I was at Yahoo! Open Hack Day at
Bangalore

on Friday and Saturday. 24 hours of hacking, meeting lots of old
friends, and sarcasm unlimited. It doesn’t get better than this.

  • 2007-10-05 Fri 02:30 PM
    • Arrived at Taj.
    • Registered myself, got the schwag
    • Met Raghu and discussed the presentation he’ll be making on Flex
    • Social networking, the offline kind

Hack Day India 01
Raghu and me checking out his Flex talk ppt
Hack Day India 03

  • 2007-10-05 Fri 03:30 PM
    • The presentations start.
    • Joe starts the ceremonies.
    • Chris starts the first talk on what Yahoo can do for you. Yahoo
      APIs, that is.

Hack Day India 06
Hack Day India 10

  • 2007-10-05 Fri 05:30 PM
    • On the fly, we three become a team
      : Pradeep,
      Raghu
      and myself.
    • Pradeep and myself know each other from Deep Root Linux
      projects, after college hours, in PESIT. Raghu and me are
      colleagues. Pradeep and Raghu met the first time today.
    • We start discussing ideas…
    • WiFi’s good

Hack Day India 11
Hack Day India 12

(more…)

Two days before the BMS College Information Science Department Fest
called “Genesis 2007”, I received an email from a couple of students
asking me to talk about “introduction to open source”. Apparently,
they were frantically looking for a speaker. Since I’m not the right
person for this, I agreed to come only if they didn’t find someone
else… and I ended up going there on Friday.

The talk was supposed to be an introduction for a day-long session on
Open Source
Hacking
which was
organized by few enthu students trying to get other students
interested.

I started making the
presentation
on the midnight before Friday, so I didn’t have a very polished
presentation, but I had something reasonable. The title of the talk
was “How to make money from coding (or Why Open Source)”. That should
get their attention.

15 minutes before the talk, there were 2 students in the hall.
I wanted to start the talk on time and decided to start without
much crowd anyway. My sore throat was troubling me and I was
coughing every two minutes. Anyway, I started off with a funny
anecdote. It flopped. Oh boy.

Then, I decided they’re not warmed up yet, and recovered quickly. 15
minutes later, the 225 seater hall was full. Phew.

Genesis 2007 at BMSCE

An hour later, they were still all there, they were asking lots of
questions and they seemed genuinely interested. I hope the students do
take FOSS software seriously, if not for the freedom and open source
aspects, at least for their own career aspects which I detailed out in
the talk. (And I’m sure once they’re hooked, they will later “get” the
freedom and open source aspects.)

Why do I say that? Well, it comes down to the first question in the
Q&A session – “How to get into Yahoo!?”, and I replied “Well, do
you want to know how I got into Yahoo!?”. A unanimous yes. I told them
the MySQL story,
the Python story
and few other tidbits. Now, they’re really listening. I pointed out
that I didn’t have any special skills, just the knowledge of these two
open source software got me the job at Y!, and it saved me from
a service industry job (no offense meant, just a personal preference).

Next question: “Any regrets in college life?”. It caused a flashback
in my mind on Atul’s words
: “There are two times you innovate in your life – one is when you are
a student, the other is when you retire.” Back then, I didn’t believe
him. Now, I do. So, I told them “I haven’t yet regretted not scoring
well in college. This is the only ‘free time’ you have, so use it
well.” I got lot of smirks and “oh, please, we have so much to study”
looks. I said “Two years later, I’ll see how many of you come back and
tell me I’m wrong.”

Genesis 2007 at BMSCE
Genesis 2007 at BMSCE

Then, after the session ended, a few electrical students said they
wanted to get into the software industry and don’t know where to
start. I told them that some of the best programmers I’ve known are
from a mechanical background, so that’s okay. You should prove your
skills, that’s all, your background shouldn’t matter, although it
may be difficult to get your first job because you’re not a computer
science student. Then, a telecom student. I was happy about this guy
because he said he wanted to remain in the telecom domain but learn
coding really well, I said that’s a very good decision he’s taken and
told him to see open source projects such as Asterisk and OpenMoko. He
said “I’m in my final year, just 8 months to go, am I too late?”
I said “8 months is a really long time, you’re not late, you just have
to start now.” (8 months is a long time when you think about it, but
it seems to fly away so soon).

After that, students headed towards the computer lab where I gave
a crash course in using subversion. I had to get back to work, so
I didn’t stay for the rest of the day, but I heard there was a “good
response” from the students.

In the end, I don’t know if anyone was inspired about FOSS or not,
but I did see that few students absorbed the fact that knowledge and
projects are going to get them good jobs, not just marks (of course,
you do have to have a decent score), and working on FOSS projects is
one way to achieve that.

