Posts by "Peter"

Social Media Summit 2011

Today was the Social Media Summit in Chennai and you would be quite surprised by how many young male students suddenly became super interested in social media when it’s held at an all girls college. Kudos to the organizers for thinking of that unique selling point to bring the punters through the doors!

I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 7am this morning; 7am’s don’t normally exist in my life unless there is a real good reason like having a plane to catch or the party from the night before was so good it’s still going on (although sadly nowadays it’s more of the plane catching and less of the parties). Infact, people back in England seem rather envious that I start my day about 12 noon, I protest of course and say “we’re a company working with UK and US clients, so I need to be closer to their timings“, which is a incredibly useful excuse and I don’t know if they’ve cottoned on yet to the fact that I’m in marketing and don’t speak to the clients.

So got up, got dressed, had extra-super-strong coffee which brought enough neurons to life to be able to go and find an auto driver who could rip me off only a little bit. It’s monsoon season now so the autos can add “standing water, boss” to the never ending list of reasons why they have to charge me 150% more than a local.

The conference was fantastically good, a big shout out to Sorav and his Echovme staff for putting on an excellent seminar. The speakers came from all different backgrounds, young and old wise and they really knew their stuff. I felt like I was back in Uni again as I furiously scribbled notes, although at least this time I was actually enjoying the lectures and can see the value in it rather than calculating yet another partial differential equation.

I think I’ve just realized how long I have been in India now because while this blog post is supposed to be about the social media seminar, I’ve found myself writing a sentence about the food that was served. That’s one thing you’ll find about India, whenever you meet someone in the south, they’ll ask you “sabdi-aah?“, which is Tamil and it translates to “Had your food?” (people in North India will ask you “khana khaya?“). Food is never off the menu of conversation topics in India, it’s so deeply ingrained in to the culture. So yes, the food. It was a very good buffet above and beyond what I was expecting. Desi Pete!

I’ve been to a couple of social media seminars in the past few months and the way this one differed was that the people giving the speeches were really able to give real life, concrete examples from big business that would prove useful to B2C and B2B marketers and delved in to the specifics. If social media is an area you are interested in I strongly recommend that you go to a paid seminar because you’ll easily get several years worth of knowledge in just a couple of days.

There’s more going on tomorrow, so I need to wake up again at o-silly hundred hours. I better get to bed now!

Oh yes, here’s a few snaps from the day, I know you were really keen to see them 😉

The Winner

Yesterday I won a competition for a free privileged entry to an international social media seminar that is taking place in Chennai this week with the lead speaker from the famous SEOmoz company (which I’m really excited about!). You know, a lot of people say they never win anything and I am certainly one of them. My girlfriend asked me what the last thing I won was, I racked my brains and the best I could come up with was winning the Most Polite award at the annual Cub Scout (Great Bowden Cub Pack) summer camp when I was 9 years old. Apparently I always remembered to say my “please and thank yous” to Akela and Brown Owl. But I hardly mention that any more and might even take it off my CV under “Achievements”.

2011 North East Monsoon Comes To Chennai

Monsoon season is upon us here in Chennai, it arrived last night with quite a bang. Thunder rolled (it rolled a 4), lightning flashed and I got grumpy because I couldn’t sleep. A quick school lesson for you here…the monsoon refers to a type of weather pattern, not the actual rain, the rain is a consequence of a weather pattern. There you go, something to impress your friends with.

The first day of the monsoon brought 12cm of rain in 24 hours and as usual turned the roads in to shallow water rivers. When I first arrived in India I wondered why all the pavement curbs were all 2 foot high, it’s so it can channel all the water. Or at least that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

When I woke up it was still raining so I knew that getting to work would be an issue. I toyed with the idea of working from home but the dedicated worker that lives within me told me to get to the office. The problem is the road outside my apartment had turned in to a river and just getting out the apartment complex would involve walking ankle deep through, well, water with suspicious things floating in it.

Of course, I used to be in the SAS[1]
so a little bit of murky water shouldn’t be an issue for me, I’ve roughed it like no one else has. Yeah, that was 10 years ago though, so I did the only sensible thing I could do: I called up the office manager and asked him to come round and pick me up on the back of his bike. Yeah, hardcore!

Not sure where the old boy who owned this rubbish cart went, but he obviously didn’t want to be out in the rain and left the cart standing there!


