Tuesday, November 29, 2005

SMS a, b or c

Driving back from office one evening, I tuned in to the FM channel. The DJ was doing his best to spice up the proceedings with his constant chatter and breezy banter and moderating an animated debate on a life-threatening issue that had far-reaching implications on the future of humanity, to wit, “Which of these causes most annoyance when you are eating; a) the camouflaged cardamom in the biriyani or b) the pungent pepper in the Pongal or c) the concealed clove in the laddu?

Listeners were asked to ‘SMS” their responses by keying in a, b or c as they felt appropriate and as their conscience would permit. The topic was too intellectual for me and, moreover, my own pet peeve is the cruel chilly in the uppuma; so I tuned out. But, well-informed sources told me later that the jury had adjudged the cardamom in the biriyani as the chief culprit, it having registered the maximum percentage of votes (48%)

There is something about the ‘SMS” that makes normally reticent people reach out for their mobile phone buttons and type away before you can say, “fastest fingers first”. People, who shy away from talking on the phone or even using the email, find in the “SMS” the right mix of convenience and anonymity and take to it instantly. Long-lost friends of mine who have never bothered to drop a card for decades, have mysteriously emerged from the shadows to send me ‘SMS” greetings on the most insignificant of festivals. Such is the appeal of the SMS that TV viewers respond with alacrity to the most inane of questions. For instance, when Dravid was batting with 38 runs to his credit, a question popped up on screen.” Will he reach his half-century? Please SMS a) he will b) he will not and c) can’t say”. About 1% of the viewers actually responded with the answer “c”. Dilip D’souza in this post wonders why anyone would want to take the trouble of sending a SMS just to convey that he had no opinion on the subject.

Perhaps no other medium enables you to get such instant feedback. If you are a movie director and want to know which scene the audience liked best, all you need to do is to ask them to SMS a, b, c or d depending on whether they liked a) the part where the heroine (dressed in Tight Trousers to accentuate her Thunder Thighs) swings her hips hypnotically and sings seductively b) the climax where the vengeful villain spits saliva on the hapless hero and vomits vitriolic venom, harassingly c) the melodrama of the matriarch meeting her maker movingly or d) the suggestive symbolism of the woodpecker pecking wood just when the hero stares at the heroine longingly.

(Editor’s note: As an aside,our apologies for the author’s adamant attitude and his insistence on being an alliterative alligator. It has its roots in True Tamil Tradition. Look at names like Murasoli Maran, Kalaignar Karunanidhi, Kavignar Kannadasan, Mellisai Mannar MSV, Isaignani Ilayaraja, etc. A Tamil politician or an actor without an alliterative adjunct to his name is practically walking around naked)

Back to the subject. The best thing about these dipstick surveys done through SMS is that the responders need to confine themselves to the choices available and which are explicitly spelt out. The conductor of the survey can take advantage of this feature of finite choices. Say, you are the boss and want to announce a measly 5% increment in pay for the employees. All you need to do is ask them to send you a SMS each, keying in a, b or c if they felt the pay hike should be 2%, 3% or 5% respectively. Like zombies, the unwary juniors will SMS “c” and you can grandly and without any qualms announce that, in response to the unanimous employee opinion, the management is pleased to grant a 5% pay hike.

I intend to put this medium to good use at home – such as in arriving at a family consensus on important questions like “Where do we eat tonight?”. When my wife and two daughters are glued to their book, phone and PC respectively and refuse to pay attention to me, I will send them an SMS and ask for a SMS-in-return, expressing their choice of a) Sangeetha or b) Little Italy or c) Cascade. We will go that restaurant that manages to garner the maximum votes. If each of the options gets one vote and there is a tie, I will let the wife and daughters play rock-paper-scissors to decide the winner.


Anonymous said...

hehe i like the restaurant part... rock-paper-scissors! lol!

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