Dear MMS,

Your initials are misleading. I am actually wondering if you have sent a single SMS in your life.

What’s happened in the last few days is a good example of how a few morons can hold a state to ransom.

A state clueless about how technology works for the masses (whether you call it mobile phone or social media is irrelevant).

I have been in many digital media discussions where representatives from the government glowingly spoke of the power of digital platforms that promote an exchange of ideas, including social media. They singled out mobile for special praise.

I now realise there is a possibility their love of social and mobile is shared only in these discussions and seminars, and for reasons unknown, your colleagues are completely in the dark on the same.

I watched your political colleagues with puzzlement, as they spoke about banning social media. Do they talk about banning cars when some moron runs over people?

A couple of days back I was at the Vasant Valley School, Delhi, co-judging an inter-school contest on the topic, ‘Is State Control of Social Media Necessary?’ I wasn’t surprised when almost all schools came up with a resounding ‘No’. There was no contest, really.

Dear MMS, don’t ban SMS.AP

Dear MMS, it’s time your boys accepted a majority of Indians are under 30, and quite a few of them are on social media – 47 million of them actually, including the fake accounts. And when it’s mobile phones, they go to bed with those shiny little things.

So here’s my humble submission on how your government can use these digital technologies and platforms a little better.

1. ‘Fish where the fish are’ is a key dictum for brands on social media, and perhaps it applies to the state too. If there are 47 million Indians on Facebook, including the morons I mentioned earlier, perhaps your boys should be there too. The same holds for Orkut, Twitter and so on. Of course, your boys, left to themselves, will create an unholy mess, threaten people and so on. You might want to chalk out a clear strategy on how to engage, long term.

2. Of course, before your boys engage, they might want to listen. In other words, zip the lips, unzip the ears, and listen to the conversations already happening – including what the same morons are saying. You can use listening tools like Radian 6 or Sysomos to do this, they cost just a fraction of what A Raja took home. Of course, please make sure your boys don’t mistake this for spying – you don’t need a Radian 6 to do that, you need a few havaldars with fake Facebook accounts and Google Alerts (am sure there are many on the job already).

What should they be listening to? Well, what are called conversation hotspots, to start with. As your boys listen more closely, they will discover ‘key influencers’, and be able to predict which way the conversation is headed. At some point, if they Google hard enough, they will discover terms like ‘predictive analysis’ – at which point they should call data analysis experts.

(By the way, have you heard of WhatsApp? A friend’s son is using it to get around the SMS ban. With the spate of cheap Android phones, SMS might become superfluous in a year or two.)

There’s a lot of Mary Kom all over the news these days. What does it take to shoot a small clip of her with a message for peace, and blast it all over? I bet it could be done inside the hour.

Whatever you do or don’t, please ask your political colleagues not to make strange statements that make people snigger. Like Sharad Yadav, for instance – he should be talking about animal husbandry, not Facebook.

Finally, it’s not the government is not doing anything. Have you been to the Delhi Traffic Police page on Facebook? It’s a good place your boys might want to take a leaf out of.

Hope to see you on social media, soon. I already follow you on Twitter, though I’m not sure it’s you.

Best regards.

Publish date: August 20, 2012 10:52 am| Modified date: August 20, 2012 10:52 am

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