Saturday, May 24, 2008

TringMe Sucks! Not Really :)

I started using TringMe yesterday. Signed up, added credits with PayPal, things went through quickly. Tried to register my cell-phone, so I could make calls by sending SMS. Stupidly I made a couple of typos in my first few attempts. The other problem was that unlike most other sites, where you register and provide a password, TringMe very insecurely emails you a random password. So I had to type in this long random string :)

On my fourth attempt, when I finally managed to send everything correctly, I immediately got a confirmation SMS. The previous times, I would have been happy to get a "reject" SMS, but didn't. So I was left wondering whether the registration had failed.

Call setup was simple and quick. Their SMS telling me to expect a call usually came *after* their call-back, so was quite pointless :). Once I got the call-back, I got two beeps, a burst of some music, and then a ring at the other end. Call was crystal-clear, no lag - they must have some pretty good bandwidth.

Suggestions for TringMe
  1. Take password during registration, use a temporary link to confirm email id
  2. Send SMS with call cost/details/balance ala prepaid, once the call is completed
  3. Put the instructions for signing up on the main page. Right now it's only on the blog. The FAQ actually doesn't have a section for SMS initiated calls.
  4. Use a SMS short number - easier to remember - although we'd need to pay per call-setup
  5. Why does the India leg of the call cost so much? My call of 1224s cost $1.048. I guess rounding up to a minute? Even then 5c/min ~ Rs 2/min seems quite high.
  6. Fix the reply SMS for the registration via cell-phone. If reg fails, send a failure message.
TringMe gives me the convenience to call the US at 6.3c a min from wherever I am. Most phone cards used for calling from the US seem to be in the 8-11c range these days. But TringMe allows me to initiate calls for much less than I could otherwise.

My main crib is about the price for the India leg. I can actually see some calling-cards from the US which charge 3.9c per min (admittedly with maintenance fees + 3m rounding). Why then should termination from inside India to an Indian cellphone cost so much? I can see bulk services at Rs. 1/min or less for corporates. Is that the margin that TringMe is making?

On an un-related note, I hope this service is legal under Indian telephony laws - they have some screwed up pro-BSNL, protective stuff left-over.

Thanks to Yusuf, I'm proud to say there's an innovative Indian product company, that's kicking ass on a global scale! Opening up their API to all is something that should allow for a wide variety of services to spring up, unconstrained by the imagination of only the TringMe team.

Best of luck to them!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ideas - important for an entrepreneur?

I was at an Open Coffee Club Bangalore (OCCB) meetup a few weeks at the Thoughtworks premises on Airport Road, when one of the Thoughtworks employees asked a question which has been on my mind for ever.
"How do I get the idea for my startup?"
Certainly something that, in various forms, many of us ponder, in those moments when we read of Sabeer Bhatia and Hotmail, or Steve Chen and Youtube, or perhaps in the future, Prateek Dayal and Muziboo ;).

But after being in 1.05 startups, I feel that the idea is a very romanticized version of the startup reality show. Primarily because it's the easiest thing for an outsider to relate to. The idea of an idea as the prime mover is very easy to fall in love with. What's easier than having a brilliant idea, and then quickly working it out to make it the best bang since the Big One?


Reality is very different IMHO. In reality the idea is probably fifth in the list of things responsible for the success of a startup. I'd put the order thusly,
  1. Execution
  2. Marketing
  3. Sales
  4. Iteration of your idea
Execution here means operational and execution excellence. Something that you'd be hard pressed to get funding for, but you can't get success without. Marketing and sales are so much more important than most of us engineering types estimate that it's not even funny. Good marketing and sales people will drive the creation and iteration of the product to something that will make money, as opposed to being simply amazing technically.

Iterating the idea is critical. You must be prepared to shape, reshape, sculpt, and re-sculpt your ideas and implementation. Practically no company has become a success with their first product idea. Most went through multiple iterations, before coming up with something that worked, sold, and made money.

What does this mean? If you don't have what seems to be the idea of the century don't worry. If you really want to start a company, go ahead and do it. Make sure you have an awesome team. That'll probably carry you further than any thing else. Keep working on things, and get better each time. Survival is a key attribute of successful startups.

Vet your idea and the execute the hell out of it. Do it to the best of your teams abilities. If there's no way to sell it, shelve it or salvage enough out of it to start on your next shot. That's the long, tough, arduous way to success. You can start with anything, but go at it enough, with good enough understanding of the market and you will succeed.

Best of luck starting up :)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Think Different

This is dedicated to two different sets of folks. For even if what they do, what they dream, what they see that the rest of us don't, are entirely orthogonal and unrelated, they are not so fundamentally different from each other in spirit.

Here's a toast to the folks behind and!
Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
Are the ones who do.

fReaK ouT!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Patriotism is Outdated

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” George Bernard Shaw

Thus spake G.B.Shaw, and I'm quite inclined to agree with him. Argument by authority aside, I believe that the human race has outgrown the need for classification by narrow boundaries and must shed this meme to grow further.

