Are you a victim of wrong decisions?


Decision making
If you are passing through a difficult time at home or workplace, think how your decisions aggravated the situation.

Once Oprah Winfrey said, “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned recently is that when you don’t know what to do, you should do nothing until you figure out what to do because a lot of times you feel like you are pressed against the wall, and you’ve got to make a decision. You never have to do anything. Don’t know what to do? Do nothing.”

Eight years ago, a friend who was well settled at a top TV channel in Karachi, decided to join a new TV channel for growth. Unfortunately, things went wrong there; she is still not settled.

Please do not ask me about some famous media personnel who decided to switch their employers recently. Only time will tell how wise they were.

Thirty-eight years ago, there was a poor student in Daro, district Thatta, who failed to appear in the Class X examinations, because he couldn’t pay fees. Although the boy was very disappointed, he decided to work as a labourer, collect the required money, and appear next year – and he did it. Later, he became the first local director of a reputable private educational institution in Pakistan. I am referring to Dr Muhammad Memon.

If a decision is a choice from two or more alternatives, then we make dozens or hundreds of decisions every day: tea or coffee; biscuits or omelette; burger or biryani; resolving an issue or handling a difficult client, a subordinate, a peer, a supervisor or a loved one, etc. Doing so, we deal with two kinds of issues:

  1. structured: straightforward, familiar and easy; and
  2. unstructured: new and unusual. The latter can make or ruin a person or an institution. Notice the positive and negative impacts of decisions made by people in the above examples.

In decision-making process, usually we confront with two situations:

  1. Taking a rational decision by choosing the best alternative, if we have a clear and specific goal, and know all possible alternatives and consequences.
  2. If we are experienced and understand a situation well, we also make a decision using our intuition, based on our experience, feelings and accumulated judgement.

In any situations, making timely and well-considered decisions is essential in business as well as personal life. Before taking any decision, a wise person always:

  1. defines and clarifies the issue
  2. gathers all facts and understands causes
  3. brainstorms possible options
  4. considers and compares pros and cons of each option
  5. selects the best option
  6. explains his/her decision to those involved and affected, and follows up to ensure proper and effective implementation.

Are you a victim of wrong decisions? What if you had kept in mind the above six points? What if you had compromised or did nothing?

I second Oprah that sometimes doing nothing is much better than making a wrong decision.

Being a journalist


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Along with my old colleagues: (left to right) Yousif Sindhi, Mansoor Khokhar, Yaqoob Joyo, Urs Umrani, Syed Fida Hussain Shah, Rasool Bux Sarang (me) and Doongar Dothi. Photo credit: Syed Fida Hussain Shah

In March 1987, when I completed my Secondary School Certificate education, I decided to work part time and continue my education.

I started my career as a trainee calligrapher, initially at two Sindhi dailies Sindh News and Aftab in Hyderabad, and later switched to a leading media group.

While working there, I did the multitasking: from calligraphy, proofreading, translation and sub-editing to writing. Within four years, I was the editor of weekly magazine.

My boss was basically a newspaper hawker, who became a manager with his dedication. Since he was not a journalist, during all these years, I was a free man to write whatever I liked. When I recall some incidents, I realise that sometimes I was like a bull in a china shop.

Once I visited Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation Hyderabad station, locally known as Radio Pakistan Hyderabad. When I entered a producer’s room without knocking, I noticed that his hand was rested on a female writer’s hand. They were speechless. After a few days, the incident was part of my radio roundup section.

I remember the day when the female writer, who happened to be one of our columnists, walked towards my desk with a horrible face.

“Do you understand what you have done? Do you realise what would happen if my relatives see this? Do you know in which circumstances women work? Mr, if I lodge a complaint, you can lose your job RIGHT NOW, but I am not doing so,” she almost screamed at me.

I was shaking and managed to say, “I… I… apologise…”

“Apologise?” she shouted. “After doing all this, you are just saying ‘apologise’?” she stared at me for a long time and then left.

Another incident. When I was in charge of a funny question-and-answer section, a girl asked, “I noticed you bowing down in the market a few days ago. What did you pick up?” I replied, “It was a hair-removing soap. Was it yours?”

Next day, I had a hearing and my boss delivered a long lecture on ethics.

In the same section, once I created a funny name. Unfortunately, it was a mix of a religious figure’s name and an animal. Next day, a delegation of religious scholars visited our head office, broke some office furniture, threatened the staff and left with a warning “do not do it again!”

In the very same radio roundup, I also criticised a lisping presenter. After listening to a long lecture again, I came to know that actually he was a relative of our media house owner.

When I look back, I realise that although I was not on the wrong side every time, I could have avoided many incidents if I had been trained properly or worked under the mentorship of a senior journalist.

