India Shopping Search Engine
Announcements, Technology, Websites

Announcing India Shopping Search: A custom search engine for online shopaholics

I do a lot of my shopping online and always have an eye open to catch the best diaper deals (We have a 22-month-old son). A big gap in online shopping in India is that there isn’t one search engine to fulfil my online shopping search needs. Google India doesn’t have a shopping option (which is anyway limited to their partners) and neither does Bing. And the ones that exist are too limiting in their selection of websites.

A plain vanilla search on the regular search engines will flood you with mostly useless results from not-what-we-want-but-SEO-optimised websites. To fill in the gap arrives India Shopping Searchhttp://iss.cut.tc

india-shopping-search

This isn’t anything fancy, but I believe it fulfils my online product search needs well. India Shopping Search is a Google Custom Search Engine, that to begin with, searches across 34 leading Indian online ecommerce websites and also let you filter results by store, relevance and recency.

I have, for now, only included the websites I have experienced myself and are appear to be credible (This doesn’t of course include results from websites where I had to face horrendous online shopping experiences). If you have a website to add, do let me know.

Happy searching. Happy shopping.

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Advertising, Consumer Awareness, Internet, Media, Newspapers, Online Ads, Print Ads, Websites

Opening a third front in the Times of India vs Hindu ad battle

As The Times of India versus The Hindu advertising battle rages on, Cutting the Chai thought it was about time to add a new perspective. So here am I, jumping into the arena with a public service advertisement.

Cutting the Chai's take on the Times of India vs Hindu advertising battle

Share. Spread the word.

PS: I don’t subscribe to any newspapers anymore. Reasons in a different post.

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Internet, Media, Tips & Tricks, Websites

How to easily get unflattering content removed from a website

Some of you have enquired about why the post on Dolly Bindra on Fantasy magazine cover suddenly disappeared from the blog and I believe I owe you an explanation.

I took off the post because Dolly Bindra requested me to and I thought she had a valid argument and I should oblige. Also I think the stance she took in ensuring that the post is removed is one of the most effective ways to act whenever caught in such a situation – some random website publishes something about you that may not be entirely true, or violates some of your rights or just that something you don’t people to discover online.

As I had mentioned in the post, many of the models whose photographs appeared in such magazines were themselves not aware of their images being used and were therefore surprised (if not shocked) to discover their photographs being published.

When Dolly discovered this she was obviously a little upset, as she told me later and also that the image was part of a portfolio that she had shot but never distributed. Apparently the photographer sold it without even seeking her permission.

She tried to contact me through my various public profiles and initially contended that I couldn’t legally publish the image. I contested her contention.

She said that the image could be seen out of context and a large part of the audience is not very discerning. As Cutting the Chai is all about sharing, I shared her concerns and voluntarily offered to take off the post and the image. Irrespective of the impression that her appearance on Bigg Boss gave us, she is a nice (and calm) person to speak to (only that she speaks a lot).

Cutting the Chai, though some content in here may be objectionable to some, is not a sleazy blog whose only intention is to titillate for traffic. Therefore it didn’t matter to me much if the post want away.

What Dolly did right was to immediately try to reach the owner of the blog through all possible communication streams, this meant that I just couldn’t miss her message, unless of course I had shifted base to under a rock. Her message had a hint of caution (only as hint is fine. Many bloggers, including me, don’t take too kindly to being directly threatened) and her contact info (email ID and phone number) requesting me to get in touch. I am not much of a phone person and am more comfortable communicating via email. I sent her an email explaining my position. She insisted that I call her (she obviously is more of a phone person) as she didn’t have my number. I did and in the long (and mostly one-sided conversation) that followed she explained her apprehensions and I assured her that I will comply with her request. I immediately did. She had her way and it wasn’t too much of a trouble for any of us.

Now imagine a couple of other situations, with real-life examples. The ‘offended’ party using their connections contacts the employer of the blogger concerned. Though most ethical employers will stay away from interfering with what their employees do outside work, but it can easily boil to a Gaurav Sabnis situation. IIPM miscalculated the reaction to its threat and landed up with even more negative publicity. The Indian blogosphere frantically typed in support of Gaurav and against IIPM. What did IIPM gain? Zilch.

Situation 2. The ‘offended’ party with deep pockets and lawyers in dark suits believes offence is the best defence. So they serve the blogger with a legal notice threatening punitive action. The poor blogger, who cannot afford legal hit-men in black suits (and is also a little on the wrong foot), complies and also publishes an apology. But the word leaks out of a big business arm-twisting a misfortunate blogger and the blogger immediately becomes the victim in the eyes of the audience and the ‘offended’ party the villain. This again results in the kind of worldwide buzz that one wouldn’t have bargained for. The ‘malicious’ content that the ‘offended’ party wanted to get removed, spreads like wildfire and no top-notch legal team in the world will be able to dowse it with any amount of legalese. Ask Barkha Dutt.

Therefore the best approach is instead of confronting, contact and communicate your misgivings. The Internet tends to bring the rich and mighty at the same level as an unemployed youth with just an Internet connection. Therefore it is always advisable to pull your punches. Most people are reasonable enough to understand your point (that is, if your point is reasonable enough) and in most cases agree to what you requested for. The other approaches should be used only as a last resort, though I am quite against contacting an employer to ask an employee take off some content that he/she has put up as a private individual.

