Social Media ID Portability, a thought

We already have MNP or mobile number portability in India. That is, the ability to keep the same phone number but freely moving across different Service Providers. That helps us to choose the best plan for ourselves and keeps the Service Provider companies’ exorbitant price hikes in-check. We also have multiple Cloud Services providers, Data Storage providers, Banks, and so forth where we can change our service providers to choose what suits us.

apps blur button close up
Photo by Pixabay on

I was listening to this podcast by Guy Kawasaki where he was interviewing Dr. Sinan Aral, who is an MIT Professor and has written a book called: The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health–and How We Must Adapt.

Dr. Aral suggested this strange-sounding but still worth paying attention to idea: Why can’t Social Media companies act like Social Service Provider? Each of their users (i.e. us) should be free to change the service and move over to another while taking all of their data and friend lists with them.

For example, say I have 800 friends on Facebook (I had 1000+ but one day I cleaned it up) and say I am not on Twitter (I am but I just tweet about the weather). But I am done with Facebook’s privacy rules and constantly showing up of ads on my Timeline. So, if I want to move on to somewhere else, I have to lose all my data then and there. I would lose all my private messages, photos, comments, and so on. Instead, I should have the ability to either download everything that Facebook has recorded with my account (which is after all a unique ID). Or, I should be able to port it all to another social media website, say Twitter. Of course, each one has its own functionalities but in general, they all have Text, Photos, Replies, and private messages as their primary functionality. Moreover, I should also be able to connect to (via APIs) any user (or block them everywhere) from any other social media website.

This idea would help regulate not only the companies who just flaunt the monopoly and power they have over people’s lives, but it would also increase accountability on part of the user. Basically, all these companies are just service providers and they should behave in such a manner. Really interesting if this happens!

One downside from user’s perspective is that this would need a user to lose their anonymity to an extent if they show up with their real name on Facebook but you want to say whatever comes to their mind on Twitter as anonymous. But we need to choose what we find more precious, our data or our freedom of expression.

You can listen to the full podcast here where he talks further about other things which make Social Media what a behemoth it is:

The New Indian Adhesive

It’s ISRO obviously.

What else could unite us all at 2 AM in the morning? It used to be Cricket only. Sometimes movies. But from September 7, 2019, ISRO is the next Indian adhesive, I think!

Well, Chandrayaan 2 is a partial success after all. It reached pretty far accurately, even became the first Indian object to touch the Lunar Surface (right?) may be through a hard landing, but lost the communication channel to tell us about it. As soon as this image came onto the screen, deafening silence engulfed everyone over. It felt a bit hollow inside as if the heartbeat had stopped.

via ISRO Youtube

It is certainly important to introspect this image and the data it brings, but this should never deter us from attempting it again. Yes, we didn’t make it cleanly but ISRO is a winner all the way.

Recent feats achieved by ISRO (including this) will go very far for our upcoming generation. Sheer excitement amongst the folks who are least interested in space, or are cynical about anything India does, certainly got us united and got us cheering for ISRO all the way.

I really liked this one Tweet.

This is exactly why ISRO exists. It tells us that impossible is nothing. If we dedicate our focus on the right things, we can reach anywhere. It might take more than 1 attempt, but we will be there sooner or later.

Next time, ISRO does Gaganyaan or Aditya Mission or the exoplanetary mission, the cheer would grow even louder and we will all be stuck to our devices, watching the live streaming. The next time, it would be a successful touchdown.

So I recently watched: Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch


So I recently watched: Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Bandersnatch is probably a first of its kind Interactive Movie, like a computer game, in which the viewer can choose the actions of the protagonist and some other characters by choosing from 2 options. That choice changes the outcome of the scene and it could lead to a different movie ending if you had chosen something else. It has been made in such a way that based on your choices, it can go from a sad morbid ending, to totally whacky scenes, and to a slightly different sad morbid ending, to something which might not make sense at all.

Although the premise of the movie is not as interesting as other Black Mirror episodes, it is certainly a movie from the future. The mere concept of allowing viewers to choose the actions, couldn’t have been possible with traditional TV or Movie experience. Netflix and other streaming services allow it to work and full credits to Netflix for bringing this up. It might set a trend of more such movies, I hope.

