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Making the best of a startup weekend

I was at the Startup Weekend event in Seattle last weekend and many people asked me how my experience was, so rather than reply to each person individually, I thought I’d write it up.

This was my 5th Startup weekend since I attended the very first one, back in 2008. Over the past four years, teams that I’ve led or been a part of have attempted to build a social enterprise directory (Skillbit), a unified social invitation tool (Onevite), a twitter-based business intelligence dashboard (Bitter), a social video watching application (Shubz.TV) and most recently a re-imagined dining experience (TableSurfing). As with 99% of startups, all of these idea have failed to get any traction beyond the very busy weekend it was conceived in. Even then, the experience of pitching an idea, building a team, learning some new skills and generally meeting some other smart and passionate people have kept me going at least once a year.

Here’re my tips to make the best of your experience at a Startup Weekend and other such hack-a-thons. I’m going to assume that you have a well paying regular job, actual marketable skills and are actually interested in building or working at a tech startup and that is your intention in attending these events.


Manage your expectations

At startup weekend, and life in general, managing your expectations and seeing beyond the hype is key to avoiding disappointment. So, let’s get real – you’re not going to build your billion dollar startup here[1], you may not even build anything past the login screen of the application you’re working on. You’re not going to meet your dream co-founding engineer here. The brilliant idea you thought of during your drive over the 520 bridge will not be met with a standing ovation and a flock of angel investors elbowing their way to your table.

More than likely, though, everyone else will think your idea sucks, everyone you meet will be a social media consultant whose primary skill is tweeting at 140 words a minute and every idea you hear will be a rehash of something you read on TechCrunch last year.

If you’re lucky, you might meet one other person who thinks your idea is kinda neat and gives you some feedback, find someone who shares some interests with you or has some skill you don’t and you might learn a couple of a CSS tricks you didn’t know before. If you’re really lucky, you’ll build an interesting prototype that gets a few rounds of applause and a sponsor might give you a $30 credit towards their service. So, aim high, but expect nothing.

Go with a skill.  Learn another one.

The best use of your time at startup weekend is to learn a skill that you’ve always wanted to hone. Now, if you’re never coded before, don’t go there expecting to become the next Linus Torvalds by watching someone hack Javascript over the weekend. But if your primary skill is in coding backend services and you’ve always wanted to dabble in front-end or design, this is a great opportunity to do so without taking that risk on your day job on someone else’s dime. If you’re a visual designer and wanted to get better at your CSS and HTML or if you’re an engineer looking to learn some project management or business skills, help out with some market research or in writing up a survey for the user researchers on the team. Or try helping out in your project’s demo and presentation to help you get over that fear of public speaking.  Everyone appreciates a helping hand, especially when you’re clearly contributing and helping the project move forward and are willing to learn patiently. Observe, ask questions, pick up tips and tricks and learn some new tools, but don’t expect anyone to give you a 101 in anything.

It’s not about the idea. It’s about the execution.

Unless your idea involves using a Kinect to help autistic kids or something so radical and yet obviously useful, don’t think that it’s going to be a sure hit at the event. So, stay even if your idea isn’t ‘picked’. Conversely, don’t keep your big idea a secret because you want to work on it on your own. There’s no worse pitch that “I have an amazing idea, but I can’t tell you what it is unless you want to work with me on it”. More likely than not, two others pitched that same idea at Startup Weekend Kansas City two weekends back. So, share the idea, get feedback and be willing to pivot to something else over the weekend. My friend and regular startup weekender Danielle Morrill of the YCombinator startup writes about how she talked about her idea at a startup weekend a few years back, collecting feedback and tweaking it before she felt it was ready for primetime. Did anyone else ‘steal’ that idea? I don’t know, but it didn’t matter, they didn’t execute on it. Ideas are cheap and execution is key, so don’t be a Winklevoss – if you were smart enough to create your idea, you would have created it.


Stay till the end, even if you think it sucks.

