New WhatsApp Status is going to be big
Internet, Media, Technology

New WhatsApp Status: This is going to be *BIG!*

New features in popular services often rake up rancour. I have also grumbled a lot against certain changes. But then with time and familiarity that resentment reduces and we start to dig the very feature that we detested at launch.

The same is true for the just-released updated WhatsApp Status, WhatsApp’s return gift to us on its 8th birthday.

For a change, I am not complaining and instead see an immense potential in this.

WhatsApp Status is going to be bigMy second-ever visual WhatsApp Status is a GIF boldly announcing my feeling towards it, “This WhatsApp Status thing is going to be BIG. I mean REALLY BIG. A lot of one-to-many communication will shift there.” I also tweeted this and posted on Facebook. Two services that are likely to be impacted to a certain extent by this new addition.

“Oh! Not another Snapchat clone!” is a common complaint I have been hearing. Also, “Snapchat is so kewl. And this WhatsApp Status so wannabe.”

There is no denying about where WhatsApp Status has been inspired from. Instagram did it, so WhatsApp following suit is no big surprise.

But on WhatsApp this is going to change the way users distribute content and therefore also how they consume it. The ephemerality (though I am an archivist) is encouragement to share more. On the first day itself, tens of my contacts have updated their multimedia Statuses. As previously mentioned, I myself have done that twice.

WhatsApp has been primarily built as a one-to-one communication tool, then it also became many-to-many (groups). The one-to-many ability, though it exists in the form of broadcast messages, doesn’t appear to be used as frequently.

With the new Status, WhatsApp treads into the territory of its new parent – Facebook and to some extent Twitter. By removing the old text-only status feature, WhatsApp did Facebook and Twitter a service. I hope WhatsApp brings back the ability to post text statuses.

And Snapchat. Most of WhatsApp users are perhaps not even aware of the app’s existence, let alone having used it. I don’t have Snapchat on my phone or for that matter Instagram (some say it is because of my age).

WhatsApp has a captive audience of a billion-plus users for its Status feature. Also unlike Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram, your Statuses will be visible to those who have your number in their contacts. So this is not limited by followers or friends, the lack of which any new user on a social site has to deal with.

Snapchat users might scoff at WhatsApp Status, but the 900 million (or more) who are not on Snapchat, wouldn’t even care.

While the range of the frills that WhatsApp is offering on launch is limited, it is likely to be expanded as it evolves, like so many other WhatsApp features. And if you ask me, those lenses and other gimmicks on the likes of Snapchat, are precisely that, gimmicks.

The WhatsApp community is strong and ever growing. Status will only increase WhatsApp’s status. Also that it is there as a separate tab, it doesn’t fight for the user’s attention. Those who wish to ignore that, easily can. But they won’t for long.

Some on social media are already celebrating that this will reduce the number of inane forwards that arrive as messages, as they would now find a new place as Status. I doubt. Groups will continue to thrive on forwards and that irritating cousin isn’t going to stop irritating you any time soon, just because WhatsApp has added a new feature.

This also expands the possibility of WhatsApp’s use by businesses and brands. While WhatsApp had promised business features quite some time ago, we are yet to see any of that.

I have used WhatsApp for both content sourcing and dissemination at my workplace and know that even though the returns are appealing, the effort needed is way too much. Status appears to be much easier to handle, for businesses as well as the news media.

Over the next few weeks, WhatsApp Status will be a much used (and of course, misused) tool to let the world (limited by the number of people who have you in their contacts) know “what’s up.”

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Murphy Radio
Podcasts, Technology

ChaiCast: World Radio Day and a lifetime of radio listening

I am not in love with my voice and there are very credible reasons for that. And this is perhaps in over a decade of blogging, it is now now that I have finally managed to put together my first-ever podcast. This actually draws on quite a few of older Cutting the Chai posts. But what better than to make my podcasting debut on World Radio Day.

Listen in (the full text is here):

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You can now embed WhatsApp videos (and images) on webpages
Internet, Technology, Tips & Tricks

You can now embed WhatsApp videos (and images) on webpages

You can now while away your hours sending inane messages and deciphering emoji puzzles in the comfort of the web browser (Google Chrome to be precise). WhatsApp is now officially available on the desktop.

