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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why I am happy that I never used Instagram

Last week, hell broke lose when Instagram updated it's Terms and Conditions and said they will have the perpetual rights to sell user's photos (public ones) without any payment or notification. With this one change, Instagram was poised to become the largest stock photo site in the world, and they were about to achieve it without spending a dime for the photos.

The outcry from users started pouring in the next moment. Social networks and blogs were filled up with rage, and finally, the company came to their senses on Friday. They released the following statement:

'Earlier this week, we introduced a set of updates to our privacy policy and terms of service to help our users better understand our service. In the days since, it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities – to communicate our intentions clearly. I am sorry for that, and I am focused on making it right.

The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos. There was confusion and real concern about what our possible advertising products could look like and how they would work.

Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.'

So, for the time being, all is well. But, this attitude of the new generation social networking companies is heinous. Also, I think we should keep in mind that they might have backed down for now, but they don't have to listen to the users always. Also, since it's a free service, the users have little or no say with what the company can or will do. Here's XKCD's version of the events:

I don't use Instagram. I never signed up for the service, and never downloaded the apps. And I am happy for that. Also, to the avid photographers out there, I suggest you go for Flickr. Even Marissa Meyer seems to have switched from Instagram.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Helmort - The Story that inspired Dracula: A Review

The tagline itself is enough for any horror fan to become inquisitive. Naturally, being a horror writer myself, I got in touch with the author and he sent me a copy to read. And here's my review (some mild spoilers ahead).

It's 1890's. Abraham Stoker, aka Bram Stoker, visits a doctor who stays in an asylum in a remote of corner of England to deliver a letter. The letter conveys some bad news, more specifically about a death. But the doctor is very much happy that he calls for a toast.

We are drawn back to 1870's. In Germany, a young doctor gets lost in the freezing winter. He ends up at an  old castle, and meets a very odd graf (count). Well, not just an odd graf, he in fact meets many people who all behave a little odd. But he receives a warm welcome and stays over for some days. Meanwhile, he gets drawn into various mysterious situations which sometimes questions his own sensibilities. His nightmares literally come alive, and it culminates with an epic battle between the good and the evil. But then, is the 'good' really good, or just a little milder of the two evils?

Helmort is well written, and is a quick read. The editing and proof-reading is good. One possible drawback is the usage of German. The author has taken pains to put in such a way so that a German illiterate person like me (my German is limited to Rammstein songs lol!) will not lose track, but I couldn't resist going to Google Translate a couple of times!

In short, I would say that K.V. Witten doesn't disappoint. There's a lot of unfinished business, and it leaves the mind thirsting for more!

My rating - 3.5/5

Don't forget to check out my collection of short stories, A Night in the House (free on December 19th and 20th)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Night in the House

My collection of horror short stories, A Night in the House, is for sale at Amazon Kindle Store. Here's the blurb:

'A Night in the House is a collection of eight horror stories, set in the background of different towns and cities of India. There are stories set in the teeming and congested metropolis of Chennai and Pune, as well as lonely villages and forests of Rajasthan and Kerala. There are ghosts and spirits, as well as human folly. There are myths, legends and well, of course, plenty of imagination.'

Check out the sample (includes the first story) at Amazon now. Those who don't have a Kindle don't worry. You can install Kindle reader on your PC/Laptop, iPhone, iPadAndroid phones and tablets.

And here's the cover.

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