P.S. If you’ve read this far, and you’re interested in learning how to
contribute to open source software, then you’re in luck, because the
foss.in community event is coming up soon. You
can start right now by reading Atul’s latest post on
foss.in
.

Update : A related must-read article is “How to Get a Job Like Mine” by Aaron Swartz.

After a long wait, the Nandini Layout children sponsored by Yahoo! Bangalore Employees get their own school. And I’m so glad to see that the yahoo sense of humor and style remains:

Sign in as a friend to Yahoo!

Parikrma Nandini Layout school powered by Yahoo!

Many of these ideas were pitched in by Shivashankari, one of the most passionate yahoos I’ve ever seen:

Shivashankari painting the parikrma family tree

Note: More schools means a need for more volunteers, especially with the Summer Camp in progress. So, if you’re interested, do take a look at the Parikrma website.

Today’s my last day at Yahoo!.

It’s been a great two and a half years. Sadly, it’s time to move on.

I was just recollecting today about how much history I have here and how many things I’m leaving behind. Moving on is not easy, especially when you’re smitten with your first company.

I’m gonna miss a lot of people.
I’m gonna miss the amazing parties we’ve had from TGIFs to the weekends at the MGM Beach Resort and at the Bheemeshwari Jungle Lodges camp.
I’m gonna miss watching cricket being played in the alley between cubicles.
I’m gonna miss cribbing about food on the -blr mailing list.
I’m gonna miss watching an India cricket match in the TV room when practically everyone’s watching and nobody’s working.
I’m gonna miss the pranks.
I’m gonna miss getting to learn about and play with Yahoo! products before the rest of the world does.
I’m gonna miss the -random mailing list where everything is discussed, spiced up with amazingly witty sarcasms.
I’m gonna miss days like the hack day.
I’m gonna miss my team, especially the lunch conversations, the coffee conversations, the cubicle conversations, the meeting conversations, how’d-the-interview-screening-go conversations, algorithm discussion conversations, actual work conversations and oh yeah, conversations in general.
I’m gonna miss the purple sofas and the bean bags.
Most of all, I’m gonna miss being a yahoo.


Listening to : “Leaving Home” by Indian Ocean.

I am getting really addicted to Open Shortcuts in conjunction with the search bar in Firefox. For example, just type !wiki bangalore and it’ll search wikipedia for you without having to do the 3-step process of opening wikipedia.org, then entering the search query and clicking on ‘go’.

You can create your own shortcuts as well. Just login to yahoo search, and run !set dict http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=%s, next time just type !dict anthropomorphize and it’ll take you to the search results page directly. The best part is that this now works from any browser and computer that you use.

To get to know the list of shortcuts you can use, just type !list.

!awesome.


“There are no shortcuts in life, unless you right click and find one.”

A couple of weeks ago (on July 7th), we had a YEFI Day at work. YEFI stands for Yahoo! Employee Foundation India. As part of the celebrations, we got the Parikrma kids to come and visit our Yahoo! offices.

The Jayanagar children (who see me every Saturday) visited the M G Road office, and as part of Kalpana’s (one of the founders of Parikrma) plan, another colleague and myself would host the Sahakarnagar children at Aztec / EGL premises.

The kids came at around 1 o’ clock and we took them straight for lunch first. The girls came first and they sat down. The boys came in an another vehicle after a while. The Aztec cafeteria was filled with kids with green color shirts, and everyone was wondering what was going on.

First off, I asked who was the naughtiest of them all, and all of them pointed to a single girl, and I got her to explain what all naughty things she does, hehe. Apparently, she’s the only one who confidently slaps any of the naughty boys! Then, I asked their nicknames, and got to know all the names from ‘mosquito’ to ‘kogile’.

Somewhere in between, I asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up – 3 said nurse, 1 said teacher, 1 said computer scientist (whatever that is), 1 said astronaut (!), and so on. I was so happy to hear that only one of them wanted to become a “software engineer”. Maybe I’m being cynical but I think we have enough drones in Bangalore as it is. These kids can do so much more, and their motivation is very different from ours. When I asked why that paticular girl wanted to become a teacher? She said she liked kids and she wanted to help other kids just like Parikrma helped her. I was asking the wannabe-nurses on whether they have put an injection to somebody else … then I asked the ‘kogile’ to sing, and she sang a beautiful kannada song.

