Jag Venugopal's Blog

May 27, 2011

Meet the ‘Barefoot IT Minister’ (subtitled “Only in India”)

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 7:35 am

This takes political sycophancy to previously unheard-of heights: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Amma-is-god-for-TN-IT-minister-who-leaves-behind-his-footwear/articleshow/8575398.cms


May 24, 2011

Review of ‘Successful Project Management’

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 11:16 pm

Successful Project Management, Bonnie Biafore, Microsoft Press, 2011.

Worthwhile entry-level book for people in other disciplines (e.g. business analysis, software engineering) that want to move into project management. The book is largely based on the PMBOK (though it does not use any PMBOK-style processes and diagrams), and covers all knowledge areas. The book sticks with a generic project management approach, which can work with any type of software development methodology. Interspersed throughout the book are sidebars on how to perform various project management activities within Microsoft Project 2010.

On the minus side, I found the book to be a little too verbose for my liking. I preferred Stackpole’s ‘User’s Manual to the PMBOK Guide’ for this reason. Two glaring omissions from this book are the absence of any figures and the absence of any case studies or descriptions. Finally, there are no new ideas for experienced project managers. The book is useful to this latter category in that they can have a handy title to recommend to those interested in the field, and also their business counterparts.

I’d rate this book 3.5 stars out of 5, and recommend it to entry level project managers, who have had SDLC experience on at least two past projects.

May 23, 2011

Time: Indian Gov’t Wants To Curb Ostentatious Weddings

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 10:45 pm

Time magazine has an article on ostentatious Indian weddings and how the government is trying to curb them. Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, a worthy member of parliament complained of people spending $3-4 million and how the money was better handed over to charity. Another politician, a certain Kuruppassery Varkey Thomas, the Indian minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution has gone one better, suggesting that the powers of the government be increased so it could cap the number of attendees, and have a say in the menu.

Sure, Indian weddings can be ostentatious, and the garish display of wealth can sometimes be in very bad taste. This is especially true in a poor country such as India. However, government has no business legislating morality or in this case, frugality.

Mr. Rao would do well to focus his attention on the multi-billion dollar mega scams which have occurred under his party’s watch. When robber barons and politicians don’t plunder the exchequer as they do in todays’ India, there will be plenty more money to feed the poor.

Mr. Thomas might want to turn his attention to the abysmal public distribution system (colloquially known as the ration shops). It is said that only 40% of the foodgrains that enter the system ever make it to the intended recipients, with the majority of it being pilfered along the way.

The last thing an Indian has to do is to now petition the government to approve his wedding guest list and dinner menu. On the other hand, Mr. Thomas may be on to something here — imagine the bribes that politicians and bureaucrats can extract from holding weddings hostage to governmental approval.

May 20, 2011

LinkedIn worth $10 Billion?

Filed under: Information Technology — Jag @ 6:28 am

Like many professionals, I too have an account on LinkedIn, and have managed to link up to some 200+ contacts. LinkedIn is an excellent networking resource and its value grows as more people use it. Similar to most people, I have a free account, and little need for the extra features available to paying customers. Every so often, LinkedIn flashes an ad at me, from which they presumably collect a few cents.

Even with all that said, I am hard-pressed to figure out how LinkedIn could have a $10 Billion valuation. Assuming a P/E ratio of 50, which puts it in the momentum investing category, we’d still need to see earnings of $200 million to justify such a valuation. According to various websites, LinkedIn’s earnings are somewhere between $8 and $15 Million. That would put LinkedIn’s P/E ratio at around 1250. Which, give or take, is about 52 times the P/E ratio of companies comprising the S&P 500. Even if LinkedIn had a great product, sold advertising by the truckload, and did a host of stuff such as being a better version of Monster.com, its hard to imagine how the company would justify such valuations.

My money is on LinkedIn rising temporarily, then plateauing and falling, and finally becoming a takeover target for someone like Google, who can then use the LinkedIn network to make a big push into job ads. But then again, I thought Google won’t go too far and how right was I on that?

Update: According to The Atlantic, LinkedIn has the highest P/E ratio of any stock, anywhere (though not sure if it is historically the highest P/E ratio.). Tulip mania all over again!

May 18, 2011

Is a college education worth it?

