India's worst pandemic- Viral misinformation explained through the Kerala elephant death episode

A dangerous virus is at large, and many of us may have been already infected- probably me and you. No, it is not the Corona virus causing the COVID-19 havoc around the world, it is viral misinformation. This virus has already claimed many lives and have already done some real significant damage.

What is viral misinformation?

It may seem too silly a word, but this is not a term coined by me. Organisations and corporations around the world have been trying hard to fight viral misinformation for several years now. Viral misinformation is any false information that convinces people about its authenticity. And many tend to transmit the misinformation, infecting many others. And within a very small fraction of time, it would have already infected a majority of the targeted population. Albeit all the efforts, viral misinformation is probably at its all time high around the world.

How does the misinformation originate and spread?

Viral misinformation strives by exploiting a few vulnerabilities of the human mind. These are very popular psychological aspects of the human mind, that if exploited correctly can trick the mind into believing a completely vague and incorrect information as legit.

[ Image: The elephant in water. Courtesy: Facebook Post ]

Let's take a running example of the recent public outcry over the elephant death in Kerala. The incident was definitely a terrible one, but how it was used as a tool against the people and government of Kerala is perhaps something that deserves to be classified as a text book example.

WYSIATI - What You See Is All That Is

Human mind inherently is tricked into anything it's fed with. Research has proven that to reject an idea (or information) requires much for cognitive effort than to accept it, and human mind is especially weak in identifying the gaps in information in order to reject it. Rather than flagging a limited information as incomplete, the human mind automatically constructs the best possible story with the limited information.

A life through computers- memories of how I became a computer engineer

The first turning point in my life was somewhere in 2001, when my father all of a sudden bought a computer. I have being trying hard to convince him to get one for over a year with various arguments, even to the extend of a claim that all but me in my class had one at their home - I just cleared my 4th standard from a public school. But he fell for it once he was attending some official meeting where they presented some content in powerpoint and it gave him an impression that computers would aid in learning better. And that very same day, he came home with a brand new desktop - a Compaq Presario Desktop, with 64 MB RAM and 32 GB hard disk - it was a big deal at that time.

[ Image (left to right): Our old Compaq Presario desktop monitor; A quote that I found interesting during Microsoft App Fest 2012 ]

As with any kids of that age, me and my brother mostly kept fighting for our slot for gaming, but apart from that I was also deeply intrigued by the working of computer. We had an on-site free repair warranty for a year with that computer, and I should say that none would have used something like that better than me. In that one year, the technician at the store became one like a family member. He had come home several times to fix some mess that I made experimenting with the MS-DOS commands that I learnt when I paid visits to my mothers school. My mother’s school had a mammoth computer with gigantic floppy disks to boot the MS DOS operating system, with which part-time instructors taught basic DOS commands.

A single programming language to do it all! 5 great things you can do with Javascript

Since the beginning of the lockdown, many people have been looking forward to acquire new skills. And I have seen a lot of interest in learning programming languages. I was asked by a few of my junior colleagues, interns and students on which programming language should they invest their time in.

As long as their requirement was generic application development, my advice has been mostly to learn Javascript. That might seem a little strange to many, as Javascript has been long considered as a secondary skill. This is because Javascript was mostly used to develop client side experience for web applications, and as long as you are not working in a company that has the luxury to afford a separate UI development team, Javascript was just another skill that is good to have.

[A screenshot of an application that I am working on using Javascript]

In this blog post, I would try to explain why it is no longer the case, and investing time in Javascript is rewarding than never before. Let's discuss what are the different things that you could do with Javascript.

1. Client-side development for web applications

This is the most obvious of all. Javascript has been in use as the client-side scripting language for years and has easily sidelined others such as VB script and many others.For those who are not aware of what client side scripting is, it is used to build most of that you see while using web applications (or in common language, websites). For an example, you must have noticed that an advertisement popup was displayed almost immediately after the page was loaded, this was done through a client side scripting language - which in my case was Javascript.

