Handling Social Media Crises : i5 talk Mahindra 2012

Spoke at the Mahindra i5 Talks in 2012. This is a youtube video of the talk.
“Rohit Pandharkar, from the CTO Office at Mahindra’s CanvasM speaks about “Handling Social Media Crisis and Using Social Media for Effective Business PR” [bit.ly/Ua2oOO]. Social Media Analytics is one of the most commonly thrown phrase these days. However there is much more to it beyond a passive internet crawling and NLP. After you have crawled and interpreted things, there is still much more to be desired from the standard social media products. “How to respond to Social Media Crisis” is not something anybody teaches us. We have to learn – the new age solution to this new age problem, through the nitty gritties of “How mass psychoogy works”. The most predictably irrational responses to social media crisis often results in billion dollar brand value losses for businesses. We need to understand that a mistake is a mistake and no point suppressing, censoring the content you may not like.”

…!

I could n’t really think of any apt title for this post. I am writing this mostly for my own record. I would like to come back later and just to see how how I was feeling at this time during my years at MIT. Time flies fast,almost six months since I have been here at MIT and it feels like 2 years. I have learnt more than I could have imagined. Probably a major part of the learning has been because of the fact that I am staying away from my parents and pune for the first time in life. Although initially I felt this should nt really matter, now when I look back I realize that it has taught me a lot of things I otherwise would have taken many more years to learn. These six months have been totally enjoyable. I have made new friends, and they together make a great mix. Even though the friendships started with mere exchange of smiles almost everyone I know has taught me something directly or indirectly or has helped me in some way.  For example I think I met Jinha in the lower lobby while he was playing piano and we together tried playing the super-nostalgic Mario tune. Jinha is great at playing piano. peopel around in lab show amazing creativity at times and make me realize that this indeed is a school of media arts and sciences and not a computer science department. I love ML.  Acads have been good and I wont really get into that, but it feels nice to have been able to maintain the standards I wanted to maintain.  I am also happy with the number of submissions so far and about the number of projects going on simultaneously. Although I would like to be even faster and even more prolific in publishing, the current rate seems to be good enough. Ramesh has been giving me chance to do reviews and also volunteer for ICCP. These tasks also made me learn a lot. Especially being in the SIGGRAPH reviewer’s shoes was a good experience. It has made me learn how I should be writing papers when I submit. Related work, Work evaluation and limitations acceptance seem to be major concerns for reviewers most of the times. just deal with those neatly and you should be fine. I like my group as well. Everyone is just so enthusiastic about new things and dedicated to work hard and also play hard. People step forward to take up responsibilities do their best. I should also write down some of learnings from Ramesh.(doing that at the botttom). Its a great opportunity to be here. I feel fortunate. I think I at the place I wanted to be. (same goes with CoEP for undergrad). I keep feeling I should try to get more out of it. Hope the ML india workshop also takes up. That will be one of the ambitious attempts after coming here. Liking research, and learning a lot from the mistakes. The feel good factor!

My sincere apologies to those who came here expecting an entertaining post. It was not supposed to be. What I have written above has more reading between teh lines though, I think.

Very simple things which we probably already know but never follow:

1. One can never get good research done if one opens gmail at the start of the day.

2. Manage Time, People, Money, Space well.

3. Be very careful about how and on what you are ‘spend’ing  your time. Sometiems you have to be selfish about your time.

4. Have the bigger picture clear (of the project) in your mind. What statement is your paper making?Whats the message?

5. Make your paper so well written that reviewer will just end up tick marking his check list.

6. We are here to have fun, and we are here to change the world.

7.  Visualize the future and ask- are you doing what you should have been doing if you were to be the winner?

8. Don’t waste time over trivialities. Either fix small things or just decide to ignore them if they are nt really important.

9. Learn to make good professional connections

10. Be aware of state of the art

11. Be modest.

12. Follow email etiquettes.

13. Always play a fair game.

14. Dont take up an idea until you have tested it completely.

15. Always ask the question ‘ Why not the best?’

Words of advice from Dr. Govind Swarup

Professor Govind Swarup, of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), is an internationally renowned radio astronomer and one of the pioneers of radio astronomy.

