How I hire writers

Now with the goodness of Hacker News and reddit. Thank you everyone for doing a great job proof reading the post.

Do checkout stackmonthly. A monthly roundup of best questions on

Good, creative writers are the backbone of our business. We try to hire and retain the best of them.

Our interview process is aimed to make the process efficient and objective. This ensures that we do not have to waste time in our hiring process and get back to real work ASAP. I outline the process below; in case someone else is interested. Continue reading

Modi’s strategy for India

Narendra Damodardas Modi, an outsider to national politics, inspired a massive fan following to give BJP an absolute majority. The road to victory was paved with well-meaning promises to out-right hyperbole. What is undeniable is his single-minded pursuit to victory.

So, is Prime Ministership too big for Modi to handle? Does he have a plan to deliver on his promises? Is there a strategy in place? I think, as always, Modi has a single-minded strategy and it’s “Make in India“.

Make in India is a central piece of Modi’s strategy. Everything else either supports this or is mere lip service. Make in India is the meant to restart the economy, generate employment, reduce dependency on imports and bring “Achhe Din“. So Make in India is Modi’s single-minded pursuit. His actions make it crystal clear that it is all he cares about and has thought it through.

What does Make in India need? What does manufacturing need? Money, skilled people, land, energy, infrastructure, conducive environment, and a large market.

Therefore we see Modi waltzing the country and the world inviting capital, highlighting “Demography, Democracy and Demand”. Read that again, he’s highlighting skilled people, conducive environment and large market. In addition he’s working on the National Skill Development, reforming land and labour laws, building roads and ports and aiming at power surplus. He’s gone as far as avoiding signing a strict climate change policy commitment. He’s adopted the international scale of “Ease of doing business” to measure the improvements, and is making the states compete with each other. He’s literally dragging the states into falling into line or falling behind. He’s shuffling the babus until he’s happy.

The foreign policy, the environment policy, the fiscal policy, the energy policy everything is to support manufacturing. So, is it working? I think there are some green shoots. FDI has risen 100%. Electricity production is at growing at an all time high of 10%, and even surplus. But Land and Tax reform are stuck in Rajya Sabha.

Apart from Make In India, he’s done some work for the betterment of the lowest rung of society. The drive against open defecation, health and life insurance made accessible, direct debit of subsidy along with the massive drive to open bank accounts. I’m not sure if they are part of a strategy or not, but could be. Especially how Jan Dhan Yojana is linked to insurance and direct debit and all linked to Aadhar. So the strategy might unravel in days to come.

Everything else that in not supporting the goal is not getting any attention. So whether it is his pet schemes of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Namami Gange, or the black money bill – not much except lip service. Health, education (except to support manufacturing), safety and freedom/rights of citizens are overlooked subjects. By overlooked, I mean there is no change is status quo and the Modi government is happy to blame the previous one for all short comings in these areas. I hope not that issues like the women safety will gain attention only if it prevents Make in India.

The strategy Modi has embarked upon takes time. Building infrastructure and manufacturing capacity takes time and for their positive effects to reach the citizens takes even longer. Modi is playing to a two term game plan. However the average middle class Indian, the biggest Modi supporter is feeling left out. Nothing has been done for them. These people have now become vocal, thanks to social media. So the social media that elevated Modi to the top post, might result in his down fall too. There might not me a second term, because no one has the patience to wait for 7-8 years for achhe din to arrive, even if that’s the only realistic time frame.

Let’s see if Modi has a plan for this too.

The art of achieving perfection

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The story of Maven is a journey towards perfection.

What started as common sense, slowly evolved into a way of doing things – the Artha Shastra way. The ad-hoc, piece meal approach gave way to a structured and systematic approach to problem-solving. This was step one of removing the cruft and starting on the path to perfection.

However, this methodology that was still so complex that people paid good money and spent valuable time to try and understand it. Here was the next step, to remove the complexity by using machines to do what they are good at and let humans use their intelligence to guide the machines towards the larger goal. Thus began the journey of Maven development.

The third step of simplification was to present non-linear, non-intuitive effects, which arguably mimic the butterfly effect, to appear simple and linear, more like the domino effect. Lots of late nights with the UX experts finally helped us achieve the same.

The fourth step was the development, or rather the lack of it. The discussion of what would remain in the product and what would be left out. It was more than a quest for a minimum viable product; it was to reduce the overall complexity of the product while being useful for a large set of use cases.

