Hari's Corner

Humour, comics, tech, law, software, reviews, essays, articles and HOWTOs intermingled with random philosophy now and then

A new forum launched

Filed under: Site management by Hari
Posted on Thu, Oct 19, 2006 at 20:42 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:12 IST)

I've created a new community for the discussion of Indian classical music. I've not found too many communities of this nature on the web, so I thought I would fill that niche. You can find it at music-forum.harishankar.org. Feel free to join and discuss. If you are interested in classical music, please spread the word to your friends and relatives. I look forward to seeing you there :)
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We were all there once

Filed under: Bits and Bytes by Hari
Posted on Tue, Oct 17, 2006 at 16:49 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 21:39 IST)

Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that we were newbies once and so learn to show patience when others show the same level of ignorance that we once did and we have now conveniently forgotten. I have been getting annoyed by real basic questions by newbies on forums, but I guess I must admit it: I used to asked them myself.

I was browsing an old LQ.org archive page and found this question I had posted in all my innocence. :P


Check the date of the post. ;)
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All things to all people?

Filed under: People and society by Hari
Posted on Sun, Oct 15, 2006 at 21:05 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 21:15 IST)

One of the real flaws of creating any product or service is trying to be all things to all people. You find so many examples of such exciting ideas floating around. Sadly few of them are realized and fewer survive in the long run to be termed a real success.

Let me try and explain with software as an example. Or more specifically, let me suppose that "A" has a great idea about a new kind of Linux distribution he wants to create. He wants it to be the absolute best Linux distribution ever created. It will be absolutely easy to use and yet at the same time have every possible feature that can every be included in a distribution. Based on the user requirements it should be either be a perfect, cutting-edge multimedia workstation, a simple desktop or a powerful and stable server - in short, an all-purpose distro, completely configurable and customizable, and yet completely easy to use by any newbie to computers. "A" wonders why nobody in the market ever thought of such a brilliant idea.

Now this is something that fires up a few people including "B" and "C" who join together and gather a few more people. So they go on and prepare a plan. Immediately they start running into problems. Since they want to listen to every idea out there, they will come into many situations where idea "X" clashes with idea 'Y". For example, if it should be user friendly, how can you allow users to configure a powerful server system while keeping several layers of complex detail hidden from them? Do you go for a powerful GUI orientation or just concentrate on command-line tools to do the job? Immediately they realize the contradictions of their own lofty goals. So "A" decides on a more realistic approach. This leads "B" and "C" to quit the project halfway in disgust, stating that "A" has abandoned the initial goals of the project. "B" and "C" proceed to build their own team and "A" continues to struggle, trying to cope with different pressures. The long and the short of it is, "A" fails to create a Linux distro and decides to go with an existing one, while "B" and "C" create a distro that merely clones another popular distro's functionality without adding anything new.

Now this is not about Linux, so let's not get into that aspect of it. The idea behind this story is that *any* product or service in the world cannot be developed without a firm vision of who it's intended for. Five-star and seven-star hotels cannot be thinking of cutting costs so as to reduce the bill for their clients. Their clients, which include CEOs of large corporates, are the kind who don't care about a few extra thousands on their bill - they expect the highest quality of service and ambience when they book a room in a star hotel. If they tried to cater to a lower segment of customers, they would end up losing their main clientele. The owner of the five-star hotel must charge a hefty price to maintain the beautiful ambience, the perfectly quiet and efficient air-conditioning, an effective room-service and the smart, costumed waiters who speak in polite and polished English. He must charge high to maintain his exquisite swimming pool and his well-stocked premium bar.

And on the other hand, the road-side teashop owner cannot afford to wait on his customers. He just makes tea and hands them round without any frills. If you wanted to drink tea in an exotic ambience, you'd better find a decent restaurant, because this guy doesn't worry about ambience. You drink tea standing in the hot dusty street right opposite a large garbage bin and inhaling copious amount of vehicular smoke as the buses and cars brush past you. You are not worried because you don't spend time in admiring the ambience and enjoying the flavour. The tea he dishes out is hot and it quenches your thirst, period. He washes your glass with hot water and immediately uses it to serve another customer.

