Sunday, November 28, 2010

The #CEB list - aka CEB-naughty-and-nice-list


Most parts of Srilanka.. if not all of Srilanka had a power failure this evening.. I just logged into Twitter as soon as it happened and realized that my timeline was flooded with #powercut tweets. We all had our theories as to why there was a power cut or a failure and soon the news came that :
 "Power failure in sevaral parts of the country at the moment. Steps are being taken to rectify it soon-CEB-Daily Mirror"
And few minutes later :
"Electricity disrupted in many parts of the island due to tripping of the main transmission line from Kotmale to Biyagama - Chariman CEB"

After a while.. my friends on Twitter started reporting they got electricity back.. one by one. And @YasirNasir put out this interesting 'theory' that :
"Ah, you're further away from Colombo, that's why. Usually power comes back inside Colombo first."
And that...
 "My theory was CMB usually is on the top of restoration list, doesn't mean other areas don't get power back. :P"


I almost bought it until... @Isharajay in Gampaha reported that he got power back before @Moshanthi and @CocoVeranda from Colombo 07 reported they got power. So I thought I'd do a bit of digging in..

Thursday, August 26, 2010

OMG the funniest Miss Sri Lanka ever on YouTube! Or is it?



This girl has been the laughing stock of Srilanka for the past couple of days, thanks to the YouTube video that's being circulated on Facebook and what not. So here's what I think but this is just my opinion so just read it and toss it over yr shoulder :)

The video is hilarious! Me and my colleagues laughed till we cried. But hers wasn't the only funny video. Miss USA thought 'oh wim oh weh - oh wim oh weh' was the sound of a lion.. What? oh yeah lol. Then Miss China thought 'Pong! Tush!' was the sound of a rocket. And mind you, many of those rockets literary blew up as they went up haha! Oh and Miss France thought that rockets do a "count up" and she goes "un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq..." - that's like 1,2,3,4,5; instead of a count down haha how funny is that? :D

But then again, they must be nervous right? And the differences in the answers give us a nice little cross section of the world communities and how they comprehend certain ideas is pretty interesting. I actually thought the sound effects were a brilliant idea later on, after watching about 10 or 15 contestants. Just randomly watch a few of those videos and you'll think so too.

Finally, this girl has all the right to contest and you can't blame people for passing this video around and laughing at her expense because it's actually very funny! So whose fault is it?? The judges! And not only the ones in Srilanka, but going by these videos, in many other countries too. Hopefully the so called organizers of this event and other events like this should learn a darn good lesson. THEY are the laughing stock of the country.. no worse.. Universe. People must be saying.. what the heck were they thinking???? Yeah, what the heck were you thinking 'judges'? 


Alright then, what if she WAS the best out of the whole lot? Then let me ask you this. How come girls with better looks or personality or both don't contest? Take a wild guess.. That surely must say something about the standard of these contests, at least in local level and also about the way our society look at girls who go for these. In general, there are people who either are not qualified enough (in this case, the beauty and brains department) to contest OR will not, because they don't have the guts to.. But are waiting to see who does, and slander them. And in a country where. when a pretty girl who is highlighted in media gets married, people are gathering to ask who's the idiot who married her and she's a like this and that.. do you think an unassuming girl who contest for Miss Srilanka stands a chance?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's keeping moi busy?

So, what's keeping me busy?? WORK!! 

But that doesn't mean it's boring. Far from it actually...


Since I've embraced the web division at my work place with open arms and turned my back against the news division... lol okay, news was interesting but web feels like.. this-is-where-I-should've-been-all-my-life! and I totally look forward to coming to work every day.

So what do I do at the web division? Well, our division handles 7 websites - 3 for tv, 3 for radio and 1 for news. I've been given responsibility of 1 tv, 1 radio and the news site with a colleague of mine who overlooks me (let's call him "W" shall we?). Now, this doesn't mean I'm a serious techi, but maybe I'm such a wanabe and I'm loving all the new things I'm learning. I love that feeling you get when you work on something and hit 'refresh' and voila! the results are online LOL yeah yeah it's lame but isn't it just awesome? :D

And lately I started writing 'newsy' articles for our news website. Well, it's actually called "featured" articles but I want to make a brand new blog site for the articles and get with the web 2.0 and "W" is going to help me - the noobie to make it happen very soon. Hopefully I'll share the link when it's done.