There comes a point, every Startup Weekend, usually around Saturday evening, when nothing seems to be going well – half your developers have quit, you found two other VC-funded startups that are doing the same thing you’re doing and there’s disagreement on whether the idea is worth pursuing at all. Time to call it quits and get back to your regularly scheduled weekend instead? Maybe – I’ve done that at least once, but the times where I’ve stuck out till the end, I’ve generally learned more than I did on any other regular Sunday. When I worked at Microsoft, they had a tradition of rewarding everyone who stayed on till the very end of a project and actually shipped something as opposed to those people who left after the glamorous part of the project was done and a beta was launched[2].  Showing what you built to a few hundred people and getting their feedback is worth sticking on to the end, so do it! Also, in my experience, the best networking opportunities are at the end of the event, when everyone’s done working on their idea and are more relaxed. People are also more likely to be interested in talking to you when you’ve gone up on stage and presented something interesting.


Take your business cards with you.

You’re either the 7th Dave or Steve I met at the event or you have a unpronounceable last name like mine which no-one will be able to Google for on Monday morning. So, take a stack of business cards with you. If you don’t have a professional business card (or don’t want to give out your corporate one), get a few made at [3] – make it interesting and memorable. If you think you need 50, make 100 and take them with you. Hand them out generously. This is the best $9.95 you’ll spend for the event. Pro-tip: Put the URL (or QR code) to your LinkedIn profile there – LinkedIn’s great for keeping track of people you meet at such events and this also avoid the awkwardness of people you met for a few hours adding you as friends on Facebook.


Extra power cords will get you liked. MiFis and other portable hotspots will buy you love.

And finally, a logistical tip: This may sound obvious, but 200 geeks with multiple always-on devices will tap out the power and internet connectivity at even the best venues, especially when half the audience decides to download Visual Studio or Xcode at the same time (true story). If you have an unlimited/tethering-friendly data plan or a MiFi, take it with you and share the bandwidth at least with your team. There’s nothing worse than not being able to Google that error message just before your demo or having to find a flash drive to copy those splash screen images from your designer. Extra power cords are nice too, I’m personally a huge fan of PowerSquids.

At the end of the day, Startup Weekend is just like any other networking event – it’s whatever you make it out to be.  Can you put that time to better use elsewhere? Quite possibly – if you were disciplined enough. But really, it’s 54 hours of your time that you’re most likely to otherwise spend running errands, lazing around or socializing. So, why not?

If you’ve been to a startup weekend, what are your do’s and don’ts?


[1] This isn’t strictly true – there have been a few successful exits of startups that originated at Startup Weekend.

[2] Granted, this was Microsoft, so the ‘reward’ was a sticker.

[3] Moo makes beautiful, if expensive, customized business cards that I love. If you look around, you can find some (much) cheaper alternatives.

Startup Weekend Seattle 2013 group photo

Moved my blog to WordPress (and upgraded it to 3.0)

About a year(!) back, I moved my blog from Community Server 2007 to WordPress. I did this since upgrading to newer versions of Community Server on a shared-hosting GoDaddy account was next to impossible. After reading through probably two dozen articles, howtos and hacks, downloading a couple of conversion applications and trying to set up a local copy of Community Server to ease the upgrade, I decided to bite the bullet and move to something simpler and WordPress stood out as something that everyone recommended.

I was reminded of my attempts to upgrade CS2007 today when I read about the new version of WordPress that was released today. Battle bruises from my CS upgrade attempts still fresh in my mind, I tried to figure out how to accomplish the same with WP.

To say that it was a smoother, simpler experience would be an understatement:

Step 1: Visit the WordPress upgrade page (/wp-admin/update-core.php">http://<yoururl>/wp-admin/update-core.php)


Step 2: Click on Upgrade Automatically



2 minutes later, I had a new version of WP installed!

The decline of PC gaming

    Interesting discussion I read on Kotaku a few weeks back about what ails PC Gaming:

    As a former PC gamer (the Quake series, Age of X series), I moved to the xbox about 4 years back and never looked back and can identify with most of the reasons mentioned in the post. In addition, my opinion on what the decline of PC gaming can be attributed to is below:

    1. The XBox: Once Microsoft stopped caring much about PC gaming, there isn’t as much big ad money and slowly, others stopped caring as well.

    2. The rise of MMORPGs: World of Warcraft and others sucked the hardcore PC gamer market dry. After paying $5-15/mo for a single game, there isn’t much dough left to go around.