Taking an offensive stance can very easily backfire and once its goes viral that is little that can quell it. Therefore play sweet, play safe.

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Humour, Internet, Websites

Trust the Chinese to sell maternity jeans for men

I am not an avid online shopper, but am slowly changing my purchasing priorities. While nothing can beat the experience of the touch and feel of offline shopping, there are stuff that you cannot easily find in the neighbourhood stores. And there are things that you discover online that is very unlikely to get any shelf space at physical store.

Here’s one such sample – maternity jeans for men. Came across this on Alibaba.com, China’s leading e-commerce platform. The product in question is manufactured by Shunde Junzirui Garment Factory, Guangdong, China and the minimum one can order is 500 pieces.

Maternity jeans for men

The only customer that I can think of for the product is Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior (1994). Moreover, it doesn’t also look anything like maternity jeans.

In all likelihood it is the result of a mix-up. Nevertheless good fun.

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Internet, Media, Technology, Television, Websites

India Googles Kaun Banega Crorepati

Searching Kaun Banega Crorepati on GoogleAn association with Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) is what Google TV needs to be a success in India, that is whenever it launches in our tech-neglected country.

KBC has got Indians googling for answers to the questions asked on the show. Interestingly, some of the searching also happens much after the show is aired and Amitabh Bachchan has let the world know what computerji says is the correct answer.

Commonsense says Indians would be searching for answers to the Ghar Baithe Lakhpati question, that allows viewers to win a lakh by texting (or dialling) the correct answer. But Google Trends doesn’t seem to agree. Maybe because most Ghar Baithe Lakhpati questions are just so dumbass. We don’t need the power of online search to tell us which insect transmits malaria or that your wife’s younger sister is your saali.

A look Google Trends, since October 11 when the season four of KBC started airing, shows that every day a number of KBC-question-related keywords find a place amongst the top 20 keywords searched for from India.

Therefore a KBC-powered-Google-TV or a Google-TV-powered-KBC has a potential to lure in us Indians. That is if the devices are not obscenely priced as many of the much-desired electronic products usually are.

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Internet, Media, Technology, Websites

#NewTwitter Wish List: 10 things missing in the New Twitter

Got the new Twitter interface and took it for a drive immediately. Some have touted the new-look Twitter as a Twitter desktop client killer, I say, not yet. While, overall, it was a much better experience, but felt it still needs a little more to be able to make me go gaga. There’s much missing in there.

Here’s my top 10 wish-list for the next Twitter upgrade (will they call it the New New Twitter or #NewNewTwitter?):

1. Classic retweet: While Twitter’s inbuilt retweet feature makes retweeting fast and simple, it often kills the purpose. We usually like to add a little comment to the tweet while retweeting but Twitter doesn’t allow that natively. It still involves a copy/paste and manually inserting an RT. Too much work.

Retweet on new Twitter

2. Expanded short URLs: Twitter led to the flood of URL shortening services but even the #NewTwitter doesn’t prevent us from getting a nasty surprise on clicking a shortened URL. If not for the numerous other URL shortening service, they could have at least done it for their very own t.co URLs. The expanded URL being shown on mouseover shouldn’t be too much of  a work. Or is it? (Anyway Twitter will be a bit wary of mouseovers nowadays).

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Books, Comics, Internet, Sex, Websites

Censored in India, Savita Bhabhi goes French

Savita Bhabhi Book Cover - Love in BollywoodShe’s one porn star who has everyone ‘excited’, right from the government babus to the editors in the newsrooms.

Though Savita Bhabhi has been back after the ban via a new domain, the resurrection also seems to have been obstructed. The new website www.kirtu.com doesn’t seem accessible directly (there’s always the other way around), atleast on the ISPs that I use. Apparently the process of denying access to the new website has already been initiated.

Shunned by her own government, Savita Bhabhi has found succour with the French. “France gives sexual asylum to Savita Bhabhi,” could scream a headline (just couldn’t resist using the term).

It might seem that, like our television channels, I’m blowing things out of proportion. Well, I am.

It’s only that Savita Bhabhi has been published as a comic book (in ink and paper) by Editions Blanche, a French publisher specialising in erotic literature.

Titled Love in Bollywood also Bollywood in Love (depending on the cover you look at) the book was released a month back on October 22, 2009. The 96-page comic book authored by Deshmukh, has been designed by Dexstar and Madman (all pseudonyms).

The book, Bollywood in Love – les Aventures de Savita Bhabhi, (Bollywood in Love – The Adventures of Savita Bhabhi) is also available on Amazon France for €13.25.

All bans aren’t bad, as many Bollywood producers would agree. The Indian government’s restriction Savita Bhabhi has made her India’s most famous porn star ever.

The widespread media coverage and online discussions have generated more following for the cartoon porn star than the ones in flesh and blood – Shakeela, Sunny Leone, Angela Devi, Priya Rai – put together.