1Army Officers Training Corps: Saturday and Sunday crew

Oh What A Spectacle

Every now and then I tend to do something a little bit stupid. We’re not talking epic stupidity here, more like putting my mobile phone through the washing machine (err, twice) or dropping my phone in to a pint of beer (err, again, twice) or putting a mobile phone in to an open pocket of my backpack walking to the office and discovering with innocent horror that it was no longer there.

This week I decided to be stupid in a whole new innovative way which didn’t involve a mobile phone. Being a computer geek means that I have to spend rather more time sat in front of a computer than you would imagine is healthy, or rather is healthy for an average human being. Fortunately computer geeks are far from average and we can aimless surf around the Internet looking up things like what is a Beadle, how kidney stones are formed and discovering that the tune to “The Animals Go In Two By Two” is actually stolen from an American civil war marching tune called “When Jonny Comes Marching Home” for hours after the average person has given up and gone off to be sociable with real life actual people.

However, the super-human ability to sit in front of a computer screen does come at a cost, namely the eyes. I can barely look at a computer screen for more than 5 minutes without glasses before I feel the tell tale strain in my left eye that informs me that “buddy, we’re preparing one hell of a banging headache any minute now“. So yeah, my glasses are fairly important to me which is why it would be a really stupid idea to leave them on say, oh I don’t know, a plane.

I flew back to India yesterday. I left my glasses on the plane. I had to go to work today in my capacity of Online Marketing Manager, which as the designation implies, involves lots of computer work. Damnit!

Now this being India, some people who are a little less illuminated about this great country might think you have to go through hell and back to get a pair of spectacles. Hah, not a chance my ignorant friends. India is a land of programmers and call centres where people have to stare at computers all day long. There is an entire army of opticians waiting on every street in every town serving the never ending stream of Mechanical Engineering graduates who have toiled away for the last 4 years calculating complex matrices and partial differentiation and have realised that while finite element analysis is fascinating in every way, answering the phone and saying “Hello you have reached HSBC customer services, Brian speaking, how can I help you today?” pays well better and you even get a cool fussball table in the staff room. All you have to give up in return (apart from your innocence and soul) is your eyesight as you stare at Mrs. Grimbal’s account details on the computer screen for 10 solid hours a day.

I manfully soldiered through 8 hours of office work today by installing a piece of software called workrave which is the cyber equivalent of a health and safety executive standing over your shoulder and telling you that your chair is wrong, the desk is too high, the foot rest is at the wrong angle, the fluorescent lights are the wrong frequency and you have sharpened your pencils to a degree that could cause significant discomfort if you were to drive it in to your ear absent mindedly. The software basically forces you to take a break every 10 minutes by locking up your computer for 30 seconds and if you even dare attempt to move your mouse during that time it pointedly freezes the count down, looks at you with a stare which suggests that it can pause all day if you want it to, before resuming a few seconds later when you’ve stopped moving the mouse around.

And so it was thus that I managed to do my job without getting too great a headache and seeing how I can’t do anything without the Internet these days proceeded to look up where my nearest optician was. Foolishly I forgot that this was India so felt rather sheepish when I found that there was one on the same street as my office.

When you go in to an opticians in England and say I want to buy a pair of glasses, the receptionist will look at you, make a show of putting down the phone to indicate that you dared to interrupt her daily gossip, flick through the appointments book and inform you that they’ve got a slot coming up in two weeks on Wednesday at the convenient time of 11:00am. In India, you walk in to the opticians at 8pm and a crowd of assistants descend upon you, lead you to the examination room, the optician comes in and does a full eye test, gives you the prescription which you take to the sales staff and then have three people helping and advising you on which frames to pick, you make the payment and are informed that the glasses will be ready to pick up at 5pm tomorrow afternoon.

God I do love India sometimes!

Steve Jobs Apple Store Memorial

Took this photo outside the Covent Garden Apple Store in London on Thursday afternoon. Big crowds had gathered outside to pay tribute to the man. I’m not a mac fan myself but you can’t argue with the success Steve brought to Apple when he returned to the company he founded in the mid-90’s. He left the company as one of the biggest in the world when it eclipsed Exxon in August (but then lost some ground) having already succeeded Microsoft and Dell.