    3. The FPS wars: When a reasonably new PC cannot run any game published in the past two years without upgrading to a $300 GPU, there won’t be many gamers left to buy your games

    4. Flash games: Casual gamers have a zillion flash games to choose from. Easy, free and portable.

    5. Laptops: Laptops just don’t make great gaming machines with their integrated GPUs, poor keyboards, trackpads and so on. Given that laptops make up the majority of PC sales these days, it’s understandable why PC gaming doesn’t appeal to a lot of those buyers.

    So, to summarize:

  1. People who want to play games have other, better options now.
  2. PCs have become worse game-playing machines than consoles.

    Nothing new or revolutionary here – just thought it was worth writing up

My mini-review of Digsby

As I mentioned in another post, I have contacts I care about on just about every IM protocol. Since an open instant messaging protocol is still a bit of a pipe-dream, I have to rely on multi-protocol messenger clients. I’ve been using Miranda, Trillian and even meebo for some time now, neither of which are perfect but sufficed for 99% of my IM needs.

However, many of my friends are now on Facebook and some of them do not use any IM application. I mostly use the Facebook iPhone app to access Facebook on the go and it does have facebook chat integration, but the iPhone multi-tasking limitation means that’s it’s not possible to IM while doing other things which really beats the point of using IM as a low-distraction, background communication method.

So, this brings me to this little app called Digsby that I discovered while searching for a better solution to keeping on top of my communication needs with limited time.

My mini-review of the app:

Digsby looks and feels like any other Instant Messaging app:


It’s got all the standard stuff – contact list, presence icons, popup notifications and like most 3rd party clients, has support for multiple protocols, single window IMs etc. It supports all the standard (sic) IM protocols like AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, Jabber, GTalk etc. Unlike most other clients I’ve seen, Digsby also supports facebook chat and it works just like  you expect it and in my experience is way more reliable than facebook’s AJAX inline chat widget.

The IM features are generally well done and there are some niceties like being able to reply to a message from the notification window itself (

Beyond IM, what I really liked about the app is its support for various social networks such as Facebook. Hovering over your facebook account icon in the main digsby window show above brings up a popup window with your current news feed and alerts:


Digsby also gives you pop-up toast notifications for your facebook newsfeed (I.e. friends’ status updates, wall posts etc), which is really useful, especially for friends’ status updates.


In it’s current incarnation, however, the toast doesn’t contain all the details for some updates (i.e. it tells you that Foo got a new wall post, but not who it’s from and what they wrote), so you still have to visit facebook to view those details. I’m not sure if this is an app limitation or a limitation in the facebook API.  


And as might be expected, it lets you update your facebook status from the app itself:



The other social networks Digsby supports are MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. I don’t use MySpace and didn’t think my LinkedIn updates were interesting enough to warrant real-time tracking; so, I’ll assume that its support for those networks are also at more or less the same level as its support for facebook. I do, however, use Digsby’s Twitter integration. Like with facebook, hovering over your twitter account icon brings up a newsfeed with your twitter timeline:


Like the twitter website, links above the Digsby’s twitter timeline view lets you filter the view to only replies (i.e. @username tweets), direct messages, favorite tweeters tweets etc. You can also reply to your followed tweets, favorite them, DM the tweeter etc from the popup.

Again, as expected , you can send tweets through the app itself:


An added feature here is the ability to insert tinyURL-ed links directly into your tweet from the status update window.

After IM and Social Networks, Digbsy also does email integration beyond the basic ‘You have new mail’ notifications that most other apps provide. Along with the IM integration, it also notifies you of new mail in most of the common webmail providers, but what I really liked about it’s email integration is the ability to check any POP or IMAP server for email. This makes Digsby useful as a generic mail notification app which can replace the gazillion gmail/hotmail notifier type apps out there. There’s also a nifty feature that lets your reply to emails from a small popup window without opening up the browser or a full fledged mail client, but I haven’t had much success getting that to work.

Important: Digby now has a very spammy installation app which tries to install a bunch of crapware such as the Yahoo Toolbar on your PC. Remember to opt out of all that before installing it. See and You might also want to disable their the ‘Digsby Research app’ which is a grid computing client which will steal your idle CPU cycles.



I’ve seen another app ( that claims to do all this and more (voice call support, web-only version). I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t comment on it. SociaGami ( is another app that does (only) Social Network aggregation with more features (browse friends, view photos), but doesn’t seem to have any IM integration. The other reviews I’ve seen on the web generally rate Digsby above the other similar apps.

