Friday, February 3, 2012

A Predictable Story

When Sharad received the 5th email of the day with the subject of a million pound win, he could barely control his temper. Almost with his full force, he dropped his palm. The mouse moved in an irritated fashion over the screen. His co-researcher, James, raised his head across the table.
"Any news from patent office ?"
"Yes, they offered a million pound deal" - exclaimed Sharad. Exercising a bit more control in his voice than it was there a moment ago.
"We should celebrate !" - James was real. It is in his nature to take every word for truth.
"No, not really - it is a spam." 
"I see."

Sharad was impatient with the flurry of mails he is receiving since yesterday. He is actually expecting a couple of serious mails. Like from the patent office, whether his compression techniques geared for cloud computing gets the nod or not. Another is from an attorney, who represents CoolCloud. It is a hot high-tech start-up from Silicon Valley dealing with exactly the same topics - Sharad had been researching for last 4 years. He is hopeful, though his supervisor is not optimistic that, CoolCloud will be interested in his technology. And in effect, will cough up enough geld (the term his supervisor uses in Deutsch, meaning money) for Sharad to take a year off in cruise trip.

Instead, he received around 50 emails since yesterday. Today, 5, within first one hour of work. Sharad took a cigarette break.

He lighted up the cigarette in the cold breeze outside the new building. It is fashionable now, to promote, no smoking zones. It feels like a sanctuary. At least, in Europe, they reserve some open smoking area. In his hometown in India, which boasts of a new airport now, he was forced to smoke in a tiny enclosure with 20 other people. Well, the smoke felt good. But, the lack of privacy did not. People almost tipped over others. Sharad hates crowd. 

He likes rooms, with ante-chambers and press alarms. So that, for lighting his cigarette someone can appear from nowhere. And disappear at will. As in old movies.

The smoke recoiled fast along the wind.

Sharad let the moment pass in a quick reflection. CoolCloud featured among all the big award lists for start-ups when it was launched. Within 2 years, it boasts of a clientele that requires them to store almost every digital data in planet earth. Bundled together with their fancy mail service and techno-search engine - CoolCloud seems unstoppable. Every person is generating giga-bytes of data every day. Added to that, the sophisticated surveillance systems, the random words exchanged on the mobile, browsing the networking sites - all are stored. Every comma, dot and semicolon. Sharad developed a compression technique to keep the growing size of data in check. By converting between forms. An entire conversation stored as a basic mood, indexed with few words. A movie stored as a short story with character motions borrowed from artists. The world is predictable, so predictable - he found. It is redundancy to store every bit of it. He was stunningly right. 

"To dump with CoolCloud" - Jeff, Sharad's supervisor in research lab - quoted. If they dont find the value, we will create the value and sell it. Sharad is game for it. But, he is a bit tired, too. In all of his 28 years of existence, he burnt so much fuel of his life that he needs money to sleep on. 

The breeze is carrying a dry leaf. With a silent motion, the door to Shartroup building, his research home, opened up.

While unlocking his computer, Sharad knew what to do. He just needs moments of nerdiness to handle the bunch of badass spammers that targeted him. He opened his spam filter. The outdated, rubbish spam filtering - that these advanced mail-service prodivers allow - are only based on content. Spammers are bypassing that. He found that he created 10 spam filters on content yesterday. That kept things in a bit check. The 5 spams he received since morning outsmarted all of those. He looked into the mail contents carefully. Perhaps, some hidden similarity to catch the spammer, perhaps a silly grammatical error. There was none. It is not machine generated.

After some effort, he found a poor use of articles, which is common across the 5 mails. "I will like to congratulate you on getting winner's prize" without a "the" appearing before "winner's". That was it. Sharad thought. It took less than 20 minutes to write a perl script for scanning the content and putting a statistical measure of articles to check. Any message going drastically below it will be put into the spam box. He can easily navigate among those once a while. Sharad was pleased with the situation. 

Back from lunch, Sharad discovered 20 messages in the spam box. He opened to find that those are really spams - the bad, the good and Sharad chuckled - he can drink tonight to toast for the spammers. 

He quickly started to experiment on the latest data set that Jeff forwarded to him. These are email conversations downloaded from Sanelounge - a high society networking site. Jeff is interested to know Sharad's compression rate for such discussions. According to him, high society conversations are most unpredictable. Sharad do believe Jeff's intuition. He thinks same. And according to him, the most predictable lot are the drunk college kids. Like Manohar, from his Jounpur college days. A crowded room for all boozers. He shot off to coding.

Around 5 PM, Sharad received a call from Jeff. His data set was still running. 
"Hello Sharad, can you please drop by my office tomorrow morning at 9 am sharp". Jeff is being nice.
"I will be there". 
Sharad understood that Jeff wants to see the results. Jeff can be tough without trying to be. Real tough.
So far 2% of compression could be achieved. Meager savings of space compared to the breathtaking results Sharad achieved elsewhere. But, wait, Sharad knew that discussions turn most predictable in the last bits. The compression code still needs to run for good 22 GB of data. So much for the sanity of the lounge !

Sharad looked into the weather report, checked the upcoming league matches in soccer and pondered about leaving early. Light shower is predicted after 7 pm. He can check the compression ratio from home and get a good sleep before meeting tomorrow morning. James was leaving. He offered Sharad a ride, to which he merrily agreed.

