Interview with Keith Dsouza

According to him he is a Born Geek and Tech Freak. Among the things he loves, is coding in open source and more importantly have fun. To all those engineering aspirants who have dropped out, he is an inspiration. Started in 2006, the blog has managed to break into the top 100 technology blogs of the world. A Mumbaikar by heart and all the way from New York, we have Keith Dsouza of Techie Buzz interviewed at your adda. 🙂

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: I started blogging in early 2006 on my personal blog at I had actually bought the domain back in November 2005 but did not put it to any good use till March 2006.

I was a software person and loved Tech. In fact, I had stumbled upon Lifehacker while I was searching on how to run my website from my home PC 😛 before I had even heard anything about blogging. In office and with friends, I was the go to guy for anything related to computers and I used to also assemble and sell computers at that time. So I had a built up knowledge about tech.

However, blogging happened because one fine day me and my friend; Deep Ganatra were travelling in his car which is when he told me about his blog, Google traffic hits, money and more. This all fascinated me and I went ahead and registered my own domain through his domain naming service. But then, I did not start writing there for a long time. I used to visit Deep’s website and then many more through the blog links on his website, and from those, many more interlinked websites. It was a never ending cycle and a fascinating one seeing what people were writing about.

I read lot of blogs back then from people writing movie reviews to software reviews, about their personal lives and about anything and everything they wanted to. It was fascinating that I could too put these kind of things online, and I always loved writing essays in school too, so it all happened.

Initially, I was really confused about what I should write about. My first post on the blog (now my personal ranting blog) was about the Oscar winners of 2006. I circulated the post amongst around 50 office friends and asked for their feedback. Most of those were positive and that bucked me up.

I started writing on the blog and networking with other people and becoming friends with them. All the people who I started networking back then are still my friends today.

Eventually, I have made so many friends through blogging that I am afraid that I would not have known the Internet as I have today if not for it. It has definitely been a fantastic journey. Those friendships will last forever.

That was how the journey started out.

Q: What topics do you generally blog about?

A: When I started out, I was really clueless about niche and all those kind of words that people have ready access to today. However, like I said I was good at tech. This is the reason I formed Techie Buzz in June 2006 and we currently write about everything Tech.

We focus on mobiles, gadgets, tech news, breaking news, social media, open source, software and more recently science and photography.

Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?

A: Well, right now I don’t write that much and I don’t get stuck writing what I want to, there is a phase when you try too hard and get stuck.

However, there was a time when I used to get something called as a ‘Writer’s Block’. Getting over it is not easy.

There was a period of over 6 months where I had completely abandoned the blog (Techie Buzz) because of too much work and me preparing to come to US. Then somewhere around April 2007 or so one of the most famous blogger Liz Strauss and Chitika contacted me to write a post for Chitika’s ‘30 day of Bloggers’ and it rejuvenated me to write again after I wrote a post for them.

Since then I have written for various blogs and never looked back. Incidentally, I also wrote a post for Blogging Tips on ‘How to get out of Blogger’s Block’ ;).

Q: Techie Buzz started as a single author blog but has now grown into a multi author blog with many contributors. Is it to maintain the pace with blogs that update 3-5 times a day or is it because newer contributors bring in variety and a different perspective?

A: Techie Buzz did start out as a single author blog and continued it for a while. Eventually, I saw a lot of potential in some writers and started asking them if they wanted to contribute to the blog as I wanted their expertise on the blog. It definitely was a good decision because it brought in a different perspective to the blog and also allowed me to do different things with it. Back then, we weren’t even that popular and there were hardly any blogs in India which had taken this approach in 2007.

We had a team of 5-6 authors back in 2008, however, I had a huge setback when one after another everyone started leaving, these folks are doing great today and are still in contact and I would definitely invite them back any day :). However, I was not clueless at that time; I knew that working in a team was much more beneficial for Techie Buzz. Then one fine day I decided to put up a post on the site asking for contributors to the site, and to my surprise I got more than 50 of them. I had to reject most of them, but the one’s which I selected are still with us even today after more than 3 years.

