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Why we need curators for a better internet.

With internet we have seen the dramatic shift from hierarchy to networks. From centralised control to decentralised control, powered by humans from sharing and consuming things they never thought they would. People now share not just their diaries, but innermost feelings/ data: from political views, religious views, medical reports, their finances, secrets of family and friends to sexual desires.

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With many aspects of our lives shared and consumed due to easy access to internet, we think our problems can get solved. Some smaller problems, yes. Major issues in our societies are still unresolved. Chaos reign.

Access to information, a knowledge base is just a start. To get the best for a society we need some dose of top down approach. It’s a must.

Ok, when I say top down, it’s not the traditional command and control hierarchy. It’s much more nuanced. It’s a ‘middleman’ role. “Internet removes the middleman in everything”, I hear this a lot. Not really.

If you look closer at groups that stood the test of time and increased their impact on their domains, you will find a small number of “middle men” with in an army of contributors. Let’s look at wikipedia. While there are millions of writers who contribute to wikipedia, there are around 2000 editors ( a small number compared to millions) who are doing the major edits. These editors prune, polish and establish guidelines so that billions of readers can trust wikipedia. These editors are middlemen. If you don’t like the word middlemen, call them ‘curators’. Because actually their role fits best of a curator. (definition of curator: a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.)

Curator’s role is to enhance trust of their community by reducing the noise. Look deep in to communities like open office, Linux, Google maps and Reddit, you will find a small set of curators who keep sanity in the community.

Let’s look at some of the biggest issues in the world right now. Would we be able to get curators ( experts from many domains) to filter out the right type of issues we should focus on? What would it look like ?

 

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Do I have control over this?

Motivation is plenty on internet with inspiring quotes to adrenalin pumping videos. We watch them daily on our social media feeds. It’s like drugs. You need more and more each day to feel the kick. Why?

Your motivation is directly linked with how much control you have over your work and surroundings. When you have motivation, you jump and do things.

That’s why people gossip about sports and politics. Gossip is all we can do, because we don’t have control over what happens in sports and politics. We are spectators, nothing more.

Think about office gossip. It’s kind of the same. When we do not have control over our work and environment, we opt for gossip. It’s easy. But when we are clear about what we have to do and given control, we are hungry for work. We stretch and do things that were impossible at the beginning. The confidence built from doing even a simple thing adds up to drive us to the next thing.

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Employability – What’s wrong with Sri Lankan degree?

I will start this blog post with a must read article on employability.

5 steps that could help freshers bag jobs in greater numbers. It focuses on Indian context. If you are lazy to read it, here’s the bombshell.

Graduate unemployability: For years, employers used degrees as a lazy filter to shortlist interview candidates. But, now that it is clear a degree is not what it used to be—60% of taxi drivers in Korea, 31% of retail sales clerks in the US, and 15% of high-end security guards in India now have a degree—employers are shifting their focus to employability and skills. This means candidates from outside the top institutions, or those without degrees, can differentiate themselves through certifications, soft skills, apprenticeships, projects, work experience, career growth, and more.

Almost all Sri Lankan employers I meet complain about candidates not having right skills and attitude, not just among freshers but also among seniors. Degrees are not relevant, they say.

Yet the young generation toil away their money and time in to getting a degree, and employers keep on picking degree holders. Why is this ?

One person gave an explanation that seems fit. ” We do not have enough pressure yet to work more. Look at India, they have enough pressure to be relevant, because if you do not work well,  many are in the line to take your job”

Well then I read the most bizarre thing. Forget pressure, we are rewarding the lazy.

Sri Lanka’s unemployed graduates who are not disabled but are not contributing to the nation in gainful employment will get a 20,000 rupee monthly allowance from the state starting from July 2018.

The government will recruit 5,000 graduate who apparently cannot find a gainful job and pay them 20,000 rupees a month from July.

They will be recruited for ‘training’, the government said.

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Filters needed.

I was at a hospital. I asked for an injection showing the prescription. She looked at the paper, said that I have to bring the vial. She went back to the phone screen. She did not see my face. I was a disturbance.

I went to a shop. Asked for the thing. He did not obviously wanted to be taken away from the TV series he was watching. He said ‘No’. Went back to the screen. Customers are most unwelcome.

I had similar experiences in banks, government offices, and street corner shops. Basically everywhere.

It’s time to create filters and get out of the personal bubbles while you are working. When you are serving people. When you are having a conversation with someone. Because it is not so visible to you. Because you are inside the bubble. Someone has to give you the feedback. My feedback was from my wife. When someone says that you are too addicted to the screen, you better think and have filters. Do not shrug it off.

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I wish you the same – a satire

I removed my birthday from online accounts. I was successful.

New year wishes are here to stay. No way to avoid it. In fact getting bigger and messier by the year.

WhatsApp, viber, messenger, sms ( still gets a few) and social media feeds go crazy. I want to ‘wish you the same’, but alas there is no reply-all button for wishing back. Will people get offended if I don’t wish them back? There’s like 200 generic send-all wishes. Should I post a ‘thank you all for wishing me a happy new year. I’m sorry I won’t be able to wish each one of you personally. Have a wonderful year’. Only celebrities do that kind of things. Or is it?