One interesting out-turn is that WhatsApp videos and images can now be embedded on webpages (conditions apply*). While WhatsApp isn’t letting users do that directly, a simple workaround can let you put that viral video on your blog without going through the hassle of downloading it and hosting it somewhere.

You can now embed WhatsApp videos (and images) on webpages

The video below is an embedded WhatsApp video:

For how to get WhatsApp on your browser, follow the steps here.

Now click on any image or video thumbnail on WhatsApp Web and when the image/video window opens, right click on the image/video and click ‘Copy image URL’ or ‘Copy video URL’.

Then insert the URL within the code below.

For video:

<video width="640" height="350" controls><source src="INSERT-VIDEO-URL-HERE" type="video/mp4"></video>

For images:

<img src="INSERT-IMAGE-URL-HERE">

(Change the video height and width according to your requirements)

* But there is a possible caveat. WhatsApp’s terms of service states that, “Files that are sent through the WhatsApp Service will reside on our servers after delivery for a short period of time, but are deleted and stripped of any identifiable information within a short period of time in accordance with our general retention policies.”

As I am not sure what WhatsApp’s general retention policies are and would that change now that WhatsApp has added web to its offering, this hack should be treated as an experiment.

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Facebook animatted GIF
Internet, Technology, Tips & Tricks

How to use Twitter to post animated GIFs to Facebook

This is a corollary to a previous post, where I discussed all that you need to keep in mind while creating animated GIFs to post to Twitter.

This new Twitter feature also means that in addition to using Twitter as a free GIF to video conversion service, we can also use it to post animated GIFs to Facebook.

While Google+ and now Twitter support animated GIFs, Facebook is yet to support GIF awesomeness natively.

The steps to follow are simple but with a limitation. The animation posted on Facebook will not loop automatically, as it would on Twitter (and elsewhere). This means that you should look at using GIFs that have a longer play time or if you are creating them yourself, repeat frame sequences to extend play time (as in our example).

Upload the GIF as an image on Twitter and from the tweet posted right click on the animation and click on the ‘Save video as’ option from the contextual menu to download the video.

Next go to Facebook and upload the video. It will take a while to process. And behold! Your GIF is now animating on Facebook (see the Facebook embed on this post or go here).

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Internet, Technology, Tips & Tricks

Two important things to remember while creating animated GIFs for Twitter

GIF lovers of the world rejoice! As many of you are already aware, Twitter now allows animated GIFs to play within the timeline. But before you head to upload from your wonderful GIF collection, read this.

Because Twitter reprocesses your GIFs as MP4 videos, many of the characteristics of the GIF that you had painfully created might be lost and the desired effect might not be visible when seen on Twitter.

This technically means we can also use Twitter as a free GIF to MP4 video conversion service and that Twitter is hoodwinking us users in believing that those are GIFs, while they are in fact videos (Twitter does this obviously to reduce the weight of the files as rendering GIF animations as videos can save a lot of bandwidth).

While this should be self-explanatory, these are the steps you need to follow to use Twitter to convert animated GIFs to MP4 videos. Upload the GIF as an image using Twitter and from the tweet posted right click on the animation and click on the ‘Save video as’ option from the contextual menu.

A few things that I noted while posting a test test GIFs to Twitter:

1. The first frame and the last frames in the GIF animation do not always consistently replay within the animation. This means that if the first frame or the last frame in your GIF animation is of crucial importance in the entire experience, you may need to repeat that twice for twitter users to get the full show.

2. Twitter will also overrule any time lags that you might have set between two frames and will loop all of them at an equal interval. This would also lead to additional work as you would need to replicate frames multiple times to get the desired time delay effect.

The example below illustrates the Twitter GIF caveats better.

This is the original GIF. There are 5 frames (named 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) and the time interval between them increases from 1 second between frames 1 and 2 to 5 seconds between frames 5 and 1.

twitter-animated-gif-test-140622
And this is what Twitter does to the GIF by converting it to MP4. Note the inconsistency in the appearance of the first and the last frames because of browser video playback issues and also that the time intervals between the frames are now uniform.