I remember getting one weird application too from a gentleman who was above 60. He was a freeware genius and fought for that cause, but his email struck me as odd. I thought of rejecting him back then, but thought otherwise since he was really something that I found different. Today that same gentleman is the Managing Editor at Techie Buzz :).

Right now we have authors who have individual roles within the team. Everyone knows what they are doing. Building a team of authors was not to maintain pace or rehash content over and over again. Over the last couple of years we have grown tremendously in posting content, bringing diversity to it and providing different perspectives.

Most of the content on the site is appreciated by our readers and we get lot of compliments for what we do. So I believe that it was the right decision to go multi-authored.

Q: Credibility is the key word when you are among the top 100 technology blogs. In the current times, when PR companies approach bloggers for what-not, how do you make sure you get the facts right? Share your good and bad experience with such companies.

A: First off, we get tons of PR material every day. In fact just I get 30-50+ PR emails on my site inbox depending on the day, 5-10 in my personal inbox and almost 20-30 in our tips and other inbox every day, excluding tips our authors get. Sorting these things out is a mess. However, if something interests us we usually go back to the PR or get more facts before posting stories.

Sometimes, even after we post stories not sent to us by PR, we get contacted by PR agencies saying that what we posted was not right. However, we ask them for official statements before we make updates to them. We have received calls and emails from companies like Google, Twitter and more to update stories, however, we do that only after we talk to them and clarify their point. We never change stories but only add updates to it, this is our policy.

I remember once when we wrote a story about a company which advertises heavily on US TV channels and on the Internet too. The author of the post told me that this would be a controversial story and whether or not he should go ahead with it. I asked him whether he was confident and sure about what he was writing and whether he can back it up, he said “Yes”. I told him to go ahead with the story.

Since then, their PR agency contacted us in several ways, including offering us a very lucrative advertising offer to run their banner on the site, but we have declined it and it was a collective decision. We stick by our stories when we believe it is true and we don’t sell ourselves off for money to PR. I have also had to deal with a few nasty and uneducated PR agencies but am over it and it is not even worth discussing.

Q: “I have a bad habit of speaking my mind out, which in the past few years I have ‘scaled down’ to speaking my mind out to myself, still reaching the goal there.” In an increasingly ‘look at me’ social media world, how has this habit affected your relationship with companies or individuals?

A: Well, to be honest I have been increasingly vocal about few things I hate and that has cost me unfollows on Twitter, etc. However, I really don’t like to blast out on individuals unless I have concrete proof. I am really working hard on changing that attitude of mine. I really don’t want to take my dirty linen and spoil other’s timeline. I have decided that I will just open up my WLW and post it on my personal blog and vent all my frustrations there and get it over with.

However, social is a different life altogether. There are pretenders out there who will basically sell you something lucrative and deliver something else. I am not that kind of a person. I sell what you get.

Once one of my blogging friends tweeted something and I saw it was directed to me and no one would have known it. I sent him a @, but later on discussed what the issue was through direct messages and sorted it out. I am not the kind to fight in public because you berate me or have an issue with me or do something bad to me or tweet something in general that is directed to me. I can sort out things if there is reason towards it.

However, if people try to tarnish me and just feign ignorance I go direct at them. I have definitely gotten over this and since the past incident have calmed down a lot and have promised myself to just blog about it and let it remain on the Internetz forever and ever.

Q: Keith, you were a part of an interesting discussion on Twitter about valuations and eCommerce in India. We would love to have your take on the recent $1 billion valuation of Flipkart and the future of eCommerce sites in India. Also, what do you think about the iOS vs Android? Do you believe Steve Jobs will be able to retain the market share with newer developments in iOS or Google has an extra edge now with the Motorola deal that recently happened?

