A Tragic Day (Dec 27, 2007)

Benazir BhuttoMany Pakistanis did not agree with her political agendas, her views and may not necessarily have voted for her in the upcoming elections, but the majority feels the sorrow and share in the grief with her family on this tragic day. She was a mother to her kids, a wife to her husband and former Prime Minister of the people of Pakistan. Her legacy will live for a long time in the country of her birth. May Allah rest her soul in peace. Amen.

Today, (Dec 27, 2007) is a sad day in the history of Pakistan. The whole nation is in a state of shock and devastated. People are huddling in front of television screens, FM radios, and glued to the Internet in hope of trying to figure out and piece together what has happened today in Rawalpindi.

It is still to be seen if Pakistan can recover quickly from this crisis and move on. This young nation has seen many devastations and horrible political instabilities in the past sixty years. Will this be the defining moment for the citizens or will it further bring chaos and tragedy? As a Pakistani, I can only hope and plead for peace and calmness. It is time for the nation to come together and find a meaning out of this tragic moment.

Jeo Pakistan, Jeenay Doe Pakistan ko!
(Live Pakistan, Let live Pakistan)

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>Allvoices.com – A refreshing approach to news and events

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Each day, I visit dozens of websites including blogs, news sites, forums and even social networking platforms. The purpose is keeping tabs on various technologies, events, and of course to see what else is going on around me. Whether it is political, sports, IT or even finer side of life, I prefer to find it online. And sometimes, I even write about some of it (like right now) at some forum or on one of my blogs out there…

Allvoices.com is one such startup out of the valley that has caught my attention and has literally made some of my surfing easier. It not only organizes information professionally of everything that I want, but also gets my point of view out there faster.

The first thing that you see is not textual information, but a world map. As a user, you choose the region that interests you and it takes you to the news and events related to that region directly. Remarkable. For example, the story of sudden death of Benazir Bhutto spread around the world like wildfire. There was hardly any website, blog, newspaper, TV, radio that did not cover the event in detail within minutes of its happening. Even CNN listed found Benazir’s death as the most sought after event on its website. Within two days of its happening, it has probably achieved the notoriety of becoming the biggest news story for 2007. But allvoices.com seems to have found a way to filter and bring the best of these stories out for its readers.

http://www.allvoices.com/people/Benazir-Bhutto

I get to read what the other newspapers are talking about, view comments left by people and also add my own blogs/feeds/comments to this list. Wonderful!

As another example, I was watching some news story on TV and a name Miliband came up in UK. I clicked on the map of UK on allvoices.com and got complete details about him, including a link to Wikipedia of his entry.

I think this is the future of how we shall gather news, read, and comment. It is a mix of traditional (imported news items from major players including fox, cnn, bbc etc) with a blend of blogs and viewers comments. CNN is trying to do something similar with iReport, but so far allvoices.com seems a better effort. Good job guys.

Allvoices.com – A refreshing approach to news and events

Allvoices.com

Each day, I visit dozens of websites including blogs, news sites, forums and even social networking platforms. The purpose is keeping tabs on various technologies, events, and of course to see what else is going on around me. Whether it is political, sports, IT or even finer side of life, I prefer to find it online. And sometimes, I even write about some of it (like right now) at some forum or on one of my blogs out there…

Allvoices.com is one such startup out of the valley that has caught my attention and has literally made some of my surfing easier. It not only organizes information professionally of everything that I want, but also gets my point of view out there faster.

The first thing that you see is not textual information, but a world map. As a user, you choose the region that interests you and it takes you to the news and events related to that region directly. Remarkable. For example, the story of sudden death of Benazir Bhutto spread around the world like wildfire. There was hardly any website, blog, newspaper, TV, radio that did not cover the event in detail within minutes of its happening. Even CNN listed found Benazir’s death as the most sought after event on its website. Within two days of its happening, it has probably achieved the notoriety of becoming the biggest news story for 2007. But allvoices.com seems to have found a way to filter and bring the best of these stories out for its readers.

http://www.allvoices.com/people/Benazir-Bhutto

I get to read what the other newspapers are talking about, view comments left by people and also add my own blogs/feeds/comments to this list. Wonderful!

As another example, I was watching some news story on TV and a name Miliband came up in UK. I clicked on the map of UK on allvoices.com and got complete details about him, including a link to Wikipedia of his entry.

I think this is the future of how we shall gather news, read, and comment. It is a mix of traditional (imported news items from major players including fox, cnn, bbc etc) with a blend of blogs and viewers comments. CNN is trying to do something similar with iReport, but so far allvoices.com seems a better effort. Good job guys.

>Successful Strategy

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Good strategy is the key to success of any enterprise. Failing to create or execute one could mean disaster, regardless of the size of the company or the qualifications of the people leading it.

