Off for the weekend

Guys, thanks a ton for the feedback on the Twitter-use post — very useful.

Off now, and back on Monday. In the interim, random thoughts if any on my Twitter stream. Have a good weekend, all.

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Sagarika redux

Sans comment, and with thanks to all those who sent me this between my last Sagarika post and the one of earlier today [You know who you are, and you are too many to thank individually :-)]

Sports and pastimes

Who measures public sentiment, do you know?

At the centre of the controversy is the “Building India” tagline in the DLF logo and the objection is to having it on the bowler’s run-up area and on the passage leading to the presentation ceremony as well where players frequently trod on them.

“Please appreciate that the matter in question involves deep public sentiments…with players running over it (the word India) hurts public sentiment and also tantamount to showing disrespect to the name of the country,” the Ministry said in its letter to DLF chairman KP Singh.

“I, therefore, sincerely call upon DLF, the title sponsors, to respond to the strong public sentiments in the matter and take urgent action to stop such misuse…failing which, we will take up the matter with the Trade Mark Commissioner for appropriate action,” the letter signed by joint secretary Injeti Srinivas read.

This is the first I heard that the public had even noticed the logo, let alone got worked up about it.

Elsewhere in the ministry for sports:

Commonwealth Games 2010 is costing the taxpayer a pretty penny, with cost overruns for major projects going up from Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 2,460 crore. Authorities have been facing flak for some time now over delays in completion of projects but it now appears that cost escalation is a major cause for concern as well.

Incidentally, JLN Stadium has missed its deadline with work on venues for athletics, lawn bowls and weightlifting still going on. The deadline has been extended for the weightlifting venue from February 15 to May 31. At Indira Gandhi Stadium, the cycling track was expected to be finished by March 31 but will only be ready by May 31 as is the case with the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee swimming pool complex.

Maybe if the ministry mandarins spent less time gossiping with the public…

That said, I seriously now how our ministry mandarins think of every tiny detail, and do the math. Like, so:

“There will be around 8,000 residents at the Village. At a conservative count of one condom per person per day, we need at least 96,000 condoms for the whole 12 days,” said the official, who saw the same practice in Beijing and the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. “The condoms flew off the shelves after the first few days in Beijing. Athletes are used to availing of them after their events.”

Talk about a public distribution system: dear athlete, here’s your one fuck a day, thank you very much. [Seriously, our mandarins are perfectly capable of setting up a booth to distribute said condoms, and asking the athletes to line up, present their credentials, and receive their allotted quota each day.]

The Coens

Thanks to Roger Ebert’s Twitter stream, spent a few moments watching this tribute to the Coen Brothers. And while on Joel and Ethan, not sure how many of you had read this hilarious interview clip I’d once posted on the previous avtaar of this blog.

Gautam Gambhir, redux

Harsha comes to the topic a bit late — likely a function of weekly deadlines. Sometimes, events happen immediately after you’ve dashed off one column, and then you are constrained to wait a week before you can take it up in your next [one reason why I believe Harsha needs to have a blog of his own, but that is a conversation we’ve been having for years].

All that said, his take on the ‘reprimand’ is worth your while.

And it strikes me as particularly baffling that players seem to get away with abuse on a field, with insulting language, but cannot make an honest observation off it. It has wider implications. I fear it could only lead to more boring, vanilla statements of the sort we now get at press conferences. The audience, who are the real owners of a sport, want to know what a sportsman is thinking, they want his assessment, and they have a right to that knowledge. Otherwise we will get what passes for cricketer-written columns in our newspapers: bland, insipid and flat statements that do not tell us why the owner of the byline is an exceptional performer, do not allow us a little window into his mind. Gambhir allowed us that and was told to stand in a corner.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

Here’s the latest from the IPL:

Even before it could set about building a team, the franchisee ran into trouble with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which returned the agreement papers.

IPL sources claimed the Kochi franchisee reportedly gave 25% of its shareholding for life to some unknown entities, free of cost when it has itself bid almost Rs 1,500 crore to obtain the franchise. The sources told TOI the consortium has been asked to present its case and sign the agreement, mentioning all its partners, in Mumbai by Monday.

However, sources in the Kochi camp denied that any such transfer of stake had taken place. They also insisted that they would submit the agreement papers to BCCI on Friday itself.

Does any of this, or all of it, remind you of the Internet, in those glorious bubble years?

Anyway. This is, as politicians and journalists both like to say, a “developing situation”, and we are “keenly monitoring the developments”. Stay tuned.