Parikrma
Parikrma
Parikrma
Parikrma
Parikrma

(more…)

The Search book cover

I just finished reading ‘The Search’ by John Battelle. What an amazing story to read. Learning about Bill Gross and his IdeaLab alone was worth reading the book, and he still keeps ideating, like Snap.com. Heck, even Picasa came from IdeaLab.

There are many tidbits from the book that were interesting, such as about Louis Monier:

It was Louis Monier who took AltaVista from concept to executable code … “I’ve always been interested in big, nasty problems,” Monier told me. Search provided one of the nastiest. Not only do the numbers scale to the near infinite, there was a very real need for good search in 1994. “Search engines at the time were just terrible,” Monier recalls. “Yahoo was a great catalog, but it had no search. So I set about to work on the crawl.”

About Stanford:

Stanford’s 6,200-acre patch of rolling California woodlands is the most productive incubator of technology companies the world has ever seen. Nestled between the silicon factories of Intel and Apple on one end and Sand Hill Road’s venture capitalists on the other, Stanford is a place where students have already dreamed of starting their own companies or going to work for a pre-IPO start-up. And Stanford’s computer science department, where Yang and Filo hung their hats, is perhaps the most prodigious start-up incubator of them all.

About Yahoo:

Another reason Yahoo succeeded was its sense of fun – a characteristic that would come to define not only Yahoo, but nearly every Internet company seeking the fickle approval of the Web public. Yahoo pioneered some of the Web’s earliest social mores – including, for example, links to competitors’ sites in case a searcher could not find what he or she was looking for, and listing “what’s hot” prominently on its home page, thereby driving extraordinary amounts of traffic to otherwise obscure sites.

Thanks to practices like these, the company captured the public’s imagination early and often, garnering a slew of adoring press notices familiar to anyone watching Google’s rise to prominence over the past few years.

About how a mathematical curiosity led to PageRank:

Page didn’t land on the idea of Web-based search at the outset; far from it. Despite the fact that Stanford alumni were getting rich starting Internet companies, Page found the Web interesting primarily for its mathematical characteristics. Each computer was a node, and each link on a Web page was a connection between nodes – a classic graph structure. “Computer scientists love graphs,” Page tells me, referring to the mathematical definition of the term. The World Wide Web, Page theorized, may have been the largest graph ever created, and it was growing at a breakneck pace. One could reasonably argue that many useful insights lurked in its vertices, awaiting discovery by inquiring graduate students. Winograd agreed, and Page set about pondering the link structure of the Web.

About Google’s geeky sense of humor and control:

On April 29, 2004, Google filed what certainly had to be the most unusual S1 – the formal public offering document – in recent memory. At filing, Google declared it would sell $2,718,281,828 worth of its shares – a seemingly random number, which was, in fact, the mathematical equivalent of e, a concept not unlike pi that has unique characteristics and is well known to serious math geeks. By manipulating the actual offering to provide this knowing wink to nerd humor, Google was in effect declaring: the geeks are in control.

Perhaps, the most interesting part of the book for me was the last chapter – ‘Perfect Search’. Battelle profiles what could be the future of Search.

When it comes to search, as with the Internet itself, the most interesting stuff is yet to come. As every engineer in the search field loves to tell you, search is at best 5 percent solved – we’re not even into the double digits of its potential. And search itself is changing at such a rapid pace – in the past year important innovations have rolled out once a week, if not faster – that attempts to predict the near future are almost certainly doomed.

I’ve been working on the Yahoo! Buzz Index for the past 2 years, and many a time I’ve been asked (by friends and colleagues) why I haven’t changed teams yet. But I often ponder to myself – change to what? Being a rabidly information-hungry internet user (well, I’ve calmed down off late), I always found search engines remarkable and Buzz does a lot of analysis on search, it’s quite fascinating, and the sheer volume of data is equally interesting. I’ve had my share of ups and downs (and some very steep downs), but it has been interesting.

We do a lot more than what Google Trends does, however Buzz has a more practical business model in which the interesting insights are kept for the paid customers and the interesting stories are written for the public.

(more…)

Some weeks ago, 8 of us yahoos went to Tadiyandamol for trekking.

Directions to reach Tadiyandamol : Take the bus from Bangalore to Virajpet. Catch a local bus to Kaikamba, which comes before Kakkabe. From there, you can ask the locals for “raja mane” (King’s house) and you can start trekking. To book food at the Palace Estate, you can contact Prakash at 98804 47702.

Old Tower

Fields
Pink flower
Red flower
Yellow flower

The scorching heat was a problem, especially for the first-time trekkers, but we pushed them on.

(more…)

Yahoo! India launches http://in.answers.yahoo.com.

So can you answer these questions?

Be sure to read the answers as well.