Friday, May 13, 2011

Viral Signs

The day after the video of Sam K's antics went viral on the Internet; he was lying in his bedroom with the curtains drawn trying to keep his eyes shut tightly as possible. The throbbing pain in his head was a vigorous reminder of the many shots of tequila drowned at the office party the night before, not that he remembered anything else that may have happened.

Sam K - aka Samir Kapadia - big time nerd and small time everything else. Not a great communicator unless you spoke Java/C#/C++ and a few other programming languages that he was fluent in. OK, yes, no and head wag sufficed for anything else. Not the ideal candidate for hogging news headlines by any stretch of imagination.

Before the YouTube incident, Sam's career path had progressed to the point where he was assigned the role of a Project Architect for the first time. It was a prestigious project for a major health services provider. The work was challenging and it was the opportunity that he had been waiting. If done correctly it would demonstrate that he was capable of handling such projects and be the stepping stone on the pathway of success.

Sam had considered himself to be fortunate that the project timeline was for three months. His belief was that "This is a three month project and we're going to achieve success in 3 months. We're going to see the system in production in 3 months."

Initially the project had been progressing smoothly but then a month into the project timeline the changes started to happen and they were the dreaded bugbear of imprecise or changing business requirements.

The senior management at client site met Sam's account manager - Jason- to negotiate further contracts for the firm and casually gave a list of changes that they felt would make the system function better. Soon enough Jason contacted the project manager - Rob - and asked him to accommodate the changes in order to facilitate future business. All of that meant that the last minute changes in the business requirements were now making their way towards Sam.

From: Rob Morgan
Subject: Change to product requirements (mtt-01/3439)
To: sam.kapadia@busorg.com

Hey Sam,
The client's given us a few changes to look at. Jason has communicated his desire of pushing them in the next release, as he put it - 'If we make the client happy, they will look after us'. Apparently senior management is very keen for these changes to go through.

Cheers,
Rob


"Maybe we should give the client a massage. That will make them happy", grumbled Sam to himself. He was well aware that business was well within their rights to ask for changes. Well thought changes added that excitement to a project, but the down side was the hasty, unplanned change requests that added to a project's scope creep. This was definitely one of them and had to be shot down as soon as possible.

From: Sam Kapadia
Subject: RE: Change to product requirements (mtt-01/3439)
To: rob.morgan@busorg.com

Hi Rob,

What is this? I don't think that the business requirements are being clearly articulated; we need lot more information than a verbal request. Plus they do know that this will impact the project timelines, don't they? I don't see how we can roll these out in this release.

Cheers,
Sam


Damn this project, thought Sam, it was supposed to be his great big opportunity and just when he thought he had everything under control the enemy artillery aka major change request started firing. The increased working hours had meant that he was seeing a lot less of his girlfriend Anna than he wanted to. All work and no play were making Sam an extremely dull boy. Plus Anna was driving him crazy these days with her demands for communication. And communication for Anna meant that she had to talk to him face-to-face. E-mail, Sam had told her, is a wonderful invention and not just for receiving messages from Rev Peter Paul Thomas of Nigeria wanting to give you a million dollars. SMS is an option too, they are even rewriting Shakespeare using SMS text format. But emails and SMSs were not for Anna. She needed direct verbal communication with no other distractions. This meant no watching TV while she was talking. Work could be set aside while they had their time together, even when Sam had a deadline to meet. She might not have cared about design patterns in C Sharp or the beauty of object-oriented programming and unlike her Sam had no interest in literature, but they adored each other's company. Sam was reminded of what he had once read in an online relationship column 'diversity is an asset in relationships; you won't get bored with each other'.

From: Rob Morgan
Subject: Change to product requirements (mtt-01/3439)
To: sam.kapadia@busorg.com
CC: ruby.ross@busorg.com

Sam,
How many more resources would you need for this change to go through?
Ruby I need you to go through the HR's database for a list of additional developers.
Cheers,
Rob


Ruby Ross was responsible for finding the right resource for each project and Rob was intent on using her to increase the size of the team.