Today, sometimes when I watch TV and listen to radio while driving, I also realise that some of them are accidental journalists. They sound like me, when I was an amateur journalist in 90s. They can ridicule anybody they like. Many times, they break a news first and then verify the facts.

Based on my personal experiences, I firmly believe that all this can be improved with proper education, training and mentorship of senior journalists. Today’s journalists are very lucky that they can find free training resources, and easily get in touch with media icons online.

Five tips to write better English on social media


Many people in my village use internet on their mobile phones. Sometimes they ask how they can improve their English. I thought I should come up with a few tips that can be beneficial for others as well.

Please feel free to share your feedback to make the tips more effective.

  1. Know the basic grammar: Especially, the use of parts of speech. Wren and Martin’s ‘High School English Grammar and Composition’ could be the best resource to start with. However, if you search, you can also find several online resources.
  2. Read: Try to read a newspaper or a book daily. You can find several free resources online.
  3. Use Google: If you are not sure about the usage of a term or phrase, search it in Google. For example, if you search “Me standing with my friend” [use double quotes “”], you will hardly find 10 results. If you try “Along with my friend”, you will get more than 21,000,000 results. That means the latter is widely used. You can also find similar other phrases using this technique.
  4. Proofread before posting: Never post without proofreading. If you are on the desktop, use MS Word for checking typo and grammatical mistakes. Many educated people hate posts without proper punctuation.
  5. Learn from others: Follow people with excellent English writing skills and learn from their posts.

MS Access Media Clipping Database Template


Direct Download Link

Get it from CNET Download.com!

Visit the application page on download.com

I have developed this media clipping database template in Microsoft Access after so many experiments, and sharing it as a gift with those who are interested in databases and would like to manage their print, electronic and broadcast media clippings efficiently.

Important Features

  1. Rather than embedded attachments, the application uses paths to store clipping files in a directory, resulting a very light-size database file.
  2. Auto-generated reports and analytical graphs
  3. Web and desktop versions

MCD

System requirements

Microsoft Access 2010/2013

How to use the template

Download the zip file, extract the folder ‘Media Clipping Database’ and save it on C partition on your hard disk. Go to the folder and open the web or desktop file. The latter offers more features, like, analytical graphs, detailed reports, etc. Replace the filled in fields with your data and see the results.

You can publish your clippings or reports as pdf or export as html files.

Structure

Here is the structure of the database elements:

Tables

Media

ID: An auto number generated automatically with each record
Media: Name of media outlet
Medium: Like, newspaper, TV, radio, etc.
Language: Like, English, Urdu, Sindhi
City Head Office: City in which the head office is located
Comments: Any extra information you would like to add
Logo: Path to the image of the media logo

Contacts

First name, last name, job title, company (media), contact details, etc.

Topics

List of coverage topics

Employees

ID: An auto number generated automatically with each record
Full Name: Full name of employee updating the database

Clippings

The Clippings table stores the information about clippings; field-wise details are given below:
ID: An auto number generated automatically with each record
Date: Publication/on air date
Region: Area/country
Entity: Company entity
Department: Company department
Nature: Nature or tone of the clip, like, negative, neutral, and positive
Coverage Type: Like, brief news, features, etc.
Source: Like, arranged, not arranged or released by your company
Media: Name of media outlet
Media Contact: Like, name of the reporter
Heading/Hyperlink: Heading, hyperlinked with an online link to the coverage, if any
Summary: A brief summary of the news (maximum 255 characters)
Body Text: Contents of the news
Topic Category: Select a topic from the list if you would like to divide your coverage topic-wise, like, eHealth, AIDS, pregnancy, etc.
Current Story Topic: Main topic of a coverage, like, National Symposium, Teachers’ Day, etc. Headings could be different under that main topic.
Event Title: Like, World Diabetes Day
Release Title: Title of press release or photo caption. If the release is related to an event, keep the event and release title same.
Image Path: Browse to a directory to save the path to display a clip image in the database
Position: Like, page number
Duration: For video and audio coverage, in minutes.
Edition: Like, Karachi edition
Employee: Employee signed in
Update Date: Date on which the record updated

Tips

By clicking on a field in the table, you can change the properties as per your requirement, like:
Field size: Maximum characters allowed
Default value: Auto filled, like, current date in the date field that can be modified by the user
Required: If checked, the record could not be saved without filling in this field, etc.

In lookup fields, that display a list to select an item, you can right-click on the arrow on a form and edit the list items.

Browse to File Function in MS Access


If you are using images frequently and saving them as attachments in MS Access database, you might end up with a heavy file. The software has also a limit of 2GB file size. To avoid that situation, you may like to save your images in a separate folder and display them in the database by a text path. Through the following example, I will show you how to do it.

BrowseTo

The example has a table and a form with the fields: ID (auto number) and Path (text). There are two more elements on the form: BrowseTo button and Image frame. When a user clicks on BrowseTo button, it will browse to a file and save its path in the field Path. If the file is an image, it will be displayed in the frame Image.

