The Books of 2018

Books by Oinam (2018)

I have a fascination with the novel by Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. It is that one novel which I remember while starting to read serious fiction. Of course, I went through the usual teen-romance, teen-detectives, et al before I outgrew them soon enough in my early days. This year, I decided to re-read her book and it took me a really long time to finish it.

For quite a while, I’ve been practicing minimalism. Sometime last year, I decided to experiment with the idea of “essentialism” instead of just plain minimalism — stick to the essentials but pick the best possibilities in it. I like to consider minimalism as one of many ways to essentialism. I re-read Joshua Becker’s book – Simplify. If you’re into minimalism and want to explore more, you should also watch, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

My target for 2018 was to read about 50 books but ended up short at about 40. Some were re-reads and it was a good decision. Going forward, instead of trying to read more, I’ll experiment with re-reading good ones and going deep into them — less but more quality time with each book.

I also continued with the habit of including physical versions of the books that I read. That is one way to make my daughters learn and practice “reading books”. Reading on a Kindle makes them feel like I’m just looking at another screen.

I have lined quite a list of interesting books for this year.

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The Making of Autochrome v3

Autochrome v3

Autochrome v2

It all started with an eagerness to create one of the simplest WordPress Photoblog. After a rough work with the first version of Autochrome, the second version saw a huge improvement in speed, crispness and a clear focus to the photos. Autochrome v2 leveraged the powers of WordPress while achieving minimalism and simplicity to give users a no-nonsense WordPress Photography Theme.

What we wanted to achieve with Autochrome v3

We really wanted to push the limit with Autochrome v3. We knew we needed to do something different so users can achieve more with the third version. There were few interim version of Autochrome which were never published but rather thrown away because they were not good enough, not worthy to be the successor of Autochrome v2.

While continuing and even pushing the envelope on minimalism and simplicity, we knew Autochrome v3 have to be faster, way faster, and have a laser focus on the Photographs and nothing else.

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Hello Ruby – Programming Book for Children

Hello Ruby is a children’s book that teaches programming fundamentals through stories and kid-friendly activities.

An interesting initiative by Linda Liukas, who teaches programming and makes the world of technology more approachable through a non-profit called Rails Girls.

She is on a journey to combine software with storytelling. She is writing and illustrating a book for young children about the magical world of technology – Hello Ruby.

She is raising $10,000 on Kickstarter for Hello Ruby (already over-subscribed).

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Introducing Acorn WordPress Theme at Theme6

Acorn Wordpress Theme

After multiple delays and hesitations, I have finally released Theme6, a site dedicated to carefully crafted and well designed themes and templates. I’m lucky to have partnered with an awesome designer – Saneef Ansari. Our first release is a Typographically tailored theme for WordPress – Acorn.

Acorn is a mobile-first, retina-ready responsive theme focused on typography and content. It is designed to be clean, simple, minimal and to stay out of the way to focus full attention to your blog posts, articles and content.

Our idea is to keep it as simple as possible, without the need for any additional plugins nor custom fields. It would work without any special need to add/edit the contents of the blog posts or articles.

We are thrilled and would be adding more well designed themes in future.

Apply to Sourcebits’ Product Studios

Sourcebits

I have known Rohit Singal for a while though we never met in person until last month, to talk about Sourcebits’ new initiative – its innovative Product Studios model.

Sourcebits is one of those rare service companies in India, who can churn out beautifully designed products backed by an equally high calibre of engineering. Their primary focus is in mobile strategy, design & development.

Sourcebits has done work for giants like GE, SAP, Intel, MIT, P&G, Hershey’s and Coca-Cola, as well as emerging technology companies such as Skyfire, Knocking, Peel, TwitPic, CloudOn and Sling Media since 2006.

In May, 2011, Sourcebits raised $10M from Sequoia Capital and IDG Ventures. They are currently head-quartered in San Francisco with design and development centers in Bangalore (India), Niigata (Japan) and Mexico.

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Research your provider before hosting your website

Many people, especially those who are just starting off with a new online website and/or business, go straight for the cheapest web hosting provider they can find. It’s actually important to look for established and reputed providers such as Mediatemple, 1and1, Hostgator, Bluehost who offer the right balance between price, features and a high standard of support and service.

Just as transit services are the life blood of a city, so web hosting and telecom networks are the life blood of the Internet. But there’s a difference. If the buses and trains stop working, the city grinds to a halt and then gets back to normal when services resume. If your web hosting server goes down even briefly, you lose visitors in droves and it’ll cripple your online business permanently.

It is even more damaging if the problem is something chronic, like slow page loading speeds. Even a second delay in page loading results in sizable drop in customer satisfaction and reduces the conversion rate too. Then there’s security, use of tools, pricing, scalability and any number of issues that are critical to your online business and its survival an growth. That’s why you need a rock-solid web hosting provider who knows what website owners need and provides it without fail.

