Naughty Big Data Engines

So I powered up the Android phone after many days. It had many updates. After updating, I stumbled to the Play store. The Play store had some recommendations for me.

The top item was a naughty book. Now you may think, I was searching for something naughty on this phone. Honestly, the only thing I searched for on this phone was a Podcast called “New Books in Anthropology”.

Not sure how Google interpolated from innocuous podcast to these books. I wonder if everyone gets to see such naughty books – just so that we get into the habit of downloading ebooks.

Down the page, curiously, another recommended book was on big data. Would we get tired of webs second guessing our intent?  Would we long for serendipity?

Myanmar IT magazines and open source intelligence

Internet Journal is a popular IT magazine in Myanmar. I always like to get a copy from the local Myanmar enclave whenever I can. It helps me figure out what devices and technologies are popular in Myanmar when I am away from The country for an extended period.

Internet Journal from Myanmar

Not just limited to Myanmar, but I would often buy Thai, Vietnamese and other magazines too. I can’t read most of these languages. But, even glancing at the photos gives me an idea of what technology and fashion are currently popular. These magazines also give me topics that help start a conversation when I meet a person from these countries.

Come across a mention of a book on a website, find the book on Kindle store via this bookmarklet

You often encounter mention of a book on a web page or a blogpost. Sometimes you are intrigued enough to buy (or perhaps download a sample chapter of) the book. You probably end up doing these actions.


Highlight the name of the book and copy it.

Open Amazon.com website.

Select the Kindle book from the search field options.

Paste the book that you copied earlier and run the search.

I find this a bit tedious. So I made a bookmarklet (by made I mean, I found a bookmarklet on the net that was doing some other search and I changed the code a bit to search the Kindle store)

If you want to install this bookmarklet in your browser, head on to http://bit.ly/kindlesearch

Container Terminal 9

I was in Tsing Yi in Hong Kong. From my window I could see the Container Terminal 9 stretching all the way to Rambler’s Channel. I have always been curious about how well the global logistics system works.

And then I wondered about the history of containers. Who first thought about moving things in metal boxes? How did so many companies and ports standardize on the size of containers? How does the system work so well?   A search on Amazon, and I found The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger .

Learn how a truck driver went on to build the container shipping system.

Omoide noto - Memory Notebook and iWinkd

So we are in Kyoto and staying in this lovely ryokan - a traditional guest house.

And what do we find here, a dairy...

Some stories inside, most are in Japanese

and one in Chinese too

You will find in this many of these guesthouses. They are called Omoido noto, or memory notebook. Guests can leave their experiences of Kyoto and the guesthouse in this diary. 

Omoido noto is like a blog of a place. I like this concept. How can we use this. Early in 2008, we build a service called iwinkd. 

Conversations with Future Readers

I had loaned out this one book on some esoteric topic. While it was still on loan to me, I received an email informing me that someone else has reserved the book.  Wow, there is someone else who is interested in the same topic as me. 

Couple days later, I was at the library returning the book. The librarian was printing the reservation ticket for the person who has booked the book. I asked her if I can leave a note in the book pointing the next reader to my blog post (about the book) and inviting him/her to discuss the book with me. The librarian quoted some privacy rules and brushed me off. 

This was one of the situations that prompted us to build iwinkd. We were figuring out what would be a totally non-intrusive way to get two strangers to talk about an object that they both encounter and care about. 

So I am reading this book Fatherland by Robert Harris.

And I want to connect with future readers. One of the initial ideas we had was to leave my email and blog address. I figured that might not work. I needed a neutral space where people can come in. Lets see how this works on iwinkd:

I head on to iwinkd and create a message for the future readers.

iwinkd comes back with the tag for your message.

Place this tag somewhere in the book. One can use a post it.

Someone else encounters to book couple of weeks later and finds the tag. The new reader types in the tag at the iwinkd website.

He reads the message that I left for him. And decides to leave a comment.

Hopefully, we can keep talking about the book.