While working on the media lab India initiative related efforts, I had a chance to have a one on one discussion with Dr. Govind Swarup today.  It was a magnificent experience to listen to such words of wisdom from a researcher like him  just before the commencement of my MIT life. Previously, I had been in touch with him regarding my capstone project, but unfortunately I did not work under his guidance since my interests were more inclined towards computer science than radio astronomy. However, it has always been an enlightening experience whenever he talked to us. I felt compelled to log in and write about his words from today’s discussion on my blog, so that I can come back to this text later and remind myself about what he said. I am sure others will also find his words useful. I have tried to reproduce the gyst of the discussion from what I remember. “As you get ready for your studies at MIT, be aware of why you are going there, and also about what you are looking forward to do after that. Do not keep yourself restricted to work that you are doing. Go visit other labs around and ask your friends there, “Hey what are you working on?” Try and get a decent understanding of what others are working on even if they are working in totally different academic areas. Try developing a vision about where technology is heading and what society and even the country needs. Born in 1929 and currently 80 years old now, I still go back to NCRA and TIFR today to work on some of the top class problems. I am fortunate in the sense that I am still called for work at this age. I like to work because I am passionate about working on things that I can visualize, thereby making a greater impact on the technological scene here. I finished my PhD from Stanford in 3 years and 4 months. After that, I was a professor at Stanford. However, I returned to India in order to join TIFR. I had written to Bhabha and he called me saying ‘You can always join, you certainly have the caliber we require. It is not just about returning to your country; it is also more about grooming yourself as an individual who has a vision and passion to bring upon a change in the scene around. You can do this only when you have a very broad knowledge base and the attitude to look at it and think about it from a broader and bigger perspective. [He also talked about his associations with Dr. V. G . Bhide, Dr. Mashelkar and other Indian national figures and how all of them are trying to realize their vision through initiatives like a launch of IISERs. The idea was that, India had IITs for world class engineering, IIMs for world class management education, but no such chain of institutes existed for pure sciences. India being the third largest education system in the world, has only 4 nobels to its credit- probably an indicator of the same.]. Money is never going to be an issue. If you are good enough, it will come by as a byproduct of your work. In our days it was a different case, but your generation is lucky to be in a period of time when research is generously acknowledged and rewarded. So look at work from a holistic perspective than other trivialities like monetary gains and cushy job profiles. Wish you all the best.”’ There were many other important points he talked about during the otherwise random discussion, which I have not covered here. While I am not sure about where I will be working in 5 years and which profession I will be taking up, these words are certainly inspiring and an impetus for thinking on a grand scale. What I admired the most was his way of looking at careers with a bigger vision and wider impact rather than coming up with research outputs in specific research areas. Though he has already been credited for a lot of influential research results in radioastronomy and related areas, his hallmark has been the contribution he has made in bringing India on the global radio astronomy map – improving the country wide radio astronomy scenario and motivating people around him as well. He keeps on inspiring researchers from his labs, professors from the institute, industry leaders, and students to think on this line of thought. Truly inspiring. His profile from TIFR if you want to know more about him: http://www.ncra.tifr.res.in/gs/

Connecting dots

Ok, It has been a long time (8 months!!!) since I posted anything here. And not that I have been busy, in fact I have been  enjoying the best vacation ever for the past 2 months and 2 more to go :). There have been a few changes. Life has been good. I can sense a general feel good factor,  simultaneously also the awe of  ‘how can everything just go the way I wanted?’ (recall: Murphy’s law!)

I recently got the US visa and hence the so-called ‘pre-and-post-application process’ is  over. While reflecting back on the past 4 years spent in CoEP I have found a strange connection. And this post is going to be about that.

I was recently supposed to make a presentation’ about myself’ at the Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation’s Orientation Program. And we were told not to speak about things on our application for the scholarship or resume. So…what do you speak about when you are not allowed to speak about your achievements?…you speak about failures!

