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Dear Steve Jobs,
I never used an Apple product. Perhaps never will. But that is not really the point. The point is that you were an inspiration. A big one of those. Yes I respected the other Steve better (Fuck, I even called him ‘the other steve’). But you kept making the world talk about you and that made a good reason to look up to you and learn a trick or two, for life.

Steve Jobs that I remember...

I can assure I never even imagined this day. Like all the other heroes, and people I love I wanted your existence to be etrnal. I wanted you to be there till I die. I knew it was highly unlikely to be the reality for I was too young to be that lucky.

There are times that thoughts of death come in mind. Say, imagining my father’s loss… or mom’s. When that happens I close my eyes and tell myself and the whole universe that it wouldn’t and shouldn’t happen. I did the same when those morbid thoughts regarding you came in my mind. I just don’t want to lose my parents. I didn’t want to lose you either.

I’m sorry for not being able to put down something beautiful and touching like other talented people. But that doesn’t mean I lament your death any less. So what I wanted to say, even though you would never hear is…

Thank you Steve. Thank you for being an inspiration. Thank you for all the lessons. Thank you for being a hero that made my life worth living. Without you, the world feels a little incomplete.

Rest In Peace.

I don’t get to hear this so often. But when I do, I really try to reason and understand how it could happen. Despite my efforts, I haven’t been successful yet.

Is the demise of android possible? Yes. Remember why we don’t get to ride dinosaurs these days? yeah?. Shit happens, right? I think that dinosaur analogy is going pretty good with android. Android is pretty big right now and it’ll likely take an asteroid like blow to take it down. To hell with my knowledge about Dinos, that is pretty much all the way I can make with that analogy. (I’m using too much p-word. Pretty annoying eh?.)

Let’s get a bit serious about this. Android, reminds me a lot about windows. You read me right, Windows. Microsoft Windows. But why? Windows was essentially an open platform. Not as in ‘open’ we see on news these days. But open enough. People could make software for the system without getting in any walled gardens. And the system could be put on hardware that happened to be abundant.

Remember the rival of Windows? Hope you do. And I hope you can remember the restrictions it had those days. And we all know where each of the players ended up at the end of the OS war.

We can say that those golden days are more or less behind Microsoft. And some might argue that Microsoft is dying. But the shocking truth is, for Microsoft to go down with it’s main product, takes a loooooong way down the hills.

Can you relate that with the story of Android? Let me start with the least significant of all. Android’s rival in this mobile OS game happens to be… wait for it… just kidding, we all know it. But that is a fact only good for making cool jokes. But what’s the real deal?

Unlike it’s rival’s, Android’s eco-system is open. There is a marketplace governed by Google, but not as tight as the rival Apple happens^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hchose to do that. People can make software and distribute on their own, without any restrictions at all. This invites bad software in too but didn’t windows have that problem?

iOS comes on what is known as iPhone and iPhone only. One piece of hardware, very well done yeah, but still it’s just one piece of hardware. Android on the other hand, is put on wide range of different hardware by different manufacturers. Almost all phone manufacturers have their own android phone (Nokia? we’ll be there in a moment). Oh and did you know those crappy Chinese phone makers have discovered android?. The hardware can be junk but here is a market for that. Not so classy but market-share.

The open availability of android has opened doors to amazing things. Meizu the Android from China that would feature dual/quad core processors and this $80 Android phone from Kenya are just two random things I grabbed off the top of my head.

Unlike Windows, Android is open as in ‘open’ we hear in news these days. And that has opened doors to other amazing things too. Cyanogen mod and plethora of android ports to different hardware platforms show how good is it to be that open.

Let us move on to other possible reasons that can lead to the sudden death of android (or even iOS). The other players in the game. Let me try to list them in the order of effectiveness. Windows phone 7, BadaOS, Symbian, Meego and webOS. The last two went down in relevance respectively due to Elop’s decision of making Nokia sleep with Microsoft and Apotheker’s decision of making Hurd’s brain child not seeing light. Symbian will face only slightly better fate than that of Meego. Bada will have to be side by side with android, in Samsung.