Now that she’s been published in other languages too, Savita Bhabhi might find a place along with the Kamasutra and Khajuraho whenever sex and India are mentioned together in the same sentence anywhere in the world.

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Bombay, Grumbles, India, Media, Newspapers, North East India, Politics, Television, Terrorism, Websites

Against Terror. In all Forms

It’s November 26. Said to be the day we commemorate what is often called India’s 9/11. The date-month order may be transposed, but even after that bloody (and live) 72 hours nothing much else seems to be.

I still vividly remember the day and the ones following. Came home late, switched on the TV saw tickers running on news channels about some firing in Mumbai. Thought that the gangsters were back in business and turned it off.

The next day came early to work, at around 7:00 AM to find the floor abuzz. But it still didn’t strike me. Everyone seemed busy, no one told me anything. I stepped down for an early morning pee and in the lobby my eyes fell on the six LCD TVs and they were all showing the same story. I stood, staring. A little later, a single word escaped my lips. Fuck!

Rushed back upstairs, turned on the PC, fired up the browser and ingested all that I had missed through the night. The day went off in a daze. Being more of an entertainment-lifestyle journalist this wasn’t exactly my domain. But on days like these, there’s only one beat.

When I returned home late that night, I didn’t think of writing a blog post. I hadn’t even after the July 11, 2006 train bombings (that was earlier India’s 9/11. Unimaginatively termed 7/11. In India we don’t refer to dates in that order). But later couldn’t help, but let it out.

As on July 11, 2006 “I had nothing to say. Numbed. I didn’t want to react. Couldn’t.

Now a year after the Mumbai terror attacks, I cannot again restrain myself.

On this first anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, more than Kasab & Co. it is the home-bred terror, that people just refer to by other names, that pesters me.

Terrorism isn’t only about firing hundreds of rounds a minute from an Automatic Kalashnikov or triggering RDX to blow up trains. Terrorism is a mind game. The perpetrator tries to instill fear in the minds of the masses. The fear of a violent backlash. And all this isn’t Al-Qaeda, ISI and their ilk’s prerogative.

These are the ‘respectable’ terrorists. The kind that Bollywood stars give obeisance to. This brand of terrorists (or their henchmen) become lawmakers and the upholders of the law stand in attention to give them open-palm salutes.

They threaten, they main, they destroy, they kill and they spread their fear. They terrorise.

And they aren’t restricted to any geographical periphery. In Bombay (Shiv Sena and MNS would like to terrorise me in referring the city as Mumbai), in Maharashtra. They terrorise not for the sake of the language, but for power.

Power, the ultimate goal of terrorists of every kind.

In neighbouring Gujarat, the experiments with state terrorism yielded favourable electoral results. The Communists had almost perfected their cadre-powered terror in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. Only that in Bengal they now have to confront Trinamool’s brand of counter-terror terror. In north Kerala, the saffron and the red take turns to terrorise the populace.

Terrorism is almost a cottage industry in the North East. The formula is simple: Give fear, take money. To hell with ‘independence’ and ideology (Most terrorists believe in god). But the real terror in the North East isn’t of the gun-toting renegades, it is the seeming innocuous students’ unions and social organisations.

Their fact that there organisations – more often than not – are built around communal lines, their actions frequently result in violent communal conflagrations. Their writ runs large. Bandhs called by them are total (unlike the ones in Delhi), not because of popular support for the cause but their terror. Some such terrorist leaders have moved on to higher politics to become chief ministers and members of the cabinet.

Then there is the age-old terrorist – caste (and of course, religion and culture).

I have been a victim of such terrorism and continue to be so. And so are you, consciously or with you being unaware of it.

Compared to the AK-47 terrorists, it is the bandh-terrorists (for want of a better term) who are more successful. They get name, fame, money, power and in some cases Z-category security, all in their lifetime.

Kasab might also have a multi-crore security cover, but he’ll have to wait to see if the promise of 72 virgins actually holds true.

The media glare fades our memories. The attacks in Mumbai on November 26-29, 2008 might have been the most impactful terror attack on Indian soil in terms of its duration and the resultant international interest. But if we look at the number of causalities, there have been greater tragedies.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, a little list (deaths in brackets):

– June 23, 1985 Air India Flight 182 (329)
– March 12, 1993 Bombay (257)
– July 11, 2006 Mumbai (209)
– November 26-29, 2008 Mumbai (172)
– May 13, 2008 Jaipur (68)
– Feb 19, 2007 Samjhauta Express (66)
– October 29, 2005 New Delhi (60)
– July 26, 2008 Ahmedabad (57)

While it is easy to compile together a list like the one above, it is difficult to put together something similar for the other kind of terror. They don’t require a body count to show off to their masters sitting beyond the borders, their measures are different and vary according to need and greed.

A unfriendly country doesn’t need to fund the militant outfits to create terror and mayhem. For much more and long lasting impact it just needs to donate the right amounts to certain party (and private) funds and union coffers (Who knows, they might already being doing do).

The fear of the AK-47 terrorists is short lived and gets revived after another attack or on an anniversary. But the other terror is sustained and always palpable. The intensity of the terror might vary, but it stays. Often for ever.

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