Book Summary: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini

The book talks about various psychological tactics used by compliance practitioners (salesman, waiters, card dealers, fund raisers etc.) to influence us into saying yes to something to which ideally we would have said no.
The author actually went and performed the roles of car salesman, waiter etc. to see the tactics in action.

All tactics used can be put in one of the six categories, each of which form basis of a chapter of the book.

Weapons of influence

Fixed action patterns, exploitability of shortcuts (fixed action patterns) and the power these lend to people who can use them form the components of automatic influence.

Continue reading

“material design” and Google’s strategy



Before 2008, smart phones OS market was fragmented.
There were few big names like Palm and Symbian but most phone manufacturers were doing their own operating systems (Motorola alone had five operating systems).
In 2008, Google came out with an open source smart phone OS.
Mobile phone manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC embraced it and made short term profits till they got commoditized by a standardized OS controlled by Google.
On the other hand, Nokia and Blackberry decided to ignore and badly lost market share.
Eventually they embraced it as well, albeit, in different forms but it seems its a bit late.
The only winner (till now) is Apple, who was simultaneously working on its own iPhone and has held its ground really well primarily, due to superior UI design and user experience on iOS.

Material Design

Till 2014, web design has been fragmented, flat design is popular but no one controls it.
There are a few big names in web UI development like BootstrapFoundation but most companies are either using home grown or open source jQuery libraries/CSS libraries for design.
In 2014, Google has come out with Material Design, and just like Android, its being given out for free.
Even Android 5.0 is using the same material design.
While app developers are almost bound to replicate material design for android apps, the choice of offering the design to web developers is an interesting one.
If a sizable chunk of web developers decide to embrace material design, Google will control look and feel of the web.
If the android apps and websites will look similar then it will only persuade more and more iOS developers to use material design in iOS apps.

The end game is to corner Apple in user experience by producing a design which Apple will be either forced to adopt or produce something different and superior.
As far as others big players are concerned, both embracing and ignoring material design will be an equally bad proposition.

Disclaimer: Thoughts are solely mine. 
Disclosure: I used to work at Google.

Book summary: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Some salient notes from the book

  1. If there’s an elephant in the room, introduce it.
  2. Even if you are in position of strength, be fair.
  3. Have something to bring on the table, people would be more welcoming of you to join in then.
  4. Get the fundamentals right, fancy stuff does not work without that.
  5. When you are screwing up and nobody says anything, they have given up on you (that’s a really bad place to be).
  6. Playing sports is not about learning the technicalities of the game but about teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, value of hard work and ability to deal with adversity.
  7. The brick walls are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out, they are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
  8. Manage time explicitly like money
  9. You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
  10. Ask yourself: are you spending your time on right things
  11. Delegate your work as much as possible
  12. What’s more fun than fulfilling one’s own dreams is to helping someone else fulfill their dreams.
  13. Use positive language, “When does this [Disney] park close?” is to be responded with “This park is open till 8 PM”.
  14. Don’t complain about your problems, whining does not help, focus on working harder instead.
  15. Almost everyone has a good side, if you wait long enough, it will come out.
  16. Focus on what people do not what they say.
  17. Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  18. You can be an optimist if you have a contingency plan for what to do when all hell breaks loose.
  19. A bad apology is worse than no apology.
  20. No job is beneath you, do you best at whatever job you are put to.
  21. Rights come with responsibilities.
  22. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.

Android, Gradle and compile-time only dependencies

Android plugin for Gradle does not support Java-style compile time only dependencies.

After spending a few hours on trying to build android app targeted for Amazon SDK (without using Amazon’s android specific plugin but just their jar stubs for maps, ADM and Home widget), I finally found that the one way to support compile-time dependencies is following.

For application project

For library project



A walk in San Francisco

“Give me your wallet, bro” he said in his heavy accent while holding gun to my forehead. It seems, out of pure curiosity, I have walked into this shady neighborhood of San Francisco. “Pull out your wallet”, he shouted, “and count the cash”, this time bringing my full attention to him. I pulled out my wallet, carefully counted all the nickels, pennies and dimes and said, “13 dollars, 59 cents and one Indian Rupee”.
“That’s it”, he blustered at the peak of his voice while I stood sweating profusely on a chilly night. He was not amused and pulled the trigger.

Continue reading

Book summary: Only The Paranoid Survives by Andrew Grove

The book talks about inflection points which if not handled carefully, are drastic (10x) enough to put a company out of business.

Something changed

In 1994, Intel’s Pentium processors suffered from floating point bug, what was surprising for Intel is that once the consumers became aware of the bug, rather than reaching out to manufacturers, they were calling Intel directly. It became obvious at that point, that Intel has become a household name and even though its selling to enterprises, consumers think of it as a consumer electronics company and have same expectations of customer service.

Continue reading

A visit to Gadar Memorial in San Francisco

Getting Inside

After getting misdirected once to 436 Hill St, San Francisco (the old original address which does not exist anymore), I eventually reached 5 Wood St, San Francisco.
It was sunset time, I knew I was late but finally, it felt good to see (a nondescript) apartment marked “Gadar memorial”.Least I expected the doors to be locked. I drove 40 miles (65 km) not to stand in front of this locked door. There must be a way to go in, I contemplated, as I noticed an Indian woman walking upstairs towards me.
“I am here to see Gadar Party’s office”, I asked and she stammered while replying in English. “हिंदी बोलती है आप ?”, I inquired.
“जी हाँ”, she confirmed.
“मैं आशीष, south bay से आया हूँ ग़दर स्मारक देखना था । “, I said, while pointing towards the building.
“आपके पास consulate से permission है?”, she asked.
“consulate से permission?” I inquired.
“consulate से बिना permission लिए यहाँ आना मना है । “, she confirmed.
Even for bureaucratic Indian govt, taking a permission from consulate to visit a first world war era memorial (and as per my limited knowledge, only such Indian memorial in USA) felt perplexing. Of course, I was not ready to yield and drive back another 40 miles before paying the homage. We both stood there motionless with an awkward silence.
Someone had to blink, thankfully, she did.
“एक बार मैं अपने husband से बात करती हूँ । “, she said.
She unlocked the door and went inside, and after some chatter, they both came out and after some cursory conversation, he allowed me in to visit the memorial. The rest of the conversation with them was pretty friendly.


The memorial consisted of a single hall with locked showcases (filled with books in English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu). There were a few posters and pictures hanging on the wall, again labeled in one (and exactly one) or the other of the aforementioned languages. I didn’t visit the memorial expecting an audio tour but not finding English or Hindi labels on the items was depressing. The whole space lacked maintenance.
After thanking the Indian couple (they seem to be appointed by consulate to maintain the place), I left half an hour later. The treatment of the memorial (which is the last symbol of this movement and Indian students who started it) by Indian govt is deplorable, especially, given the fact that this is only memorial of its kind in USA.

Departing thoughts

The treatment met out to defenders of the nation (dead or alive, uniformed or revolutionary) determines its destiny. Reminds me of this second world war story of France vs UK. “Before World War II, it was not uncommon to see placards hanging outside some restaurants in Paris which read Dogs, lackeys and soldiers not allowed. On the other hand, even pregnant women used to get up and offer seats to soldiers in London buses. When the war broke out, France capitulated in no time while Britain remained undefeated.” [source]