So, to summarize, Digsby has good IM integration, works well with most of the popular social networks and free webmail providers. It’s relatively lightweight, has clean UI (other than the ugly icon which reminds me of the Ninja Turtles) and is generally straightforward to use. On the other hand, it’s not extensible like Trillian or the open source clients, so you can’t expect it to support anything it doesn’t currently do unless the developers change their minds. I also hope its spammy installer is not a sign of things to come for this app.

Keeping in touch while on the go

I was on vacation in India for the past 4 weeks with varying levels of internet access. I carried a laptop and my iPhone with me, but given the limited time I could spend on the Internet each day, I tried to be creative about keeping in touch while I was away.

Snail-mail: Someday, I’ll try and send my friends post card from every place I visit. But given my lazyness in handling physical objects and the fact that I have no idea what most of their mailing addresses are, makes this an instant fail.

Phone: I actually do have the phone numbers of my friends and acquaintances. I’ve meticulously collected them over the years and kept them updated, but calling friends in the US in the middle of their night to tell them I’m somewhere sunnier is probably an expensive way to piss them off. All my phone numbers and other contact information is still stored on my exchange server and (active)synced to my phone. How I wish there was an IMAP-like sync protocol for contacts so that non-ActiveSync clients could also download my contacts (SyncML?GroupDAV?).

Text Messaging: Refer to my earlier post on how I feel about text messaging: [the economics of texting]

Email: I have only one personal email address I check with any frequency (the one – all others forward to it) and (active)sync it to my iPhone. I had a data plan for 75% of the time I was on vacation, so staying up to date on email wasn’t a problem. The rest of the time, I use OWA to get to my personal exchange account. In the spirit of time away from work, I also chose to not check my work email and being religious about never sending personal mail from my work address made it unlikely that any friends would send me mail there anyway.

IM: Sadly, I have contacts I care about on just about every IM protocol. Since an open instant messaging protocol is still a bit of a pipe-dream, I have to rely on multi-protocol messenger clients. The best (free) IM app I could find for the iPhone was Fring, which is actually pretty good. It does all the basics – multiple protocols (AIM/Y!/MSN/GTalk), archiving messages etc. It even has surprisingly good Skype integration which I used once to make a few international calls over WiFi which worked like a charm. On the PC, I’ve been using Miranda and Trillian for some time now, neither of which are perfect but suffice for 99% of my IM needs.

Social Networks: Most of my friends are now on Facebook (and I threaten the rest that I will create profiles for them if they don’t). I mostly use the Facebook iPhone app to access Facebook on the go. During the past month I think I noticed a couple of times where the news feed displayed in the iPhone app was actually different from the one displayed on the facebook homepage. This is really strange since I always thought the iPhone app was just a different display layer on top of the same backend data. I’m not sure what the reason for this difference is (or whether it’s just something I imagined), but it’s odd if true.

I occasionally use Orkut, mostly to stay in touch with family members who haven’t made the upgrade to Facebook yet and over the past month or so, I’ve also started tweeting more frequently (inference: frequency of tweeting is directly proportional to the level of boredom). Orkut had a well done iPhone-enabled website and twitter has about 2,543 iPhone apps built for it.

So, this brings me to this little app called Digsby that I discovered while searching for a better solution to keeping on top of my communication needs with limited time. My review of this app is coming soon here.

News and Blogs: I’ve been a Google Reader user for a while now and use it on the PC and phone to keep track of all my favorite blogs and sites. I used while I had my WinMo phone and now use the iPhone version  ( I recently started using the Byline iPhone app which beside being a better front end for Google reader can also sync down upto 200 of your most recent feed items for offline browsing. This is super-useful for those long flights or other times where you know you won’t have Internet access. I found out that this actually works better than Google Reader’s own offline feature which doesn’t sync images or other RSS enclosure content.

For non-RSS news, I continued to use (aka Windows Live Personalized Homepage) as my home page on the PC and also visit Google News, NYT and BBC every now and then. All of the above, except, have excellent mobile/iPhone versions of their homepages too.

And with that, I conclude my quarterly blog update 😛


A Photo of Yiannis Bournous from the The Power of One exhibit at Bumbershoot. The Power of One featured shot of individuals who made an impact on society and the theme was heavily biased against Globalization and Capitalism.