Yes! I made a 10-minute long presentation about my failures- and it was a nice experience. We never really get a chance to speak about our failures. I was totally excited at the prospect of being able to do that, especially because my life has been full of failures 🙂 I did n’t even rehearse…I had so much material to talk about 🙂 I talked about ” connecting dots”

Connecting Dots:

You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” says Jobs. “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”[Steve Jobs:Stanford Commencement Ceremony 2005]

Jobs believes that everything happens for a reason and although that reason may be hard to see at the time, sometimes you need to just sit back and have faith that things will work out in the end. Trusting your own decisions is often one of the most difficult but necessary and rewarding experiences.

So getting back to the point- I introspected and found that most of the things that happened while I was in CoEP were because of being the right person at the right time at the right place. Moreover, there is a strange connection of dots in the things that happened.

Going back to std 10th- I failed to clear the STS round for the NTS- while all the friends around, who were almost equally capable, got through- I was the only one left out. It then just started accumulating- like a pile. I wrote the Maths Olympiad exams and could n’t make it to the highest levels.  I spent 2 long years working hard for JEE and then again failed to clear the Mains  Chemistry cut off by 2 marks.  Then came KVPY- my project and research proposal- both were summarily rejected. Something was wrong. Everything I tried doing turned out to be a  failure.

July 25th- 2005- I entered CoEP. While I was struggling to get familiar with the new peer group around (32 out of 70 of my classmates were Board toppers from their respective regions-and obviously I was not!) there were people around who kept harping on the point that I am making a huge mistake by not repeating JEE. I don’t know why but I never really gave a second thought to my CoEP admission.  And it so turns out that it was perhaps the best  decision I ever made.

Initially it was still the same old story at the beginning of my BTech. Up to second year, life was normal.

Then -something-happened.

I had learnt discrete math and fermat’s thm during my preps for maths olympiad (a place I had already failed at). I had attended a lecture on Cryptography at IUCAA on a  science day (the day on which our team miserably lost a school quiz comptn- another failure 🙂 ). And I had gone through the De Moivre’s identity proof during my preps for JEE (JEE=another failure).

Strangely, all these 3 things combined together- led to a serendipitous algorithm design. Sometime in my Second year, I was doodling on my desk- and suddenly an idea clicked- to generalize Diffie Hellman using functional equations- and using De Moivre to form a key generation protocol. Tada! The tide turned.

Fortunately, my Dept Chair took the idea seriously and told me to convert into a paper-and then rest of the things just followed.

Thinking about it now- had I not had those utter failures- INMO, JEE and the IUCAA quiz – this serendipitous change would have never come my way.

There is some learning involved in every single failure. Only failures, accumulated together can some day, bring upon a change. Not that it has changed the equations upside down. I still am a pretty normal guy, but at least  now I am content that life has been going the way I always wanted. I am totally happy about it 🙂

“Everything happens for a reason and although that reason may be hard to see at the time, sometimes you need to just sit back and have faith that things will work out in the end. Trusting your own decisions is often one of the most difficult but necessary and rewarding experiences.”……….so true.

A Tribute to Prof. Nitin Narappanawar

Prof. Nitin Narappanawar has been one of my mentors in my undergraduate life. I am pasting the mail that I wrote to him on the teacher’s day. These are the excerpts of what I feel about my guide, and friend philosopher.

[Prof. Nitin Narappanawar is Professor in Electrical Engineering, at the Dept of AESD,

International Institute of Information Technology (I Square IT), and has formerly taught me Engineering Math courses.]

Respected sir,

My greetings to you on teacher’s day. Unfortunately I am in IITB today and hence cannot come over to meet you so thought of mailing you. I do not want to let this sound as flattery but i feel it is important to let you know some of my thoughts. You have been my guide not only in academic curruclum but also in my personal life and in career plans. I think, the time spent in interesting and random discussions near the doorstep of the class on all possible topics (which is our usual practice 🙂 ) was as important as the hours spent in learning M1, M2 M3 inside the class. I remember the rambling discussions you me and Neeraj used to have during the class. All those discussions have created an influence somewhere and somehow in my line of thought. I think having you around for guidance always made a difference. For example, people around are now realizing why crossing ‘9’  in CGPA is important. But they cannot work it out now as the GPAs have become far too heavier to change – something about which you warned me long ago and made me strive for 9+.
Apart from acads, I remember the extra time you spent with me in TY when I was nt taking any maths courses. Like on the first Crypto work I did…on the sine and cosine of complex numbers. When I look back…I realize that trying for AACC Conference and all was foolishness. But you still had encouraged me at that time- which was quite important for the international achievements later on. I shall stop here, lest I would start sounding flattery. but I think, sometimes it is necessary to let people around you, whom you admire, know that- how much and why do you admire them. So thought of writing down this mail.
Regards
Rohit

