Wednesday, March 29, 2006

90% of music is still purchased on CDs

A piece of evidence that Mark Cuban is right that TV won't be replaced by TV (at least not anytime soon): Even though digital music is pretty popular, 90% of all music is still purchased on CDs. Reed Hastings mentioned this in a recent interview that he did. This is same reason why I think that good old PVRs and TV time-shifting technologies are going to be around for a long time to come, even though TV shows are increasingly available online through channels like AOL's In2TV and Apple's iTunes.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

My notes on the Riya beta

I started testing Riya, the much-talked-about face recognition company, and here are my notes so far:

- There are people I don't care about having Riya recognize -- I'd like for them to NOT show up in the manual training. There's isn't a way to tell it to stop showing me certain faces so at this point, when I go into manual training, the first three or four rows are full of poeple that I just automatically skip over. And this makes each training "session" less useful.

- The first thing I wanted to do after I did some "training" was see what faces Riya had properly recognized based on my training. The way I see it, face recognition is the reason why people are going to use Riya so it's the place a user should be taken after they've done the work of uploading and "training" (instant gratification). As it is, I had to hunt and peck for this screen, I wasn't automatically taken there.

- On the "People" tab, I want to have a count of how many photographs it's found for each person I've trained it for... This would be a good measure for me to quickly get an idea of how well it's done.

- On the "People" tab, the left and right browser arrows don't appear to work in the "Browse unrecognized faces in your photos" section.

- I'm curious about the percentage of faces (in my photographs) that Riya has recognized on its own. I have the total number of faces recognized, but I don't know how many of these were because I specifically said this face = this person. On one end, this number could be zero (this is the scenario where I've taught Riya 100% of faces in my photographs) and Riya would be adding no value. On the other end, It could be something high and that would indicate (assuming a low rate of false positives) that Riya's recognizing a lot of faces.

- The uploader wasn't as effective as it needs to be -- it should have had Picasa-style directory selection/de-selection. As it is, I do a lot of exports from Picasa and so I have lower-res duplicates of a lot of my images at My Pictures/Picasa Exports/[Album Name]. And all of my native resolution pictures are at My Pictures/[Album Name]. So as a result, a believe Riya's uploading a lot of stuff twice.

- I manage all of my photographs using Picasa. It would be nice if Riya integrated with this so that it picked up edits / crops / rotations that I have made to photographs (Picasa doesn't change any of the source image files, it just stores the changes in an INI file and applies them whenever you try to do anything with the file outside of Picasa like send it out for a print, do an export, email photographs, etc.). If there was integration, I could also tell Riya to only worry about the photographs that are marked with yellow stars.

- Is Riya uploading the high-resolution images (3-4MB per image)? Or is it just doing image processing locally on my hard drive (utilizing the higher-resolution data) and then uploading a lower resolution version of the image along with the results of that image processing to Riya? Does image recognition quality get incrementally better at higher resolutions and then plateau past a certain resolution?

- Summary: So far, it's been fun and interesting. But what I really need to do is assume that Riya will integrate nicely into my photo ecosystem (ie my multiple cameras, my portable hard drives full of photographs, Picasa, and flickr) and figure out whether this facial recognition stuff is actually useful. It's certainly cool, but why do I need to have photos referenced by person? Does it improve the photo sharing experience? It's more often that I want to share photographs from an event or by theme, but it's not too often that the theme is a person. I can think of some instances where it would be useful, like if I'm putting together a slideshow for someone's birthday -- then having all the photographs of that person is useful. If I'm looking at really old photographs, I think it might be useful to be able to pluck out photographs by who is in them. Maybe. Like I said, this is one that I have to figure out.

1600+ photographs uploaded so far, I'll continue to report on how well the technology works and, ultimately, how useful I find it.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Book Search in Delhi

While the debate around book search rages on in the U.S. tech community and around the world, witness the power and efficiency of book search in New Delhi, India at Teksons Book Store (GK-1 M-Block market):

1. I execute a query for 'Lord Ganesha's Feast of Laughter' with a store manager

2. The store manager dispatches two resources to search for the book (see photograph below)

3. The book is delivered to me with a response time of 5.342 seconds

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Delhi Geek Dinner

Copy of the mail I just sent to the barcampdelhi Yahoo group:

> Hey folks,
> I'm organizing a geek dinner (with help from Gaurav @ Tekriti) on
> Monday, March 13th. At Gaurav's suggestion, we're going to meet at
> the DLF Mega Mall food court in Gurgaon at 8:30pm. Please RSVP on
> e-mail (rakesh at snapstream dot com) or by phone (9810497266). Please pass
> the word along to other geek friends, even if they weren't able to
> make it to barcamp. It'll be a good chance to connect again after
> barcamp this past weekend.
> Hope to see a lot of you there!

Monday, March 06, 2006

My experience at Barcamp Delhi

I spent all of Saturday this past weekend at BarCamp Delhi (a nice coincidence that it was scheduled while I am here in India for a wedding!)

My summary of Barcamp Delhi:

* I love Delhi (lived here for five years during middle school and high school) and while I've spent a lot of time here, I've never been around the kind of smart, motivated and talented technologists that I spent time with on Saturday. I expect great things from these people!

* Meeting the folks that I did really hit home what a small technology world we live in and how much smaller it is thanks to blogs. It was a bit surreal (Scoble has described the same sentiment before) to be sitting in Adobe's office in NOIDA and hearing folks in the audience dissect and discuss technologies like Google News,, Windows Live and Gmail.

* Adobe's office in Delhi is really nice -- a big thanks to them for giving us their conference rooms, for feeding us lunch, and last, but certainly not least, for the fast and free wi-fi. And while I'm at it, big thanks also goes to the folks that catalyzed and planned the event: Gaurav, Jonathan Boutelle, Manik Juneja, and Amit Ranjan.

* Manish talked about microformats as a solution for knowledge management in organizations and in this context, he had a screenshot of a microformats plug-in for wordpress. I've read about microformats and understand what they are all about, but seeing it integrated into a blog publishing platform wasn't something I had seen before and it was very cool. Manish's is a great speaker, but I felt the content was a bit jargony and maybe too academic in places -- I could tell from the Q&A that Manish gets this stuff so my only criticism here is that IMO he should have communicated it in clearer simpler language. Anyways, I'm still not sure about how structured user-generated content is going to come into existence, but microformats deployed through blog publishing platforms seem like one viable approach. There are other approaches like Edgeio and Google Base.

* Want to befriend an Indian engineer / technologist? Buy him a beer. In particular, buy him a Foster's. :-)

* Gaurav (one of the barcamp organizers) had a great presentation on bootstrapping a company -- it was succinct, to the point and engaging. There were a lot of things in his presentation that I've learned myself through personal experience or from others, but I particularly enjoyed how everything was contextualized to India.

* Abhishek Agrawal had a presentation entitled "Why startup?" that preceded Gaurav's. I missed most of the presentation but caught the tail-end of it and I could tell it that it was a good session. Abhishek carpooled with me to and from barcamp and he struck me as a well-informed, analytical and motivated technologist. I look forward to following what he does with his new company.

* Some of the presenters were talented speakers -- VeerChand Bothra and Anuj Khurana were two guys that I'll single out.

* There were no female presenters, though there were several women in attendance.

* Sorry I couldn't join everyone for drinks later, but I plan to organize a geek dinner in the next week or so before I head back to the States. If you were interested in joining, drop me a line at rakesh at agrawal dot org.

Barcamp Delhi was great and I hope to see this technology community in Delhi really grow and flourish over time!

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