Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Response to FirstPost's Unfollow-The-PMO post


This is about Firstpost's article "Time to unfollow the PMO on Twitter" ( http://bit.ly/zY1jot ). When the article was posted online, I tweeted this:



The link got sent around and reached the person in Firstpost who posted it (@AnantRangaswami). After a few back-and-forth tweets, he asked me and @nikhilnarayanan to send him a more detailed clarification of why we felt FirstPost was being unfair. So here goes.

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FirstPost is a new-age media house that caters more to the Twitter-audience than to the newspaper-reading audience. It is a fun-loving yet analytical, light-hearted yet informative and of course, instant and trendy media house. So, it plays along with Twitter - adding hashtags to its tweets (sometimes excessively), add puns to its tweets (sometimes funny) and retweets other people's jokes. I cannot think of any other media twitter handle that does any of these.

When one of their writers spends a lot of time on Twitter and soaks in all that happens there, it is easy to get carried away into analyzing an issue the way their Timeline is analyzing it. For serious issues, this sometimes works fine - people genuinely have different and thought-provoking opinions and hence Twitter helps get a good two-sided perspective on things. Filter out the jokes and irrational anger from the timeline and you can see some good thoughts. Take both sides of the opinion from these, put them together and you have a well-balanced article that everyone will read.

But for non-serious issues (like - why the PMO twitter handle is a failure), the analysis on Twitter is substituted by jokes. The jokes come easy based on the usual themes of making fun of the PM - PM doesn't speak, PM is weak and of course Sonia Gandhi controls the PM. When the timeline is filled with these tweets (many of them quite funny) and a writer decides to churn out an article, the output sometimes sounds like a serious version of these joke tweets.

And this is what I think is wrong with the "Time to unfollow the PMO on Twitter" article.

It draws on two things from the Twitter account - the fact that the account does not follow anyone yet and that it did not tweet about issues like inflation, corruption, reforms, Rushdie or Norway. And makes the following conclusion in the summary - 
The PMO account will be broadcasting, not interacting. It will tell all of us what the PMO wants us to know. It will not be engaging and cerebral, it will be banal and boring, as seen by the first few tweets. It will not be a meeting place for, say, opinion-leaders and thinkers of the country and the prime minister’s office.

The sample size for this conclusion is one day of tweeting. Think about it - just one day. What did most of us do on the first day on Twitter? Even if we do remember it, is it an indicator of what or how we tweet today? 

For all you know, the conclusion may turn out to be true - but it still does not justify this article so early. Now, suppose the handle did tweet about those serious issues on Day 1 - it would not have justified a victory article either. Because, well, neither of these conclusions can be made with just a day of tweeting. 

The article would have been more apt if it had mentioned about the PMO handle, that it is an attempt to be forward-looking, about its slow start, about the confusion of PM-vs-PMO author, about what it expects from the handle in future and some comparisons to other such handles in other departments/countries. What it does not need is a obituary on day one.

Let's wait and watch before declaring victory or sending it a Rest-In-Peace card.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Drip drip


Mr.Rao lay awake in bed. A quick glance at the tableclock - 645PM it read. He got out slowly, wondering how to kill time today. When you're 82, there aren't many things to look forward to. He looked around frantically for ideas. The house was eerily silent - the only sound from a distant leaking tap that made rhythmic drip-drip sounds.

*drip... drip*

The phone rang in the adjacent room. It resonated across the empty house. The big smile on his face suggested he was happy he found something to do. As he ambled towards the phone, he got tired and began sulking. What sort of an idiot disturbs you at this ungodly hour, he wondered.

"Hello, is Rudran there?" the faceless voice said.

"Rudran?", Rao cursed inaudibly. "No such person here. Wrong number". He banged the phone down.

*drip... drip*

He stood there wondering what he had planned to do when he got out of bed. The doorbell rang. Another slow walk begun. He looked through the peep-hole. A tie-wearing bag-carrying man stood outside.

"What do you want?" Rao bellowed.

"I've come to fix your tap."

*drip... drip*

"My taps don't need no fixing."

"But Sir, you were the one who called me over."

"No, of course not." Rao's voice faded as he said that. Maybe he really had called him, he couldn't recollect anything from the morning.

Realizing the opportunity, the man said "Sir, please go check your second bathroom. That's where you said there is a leaking tap. I won't come in if it's not leaking."

Rao closed the peephole and walked toward the dripping sound. The tap really was leaking. That man couldn't have known that unless I told him, he rationalized. Rao let the man in and pointed towards the bathroom.

*DRIP... DRIP*

The man went in with a few tools as Rao - too tired from all the walking - sat on the couch. The dripping sounds stopped a moment later.

The man stepped out and asked "Isn't it time for your medicine? Shall I get you some water?"

Rao was too tired to notice the inconsistency. He nodded and asked the man to get his tablets too. The man walked straight to the medicine cabinet, pulled out three tablets and handed it over. After two tablets, Rao asked the man his name. "I'm Rudran", he said as the third tablet went in. Rao's eyes widened with surprise and non-comprehension. Dizziness hit him very quickly and he closed his eyes.

The phone rang again and Rudran picked it up quickly. "Yeah yeah, of course it worked." Rudran said and listened. He continued "Moron, I told you not to call the landline - you could've messed it up. Anyway, I'll speak to you tomorrow. Bye". Rudran slid silently into one of the rooms and closed it behind him.

Next day morning, Mr.Rao woke up and headed straight to the noises from the bathroom. Rudran walked out from the bathroom with a spanner in his hand. Dripping sounds were back behind him.

*drip... drip*

Rao smiled and asked "Did the entry work alright yesterday?"

Rudran replied "Yes, this method always works. I'll try and come home before sunset today." and left.

As Rao waved him goodbye, Rudran said "I hate this after-sunset memory loss. I want to enter my house normally for once, papa."

*drip... drip*