Apart from all that, I manage all of the Social Media accounts and Social Media Marketing aspects for the two English tv and radio channels as well as news. That itself keeps me totally busy. Social Media and SMM are beginning to catch on really strong in Sri Lanka and I'm learning all I can these days. Actually, if you remember, the 5-day U.S. tour that I went on, in March (a completely free tour, thanks to the U.S. Embassy in Colombo and the Foreign Press Center in U.S.) was because of the work I've been doing on Social Media for the media organisations I've been working for during the past one-and-half years or so, as well as on my own. Guess it paid off pretty sweet yeah?

Aaaand my Social Media adventures continue....! This Saturday, I'm going to attend the first Social Media Marketing work shop.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

IIFA madness has begun!

Exactly...

...And everyone has their own opinion. From those who would do just about anything anything under the sun to get in there to catch a glimpse - to those who couldn't care less or worse, hates the fact that The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) is being hosted here in Sri Lanka.



After a number of run-up-to events, the IIFA awards ceremony will be held this evening at the well-readied Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium in Colombo.

One of the most talked about features were the price of tickets. They were priced between US$1,000 to US$10,000 which would convert to around Rs.200,000 to Rs.1,150,000 in the local currency, which in my opinion is simply untouchable to the normal folks such as moi ;) These tickets offered a whole package ranging from hotel accommodation to close contact with the VIPs. However, the latest turn of events have it that the organizers have introduced a low priced edition of tickets priced at Rs.25,000 for the back seats since yesterday (4th June). And for those interested, the news item goes on to say that these tickets are available at the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.


The 3 day long mega event that officially commenced on Thursday, 3rd June will end tonight (or little later hehe..) the 5th June. The biggest highlights so far were the Fashion shows and the friendly Cricket match. The fact that the son of the country's president - Namal Rajapakse was one of the opening batsmen was of much interest to those who don't even support the government a lot I bet. It was pretty interesting to watch the guy on the field and I must confess, we were busy glued to the TV than work, just for those few minutes :))

While all this was happening, another group of people were vehemently against IIFA being held in Sri Lanka. Some of those in the Tamil film industry are completely against this and the big names such as Rajnikanth, Kamal Hasan, Vikram, Ajit and Surya are publicly boycotting the event. Even Amitab Bhachchan - brand ambassador for IIFA is unable to attend the event, along with his famous family due to pressure from the Tamil film industry in India.

But this was not an issue to many and the "boycotting" soon lost its flavor. Salman Khan was rather explicit in stating that boycotting serves no purpose. He said, "We are here to help the people who are in crisis. Building walls serves no purpose. We should build bridges." He too said that Big B should have attended IIFA. He further said "This way we won't be able to visit Kashmir, Gujarat or Afghanistan. If our people are in difficulty we should not abandon them."

JP Dutta in a TV Interview said, "Boycott demand should have been made earlier. Demanding a boycott now is like asking a batsman not to play after the bowler has delivered the ball. IIFA has to play the shot now that the ball is delivered."

Shah Rukh Khan is also not attending, citing a busy schedule with his new picture and even otherwise, I won't blame the guy at all. Remember how we treated him the last time he came here? Let's not go there now shall we? It was shameful and those morons who even thought it was a very smart idea should realize it is because of individuals like THEM that our country is defamed.

So looking at all these, I think that having IIFA in Sri Lanka is definitely a big boost to the tourism industry here. It would send a very positive message to the world that says, "Hey, look, there IS no more war in Sri Lanka and it IS safe." Which is true. As you know I've been to Jaffna last week and it was amazing. Despite the killer heat and humidity, I loved every bit of it because it is part of my country that the majority of us didn't even dream that was possible to visit in our lifetime. Okay that story later!