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Idea Cellular data uage notification
Grumbles, Technology, Tips & Tricks

How to stop the irritating data uage notifications on Idea Cellular

Idea Cellular data uage notificationI have been a long-time (but not-so-satisfied) Idea Cellular customer. My last gripe against Idea was about the data usage notifications that they kept on flashing on my phone screen all day (and night) long. Which meant that to get something done with the phone, I would have first get the notifications away from the phone’s face. A constant irritant.

Older versions of Android allowed apps to block USSD notifications, which apparently has been restricted in the newer versions. This left me with no easy option, but to curse Idea every time I had to tap the OK button on such a message.

Calls to the Idea customer service was also of no help. The customer service executive sounded surprised that I was actually making a request to get rid of the notifications. According to him this was a valuable service to the customer and I should be instead be obliged. At that time, according to the executive, Idea didn’t have a way to allow customers to control these data usage notifications. I ask him to add this as a feature request and forward my plea to whosoever who can get this done.

It might have taken Idea Cellular a few months to do this, but finally they did. This is how you can turn on or turn off the irritating data usage notifications on your Idea Cellular connection.

To get your data usage on Idea dial: *121*44#

To start data usage notifications on Idea dial: *121*45#

To stop data usage notifications on Idea dial: *121*46#

I tried. It works (but did give me an error the first time. See screenshot below).

Idea Cellular data uage notification stop request message

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Soumyadip Twitter
Internet, Lists, Technology, Videos

My #2013 on Twitter

My bio on Twitter begins with “Internetaholic,” but the rehab treatment in the form of a two-year-old son has been very effective. These days much of my non-work (I work for a website) Internet use happens only when junior is asleep (like now) and this also includes Twitter.

A look at my timeline will almost instantaneously tell you that @soumyadip isn’t much of a twitterer (both in quantity and quality) and it also reflects in my follower count.

But these guys at Vizify make my year on Twitter appear to be much, much, more exciting then I thought it was. Watch this video (that they created, and which I edited a bit) and see if you too share similar thoughts.

And here, dear friends, is a list of my top tweets of 2013 (Dr Batra wouldn’t be too pleased).


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Mobile phone
India, Technology

How emoji is making it easier for the illiterate to use mobile phones

Mobile phone

For the poor in India it is the mobile phone that has proved to be a bigger revolution than the Internet. The poor don’t directly use the Internet but almost everyone in the city, irrespective of the social class, appears to own a mobile phones and our household helps are no exception. They might own a mobile phone to communicate with their family, friends and employers but many of them are illiterate, with only a limited understanding of numbers because they need that knowledge to count the money they earn and spend.

This lack of knowledge of the letters would have made it difficult for them manage contacts on their phones, that make it easier to call people and to identify who is calling. But necessity, as we know, brings about innovation. Our cook uses ideograms, that we now more popularly refer to as emoji, instead of names in her phone’s address book. This makes it easy for her to identify who is calling or whom to call.

Her daughter’s number is saved against the icon of a girl and Varsha’s (my wife) number has a little baby (a reference to our toddler son). This way, she, with help from her daughter, has organised her address book so that her lack of literacy doesn’t come in the way of her ability to communicate.

I am not sure if all phones used by people like her come with this feature. If they don’t, they should.

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Gillette Guard
Consumer Awareness, Grumbles, Technology

Is the Gillette Guard as revolutionary a razor as the AP story makes it appear to be?

Gillette Guard

I love innovation and inexpensive innovations more so. So this headline ‘Cheap razor made after P&G watches Indians shave‘ obviously got me clicking and half way through the story it occurred to me that this was about a razor that I have myself used and because of this first-hand experience I thought that what the story needed was a little myth-busting.

First to point out a little conflict of figures in the story itself. Towards the beginning of the story, Mae Anderson, the national consumer products and marketing reporter at the Associated Press, says, “Guard quickly gained market share and today represents two out of every three razors sold in India.” Two out of every three calculates to 66.66%. The story ends with a bunch of figures paint a very different picture: “P&G says with 9% market share, Guard has grown share faster than any other P&G brand in India.” 9% is not two out of three. No, not even in India.