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Practical Typography — a must-read free book

I just finished reading Matthew Butterick’s online book – Practical Typography. It’s an awesome book with an equally impressive design.

If you’re the very busy type, you can try the section, Typography in ten minutes. However, you should bookmark the site and read the whole. It has tons of useful information, tips, tricks and details about typography for the web and elsewhere.

Go read the read the book online. The book is free to read and if you enjoy it, there are ways you can pay for the book.

UPDATES

Olacabs, a bad User Experience

Olacabs
Olacabs (source : Olacabs)

India is on a 48 hour stand-still with the ‘India Bandh’ called by the All Trade Union. They are protesting against privatization, outsourcing, violation of labour laws, price rise and several other burning issues of the country, trade unions of banking, insurance, public sector undertakings, transporters and unorganized sectors.

Nope, I’m going to write about the India Bandh (general strike) but more of a personal experience with Olacabs – an Indian Startup with over $8M in Series A fund.

Olacabs Lied

With our new office setup in Indiranagar, Bangalore, everyday is an excitement being in the office – working, playing and being with the team. Yesterday, with the Bandh announced, I was looking for alternatives to my usual travel medium, the Auto rickshaw aka the Tuk-Tuk.

As luck would have it, Twitter was abuzz with tweets that Olacabs will take special measure to have their cabs available to help the general public, with an added advantage of slashing their fares to that of the auto-rickshaw. All the problem solved! Moreover, I’ve been looking forward to trying their iOS app, use it and write a nice review about them (what an irony). I was hoping that Olacabs will be the Uber of India.

Today Morning, with all hopes and enthusiasm, I got up and was ready for office. I even confirmed a candidate for an Interview for one of our job openings. I fired up the Ola App, and ‘booked’ a cab. Olacabs confirmed by Booking and was assigned a ‘CRN’ Number – 1765782 and the cab will pick me at 10am.

Got dressed, bags shouldered but by 10:10am, with no sign of Olacabs, I called up their Customer Support. The voice on the other end wailed “Ola” multiple times and I even got to know that Ola means ‘Hello’ in Spanish. A ‘Subhalakshmi’ picked up the phone after about 3 minutes and she was pretty blunt, wasn’t really listening to me or she could not understand what I was asking. I had to ask her if she really speaks English. I asked for something and she blurted out something else. Of course, I got the fact that my cab was cancelled and they were ‘no longer servicing in my area.’

Well, looks like Olacabs did something without proper planning and their PR Stunt is just that – a PR Stunt. Yes, I’ll try them again, give them another chance but today was such a bad User Experience that I won’t expect much from them. They are just another service company with a Spanish name and like every other taxi company, will not try to provide a good user experience and differentiate from the lot.

UPDATE

  • Aug 30, 2013: Uber launches in India. Sign-up and get Rs. 600 off your first ride.

Create that ‘OneBucketList’ for your life and act on it

OneBucketList

Not a To-Do list. Not an agenda for your life’s routine.

Something, which you usually have in your mind, the list of things you would love to do in your life. Be it – learning to sky-dive, go on that dream vacation, visit that exotic island, spend few undisturbed weeks in a less-trodden place – would it not be nice to be able do them before you kick the bucket.

Go ahead, start your OneBucketList and list what you want to do in your life. OneBucketList will help you maintain that list and get out of the way for you to act on them.

Adobe & HTML

Honestly, I’m not really impressed with many things Adobe’s been doing lately. Actually, I believe that Adobe is going through some sort of an Identity Crisis. Nonetheless, you cannot really ignore some of the innovative and good things they’re spearheading, specially with open standards like HTML.

Recently, few of us were hurriedly called to the Adobe Bangalore office and we met with Paul Burnett (@pburnett), Adobe APAC Evangelist. I was unable to agree with few things that he showed us but was genuinely impressed with many other initiatives from Adobe.

What I don’t like.

Adobe fought back in many ways when the world was abandoning Flash, they even went ahead to say they love the company that fired the first lethal bullet to the Flash’s Kingdom. When Adobe realized that it was not winning the battle, they went ahead and try to re-create the reign they had with Flash in forms that does not necessarily pronounced “Flash” but doing very similar things that Flash did.

Flash is a good solution for the right purpose and still is. Actually, HTML5 is way behind when it comes to lots of capabilities what Flash can do. But that’s it, let Flash shine where it can and leave alone where it’s not its job anymore.

Edge Animate – really? This brings back unpleasant memories of the Skip Intro days. Do the web need to recreate what Flash did but with CSS? Adobe’s Edge Animate can help you create Flash-esque Animation and spit out CSS and Javascript. The very idea of spitting our machine written CSS and Javascript sounds scary to me – a web full of ‘blings, bells and whistles’ but done in ‘html5’?

I’m of the opinion that you don’t really need that bad to animate elements on a website. In case of websites that needs so many moving parts, they’d rather be doing it with specialized tools or Javascript Experts doing the job, not by a tool that spits out JS codes for you!

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