What I was saying was that, if those folks who are boycotting IIFA think that they are doing a major deal to bring awareness to the suffering Tamils in Srilanka... they've got their wires crossed! If Mia thinks that she can sing hate songs and ask people to support a terrorist group, yeah that's first class stupidity. How do those people even IMAGINE what's going on in a place that they haven't even set foot on? Er... Photos? Videos? Written articles? Hearsay? My best friends aunt's cousin's sister told me so? What a joke! I tell them, COME AND SEE. See with your own eyes. Hear with your own ears. Witness.... Witness how it was, what lead to the war and what we are doing now to prevent a misfortune such as that from happening again.

I am pretty much aware of the reasons behind the war. Our former governments (both sides alike) did not tackle some of the most simple reasons that lead to the war. First and foremost, the language issue. There are loads of other issues that would've been easily solved and they didn't. Who payed the price? Innocent civilians of all races, Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim, Burgher etc. But now that we are being known to have peace instead of war... prosperity instead of poverty... new beginnings instead of death... IIFA is a wonderful platform to start upon. Not only for the government and the business community, but for all of us. It is each of our duty to let the world know, through positive communication and outlook the changes here.

Sri Lanka is one of the most amazing countries. For a tiny island that's about 25,000 square miles such as ours, we have so much history, heritage, natural resources and amazing sights! We have people of various religions, races and sub cultures. Our people are talented in dance, music, art and various other artistic forms. For such a tiny island, we are so diverse. But isn't that exactly what makes us so much more amazing and unique? This is what 'foreigners' should experience. This is why they should come to Sri Lanka. And like popular Srilankan Cricketer Kumar Sangakkara said at IIFA, remember we are "One country, One people."

IIFA is a stepping stone. Let the journeys begin.

Friday, May 28, 2010

In Jaffna - One Year After The End Of War...

So here I am in Jaffna... For the first time in my life!



I got really ill, two days before the scheduled trip and couldn't even go to work for almost two days. Lucky for me I got well just in time and today is our second day in Jaffna town. I have loads of stories to tell and loads more pictures to show. Jaffna was far far from what I had expected. It was so "green" to the eye and fast developing. Except for the number of occasional buildings in ruins, you would not have guessed that the peninsula had been at war with the rest of the island for the past thirty years. Amazing! I think Srilankans are good at moving on...


The language barrier was evident when we attempted order food or to get what we want at a restaurant or a shop. However, one of our group members was a Tamil and his home-town is Jaffna so we got by thanks to his translation skills :) I myself can manage a little bit of Tamil and was making maximum use of it during the past two days, of course impressing a few in the group who had no idea I could speak a bit of Tamil.


We've been to see many places including the old Jaffna Fort, the Nallur Kovil and some other ancient ruins in the city. We also dropped in at the popular ice cream parlor in Jaffna called "Rio Ice Cream" which totally blew me and everyone else away. Though you cannot compare the "quality" of the ice cream to some of the favorite brands in Colombo, this place was easily the largest ice cream parlor I've seen in entire Sri Lanka. I just have to write about this place and many other places - but in a little while...

Now we're headed towards the beach. So catch you folks later with detailed info on what I have seen and heard so far in Jaffna.

If you have any questions that you want to ask, curious about anything...? You are welcome to ask in comments, so that I can try get answers for you before I leave this place. Sounds good? :) Catch you soon!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Facebook goes ZERO


Facebook has made another fantastic launch! early morning on Wednesday (19th May 2010) – Sri Lanka time, Facebook announced the launch of 0.Facebook.com – an imageless version of the standard m.facebook.com site for their mobile users. And what’s most fantastic about this new site is that, those of us who login to Facebook through mobile phones can access it free of charge! 


According to Facebook, more than 100 million people actively use Facebook from their mobile devices and over 200 mobile operators in 80 countries offer “Facebook Mobile”. Initially, free browsing over 0.facebook.com is available only through 50 mobile operators in 45 countries and territories including all you lucky lucky Mobitel users in Sri Lanka – including me of course ;) 

Here is the list of all countries and territories along with mobile operators that currently offer 0.facebook.com free of charge. Click on image to view full list:


Facebook admits that most people do face certain challenges when using Facebook over their mobile device over m.facebook.com, mainly being the speed and the cost. So, keeping these two main challenges in mind, the new 0.facebook.com has been developed to be faster and free.