When I noticed a single-blade razor didn’t look like a single-blade razor on a supermarket shelf I instinctively put it in the trolley. The next morning, I applied a little more lather as I hadn’t shaved with a single-blade in quite a while and wanted the stubble to soften up a little more for the Gillette Guard. My effort didn’t seem to be of much help. It was one of the more uncomfortable shaves that I have had in a long time. The double-edged Topaz blades, even though they are more prone to draw blood than the Guard, surely gave a much smoother shave. The razor that I had so gleefully put into my supermarket trolley soon went into the bin.


I know I am not the intended customer for the Guard (Procter & Gamble would rather want me to buy something more blades than there are people in my household), but I have experienced the conditions the people for whom this razor has been ‘invented’. Growing up in a perennially water-scarce hill city, running water was a luxury that even the rich couldn’t afford. So for the first six years of my shaving life, it was a only mug of water to rinse the razor (I still prefer a mug over running water). Clogging is definitely an issue with multiple blades but a vigorous shake of the razor in a mug of clean water usually does the job.

“They even made the razor’s handle hollow so it would be lighter and cheaper to make.” This isn’t as great an innovation as it might appear to a reader unaccustomed to the razors found in an Indian store shelf. Hollow handles are a standard for the inexpensive versions.

Also the Gillette Guard is a little more expensive than it appears to be in the AP story. The Rs 15 followed by Rs 5 for refills were the introductory prices and the razor and the cartridges now sell for Rs 19 and Rs 7 (unless P&G has another offer running). Gillette’s less glorified competitors sell twin-blade cartridges for about Rs 7 a piece and triple-blades for about Rs 10, but they may not be as ‘India-friendly’ as P&G claims the Gillette Glide to be.

P&G’s strategy (that is also followed in the desktop printer business) of selling the razor handles (with a cartridge or two thrown in) cheap and later making money with expensive cartridge sales had me ensnared for some time. But I have managed to break free and now use a triple-blade disposable razor that offers me comfort and number of shaves comparable to the Gillette Mach 3 at a fraction of its price. That’s my innovation.

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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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Google's 'March on Washington' website on the Civil Rights movement practices discrimination
Grumbles, Internet, Technology

Google’s website on civil rights movement practises discrimination

You just cannot miss the irony trying to access Google’s website on the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s historic “I have a dream” speech on a web browser other than Google’s own Chrome. A website on equality, practising discrimination!

A cold message appears on a dark background, “Your device is not supported. We’re sorry, but this browser isn’t supported. Please view this site on Chrome.” Some championing of the open web this!

Google's 'March on Washington' website on the Civil Rights movement practices discrimination

Is this browser apartheid? User agent based discrimination surely.

Using its other services to promote Chrome (also Google+) in ways that isn’t quite congruent to its (now discarded?) ‘Don’t be evil’ motto is not new to Google. I have posted about it before and there are many more.

If Google has abandoned cross-browser compatibility in pursuit of Chrome monopoly, why even bother to build a website? Turn them all into Chrome Extensions.

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India, Technology

NO TELEGRAM FROM JULY 15 STOP VINTAGE TELEGRAM FORM FROM PRE-INDEPENDENCE INDIA STOP

The last telegram in India can be sent on July 14. From July 15 BSNL which operates the telegram services in India (and not India Post, as The Times of India seems to believe), will discontinue the 160-year-old service.

More than the Internet and email, it is the mobile phone that has led to the demise of the original character-constrained mode of communication (extra words cost extra money).

Before the bifurcation of the Indian Posts and Telegraph Department in 1985, the services were very much a part of the postal department. The postman’s shout of telegram was a cause of anxiety for families as the telegram for the Indian with limited resources was more often than not a courier of bad news (usually death of someone in the family).

I remember sending a few telegrams as a child (thankfully conveying good news) and filling in the form carefully in my neatest possible handwriting. I also liked the way the message was printed on a thin strip of paper that was then pasted on a larger sheet to be delivered to the addressee. But things have changed a lot. Telegrams are no longer sent over telegraph lines, but via the Internet and the message is printed out in the destination station and delivered by hand.

The telegraph also revolutionised the news industry and we still call our news agencies wire services.

While I am still looking for a classic example of an Indian telegram message, here’s a pre-Independence version of the form used to write in the message.

VINTAGE TELEGRAM FORM FROM PRE-INDEPENDENCE INDIA STOP

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