So can any product or service really try and be a complete solution for everyone? There may be some successes, but they are more the exception to the general rule - you cannot be all things to all people.
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We will be moving hosts shortly

Filed under: Site management by Hari
Posted on Sat, Oct 14, 2006 at 18:41 IST (last updated: Wed, Sep 26, 2007 @ 17:49 IST)

Update: Transfer done

Literaryforums.org and this blog will be moving hosts shortly. Hosting has been kindly donated by my good friend trickykid and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for all the help he's given me and answered my questions patiently. Being a complete newbie to the nuances of hosting and DNS, I have learnt quite a bit from him in the last couple of days as we exchanged plenty of e-mails back and forth. :D

So expect to see a short downtime for both my sites (I'll try to keep this as short as possible, but to ensure correct transfer, I won't be hurrying myself over the procedure ;)). harishankar.org has already been transferred and seems to be working well currently.
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Attracting quality content on online communities

Filed under: Internet and Blogging by Hari
Posted on Thu, Sep 21, 2006 at 10:14 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:13 IST)

Here's an article I recently submitted at theadminzone.com forums. I've chosen to post this here, because both as a forum admin myself and as a blogger, I find this issue quite interesting and challenging, particularly seeing as I am trying to attract quality content writers on my own forum literaryforums.org

Here's the article in full:
One of the biggest problems of online forums these days is the huge threat of competition, not just from other forums but from personal blogs. Blogging has become such a huge phenomenon and the majority of blog owners choose to write and spend their energy on their own blogs rather than online forums. This takes away a significant chunk of traffic away from forums and into blogs because more and more quality content is found on personal blogs rather than forums.

How does a forum admin combat this threat and how do you get forum members to contribute quality content on forums, rather than their own blogs. After all, the barrier to entry to blogging is minimal and almost anybody with an internet connection can create a blog.

Being both a blogger and a forum admin, I kind of understand the motivations of both sides and feel that I should share some of my thoughts on this issue.

The key is to restore a sense of pride of ownership to people posting content on forums. Here are some of my tips on how to achieve this:

Recognize their work

If a forum member is particularly good at submitting original or insightful content, consider giving them a position on your forum. It can simply be a user-title or something more than that. In cases where you find their quality of work to be excellent you might even consider monetary compensation for their work. But above all, the contributor needs to feel a sense of pride and a sense of belonging to the forum to be motivated enough to contribute.

Neat Organization

A forum with a neat organization of categories and which separates quality content from the general chat and discussion will have a better response in terms of content submission. More than this, the content-driven portions of your forum need to be prominent and visible and members who submit original content should have an easy way of keeping track of their submissions.

Nothing is worse than having submitted a great article on a forum and then frantically searching for it one month later without any easy way of determining where it's gone. At the least, every member should have a "My Articles" link in his user profile to easily track the submitted content.

Customize and personalize

If a particular member is keen on contributing content but feels that the submitted content tends to get buried under others' contributions over time, the motivation to submit content will be reduced. In these cases where you find a member particularly prolific in submitting great content, but feels a lack of ownership or personalization, you should really consider setting them up for a section/subforum of their own where they can submit their content without having to mix it with others' content. This is, in many ways, a good solution for people who write and contribute regularly. Maybe even give them a "featured" status as a writer on your forum.

Finally, community blogs

Giving members their own blogs on the forum can be a great idea - if it's not overused. This is similar to the idea suggested above, but instead of integrating it with the main forum, it acts as a separate page of their own. A good idea would be to restrict the blogs only to members who've contributed well in the past and give other people a motivation to have their own community blogs.

If used properly, community blogs can be very attractive on sizeable forums because members will get the advantages of a personal blog combined with the visibility of a community forum. The key is to make it look attractive to members by making it prominent and well-structured.


It's always difficult to get members to contribute on a big forum because it lacks a sense of personalization and people who contribute will not feel a sense of ownership. Also "content" driven sections of a forum need to be prominent and visible if it is to become popular because nobody wants to submit content in some obscure section of an online community.

The key is to motivate and recognize people for their contributions and making it more personalized over time.

The biggest threat to a content-driven forum community is not another forum but the ubiquitous blog.
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LiteraryForums.org looking for a regular columnist

Filed under: Site management by Hari
Posted on Sun, Sep 17, 2006 at 08:53 IST (last updated: Wed, Sep 26, 2007 @ 17:51 IST)

I usually don't post major announcements on the forum here, but I thought I should mention this as it might be of interest to some bloggers.

Please read the announcement and contact me on the forum if you're interested: Details here
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