That brings us to Windows phone 7. WP7 cut a deal good for them with great hardware maker Nokia. It’s known to have an OK like user interface. Also known to have an ambitious launch parade completed with drama’s of iPhone’s death. But come to think of it, we still didn’t get many real phones out with WP7 on it. No Nokias with WP7 yet. But let’s forget that and think of the ones that are actually there. Not enough to kill iPhone or Android I guess.

I, for a don’t-really-like-MS guy, was really enthusiastic about WP7. Not because anything but I loved to see more competition in the space. But did it make a dent in the graph? I don’t think so. And what kind of an application eco-system it has?. I honestly haven’t heard much of one. BTW check this piece of news saying windows phone market-share being down by 38% since WP7 launch. Doesn’t sound like the android/iPhone killer.

And now about patents. This seems to be the only thing that makes android haters sleep at night. Oracle blew the one giant asteroid like blow on android with Java patents. Or did they?

Anyone in software industry knows how sweet software patents really are. Apparently there has been a lot of hullabaloo about patents in the UK and the rest of the Europe. Also in the US, current economic crisis has kindled rounds of discussions about how patents are crippling innovation. Even with all that, new regulations coming in and taking the pain that is patents away forever, for good is only as probable as  Oracle’s big bad bloody brutal blow on Android actually killing it over night.

I haven’t had the scoop of inside news on the progress of Oracle-Google legal battle, heck I didn’t see any worthy news item regarding that blinking on radar after this. According to that, some judge somewhere with some sense had ruled the number of claims Oracle has against Google down to 3 all the way from 132. Yes 3 patents is still a lot given the fact that there can be the single patent that is the big fucking deal. Anyway this more recent news item says bit of a different story. And we are apparently not likely  to see much of an improvement in the case any soon. With all that in mind, I’d say that I don’t see much of a chance for Oracle’s legal actions against Android will be anything like the asteroid were to dinosaurs. I’m not good at predictions but we’ll definitely find out in the years to come.

So the demise of android still seems far from reality. An the other thing is even if it goes down, it has to go a loooong way down.

Today my blog marks five years of existence. Half a decade!. That’s so much for me, because I lose interest of things pretty soon. Blogging somehow stuck on the wall. And I’m happy about it.

I honestly can’t believe that I kept doing it all this long. Yes I know it’s not without a lot of barren times in the record but when I see it sums up to a total of 213 posts It kinda makes me happy. More than anything, I’m happy that this blog made it from nothing to something. At the beginning it was almost all worthless crap. My writings weren’t worth someone’s precious time (But, Big thanks to people who read me those days. You made me!). And today I believe I’m improved and my writings worth at least a bit more than a decade old classifieds paper.

I think I should thank @indica‘s Kottu for giving my teenage self a reason to keep doing it pretending people actually read what I wrote. Kottu not only gave the feeling of being read and most importantly provided some good stuff read and learn from (Oh the good old days!). Also my friend Geekaholic‘s (Bud) blog was a huge inspiration as I was in to Linux and stuff. I won’t go in to naming each and everyone here because a LOT of people actually did inspire me with their writing.

Back in the days, blogging felt like what twitter felt an year ago. It was awesome. I can remember writing stuff (Trust me, it’s not worth your bandwidth to go back and see) and later posting them on the blog with the limited net connectivity I had. Oh and how much I loved seeing those 3 people having read my little blog!. I don’t really think I had a huge readership. Most people came here through search engines to read those HOWTOs. But still there are things that can make my humble mind happy.

All time views to my blog sums up to a number just under a hundred thousands (That’s a VERY small number on Internet) and most importantly, 616 comments. Slash off 116 for my own blabberings and spams that made through akismet and my hawk-eye, there we got a 500 times people thought it’s worth writing something. That’s really a great honour to a tiny soul like me :). Thank you people. You made me too!

So thank you each and everyone ever visited my little place on this huge internet and cared to comment on it! I’ll keep adding stuff till I find myself not doing it. Hope you’ll be the support you’ve used to be. Thanks again!

If you read all this long, you should be someone special :D. And if you too have a blog, I’d really like to know about it because I think I should try to start on reading others a bit more seriously again!

