WordCamp Cuttack 2012: An Evergreen Memory for WordPress Lovers

The WordCamp Cuttack 2012 concluded on the 11th of March in the most positive of ways for everyone who got an opportunity to be part of it, whether as an organizer, attendee or speaker.

WordCamp CuttackI was fortunate to be there as a special guest, a result of a generous giveaway by the key initiator of this event, Soumya Pratihari. Soumya leads a locally-based web development company called iDev, which also runs a number of popular blogs that cater to several verticals.

My first pleasant experience came well before the event itself. While I was being driven to iDev, I expected the company to be housed in a more or less snazzy office block, when in fact it was a simple, two-storeyed building situated in possibly one of the quietest corners of Cuttack. Lesson: You don’t have to work in a gleaming glass-and-steel structure to attain heights!

The venue was Ajay-Binay Institute of Technology, and the vice president of the college Mr. A. Mohapatra was the chief guest.

On Super Charging Your Career with Blogging and WordPress

After the encouraging words sent out by the chief guest, seasoned entrepreneur Mohit Pawar took charge of the proceedings.

It began with several seconds of a soothing deep-breathing exercise that clearly rejuvenated all the listeners.

On the subject of blogging and WordPress, the first step, in Mohit’s words was to make a start. He strongly recommended the use of WordPress because of its ease and quickness of use, availability of plugins and their ease of modification. He stressed on the contributions of the WordPress community and their never-ending quest to make the platform better and better.

Looking for keyword rich domains is a thing of the past, said Mohit. Additionally, he was in favor of looking for a brandable domain name, and not one based on the personal name.

On of the key thrusts of Mohit’s presentation was a call to use your blog as a resume. “Written words can be easily scaled”, said the lively and humorous businessman. “I haven’t ever made a resume in my life, it is my blog that has served as a resume!” Paradoxically, Mohit’s newest venture is a resume writing service called FreshResume, that promises users to help them stand out in the job market.

Mohit gave examples of how his blog helped him spread word about things ranging from his thoughts to his latest ventures. A key example was that of a blog post titled 13 tips on organizing a TEDx event which ranks pretty high in SERPS, and attracts enquiries from all over. Another instance to note was that of Paras Chopra using his blog to promote his “visual website optimizer”.

Furthermore, Mohit suggested direct advertising as preferable to AdSense, initially, and said the distraction of revenue when starting out would be mostly detrimental.

On the frequency of blogging, he advised making a plan and putting up posts more often in the beginning. He also advised the audience to network with people with the intention of helping, and not winning favors from them.

The conclusion: Write blogs, if you’re looking for opportunities!

The information-filled presentation included interesting glimpses into Mohit’s own blogging-cum-entrepreneurship journey. The man started his first business at age 16 with a small sum of money, and moved on to gain tremendous experience. He admitted to have made the mistake of cramming together too many tasks in his early days, and now believes single-tasking is a far more efficient way of life. On those lines, he stressed on focusing on one domain and then moving on.

He talked about a post titled 17 businesses you can start with little or no money, which looks like a must read for budding entrepreneurs and anyone convinced that blogging can supercharge your career.

‘Google and Facebook are Stalking You’

Sanjib Parida, Co-Founder and CTO of Muvi.com, was the next to take charge. He spoke in detail about better strategies and tactics to rank higher in Google’s SERPS.

Sanjib expressed dislike for the excessive use of SEO, which essentially involves gaming the system to beat competitors. He instead emphatically talked about the use of branding to build trust in the minds of users looking at search result pages. A good example he gave was that of StackOverflow, which is loved by programmers around the world. A programmer is likely to click through if he or she see a StackOverflow result, even if it isn’t at the top.

Sanjib was intensely dismayed at the massive data collection being carried out by both Google and Facebook under the pretext of improving user experiences and presenting more relevant ads, with the frightening reminder, “Google and Facebook are stalking you!” However, he essentially indicated that the pervasiveness of these services made us accept the loss of privacy as a reality of life.

When I asked him about the influence of advocates like Richard Stallman in the fight for web privacy, he was highly skeptical about it and quick to point out that the software freedom pioneer’s supporters had to rely on these ubiquitous services to spread word, which defeated the logic of fighting privacy.

