Sunday, 5 March 2017

Friday, 30 December 2016

Don’t make your users work

This is the form I was expected to complete, so I could park my car in the lot at Sundance Theatre.

There must be something they’re gaining by forcing people to create an account with them. Possibly making it easier to park the next time, or at other locations. This does not justify making the process so difficult. Just take my payment and be done with it.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Study

We must make ourselves study as deeply as possible the technology we use, the functioning of the group we work in, the economics of our firld, its lifeblood. We must constantly ask the question – how do things work, how do descisions get made, how does the group interact? Rounding our knowledge in this way will give us a deeper feel for reality and heightened power to alter it. – Robert Greene, Mastery

Focus and study and the eagerness to look behind the scenes are critical elements of the path to sucessful mastery.

Trade offs

Most code is likely to remain just that: code. Impenetrable to secondary readers, because it was barely comprehensible to its original author. Hard to reason about because reason was a distant goal behind “making it work well enough to ship”. Convoluted because the natural entropy of systems is towards a ball of mud. –DHH, Writing Software is Hard

Coding seems to be mostly a collection of trade offs. There certainly is bad code, but it is hard to judge what is good code simply because you end up arguing over trade offs. Trade offs of clarity or speed or precision or etc. Does speed matter more than clarity? If a project has multiple developers across multiple continents, to what degree does clarity matter over speed?

As long as it is not bad code, is it good? I think there are degrees of good, but as judgement can be personal, it seems pointless to argue over.

Good software is uncommon because writing it is hard. In the abstract, we all know that it is hard. We talk incessantly about how it’s hard. And yet, we also collectively seem shocked — just shocked! — when the expectable happens and the software we’re exposed to or is working on turns out poor. – DHH, Writing Software is Hard

Is it poor? Or, when judging our own work, is it that we’ve changed our minds about things, place emphasis on things we had not before. This is the road to mastery, but i cannot think that sometimes it’s just trade offs we’re making. Like with all hard work, we shy away to work on things that are obvious to us. As long as we come back to solving the hard or difficult problems, then we should be OK with what we momentarily poor.

What’s dangerous is if you cannot see the bad in your code. This, to me, means you are not progressing. Or worse, you’re ignoring it, afraid to criticize yourself. 

You are avoiding the painful work. The work that scares you. The work that will take you to the next level.

If you cannot criticize yourself, if you can’t be your harshest critic, you will never proceed. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Work as a means for pleasure

Using work to provide the provisions you need to obtain the pleasures you desire in life is a horribly inefficient way to allocate your availability of time.

It’s a horrible way to live.

Restless Scanning And Scrolling

Our minds searching. Searching for what? Who knows. Immediate pleasure? Something now? Something fast? Any shallow reward? We get a hit. Pause for two seconds, then move on. Restless, we scan and scroll.

This is worse than inaction. This is destruction. Destroying time that could have been used for creative endeavors.

Our minds were not made for these times. Or rather, the modern world was not made for our minds.

But we can stop. We can remove the clutter. We can make the choice to dig deep. No more scanning. No more scrolling. Just learning and creating. Creating and learning. 

Is time management ruining our lives?

Most of us get into bad habits with email: we check our messages every few minutes, read them and feel vaguely stressed about them, but take little or no action, so they pile up into an even more stress-inducing heap. Instead, Mann advised his audience that day at Google’s Silicon Valley campus, every time you visit your inbox, you should systematically “process to zero”. Clarify the action each message requires – a reply, an entry on your to-do list, or just filing it away. Perform that action. Repeat until no emails remain. Then close your inbox, and get on with living.

The quest for increased personal productivity – for making the best possible use of your limited time – is a dominant motif of our age.

We all have a set of instructions we use to process the world around us, but mine has never helped me achieve Inbox Zero, and probably never will. But I am good at ignoring email, and I spend maybe an hour at day at it. Most of that time goes to crafting and draft re-writes.

And yet the truth is that more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one’s personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay. The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have. Even when people did successfully implement Inbox Zero, it didn’t reliably bring calm. Some interpreted it to mean that every email deserved a reply, which only shackled them more firmly to their inboxes. (“That drives me crazy,” Mann says.) Others grew jumpy at the thought of any messages cluttering an inbox that was supposed to stay pristine, and so ended up checking more frequently. My own dismaying experience with Inbox Zero was that becoming hyper-efficient at processing email meant I ended up getting more email: after all, it’s often the case that replying to a message generates a reply to that reply, and so on. (By contrast, negligent emailers often discover that forgetting to reply brings certain advantages: people find alternative solutions to the problems they were nagging you to solve, or the looming crisis they were emailing about never occurs.)