After creating all the required elements, right-click on BrowseTo button, go to Properties > Event > On Click, select [Event Procedure] and click on ellipses (three dots) to open VB application. Select the code area and paste the following code:

Private Sub cmdBrowseTo_Click()
Dim fdg As FileDialog, vrtSelectedItem As Variant
Dim strSelectedFile As String
Set fdg = Application.FileDialog(msoFileDialogFilePicker)
With fdg
.AllowMultiSelect = False
.InitialView = msoFileDialogViewDetails
If .Show = -1 Then
For Each vrtSelectedItem In .SelectedItems
strSelectedFile = vrtSelectedItem
Next vrtSelectedItem
Me![Path] = strSelectedFile
Else
End If
End With
Set fdg = Nothing
End Sub

Stay in the VB application, go to the menu Tools > References and check Microsoft Office xx.x Object Library.

Before testing the button, right-click on the frame Image, go to Properties > Data > Control Source and select Path, so that it can display the image through the path.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE SAMPLE DATABASE

MS Access Before Change or Before Update Function: How to Make Another Field Required?


In MS Access 2010, if you want to make a field ‘required’ or compulsory based on a data inserted in another field, you can do it in different ways. Through the following example, I will show you how to do it using data macros and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).

The example has two tables with the following fields:

ID (autonumber)
Source (lookup: “Arranged by My Org”, “Released by My Org”, “Not Arranged by My Org”)
MainMessage (text)

We want users to insert main message(s) in the field MainMessage if they select either “Arranged by My Org” or “Released by My Org” in the field Source.

Data Macro

Open your table. Go to the menu Table, click on Before Change and follow the following steps:

  1. Select If and paste the following code: [Source]=”Arranged by My Org” Or [Source]=”Released by My Org” And IsNull([MainMessage])
  2. Select RaiseError, type 1 in Error Number, Please insert main message(s) in the field Main Message in Error Description, and save.

Open FormDataMacro and try the code.

VBA

Open FormVBA in design view, select form properties, click on event, under Before Update select Event Procedure, click on the ellipsis (…) to open the VBA code area, and paste the following code:

Private Sub Form_BeforeUpdate(Cancel As Integer)
Dim strMsg As String
strMsg = “Please insert main message(s) in the field Main Message”
If (Me![Source] = “Arranged by My Org”) Or (Me![Source] = “Released by My Org”) Then
If IsNull(Me![MainMessage]) Then
MsgBox strMsg
Cancel = True
End If
End If
End Sub

Save and try the code by inserting data in the form.

Click here to download the sample database

Punjabi, Sindhi and Urdu as Locale Languages in Windows 8


At a time when the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs rejected a bill to grant regional/native languages the status of national languages, and one of the committee members called the move ‘an act against the national interest’, Microsoft Windows has extended its support to Punjabi and Sindhi as locale languages in its new operating system, Windows 8.

In the Windows operating systems, a locale is a set of user preference information related to the user’s language, environment and/or cultural conventions.

Ironically, Punjabi and Sindhi are national languages in India, and Windows already supports Punjabi (India) Gurmukhi script. The newly added Punjabi (Pakistan) is based on Arabic/Shahmukhi script.

Before Windows 8, Urdu was the only Pakistani locale language, which was introduced from Widows 2000. Pashto (Afghanistan), also widely used in Pakistan, was added from Windows XP.

Windows 8 offers 109 display languages, including a new United Kingdom version of English, and the locale support to 13 other languages, including Punjabi (Pakistan), Sindhi (Pakistan), Central Kurdish (Iraq), Uyghur (China), Belarusian (Belarus), Kinyarwanda (Rwanda), Tigrinya (Ethiopia), Tajik (Tajikistan), Wolof (Senegal), K’iche’ (Guatemala), Scottish Gaelic (United Kingdom), Cherokee (United States) and Valencian (Spain).

This is indeed a historic moment for language lovers, especially, veteran campaigners like Abdul-Majid Bhurgri – a computer software professional from Larkana, Sindh, and now settled in Seattle, USA – who had written a white paper for Microsoft in 2002 titled Enabling Pakistani Languages Through Unicode.

Referring to Mr Bhurgri’s paper, Microsoft’s Michael S. Kaplan commented in his blog: “This is pretty exciting, since at one point Sindhi was being considered for Vista (but was ultimately not done). I suspect that Abdul-Majid Bhurgri (who I was in contact with back in 2007 talking about Urdu and Sindhi) will be pleased to see Sindhi finally being added to Windows 8”.

Although Windows 8 is expected to be released in October this year, its features can be tried free by installing Windows 8 Release Preview and language interface packs. To avoid any inconvenience, some people may like to experiment it in a virtual PC, like, Oracle VM VirtualBox.

