Category: Opinion (page 1 of 4)

V.H.Belvadi’s (or guest author’s) opinion piece.

Why I love footnotes

“When thumbing a book” says Hugh Harrington, in the Journal of the American revolution, “and contemplating a purchase, I thumb from the back.” He is looking for an index, preferably, and footnotes or endnotes, most definitely. In fact, he goes so far as to say he will replace the book on its shelf for the sole reason of there being no footnotes.1

Fiction or not, footnotes have a special place in literature — and a practical one too. But I happen to like them on the web for reasons of my own.

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  1. It might be apt to mention that he is talking of non–fiction (historic?) literature, not just any book.

Dear The Hindu, it’s the 21st century

It is a pity that the only newspaper I trust (and read) in India, The Hindu, is notoriously difficult to consume in any but the most ancient format. Being made available in digital media is not an empty trend and need not divert from good journalism. It also need not — and should not — be second to it. And as our style of news consumption evolves, it will (as sad as this truth may be) take more than good journalism to stay relavant.

In this age the news and the medium we consume it in go hand-in-hand, and this fine newspaper seems to be letting things slip. Take The New York Times for example, coming from another old news house — over a quarter of a century older than The Hindu — which has arguably the best digital presence today. And it’s journalistic standards have not dropped in making a move from broadsheet to phones, tablets and PCs. It is, after all, the 21st century, and The Hindu must buck up.

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Chris Erskine’s millennial pledge, re–written for everyone

Last week, LA Times humour columnist, Chris Erskine — whose humour nobody seems to get — wrote a piece titled, “From one millennial to others, take this pledge”. It was a typical, internet–style list post sprinkled with some humour, and laced with a lot of stereotyping and patronising. And the internet did not take kindly to it.

Aside from the fact that list posts like Mr Erskine’s have little business being published in a print newspaper, the article managed to garner attention from a lot of people, including one of my favourite publications, The Guardian. And in spite of the backlash it received, the article did carry some pledges worth considering.

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Five things reviewing an app negatively has taught me

A few weeks ago I reviewed some of the best manual finance apps on the App Store. Emile Bennett’s Pennies was one of the apps which were part of that review. Soon after publishing my thoughts, Emile Bennett got in touch with me to share his feelings regarding what he called my scathing review of Pennies.

On second look, he was right. I immediately wrote back to him (rather defensively) that my thoughts were undoubtedly valid, but I conceded that I had perhaps been a little unconstrained in putting them forth. It ended up looking like a harsher review of his app than I intended and because I personally loved the app, (the least I could do was that) I eventually took down the review.

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The Joy of Missing Out

I had never really made the connection before this, but Sherlock Holmes practices a form of the so–called Joy of Missing Out. I’ll come to that in a moment; first we need to understand what JoMO is and, parenthetically, what FoMO is.

The Fear of Missing Out, or FoMO, was added to the Oxford English dictionary in August of 2013. It is defined as anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. I think we can do away with that last clause: FoMO is not restricted to social media alone and is as rampant offline as it is on the web.

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Ad-blockers are a good thing

The concept of the web being free comes with strings attached. Although most websites are free to read, their owners need to pay for storage space and servers (besides various licenses), and storages and servers and networks run on electricity. In order to keep website content free to read, these expenditures are met indirectly.

Broadly, there are mainly two things that pay for the web: advertisements and paywalls. Bots track your usage via your browser and tell advertisors what you like so they can show you ads you are most likely to click on. Websites act as platforms to show these ads, possibly coax you into clicking on them and exploring advertised products or content, and make money in turn.

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Photographic sharpness: an obsession

I somehow came across an article by Connor McClure where he talked about how far too many people blindly use VSCO filters to process their photographs and call it a day. What he said about VSCO is true (and is something I strongly believe in myself) — they are a convenience, and not much more than trends; and trends pass on. McClure says it best: “They are trendsetters, and I don’t believe in latching too tightly on to trends.”

In addition to filters in general (not to target VSCO, whose filters I use rarely, but do use nonetheless) there is another misdirection I feel we ought to address in today’s photography scene: mindless obsession over sharpness.

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Time to be super-productive

Having begun my month-long iPad-centric lifestyle experiment and having found myself somewhat free this morning, I proceeded to install Denys Yevenko’s Pomodoro Time Pro app (free version also available) and try my hand at the famous efficiency technique.

What I realised was probably not eye-opening, but it did make me completely rethink my time-management approach.