In terms of productivity, I am terrible at it. My solution is to work on as few things as possible. I don’t get a lot done, but I at least feel like what I do get does has some worth to it.

How different is the modern economy, in terms of productivity and the workplace? Has technology lifted so much off our shoulders that we actually have more time to dedicate to being productive, that we actually are not? At one point in history, work could have meant plowing a field, or tending to animals. This, I imagine, was very time consuming.

Tasks are so sped up now, or even eliminated, that it can be difficult to know what we should work on next.

(Quotes from Why time management is ruining our lives)

Friday, 9 December 2016

Are You Hyper Productive?

Productivity is for robots. What humans will be good at is asking questions, beign creative, and experiences. – Kevin Kelly, Productivity is for robots

The industrial revolution, schooling, factories, and large companies have made humans productive. These things were created to reduce people down to their most common form, the goal being an increase in productivity. But it’s the machines’ turn now. Jobs and work one day will not exist. Work will be optional.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

It’s looking like better sleep is critical for preventing serious health issues

AMA: Health Implications of Light at Night ‘Serious’:

In scientific circles Stevens is widely credited with being the first to articulate the hypothesis that the increasing use of artificial light at night may be related to the high breast cancer risk in the industrialized world.

Better sleep predicts longer survival time for women with advanced breast cancer:

Results show that higher sleep efficiency was significantly associated with lower mortality over the ensuing six years, an effect that remained after adjusting for baseline prognostic factors such as age, estrogen receptor status and treatments received. Mean survival was 68.9 months for efficient sleepers compared with 33.2 months for participants with poor sleep efficiency. Further analysis found that a 10 percent increase in sleep efficiency reduced the estimated hazard of subsequent mortality by 32 percent. There was no association between sleep duration and survival.

Melatonin may lower prostate cancer risk:

“Sleep loss and other factors can influence the amount of melatonin secretion or block it altogether, and health problems associated with low melatonin, disrupted sleep, and/or disruption of the circadian rhythm are broad, including a potential risk factor for cancer,” said Sarah C. Markt, M.P.H., doctoral candidate in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “We found that men who had higher levels of melatonin had a 75 percent reduced risk for developing advanced prostate cancer compared with men who had lower levels of melatonin.”

Earning Less Than Our Parents

The trend of the rate of people earning less that their parents will probably continue. It may flatten out at some point, but don’t bet on it.

In 1970, 92% of American 30-year-olds earned more than their parents did at a similar age, they found. In 2014, that number fell to 51%. – The American Dream is fading, and may be very hard to revive

Should the goal be to reverse this trend? Or should it be to realize it’s not going to change and instead adjust for it, so you can take appropriate action?

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Waiting for lightening to strike is like waiting for lightening to strike

Idly waiting for ideas to execute on is like waiting for lightening to strike. It’s not going to happen. You’re better off borrowing or stealing an idea.

Borrowing means seeing an aspect of something that resonates with you. Something that you can build on, seen from a new perspective that only you may see. Wallets are nothing new, but this does not stop people challenge their design everyday:

The 30 Best Minimalist Wallets

Stealing means taking ownership of something that has been ignore. Your dusting off that old machine in the corner that’s missing key components and shining onto it a big bright light. Stealing means your the first thing that comes to people’s minds.

  • Phone
  • Search
  • Social network
  • Discount warehouse

I don’t image I have to map the above keywords to company names.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Where’s the permalink? Best crispy chicken, by the way

I wanted to post a link to Wired’s The Scientific Secret to Making Crispy Chicken Skin video, but could not initially find the permalink. I scanned the page, hovering my cursor over areas that I thought would lead me to the link, expecting the little arrow to morph into a little hand, but nothing happened.

Fine. I just highlighted the title of the video, control+clicked, and searched Google:

Where's the permalink?

Am I not understanding something? Why wouldn’t Wired make the title of the video clickable?

Mastering Work Vs Mastering Connectivity

Work is simple. You start with a desired outcome and pick a set of tools to get yourself there. The path is clear. The more you put in, the closer you move towards the desired outcome. It may be difficult, but it’s still simple.

E.g. The path to mastery for a programmer is simple: put in the hours of deliberate study, working with peers, learning from experts, reading code, teaching others, etc., and you’ll become a master programmer. Simple.

