Monday, April 5, 2010

An interview with Arnab Ray


Arnab Ray, better known as Greatbong, is one of India's most widely read bloggers who blogs at Random Thoughts Of A Demented Mind ( His blog was awarded the "Indiblog of the Year" at Indibloggies in 2006 and 2008. He has written for several media outlets like the Washington Post, Outlook magazine and Live Mint. He graduated from Jadavpur University as a Bachelor in Computer Science and Engineering and went on to finish his PhD in Computer Science from State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is presently employed as a research scientist at the University of Maryland and resides in the suburbs of Washington DC.

He recently finished writing his first book "May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss" which was published by Harper Collins.Here he talks to us about his blog and his latest book

1] When you began blogging, did you imagine that this would lead to a book someday? Or was there always a book at the back of your mind?

No I didn't. I am the kind that does things without deliberating much
as to where the "doing" will lead to.

2] How easy or difficult is it to make the transition from blogging  short posts, to writing a full fledged book, what is the shift in mind required?

I don't think there is any specific shift that is needed. My book
resembles very closely the style of a blog and so for me personally it
has been even less of a shift than it has been for others.
Content wise , there is of course a consistent focus away from current
events and "hot" news to themes that are more universally relevant
since books have shelf lives of years. Unlike a blog post.

3] How do you respond to the criticism that most bloggers turned & authors recycle the same stuff from their blogs into their books?

First of all they don't. Speaking specific to my case, while my book
does has certain popular posts rewritten, there is a lot of new
material in the book that has never been covered on the blog. Also I
don't see where the problem is even in "recycling". A blog is an
open-for-all repository of writing whose copyright is owned by the
blogger. It has not been commercially released and every blogger
deserves the right to make money from the content he has produced. If
someone was re-cycling previously published material then yes it
warrants criticism. But what is written on a blog is not "published"
in the accepted sense of the term since nobody has paid to read it.
Blog posts are analogous to draft papers that academics circulate in
research communities to warrant feedback before publishing it at a
research venue. Nobody considers its final publication as a "recycling"
do they? Another analogy is to open-source software. If a company has
their code-base online for public review and offers it as free
software package and then builds a product that takes the
"open-source" code and extends it with custom code implementing
premium features in a "paid" release, nobody criticizes them for
building their commercial product on their own open-source code base.

4] Who are your favourite authors and which are your favourite books?

Too many to mention. Orhan Pamuk, Vedvyas, J D Salinger, Salman
Rushdie, Rabindranath Tagore, Arun Shourie...and let me not even get
into books !

 5] Any advice you would give bloggers aspiring to be authors?

None at all except write on topics you are passionate about and don't
even have the "What do I need to write so as to get the attention of
publishers?" question at the back of your mind.

 6] What should readers watch out for, are you working on a next book?

Yes I am. Mainstream fiction with a humorous undertone.

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