I wish you the same. Not kidding.

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Is your phone getting slower ?

There’s an ongoing drama between Apple Inc. and iphone users. Users had complained their phones are getting slowed down. Apple admitted it is a technical glitch, and few customers have sued the company.

Hardware or software issues had nothing to do with what slowed down my phone, it was something else. I’m a Samusung Note fan. Around the launch of Note 8, for about one month, I could feel my existing Note 5 getting slower. My insatiable appetite for the possession of a new shiny Note 8 was slowing down my Note 5. Of course my Note 5 is working pretty fine. I wrestled with my mind for a good one month, before giving up the idea of buying.

In the process I understood the stickiness of modern day marketing bubble. I watched few note 8 videos made my fans on unboxing and performance reviews on youtube. When I went to facebook, ads from local vendors on Note 8 were right on my face. It was literally everywhere. On internet, every click of mine is tracked to deliver me the most tailored suggestions.  I am screwed by the algorithms and cookies, because internet tracks my appetite. They feed me with more of it.

At the end of it, I saved Rs. 150,000. That much amount of money is no way an excuse for a few additional premium features. Note 5 is more than fine for me at-least for another year, if it does not die. Here’s the thing, whatever you look for in the internet, that preference will pilfer in to every site you go, as ads. Be alert on your expenses. e-commerce is here to sell, showing amazing deals as if they are here to help you save.

Savings and expenses are two different things not to be confused.

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A month is perfect.

A year is a too long a period to reflect. Nevertheless I did.

2017 has been a mix bag for me. I achieved a lot, made numerous mistakes, learned a lot, and connected to thousands of people. I am grateful for even the meanest of people I met, because they showed me the goodness in people I take for granted. They showed me that I should hang out more with the wonderful souls.

But here’s the learning I had.

A week is too short, a year is way too long ,but a month is perfect.

Perfect to have a full analysis of how you spent your life. So in next year you have 12 opportunities to review and grow. 12 times to check on your new year resolutions.

I wish you all a wonderful 2018. !

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Streaming habits

I used to be a quality connoisseur, when it came to movies. Back in 2002, when VCD was the bomb, I did not give in to camera copies. I would wait diligently for the best version to pop up. When things were in abundance around 2010 with torrents, still I was selective. I needed the best quality ones. I would go to movie theatres even when I could not afford, because I wanted the best quality. Whenever I am out of the country, I visit a IMAX theatre where available. I do not have TV at home for more than 10 years now. I do not intend to buy one in future.

End of 2017, here I am watching movies and TV series on Netflix (mostly) and iflix.

Netflix original TV series content is so good and addictive. I am more in to TV series than movies now. TV series have more time and space to detail out a story in depth. I never thought I would watch TV series on a ipad or a small screen mobile phone, yet I do now. Because I am struggling for time. I do not have time to be in-front of a TV. But I do have unproductive time chunks wasted in traffic. Also in between meetings, waiting in a cafe. It is good to catch up on to a 15 mts of TV time on my mobile. This has replaced my novel reading. I do not know if it is a good thing. But I do know I am looking forward to some good TV content.

Good quality story telling in high definition, easy access, value for money monthly subscription models, tailored suggestions based on my viewing history are all shifting me to digital streaming entertainment. It’s so exciting. It’s my duty to balance it out. Because one can easily get addicted.

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New year possibilities.

A new year always gets us in to make resolutions. We want to be better. Our intentions are most of the time inclined towards our progress.  Yet, acting on good intentions need perseverance, committed time and will to succeed.

If we do the same thing we did last year, we would get the same results in the new year.

Common complain is that we do not have time. To do something new, you need to give time from something that is not productive right now. Because, adding a new habit needs time taken off from an existing habit. Not all habits we have right now is productive. So when you chose a new habit, chose a habit to let go as well.

It’s like when you have one space garage. If you want to move a new vehicle, you have to remove the existing vehicle. Your 24 hours is your one space garage.

 

 

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Managing what will increases your success now?

The hype about information economy is everywhere. The headlines scream some audacious thinking.

Information is the new crude oil.

Data is driving business.

Information is everything. Manage it or die.

The thing is- information is now in abundance. We create enormous amounts of data. No one, even machines can not keep track of the amount of data we create. We create more than what we can consume. So we consume more.

Here’s the catch. If information is the new crude oil, why we are not paying for 99% of the content out there in the internet ?

We trade our attention for the abundance of information. The more information we get, the more attention we give. More the attention, the more income for the tech industry. The big brothers of information tech ( mainly facebook, Google, and Amazon) are courting for our attention. The battle is fierce. The more time we spend browsing them, the more income they get. Which is why these tech is so smart. We don’t pay, right? Someone else is paying. But our attention? They take bets on our attention.

So, in effect, what is the most scarce resource out there now ?

Our attention.

Not sure yet ?

