Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wordpress vs. Blogger: Why you should also make the switch

This is merely a momentary departure from the usual satire, so please bear with me.

(In this post: Find out how to import your old blog posts to your new blog site in just minutes)

After careful consideration, I have recently decided to shift my web log from Wordpress to Blogger. The following piece seeks to highlight my findings and observations, which some of you may find useful.

Where Wordpress wins:

1. It is most definitely a service provider with slicker templates and a more sophisticated overall design. However, you would be required to download an appropriate version of the Wordpress blog tool and personally host your own site to truly appreciate this benefit. The free version which I had the luxury of enduring for a few months, offered very little room for tinkering.

2. It offers a wide range of statistics which enables you to track the performance of your blog.

3. It also permits the display of multiple pages, which somehow seems to be a feature in Blogger that I haven’t quite discovered as yet.

4. Finally, for those of you who enjoy a debate or two, it offers scope for the editing of both user comments as well as your own responses in terms of discussions that take place on your blog.

Where Blogger prevails:

1. It permits HTML editing. This is a priceless feature which the free version of Wordpress does not offer. This ability to edit your blog’s HTML code essentially opens the window for countless possibilities.

For example, the lack of a statscounter is instantly resolved by including a code offered by service providers such as

And of course, opportunities for revenue generating through the likes of Google’s AdSense, also open up due to such HTML editing capabilities. This provides an entirely new commercial dimension to the list of incentives to use Blogger.

2. It offers better design control over your blog. Blogger possesses a number of tools that enables template editing which ranges from fonts and colors to adding a feed from YouTube. Thus the scope for personalizing your blog is indeed far greater.

One of the main problems faced by bloggers who wish to switch between blog providers is the feasibility involved in importing old posts to the new blog site. I encountered this very issue in attempting to import my posts on Wordpress to its new Blogspot location. The problem is now adequately dealt with through the use of a simple piece of software located here.

All things considered, I find the move to be a reasonably good one. However, the true prudence of this migration of sorts may only be tested with time.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Caste in Stone: The dirty little secret you ought to know

The ethnic conflict in the North and East has quite understandably drawn much attention away from many of the other social evils which perpetuate in this country. While there is still much activism against drug abuse, pedophilia and domestic violence, a field trip to Hambantota sometime back, revealed to me a stark reality which I still struggle to cope with.The caste system of Sri Lanka is thought by many to be a bygone of the past. However, it occurred to me that the system, rather than ‘no longer existing’, is now merely ‘swept under our carpets’.

My assignment in Hambantota related to evaluating an NGO which worked with beneficiaries at the grass root level. The work, as is observed in many grass root level organizations, was admirable and sincere, and in most cases changed the lives of the beneficiaries. The anti-NGO sentiment we all consider as the general consensus amongst rural folk is in my experience almost non-existent. This sentiment is rather a product of the local administration which struggles to cope with the needs of poverty stricken families, and resents the dependency placed on these organizations. However, as the assignment took me deeper into the inner workings of this support system, I observed a tiny anomaly. There were cases of mysterious discrimination which were not on ethnic or religious lines.

Due to professional commitments, I cannot publish the details of the account. However, it was revealed to me that this discrimination was based purely on the caste to which individuals belonged. Such was the extent of this underground system, that the organizations that worked in these areas were forced to work within caste lines in order to reach their beneficiaries.

This is how it worked: the Government Agent is usually of a particular caste and has “obligations” towards assisting his own caste members. The local grass root level NGOs are usually desperate to gain access to beneficiaries and for this they need the cooperation of the local authorities. The GA then directs the NGOs to his own caste constituency, thereby ensuring the development of his own caste, a noble maneuver, no doubt. And finally, since the NGO’s mandate does not relate to the eradication of the caste system but rather deals purely with poverty alleviation, the organization reinforces the system by working through it.

Many foreign donor organizations are seemingly unaware of this system. However, the manner in which one must address this issue remains uncertain. On the one hand, we all agree that the archaic and notorious caste system is completely contrary to the concept of universal human rights. But on the other hand, we must cope with the issue of whether some good work is better than none.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Wildebeest behind Wheels: All you need to know about Colombo’s roads

Do you ever wonder what causes drivers to behave the way they do on our roads? I often do, since I tend to presume that we are not all that bad in real life. We just seem to permit a miserable, self-centered spirit to possess us each time we take the wheel.

Let me begin with a simple illustration. It’s raining and there is bumper to bumper traffic. The traffic lights before you display the colour green, and it is your rightful turn to go. However, there is very little opportunity for you to proceed, since your lane is neatly obstructed by vehicles traveling across it. If one vehicle decides to chance the red light, it is often followed by three or four opportunists who feel the necessity to tag along for moral support. And just to put the icing on the cake, the bus behind you honks impatiently with the hope that somehow you are Moses and you didn’t forget your magic staff.

Now what is the root cause of this predicament? Is it the lack of education, poor infrastructure, incompetent driving or just plain bad manners? In my opinion, the primary source lies elsewhere. The reason for what has been described by some as the worst driving in the world (barring India of course) is simply the existence of herd mentality.

Sri Lanka’s roads are indeed a step back from civilization and a step into the wilderness. Only the strongest may survive, and by strong, I mean drivers who possess the skill and the confidence to stake their claim using an array of weapons which includes curses, glares and, of course, a well-tuned horn. All this effort merely to gain a few extra minutes (and perhaps lose a few extra hairs…)

So why put it down to herd mentality? Ask yourself a few simple questions about our drivers and the issue may become slightly clearer.

1) Why is it that we take a few minutes to react to a green light, whereas we honk profusely when the driver in front of us fails to react instantaneously to an amber light?

2) Why is the use of the horn and the head lamps second nature to us, while around the world, they are reserved for emergencies?

3) Why is it that hardly anyone ever offers an opportunity to another vehicle to access his/her lane, while hardly anyone ever displays gratitude to the few that permit such access?

If you really think about it, there’s absolutely no valid reason for the lack of road etiquette in this country, except that we’re just not used to it.

Individuals that have driven abroad remain appalled at the abysmal standards seen here, and as much as it dents the ego, they are often correct in their analysis. The sad fact remains that everyone agrees that the standards are poor, yet continue to contribute towards perpetuating these standards. And please, let us not point fingers at the buses and the taxis. It would be a shame to admit that buses and taxis set the benchmark for everyone else to follow.

The fundamental issue to be addressed in this case relates to how people approach the law in general. Law must under most circumstances be buttressed by some form of sanction. Though sanctions themselves can be disincentives to violating the law, it seems inevitable that modern society demands that there be some manifest framework of positive incentives for upholding the law. This, if you really think about it, is a ridiculous position to hold. However, in the case of road rules, the lack of such manifest incentives simply proves the existence of this “ridiculous” predicament.

So, are we to be likened to a herd of hoofed beasts that needs to be driven by incentives in order to follow a simple set of rules? I hope not, but the signs remain discouragingly negative. The solution to all our road woes may lie within a simple law-abiding attitude. Or is it really that simple?

Thank you for reading.