Kushal left a voice message. Sharad deleted it without listening. He is not in a mood of joint drinking tonight. He wants to build his private life, his own private life that is going to start real soon. He preserved a costly champagne for rejoicing alone with the patent offer. Another scotch marked for the offer from CoolCloud. Without letting Jeff know, he made up his own mind to accept a high-paying job offer from CoolCloud - he is sure that will be on the way. He wants to work no more than 1 year transferring his technology to all the cloud servers. And then the life can begin. 

He looked carefully to the scotch, the champagne and put the frozen pizza in the oven. The stage is set. For Sharad Rumani - to enter the world. He was listening to some of the conversations he was compressing. The talks about gold-fitted mobile handsets, the handsome political leaders, the secret health disorders. Sharad is preparing to enter there, even above - all that is crowded could be left. He will just have an island to rest and a cloud above - cool cloud.

Sharad was tempted to check the email.

No mail in the inbox, 214 spams.

Sharad was intrigued. He remotely logged in to buggerfly - the name of his lab workstation. He checked his spam filter and then started browsing the spam box. Many real spams. But, more importantly, 2 mails from CoolCloud. What the heck ! By carefully going through the spambox, Sharad discerned 3 messages in total - 1 from Shashank and 2 from CoolCloud. Shashank was his school-friend, recently devoted to the cause of a backward village, the poor grammar of him launched the mail to Spammer. But, CoolCloud attorney mails to spammer, unbelievable ! After hesitating a bit, he started reading the mail.

"Dear Professor Bujois, Dear Mr. Rumani,

    I am sorry to inform you that my client, CoolCloud Inc., is not interested to.."

Sharad was unable to read any forward. He was stupefied. The aroma of margaritta pizza hanging heavily in the air. Sharad opened another mail. This time, he pressed the mouse harder. He does it everytime, he expects something strongly. The mail read the same except an added article "the" before the company's name.
"Dear Professor Bujois, Dear Mr. Rumani,

  I am sorry to inform you that my client, the CoolCloud Inc., is not interested to.."
Sharad's head was spinning. He betted even a day ago with Jeff that CoolCloud is the best game for his technology. Jeff wanted to start their own online compression engine. Without any license. But, even more than that, Sharad was thinking - did the attorney sent the same mail twice with better usage of articles ? And then, again caught by his article-based spam filter !

The pizza could not clear his thoughts. Sharad looked into the scotch and grabbed it quickly. He looked up into its label, all predictable campaigns. The best malt mix and so on. Ahh, the compression was still running. Sharad opened up the terminal in buggerfly, and could not believe that the compression ratio was 98%. From 2% to 98%, Jeff will be overjoyed.

Sharad opened the scotch and ate the pizza hurriedly. The compression, the hollow mindless trailing discussions in a high society networking place, the curious spam filter and the dumb attorney - all created a rumble in his mind. He knew that he is wasting the moments the scotch deserved but, so is the crowd around him is wasting Sharad - for nothing - he thought. What a sheer waste of every potential for moving the planet around. Even the showers, which are hitting the glass windows are wasted. He threw half the pizza to the bin and opened his terminal. 4 more spam messages by now. 1 from Jeff.

With a peg in his hand, Sharad started to work on the spam filter. He added few more parameters and increased the article error tolerance. A quick run on the spam box, took Jeff's message to the right folder. Sharad was happy. Even without looking into Jeff's mail, he started typing on the reply pane - a habit that he developed since his college days. 

Jeff wrote after receving the attorney mail - he found. Quite naturally. The mail is sent to Sharad only. He wrote that he expected such a casual reply from them. We need to work hard to see through the patent - Sharad has no clue how we can work hard to get the patent approved once it is submitted. And oh yes, Jeff is thinking over a name, with which their technology will be marketed ! Initial suggestions are - Supress, DotStore. Jeff signed off with a good night and reminding of the meeting at 9 am. It is 10 now, Sharad has a night to pass.

Sharad thought of calling Kushal, and quickly changed his decision to open the Sanelounge voice. Total 36 hours of recording. Between multiple parties. He started to listen.

Beautiful voices are those, a bit sensuous. May be stupid talks, may be wayward random directions but, it contains a magic that blends well with scotch. The clients of Sanelounge agrees to converse while making their discussions public. They can handle, and perhaps seek, that publicity. It proved wonderful for Sharad and many not so researchers' work. Suddenly, Sharad heard CoolCloud. He went back and replayed. In a husky backvoice, it appears. It is not clear whether it is a male or female voice but, CoolCloud was mentioned several times. Sharad played it again and again but, could not decipher the english in the background of a roaring loud voice.

He started looking for a voice synthesis engine, there are plenty available for free in the web. He downloaded one, started running in the zone of interest, and quickly was able to lift the booming voice in the foreground. The discussion is much better heard now and was clearer than any scotch Sharad tried.

"We need a real spammer, I mean put intelligent network spams to deliver the content people are unwilling to see."
"How does it fit the purpose of CoolCloud ?"
"We generate erratic behavior, erratic content, all too predictable this world has become. "
"So ?"
"More data to store and CoolCloud can charge higher premiums."
"You heard of the patent application from Bujois group?"
"Exactly that I was talking about, it is all about predictable content."

Sharad splashed his scotch in bitter excitement. He did feel like being inside a predictable dream with a mystic cloud hovering far above his dizzying head and realized that he has to work harder, much harder.

1 comment:

  1. chaaaa gaye sirji ... mazaa aa gaya :)
    super post