I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Kiruba Shankar

The Accident on the Way to Pondicherry

While driving to Pondicherrry on the scenic East Coast Road,  a Maruti Swift Dzire overtook us.  I was driving at a ‘not-so-slow’ 70 kmph and this car was clearly touching the 90s.  Barely a few minutes later, we were shocked to find the same car rolled over on the road side.�

We screeched to a halt, jumped out and rushed to the car fearing the worst. By then, the local farm workers also rushed towards the car. Miraculously, all the three passengers, an elderly gentleman and a middle aged couple, escaped scathe free. They were pulled out of the car and clearly were in a state of shock. The rains made the fields soggy and ensured a soft landing.

The East Coast Road has many curvy corners and the owner of the car, couldn’t maneuver the corner in the high speed. Worse, he hit the brakes hard while turning at high speed that sent the car cartwheeling off the road.

The owner of the car said that they had just taken the delivery of the brand new car and decided to take a drive to Pondicherry as a celebratory drive. The car, unlike its lucky passengers, was totalled.

Experiences From the Wikipedia Academy

The first Wikipedia Academy got off to a nice start today. For those of you new to the concept, its an effort to teach and encourage more people to contribute to Wikipedia in terms of knowledge. Most of us just consume Wikipedia but don’t bother to edit or add any information. The academy is a small effort to change that.

Within a few hours of tweeting about the event, the registrations overflowed the small capacity my office could hold. We opened up an ‘overflow’ section and that got full as well. The next Wikipedia Academy is planned for December 12th for which Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia Founder, will be present as well.

That’s Mr.Gangadhar Bhadani, one of India’s most prolific wikipedian. He is the Chief Manager of Bank of India’s Pondicherry branch and yet 2 to 3 hours every day contributing to Wikipedia. So passionate is he that, he hired a cab on his own cost from Pondicherry to Chennai to teach at the academy. That’s quite a commitment and the participants were highly appreciative of his effort.

The nearly 3 hour session dealt with advanced editing techniques, how the volunteering hierarchy works, how to grow up the ranks to be an editor. Our small office make it look like a packed standing-room only session!

I realized the sore need of a projector. The folks at the end of the room had difficulty following the edits on the computer screen. With Wikipedia academies planned at a regular scale, it would be great if corporates can help donate a projector. It could even be an old one. It would be of great help for future sessions.

ExpressBuzz, a New Indian Express publication had a nice write up about the Wikipedia Academy. The whole idea behind the academy is to make it viral. Anyone can conduct one in their neighbourhood. All it takes is just the intention. For anyone wanting to start one and need advice, feel free to call me at 98415 97744 or email Kiruba[@]Kiruba.com. I’ll be more than glad to help. The more people contribute, the better wikipedia becomes.

The Collaborative Painting Experience

One of the ideas that stuck was to do a collaborative painting effort during Wikipedia Academy….. something that will symbolically show the effect of collaborative work and how much fun it can be. The idea probably is a rub-off of the interactions that I have had with the artists of Cholamandalam Artists Village. (They are my clients).

Two days back, I started my homework. I googled for painting tips. Saw many YouTube videos. But as with everything else, I actually started actioning things barely two hours before the event.

First on the shopping list was paints and painting brushes. Off I go to Connexions but was shocked at the cost of painting brushes. Those small ones averaged Rs.100 per brush. Dad suggested that the hardware stores will have cheaper ones and boy, was he right. Similar brushes cost only Rs.18. I picked up two boxes of fabric paints as well.

Now, to make the frame. Thankfully, I found the perfect timber shop, walkable distance from my home. I explained the concept to the owner and he was very helpful in helping me select the frame. The size I planned was 7 feet by 4 feet. Cost: Rs.80

Now to buy the canvas. This proved to be the most difficult of the lot. Only very few shops sell painting canvas in Chennai and they are located at Parry’s Corner, too far away for me. So, I tried my luck at a clothes store nearby and while they didn’t have canvas, they had coarse . At this stage, I had to make do. Picked up 2.5 meters. Cost: Rs.70.

Off to the hardware story where I picked up a hammer and a bunch of nails. Cost: Rs.45.

My Dad is a great sport. He’s a very hands-on guy and loves to get his hands dirty. He volunteered to get the frame ready and began in earnest.

That’s Natraj, our apartment watchman. A genial and helpful guy, came in quite handy. After the frame was done, the cloth was nailed to it. We did all this at the community hall in our apartment building.