Steve Jobs Apple Store London Memorial

Morning Mists

Not to be outdone by the often spectacular sunsets that India has to offer, I snapped this photo at about 7:30am which has the usual English Autumn morning mists with the sun desperately trying to break through. I’ve obviously brought the Indian weather home with me because it’s not supposed to be mid-high 20’s in October! Or as one person on Twitter pointed out: Greece, pay your bills and you can have your weather back!

Are Things Really That Bad In England?

Yesterday the BBC reported a story where there has been a sharp increase in metal theft. Are things really that bad in England that the only way to make a few quid is to steal the metal slide from the children’s playground? I once laughed when a friend in India told me that the reason all the manhole covers are made from concrete is because people used to steal the metal ones and leave big gaping holes in the road. I remember reading in mild amusement that thieves in Cape Town would steal the electrical cable from the street lights.

Now I’m left wondering what England has come to when thieving robbing bastards will steal the lead lettering off of gravestones, pilfer metal doorknobs and letterboxes from highstreet shops and even make off with 100 year old bronze statues. Suddenly Indian politician Mayawati’s statue protection police force doesn’t look quite as absurd. And for what? Probably to make ten quid to get a haircut! Apparently one 22 year old was left with “horrendous” injuries when he tried to cut through a live electrical wire and was jolted with 22,000 volts of kick-ass karma – and probably did a remarkable Luke Skywalker impression when he was attacked by Emperor Palpatine. Who has to pick up the bill to pay for his surgery? Who has to pick up the bill when he claims for compensation for loss of earnings? And did he get charged for the attempted theft? Did he hell, he got 12 months community service.

Apparently train tracks are the favourite of cretinous scumbags who will steal anything from the signaling cable to the clips that hold the tracks to the sleepers which are kind of important if you are worried about little things like wanting the train to actually stay on the line. With such a disregard for safety where is it actually going to end? Are they going to start removing 5m sections of track so they can have a night out on the town followed by a doner kebab afterwards?

My Dad, who was working on an industrial site during the summer, recounted a tale where the complex suddenly lost power which was odd because there were no power cuts in the area. A scout around the perimeter fence located a very strange event; the heavy duty industrial power cable was mysteriously moving of its own accord back through the fence. Further investigation revealed a band of travelers on the other side heaving the cable through. “Oh” they said in their best Brad Pitt in Snatch accent, “We just saw this lying around and didn’t think it belonged to anyone.”

BBC News - Metal theft: Britain's most annoying crime wave

BBC News – Metal theft: Britain’s most annoying crime wavehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15062064One copper cable theft from a railway line. The result? A total of 108 trains delayed, 17 hours worth of hold-ups for thousands of passengers and damage put at over £80,000.…

This Is The Worst Flu Ever!

I’m currently down and out with man-flu, which is a little bit like a cold that women and children get – what with all the aching joints, mucus oozing out of various orifices, a single functioning nasal passage, sneezes so hard it gets picked up by seismometers around the world, sinuses that have inflated to twice their normal size and general Sunday morning tiredness – only man-flu is scientifically proven to be 10x worse. Yes, it might mean we are a weaker sex, but damnit if that’s what it takes for you to believe that this flu has me at deaths door and it’s using all my bodily strength to fight it off and it’s not ‘just a cold’ then so be it.

So far, I’ve kept myself occupied by finding out why mucus is yellow when you have a cold (and that your nose contains the same, err, expandable flesh, as male sexual organs), what the hell the sinuses even are or do (I was surprised), read an entire Star Wars novel and then researched who Sifo Dyas was and why General Grevious was a cyborg with lightsabers. So despite being completely knocked for six as my body battles this virulent man-flu, I feel as if I’ve achieved something with my new found knowledge that Grevious was trained by Count Dooku and will be sure to pass on this information when I meet new people.

Oh yes, and my girlfriend has sent a care package to help me get better which consists of honey, pepper, ginger and cloves which I’m to mix in to a cup of tea and then take a Combiflam afterwards. If you haven’t heard of Combiflam it’s an awesome 1+1=3 painkiller where the creators thought “Hmm, Ibruprofen and Paracetamol are great but they both lack that little something. I know let’s mix the two together and call it Combiflam!”

Forget The Shire, Hobbit Homes Come To Wales!