Today, if I tell you that as a resident of Jayanagar, you must fight to the death residents of Koramangala, you'd laugh at me. But a couple of thousand years ago, that's exactly what patriotism was - being ready to give your life and limb for the folks in the 2 kilometer stretch around you.

Ten thousand years ago, you'd have been a part of a roving tribe of not-quite-monkeys, being loyal and patriotic to the twenty or fifty not-quite-monkeys with you.

Till a few hundred years ago, you'd have been fighting patriotically for a small state against another small state, perhaps Bangalore against Mysore, or Chennai against Pondicherry.

Today, you're loyal and patriotic to a country. If you stand up and cheer for your team, or fight to kill someone from another country, then you're a patriot.

See where I'm going yet?

Shed your patriotism, 'tis nothing more than a protective skin that was required to keep a small tribe of not-quite monkeys alive. We've outgrown our need for it.

The only object worthy of loyalty today is the Human Race. The only way of keeping the Human Race alive is by working together. "Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls..."

Saturday, September 08, 2007


What you may ask, is the Wii? Simply put, a revolution in gaming.

Revolutions are over-rated. I agree with you. Except this once.


Because today, for the first time ever, my *MOTHER* tried to play tennis and bowling on a video game console, with my sister's friend. My Mom is just on the right side of 60. My sister's friend on the wrong side of 20.

My mother has never played a video/computer/arcade/whatever game. Never even attempted to or been interested in sports actually. She's probably never even played anything for more than thirty years.

But today, when I played tennis and bowling and she was watching, she could hardly resist giving it a shot. And she couldn't stop! My dad was also interested and started playing different sports on his own.

Me? I played for more than three hours. At the end of which my back hurt :-). I realised I'm in crappy shape physically - sitting on your ass in front of a computer for 12 hours a day seems to do that.

You want some advice? Go play a Wii wherever you can get your hands on one. Play Wii sports. Check out the fitness regime, find your "Age". See if it shocks you out of torpidity. It did that to me.

Buy a Wii. The only thing you will regret is your muscles aching the first few days.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wet, wetter, wettest

We take far too many things for granted; being dry for instance. I have never before appreciated the pleasure of being dry as I do now.

Just dry.
Just going out in dry clothes, without worrying about getting wet.
Just not having the first millimeter of my skin completely wrinkled due to excessive water-logging.

If you want to get really wet, go to Honnemardu during the peak of the monsoon season.

Enjoy the freedom that comes with having no cell phone coverage, no Internet access, no TV, and no electricity. At the end of two days, I had no problem with eating lunch standing in the rain, or walking about in the warm, wet mud in the rain. Or in the cold, wet, mud in the rain. Or just generally in mud in the rain.

It's certainly a place for the severely water deprived; Madras-folk will be in awe at the litres of water that pour out of every square millimeter of sky. At the millions of liters in the reservoir. At the clouds that never dry out. At the humid wind that blows ceaselessly from the south-west.

My reluctance to getting wet seems to be a function of how many valuables I cart around. Once I got rid of the cell and the wallet, and after a couple of cycles of getting wet and dry, I was less hesitant - after all it seemed I was pretty water-proof and the liquid just ran off my skin.

The absolutely awesome Ganapathi a.k.a. Ganesh is a master of all trades. He teaches you how to swim in the reservoir, boat with coracles, or canoes or kayaks, trek in the Western Ghats, light a camp-fire in the rain, identify which call is which bird, which trail goes where, and so on ad infinitum. His list of skills seems to be countably infinite.

Fair warning! Don't think it's a resort where you can go and laze around. You have to do everything yourself; it's fully self-service. Planning your activities, pitching your tent, and washing your plates - all of them are your jobs.

Go to Honnemardu. Leave behind the mundane dryness that plagues all of us. Experience a life where every moment of every minute is spent with your body in full contact with, and at full mercy of, the Elements. Rich color seems to seep out of our lives as we battle with endless issues at work and home. Honnemardu is a chance to go full color for at least one weekend.

Thanks to Sudhir, Prashant and all the other folks who made this possible, and to Piyush who dragged me there when I was not convinced I could go!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Freedom and freedom

There are a lot of people who are confused about what the GPL and BSD licenses do to the code involved.

The best and most succinct explanation that I've seen so far considers the two parties involved - the code itself as one party, and people as the other.

The BSD license frees people. People who use code under the BSD license are free to do whatever they want with the code.

The GPL frees the code itself. Once code is under the GPL, until it falls out of copyright, it cannot be 'imprisoned'. It's free for ever. It accumulates changes which are also free.

Remember that the next time you are confused between Open Source(BSDish) and Free Software (GPLish). The FSF has a definition of 'free code'.

And if you've got similar metaphors to explain the difference to lay-people, I'd certainly like to see them.

  1. I read this in a /. comment. Not original.
  2. Yes. I know the GPL does not restrict use, it only restricts distributors' rights.