Related, here’s Samanth Subramaniam on the IPL — in, of all places, Huffington Post:

So why, when I watch the tournament now, do I watch it with equal measures of fascination and repugnance? Not because the IPL is a symbol of capitalism – far be it for me, a willing beneficiary of India’s adventures in money-making, to complain about that – but because it’s a symbol of capitalism gone horrifically wrong. The IPL purports to be a free market but is in fact controlled by one man: Lalit Modi, whose power and stature have grown so Rabelaisian in merely three years that Bollywood has already asked to mine his life for subject material. (One player, Ravindra Jadeja, dared to try negotiating a new contract for himself this year. He was promptly banned for the remainder of the season.) The IPL pursues revenues at the expense of other valuable resources: Test cricket, but also domestic cricket, the inevitable breeding grounds for young talent. In its grubbing for money, in fact, the IPL is dismissive of anything old-fashioned, anything aesthetic; even the four seconds between one ball and the next, held sacrosanct through more than a century of cricket, have been sold for inconsequential advertisements. Meanwhile, owners buy teams for staggering quantities of money and with the fuzziest possibilities of recovering their investment; they desire only to dice up the risk and sell it in parts to sponsors and other companies, a practice that should surely sound familiar to us today.

Link courtesy Cricinfo’s Surfer.

Twitter times

So what do you guys use Twitter for?

Not a rhetorical question, that — I’d really like to know. And the curiosity is prompted by a gradual change in my own use of the medium.

At first, the blog used to be for when I had something to say, and Twitter for when I wanted to hang with the crowd and have some fun. Shift 1 came when I realized that blogging has a certain limitation: it is just great for when you have a specific thought you want to put out there in the public domain, but sometimes you come across an interesting read you’d like to share, without any further amplification. At such times, it is almost too much trouble to log in to blog just to post a link. Enter Twitter: cut paste the link, preface it with a ‘Read’ note, and you’re done.

More recently, Twitter is — for me — changing character again. Besides pointing at interesting stuff to read, I find that if you follow people selectively, you end up with a well-curated web; the people you follow surface most of the links relating to your interest areas, and save you the trouble of surfing over to dozens of different sites.

Here’s what I found, during the very short drive to work this morning:

From the New York Review of Books blog, Malise Ruthven on a social revolution through the medium of public toilets — courtesy the NYRB Twitter feed.

The inimitable Jon Stewart on the ongoing ‘Pope Opera’, courtesy HuffPost.

News of a tell all look on Gandhi’s sex life. Yeah, *that* Gandhi. Courtesy UltraBrown.

A blog post on wikileaks as a primary journalism resource — wikileaks, as a post I noticed yesterday pointed out, is already scooping more stories than say the Washington Post has in its entire existence. Courtesy Msaleem.

Ghalib, rendered by Lata Mangeshkar. Courtesy ‘madversity’, a journalist and friend.

And that is a short list culled from over two dozen stories that surfaced on my stream during that short drive, of which I found at least five — in addition to the ones listed above — compelling.

It’s getting so I’m seriously contemplating taking my Twitter stream to the potty, replacing the traditional newspaper.

There is one other reason I’m getting to like Twitter. In a word, feedback. Post a thought here, and I can be fairly certain that within minutes — and often before the first comment is posted here — a dozen different people have reacted to it on my stream. Sometimes it is just a retweet — which tells me something too; specifically it tells me that the poster thought the content good enough to pass on to his friends. Often, it is questions — which tell me that perhaps the original post did not cover all the bases. And sometimes it is criticism — which, most times, points at fallacies in the original argument, or if it is misdirected, tells me I was right in the first instance.

All of which is precisely what you lacked as a print journalist, where the feedback was never this quick, this precise, and this focused. Add the curated web to the mix, and it tells you why I spend a large chunk of my spare time on Twitter these days.

A tangential point about the criticism: Twitter is not for the thin skinned; not for those who believe that they are delivering the sermon on the mount. Case in point, Sagarika Ghose. Check this out.

Here’s the deal: if what you chose to put out in the public domain is not thought through with due rigor, the universe out there will not make allowances for you. The people who read you have minds of their own — and on Twitter and in the comments field of blogs, rarely shy away from speaking it, loud and clear. If you can’t handle that heat, dude, save the pontifications for print, and for television, where you can control the feedback.

End of rant. Your turn — what do you use Twitter for, and why? How does it differ from say how you use Facebook? The feedback is important, folks — I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate these tools into what we do at Yahoo, and I’d like to go beyond the bleeding obvious. Appreciate any thoughts, links, etc.