And we are currently in the final stages of achieving perfection. How do we communicate the benefits of Maven is a clear and concise manner. We can speak volumes about the goodness of Maven, but as always, perfection lies in taking away until there is nothing left to take away. And we are getting closer with every deleted word and rewritten sentence.

Stay tuned to know more about Maven and how it can help you achieve perfection in your service delivery.

How to build the unimaginable?

Get started…

Those were my thoughts when I took up the challenge of building Maven (then known as Project Andromeda).

There were so many reasons not to do it, unfinished and continuously evolving specs, unknown complexity, several dependencies, no development team in place, no clear target user, unproven market, extremely aggressive deadlines, fear of running out of money etc. But there was one important reason to do it: it hasn’t been done before.

Having decided that I want to do it, how do I go about it?

Well there is only one way to build software, to start building it. It cannot be done by sitting on the side-lines and waiting for things to fall into place before you begin. It needs a team to be built, need analysis, write specs, design, architect, code, test… and building Maven meant that we were doing all of these at once.

And then we celebrate…

The thrill of seeing the thoughts of several people in bytes and pixels is difficult to articulate. We know that we have just scratched the surface, and there is a ton of work to be done, but we also know that the journey ahead is much more manageable than what we have went through.

Why copy-cats don’t keep me up at night.

It takes a special type of environment to achieve something like this. You need people who are willing to suspend disbelief, embrace chaos, put their careers on the line and work with single minded focus to make it happen. Maven could not be built in an enterprise environment. It would take over 10 person-years to complete, and will be way behind what Maven would be by then. But to ensure that Maven is years ahead of competition, we cannot rest on what has been achieved and continue to innovate and create new benchmarks.


There are different stages of prototyping, which increase in fidelity and time taken to create. Therefore it is important to start with low fidelity tools and move further as the ideas are more concrete. Some of these tools are

  • Story-boarding
  • Creating Paper Prototypes
  • Digital Mock-ups
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Video Prototypes


This technique involves rough sketches which tell a story. It should have the stage (people, task being done), the script (actions, sequences of steps) and the outcome (fulfilled motivations, satisfaction). Since these are lowest fidelity tools, a harsh timelines, like 10min per storyboard, fells keep the focus and discovering various options.


Storyboarding helps in keeping the focus on the problem being solved, instead on the UI. Thus having a common understanding of the goal and avoiding bike-shedding.

Paper prototyping

Paper prototypes are mock-ups of the UI using paper, post-its, sketch pens, scissors and glue, and other materials depending on creativity.

This technique helps in discovery of a good UI, and all stakeholders can easily contribute.

Once a good UI is discovered using paper prototypes, we can move onto the next stage.

Digital Mock-ups

These are the digital version of the paper prototypes and can be created by a variety of tools like, Photoshop, balsamic or HTML.

These let you refine the UI before developing the actual application.

Wizard of Oz

This technique involves simulating what the machine will do using human operators. This is a very high fidelity prototype, where the users might think it is the real deal. But instead of coding the back-end, we only have the UI, while the back-end is powered by humans. This is especially useful if writing the back-end is an expensive task, like using machine learning etc.

Advantages of wizards

  • Places the user at the center of development
  • Faster and more iterative prototypes
  • Identifies bugs and problems with current design
  • Can envision challenging-to-build applications

Disadvantages of wizards

  • Simulations may simulate technologies that do not exist or really hard to build.

Video Prototypes

These can be thought of as the video depiction of the storyboard. Therefore it should also have the entire flow, including motivation and success. But instead of drawing, you show the user and the settings in a video.

However, videos, especially audio can be a huge time sink and so should be used appropriately and aim at telling the story instead of perfection.

HCI: Need Finding

It is the process of observing people to discover their needs, goals, and values. Although the course if about “Human Computer Interaction”, the process of need finding is relevant to developing new products or even new businesses.

A good starting point for any new product is to clearly identify an existing problem or need. That’s because finding a big problem and need often yields important untapped opportunities. Observing people also helps build empathy and think from their point of view. So, how do we observe people and identify their needs?

Participant Observation

Observe the users and their behavior in context (performing the activity). This is most useful when you want to see users in their element and learn about their experience.

While observing, we seek answers to these questions:

  1. What do people do now?
  2. What values and goals do people have?
  3. How are these particular activities embedded in a larger context, or the big picture?
  4. Similarities and differences across people
  5. …and other types of context, like time of day

While observing people, pay particular attention to any hacks or workarounds. These could be a gold mine for new ideas.
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