Black Mirror, in general, has always come up with something which makes us rethink the way technology has been moving ahead and how much dependence we have got over it. Bandersnatch uses this concept in a novel way and it even indulges us in making the viewers think about their own choices. As I said, the story of this particular movie isn’t very intriguing but I wonder how much of an effort they must have put behind it. I finished one ending and before I could click to go to credits, it gave me another choice and like a rabbit hole, I kept on going on and on for another 30 minutes. This movie was originally supposed to be 1 hour 30 minutes but you can surely keep it going for some more time. I am sure, others would experience the same curiosity. You may keep exploring more endings on Reddit and you might never give up. If you have time, of course.

Well, the minimal poster I made above represents the choices flowchart.

I wonder if there are actually any books which make the readers do the same. As in, say at page 50, one character has a choice. The author would have written there if the character makes choice A, directly jump to page 78 or if the choice is B, ignore the pages 51 to 81 and start reading 82 onwards. Now, that would be really mind-boggling.

Moral of the story remains the same, in life too, we make choices and most of the times, the outcomes end up being different. Since we cannot change the past, we have to live with it. But there are still some choices, we can go back to. Again, that depends on what you choose at that point in time.

Happy decision making!


Does YouTube parent your kids too?

I have a nephew who is just a year old. He doesn’t speak more than baba-mama-gaga yet but what he can do with the prowess of an adult is swiping videos left and right, up and down on YouTube. He can watch hours of non-stop YouTube videos of animated characters if left unattended. I am sure, he will be easily adept at using Tinder too. I know of people whose young kids are easily pacified if given a mobile phone or laptop with YouTube already on. They also know how to ‘skip ad’ after 5 seconds on YouTube. A few years ago, the same thing used to happen with cartoons on TV but on a TV you can’t swipe up and down and click on a fancier video so that didn’t really catch up.

Do you also feel that YouTube works as a third-parent if you may, and works pretty well at it? There is no kid I have seen in recent time who is away from this culture. By kid I mean, children below 5 years of age. Of course, after that age, they are anyways uncontrollable and might also own mobile phones of their own, who knows!

It might come as only an opinion by an outside observer like me who don’t have kids of my own yet (what do I know of how to handle kids!?), but even I can guess that kids nowadays are to be kept busy and quiet when they are given a mobile phone easily, and not by telling stories, playing along, or reading books. (This also works on adults BTW.)

I saw a video (on YouTube of course), about the differences between 2 sets of kids. One set had been given a mobile phone to play with for more than 6 months. Another set had access only to physical games of building blocks and stuff. Then they were both given tasks like walk straight, make a building out of blocks, and some other hand-eye coordination games. The results were both expected and unexpected. Cynics and critics of kids with technology access would have guessed that kids using mobile phones would fare poorly when it came to physical tasks. However, both sets of kids were almost equally good. Surely, the kids who used to play with blocks were able to make a higher building with more blocks as compared to the tech-kids, the tech-kids had developed better hand-eye coordination to solve puzzles and finding things on a chart. Overall, it was inconclusive to say that tech-kids and normal kids were much different. But I would like to side with the cynics on this one. The tested group was very small and I believe that kids who will have such technology-driven pacifiers will be more difficult to please when these things are taken away from them. These kids would lack the power of imagination because they already have worlds they can touch, feel and see. They would have become addicted to them as they would have grown up more and there will be a time when they would find difficult to deal with the real world. Take our own example who have seen days of no Internet to the dial-up modem to broadband and now with smartphones with 4G. How much have we become dependent on technology ourselves that it was beyond fathomable a decade ago! And this change is so sudden that coming generations wouldn’t know how it was just 5-6 years before their birth.

I still feel that books with pictures, physical toys and games, good old storytelling and letting the kids imagine, we can raise our kids much better than YouTube. Nobody has time nowadays to cater to their kids because we ourselves are engrossed in those screens. Again, I don’t have to handle kids personally so maybe YouTube is the way to raise kids. But I request young parents to watch the below video and make your own judgment.

Suggested reading/watching:

What’s Your Password?

It doesn’t matter how long it is. What matters is how powerful it is. Is it a weak one, moderate one or so strong that it is almost unbreakable?

