Science of Laws

“While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill — little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.”

John Adams

The value of the science of laws is the same as every other science: it ends ignorance, satisfies curiosity, and enables the knowledge and methodologies of science to be applied to the creation of tools (laws) that improve the human condition. 

An amazing concept. I really like John Adams quote on this page. A new science to learn about.

Launch Early

Launch early. Unless you’re Steve Jobs, you’re most likely partially wrong about what your theory was. So launch early and often. Launching early attracts customer engagement, and it’s the customer who’s going to tell you what’s wrong so you can correct it.

This is a great article on Innovation Funnel. These funnels and idea filters may not be the best methods. An alternative would be to use a method like time boxing to validate ideas at various stages. Can you do a simple prototype and get 10 people interested? Can you build an MVP in a few weeks and get 100 people to use it? Can you iterate a bit on your MVP and have a paying customer in a couple of months? This technique works for software ideas but may not work for a lot of others where the innovation requires building something physical.

14 Things I liked About In50hrs

The weekend marathon event In50hrs is behind us now. But the ripples continue. A few blog posts, tweets and retweets, facebook pictures and comments are still trickling in. Here is what I really like about the event.

  1. I liked the name and the tag line –  “Can you take an idea and give it life in 50 hours?” seems to have appealed to a lot of people.
  2. We planned for 40 people and 10 mentors. We ended up with 56 and more than a dozen mentors. That is a great validation of the concept.
  3. We threw together the event in a short time. We got the venue on the morning of the event launch and till 5pm (the event was supposed to start at 6pm), we had no power, no internet connectivity and not enough tables for people to work. In spite of all this the event started with great energy and enthusiasm. People sat on cotton quilts deeply absorbed in the ideas being presented.
  4. We expected a dozen ideas. We had 24. Over the next day we had a lot of mergers and acquisitions activity (idea mergers, talent acquisition).
  5. We ended up with 16 prototypes much to every one’s surprise.
  6. We loved the fact that ‘fail early’ was in full effect. A few people switched ideas after discussions with mentors.
  7. We love the mentors. They came and stayed over the weekend and worked shoulder to shoulder with young teams to bring ideas to fruition.
  8. We loved the fact that some people were sitting on their ideas for months and years and in this event, in 50 hours, brought them to life.
  9. We discovered new patterns of collaboration and amazing empathy. One team gave up their idea and decided to help three different teams with their expertise. Many were working on couple of projects.
  10. There was a sense of comfort. Students rubbed shoulders with entrepreneurs. Marketing and bizdev people had long sessions with hard core developers. One of the most amazing instances of this co-operation was a sales person who showed up with an idea and got a mentor as his development partner.
  11. There were several intermediate milestone demos and improvements based on the feedback. I think peer reviews and feedback was one of the most enriching aspects of this event.
  12. Students rocked. They produced 3 of the 16 prototypes show cased. A couple of students stayed up two nights in a row just to help other teams on interaction design.
  13. The event spawned many new ideas, new relationships. I am sure it will spawn quite a few initiatives.
  14. For me, personally, I got to know a lot of people a lot better. I saw amazing persistence and effort.

This was a kind of an MVP for the Startup Centre itself. We learned a lot from this event and that knowledge will help us do the next one much better. But most of all, we learned one thing – there is talent and energy and enthusiasm for building products. And this is just the beginning.

I hope a few years from now, we will look back at this event as one of the inflection points in Chennai Tech.

Innovation Opportunities

Thinking in terms of time and attention will quickly start to change the way you think about products and services, customer behavior, even business models. This is the great frontier for innovation for the next decade, this author believes. Companies that master time and attention innovation will find lots of market traction.

Time-Value Framework (The motivation quadrant) is a great way to think about the value you add to your customers. As the author says, this can impact your pricing and business models. If time is money, how much money will they pay to save enormous amounts of time? Can you successfully demonstrate that?

8 things I Know Now, I wish I Knew in College and a Few More

  • The importance of relationships.
  • How much writing matters.
  • Why I need “soft skills.”
  • The skills I learned outside the classroom were more important than the ones I learned inside it.
  • Money doesn’t matter as much as you think.
  • That I should apply for jobs I’m not completely qualified for.

What about you? What do you know now that YOU wish you would have known when you were in college?

Really a good list and a must read for all students. I will add a few of mine there:

  • The importance of learning how to research
  • Working on projects, however small
  • Learning a bit about the industry (would have helped me know why were were learning what we were learning)

Generalists – A Crying Need

Systems Thinking isn’t new. It’s a tried and true process of seeing the entire ecosystem and how all of its different parts impact each other. It allows us to see how if a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it can cause a storm in another. This all starts with seeing things through the lens of the end customer, rather than through the view of the business. Some of the most successful businesses of the digital age were built around ecosystems.

I really like this piece by Steve. Being a serial entrepreneur, I always thought that we need T-shaped people (some one who is deep in one discipline and good in a lot of others). Now I am part of a team trying to build a tech startup ecosystem in Chennai, India. To build this successfully we need different types of people:

1. Specialists in emerging technologies  like Cloud Computing, Web Scale Computing, Mobile Computing etc. This translates into people with deep knowledge in areas like scalabe data base design (including NOSQL), Hadoop, Hive, Google App Engine, EC2. We also need people with great knowledge of Web frameworks like Ruby On Rails, Django etc.  The tech part of the specialization is the goal of ChennaiGeeks and Nerd Dinners.