Tips to Formulating a Good Strategy

  • Primary Focus: A well formed question as to what is the strategy of the company. For example, how do we expand nation-wide in the next 6 months? How do we increase our revenue by 30% in the next year? How do we make our new product number 1 in the market by 2009?
  • Understanding Current Situation: One must know what is going on around the enterprise. For example, know what the competitors are doing. Are there any new players in the market. Has anyone become more aggressive in the market? Where the market is heading. Is it moving to on line purchases from stores? Is it slowing down as compared to last year? Customers. Are they satisfied with the services or are considering choosing others.
  • Timeline and Targets: Must be clear of what you want to achieve in which steps in a fixed amount of time. There is no point in having an open ended strategy with no targets. Every target and strategy should be absolutely time bound. The goals should clearly be defined. For example, that the six billboards for our new product shall be up in the city by the end of February 2008. Similarly, the new product release shall hit the shelves of retailers before the Christmas shopping season begins.
  • Understanding the Future: Must know where the market, customers, suppliers (and other critical factors like economy, political scenario etc) will be when the strategy is executed successfully. Say, if we are going to launch a new desktop software in 2 years that is slated to capture a niche market. But will the penetration of Internet based products eliminate the desktop software market? Would Google or Microsoft also get into this market with their cheap or free web based products? Will the political instability cause an economic shakeup?
  • Measuring the Performance: Must gouge and measure your strategy every step of the way. For example, have the revenues increased significantly in the past two quarters to show that we shall achieve the targets by the end of the year? Is the product development meeting the milestones on schedule so that we can achieve our target of launching the new release by Christmas?


Factors to failure

  • Lack of Communications within the team: Communications within the various departments in the enterprise. One of the most common reasons for failure in strategy is breakdown in communications and not sharing and seeking critical information from each other.
  • Being reactive rather than proactive: Spending too much time in firefighting, resolving issues, following up on opportunities and not allocating and spending time on strategic thinking.
  • Thinking short term, rather than long term: Most of the time, we think of a few months ahead and not worry about where we will be in the long term. Short term is usually reactive, focuses on doing and is customer driven. The long term is where you want to see your company and what you would like to achieve by that time. It also sets a clear direction and vision for the company.

The Power of Google Apps for SMEs

Any startup or an SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) should seriously consider using Google Apps for their electronic communications within their organization. We switched to Google Apps (http://www.google.com/a) in June 2007 and so far it exceeds any and all of our expectations.

One of the company’s, that I co-founded, has about less than 30 employees within Pakistan. We used to run a Linux based mail server within our own office. The machine was a high end Linux server with SATA drives 2 GB of RAM and 60GB of multiple hard disk arranged in a RAID configuration. The server was behind a Linux firewall but was accessible through the Web client for us to check our emails when not in office. At the same time, we took regular backups of our mail server data just in case of any disaster. The machine groaned day in day out with an increasing load and traffic in our Islamabad office. On top of that, our server would constantly come under scrutiny due to thousands of Spam messages and viruses that would penetrate through our various filters, thus causing downtime for all our employees. To top it all out, our Systems Engineers had to keep the server in top condition by updating any patches to the software and operating system and doing other routine administrative tasks to keep the hackers at bay.

That was June 2007. The time when we decided to find a better and cost effective solution. We looked at Zimbra, Microsoft Exchange and Google Apps. And after various tests and user feedbacks, we chose Google Apps for our organization. Here is the reason why.

All the mail is hosted on Google Servers. Hence, the need to manage and run a Mail server is no longer required. Thus freeing up our Systems Engineers to use their time more constructively elsewhere. It comes with extremely powerful Spam filter, thus our unwanted mail traffic has literally ground down to zero from maybe 100 messages a day. All messages are pre virus scanned hence, we do not need to worry about viruses hitting our network. The mail server supports web and POP both interfaces which is excellent for all our traveling employees. The web interface is actually identical to GMAIL, thus not requiring any training or a steep learning curve. And last but not the least, it is totally free for companies that require less than 100 licenses.

This is further coupled with the Document sharing (for excel, word and power point) feature within the organization. Hence, now all our important documents are shared on line. We can share, modify and work on the documents simultaneously without needing to worry about running and managing yet another Document Sharing server on our network.

Small organizations usually have a static website having a dozen or so pages. Google provides free web hosting for static (html based) websites on Google Apps. Hence, the hosting cost is once again eliminated.

It even provides a customized Google Talk for chat (voice and Instant Messaging) within the organization on our own domain. Hence, the staff communicates in a private and secure messenger when required.

It also comes with a company wide calendar for each employee so that we can manage our appointments in a collaborative environment. Thus increasing our productivity.

There are many other advantages to using Google Apps, but the greatest is productivity and speed. Already, we have convinced half a dozen other SMEs in Pakistan to switch onto Google Apps for their office communication needs. So far, everyone seems highly satisfied.

So if your business relies heavily on electronic communications, then Google Apps is an ideal platform and especially for SMEs that usually have less than 100 employees.