Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

November 27, 2013

The camera doesn't make the photographer

When some people buy a new shiny entry level DSLR camera they go out and take 1000+ photos. They load the photos on PC, try to learn a bit of Photoshop and think why don't these look like the ones in the magazines.

They then Google for photography tutorials, read about composition, focus, aperture, shutter, ISO and lots of other things. A year down the line they start taking better photos and they don't take as many photos as before. They take about 100 photos and store a quarter of them as outstanding. After sometime they think of upgrading to full frame. The quality blows them away.


It must be the camera. An entry level DSLR user must upgrade to a full frame only to find they are no better but out of 1000 shots there is the odd good one that if they tweak it in PhotoShop. They put them on social network and think lots of people are looking at them so they must be good.

The moral of the story is to be a good photographer you have to put the work in. Its not (only) the tool but the skill and experience, which are required. Give an experienced photographer a cheap point and shoot, and an inexperienced beginner an expensive DSLR and the experienced photographer will still take better photos.

So what do you need to be a good photographer?

  • You need passion. You need to be obsessed with getting the shot.
  • Read photography tutorials, go for a Photo-walk
  • Find a mentor, get critics feedback
  • Understand your camera and all its features, upgrade when you outgrow its capabilities 
  • Take your camera everywhere
  • You need to be a story teller.
  • You need patience and lots of it.
  • You need to show your photos to everyone.
  • Develop a style of your own.

As for me I am yet to do all of above to start taking better pictures.

My Flickr photostream

November 26, 2013

Uncertainty And Hope During Elections in Nepal

Supporters of different Nepali political parties outside BICC building where vote counting is continuing. Image by Kumar Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (21/11/2013)
Supporters of different Nepali political parties outside BICC building where vote counting is continuing. Image by Kumar Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (21/11/2013)
Nepal's elections to choose a new Constituent Assembly were finally held on 19 November 2013 a year to the day that they were first planned. The vote counting is ongoing, with the latest reports pegging Nepal's oldest party, the Nepali Congress, as leading the polls.

The elections are shrouded with uncertainty as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has alleged vote rigging. The Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and Nepali Congress are neck-and-neck, while the Maoists face electoral defeat.

Much rides on these elections because the new assembly will be tasked with drafting Nepal's much awaited Constitution. Not long after a decade-long civil war between the country's Maoists and government came to an end, the first Constituent Assembly was formed in 2008. But after four years it failed to write a constitution, and the country has been in political crisis since.

The voter turnout on the day was encouraging, with a large women participation. Blogger Ushaft discussed the general mood of voters on the voting day:
People who voted for Maoists last time have turned against them now. This is the general mood one can observe in districts, villages and streets.
However, the day did not pass without violence. Journalist and blogger Deepak Adhikari blogged about an election day bomb blast that severely injured children playing in the streets. There has been an increase in election-related violence in Nepal both pre-poll and during the poll, noted by blogger Ushaft:
A series of violent explosions were reported last week. It is not clear who did them, and most blame the Dash faction. But a large number of such activities are targeted at non-Maoist candidates.
Aakar Post analyzed social media reactions regarding the elections. The pre-election buzzwords were topped by words such as "bomb":
Analysis of pre-election keywords in Social Media. Image by Aakar Tech. Used under a CC BY-NC license
Analysis of pre-election keywords in Social Media. Image by Aakar Tech. Used under a CC BY-NC license
While the post-election buzz words were dominated by words like "win" and "boycott".

Nepal’s Maoists are disputing the election results. Previous Prime Minister and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) urged the election commission to stop the vote counting with complaints of “conspiracy and poll-rigging.”

On Facebook, Maoists leaders and supporters - notably Prakash Dahal (Prachanda's son) - have posted series of updates regarding their allegation of irregularities. Prakash Dahal has also posted pictures which he claims prove that the pools were not free. He has posted four photos of what purportedly show an army officer standing next to voters casting ballot. Nepal deployed 62,000 army personnel in all the constituencies to provide security for the November 19 Constituent Assembly elections.