With the frame done, I had to quickly take it to my office without getting it wet in the drizzle.

Participants at the Wikipedia Academy had started to trickle in. And they only needed a little prompt before they dived into the painting enthusiastically.

And what you see is what eventually turned out. There was no brief given. Everyone was free to draw anything they wanted. Use any color they wanted. The folks had good fun. I certainly did. For many, actually all, its our first experience painting on a canvas. It isn’t a masterpiece. Heck, it’s a cacophonish collage of arbitrary strokes but what the heck. We had fun and we were quite proud of what we whipped out.

Why I Bought an Electric Roti Maker….When Everyone Asked Me Not To.

While shopping at a big super store, we came across an electric roti maker. The guy at the counter said he can arrange for a no-strings-attached demo at our home. We decided that wouldn’t hurt and asked him to.

I then tweeted for advice on if its really worth spending Rs.2000 on an electric roti maker. Nearly everyone who responded back didn’t have a good experience and advised me against buying one. I googled for it and most of the top links pointed to complaints.

I’m a guy who strongly believes in the wisdom of the crowd. So, why did I still go ahead and buy it? Here’s my reasoning.

Reason #1: I was absolutely impressed with the product. Sure, all demos are meant to impress but this one was special. I can see a good product when I see one. The roti maker made fluffy, light rotis, just like in those TV commercials. And consistently at that.

The sales guy insisted we knead the dough from the flour from our home. He asked us to knead it just the way that we normally would do. He then taught the technique and asked us to use the machine ourselves. I can’t remember the last time, *I* made fluffy rotis.

Reason #2: My mom and wife are trying to lose weight. Both are targeting to lose 10 kgs before April 14, 2009. We now have strict ‘No-Rice’ dinners and replace rice with rotis. Investing in the electic roti maker is my way of showing solidarity and support in their ‘weight-loss’ effort.

Reason #3: Making rotis using the traditional wooden roller is tough and not to mention for the entire family. It’s the most strenuous part and the most time consuming. Anyone who has done it will know. The roti maker needs just one press to get a ‘well rolled’ roti. I remember seeing the glint in the eyes of my mom the first time she saw it. That’s all the reason I needed.

Reason #4: We get thinner rotis from the roti maker than the ones made by hand.

Reason #5: Requires no oil. Big thumbs up.

Reason #6: It’s economical. Saves gas. One hour of electric roti maker consumes just a little over 1 unit of electricity. It frees up the gas stove for cooking other stuff.

Now, lets look at the negatives. The rotis *must* be consumed while they are hot. They are soft and fluffy but once it cools off (and it happens real fast), the roti hardens and becomes rubbery.

While pressing the roti, a particular technique must be followed. Otherwise, you are asking for trouble. The lid and the pressing handle must be pressed at the same time for a quick second. If you don’t press them together, you don’t get the perfect roti.

Most of the folks who advised me against buying had two valid reasons.
1) “After the initial week, we no longer use it.”
My reasoning: In our case, its a necessity. We *have* to make rotis almost every night.

2) “It conks off after a month ”
My reasoning: Now, I can only hope it doesn’t. My expectation is low and I’ll be happy if it lasts at least 6 months. Fingers crossed. If it did, it would have paid for itself well.

KirubaShow is Back. Interview with LiveJournal’s Director

After ages, its good to be podcasting again. The news of the tie up with Business Standard was the boost I needed to get back into play.

This morning I got to have a converation with Benjamin Wegg Prosser, who is Director of Corporate Development of SUP, (“pronounced as Soup, as in Tomato Soup”), better known as the owners of LiveJournal. You can listen to the podcast here.

Live Journal, for those who don’t know, is one of the earliest blogging services started way back in 1999 and still continues to be a significant player. The intro was done by Rajesh Lalwani, founder of BlogWorks and who handles LiveJournal’s account in India.

Ben has an intereting profile. In his earier job, Ben served as director of strategic communications at Tony Blair’s cabinet, Yup, the ex-prime minister of UK. Here, he oversaw a series of innovations including the launch of e-petitions service and the first YouTube channel for any head of government in 2007. Take that Obama!

Prior to Downing Street, Benjamin worked at The Guardian where he held positions as publisher and General Manager of The Guardian’s website, handling diferent sections.

Go ahead and listen to the interview. You can also download the interview and load it onto your iPod, mobile phone or your music player and listen to it on the go.