The irony of me walking around in my Nike shoes, sipping my Starbucks latte, listening to my iPod, clicking away with my Canon SLR, all thanks to my Microsoft paycheck while watching this exhibit at Bumbershoot (brought to you by Samsung) was something that made me cringe…atleast for a few minutes before I went back to talking on my T-Mobile phone!


The rest of my shots from Bumbershoot follow:

PowerShell script to download the XKCD archive

Since I’m a big fan of XKCD (and of PowerShell), I wrote a PowerShell script to download the entire XKCD archive. It’s not the most elegant script and to save time I re-used the Get-Webfile function from, but I thought I’d share it out broadly for the betterment of geekdom.
The entire script including the function is below. If you already have the
get-WebFile function loaded to your profile, you just need the last three lines which is just a bunch of HTML parsing regex.

function Get-WebFile {
$url = (Read-Host “The URL to download”),
$fileName = $null,
$req = [System.Net.HttpWebRequest]::Create($url);
$res = $req.GetResponse();
if($fileName -and !(Split-Path $fileName)) {
$fileName = Join-Path (Get-Location -PSProvider “FileSystem”) $fileName
elseif((!$Passthru -and ($fileName -eq $null)) -or (($fileName -ne $null) -and (Test-Path -PathType “Container” $fileName)))
[string]$fileName = ([regex]'(?i)filename=(.*)$’).Match( $res.Headers[“Content-Disposition”] ).Groups[1].Value
$fileName = $fileName.trim(“/””‘”)
if(!$fileName) {
$fileName = $res.ResponseUri.Segments[-1]
$fileName = $fileName.trim(“/”)
if(!$fileName) {
$fileName = Read-Host “Please provide a file name”
$fileName = $fileName.trim(“/”)
if(!([IO.FileInfo]$fileName).Extension) {
$fileName = $fileName + “.” + $res.ContentType.Split(“;”)[0].Split(“/”)[1]
$fileName = Join-Path (Get-Location -PSProvider “FileSystem”) $fileName
if($Passthru) {
$encoding = [System.Text.Encoding]::GetEncoding( $res.CharacterSet )
[string]$output = “”
if($res.StatusCode -eq 200) {
[int]$goal = $res.ContentLength
$reader = $res.GetResponseStream()
if($fileName) {
$writer = new-object System.IO.FileStream $fileName, “Create”
[byte[]]$buffer = new-object byte[] 4096
[int]$total = [int]$count = 0
$count = $reader.Read($buffer, 0, $buffer.Length);
if($fileName) {
$writer.Write($buffer, 0, $count);
$output += $encoding.GetString($buffer,0,$count)
} elseif(!$quiet) {
$total += $count
if($goal -gt 0) {
Write-Progress “Downloading $url” “Saving $total of $goal” -id 0 -percentComplete (($total/$goal)*100)
} else {
Write-Progress “Downloading $url” “Saving $total bytes…” -id 0
} while ($count -gt 0)
if($fileName) {
if($fileName) {
ls $fileName

$archivepage=get-WebFile -Passthru
$a=[Regex]::Matches($archivepage, “< a href=./d+.*stitle.*< /a>” , “IgnoreCase”)|%{“”+[Regex]::Match($_, ‘/[0-9]*/’)}
foreach($i in $a) {$i+”:”;$curcomic=get-WebFile $i -Passthru;$comicurl=[Regex]::Match($curcomic, ‘[a-zA-Z0-9_()-]*(.jpg|.png)’ , “IgnoreCase”);get-WebFile $comicurl.Value}

Did the blogosphere kill Slashdot?

A long long time ago, in an Internet far far way, in an age before Scoble, before Digg, before blogs and RSS, before Wikipedia and yes, even before Google, there was Slashdot.

At a time where I poked around on Yahoo and CNet with lynx trying to stay up to date on the latest tech news, some kind soul pointed me at Slashdot, saying “hey, you should check this site out, they have the latest tech news and Stuff that Matters”. Within a matter of weeks, I was hooked. I checked Slashdot multiple times a day and sometimes spent hours reading the comments on a particular important article or writing comments in trying to improve my Karma score. I was especially proud of my low 5 digit userid which makes me look like an old-timer now that userids are in the 7 digits!