But majority of comments posted seem to indicate that the people want the Maoists to take this defeat as a lesson:
निष्पक्ष चुनाव भनेको यहि रहिछ हैन । सेना कुन घेरामा बस्ने रे । निलकण्डलगायत षडयन्त्रकारीहरु । ब्यारेकमा मतपेटिका साटेर नपुगेर सेनालाई कहां भोट हाल्ने सिकाउन लगाउन
This is free and fair election. Which boundary would the Army abide by? Nilkantha [Chief Elections Commissioner] and the other perpetrators? Not happy with changed ballot boxes in barracks, made the Army teach voters where to vote.
Blogger Ushaft quotes a citizen's statement, which expressed concern on the Maoists allegation of election irregularities and rejected demands of the Maoists to obstruct the vote tallying process.

On Twitter, the #NepalVotes hashtag was used by many commentators to write about the elections. NepalVotes.com is on the forefront of disseminating and visualizing election-related data, and a popular Nepali-language blog has coordinated coverage with them:
Screenshot o
Screenshot of the website Nepalvotes.com with graphical representation.
This election also highlighted the importance of data journalism within the Nepali context, with sites like NepalVotes.com and MySansar active in monitoring.

Blogger and journalist Deepak Adhikari (@DeepakAdk) noted on Twitter:
Interesting to note that otherwise active Twitter user, former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai (@brb_laaldhwoj), has remained silent following the results. He tweeted just once after the polls, to thank his voters.

Paramendra Bhagat at Democracy for Nepal provides a snapshot of the latest standings as on 25 November 2013:

Image courtesy Paramendra Bhagat at Democracy for Nepal.
Image courtesy Paramendra Bhagat at Democracy for Nepal.
NepalVotes.com has the updates of results as they come in, and projections of seat count under the proportional representation as per their own analysis.

It's still not clear if these elections will result in a constitution, blogger Kaja wrote:
What I heard from some Nepali people was that for this election they hoped for a constitution. That was their biggest wish. Now only time will show what will happen.
First published in Global Voices Online. Bhumika Ghimire also contributed to this post.

November 22, 2013

Google Translation bot in Bangla

Today I met him. He was blinking in my Google chat list. I became very curious and googled the email address en2bn@bot.talk.google.com. Then I found out that its a bot, translation bot to be precise.

Google launched its first translation bots back in 2007. More than 20 languages had a translation bot by 2008. I don't know when they launhced the Bangla bot. But there is another similar bot (eng2ban@appspot.comavailable.

Here is a glimpse of the Bangla bot I encountered. According to Google:

Translation Bots will translate your messages from one language to another. These bots are named using two-letter language abbreviations formated as '[from language]2[to language@bot.talk.google.com,' and all available combinations are listed in the table below. For example, if you send 'Hello' to en2es@bot.talk.google.com (English to Spanish), it will respond with 'Hola.'
You can see from the screenshot that the quality of translation is still catching up. So you can't rely on it fully.

November 17, 2013

PHOTOS: Dhaka's Beautiful Blue Sky Briefly Takes Over Web

White patches of cloud are drifting in the sky.
White patches of cloud drifting in the sky. A lonely bird is flying. Image by Ashraful Alam, Baily Road, Dhaka. Used with permission.
The Bengali calendar is made up of six seasons, with two months comprising each season. Now is the Hemonto (হেমন্ত), or the dry season. During this season, the sky comes alive with vibrant color, from deep blues and pristine whites to the golden shades of dusk. Snowy patches of clouds hang overhead, and the sun warms the air.

Such was the scene on 17 November, 2013, with the striking beauty of the sky overwhelming the horizon above Bangladesh's capital city Dhaka. Talk of the stunning sight spread like wildfire on social media as netizens shared their beautiful images on Facebook and Twitter, some using the #Dhakasky hashtag.

Even some newspapers featured them. Journalist and blogger Simu Naser (@simunaser) wrote:
Oh no. Looking at newsfeeds, it seems everybody is watching the sky leaving all their work. This is good.
Torongo (@ttorongo) said:
I was amazed by the sky in the afternoon, it was a combination of blue and white stretching to the horizon. Now it seems that everybody's noticing it. Even saw the #Dhakasky hashtag.
Shafiul Alam (@shafiulnub) appreciated the moon too:
During the day, the sky was beautiful, now the moon is stealing the show.
Atif M Safi tweeted an Instagram photo of the sunset:
Others also shared photos of the sky on Twitter:
Many users uploaded pictures of the #Dhakasky. Global Voices republishes some with permission:
Nice cumulonimbus cloud, ideal for kite flying. Image by Tanmoy Kairy, Dhanmondi, Dhaka.
Nice cumulonimbus cloud, ideal for kite flying. Image by Tanmoy Kairy, Dhanmondi, Dhaka.
The sky at home. Image by ahmedur Rashid Tutul.
The sky at home. Image by ahmedur Rashid Tutul.
Who has floated the white cloud boats in the sky?
Who has floated the white cloud boats in the sky? Image by Suronjona Haque.
গোধূলী রং লেগেছে আকাশের গায়ে। ছবি তুলেছেন হাসান আহমেদ খান। মিরপুর, ঢাকা।
The color of dusk on the sky. Image by Hasan Ahmed Khan. Mirpur, Dhaka
নানা রঙে সেজেছে আকাশ আজ! ছবি তুলেছেন মঞ্জু আহমেদ।
The sky has colored itself. Image by Manju Ahmed. Mohammadpur, Dhaka.
On YouTube, Abhie Zibran shared a video of the sky:

 Original in Bangla by Pantha Rahman Reza. Translated by the author. First published in Global Voices Online

November 07, 2013

Mobile App Offers Indian Women Lifeline in Fight Against Rape

Rape is the most common crime against women in India, where the number of rape cases have doubled between 1990 and 2008. Amidst the search for a solution, people are turning to technology, such as easy-to-use and free mobile application for the ubiquitous cell phone.

The Smart Suraksha App is an Android application focused on giving Indian women a greater sense of security. It can send a distress message to five pre-chosen contacts at the press of a single button. Along with the message for help, it also sends information about the user's current location even if the GPS option on the cell phone itself is switched off. Thus, women can be reassured that their call for help will always reach someone.

  smartsuraksha contest

Indian blog directory Blogadda recently arranged a blog competition titled "I wish I had Smart Suraksha" to spread the words.

Kalyan Panja, a contestant, wrote about the app:
The App has as main objective to make smartphones, today a commonly used tool, a valuable ally for the safety of women in situations of potential or actual danger, providing a simple and timely aid, such as sending SMS rescue, and a set of rules that allows us to take conscious behaviour in case of need. [..] The program allows to configure a list of 5 phone numbers to send a standard text such relief message (along the lines of: "I'm in trouble, call me!"), as well as to communicate your location, using GPS technologies or relying on a network Wifi. [..] The operations are designed to be carried with ease and in the shortest possible time, precisely in order to ensure the use of the app also under difficult and uncomfortable situations. The focus is directed on prevention, with tips and tricks that they do not want in any way undermine women's freedom, but to advise the appropriate behaviors to be taken in dangerous conditions in the interests of defense.
Click the image for link to the app
Click the image for link to the app
Blogger Prava Vathi, another contestant, wrote:
This app is primarily created for women’s safety, which can track your whereabouts and at a single touch will text to the pre-listed five contacts simultaneously and also the police. It comes with an additional feature to give details of the would-be offender, and allows you to record info like model of the car or clothes he is wearing, in your text, provided if you are in such a situation. Use this app as a weapon that can prevent you from becoming an unfortunate victim.
Blogger Confused Humanity wondered if an application like Smart Suraksha would have made a difference in the lives of rape victims:
The BPO employee who was raped and killed by the car driver, who changed the route and took her to a remote place. If she had this app with her, could she have alerted her friends/family or company authorities. With the approximate GPS location, could they have found her and saved her life? In the case of the latest Mumbai rape case, could the victim or her friend have pressed the button and alerted their company or friends about the suspicious behavior of the culprits, without inviting their attention and could the tragedy been have averted?
The blogger also suggested additional features, such as recording the snapshot of the perpetrator:
Now only if the state would set up a helpline or something, that could accept and act on such emergency messages (which comes with the location of crime) by informing the nearest police station or patrolling team(or medical centers), wouldn’t it be a miniature emergency service system like the ’911′ in itself?
Afshan Shaik asked in a poem, "if only people were smarter than the apps":
If only people were smarter than the apps. 
If only every one had the courage to face the mobs. 
If only wits, actions and bravery over powered the fear. 
If only we had super powers we would have saved a tear. 
If only every one was loved , protected and fathered. 
If only instead of an app a fellow human being bothered!
Your confidence is the best weapon, says Knitha Urs, and this app can give women the confidence. Its better to be prepared than be sorry, reminds Swati.

 Shivani Gayal provides a list of other apps that are similar to Smart Suraksha.

Check out more submissions to the contest in the comment section of this post and on this Facebook page.

First published in Global Voices Online