## Who else are you in touch with?

Thing with catching up with old friends/acquaintances is that you sometimes don’t know if you still connect with them. It might be a while since you last met, and having moved on in different directions, there is a very good chance that you don’t connect with each other at all. Yes, there is the environment you shared several years back that connects you, but when that becomes the only source of connection, it can get rather boring and you might be itching for the conversation to be over.

In order to determine whether you still connect with an old friend/acquaintance, I have a simple test. I must warn you that this test has no predictive power – it won’t tell you before you meet your friend if you connect with him/her or not. It, however, analyzes post the event how well you connected. And can help you make a decision if you have an opportunity to meet them again.

Invariably, I’ve found that when you catch up with old friends, sooner or later, one of you will ask the other, “so who else are you in touch with?”. Between any two people, there are always these “filler lines”, what you say when you realize you have nothing to talk about. With old friends/acquaintances, it is this. Remember that your only connection is the environment you shared a while back, and the other people that inhabited that environment. So, in the absence of anything else to talk about, you end up talking about this.

The metric (I know I’ve been meandering) is this: from the time you meet your old friend/acquaintance, measure how much time it takes before the conversation goes to “so who else are you in touch with”. This gives you an indication of how well you connect with this person. The longer the time gap between you people meeting and this question coming up, the better you connect – it simply means you have so many other things to talk about, so this doesn’t come up.

This afternoon I met  a friend from school and in the hour and quarter we spoke, this question never came up. This indicates that I still connect with him pretty well. At the other extreme there have been people with whom the question has been popped within five minutes of meeting – showing how far we’ve drifted and there’s absolutely nothing to connect us any more.

There are times I’ve been surprised, either way. Once I met a senior from school not knowing if I had much to talk to him. The question was popped only forty five minutes into the conversation. We’ve subsequently met a couple of times. Other people I’ve gone to meet thinking of a dozen things to talk to only for them to start the conversation with “who have you been in touch with?”

I’d once visited Bishop Cotton’s Boys’ School in Bangalore (for a chess tournament) and noticed this board somewhere in the school. It said (paraphrasing):

Great minds discuss ideas,
Middling minds discuss events,
Small minds discuss people.

## Moron Astrology

So this morning I was discussing my yesterday’s post on astrology and vector length with good friend and esteemed colleague Baada. Some interesting fundaes came out of it. Since Baada has given up blogging (and he’s newly married now so can’t expect him to blog) I’m presenting the stuff here.

So basically we believe that astrology started off as some kind of multinomial regression. Some of ancestors observed some people, and tried to predict their behaviour based on the position of their stars at the time of their birth. Maybe it started off as some arbit project. Maybe if blogs existed then, we could say that it started off as a funda session leading up to a blog post.

So a bunch of people a few millenia ago started off on this random project to predict behaviour based on position of stars at the time of people’s birth. They used a set of their friends as the calibration data, and used them to fix the parameters. Then they found a bunch of acquaintances who then became the test data. I’m sure that these guys managed to predict behaviour pretty well based on the stars – else the concept wouldn’t have caught on.

Actually it could have gone two ways – either it fit an extraordinary proportion of people in which case it would be successful; or it didn’t fit a large enough proportion of people in which case it would have died out. Our hunch is that there must have been several models of astrology, and that natural selection and success rates picked out one as the winner – none of the other models would have survived since they failed to predict as well on the initial data set.

So Indian astrology as we know it started off as a multinomial regression model and was the winner in a tournament of several such models, and has continued to flourish to this day. Some problem we find with the concept:

• correlation-causation: what the initial multinomial regression found is that certain patterns in the position of stars at the time of one’s birth is heavily correlated with one’s behaviour. The mistake that the modelers and their patrons made was the common one of associating correlation with causation. They assumed that the position of stars at one’s birth CAUSED one’s behaviour. They probably didn’t do much of a rigorous analysis to test this out
• re-calibration: another problem with the model is that it hasn’t been continuously recalibrated. We continue to use the same parameters as we did several millenia ago. Despite copious quantities of new data points being available, no one has bothered to re-calibrate the model. Times have changed and people have changed but the model hasn’t kept up with either. Now, I think the original information of the model has been lost so no one can recalibrate even if he/she chooses to

Coming back to my earlier post, one can also say that Western astrology is weaker than Indian astrology since the former uses a one-factor regression as against the multinomial regression used by the latter; hence the former is much weaker at predicting.