Look around you. Who can stand at a queue, travel in a bus or be at a meeting with out taking a peep in to their phones?

Can you ?

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Sanity filter

If there are energy sapping people, avoid them, as much as you can. 

If there are events that deplete your time and energy reserves, avoid them.

If there are people mocking you on social media – mute them, unfollow them. Choose not to respond to them. The feed that you see in your phone, is visible to a very small section of the world. You are not the centre of attraction, thought it seems like that in your perception. There’s nothing greater than taking care of yourself.

Also choose not to harm others.

And once you have a better perspective and identified sources of good energy, remember to practice below.

“Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t be harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been”

~ Marcus Aurelius

 

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New attitude

Workplaces and our homes are now intensely complex. It’s hard to stay calm and be objective because emotions and residues from the past bounces most of us to get distracted and irritated. Obstacles are a way of life now. To embrace obstacles is the new attitude. I must try hard to

1. Control emotions to focus on objective

2. Filter out good in all situations

3. Ignore what irritates me and which limits me.

4. Be mindful in the present moment. Remove fear about future. Not to over think.

5. Only spend time on things I can control.

Daily workout and meditation in the morning is my fuel tanked full, for the rest of the day.

There’s a saying “if you want to make people happy, do not be a leader, sell ice cream.”

Leadership for me is to do the right thing, and if it feels right, get others to do the right thing too, so that they become leaders. Humans do not like to be changed. It is hard work. And it’s a choice.

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Eminem and Charitha – Music as a platform.

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Eminem has released ‘Revival’, his latest album on December 15th. I am listening to it now, alongside Charitha’s album ‘Galana Ganga’.

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I am able to listen to both albums in one app ( Apple Music) by Paying $2.99 per month. I am able to listen to them the moment they release their music. I am totally legal when it comes to listening to music now.

A song is now simply bytes of data packaged (in few Mega bytes per song) living in a cloud ( a distant server I have no clue about) waiting to be summoned by me and millions of other users in the platform. Music publishing has never been this easy. Charitha has the same platform Eminem has. That’s the magic of digital transformation. Although, selling on this platform or any other app, and making it to the top is a combination of multiple success factors, which is altogether a different story.

Yet, the era of music labels controlling artists is over. Anyone can ship their creations, no matter where they are.

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Balancing social media

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pic credit: Dialog

I went to tweetupSL 7 yesterday. I have missed last 2 years.

So many new young faces, and the interactions gave me the flavour of young aspirations and new trends in social media. Right now, the intensity of  interaction is high, one of the main factors is the inclusion of local languages. It’s much more engaging when one can type in your own language.

On twitter, we follow so many unknown people. It’s great to meet someone in person after I had followed and interacted with them for like 3 years. Most of the time, when I meet in person, I see a different personality from his or her online presence. So yeah, we have our split personalities: online and offline. This very core human nature brings in numerous issues and tensions on social media. Social media promised us harmony around 2007, we wanted everyone in the world to be on social media. Yet we find ourselves in unwanted trouble in 2017, because when we have many people on social media, we get to see all of their problems too. You just cannot have good things only. Just like life.

I was asked this question by Amila, and I had to answer to the audience – ‘how did twitter helped in your life and work?’

I actually reflected on this same question, few days back after I watched Chamath Palihapitiya’s rant about how bad social media is, especially facebook.. He asked people to move away from social media. I guess yes, when you are popular and influential. No one needs your tweets to validate your authority in the field. But for the rest of us, who are ordinaries, social media is a gift of unfathomable proportions. Provided, we use it safely, with empathy and with patience. (UPDATE: yesterday, Chamath has taken back his own words. Again emphasising my point, we need balance)

I joined twitter in 2009. I’ve connected to great people and brilliant ideas on twitter. I cannot count them, but I can assure it is in thousands. So many long term business partnerships were formed through twitter and other social media introductions. Many good friends were found, some of them feels like my family.

Yet where do I draw the line? Too much of anything is bad. Too much of video streaming is bad.  Getting to phone the moment we are bored is bad. Too much of scrolling in your phone as a habit is bad.

Part of what Chamath says is true. Social media can own you, take control of what you think. It can create a small bubble in your mind and can make you think that what you see in your feed is the truth. It has happened to me. It became an addiction and then I had to get out of it. That’s where digital detoxes helps me. And there are apps to help me to get in to digital detox. 

Technology inclusion in our lives are inevitable. We must be part of it to explore the opportunities. We must also take care of our personal hygiene, so we become mindful in a world full of information.

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To help others is to help myself

I remember when I was down with depression some time back, working on my self like resting, sleeping, exercising, music and reading did not work much.

But I remember, one time I had the courage to help someone despite my condition. That changed everything. Knowing that the person was released, relaxed me internally.

The tensions I had evaporated. I could work on myself better.

It is counter-intuitive to much of self help band wagon out there. Yet it was that simple. The heart to help requires no money, no resources, just my willingness to commit unconditional space and time with someone who is in need.

What I found profound is that when I counsel someone, that conversation will be healing me. It will heal a situation in my mind like karma on the spot.