Nowadays, I find myself reading Slashdot less and less. I rarely visit the site and it’s now just one of the dozen newsfeeds in my homepage and one of the 100s of feeds in my Google reader feedlist. I remember discussing the causes for this with some other longtime slashdotter a few months back and was thinking about again this today as I saw the Google Chrome article on Slashdot a full 8 hours after I read about it elsewhere. Here’s my theory on why Slashdot is less relevant today than it was 4 or 8 years back…

Slashdot had three things going for it:

The latest News for Nerds and Stuff that Matters: I heard about some of the most important events in recent history – tech and otherwise – from Slashdot. About Apple’s fancy new music playing thingie, about the Windows’ source code leaks, Apple’s switch to Intel, about Bush defeating Gore and even about 9/11.

Over time, Slashdot has become less and less instantaneous as far as news goes. The still-manual approval process, while keeping noise low and editorial quality high, means that I’m more likely to hear about something new on digg, TechCrunch or in a barrage of new articles in my RSS reader than on Slashdot. Companies have corporate blogs where they announce their PR approved messages. Fan sites exist for every technology company, tech related product and area to help you follow your favorite tech areas in your favorite RSS reader, even if it means digesting leaked product shots and watching cameraphone videos of product demos that are faked more often than not. In essence, today, we (I?) would rather be buried by 200 possibly interesting news stories rather than wait for Slashdot to publish the one true story (and a dupe the next day).

Insightful comments and influential commenters:  The comments were always my favorite part of Slashdot. The quality of comments on Slashdot was (is still?) extremely high. Contrasting the long, thought out comments following a story on Slashdot with the one-liners on digg or or anyone else’s blog and drawing conclusions about their audiences from that is an exercise that some psychology or social behavior major should undertake for their thesis. To add to this, every other geek celebrity, from John Carmack (who I was a big fan of in my Quaking days) to Alan Cox, from ESR to Woz has commented on Slashdot at one time or another. I doubt many of them have Digg accounts 🙂

Over time, these commenters stopped frequenting Slashdot. Most of today’s geek celebrities and tech influencers have their own blogs where they publish their own raves and rants and have their own army of followers and sub-commenters who feed off of each other’s passingly insightful commentary. Comments that live on a single site are apparently soo-1999 in today’s world of webwide discussion. Hence, Slashdot commentary is dying a slow, uneventful death as everyone can comment everywhere and still be read and followed.

A sense of community and a wacky sense of humor: From the crazy CmdrTaco-flavored polls to being the site that spawned a thousand Internet memes, Slashdot had both a sense of community and an obscure sense of humor that has influenced me and probably thousands of other geeks.

With fewer comments and an aging audience, I suspect Slashdot’s audience and sense of community has mostly vaporized. The wacky sense of humor still exists, though I hear geeks referring more to XKCD these days than Slashdot for their obscure references.

Ok, this post was way longer than I ever intended it to be. I’ll blame it on the post-labor day, post-summer blues 🙂 The meta-point of this post is still what I started if off with – that web 2.0 killed Slashdot, the same way Web 1.0 killed BBSes and the Usenet.



1. I used to follow John Carmack’s .plan file back in the day. His thoughts on DirectX vs OpenGL were all the rage around the DX6/7 timeframe.

2. It was a difficult choice on who to link to for the geek celebrity and tech influencer terms above. I made a last minute swap 🙂

3. I know, I know this is a common debate… especially in the days when Digg was gaining in popularity, but I felt I had to write this up to get my thoughts on paper.

4. Oh yeah, I was slashdotted once. Not for something I was particularly proud of, so I didn’t link to it here.

Another mid-summer update

There must be something about summer in Seattle that slows my blogging down. It’s been almost 3 months since I wrote anything at all. Looking through my blog I also noticed that I my blogging frequency was low most of last summer as well culminating in a mid-summer update exactly 365 days ago 🙂

Anyway, life has been busy over the past few months both at work and outside of it. Stuff I’ve been upto:

  • Work: Nothing major to report here, though we’re getting close. The next year should be exciting, though 🙂


  • Travel: In May, the wife & I hauled ourselves across the little pond called the Atlantic and on to Old World. I’ve been meaning to write up a long, detailed post about our trip (and even wrote up a few hundred words on about our first day on the flight back), but I don’t think I’ll ever get to completing it. Given that, here’s a quick summary of the trip, for posterity’s sake.
  • First, the logistics: We spent 8 days, across the memorial day long weekend, in Europe. We flew in and spent 3 days in Rome, took a train to Venice and spent a day there and then flew to Paris to spend 4 days (5 nights) there to fly back on the 5th day.


