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Monday, February 25, 2008

30 top US news websites

Editor and Publisher has put together has put together a list of top 30 US news websites. New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Online and Los Angeles Times are on top, in that order. All these have gained traffic over the past year. More

While traffic has gained, the average time spent by a reader on the NYT site has decreased from 44 to 36 minutes during Jan 2007 to Jan 2008. More

It's well acknowledged that print media in the US has been losing circulation. But how well has the online versions of the newspapers been doing?

An analysis by Scarborough Research says that the online audience has been making up as much as 28% of the loses in print readership. More

But, on the contrary, Outsell Research says that online newspapers aren't attracting eyeballs fast enough. More

I guess, the disparity is because of the types of newspapers covered. For a still fledgling medium like online communication, it's very difficult to generalise.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cockroach puts 30 people out of work

A cockroach makes a surprise appearance... and at the end of it all, 30 employees lose their jobs... More

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Blogging in south Indian languages

Well, I was expecting this, but not so soon. Blogger announced it on 12th here.

The first indication of this was when Orkut had the option to type in south Indian languages -- Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. Blogger had introduced Hindi transliteration some time back. What's remarkable is out of the five Indian languages provided, four are south Indian ones, including Malayalam, my mother tongue. ഇനി മലയാളം ഫോണ്ട് ഡൌണ്‍‌ലോഡ് ചെയ്യണ്ട -- I mean, now I don't have to download Malayalam fonts.

I can see that Google family engineers working on Blogger have done their research well to find out that while Hindi binds north India well, there is no one common language that binds the south in a similar manner. One can survive with Hindi anywhere from Mumbai in the west to Kolkata in the east, or even further north east in the the Seven Sisters. But each of the four south Indian languages are so distinct unless one knows each of them it is difficult to survive in the respective state.

During the eight years I was in the north, I had no difficulty travelling from place to place or even communicating with the local people. But when I came down south, I felt out of place, even though I am from Kerala.

So, it's not without reason that Blogger has provided four south Indian languages and Hindi. However, I am sure it will provide other major Indian languages like Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali etc. also.

Hats off to the engineers for the facility that has been provided to get the spelling of the transliterated word correct. Type out the word in English; if the trasliterated word looks inaccurate, then just click the word; a menu drops down, from which the right form can be selected.

Wow, this looks wonderful. The only glitch: the spell-check has stopped working. Hopefully it's getting fixed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ban possession of guns in US

No end to violence on American colleges -- yesterday's incident at the North Illinois University in which five students were gunned down in a classroom was the fouth in a month.

Since American universities have lots of foreign students on their campuses, security of students is not just an American issue, it is also a global one. The North Illinois University, for example, has 862 international students from 88 countries. NIU has an Indian link -- it has a tieup with Karnataka's Manipal University.

So what has Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois, got to say on this?

"Today we offer them our thoughts and prayers, but we also have to offer them our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods and our cities," Obama said. "That is our duty as Americans," he tells a news conference.

But he nullifies all the determination with this:

"I think there is an individual right to bear arms, but it's subject to commonsense regulation."

Why doesn't America completely ban ownership of guns, except by people who need it as part of their work?Why should people carry guns for their protection when there is a well-armed security force? Of all people, why should students be legally allowed to possess guns?

None of the candidates -- Hillary, Obama or McCain -- has a clear cut policy on gun control.

America is supposedly leading a war against terroism. Aren't students living in a state of terror on US campuses, not knowing who will spray bullets on whom? When innocent lives are lost, aren't the classical terrorist and the student with a gun in the same league?

Election year may not be a good time to hammer out bipartisan agreements. But an effort on the part of the two parties and their leading candidates to hammer one out against possessing firearms will signal to the Americans and to the world at large that the American establishment doesn't have two standards when it comes to gun culture.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Why Raj Thackeray is wrong

By letting his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists attack poor north Indians of Mumbai, Raj Thackeray is under the mistaken belief that his pro-Marathi parochialism will win him votes. A similar tactic by his uncle Bal Thackeray 40 years ago against south Indians failed, so much that he has now made his policy an inclusive one.

Raj has justified his tirade saying if Manmohan Singh can raise the turban issue with the French President, if TN CM Karunanidhi can raise Tamils' issue with the Malaysian govt, if Bengalis can rally for cricketer Sourav Ganguly, why can't he speak up for Marathis. Raj is not only citing wrong models but resorted to violence. It's like the student who justified copying saying he was only following what others were doing.

When in Rome, do as Romans: there are no two opinions on that. Every resident of Mumbai has to respect the local customs and traditions. If sommeone in Mumbai is not doing it, then that's the issue. And, the solutions lies not in making life difficult for them, but addressing the issue and sending out positive vibes on how important local traditions are.

In today's globalised world isolationism doesn't work. Parochialism can have a chain reaction, leading to catastrophic consequences. If Raj Thackeray is looking for an identity, if he wants to promote Marathi -- nothing wrong in that -- he must work on constructive models by pro-active engagement, not by dividing Mumbaikars.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Barack Obama's Super Tuesday Speech

Obama is behind, but not so far as to throw in the towel; the Democratic nomination race will continue. We have seen an 'Obama surge', and that has helped him get close to Clinton. Will he overtake her? A fantastic, invigorating speech here. He is a great orator. The rendition, well punctuated with pauses, is arresting. It's a long speech but worth listening to.

Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday Speech

Clinton is ahead of Obama, but not well enough to clinch the Democratic nomination. A good speech here, but she doesn't seem to connect with the audience as effectively as Obama.

John McCain's Super Tuesday Speech

There is no doubt now that McCain will be the Republican candidate on Nov 8. But will he make it to the White House?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hope for British Library, Thiruvananthapuram

The widespread concern over the plan to close down the British Library in Thiruvananthapuram seems to be paying off. Since no one is ready to let the library go, the idea now is for the Kerala government to take over its management. The BL has agreed to hand over the books and other facilities to the government. That's a significant breakthrough, since the earlier decision was to distribute the books to other British Libraries. The government chief secretary is preparing a report on the plan of action. (Report in The Hindu.)

So far so good. But the challenge for the government will be to maintain the standard the BL did. The only apprehension stems out of the way the Kerala Government Public Library, that also houses precious literature, is maintained: nothing much to write home about. It should make use of this opportunity to simultaneously modernise the Public Library as well.

The government of a state like Kerala -- which is universally known for the giant strides it has taken in literacy and education -- was only expected to take the intiative to breathe life into the British Library. Nevertheless, it deserves applause. One only hopes it puts forward a good proposal and takes the plan forward.

Earlier post: The British Library to close down

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: Slugfest to Lovefest

The Super Tuesday is just a few days away -- on Feb 5, when most of America will vote for the party nominees. (Youtube channel: You Choose '08.) As the crucial primaries get closer, here below are two video clippings from the Democractic debates. These two show the contrasting moods of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Hillary, Obama clash at South Carolina Democratic Debate

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spar during the South Carolina debate on Jan 21.

Clinton, Obama cordial at debate

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shared a debate stage alone for the first time on Thursday, Jan 31, striking a cordial tone. They even fielded questions on who will be the vice-presidential candidate. Does this reflect the overwhelming confidence that the Republicans will be routed for sure, and that Hillary and Obama are reconciled to one of them being the President?