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iPad is more than just a consumption device

Ever since the first iPad came out in 2010, people have hailed it as a stellar consumption device: something you use to watch videos, browse the web, occasionally read etc. To some of us, the folly in this argument is immediately apparent.

The iPad has the potential to be so much more than a device you just stare at all day; you can do things with it. And Apple’s tablet apps store is second to none, so why do more of us not use the iPad to do things as opposed to just consume information?
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Britain is not a smartphone society

Earlier this week The Telegraph’s technology briefing newsletter (as well as their website) carried an article asking if Ofcom’s recent survey suggests Britain is a smartphone society.

Although the figures do point to great smartphone usage, I would argue that it takes more than just usage numbers to make a true smartphone society.

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No language should be compulsory

This morning I awoke to preposterous news: Kannada, the local language here in Karnataka state, is being made a compulsory paper for all levels of education, from school to graduation. Nobody has a real defense for why this should be done — some genuinely seem to believe it helps. Is it their inferiority complex that makes them believe that others believe Kannada is beneath, say, English or Hindi? Or is it a misplaced sense of pride or cultural dissatisfaction? Or, worse still, is it a classic case of being opposed to multicultural society?

I love Kannada. I have nothing against it, but these are times when one should think logically rather than emotionally: learning Kannada has no better advantages than learning Sanskrit or French or Mandarin or German or Russian or Greek or Latin or Hindi or Urdu or Arabic or Swahili — you get the point. All languages have a geographic significance that is non-existent beyond certain borders. And no language is different.

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I had been to Manthralayam purely by mistake a few months back. Manthralayam — or Manthralaya — is a Hindu pilgrimage site in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. I did not visit the temple there, of course, bust instead spent close to an hour outside, photographing the devotees.

How I came to visit this place is not worth discussion: I was traveling to another city and decided to visit this because it was on the way and we had surplus time on hand. What piqued my interest in visiting Manthralaya was not its burial of the Madhwa saint, Raghavendra Swami (hence the pilgrimage), but the fact that, in 2009, the Tungabhadra river, which flows through the town, had submerged it in heavy floods.

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Have we crossed the Great Filter?

One of the biggest arguments regarding the existence of aliens are the famous Drake equation and the equally famous Fermi paradox. I wrote about them four years ago and debated that aliens may still exist in spite of these arguments against them, and I still stand by that belief.

I was reminded of this again recently when I read about a so-called Great Filter theory that attempts to explain the standard sceptic’s question: if aliens exist, where are they? why haven’t we seen or met them yet?

Stemming from astrobiology, the idea behind the great filter is that a civilisation or species reaches a developmental wall it cannot cross. But some — including myself — like to believe that we have already crossed this wall, or filter. And that leads to some interesting ideas.

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Are stock iOS apps more than sufficient? — part 1

These past few weeks I have been increasingly wondering why people complain about stock apps on iPhone. Granted, for some, the apps fall short in some areas; this is particularly true for those who use their iPhones in corporate environments where the tech department has its own apps or possibly where app usage restrictions exist or special use cases are only met by certain third-party apps.

But the practice of hating stock apps just for the sake of hating them has undeniably increased among the self-declared hip crowd. My own anger against bloatware (if you call appeals of bloatware removal “anger” that is) was well-founded because bloatware, by definition, is that which a user would not voluntarily have installed even if he had heard about it.

In this light, let us take a look at my own use of stock apps and examine cases where I use alternatives (and why I do so) as well as where I use the stock apps (and why I do not seek an alternative). The apps I will talk of that I use are Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Messages, Photos, Reminders and Podcasts; and I mention apps like Notes, iTunes and Calculator that I rarely (if ever) use. This is spread out over two articles for length.

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The (not so) minimal iPhone setup, or simply “what’s on my iPhone 6 Plus?”

A lot of people have been going on about a minimal iPhone lately. Most of that has something to do with stripping down the apps you use, having just one home screen and then sitting around and justifying it because you paid a small fortune for the phone and now you talk of using it as minimally as possible.

None of that makes sense. The iPhone has probably already replaced a lot of other things you use and thereby made your lifestyle a lot more minimal, if that is what you were going for. It likely replaced everything from desk calendars to USBs in cars to cinema and plane tickets and — for some people — laptops.

I am not one among them, so my iPhone setup is not what I would call minimal. I do however follow a certain practice where I try to reduce the apps I use in some ways I have not seen a lot of others adopt. That is one reason I wrote this article — the other was because people wanted to know what was on my iPhone.

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