"Maybe I should tell him that we will work overtime", thought Sam, "Hey Rob, if people work more hours, they can get more work done in the same amount of calendar time. Overtime may be the best option if you’re close to the end of the project and just need a final push to get everything done on schedule. And probably sleep less if possible, just to get more hours in a day."

Sam's mobile vibrated, probably a message from Rob trying to contact him, but Sam decided to ignore it. He had a message of his own for Rob that needed to be sent.

From: Sam Kapadia
Subject: RE: Change to product requirements (mtt-01/3439)
To: rob.morgan@busorg.com

Hi Rob,
The biggest issue that we are facing is that the business requirements not being clearly articulated and agreed to at the outset of this project. We've had a number of discussions related to this and I am sure in the post project appraisal, the auditors are bound to bring it up. Now I hear you telling me to 'push changes' in the next release. How do we plan for this deviation in terms of schedule, cost, performance, or scope of work?

Regards,
Sam


"Now that", pondered Sam "will make him think, which will give me time to work without further interference". He quickly glanced at his mobile and was stunned to see a message from Anna. Her mobile was a gift from him, he had made her take it by explaining that while she did not have to use it every day, it would be handy if she had an emergency like the car breaking down when coming from work or if she ever ran out of coffee and needed him to get some. She never used it so it must be important that she was sending a message.

From Anna
To Sam: Sam r u coming home this wk? Or will it b like last wk? We need to talk.


Late nights working at this project meant that recently they hardly interacted nowadays. By the time he got home it was already way past dinner time. Anna would have eaten by then so he ate alone, sometimes he carried on working on his laptop and on some days he was so tired that he went to sleep straightaway.

From Sam
To Anna: Sorry wrking la8. Will make it up 2 u.


Before he had a chance to ponder on the significance of the message, there was another email from Jason to be looked at. The man was persistent if nothing else.

From: Jason Groot
Subject: Change to product requirements (mtt-01/3439)
To: sam.kapadia@busorg.com
CC: rob.morgan@busorg.com

Hi Sam,
Really appreciate the work you have been putting into this project. Can't say that you work has gone unnoticed. I need you to make a few changes to your design and push through the changes the client is asking for, we feel that they add value to the project.
Thanks,
Jason


So Jason was going through the underhand route now thought Sam. It was the kind of sneaky attempt that he had been expecting, throw in a few compliments and try to push in a few changes. There was no way that he was going to let this happen.

From: Sam Kapadia [sam.kapadia@busorg.com]
Subject: Re: Change to product requirements (mtt-01/3439)
To: jason.groot@busorg.com
CC: rob.morgan@busorg.com

Hi Jason,
Can you get them to put the change requests in and then we work through the change control procedure.
Cheers,
Sam


Change control had its uses thought Sam, especially in this organization where it was a process gleaned from books implemented by overpriced consultants to help streamline technology-related change. It could take days before anything tangible happened and that would give him enough time to do things the way he wanted them.

The rest of that day went on with a continuous stream of messages and meetings to attend. As usual he was the last to leave work, long after the cleaners had gone. But that night turned out a lot different from the others. When he reached home there was no one inside and all of Anna's belongings had been moved out of their apartment. It was as if he stayed alone in a bachelor's pad. Stuck to the fridge was a post-it note from Anna. He took it down and read it.

I am going away for a while Sam. I have been thinking about it a lot in the past month or so. The time I had alone allowed me to do that. Maybe it's not just about me or you or us. I have thought about the way we could have made this work and I was hoping and praying that it would never come to this. Nothing lasts forever, we make mistakes and lose people that we love but I never thought that would happen to us. Will I come back? That remains entirely up to you and your work commitment.

Sam dropped the note, he wasn't sure what to make of it. A part of him was hopeful but a gnawing feeling that told him that maybe it was all over. "I am so self absorbed," he thought, "that I could not see it coming. That I neglected her for so long, taking her presence for granted."

For all his intentions at attempting a reconciliation Sam's workload over the next few months ensured that he had no time away from work. Managing the client's expectation and fighting with the account managers to retain his team kept him on his toes. His email inbox once had an old Internet joke about customers who demand the universe gift-wrapped and delivered yesterday but this time instead of laughing he found himself nodding in agreement. The hard work by his team had ensured that they did not have to face deadline-imposed project fiascoes.