I am talking about passwords, of course. Here’s a short story about it:

Location: Basement of a friend’s house.

Date: Sometime in the late 90s or early 2000s, when not everyone had a personal computer or a phone. So yes, long ago!

So, I was in school and one of my friends had just bought a new shiny personal computer. A couple of more friends and I had come to witness the beauty. Although, it was not like we weren’t familiar with computers. I am not a Dinosaur but it was still a good thing to have one for personal use. And to show off.

We were happily enjoying it and randomly surfing the applications and The Internet (using Dial-up connection so anything which opened was a bonus). Then, the friend who owned the computer got a call from his mother. So, he locked the computer and went away. He told us not to try passwords else it would get locked after few failed attempts. Yada, yada, yada and he went upstairs.

Once he went away, we thought of trying the available attempts. We ran our minds to guess what the password could have been! One friend suggested the house’s fixed line number, another suggested his nickname. I just typed in few letters and voila! It had got unlocked. I didn’t do anything special of course as I had just typed in the name of his suspected crush. Poor fellow, now this had got doubly confirmed. He returned and saw us chuckling and giggling. He then blasted us for this mischief but couldn’t do much as we were already into splits and we ended up laughing our guts out for next 30 minutes or so. (We were still in school then and young boys as you know, are idiots).

Moral of the story is that almost everyone had a password which could be socially engineered out of them if you knew about the person a bit. I can recall one more instance when I asked a friend about some name and could log into his account by using the forgot password option. Easily! But, don’t worry, I am not that evil and I didn’t do anything bad after logging in as I was such a saint that I told the friend that it was a cakewalk to hack your account. Better up your passwords game. He didn’t talk to me for few days though.

Nothing much has changed since then. People still use easy words as their passwords. Moreover, due to the exponential increase in applications we use, the number of passwords to remember has also gone really high and difficult to manage. There are surely many good password manager tools but then someone has to set master password eventually. And if that’s done, again you are doomed. With growing worries about UID and possibility of data being sold/hacked or compromised, we should ideally be more concerned about our privacy, than we are right now.

I remember one instance when there was a conference call happening with screens being shared. One of the participants had to share the screen. Before the person could switch on to the application to display, a notepad app was visible by chance. It had all the passwords for all the things one could imagine, written down and visible for over 2 minutes.

Fact is, however strong your password is, if you cannot remember it and depend on writing it down somewhere, the cause is lost. If we move towards biometrics completely, there will still be some scope of hacking. Rather, if you remember the passwords properly and they are really random, nobody can hack it or it becomes very difficult. Unless they kidnap you and you have to tell it at a gunpoint.

So, what’s your password? Still your crush’s name? C’mon both of you have already got married, to separate people. Change it to something better people!!

If you want my personal opinion, change your password to some name of the person you hate and add your date of birth to it in random fashion and then add a character which you think is of no use being on the keyboard.

Here are two comics from XKCD about passwords for your enjoyment.
To anyone who understands information theory and security and is in an infuriating argument with someone who does not (possibly involving mixed case), I sincerely apologize.
It’ll be hilarious the first few times this happens.

Featured Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

Continue reading “What’s Your Password?”

What’s Social Media for you?

What’s Social Media for you? A place to connect with friends and like-minded people? Right. That’s the original definition though which was somewhat true a few years ago.

What is it now really?

  1. A place where your friends and like-minded people give their opinions all day long.
  2. A place where your friends (read acquaintances) and (so-called) like-minded people share what they had for lunch.
  3. A place where all your friends have become highly political and ready to chop everyone down from their armchair via WiFi if there’s any disagreement.
  4. A place where you are given a notification about your as distant as Pluto relatives  liking the photos of their as close as Charon relatives whom you don’t care about.
  5. A place where you hate to go now… You get the drift. Right?

In my previous few posts I have shared that I have been successful in, to a good extent, subsiding myself from the main crowd. I have tried to curb my FOMO if I may by indulging in discussing irrelevant things with strangers. I have basically made myself distant from the happenings, trendings and the agree-to-disagree endings.

Today, I came across a very interesting episode of the Ask Gary Vee show where his guest was Seth Godin. The show format is mostly audience asking the guests questions and them replying to that.