It was interesting to hear this speaker’s view that SEO needs to be a more programming-oriented activity, that will tailor websites better for search-engine-based visitors.

Another statement that caught my attention was the one about gaining the early mover advantage by making the most of the newest bubbles. The fact of the matter, he highlighted, is that we are living in the social bubble.

More Speeches, Followed by a Workshop

I too got a chance to speak about my perspective on WordPress and blogging. I reiterated the views expressed by Mohit and basically had three immediate benefits of blogging to highlight:
1.The learning experience from collective knowledge.
2.A chance to share your knowledge and views.
3.A chance for new opportunities to come knocking on your door.

It’s a good idea to follow role models, and the best I could think of were the key organizer Soumya himself, Arun Prabhudesai of the business blog trak.in, Jeff Atwood of codinghorror.com (a must read for programmers!) and Amit Agarwal of Labnol.org.

Post-lunch, the next speaker Rahul Banker spoke to the audience via Skype, the main essence of his talk being to give up the obsession with money when blogging away your thoughts.

Web entrepreneur Jaydip Parikh, also connecting remotely, spoke about how to choose content for your blog. Jaydip stressed on quality content being the king, not just content. He had some fine suggestions on where to look for the best content that would have the potential to turn viral. Here’s the complete slideshow:

Next, a workshop was conducted by Amit Singh, the director of AmiWorks. He touched on topics ranging right from those concerning fresh starters to the advanced use of WordPress, and was pleased by the enthusiasm exuded by the participants.

Concluding a Memorable Day

Quick contests were conducted by Soumya and T-shirts given away, and the glow in everyone’s faces appeared to promise to spread awareness about WordPress.

Blogger Puneet Jain launched BlogWorkshop.org via video and was aptly applauded.

The concluding moments included a ‘30 seconds of fame’ session in which participants talked about their interests, with one of the most pleasing comments being “I’m now going to blog regularly!”

I’m immensely grateful to the iDev team, the attendees and fellow speakers for having done everything that made this event an evergreen memory. Were you at WordCamp Cuttack 2012, or following the proceedings via Twitter? Feel free to comment about your experiences!

TCPMon – A Basic Tutorial

TCPMon is a nice little tool for testing TCP communication between a client and server. It is an open source project, distributed under the Apache 2.0 license.

Downloading and Running TCPMon

To download TCPMon, head over to the Apache TCPMon download page and download the binary distribution.

(There’s a Google Code Project called TCPMon too, but that’s not the same one, and has fewer features)

Once downloaded and extracted, navigate to the build folder and run TCPMon by executing tcpmon.sh on Linux or tcpmon.bat on Windows. (On Linux, you’ll need to set the execute bit on the sh file before you run it). Note that your current working directory must be the build folder, else Java will report a ClassNotFoundException

TCPMon as an intermediary between clients and a single server

I found TCPMon useful when testing a webservice client I was implementing – I wanted to be certain that it’s sending the right data, and also wanted to double check the server responses in a convenient way. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Specify the listener properties. The listener port is any arbitrary port that you’d like TCPMon to listen to (and that any other process isn’t using). The target port is that of your webservice.
  2. Click Add

TCPMon admin tab - Configuring a listener

In the window that appears, you will be able to monitor connections between your client and server after setting up your client to point to TCPMon’s listening port. TCPMon forwards all requests to the target server, and you’ll be able to see the requests and responses as they occur.

Requests and responses in TCPMon

Checking the “XML Format” box adds appropriate indentation to any XML in subsequent requests and responses. This can make it easier to read.

TCPMon as a proxy server (an intermediary between clients and an outbound connection of the machine hosting TCPMon)

Another functionality is the use of TCPMon as a proxy – you can set up a proxy server on your machine using it, so that all requests from another device or machine are routed through the proxy.

I found this useful when testing on mobile devices that needed to connect to a VPN network accessible from my computer, but not from the device itself.

Here’s what you need to do to set up the proxy server:

Setting up a proxy server in TCPMon

To get a mobile device connected through this proxy, you’ll need to modify the proxy settings of your Wifi connection:

Setting up an iPad to connect to TCPMon

Now all requests from this device will be routed through the TCPMon proxy.

Note that TCPMon is useful only for simple testing of requests and responses – it fails to work on anything more than a small number of requests. You’ll need a dedicated proxy server for that.

