Aug 26, 2013

The World That Week

After about a year or so of telly-abstinence, I have once again begun watching the news on TV, that too at that traditional hour between 9-10 pm. Things really are the same: the conflicts of Afghanistan, global recessionary trends, Indian film awards, and young Sachin Tendulkar's plans for the summer.

Yes, young Sachin.

I have, you see, stumbled upon the fact that at 9 pm each weekday, NDTV Profit airs episodes of "The World This Week", that 90s show. Mercifully, there are still those of you old enough to remember a time when news studios were not like the set of Hollywood Squares and when someone read out the news to you instead of behaving as if they missed those days of quoting prices on the floor of the BSE. Right into your malleus-incus-stapes. 

So yes, I have been watching news from around the world; only that it is from two decades ago (they are currently in 1992 with the Barcelona Olympics around the corner). It is instructive to note illustrations of both "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" as well as "plus ça change, +1 change". Afghanistan stays rocky, Scotland is still looking for independence, the Tories are back in power. But there is no Gabby Sabatini, Narasimha Rao is forgotten, and terrorism is prime-time news every week. 

"The World This Week" was anchored calmly and patiently by the psephologist-turned-mediaman Prannoy Roy, whom history will now only recall as having unleashed upon the us the likes of Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-BUT-SHOUTED-OUT-WITH-EXTREME-OUTRAGE-NOT-TO-MENTION-PREJUDICE. There was the bearded special correspondent Appan Menon, whose preferred style of letting his interviewees say everything would soon be rejected by every media school's syllabus in the last decade. TWTW was an example of how news could be interesting, even if it was about the elections in France or South Africa, and relevant, with reports on the then emerging AIDS epidemic or rap music from the US. Where breadth of coverage didn't mean sacrificing depth, and listening to the news just once a week meant a chance to let the substantive events surface above the knee-jerk flavour of the day.

This may be the nostalgic rumblings of a Doordarshan-era apologist who forgets that then, news could often be staid and unimaginative, or worse, dangerously status quoist and propagandist. But programmes such as TWTW and production houses such as NDTV showed us the light at the end of the TV camera and laid the foundations for TV news media as we know it today. If they turned me on TV, their successors have sadly turned me and the telly off at 9.

But not any more. Tune in to TWTW: the good thing is you know how most things are going to turn out, so there are no worries. You can see a somewhat random collection of sports clips from alpine skiing and Italian Serie A action, and the occasional entertainment hilarity such as the inaugural "Natraj Awards", billed as India's answer to the Oscars. You can live in the past with the assurance that you made it to the future despite the news.

And for once, the nation should demand to know how.

Aug 7, 2013

1000+ days at Infinite Zounds

Some of you know that I run a daily quiz blog called "Infinite Zounds". Over at the blog, I'm celebrating going past 1000 days & questions - this week, I'm asking readers there to give the blog a little pat on the back in whichever way they like (by giving us Facebook likes, writing a blurb for us, or telling your network about us).

If Infinite Zounds is something that has educated, entertained, or enlightened you in any way, here's where you can give us some luuvv :-) (click on the image below):

Aug 6, 2013

Employee-centric hiring notices

Many months ago, I was asked to draft a hiring notice for a position in my group. Now, I've been working in teams whose raison d'etre is 'innovation', so it is reasonable to assume that we not only do innovative things, but also are seen to be innovative (i.e. creative/different/novel/better/more effective) in everything we do.

I don't like most job postings, especially in the tech world - they are never candidate-centric. The average job ad will give you a dry list of expected skills and tell you something about the group looking to hire. They don't give you even a fraction of a hint as to what it would be like to work there, and why you would consider it worth your while in a life-changing way to work there.

They don't market the job in an engaging manner and they don't treat you as a human, or at least a human that thinks beyond keywords.

So I drafted what I thought was an engaging note, trying to succinctly describe what it would be like to come work for us, what someone could reasonably hope to achieve, and why someone should consider all this in the first place. Especially, since we were a off-beat team (or so I thought) that was both 'cool' (in theory) and 'challenging' (not being run-of-the-mill).

The ending of this story isn't hard to foresee: the notice went up to my supervisors who, in their wisdom, edited most of it out and in the end, we were left with a desiccated list of keywords. And yes, we did hire someone eventually (it's always hard to say if he was the best man for the post - time will tell), so it wasn't as if that was ineffective. But I thought we lost an opportunity to signal so many intangible attributes about who we are and what we do. Perhaps the people in charge of the notice didn't share those feelings with me.

A job notice is perhaps the first engagement that a candidate has with a hiring manager or a group or a company. First impressions are a great way to strike a chord. Don't lose that opportunity.