Is not an easy task. Anyone who has tried their hand in the job knows this very well. We all have been a part of some community at some point of our lives. If you can’t agree with the last sentence and your life is not horrible, I’d really like to know more about you :).

It all begins from family (most the time). We all know that holding families together is not always an easy task. This is perfectly normal because a family is essentially a community. building communities is hard. Keeping them intact is harder.

I have sure been through the hardships of keeping the ball rolling for communities, if not building them anew. It’s almost always an exhausting task. It sucks life out of you and leaves you there with an eternally damaged soul. Perhaps I’m not the best leader, or the guy with good enough social skills for the task. But for the geek I am, I sure can squeeze the hundred per cent out of me to put life in something I love to see alive. But that doesn’t seem to do the job. There are so many moving parts that rules the success of a community.

The most important ingredient in a community is the people. Without people can not exist a community. Duh!. Managing people is a horrendous task, at least for me. So  what I’ve learned building communities and mostly failing at it is, building community is all about attracting people and having the right people in the core all the time. I read between the last two periods several times to make sure I put it right. And yes it’s not about attracting RIGHT people. Have as much people as possible in the community. This allows corrupt people in too. That is not a problem as long as they don’t make it in to the core. Here’s where we come to the point, having RIGHT people at the core.

“Having right people at the core”, doesn’t sound right at all, I know. It doesn’t simply sound wrong, it sounds wrong at two levels.
1) Having a separation as a core and not core.
2) Having a separation as right people and not right people.

Recipe for doom right there. But only if it’s done explicitly and with too much process. A community that is going to stay a community will execute the said moderations automatically with hands-ups from vast majority. And the people in lead should always make sure this happens smoothly and not too many people get pissed off. Also, it’s very important to understand that making everyone happy is not even an option. Openness, transparency, value for everyone’s opinion are all good qualities a community should have. But maintaining the balance and keeping the community alive is equally important. What I’m trying to explain is already happening out there in successful communities. But still, most the communities either fail to see that or refuse to embrace the truth.

The second most important thing in a community is leadership. “Leadership” here doesn’t have to be a single person or a group that is always have the authority of making decisions. Rather some ‘characters’ the whole community can look at (not up to) and gather around. The leadership can be different individuals at different situations. The only requirement here is to ALWAYS have a leadership. Mostly in open communities, one man running the show is frowned upon. Open and successful communities allow everyone to take leadership roles at relevant points. Even though that’s the best way things should can be, mostly a single personality leading a community is common in practicality. Leadership matters can lead a community in to politics. The moment you see power struggles in a community is the best time to leave that community (if you are not one of the assholes who are involved, of course).

The worst thing about building and maintaining communities is having to deal with politics. It’s possible to keep politics to a minimum. But it takes a lot of discipline. Discipline from each and everyone in the community. This is the reason why it’s so difficult to keep a community out of politics. Dealing with external politics is not as nearly as bad as going through internal politics crap. It’s ironic how the most important ingredient in a community happens to be the avada-kedavra on it. Anyway, the three qualities I mentioned before, Openness, transparency, value for everyone’s opinion together with open discussions at the dawn of any problematic situation can help a lot in keeping politics at it’s smelly dark pits.

A community can get all above mentioned things right and still go extinct. That is by doing nothing to serve the cause it’s there for. A worthy community should always be active. There should be things happening. At least as some discussions in a mailing list or an occasional hangout in a pub. When community members don’t feel a sense of life in a community they start to forget about that community. It’s like members leaving the community without even knowing that they are leaving. The leadership should make sure that there’s something going on in the community at any given time. Also planning for the future is very important. Not planning is the number one reason why some communities meet the destiny of dinosaurs. Community members, on the other hand, should take something on to table whenever they can. This not only help the community stay alive, it makes the particular member more welcome in the community and lands future leadership opportunities.

RefreshColombo
Finally a note about RefreshColombo, a community that is doing surprisingly well. I’m really proud that people who are the core are doing a great job building the community. I can see them having hit the point of balance which seems to be it’s major strength. It started as mostly a tech community. At some point they evolved blending tech and online communities together. I’m having a hard time chosing words here. To explain a little bit, by tech community I mean the people who are techy by profession. There’s a lot of people who are not like that but still engage in a very healthy online community (Geeks finally won, right?). Taking these people together is the reason there’s a lot of people who care about the community.