A: I have worked in the eCommerce industry in India since early 2000s for Rediff Shopping. I was the software architect of the frontend and backend consultant who built the partnership site between Yahoo and Rediff Shopping around 2003-2004 (closed down now).

eCommerce in India is definitely not a new thing. At Rediff we used to see more than 10,000 – 20,000 orders a day or so and that was back in 2004 or so.

The difference between the older eCommerce and the current eCommerce is that there are more dedicated players now in the market. For example, Flipkart is a dedicated eCommerce site which started out just to ship books and are pretty big now among the Tech Savvy industry. Likewise, mobile companies now provide you with online options to refill your phone online and so do many other sites. I remember back in 2004 or so I ran out of prepaid card while talking to my girlfriend in the middle of the night. No one cares about those situations these days.

Overall eCommerce has grown to become pretty big now. But my argument towards Flipkart was that, first off Flipkart said that they are looking to do 100 crore of turnover in 2010, they revised their target to 500 crore for FY 2011-2012 and are now targeting 4500 crore by 2015. I am not making up these numbers, these are in the news. Check out those. How can you grow so exponentially when the Internet usage is growing by less than 5% and eCommerce even lesser? Isn’t this a ploy to get investments? I mean 100-500 is a 500% growth and 100-4500 is a 4500%, even if they go to 500 this year 500-4500 is a 900% growth in 3 years @rate of 300% each year, so next year they will have to get a turnover of approximately 1500 crore Rupees to meet their goals. That kind of media play has been done in the Dotcom boom and continues to happen even now.

On the other hand it would be really easy for a company like Amazon to steamroll them by opening shipping to India for laptops and more which are more cheaper in US than in India. Of course, there will still be import duty, but then Amazon is Amazon for a reason right?

Recently, Groupon, a company which Google tried to buy for $6 billion, said that they will go their own way. They were valued at around $15-$17 billion, today they are almost a goner and I had predicted this too. This is how the retail and online industry works. Today you have some, tomorrow you are a goner. There is no real guarantee on anything and investors would never put so much money on eCommerce in India considering that anyone and everyone can enter the industry when they want and cripple you.

I love Flipkart for what they have done with eCommerce in India, but they definitely have a huge climb when they have to compete against some bigger and well established company and that risk might keep investors out. Also the turnover in India for eCommerce is not that high because of the high cost of warehousing and returns. Amazon and Walmart have an established way of doing things, everything from ordering to packaging & returns and everything is taken care of. How many Indians buy refurbished goods? How many return goods after they are broken on the first day? These are kind of losses Amazon turns into profits…. Just go and try returning a cup in India and you get asked so many questions, in US, you don’t. Why? Because they can sell it to someone else unless it is broken. And that is how retail works, this won’t work in India. If Flipkart expands, they will only expand their losses without any heads up on how to deal with it. Except for on the streets where you get it cheap? Amazon knows how to sell it for a price cheaper than the street, Flipkart does not.

These things are very hard to emulate and that cuts down on margins of profits. And to top that Amazon has very decent competition in US markets, more than decent. And last but not the least, I don’t believe in fighting over which phone OS is good or bad. I use both iOS and Android and am completely comfortable with both of them.

Q: How does Techie Buzz distinguish itself from the hundreds of me-too technology blogs from India? How do you see Techie Buzz in about two years from now?

A: I don’t believe that there are any me-too blogs in India. Every blog is an individual’s and they have their own passion behind it. I have my passion behind it too and have faced a lot of criticism, but I have taken them in stride and worked on them.

For all these years I have spent a lot of time to build a good site and had great success with it. However, there were lot of people who thought that we just rehashed content from other sites and did not do any original work. Even though that was not true, we have worked hard to make us distinct from others. We still do news, but so does everyone. However, we have more original content now. We do a lot of content which you will not find elsewhere. My team is great and it responds well to me and we take it as a challenge to be good to our readers and build on it.

As far as going down two years down the line, I really don’t do that. I plan for next 3 months, prepare goals and share it with my team. We work on them and deliver. That’s about what we usually do.