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 1:16 pm

Keith Murray, the graduate dean at my Alma Mater, Bryant University discusses on his blog whether a college education is worth the expense. He’s a much-respected dean at a very nice, small school. But his response was a typical dean’s response: College is a great bargain when measured against lifetime earnings; what’s required is a way to finance it — an education mortgage!

I commented on his post. Here’s what I wrote.

The question ought not to be “Is college worth it”. Rather the question ought to be “Why does college cost so much, and what can we do to reduce its cost?”

Is there space for a spartan university where teaching (not research) is the primary focus, and creature comforts (e.g. dorms, gym, arena) are minimalistic? Can that reduce costs? Can we reduce teaching costs by having a greater proportion of non-tenured teaching staff?

Another question is — why do textbooks cost so much? In the IT/ComSci area, trade publications by renowned authors cost in the region of $20-50 whereas you can’t even start talking about textbooks below the $150 mark. Does every textbook need to be hardcover in glorious full-color, updated every two years? Could they be distributed electronically, and their cost folded into the tuition (after all, they are not a discretionary purchase). If colleges had to pay the publishers’ bills from their general revenues, then perhaps there would be greater incentive to strike a bargain with publishers.

As a parent who is saving for college, I also think about the relative merits of state schools (with in-state tuition) vs. private schools. Is the difference in the quality of education between say BU and Northeastern on the one hand, and UMass on the other significant enough compared to the difference in cost?

My concern is that eventually, other countries will figure out how to deliver “good enough” education at much lower cost, thereby reducing the cost of human capital. Its already happening in India for IT — the education is nowhere near great, but it will soon enough get to “adequate”, at perhaps 1/20 to 1/30th the cost. That means an Indian can afford to earn less, because she has minuscule student loans to pay back compared to someone in the US.

May 17, 2011

Get (nearly free) tech ebooks

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 8:47 pm

When you buy a computer-related title on Amazon from either O’Reilly or Microsoft Press, you can register it on O’Reilly and buy an ebook copy for $5 more. Oftentimes the above combo is cheaper than buying just the ebook from oreilly.com. And O’Reilly is fine with selling you an ebook upgrade for their titles even if they were purchased elsewhere.

I like O’Reilly titles because virtually all are free of fluff. The books are usually compact enough that you do not risk injury to your feet if you drop them (unlike, for example, the late lamented “Unleashed” series from SAMS). Besides, I’m inclined to give first preference to a publisher that implicitly trusts its readers not pirate their titles, without having to cloak it in various cockamamie DRM schemes.

Can India afford Air-India?

Filed under: India — Jag @ 2:40 pm

Update 05/17/2011: the more things change, the more they remain the same. Here’s a recycled blog post from the same time last year. Very apropos considering the recent (2011) Air India strike.

There is a lot of buzz around India these days, and the phrase “emerging power” is being bandied with wild abandon. But, make no mistake, India is still a poor country. A large portion of the population lives below the poverty level. There is not enough money to ensure proper roads, electricity and clean water.

Which makes the $1 Billion plus spent on subsidizing Air-India such a criminal boondoggle. The government of India has no business running an airline, much less taking a billion dollars that have much more worthwhile causes, and spending it on Air-India’s creaky planes and recalcitrant workforce.

As is evidenced by recent strikes, Air-India’s workforce is answerable to no one. The government is spineless to control its unions, and management has to bow to politicians’ diktats. The company has one of the largest staff-to-aircraft ratio in the world. About the only beneficiaries of Air-India are its employees who hold it to ransom at every step, politicians and bureaucrats who get discounted or freebie tickets and kickbacks from contracts, and the last of India’s commies, to whom the ownership of large national firms is an absolute necessity, no matter the cost.

When talk of privatizing Air-India comes up, the excuse often trotted out is that some foreign carrier will buy it and submerge the Air-India brand. India will, it is argued, be left without a national airline as its flag-bearer.

I say, so much the better. Let the masses fly Jet Airways or for that matter British Airways or Lufthansa. I think India’s prestige will be better served by spending the money lost on Air-India towards clean water, electricity and roads. For a start, how about clearing the slum just outside the Mumbai airport, so travelers arriving early in the morning don’t see a total gross-out scene as their first impression of India?

May 4, 2011

You can’t make this stuff up

Filed under: India — Jag @ 10:00 pm

I was waiting for the astrology angle to Osama’s departure from this world. Here it is. You can’t make this stuff up.


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