Archive for October, 2007

MIH India Launches OneFamily

October 29, 07 by Bharani

OneFamily

MIH India has launched a Family networking product called OneFamily, aiming to provide an online colloboration and socialization platform to family members and close friends. One can add his/her Family tree, add anecdotes about family members, share photos and messages with family members, make announcements about events/important occasions etc.,

Enabling users to handle their family tree easily and intuitively is not an easy job. Onefamily has managed to do it as simple as possible. I really liked the “Take a Tour” section and it essentially summarizes what the Product is all about.

Text Books Online!

October 14, 07 by Bharani

Department of School Education, TamilNadu has done an excellent job. They have made available all the text-books (State Board syllabus) from Standard 1 till Standard 12 in PDF Form. Each chapter is available as a separate download. The books are available both in English and Tamil. These kind of initiatives from government bring a great deal of benefit to students.

Going through the books of Standard 11 and 12, brought back the memories of good old days!

The Syllabus have changed. Working with Office documents (Excel, Word, Presentation), Database and Object oriented programming are emphasized in the current syllabus of Computer science. It was BASIC and FORTRAN programming during my days (1995) 🙂

Prominence of APIs == death of “Web Scraping”?

October 11, 07 by Bharani

I did a brief research on the sites that are exposing the information to the world (other websites that is). Leading websites like Yahoo, Google, Technorati, Amazon, CNET, eBay to name a few are in the forefront when it comes to exposing the information through APIs.

What is the rationale to expose the information, that is supposed to be an asset or “Competitive Advantage”?. The rationale is pretty evident when you observe the way the information is exposed and the way the exposure drives traffic back to the originating site!

This article in read/write web summarizes the thought and concept beautifully. The internet is transforming to one giant structured database…

ProgrammableWeb neatly summarizes the APIs from various websites. As of today, there are 523 APIs available.

In Indian Context, the APIs haven’t caught up in a big scale. So the practice of “Web Scraping” looms large. Huge number of Yellow page companies boasting lakhs of business-details illustrates the effect of “Web scraping”. Same set of data problems can be seen with each Yellow page company for the simple reason that everyone copies the same set of data and repackages it. No one gives credit back to the other site.

When Bixee.com offered a one-stop search for all Jobs in India, by crawling and extracting information from all leading Job portals including Naukri, Naukri reacted negatively by filing a law-suit against Bixee. Later Naukri realized the complimentary nature of Bixee in generating traffic back to them and decided to expose the data in legal channels. If the information is scraped for the purpose of “Search and Redirection” to the original site, “Scraping” has a positive effect.

I cannot remember a single service that is successful through “Web Scraping” without redirecting back to the original site.

Better way to search Trains!

October 10, 07 by Bharani

One of my colleague remarked about a mash-up called eRail.in, a service to search trains in a better way. The site simply abstracts the difficulties or unpleasant user experience that one faces in the official website of Indian Railways.

The way eRail.in accomplishes that is simple. Most of the information about Indian trains are static such as Train numbers, Station codes, Timings, Route, Price, Class etc., So they have scraped the data and made the search experience faster. The “availability” et al comes in to picture only after narrowing down the afore-mentioned parameters. At that point of time, the site simply connects you to the Indian Railways website.

Unlike the fares of Airlines, the fares of Railways remain fairly static. So there is no overhead for real-time fare extraction from different airlines(like ixigo does!).

I couldn’t figure out the person (or people) behind it. My guess is a techie, who did this to exhibit his Mash-up skills! Nevertheless, a good utility (in the context of relatively bad experience in Indian railways websites Train Enquiry & IRCTC).

UPDATE: 5Map is the company behind this initiative