‘Peace’ of Good Writing

Most of my friends have told me that one often feels surprised to look at scribblings of own after a year or so, and amazed to see how eloquently [?] one has jotted down the thoughts with convincing examples, with the finesse of a seasoned writer. I was going through my Issues written during the days of GRE preparation and found this one which I had mailed Kapeesh for a feedback.Having a look at it after a year or so, it makes me doubt how I ever wrote such a cogent piece [Unfortunately my brain seems to have been programmed to interchangeably use peace and piece, and type the as ‘teh’. I have given up trying for improvement on that front. ].Here it is, might help for those who are preparing for the AWA.

(I have pasted it here along with the typos I made in the initial draft 🙂 )

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“Working according to conformity by default, means narrowing down your horizons”, said Mahatma Gandhi.I do concur with the statement claiming that being in conformity as a consequence results in deadening of individual creativity and energy.
It makes sense here, to analyze the purview of the definitions of conformity in different contexts before delving into its effects.Conformity, literally relates to being in accordance with the standard beliefs and conventions, set by the society.The standards may vary in their scope as per the contexts.Like, conformity in social behavior is tantamount to adhering to the religious chores, and traditions set in the past.For instance, marrying a person of opposite sex is in conformity with the societal ethos, however, homosexuality transcends the standards of conformity by being an act which is publicly debunked.
After making the implications of conformity clear, we can move on to the reasons, which deaden the individual creativity and energy.A desire or intuition to think out of the box, and in an unconventional way is the basic necessity for delivering something creative.It is important to note that conformity in essence extirpates the very roots of creativity by besieging the novel minds by the shackles of standards. I find the Galileo’s example quite relevant here, to support my point. When Galileo came up with the idea of heleo-centric solar system he was ostracized for opposing the biblical beliefs that all planets revolved around earth.Thus, Galileo’s attempts to put forth his concept was a complete departure from conformity. Had he preferred to think as per the societal standards, perhaps even till today, we would have been studying a wrongly conceived solar system in our school books.Hence, conformity in most of the cases deadens the individual creativity whenever a non conventional product is likely to be the outcome, as in the case of Galileo.
Secondly, I would like to focus the point of flagging of energy due to conformity. An enthusiasm for looking forward to something novel is the true impetus behind an individual’s energetic approach. Conformity along with it brings in a monotonous humdrum of life, which eventually drains out the juice of liveliness from a person’s mind. I remember reading a fable, where in a fish at the outset tries hard to get out of an aquarium.But after putting in real dint, when he fails to come out, he starts thinking, that perhaps, aquarium is the only world around.He forgets that for once he used to live in a vast ocean. This is an example where, conformity results in the complete suppression of individual energy.
I do not deny however, that at times conformity is essential and may even prove to be beneficial rather than oppressive for burgeoning of creative aptitude and even the revitalization.Like, one can argue that conformity, eventually leads person to think of various ways in which he can bring variety without failing the normal standards.For example, a woman who is bound to wear fully cladden clothes for cultural reasons obviously looks forward to ornaments, accoutrements to make her looks impressive as the society does not let her wear objectionable, but attractive clothes.Nonetheless, I would like to bring over the word “almost always” used in the statement now! When we are considering the “almost always” sort of cases, such exceptions are bound to exist but do not suffice to repudiate or undermine the statement.
To sum up, I would like perorate with the lines of J. Thomson: “The most powerful factors in the world are the unconventional ideas in the minds of energetic men of good will”.Thus, being bound by conformity ‘almost always’ results into a deadening of individual creativity and energy.