I know about this because I saw and was involved in attempts to build tech communities in Sri Lanka. They failed pathetically for some reason (I have an opinion about this but.. not quite the time or place to write about). I don’t know if it’s intentional but Refreshcolombo switching to a format that allowed attracted more people in actually helped it stay a community to date.

Refreshcolombo is wide open for the opinions of community (as I know). This makes membership feel more comfortable involving in. So there are members. But that is not enough. A community should stay alive and the members need a leadership core to gather around. The core team of Refreshcolombo is doing pretty well. If any of you feel like being special, take something to the table. You are going to be very welcome.

So then there was Google+.

Big brother Goog sure has cried long nights about the miscarriages that were wave and buzz. Being beaten up by facebook and twitter in the then coolest thing in the block should’ve hurt the search giant a lot. But now it’s time to see the light spread. I mean, see Google+ spread.

We don’t want to talk about facebook privacy again, do we? I chose not being a dumb fuck and deleted facebook sometimes back and that was it.

And that brings us to Twitter. Twitter’s so called organic growth has been great for it until everyone and his mother jumped in and Twitter decided not to do anything about managing ever increasing crap in it. Yes they introduced groups and new web interface that was more of downgrade but it doesn’t help. I, an early adopter, a hard core user and an original lover who went to bed so many times with Twitter is currently having second thoughts.

And that brings us to light… tsk… Google+. Circles is the real deal. Because It was what I wanted with UI sex added in to it. I’m still discovering G+ circles and G+ is still beta. But it’s already doing good. The real social life is not a binary decision. Facebook learned this the hard way and struggled to deliver something that works ever since. Twitter on the other hand simply is not supporting the idea by design.

The dangerous thing is, G+ seems to be the best of both worlds. I can send a ceratin post to Public, a Circle I created, many Circles, all the Circles, extended Circles or I can just select, to the finest detail, who are going to see it. Your new crush is too old fashioned that she’s only on Facebook?. She got email right? You can chose to send your love poems via email. It’s that Simple.

We don’t talk about Facebook privacy anymore. We don’t have to talk about G+ privacy either. Because you can control the privacy settings to the finest detail for everything on G+. Deal closed.

You get Google chat integrated in to G+. So fortunately we don’t have to hop on yet another chat network to chat in G+. I hear it’s Hangout feature to be quite awesome. I never tried it. I haven’t had more than a handful of videos chats for all my life anyway.

The Sparks are G+ attempt to improve on and eat what Twitter has for lunch. You can follow news in the sense ‘new stuff ‘ with sparks. I fiddled with it for sometimes and it looks OK. It’s yet to be improved but it’s there usable. I know Google has all it needs to make it super awesome. I’ll come to that point.

Remember Priority inbox? It’s so simple that  we don’t even remember to thank it when it helps us. Or do we even notice it’s there? yeah that simple. Take technology used in priority inbox, improve and have it handy for later.

Sparks can use some priority-inbox-y goodness right now. But believe me it can be used on our social feed. Because no matter how carefully we make Circles and how rigorously we try to maintain sanity using Circles, our contacts will find ways to ruin it. See what happened to Twitter. It’s hardly usable with the crap people dump in there. It will take sometime for G+ to come to that point. Because 1) G+ current conversation model doesn’t make it easily ruined like Twitter’s @replies (Still love the simplicity of the idea and hate the people who ruin it). 2) Not everyone and his granny is on G+ yet. But they will come in (They should). They will come in to ruin.

That is when priority inbox technology (Machine learning and stuff) can save the world. I predicted priority inbox feature when Google launched their prediction API. It’s safe to predict similar integration of predictions technology in social graph. I won’t lose anything if it never turn out to be true. But if it does, it’ll be good news for all of us and there won’t be a day with crap on our social feeds anymore.

I am really looking forward what Google engineers come up with in the future. Now that Google has found UI engineers that can add sex in to UI Google engineers works will serve more happy people.

I see a bright future for Google+. I wish one of course. So that we can tell EVERYTHING about us to the big bro Goog. Apparently, they already estimate the strength of the relationships we have >:).