2. The entrepreneurs (particularly the technopreneurs I work with) are the T-Shaped people. They are deep in some areas of tech and broad in many disciplines that require a startup to function. So they explore agile development, inbound and social media marketing and anything that helps their startups grow. This amazing, fast learning tech community is what infuses me with energy. Every budding entrepreneur is a source of inspiration.

3. We are missing the generalists. I have been looking for them and if they are there, I can’t find them. It is possible that some of them may be buried deeps in the strategy and innovation groups of large IT vendors like Infosys, TCS, Cognizant. I don’t know.

Where will these generalists be born in countries like India? Silicon Valley has an abundance of them. There are some possible brewing grounds but I have not seen any great signs, so far. If you know one, let me know.

Reaching One Billion Minds

Human potential is universal; opportunity is not. MIT OpenCourseWare began with the vision that the teaching tools of the world’s top learning institutions should be freely available to all humanity: to study, to share, to build upon.

In our first 10 years, MIT has been delivering on that vision. We’ve reached 100 million individuals to date, people with the ideas, talents and motivation to have enormous impact on their communities, given the opportunity to do so.

Very true. How do you help educate people to find opportunities? How do you make it so easy for them to find what they want, learn what they want, when they want?

An audacious plan like this needs to be encouraged and supported. We just to figure out how we do our bit to Create Communities of Open Learning.

Beautiful Code: PDP-11 Bootstrap Loaders

PC Paper Tape or Teletype

The paper tape bootstrap is a two stage process. First the bootstrap loader must be toggled in at the appropriate location (set table for xx). A special bootstrap tape (Absolute Loader) must be in the reader with the leader (punch 351) in the read frame. The program is then started at location xx7744. The program is self-modifying, so if you read the wrong tape, or position it incorrectly, it will corrupt itself. The program will halt when the last frame of the loader is read. Put in the tape you want loaded (on blank leader) and press continue or start at xx7500

Loc.	Cont.	Label	Instruction	Comment
	xx7744	016701		mov device,r1	get csr address
	xx7746	000026
	xx7750	012702	loop:	mov #offset,r2	get offset
	xx7752	000352  offset:
	xx7754	005211		inc (r1)	read frame
	xx7756	105711	wait:	tstb (r1)	wait for ready
	xx7760	100376		bpl wait
	xx7762	116162		movb (r1),bnk(r2) store data
	xx7764	000002
	xx7766	xx7400
	xx7770	005267		inc offset	bump address
	xx7772	177756
	xx7774	000765		br loop
	xx7776	177550	device:			HSR csr, or 177560 for teletype


	xx		Memory Size
	017744		4k
	037744		8K
	057744		12K
	077744		16k
	117744		20k
	137744  	24k
	157744		28k


All these bootstraps (except paper tape) are designed to read in 512 bytes into locations 0-776, and then start program execution at 0. If you are having system problems, then it pays to have the bootstrap halt, so that you can check for error conditions in device registers.

The first serious program I studied in 1973, a bootstrap loader for a PDP-11 Clone called TDC-16. I am showing this because I could not locate the TDC16 version.

For a long time we were trying hard to shave off one instruction. I think some one did it but it was a hack.

PDP-11 had a CSR – Command Status Register and a data register. You set the command bits in the CSR and checked the status bit (in CSR) and read the data from the data register.

In the case of DMA devices, you just set the address for data transfer and initiate your command (you need not move the data manually since the direct memory access controller would transfer it to the set of locations).

Why is this beautiful? Because I fell in love with programming when I read this little program that did so much and the simple elegance of PDP-11 instruction set.

I remained an assembly language programmer from 1972-1984 even though around 79 we started doing Basic-Plus, Cobol and an open source C in 1983-84.

From PDP-11 Bootstrap Loaders

Niche Business Opportunity: Mining a Niche for Gold

One of the fastest ways to make money is by tapping an under-mined business niche. Some of the biggest success stories in history come from people who went looking for an answer to a problem, and when they couldn’t find one, created the solution themselves. Were they the first people to have the problem? No. But they were the first to do something about it. And by providing a solution, they made money…and history.

Covers a couple of old and fascinating stories including the birth of blue jeans.


  • Levi Strauss was in business supplying apparel
  • The gold rush presented a new opportunity
  • He and his partner explored and exploited the opportunity and created an innovative product and a business out of it
This is one method of finding a niche. There will be others and I will blog about them.
How I stumbled on this story. I recently read a book called Start Small, Stay Small a book about creating products for small niche markets. The concept was a fascinating one, since I always created products from scratching a need or from tracking technology changes. So I decided to find some stories of finding niches and blog about them. This is the first one that came up in a Google search “opportunity mining”.

Blog Shift – It happens

The reason I blog changes a bit all the time. Initially, it was a way to jot down the important parts of my learning. It was my Learning Memory and a bonus was to start a few conversations.

Now there is a bit of a shift. From a LearnLog, my blog is moved to a ReadLog (a log of things I read) and would like to share. The shift happened due to two reasons – there is more information to share and more tools to share information (like Twitter, Quora, Curated by).

It is now slowly morphing into a  ThinkLog. The blog posts get smaller. They are mostly triggered by what I read, but also what I think. That is too small to share on Twitter. So in essence my blog has become a Microblog with an occasional post of original content. Is that good or bad? I don’t know.  We will find out soon enough.