Over the new site, Facebook says that you can access the key features of their standard mobile site m.facebook.com; such as updating your status, viewing the News Feed, Liking and Commenting on posts, Sending and Replying to messages, Writing on a friend’s Wall, just as you would on Facebook.com completely free of charge from those mobile operators who offer this service.

However, to make your browsing experience faster, photos will be viewable only by clicking on them AND you will have to pay the normal data charges if you want to view photos. You will also be subjected to normal mobile browsing charges if you leave 0.facebook.com and go to another site. A notification page will appear, reminding you that you will be charged if you attempt to view a photo or leave the site.

And those of you who are not yet lucky enough to have this service in your country or offered through your mobile operators yet, keep your fingers crossed... Facebook says the service would be available through many other mobile operators soon. Some of the operators and regions that will have 0.facebook.com available worldwide have been listed by Facebook as :
  • Telstra in Australia
  • Movistar in El Salvador
  • SFR in France
  • XL in Indonesia
  • DiGi in Malaysia
  • Telecom NZ in New Zealand
  • SMART in the Philippines
  • Vodafone in Qatar
  • Digicel in Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago
  • 3 in the UK
  • MTN in Cameroon and Guinea Conakry

So, without much delay, I checked out this feature over my cheap Chinese mobile handset and true enough, the speed was worth smiling about :) How about you? How many of you have checked out the new 0.facebook.com? or have it going in your country? What’s your opinion?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

U.S. Spokesperson Duguid says, "sometimes the struggle against violent extremism is violence"



The Diplomatic Reception Room of the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. was a cozy little place. Over 30 of us – on a reporting tour on Social Media were chattering away on various topics and we had much to discuss. We just met Alec Ross, the Senior Adviser for Innovation in the Office of the Secretary of State. Now we are about to meet face to face with the Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department – Gordon Duguid. We were told that Duguid had a broad knowledge on all the countries that were represented by our group and we were pretty much anticipating the meeting, to ask many “country specific” questions, this time around. He was also the man behind our “Social Media Tour” - the one who was supposed to have made it all happen, well, according to our tour guides or the Media Relations Officers from the Foreign Press Centre. He’s also the one who does the press briefings for the U.S. State Department and if you watch foreign news regularly, chances are, you may have seen him on TV quite often.

I was representing Sri Lanka and was sent from the Independent Television Network. I was awaiting my turn to ask a couple of questions regarding my country. As we were all seated at our different tables casually helping ourselves to the entrée at the distinguished Diplomatic Reception Room, Duguid arrived and sat at our table, prompting some of us to seize the opportunity and ask him a few questions just before the meal and before the actual conference took place. In Sri Lanka, we had just ended a 30-year long war against terrorism. The current president who came into power, ended the war in just 4 years as the head of state and was re-elected in January for a second term. And there is a sort of a debate or a controversial idea among some, that the United States secretly supported the LTTE terrorists. So when it was my turn, I questioned Gordon Duguid on this, so that we have a clear answer to this long debated question.


I asked Duguid, how does the United States looked at the manner in which we eradicated terrorism from our country. Do they think our government’s efforts to accomplish this, violated human rights?

In response to this question, Duguid said that the United States have already released a document on human rights, which is a very public document, that gives the official position of the Department of State on this matter. But he also said that the United States certainly supported the government’s efforts to end the terrorist reign of the LTTE and they certainly had a number of discussions about terrorism in general and fighting terrorism with our government.

He further said “However, our struggles against terrorism do not release any of us from our responsibilities to conduct that struggle responsibly. And I would point to our own debates here in the United State over renditions and detentions in Guantanamo and how the trials go as evidence that we are looking at ourselves and not just at other countries. And therefore I would say that universal standards of human rights exist, they are very well understood by everyone.” Duguid also pointed out that “Everyone also understand that terrorism must be fought and that sometimes the struggle against violent extremism is violence. However, that doesn’t release any of our governments from a responsible approach, particularly when it comes to respecting civilians and non combatants.”