And so it happened that after managing different industrial awards and multiple industrial agreements they were able to deliver on time. It was finally time for a celebratory function for the team. Jason had organized drinks for the all people who had worked on the project as well as the team from the client side and the senior managers. The event was hosted at the restaurant where the company decided they would have dinner. To enliven things up the function was Wild West themed one, each person was handed over a huge cowboy hat as they walked in. There was a big bar in the restaurant moment where the very outgoing bartender, was greeting each person with a cold, strong drink of orange juice and vodka and there were soft drinks for those who did not imbibe. Immediately, the drinks started flowing and meeting each other in a lighter setting was making everyone relax. Suddenly Sam wished that Anna was with him. He took out his phone and texted her.

From Sam
To Anna: Need to talk 2 u. Can we meet?


Maybe she had forgiven him by now, maybe she was missing him too. His phone was beeping, there was a reply from Anna.

From Anna
To Sam: Not today Sam and maybe not ever.


He was stunned by the reply, the fact that that they would never meet had not occurred to him. To him it was another obstacle that he was sure he would overcome. Another trick bit of code that he would find a solution to because that's what he did - resolved tricky bits, no matter how long it took. Sam did not remember how many drinks he had after the reading the text but when the
Karaoke machine was setup with the live band and backing vocals, he found himself gravitating near the stage.
“Sam, Sam, we want Sam”, went the cry.
As far as musical abilities went he lacked the singing gene, his DNA was missing the genetic instructions for musical ability. It probably contained the DNA sequence for toneless intonations, yep it would be safe to say that Sam was not a singer. But in his mind right now he was the star. He stepped up, picked up the microphone and faced his audience.
“Ladies and gentlemen my girlfriend Anna has left me. But I love her and I want her back. So Anna I am singing this for you.“
And with that he sunk on one knee and started his rendition of the hit by KC and the Sunshine Band “Please don’t go”
“Babe, I love you so
I want you to know
that I'm going to miss your love
the minute you walk out that door

so please don't go…..”

He was awful. But incredibly some people stayed and watched, including those whose mobile phones were video recording the whole song. As a friend later told him “I’ve never heard anything that bad in my life. But you know while you might not make a fan out of every spectator, but there was something compelling to watch. It was like you were impossible to ignore onstage in a twisted, demented sort of way”.

It was around four in the morning when Samir staggered home and managed to collapse on his bed. How he had accomplished that was something that he was never able to figure out. But while he was sleeping at home, the love song of Samir Kapadia was already up on Youtube and gathering page hits. Social commentators have often wondered 'what is the numerical indicator of a YouTube hit'. While exact figure have not been agreed on there is a broad agreement on certain numbers. So 10 million hits, means that the video is probably worth looking at. At the 50 million hits count its on the way to becoming a phenomenon. But even with those numbers, it may be just a one-trick show pony.

If it gets 90 million hits, and has back-up videos made by fans that get millions of hits, it is a social phenomenon. Then something fundamental is going on. The challenge is to figure out what and then prove it. Good luck on that because how do you prove the attraction of a badly sung song by a semi-drunk love sick nerd? After all one of the top YouTube hits is A Man So Drunk In Restaurant That He Eats His Own Napkin.

But Sam had no idea of his growing online fame. He didn't know about his expanding fame in the twitterverse. Jimmy Kimmel was going to feature Sam's song on his show. Sam heard the noise of a door opening but it sounded like heavy metal band playing next to him. There was light streaming in his room causing him to wince and before he knew it someone had flung them self on him.
"Sam", said voice that sounded like Anna.
"Sam you crazy, crazy boy. Why didn't you tell me that you missed me so?"
The heavy metal drummer in Sam's head was pounding the crash cymbal but he did not care about the noise anymore. Life was about to get better again.

1 comment :

  1. Anonymous2:43 AM

    Subroto, good piece! I would have made it a bit shorter by cutting down on some of the repetitive (or very similar or nearly-similar) portions. Also, it would probably work better without those full-form emails (just put a short summary of what each was about). Then send to chowk.

    ReplyDelete