Here’s the episode for your entertainment and enlightenment:

In this, Seth Godin said a beautiful thing when asked about how he can only blog in today’s day and age and why not he is on all the social media platform which could further enhance his brand. As in, who doesn’t want that?

I will try to summarise his answer to that below:

On the Internet (or even in traditional media format), there are 2 kinds of people: Consumers (for whom the modern day algorithms of social media sites are optimized on regular basis) and the Creators (who have to work hard in order to get noticed).

Are you a Consumer?
Are you a Consumer?

All websites want to keep the consumer addicted and stuck to their sites. They make logging out difficult by keep feeding stuff to Like and Retweet. There has been so much said already about this so I don’t even need to say anything more. Even Facebook recently admitted to the fact that people who just like others end up feeling depressed.

or are You a Creator?
or are You a Creator?

Creators, on the other hand, are people who are trying hard to create worthy stuff. They are the producers. They are constantly learning and updating themselves so that they can be better. If creators only consume, they won’t be able to create. This is as simple as that.

Seth went on to give the examples after examples. But he also mentioned that if you are consuming things for your entertainment and for self-improvement, then that’s understandable. However, there must be a limit of how much one should consume if one wants to be a creator.

Check that video out and ponder, whether you are a consumer or a creator?



If you wake me up at 3AM in the night and ask me do I love Google? My answer would be, without flinching an eye, YES, Of course I love Google. Also, you should not wake me up at 3AM. But coming back to the topic at hand, I indeed love Google and its products. Till few days back, I would have said:

My main email is Gmail. Search = I use Chrome on all my devices. I keep all my notes in Keep. Me and Google Calendar are inseparable. When I get reminded of a thing called ‘my health and its importance’ from time to time, Google Fit is my Fitness app. Google Documents are life savers. Maps, please don’t even get me started. Photos, Drive, I could go on and on and on… I ♥ Google.

But not anymore. Now, I am in the process to get my Internet life:


My main email is still Gmail. Search =  I use Chrome on all my devices on my laptop with DuckDuckGo as the search. On my mobile, I use Firefox Focus browser which instantly deletes history so it becomes difficult to log in to Facebook and Twitter. Did I tell you that I have uninstalled Twitter & unfollowed everyone on Facebook. Moreover, I have enabled 2 Factor Authentication to login to social media sites. That means, I have made logging in to these sites difficult. Firefox Focus is super at erasing history and thereby going to social media sites very tiresome! I keep all my notes in Keep Evernote and recently been using Wunderlist for tasks and Habit for tracking how am I keeping at my resolutions. Also, thinking of going even more analog with BuJo (I cannot promise this yet though. We shall come back to it after a couple of months). Me and Google Calendar are still inseparable. Occasionally, when I am reminded of health and its importance, Google Fit is was my Fitness app.  Now, there is not any app as there’s no fitness also. Point is that you can use Endomondo, Strava, Nike+, Runtastic, etc. Google Documents are still life savers. Maps, that is probably the best application ever. Why not use Dropbox more?

If you have not paid attention to the above paragraph, specially the search part, check again. Who would have thought that life can still go on without using Google search? But it is possible, kids! So, what made that happen?

I have this one huge bone to pick with Google. Bloody, AI part of Google. Google Now (or your Siri, or your Alexa). It had become as annoying to me as AADHAR linkage to everything you have. All your search history, bookmarks, calendar events, contact list, email and whatnot gets fed to it and it provides you assistance and notifications. This is the part I chose to differ with. I think, 2017 is still a bit early to do this much for you. May be a decade later, when people will totally stop using their brain, then this much assistance could be of use.

I had written in past about ways to dumb down the smartphone in which I told about the procedure to make your life simpler with shutting off all your notifications, sounds and vibrations from all the apps which you think are not necessary. This post is about ways to ungoogle your life. There are several great applications and services which still work as good as your Google apps. Just unlinking them to the main Google account giving less feed to Google Assistance will make it less nosey and life will improve. I suggest, clean your browsing data on Google from Day 1, clean up your full web-activity and start afresh.

And, I still ♥ Google but I have blocked everything Google uses to track me. Even if it still tracks (of course it tracks), it doesn’t remind me of it. Give Ungoogling a try.

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