As soon as that question was over with, we were served one of the most scrumptious meals and a mouth watering dessert. Following lunch, was the actual conference where Duguid was to answer specific questions from the group. After a great deal of questions that were shot at him by journalists from 30 different countries, I asked mine. What is the U.S. government’s stance on the Presidential election in Sri Lanka and our efforts in development and resettlement process following the end of the war and the current situation in our country?

Duguid said that their position in general on the elections is that, the election should be as free and fair as possible and should reflect the will of the people. And if you accurately reflect the will of the people, that is then very often known, quite quickly. He further said “As far as our opinion on the general situation goes, actually there is a lot of work to be done. Sri Lanka has come through a very long and very bloody struggle against the most vicious terrorists group in the world. However, that battle has been won. And it is now in the interest of all, that the rights of the civilians be respected that the people who do need to have shelter, who do need access to clean water and food are allowed to try and receive those services as quickly as practical.”

Thinking through the words of Duguid, I was contemplating... So does the American government endorse upon violence against violence – at least sometimes? And how do they see other nations acting upon in a similar fashion? Are they being hypocritical, giving excuses for past behavior or are they coming into terms with the idea? Does that also mean, that the manner in which the terrorist leader in Sri Lanka was killed in the end was fair? Hmmm...

Duguid answered just two more very interesting questions from a Chinese journalist (there were 3 of them from China – such a massive country and they probably deserve it) and the Vietnamese journalist. Then we thanked him, took some interesting photographs right in front of the State Department building in very chilly weather, got into our tour-bus and were on our way to see the Foreign Press Centre, where it all began. That, my friends, is another story altogether!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alec Ross - Advisor, Innovator and Guru




30 journalists from all over the world were at the Diplomatic Reception Room of the US Department of State in Washington DC. We were on a reporting tour and the topic was Social Media. We had just met the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and were still highly excited about the meeting.

This time we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Alec Ross, the Senior Adviser for the Innovation in the office of the Secretary.


His role in leading the State Department's efforts to find practical technology solutions for some of the globe's most vexing problems on health care, poverty, human rights and ethnic conflicts was of high interest to me; as it involved many innovative methods in which social media can be successfully utilized in tasks as diverse as the ones they are engaged in.


Alec Ross walked in with a charming smile as he greeted us. Then he let us in on a little bit of history about himself. Ross’s background is in the NGO world. In 2000, Ross and 3 colleagues co-founded “One Economy”, a global non-profit that grew into becoming the world’s largest digital divide organization, growing from a team of four people, to having programs on four continents.


During 2007 and 2008, he ran technology, media and telecommunication policy for Barac Obama’s presidential campaign. Then literary just a year ago he came to the state department to build an innovation agenda for America’s diplomatic and development agenda.


Alec Ross commenced his speech with a little story about a friend who goes to the same shop to buy toys made of scrap metal from a very rural part in the world, Until one day - the guy who sells the toys tells her to email him and pre-order what she wants, thus demonstrating the global connectedness that is evolving.

Then he described one of the successful efforts made by his team just after the tragic earthquake in Haiti. A member of the staff had come up with an idea to encourage people to donate small amounts of money – a maximum of 10 dollars – over their mobile phone. With a prompt okay from the Secretary of State, they set it up, so that when people awake the next morning, it would be the first thing that would come up on their mobile phone, prompting them to take quick action.

And action they took… Their effort raised more than 30 million dollars in about 3 weeks. In 10 dollar increments – that’s response from about 3 million Americans for the earthquake victims in Haiti !


Ross gave another example to demonstrate how they are attempting to use technology is with regard to the continued narcotics and cartel fueled violence in Mexico.

One of the biggest issues that have come up recently in Mexico is that people are afraid of reporting criminal activities in their neighborhood to Police for the fear retribution, as they are afraid that they will be killed for reporting crime. Therefore, Ross and his team have been developing an idea with the Mexican government for the past several months to set up a Web based and SMS based crime reporting program.

