Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
Since I announced Yahoo! India Columns, readers have been writing in and asking about various aspects of that section that aren’t yet ready. For example, while individual columnists have homepages and RSS feeds, there isn’t yet a combined columns homepage or a combined RSS feed. Thus, this quick housekeeping note.
The platform on which Yahoo! columns will be hosted is under construction, and what you see on the site is an interim solution. When Prem and I first discussed the columns in January, we spoke of February 15 as a starting date. But Yahoo! is a large company, there’s competition for resources, and this got more and more delayed. Finally, we decided to launch with a stopgap solution that would lack some of the features of a full fledged section, but would at least allow us to kick the thing off. That’s what we have chosen to do.
For that reason, there is yet no ‘opinions’ tab on the left-hand navigation, and no section homepage. However, the latest column will always be linked from the headlines, and once one goes there, one can navigate to individual column homepages from the right panel.
There are a bunch of other bells and whistles missing, and Prem and I have created a comprehensive list of specs for the final section, which will take a few weeks more to be ready. But how that progresses is not in my control. My task was to put together this group of columnists, shape the columns with them, and edit each piece before it’s uploaded. I haven’t even been to the Yahoo! office in Bangalore, and I work from home. That’s how I like it—it spares me day-to-day managerial crap, and allows me to be the master of my own time. Meanwhile Prem is in the thick of things, driving the building of this platform—and much, much else that should turn Yahoo! India into a phenomenally exciting site in the months to come.
While I love building new things, I hate running them, and I’m a misfit in large companies. When I quit my job of managing editor of Cricinfo in late 2004, my then-boss, Sambit Bal, asked me to stay on as a consultant and add value in other ways. He wanted Cricinfo to have its own blogs, and I was the natural choice to build that section. I got to work, drew up specs, actually sketched out on a piece of paper the exact layout that I wanted—and what you see today looks exactly as I built it then. (The writers have changed, of course, in the years since I left.) The problem was that while I could have set up that thing over a weekend with my friend (and webmaster) Madhu, working in that big company, it took months to do. It’s not any individual’s fault; it’s just the nature of the beast.
So do have patience. At least the content is getting out there, and the backend and interfaces will follow.
Since my inaugural column last week, the following columns have gone up:
Ashok’s wonderful piece disagrees strongly with one of the points I made in mine, and you will see many more such disagreements in this section in the days to come. A strong opinions section should contain diversity—and I believe this one has plenty of it. Our writers cover the spectrum, and will not hesitate to tear each other’s arguments apart—including mine. One thing I can promise you about this section is that it will not be an echo chamber.
As for Ashok’s specific point, I hope that he turns out to be right, and that there is a new, growing bloc of voters who vote for the reasons he specifies. But while that is desirable, I don’t see any evidence that it is happening yet. Was the ‘national vote’ worth just that 2% swing for the Congress in the last elections? If so, by what methodology can one arrive at the conclusion that those voters are voting for those reasons?
Some readers were surprised that there were no women among my columnists. I can only sigh. There was, actually, one fine lady in my lineup, but she had to drop out at the last moment because of unavoidable reasons. (She was sweetly and profusely apologetic when I told her of this criticism.) And if we expand the section at some point, as Prem and I are hoping to do, my shortlist for possible columnists includes more women (and a Pakistani and a Sri Lankan). But all that is in the future. For now, this is what we have, and I hope it’s worth your while.
Posted by Amit Varma in Personal
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