Managing and dealing with spam

This was a message posted on the thelist, a mailing list devoted to web development and run by

Hey all —

Gotta love the internet at times.   Someone threatened to sign me up for about a bazillion SPAM e-mails … and lo and behold, their spam terrorist attacks have now worked … I am getting roughly 60-70 SPAM e-mails per day and am spending all my time deleting those little buggers.

My questions:   (1) Is there any way to remove myself from any of these lists rather than one at a time?   and (2) At first I just let sleeping dogs lie … after several days of this I’m just royally IRKED … is there a way to sign THIS person up for some spam?

(PS. Don’t bother writing nasty mails to me or the list telling me this is “wrong” … you try having your mailbox overflow with garbage every singe hour of the day … I’m angry.)   If you’d rather not send this information publically, contact me privately.


I found this very interesting as I’ve been dealing with spam for many years. So I took the time to write a long reply. Here’s what I wrote (quoted text is indented):

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Interface critique #1

I’ve noticed that Brian Hayes hasn’t updated his interface halls of fame and shame since June 2000. So I guess I better post my interface examples right here.

Today’s post shows three interface designs (technically, it’s actually software design). Two are something that Microsoft could have implemented years ago and saved not only a lot of grief to its customers, but also a loss of face. The other example is something that’s not talked about much but is annoying enough.

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Big Freakin’ Flash ads considered harmful

Psst. I’d like to show you something interesting. But first, you have to do something for me. Go read this story on Don’t worry about me. I’ll be right here till you finish. Go on, read it and come back to this page. (To make sure you don’t lose track, the link will open in a new window.)

Did you read the story? No, you didn’t read it all. Go back there and do as I said. Please?

OK, now make sure that the other window is closed. 


Now let me ask you a question: what was the advertisement on the page about? You know, the big in-your-face Flash monstrosity? Didn’t you click on it?

Whaddya mean, you can’t remember? Didn’t it practically punch you in the face with its presence? It didn’t? Funny. That was one of the reasons they made it so big and made the adjacent text so hard to read. They sacrificed readability for supposedly higher click-through rates. And yet, I find anecdotal evidence that people are just going back to what they did with 468*60 banner ads – ignoring them. 

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How blew $50 million

I told ’em it had to happen sooner or later, and as it turned out, it was sooner. The portal, which seemingly had money coming out of all its orifices, has lost 80% of their staff, including the CEO, CFO, chief of content, technology chief, etc. and is now down to just 25 people. From “the ultimate home for Indians” down to a portal for Star TV’s TV shows is indeed a big fall.

Last year in April, did something nobody had ever done before. They paid an insane amount of money (estimates vary but most people think it was around Rs. 2 Crores, about $400,000) to The Times of India (print edition) to buy out their entire front page and turn it into an ad for their portal. They also hired Sunil Lulla, the former General Manager of MTV, as the high-profile CEO.

Some people called it excellent branding. I just called it a foolish way to blow lots of money.

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The myth of convergence

Convergence. They’ve been preaching it for many years now. Don’t hold your breath though. It’ll never happen.

What exactly is convergence? I wanted to get an “official”definition, so I looked it up on and this is what I got: “In information technology, convergence is a term for the combining of personal computers, telecommunication, and television into a user experience that is accessible to everyone”.

I assure you that it just isn’t going to happen. Not today, not in the future. The media may be going all bonkers about it. That doesn’t make it more likely. Nor will wishful thinking by companies that have invested large chunks of money in “convergence devices”.

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Employee awards do no good

Our company gives out quarterly awards for, er, various things. It’s voted upon by the employees and not the management. This quarter, I got an award for “Personifying the Trisoft value – Knowledge Improvement“. In plain English, some people actually thought that my relentless bombarding of everyone’s email boxes with articles on information architecture, usability, navigation, design, HTML, business strategy, marketing, etc. improved the knowledge levels of employees. Wooooohoooo! Of course, people who have worked with me in other companies know that my habit of forwarding useful articles is nothing new. Heck, Prem (current Webmaster of has a 144K text file of just links that I’ve sent him while I worked there.  

Do I believe in awards? No, not one bit. Note that I didn’t say I didn’t believe in recognition. Recognition is very important. But things like “Employee of the month”, etc. are just a bad idea. They make one person happy for a bit and make all the rest of the employees unhappy for longer (as they wonder why they are not the employees of the month). Even awards voted by colleagues don’t work. They just turn the exercise into a political game and the biggest department in the company usually decides who will get an award. For all you know, “Mr. Hardworking” is probably the quiet accountant in the small Finance team, but of course nobody else is capable of understanding what he does. So he doesn’t get the award. What happens instead? If the marketing department in the company is the biggest, that department’s voting block influences the outcome. Just like Parliament. Real sad. Of course, if you’d read Peopleware, you wouldn’t be making such mistakes.

Junk your mission statements

“If you do things the way they’ve always been done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”

– Jack Welch

Conventional wisdom is not necessarily right all the time. It’s an unwritten rule of nature that for a few to succeed, many must fail. Call it an offshoot of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory. This applies to the stock markets, career growth (that’s why there’s only one CEO), and companies as well. If the way to succeed were well known and universally followed, it follows that most people and companies would be successful. But it isn’t so. Sometimes, to get ahead, you have to toss conventional wisdom aside and have the courage to do things differently.

As I look at most companies, I see several management practices that seem “logical” and “common sense”, but are outright wrong. I may not be offered a contract to write a management book for a long while, so I’ll use this wonderful medium called the Internet to put my thoughts on management down and dispel a few of the myths about management. Some of these topics include core competence v/s diversification, leadership and vision, recruitment, company meetings, performance appraisals, incentives, motivation, exit interviews, marketing strategies, project management, quality assurance, etc. (I know thats a lot of stuff, not to mention a very unorganised list 🙂

I hope to dwell on at least one topic every week. Let’s hope I find the time to write all this. I have been inspired to do this by Joel Spolsky, who writes an absolutely fantastic column on software management on his site, Joel on Software. I highly recommend that you read ALL the articles in his archives. Most of them are top notch. I can empathise with him in several instances, since I’m in the software business myself.

My focus this week is on that most useless of management concepts, the “mission statement”.

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Top 10 R?sum? dos and don’ts

I tell ya’, I get tired of scanning résumés sometimes. Having seen thousands of them while hiring people, I can confidently tell you that the average employer spends only 30 seconds per résumé. What does this mean? It means you only have 30 seconds to make the first cut. Since I see so many badly written résumés and since someone on the Evolt list posted a question about résumés, here’s my first article. Follow these résumé tips and you’ll improve your chances in the job hunt.

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Avoiding personal conflict on mailing lists

I subscribe to email discussion lists on various topics like web development, information architecture, experience design, online writing, etc. I have often seen vicious arguments break out on some of them. Somebody posts something, then someone else not only refutes that but also calls the original poster a moron for not knowing better. Pretty soon, many flames are exchanged, and the rest of the list subscribers are silent witnesses to a bloody mess. Nobody likes that.

From observing these battles, I’ve found some common behavioural  patterns in all such incidents. The following is my list of suggestions for avoiding flames and managing conflict on mailing lists: 

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Personal income tax should be abolished

Mahesh protests against the Rs. 5000 income tax rebate that women tax payers get. He favours abolishing it since it obviously will get frittered away on clothes, entertainment, etc.

He doesn’t realise that there is a far greater evil that needs to be abolished.

And that’s personal income tax for everyone!

Yes, you heard that right. I strongly believe in abolishing personal income tax completely.

Has Madhu lost it, you wonder? I assure you that I have perfectly logical reasons for this. Ready? Let me start…

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