A tree hugger An environmentalist from Wales has created his own version of the hobbit home replete with rounded windows and doors, grass covered roof and will undoubtedly become a super-charged magnet for all kinds of creepy crawlies that lurk in the undergrowth. The gentleman who created it, Simon Dale, had no previous building experience, no previous carpentry knowledge and yet for just £3,000 he got the place done in about four months. I know people here in India that have hired a whole army of builders and decorators and their all-ready-built home still isn’t finished after 9 months!

Apparently Simon is going to live in this eco-friendly home with his wife and two young kids but as far as I can see there is just one open plan bedroom which I’m sure the children will be thrilled about when they hit their teens! It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Euw, mum, dad, get a room!”.

I’m wondering if the wife will think it’s still such a brilliant idea when Wales has one of its famously wet winters (which is like the Wales summer really it’s just the day light hours are shorter) and the eco-friendly compost toilet needs emptying, the turf roof has sprung a leak and half the rodents of the nearby forest decide that this little hobbit hole is an awesome place to keep warm. Given the opportunity, I think I’d rather live in one of the £60 houses I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Man builds stunning ‘hobbit house’ for just £3,000 - Yahoo! UK & Ireland Finance

Man builds stunning ‘hobbit house’ for just £3,000 – Yahoo! UK & Ireland Financehttp://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/Man-builds-stunning-hobbit-yahoofinanceuk-1514084024.htmlA man has built a hillside home reminiscent of a hobbit house from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings — on a budget of just £3,000. Simon Dale constructed the woodland home for his family in Wales, taking only four months to fully complete the project

Excuse Me, You’re In My Personal Space

In England we like to take our personal space very seriously. We get offended if someone violates our immediate area and if we have to go somewhere where there are already other people we tend to look for the place where the population density is the lowest, for example if we get on a train we look for the empty set of seats rather than sit next to someone. (Obviously this formality goes out the window during London rush hour when you’re crushed like sardines in to a traveling tin can also known as the Tube).

In India, personal space doesn’t seem to be protected with the same voracity as in England, largely I think because people are so used to growing up on top of each other in the large joint families that you’ve never had personal space to begin with! I took a couple of photos of some ladies queuing to get in to the local temple because I couldn’t believe how close they stood next to each other on a sweltering hot day which must have been around 38-40°C!

Freebies and Indian Politics

Indian politics is fascinating for any onlooker, it’s quite alien to anyone from the west and trying to understand it would take a lifetime. The first thing to know is that being a country of 1.2 billion people, the media likes to segment people in to what are known as ‘vote banks’. For example the muslim minority here are considered a vote bank because they all tend to vote the same way. The people from the lowest castes (they used to be called ‘untouchables’ because it was considered dirty to even touch them, now, in a more enlightened age they are referred to as dalits) will also vote the same way.

There are so many different vote banks here that it’s a tough job for the political parties to appeal to everyone. One way the parties try to win votes is by offering freebies, often under the flimsy guise of ‘welfare schemes’. In Tamil Nadu, in order to sway the election, the two main parties entered in to an almost bidding war with each other on who could give the most freebies welfare to the poor people. In the previous 2006 election, the DMK party swept to power after announcing it would give away 15 million colour TV’s. In the end a lady called Jayalalithaa won because she said that people would get:

  • Free food blender
  • Free wet grinder
  • Free table fan
  • Free ceiling fan
  • Free laptop to all Govt. school children
  • Free cow
  • Free goat
  • Free sheep

It’s unclear how many people are eligible for all these freebies welfare goods, but the BBC reckons that 6.8 million school children alone will be getting free laptops at an estimated cost of $2 billion. In total, $580m will be spent on the free consumer goods and livestock this year alone. Oh, and it’s definitely NOT all a political stunt, Jayalalitha says, despite the fact that all the free goods have her smiling face prominently stuck to the side so that people are in no doubt about who gave them this welfare!

The biggest irony of all this is that in the villages, where most of these poor people live, there is very little electricity, few can afford the electricity and power cuts last several hours each day, or in some cases, for days!

The Hindu : States / Tamil Nadu : It is wrong to denigrate welfare schemes: Jayalalithaa

The Hindu : States / Tamil Nadu : It is wrong to denigrate welfare schemes: Jayalalithaahttp://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/article2455705.eceThe other schemes pertained to the free distribution of food mixers, wet grinders and table-fans to women carrying rice-drawing family cards and special incentive to students of…