With this program, people can confidently report a crime directly from where they are, and an NGO then makes the content and the source anonymous and post it on a special public website. The police are then given a particular number of minutes, within which they have to report back to the website, regardless of what they find. The idea here is to introduce anonymity, transparency and accountability – into fighting narcotics and narcotics fueled violence in Mexico.

Meanwhile, Alec Ross pointed out that there is a perception about the United States in recent years that they are attempting to ‘overpower’ other countries. He further said that one of the significant shifts since Hillary Clinton has become the Secretary of State is that there is less reliance on “overpowering” and an increased focus on “empowering”.

He also said that his role and the role of his team was, within that broader frame of empowerment, how technology can be a platform that can empower different communities and nations. He also let us in on an example to illustrate how dedicated the Secretary of State is, to bring the latest technology into handling US government activities.

He said Hilary Clinton met about 15 to 20 young people who are involved with new media technology in the State department. He pointed out that for someone who sits down with heads of state, kings and queens – to sit with youngsters who are not seniors at the State Department was kinda cool and that it shows the level of her dedication.

Finally he said that as someone who has the opportunity to interact and engage with Hillary Clinton quite frequently, it’s a real treat to work with her.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Meet The Secretary


Stepping out of the Newsroom and flying to Washington DC was not on my To Do list but somehow it manifested itself in the form of a Social Media - Reporting Tour, about a week ago.

This was to be my first real experience overseas and the first time I was to fly to a foreign destination on my own. 4 and a half hour flight to Dubai, 8 hours at the airport trying to get on Facebook and another 15 hours of flight to Washington DC should have killed my excitement but it didn't. In fact, the moment I arrived and took a taxi to the hotel only to find out that due to a 4 hour delay as a result of flight delay, my check-in time was pushed back and I had about 6 hours to wait till my room was vacant! But luckily, I bumped into one of the 30-odd journalists who were supposed to arrive at the Washington Plaza and leaving our bags at the concierge, the two of us went sight seeing in DC.

To give you a bit of the background story - the tour was organized by the Foreign Press Center of the U.S. Department of State and funded by the U.S. government. So why would they do this? Well, according to what I understood from the folks at the Foreign Press Center, by inviting over 60 journalists and bloggers from around the world on 2 reporting tours - one in February and the other in March - the U.S. government hopes to highlight their views on different matters and to present them to other nations through the journalists. Apart from that, the tour being on Social Media, the U.S. government more or less painted a fine picture of just how they maximize the benefits of using social media to put their message across to the general public in a more effective manner and at the same time, to harness the views and comments from the public as well.

However, the next morning almost 30 journalists, together with representatives from the Foreign Press Center - Nicole, Matthew, Dorris and Neil - were at the U.S. Department of State building. After the routine and strict security check-ups, we were taken to the Treaty Room, just to look around. This was prior to the scheduled meeting with Alec Ross - Senior Advisor for Innovation to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Gordon Duguid - State Department Deputy Spokesman.

Then something happened.. Our guides from the Foreign Press Center pointed at a row of chairs laid out at the entrance to the U.S. Secretary of State and said, we're taking a picture. Just sit here and gather round but leave the middle seat empty. So as we were curiously assembling as we were told, I happened to overhear Matthew saying "Hillary Clinton" and I quickly turned. I couldn't believe my ears, so I asked, "Matt, did you just say Hillary Clinton is going to be here?". And he was like "Shhhhh..." And the next thing you know, the door opened.

Someone came out.

There was tension.

There was anticipation and excitement in the air...

And then she arrived.



U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton herself arrived in the presence of 30 exclaiming foreign journalists and bloggers.

She spoke to us briefly, asking from which countries we were from and she invited just a few questions. Three lucky journalists managed to ask questions before she said "let's take a picture".



Answering the questions from the group, On Uganda she said that Uganda should not kill people for being homosexual and that the United States was monitoring this.

And on the Israeli and Palestinian issue at that time she said that the US government is of the view that Palestinians should have a state of their own and at the same time, Israelis have a right to live in peace.

Meanwhile speaking on Azerbaijan she said that the Obama administration spoke out when Azerbaijan bloggers were arrested by the government, adding that the U.S. government is working on resolving the Azerbaijan and Armenian issues.