Javascript in its original form is increasingly not used for client side development. Rather, it is replaced with a class of frameworks called Javascript Libraries. A few popular examples would be React, Angular, Vue.js etc. which recently emerged, and legacy JS frameworks like ExtJS, Dojo etc.

How you were using Facebook all wrong and how to fix it

There may not be quite a few without a Facebook profile. And for those who don't, I'd say they are the lucky ones - they don't have to struggle with how to use it right. In this blog post, I try to guide you introspect a little on your usage of Facebook and suggest a few changes in how you could get better at it. And of course, all these applies to other numerous social media accounts, like Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn etc. Before getting started, I would like to ask you a few questions:

  1. What were your intentions when you signed up?
  2. Did you ever track how much time you spend on Facebook?
  3. Does using Facebook make you happier or more irked, once you are done?
  4. Do you use Facebook more as a source for news?
  5. Do you validate the contents that you find on Facebook?
  6. How mindful are you of your privacy with respect to Facebook?

If not done already, please go through the questions and prepare an answer before you proceed. Now lets get started getting in depth on those questions.

[Image Courtesy: Mike MacKenzie via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikemacmarketing/35508195764]

What were your intentions when you signed up?

Most of whom I ask this question replied that they signed up with the intensions of keeping in touch with their friends, making new friends, and constructively engage with people. As you have guessed, let me ask you the follow up question- did you feel that it was how you ended up with? Most of us would have to confess that the answer is "no".

How Kerala fights COVID-19 through efficient governance

Kerala was the first state in India to have reported a COVID-19 case, but has contained the epidemic exemplarily well in its first wave. Although the current number of cases as a result of the second wave stands at one of the largest in the country, the Kerala model of battling COVID-19 has been praised by many international organisations.

[Image: The number of cases in Kerala remained low for a long time before the surge. Source: The Hindu (https://www.thehindu.com/data/data-kerala-leads-all-states-in-testing-for-coronavirus-maharashtra-in-infections/article31146300.ece)]

This post is on how Kerala combats a global pandemic and how a very efficient governance system is at the heart of the battle.

Why is the large number of infections?

So let's start with the most obvious question - why is Kerala having a very high incidence rate relative to other states? Is it because of the curse of God on Kerala as claimed by various hate mongers on social media? I'll try to answer this through certain established facts.

Foods to try in Goa - Delicacies of a lifetime

Our trip to Goa was an unexpected one. Not very well planned, needless to say we did not plan on the places to visit, places to dine etc. But the trip was a fabulous one, more for the food we got to try in Goa.

When I came back and discussed with my friends who were regulars in Goa, it was a surprise that most of them were neither aware of the food, nor the places where we had those. This prompted me to put up a blog on this - the unspoken part of a Goan trip - the delicacies one would find in Goa.

Continental breakfast at Caravela Cafe And Bistro, Panjim

The first thing I looked for once I reached Goa (Panjim) was a place to eat. I was not interested in the regular much used-to breakfast items, so started searching for something unique. It was more of a coincidence that I found this wonderful small bistro just near the place where I alighted.

Caravela Cafe and Bistro is a modest bistro in the streets of Panjim, not very far from the Panjim market. It was run by a sweet lady who made us feel that we are somewhere outside India. Even more was the effect of the food, it was just delicious!! Better than any continental food that I have had in India.

We ordered a chicken club sandwitch and a plate of toast and scrambled eggs.

Chicken club sandwitch

My first impression on getting the sandwitch served was if we would be able to finish it by ourselves. There were four sets of multi-layered thick sandwitch slices that were served. Each parts had three slices of bread and sandwitched between them, a chicken steak, lettuce, cheese and veggies.

Also, it was served with a good number of french fried potato sticks and a few sauces for sides. The worries of not being able to finish eased with time, as both of us found the taste hard to resist, even at the cost of a little heavy feeling.