Q: Do you still contribute to other blogs? What is your advise to people who are looking to contribute on other blogs? Do’s and Dont’s. 🙂

A: Right now I don’t contribute to other blogs because I don’t really find time.

If someone wants to contribute to other blogs they have to make sure that they are clear about how much time they can dedicate or how many posts they can write there on a weekly or monthly basis and make it clear upfront.

Secondly, if you contribute to two similar types of blogs, make sure you don’t write same or similar content on both of them, because not only is it cheating, it is really a waste of your abilities and the time and bandwidth of people who hire you. We usually have mechanisms to detect this even when we get guest posts and reject them.

Thirdly, be sincere to your outside work and follow all the rules they set there as this is an opportunity to grow and not just make money.

Q: Raju Hirani is one of your favorite directors. You also like to read fiction novels. Which is that one fiction novel that you want Raju Hirani to direct and why?

A: Well, Raju Hirani is one of my favorite directors and I do love his movies. I thoroughly enjoyed 3 Idiots and have watched it several times.

I read a lot of fiction and used to read one fat book worth 600-700 pages in 3 days staying up all night. 🙂 I don’t get much time these days but I read newspapers everyday (real one’s) and read books whenever I can.

However, I would rather not see a movie made from a book in India, because from my experience a book to movie narration either screws up the movie or creates controversies like 3 Idiots in India .;)

I did like the Bourne series though, it was more fascinating than the books which I read (all three) but I am not a big fan of fantasy stories in movies.

Q: You play a lot of games on PC and Consoles. What are your favorites? If you were to transform into one of the characters from any of the games, who would it be and why?

A: Well, I started playing games with Atari and Nintendo consoles when I was young. I bet many people reading this might have never seen or heard about it. However, I do like FPS games a lot and play a lot of COD and MOH. I hate MMORPG games because I don’t have the patience to play them.

If I were to transform myself into a character it has to be Mario. I would have fun defeating those villains and getting to my princess 😛 + I know all the shortcuts in it. In fact, my record in Mario is 13 minutes to complete all stages with 100+ lives intact. (If you ask how 100+ lives, anyone who knows how to jump on the second turtle on stage 3.1 can tell you or maybe the secret on 4.2? It’s a top Mario secret).

Q: How does the real life day timeline of Keith Dsouza look like? For an upcoming tech blogger, what are the do’s and dont’s that you suggest?

A: My real life day is filled with a lot of things. I have a full time job and do my work there. I manage a team of writers who have so many questions or say problems with the servers, etc. We also have a lot of discussions which I have to take part in. Most of them are usually never related to Techie Buzz and are fun.

We have a Twitter like discussion channel only for our authors and it is a fun place to hang out there. Additionally, I also have to dedicate my time to my lovely girlfriend, my family and my adoring and cute nephew, who I enjoy video chatting with from time to time. And then, I usually catch up on lot of news, go out and watch movies, go out with friends and enjoy watching sports.

For an upcoming blogger, all I want to say is that, work hard and stay dedicated. No blog rises from 1 visitor which is you to to 1000s or millions in a month or even a year. Money also should not be the only criteria as it is the only criteria which will let you down.

I spent over 14 months to make my first $100, I never gave up. Good things are always on the horizon, only if you wait to meet it.

Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?

A: Well, we usually don’t promote the blog right now. We have some great social activity going on for the site through our readers which helps us promote it. We do have fan pages on Facebook and Twitter. However, on Facebook we only post selective content and do not publish our feed there.

Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?

A: It is definitely important for bloggers to respond to comments and criticism, may it be through your website or through emails or through a social channel. However, we usually do not respond to each and every comment and usually respond to comments which require more clarity or are questioning the content.

Saying thank you to comments which are elaborating a point without requiring further reasoning or just saying things which do not require a reciprocal comment, is not done on the site.

Listening to user comments is also very important though. I have two instances to share from past two weeks. First one is where someone tweeted and mentioned through our twitter channel that we showed video ads on arrival. We went ahead and stopped those ads and sent them back a tweet and they were surprised and thanked us and now he is a regular visitor to the site.