## Hug Theories

This is some kind of a chow-chow bhath post – I’ve aggregated several concepts related to hugging and the Mata Amrita Index and am putting them in one place.

Firstly, is hugging a cost or a benefit? This thought came to my head recently when I was really thankful to a friend and wanted to express my appreciation by giving her a hug. Then, doubts crept into mind if she would actually consider a hug from me as a reward, and I finally ended up desisting. So the basic funda is would she consider hugging me as a cost or as a benefit? If the former, my thank you hug would have the adverse effect, while it would’ve been just fine if it were the latter.

And what about me? I was thinking of hugging her as “a reward”. What does that say about my mindset about hugging her? Do I consider it as a cost or as a benefit? If the latter, I’m not really being thankful to her but am just using the occasion to put hug. And if I considered hugging her as a “cost” would I be able to hug her properly enough for her to feel my gratitude?

Then, how does this tie in with the bilateral Mata Amrita Index? Is it obvious that if both of us consider hugging each other as a cost, our bilateral MAI will be low? Is it obvious that if both of us consider hugging each other as a benefit, our BMAI will be high? What if I consider hugging you as a cost while you consider it as a benefit? How will our BMAI profile be? Let me know what you think about this.

The other thing I want to rant about is this concept of a “half-hug” or a “sideways-hug” where only the shoulders of the huggers touch each other, and most of the rest of the torsoes are separated. People say that this is usually used with acquaintances, and in social occasions. I fundamentally dislike this concept. It’s neither here nor there, and I believe that this creates discomfort in both parties. If at least one of the two parties considers hugging the other as a cost, this half-hug will be on the whole uncomfortable (from my limited experience, you can’t enjoy a hug if at least one of the parties is not feeling comfortable). Is it really worth it? Wouldn’t it be better to just shake hands?

So I fail to understand how this concept has still survived. Wouldn’t a judicious combination of handshake and proper hug be enough to eliminate this? On my part, I’m doing my best in order to not half-hug/side-hug. If I’m completely comfortable with the counterparty, I put full hug. Else handshake. And call me homophobic, but as a rule I don’t hug other guys.

Another question is how do you hug when one of you is significantly taller than the other? Priyanka, who claims to be an expert on the subject, says that one option is for the taller person to marginally lift the shorter person to bring him/her to the same level, but isn’t that too cumbersome? Does there exist a more elegant solution to this problem? And don’t suggest sideways-hug – I don’t want one party to be smelling the other’s armpits.

## Arranged Scissors 5 – Finding the Right Exchange

If you look at my IIMB grade card, one subject stands out. It is one of the two Cs that I have on the card, and the other was in a “dead rubber” (5th/6th term where grades didn’t matter for placements). This C was in introductory marketing management. Where the major compoenent was a group project called the application exercise (ap-ex). I frequently crib that I did badly in that project because four out of six people in my group did no work, or even negative work (and this is true). Digging deeper, however, I think the more fundamental issue was that the two of us who worked didn’t really know what we were doing. We failed to understand the concept of STP till a few years after the project was over.

STP is one of the most fundamental concepts in marketing. It stands for Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. I quickly appreciated Positioning, but took a long time in trying to figure out the difference between segmentation and targeting. In my defence, they are highly inter-related concepts, and unless you look at it from the point of view of social sciences (where each unique point fetches you one mark in the board exam) it is not intuitive that they are separate concepts.

So you segment the “population” based on various axes. Taking these axes in conjunction, you end up “segmenting” the population into a large number of hypercubes. Then you do the “targeting”. Find the set of hypercubes that you want to sell your product to (in the context this post is about, sell yourself to). And so once you have found your “target segment” or set of “target segments” you “position yourself” and go out to sell. And then you need to figure out the “4 Ps” of marketing. Product (fixed here – it’s you). Price (irrelevant if you don’t plan to take dowry). Forgot one P. The other is Place (where you will sell).

