go out instead – whether for a walk, or call up a friend or even
    read a paper book. If you’re not being productive, just get out of
    the chair.
  • Don’t use fancy software for writing lists. Use a good plain text
    editor (like Vim).
  • Use GTD.
  • Use an auto-pilot
    schedule

    (I’m still learning this).

P.S. Many of these ideas have been borrowed from elsewhere. It’s been
a long time since I imbibed all these, so I don’t remember all the
sources from which I gleaned them.

There have been many times where I’ve been asked for “career advice”,
especially after a talk.
I usually suggest them to ‘build a repertoire of things you have done,
things you are capable of, things you like to do’. But I’ve never
really been sure of this advice nor do I feel I have the credibility
to answer such questions.

The good thing is that I have now found something to point them to – Garr
Reynolds

presentation on a career advice book. This presentation explain things
very well and is so beautifully done that it can capture the attention
of a young mind:

The other resource I have found useful is Aaron Swartz‘s “How to Get
a Job Like Mine”
.


Cultivating a good career is like creating the Mona Lisa. The right
tools and strategies will only get you partway there – the soul of
the artist is necessary to create something worthwhile.

Steve Pavlina

It all started on Monday last week when Lakshman
tweeted
if anybody
was game for a weekend trip. Ashwin
tweeted
back
saying yes.

Later they asked me over email. My reply was “Why Ooty!?”. They
replied saying “It doesn’t matter. We’re going for the drive.” Two
days later, we three were driving to Ooty on bikes at night.

My descriptions below are in twitter style as an ode to how the trip
happened. ( But of course, my usual writing style will resume after
this post :) )

We started off at 8 at night. First stop was some lip-smacking food at
Kamat Lokaruchi:

Biking to Ooty 017

9.10 pm : We’re on the way! 3 twitterers on bikes.

9.25 pm : Getting out of Bangalore is the toughest thing.

9.30 pm : @scorpion032 says 2020 will also be the year of the linux
desktop.

10.32 pm : @cruisemaniac and @scorpion032 are tweeting away…

1.40 am : Taking a break.

Biking to Ooty 018

2.33 am : Admiring the mysore palace…

Biking to Ooty 020

3.16 am : Sleep getting to me… But we’re taking breaks and having
fun. In Nanjangud.

3.20 am : Another break.

3.34 am : Listening to My Sacrifice at 330 am at 70 kmph on bike with
the wind in your hair is something to be experienced.

Biking to Ooty 029

4.10 am : We find a freakin’ coffee day in the middle of nowhere.
Waiting for capuccino.

Biking to Ooty 031
Biking to Ooty 035

6.15 am : Mudumulai forest.

Biking to Ooty 049
Biking to Ooty 053
Biking to Ooty 054

6.20 am : Animals! Elephant, deer, peacock, mongoose, eagle,
woodpecker, … All right there next to us… Thank heavens the
elephant didn’t think we were pesky…

6.45 am : Exiting Mudumulai forest.

My favorite photo from this trip (notice the clouds and the bike):

Biking to Ooty 074
Biking to Ooty 075

(more…)