    We flew into Rome on an uneventful, if cramped, American Airlines flight via New York JFK. We had a classic ‘Welcome to Italy’ moment as we landed and we realized that the passport control line stretched all the way to the exit gates. It turns out 5 or so international flights had landed at the time and Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci international airport was ill-equipped and understaffed to handle such a load (especially at 8am on a Sunday morning). That was probably the low point of the trip and the rest of our stay in Rome was amazing – from the ruins of the Roman forum to the Museums at the Vatican to lazy evening walks around the Piazza Navona, we had a ball in Rome and probably loved it the most of the three cities we visited on the trip.


    Venice is probably the most overhyped tourist location in the world. The canals and the decaying old buildings were amazing for a total of 20 minutes before we realized that we had to walk everywhere or take the slow water taxies 🙂 I described Venice to others as a maze filled with tourists and many agreed. We spent a night in Venice and spent the day at the Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s square. It was fun, but only for a day.



    Given how hectic the first part of our trip in Italy was, I wanted to take the it easy in the second part and so, we stayed in Paris for 5 nights. Chilling out, in no hurry, watching TV till 2 in the morning and getting up at noon to check out the Louvre and the Eiffel tower. Paris was beautiful, busy, expensive and classy. But I still preferred Rome.


    Versailles was a day trip from Paris and we took the train there early on a Sunday morning and were back in Paris in the evening. Versailles was probably what we liked the most in France. Touring through the palace and later, though Marie Antoinette’s Domaine, we were awed by the opulence and grandeur with with the French monarchs (and their groupies) lived.


  • More Travel: Now, if flying halfway around the world for a whirlwind tour of the Old World wasn’t hectic enough, I decided to go camping in Montana during the Independence Day long weekend. D bailed on this one, so it was Ullas, me & 7 others. This trip was waay more hectic than our last trip to Montana, but it was arguably more fun inspite of the fact that I got 12 hours of sleep during the entire long weekend (or probably because of it) 🙂

Photos from the trip:

  • Photography: If it wasn’t obvious from the photos so far in this post, I’ve picked up photography in a big way over the past year. I’ve been reading and practicing a lot (10000+ photos in the past 12 months) and will probably write a blog post sometime on the stuff I’ve learned (and have yet to learn). My favorite shot so far:

Stuff I’ve not been upto:

  • Blogging: Self-explanatory.
  • Staying fit: I’ve reneged on my plan to run the Seattle marathon this year since I got only 2 or 3 days of running before laziness set in. I’ve also done no biking this year which makes me worried about how my legs will survive the ski season. Note to self: Fix bike up and get back on the road.
  • Gaming: (Looks at my unopened copy of GTA4). ’nuff said.

Other rambling thoughts:

  • My Roomba died (as in stopped sucking) almost a year back. It’s still in my living room charging itself and running around once in a while. Must figure out what to do with it next – robotic pet project?
  • I finally solved the HD PVR conundrum by getting myself a TivoHD. The news, at 1080i, is beautiful 🙂 So, is Discovery HD and other channels, but somehow the local evening news looks extra sharp.

LinkedIn for Companies

In the otherwise copycat world of Social Networking, it’s interesting to see LinkedIn do something new:

On Friday morning they will launch company profile pages that partly serve as fact sheets for about 160,000 companies and partly serve to reveal the connections that members have with them.

…bulk of the data shown on these company pages comes from LinkedIn’s own knowledge of people’s careers…

LinkedIn uses this knowledge to display recent hires, related companies, recent promotions, top locations for employees…

…you can see which companies employees usually come from and leave for, as well as which companies the current employees are most connected to…

I’ve always felt that the real ‘moat’ that social networking sites have is the data they hold about their users and the relationships. I suspect this data has been mined so far for generating more targeted advertising, but LinkedIn is the first network I’ve seen that’s exposing this data out in a way that’s interesting for end users:

As an example, here’s what the Microsoft profile shows me about the average Microsoft employee:

and here’s the corresponding page for Google (

Now, who would have thought that the most common career path for Google employees is to join (return to?) Yahoo and Microsoft!