The arranged marriage market can be broadly be divided into two – OTC and exchanges. OTC (over the counter) is the case where you have a mutual acquaintance setting you up with a counterparty. The only difference here between arranged and normal scissors is that in the arranged case, it is your parents who are set up with the counterparty’s parents rather you getting set up directly. Since it is a mutual acquaintance doing the setting up, the counterparty is at max two degrees away, and this makes the due diligence process a lot easier. Also, you have one interested third party who will keep nudging you and pushing hte process back and forth and generally catalyzing it. So people in general prefer it. Historically, there were no formal exchanges (apart from say a few “well known village elders”). Most transactions were OTC.

One problem in financial OTC markets is counterparty risk (which is what has prompted the US government to prop up AIG) but this is not a unique problem with OTC arranged marriage market – counterparty risk will always be there irrespective of the method in which the relationship was formed. Apart from providing counterparty protection, one important role that financial exchanges play is to improve liquidity in the market. The number of transactions that happen in the exchange ensure that the market is efficient and prices are fair. Liquidity is an important asset in the arranged marriage exchanges also.

The problem that I’m trying to describe in this post is about segmenting the exchanges based on their most popular commodity types. I don’t have reall live examples of this, but then for each product you will want to go to a different exchange. For example (this example may not be factually correct) both the Chicago Board of Trade (CBoT) and Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) trade in both corn futures and cattle futures. However, the volume of corn futures that are traded on CBoT is significantly larger than the volume of corn futures traded on the CME. And the volume of cattle futures traded on the CME might be siginicantly larger than the corresponding volume in CBoT.

So if you want to buy cattle futures, you are better off going to the CME rather than the CBoT since the former has significantly greater liquidity in this product, and thus you are assured of getting a “fairer” price. Similarly, to buy corn you should rather go to CBoT than CME. I suppose you get the drift. Now, the same is true with the arranged marriage market also. If you want to get listed on an exchange, you will need to make sure that you get listed on the right exchange – the exchange where you are most likely to find people belonging to your target segment.

To take an example, if you think you want a Tamil-speaking spouse, you are significantly better off listing on tamilmatrimony.com rather than listing on telugumatrimony.com, right? Of course this is just a simplistic example which I have presented because the segmentation and difference in markets is clear. Things in the real world are not so easy.

There are various kinds of marriage exchanges around. In fact, this has been a flourishing profession for a large number of years, and even the recent boom in louvvu marriages has done nothing to stem the flow of this market. You will have every swamiji in every mutt who will want to perform social service by opening a marriage exchange. Then, you have a few offline for-profit exchanges. Some of them work on a per-deal basis. Others charge you for listing, since it is tough for them to track the relationships that they’ve managed to create. Then, this is one business which has clearly survived the dotcom bust of 2001-02. The fact that this business is flourishing can be seen on the left sidebar of this page where I suppose a large number of them will be advertising. In fact, I encourage you to click through them since that will result in precious adsense revenue for me.

There is nothing wrong in carpet bombing, but that comes at a price. Notwithstanding the listing fees (which are usually nominal), you will have to deal with a significantly large number of “obviously misfit” CVs and bump them off. Especially if you live far away from the exchanges and have someone else broking for you, you don’t want to burden them too much, right? So the problem is in doing your segmentation and targeting. And then researching the exchanges to find which exchange has most liquidity for products belonging to both your segment as well as your target segment. And get listed on them ratehr than wasting precious time, energy and money listing on exchanges that are unlikely to be useful.

Since I began this (extremely long) post with marketing fundaes, I should complete it with some more (which is irrelevant to the rest of this post). A standard process for advertising is AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action). Typically for a relationship to “happen”, you need a minimum of D from at least one of the parties, and a minimum of I from the other party. The normal arranged marriage process, however, assumes that an I-I is a sufficient condition for a sufficient lifelong relationship, and don’t give enough time and space for people to check if D is there. Hence the disasters. Hence the tilt towards the CMPs.

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare

## Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

One of the most important parts of the arranged marriage process is due diligence. This is done at various levels.  First there is the parental due diligence – and the first thing that is done is to check if the counterparty’s parents and other close relatives are financially sound. Then there is a check run on the counterparty’s siblings and cousins – to make sure that moral fibre is of the highest quality. And last but not the least, there is personal DD, which is the most interesting.