Also, if you’re connecting to a single server, it’s best to go with the first approach of an intermediary rather than a proxy server, so that TCPMon doesn’t capture traffic you don’t need to inspect.

Sending custom requests

The “Sender” tab can be used to craft your own SOAP requests and send them. The fields under this tab are pretty self-explanatory:

Sending requests from TCPMon

– See more at: file:///C:/B/Backups/Technonstop/technonstop.com/tcpmon-tutorial.html#sthash.uvcYqRuS.dpuf

What does the Amazon vs Flipkart Contest Herald for us?

When you’re out to shop online, there’s a greater variety than ever before if you’re in India!

Shopping giant Amazon has launched the curiously named Junglee.com in beta mode to target Indian customers. Presently, it is only a comparison shopping site rather than one that allows customers to order directly and obtain shipping from Amazon’s own dedicated courier services. Shoppers are taken to vendors’ individual sites to complete their purchases, and experiences may vary.

UPDATE (10th Feb, 2012): Amazon has been granted FDI approval to set up its logistics service in India.

Junglee means ‘of the forest’ in Hindi, and by all means, the offering at the first instant indeed looks to be just a subset of the vast forest that Amazon has become!

The move appears to be cautious, given the fact that Flipkart has achieved wide acceptance in the country, and a full-scale online shopping war of dominance is going to leave consumers frustrated.

Hanging Around on Junglee

I checked out a few camera deals on the new site, and found the comparisons impressive. It’s a good thing to see several aspects of multiple sellers like seller information, shipping rates and return policy nearly at once, and it would be even better if a summarized at-a-glance chart was provided.

Camera Deal on Junglee.com

What about the shopping experience? That will depend on the sellers and their past track records. For now, I’ll hang around on Junglee if I’m looking for something, but probably head over to the trusty Flipkart to hit the “Buy This Now” button.

It’s the same early mover advantage that stops Facebookers from migrating to Google+.

When will Amazon Stamp the Accelerator?

Amazon has chosen to mark its presence through a yellow-pages-cum-reviews shopping website, which is likely to help give good exposure to little known merchants.

That’s great news if you’re a seller seriously looking to expand.

In my opinion, what ultimately will make the difference is Amazon’s ability to match Flipkart’s low prices, timely delivery and the friendliness of trusted delivery personnel.

A quick look at the Amazon services page reveals tremendous promise for sellers. What can be more encouraging than “convert our traffic into your customers” and “no listing fees”?

The question is whether the individual merchants will help maintain the image Amazon needs to make it big in India.

Do you think Amazon will give Flipkart a run for their money? Will healthy competition in India boost the online shopping experience? We’d like to hear your thoughts!

The Meaning of dot slash for Running an Executable in Linux

The dot refers to the current directory. The forward slash “/” is the directory path separator.

So, when you type in ./filename at the shell, you prefix the filename with the path to the current directory.

Why do we need to do this when running any executable file?

When you run a command in the shell, it either runs it as a built-in command, or as an executable.

If it isn’t a built-in command, the shell tries looking for the executable in all the directories specified by the PATH environment variable – you can see what this contains by typing in echo $PATH in the terminal.

So if your file is in the current directory, the shell won’t find it – because the current directory is not included in the PATH by default. If you prefix the dot and the slash, the path to the file is passed to the shell, which looks for it exactly at the specified location. In fact, the shell doesn’t search the PATH at all when an absolute or relative path (other than just the filename) is specified.

Here’s something to try, but make sure you immediately undo it by exiting the terminal: Add the current directory to the PATH variable in your current shell by typing in

export PATH=$PATH:.

Now, you can run your executable without the dot slash!

WARNING: As noted in the comments below, this change has security implications. The above command will last only for the current terminal session – the changes to the PATH variable will be lost when you exit the terminal. Make sure you do not make this change permanent.

How about using the absolute path?

Since the dot slash helps the shell find the executable by specifying the directory, providing the absolute path without the dot prefix also works.

People might think you always need the dot to be prefixed, even when using absolute paths, but that doesn’t work because you end up prefixing the path to the current directory in addition to the complete path.

Note that you can also execute files using a relative path, in the form of <sub-dir>/<executable>, for example.