In another instance, many of our authors initially complained that there was a video ad playing on the site which was really bad. I tried to contact each and every advertiser that was running on our site but all said no, I blocked most of them and thought things were OK. After that happened, couple of emails came in through the site where users complained about video ads. I was really pissed off at it. I spent the next 3 hours discovering which advertiser was showing the video ads and found them and banned them. At the end of it all, I apologized to our readers for it. One of them was really surprised and said he would have come back nevertheless, but he would be more loyal hereafter.

This is not a showmanship, this is how you have to appreciate readers, and every aspect of theirs. You can just say OK you will do it and never do it. However, unless you fulfill each and everything you promise and make everyone happy not just by comments but by doing things you will to make them stick, you are losing out on them. Only one of of 10,000 readers will complain, the rest 9999 will just run away.

Commenting rate on websites other than those who use the “I comment, you comment” strategy for Google juice is 1 out of 1000, so don’t be surprised that you don’t get comments once you either stop commenting on other blogs or grow big.

Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?

A: The most gratifying aspect of blogging right now for me is having a great team who give their everything to the site. Right now, we have fun in the team and that is really a great feeling.

I also love when more and more readers come to us. On a day to day basis, we have tons of repeat visitors who visit us everyday. This really makes me happy because it shows that we are really doing something good for all these people to come to the site everyday to read us. Of course, I would want this number to increase, but starting from just 1 repeat visitor (which was me) to being at this point makes me happy.

Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.

A: I started out blogging being no-one and there were quite a few quality bloggers out there. In-fact, I was the most crappiest out of them. I learnt my way through all this. Today that number has grown exponentially to a proportion where people are taking up blogging as a profession. There has  definitely been a huge growth where people are shunning their Engineering jobs and more lucrative jobs to take up blogging. The quality has definitely grown and will continue to grow. However, like always there will be weeds between the crops.

I have had my issues though, lot of these bloggers don’t really put in efforts. One thing I find really hard to fathom is that most of the English blogs are not even English blogs, they are written in some other language disguised as English. I would suggest that they get a hang over their written language.

Other than that, many of these new bloggers spin off multiple blogs in the hopes that they will make lot of money. It does not happen that way, concentrate on your niche.

Also to be honest, I haven’t used a Feed Reader since almost 2 years now, and I don’t have any favorite blogs too. I just read what I like through Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or wherever. Also, I read only what I like and use Instapaper to bookmark those links to read later when I have time, if I don’t find a lot of time to read it fully.

Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?

A: Follow your passion. Don’t give up. You might not be able to do it, but you can always come back again and do it all over.

Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?

A: I do earn revenue from the blog. There are various ways to do it, and I bet not many of the bloggers want this advice from me. Also, I am not the right person to tell anyone on how they can make money through a new blog.

Q: According to you, what is the future of Blogging?

A: Blogging and mainstream media go hand in hand. There was a time when we got all out news from mainstream media. However, that is not the case now. There are so many channels though which you can get the latest news; Twitter is a good example of that, and it is a short form of blogging.

Blogging is here to stay in one form or the other. Nothing dies. However, Blogging is more ethical because they credit their sources (most of them) whereas several mainstream media and so called ‘news sites’ from India don’t.

In next few years, you will see blogging overtaking mainstream media. This is why mainstream media itself has blogs and realtime news.

Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.

Color: Yellow

Movie: 3 Idiots

TV Show: Two and Half Men

Book: Dead Heat (Dick Francis)

Time of Day: Night

Your Zodiac Sign: Libra

Thank you Keith for this wonderful interview. It has been a pleasure reading your wonderful answers and we are sure many of those in Engineering would be inspired to do something like what you did. Friends, apart from interviews, we have a lot of other things happening on our site. Do check it out. For now, Sayonara.

You can connect with Keith: Blog, BlogAdda, Twitter


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