Of particular interest is the counterparty’s past affairs. This wasn’t much in the limelight till about 10 years back when there was a case where a girl got her arranged fiance murdered since she wanted to marry her boyfriend. After that, people who had so far been in denial regarding people’s boyfriends and girlfriends woke up to the fact that they needed to check if the other party was single as claimed. Nowadays, people go great lengths in order to check this.

Last month I received a call from my friend who told me that one of his friends was “in the market” and was in the process of checking out an acquaintance of mine. So this friend asked me to do a background check on this acquaintance. And I called up one friend who called up another friend who confirmed that this girl was indeed very “decent” (at least that was the message I got- considering that there were two channels of communication before me, I don’t know what the actual message was) and I propagaed it (I promise I didn’t distort it).

Then, there is this uncle who is well-connected. Ok I’m digressing a bit – this is not about arranged marriage, but since we are on the topic of due diligence, this example deserves merit. So this uncle who is well connected wanted to do a background check on his daughter’s boyfriend. Not knowing any other common link, he did what he knew well – pulled strings. The boy used to work for a fairly large IT company and my uncle managed to get in touch with the boy’s HR director and got confidential character files pulled out in order to confirm that his daughter had indeed chosen a decent guy.

The problem with such widespread due diligence is that you need to keep people who you don’t like in your good books. Becauase due diligence works on a “no second chance” principle. Most people collect data from a number of sources. And if at least one of those sources says “indecent” then jai only. Death only are there for inherently unpopular people like me (i’ve recently discovered that I’m a hard person to like; and it takes people considerable effort to start liking me). The fact that I’ve one time or the other ended up pissing off at least half my extended family makes me wonder if I should exit this market and go back to the old-fashioned way of trying to find someone for myself by myself. That much said, I think I’ve applied enough maska on extended family members who I think are well-connected.

I think if this whole due diligence process gets documented well, then it could make for some interesting social network analysis. How does someone try to find someone who might know you? What is the average number of steps that one needs to follow in order to find someone who knows this counterparty? What kind of people are likely to be more involved in writing due diligence reports – people who are very well connected or the quiet types? Does an increased online presence have any effect on the amount of due diligence that various counterparties do?

I don’t know how one can find good data for this.

Earlier:

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

## Year Ending Post

Last december 31, I wrote a this day that year post. Two years back, I had published a short story. The year before, I had written about the events of the day, and one year prior I was mugging for what was going to be a disastrous marketing exam. As I am writing this, I’m playing scrabble on facebook, and bridge with my computer. I’m listening to music, and am planning to hit the sack soon.

This afternoon I received a mail from my boss, which he said is a standard format mail he sends to friends and colleagues. It was full of pictures of him and his wife and his kids, and stories about what they did this year. About the changes and special events in each of their lives. About how the year has been from different perspectives. And so forth. I think I have received a couple of other similar mails (from US based people – this might be some american funda; my boss also lived in America till early this year) from other acquaintances (though, without pics) which I haven’t bothered to read. Since I’m clueless about what to write, I think I’ll just do a standard year-end roundup.

The most significant thing for me was my move to Gurgaon, and to this new job. That had been preceded by four months of joblessness, and more than two years of acute NED (in fact, I think it was during this period of extended NED that I actually invented the term NED).

The concept of NED also seemed to advance by leaps and bounds this year. I have heard of people who are at least three degrees away from me use it. The message of this concept seems to be spreading. I am sure that one day it will be famous, but then I’m not sure if I, as its inventor/discoverer, will get due credit.

Another significant event of the year has been the movement of this blog from livejournal to its present location. I must mention that this website has been like “glad bangles” for me. A week after I inaugurated this, I had a nice job offer, ending over a year of NED. There were a few other changes also in my life around that time, which I don’t remember now. What I do remember was classifying this website as “glad bangles”. and I like this better than Mad Angles.

On the louvvu front, it was a very quiet year, apart from one quick episode. Maybe one of the least productive years – comparable, maybe, to my years back in IIT.

Ok I think NED is happening. i just resigned my scrabble game. I had resigned my bridge game ages back, and I’d closed the program. I’m feeling sleepy now. So I’ll close it here. Happy new year. And I think this is the worst year-ending post that I’ve written in a long time. This website maybe deserved a much better new year post in the year end but it’s ok.