Keyboard Layouts

Since Windows 8 official keyboard layouts for Punjabi and Sindhi are not available yet, customised layouts can be searched in download.com or in a search engine, and downloaded for free.

Punjabi and Sindhi

Like Seraiki and Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi belong to Indo-Aryan subdivision of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Both the languages are widely spoken in India and Pakistan, and are very rich in literature, news media, music and film. Punjabi is considered one of the most spoken languages in the world. Sindhi is also taught as a first language in the government schools of Sindh, including some schools in Karachi.

Punjabi emerged as an independent language in the 11th century. Many ancient Sufi mystics and later Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru of the Sikhism, started the literary tradition in Punjabi. The early Punjabi literature has had a very rich oral tradition and was principally spiritual in nature. Muslim, Sikh and Hindu writers composed many works in Punjabi between 1600 and 1850. Baba Bulleh Shah was the most famous Punjabi Sufi poet.

The first translation of the Quran into Sindhi was completed in 883 in Mansura, Sindh. Sindhi became a popular literary language between the 14th and 18th centuries, when mystics like Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast narrated their theosophical poetry. During the British rule in the late 19th century, an Arabic-based orthography was decreed standard, after much controversy, as the Devanagari script had also been considered.

What lies in future?

Looking at the Microsoft team’s excitement to bring powerful, easy-to-use language features to more users than ever in Windows 8, we can expect much more in future, like, support to more Pakistani languages, especially, Pashto (Pakistan), Balochi and Seraiki.

Porter’s Five Forces of Media Industry in Pakistan


Media industry in Pakistan earned a revenue of Rupees 32.06 billion in 2011. There are approximately 250 active newspapers, 90 TV and 100 FM radio channels (including 25 campus radio stations) and 17,000 journalists in the industry (there were only 2,000 in 2001).

I have tried to analyse the industry through Porter’s Five Forces. The results are given below. Please feel free to share your feedback.

Threat of New Competition

  • Entry barriers (medium)
  • Exit barriers (low)
  • Capital requirement (high)
  • Switching or sunk costs (high)
  • Access to distribution (high)
  • Customer loyalty (low)
  • Industry profitability (high)

Threat of Substitutes

  • Internet (medium)
  • Mobile (low)

Bargaining Power of Customers

  • Customers can easily switch (high)
  • Customers have easy access to the world media (low)
  • Substitutes, like, internet and mobile, are available (medium)

Bargaining Power of Suppliers

  • Power of suppliers (low)
  • Power of content providers (low)

Competitive Rivalry

  • Costly and perishable products (high)
  • Diversified and influential rivals (high)

Conclusion
Porter’s Five Forces analysis reveals:

  • Threat of new competition is medium to high
  • Threat of substitutes is low to medium
  • Power of customers is medium to high
  • Power of suppliers is low
  • Competition in the industry is high

Overall, profitability of media industry in Pakistan lies between medium and high.

Auto filling or auto populating MS Access fields in a form


Download sample database

Required: MS Access 2010

Desktop database:

1. Create the required fields in your main table (tblTable2) similar to the data type of other table (tblTable1), where from you want to extract data for auto filling (text fields, numbers fields, etc). You may also keep the field names similar.

2. In tblTable2 design mood, click the tab ‘Lookup’ and select ‘Combo Box’. Go to ‘Row Source’ and click the three eclipses to switch to query mood. Select tblTable1 and double click the matching field; save and close. Repeat the same procedure for all the other fields.

3. Prepare a form based on tblTable2. Among the auto filling fields, select the main field (e.g., MediaOrganisation). Go to the tab ‘Design’ > ‘Properties’ > Data > open ‘Row Source’ and select all the fields in the query that you want to auto fill. Close and go to ‘Properties’ > ‘Format’ and fill in ‘Column Count’ and ‘Column Widths’ (e.g. Column Count: 3; Column Width: 1”,1”,1”).

4. Go to the tab ‘Event’, ‘After Update’, open ‘code builder’ and type the following code:

Option Compare Database
Private Sub [combo box name with the prefix cbo]_AfterUpdate()
End Sub

Private Sub [main filed name]_AfterUpdate() [this is column 0]
Me.[field 1 of tblTable2] = Me.[ main filed name].Column(1)
Me. [field 2 of tblTable2] = Me. [main filed name].Column(2)
End Sub

Or copy the following code:

Option Compare Database
Private Sub cboMediaOrganisation_AfterUpdate()
End Sub

Private Sub MediaOrganisation_AfterUpdate()
Me.Medium = Me.MediaOrganisation.Column(1)
Me.Language = Me.MediaOrganisation.Column(2)
End Sub

5. Now try the form by selecting a name in the field MediaOrganisation. You will notice that ‘Medium’ and ‘Language’ fields are auto filled.

Web database:

Drag joined query fields in your main table (tblTable2) query and create a form to display them.