What’s difficult for people who have mastered this process, what we’re all taught to do at school and in the workplace, is to master relationships. Real human connection that can drive success. Connectivity that gives importance to the work. Without people, the work would be meaningless.

While it’s important to put forward your best work (clean, precise, legible code, for example), making connections with people is vastly more important.

The good news is that most people don’t spend enough time and effort on connecting. Their time is mostly spent on work, leaving a huge gap available to those who emphasize connecting with others.

The nore time and effort spent on ceonnecting, the greater the chance of your work holding meaning and importance.

Facts don’t matter

It’s what those facts say about you that matters. E.g. A group of democrats are presented a proposal on welfare. When presented as if the proposal came from a republican, they’ll think it’s bad. When from a democratic, they’ll think it’s good. Same proposal. Different story. Different influence.

What’s important is the story being told, how well do you identify with that story and the people telling that story. The facts in the story don’t matter.

Here is a paper discussing four studies that demostrate this power of group influence:

Party Over Policy: The Dominating Impact of Group Influence on Political Beliefs

Who’s in Control of Your Money?

Recent curiosities in Robo-advior services landed my on Blake Ross’ article Wealthfront: Silicon Valley Tech at Wall Street Prices.

Which in turn lead me to Raaid Ahmad’s response to Blake’s post:

Is Wealthfront “Silicon Valley Tech at Wall Street Prices” like this blog post by Blake Ross (Mozilla co-founder) suggests?

To me, the key takeaway is this:

Before I begin my response I implore readers: If you’ve been evaluating Wealthfront, Betterment, Vanguard Retirement Funds, or Schwab Intelligent portfolios over the last few months (or years) and can’t decide which to use — for the love of whatever you believe in, stop reading this post, roll a 1d4 and just pick one. They’re all better (by a large margin) than you leaving it in your checking account, spending it on something stupid, or giving it to an active advisor. Go. Do it. Now. Which one did you choose? As the Rock would say, “it doesn’t matter [what you chose, as long as you chose].” – Is Wealthfront “Silicon Valley Tech at Wall Street Prices” like this blog post by Blake Ross (Mozilla co-founder) suggests?

Both writings are reminders of why I’ll always continue to educate myself about money, and never hand over control to anyone. Money is nowhere near as complicated as it’s made to appear, and takes no more than an hour a month to manage.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Adam Geitgey’s World’s Easiest Introduction to Machine Learning

Machine learning is the idea that there are generic algorithms that can tell you something interesting about a set of data without you having to write any custom code specific to the problem. Instead of writing code, you feed data to the generic algorithm and it builds its own logic based on the data. – The world’s easiest introduction to Machine Learning

Sunday, 4 December 2016

We have the Internet, but all we want is Facebook

Focus may be the most critical skill of the future.

In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business. – Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.

Chipping away at one of the greatest crations man has ever forged.

Through its Free Basics program, Facebook has literally become the internet for the world’s poor (who have to pay money to access websites that are outside of Facebook). – I can’t just stand by and watch Mark Zuckerberg destroy the internet.

Pleasing China means suppressing posts and restricting content. Is this what “conversation” looks like?

Facebook Said to Create Censorship Tool to Get Back Into China

Own your words. Control your words. Unfiltered and open access to other’s words, that is the Internet. There is no conversation without openness.

Can self doubt increase the likelihood of greatness?

Doubt can force you to make sure you’re doing your best. It can make you stay up at night practicing until you’re ready for anything, whatever may come tour way. You practice your lines one more time. You polish your presentation one more time. You review your code one more time. Etc.

As long as doubt is not preventing your from pushing your work out into the world, it’s all good.

Final decisions are rarely final. So why fight it.

This is certainly true if you’re creating something for a client. After delivering a product, when all clients and stakeholders have signed off, there will almost certainly be desired changes. You have a number of options.

  1. Make the changes
  2. Don’t make the changes 
  3. Possively point the client to the sign off doc, is refusing to make the change
  4. Hear people out and find a compromise
  5. Spend the time on new areas of the project, effectively ignoring the client
  6. etc.

Which you do will set the tone of interactions with clients to come. It’s ok to it wrong, but be sure to always be aware of the results and perceptions of the tone your setting.

Who We Are Online

If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, why would you say it anonymously online? If you wouldn’t share it with your parent, why share it online?

Better to be who you want to be, who you are, wherever you are.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Fail Gloriously

If we fail — we want to fail outrageously, foolishly, gloriously — giving it everything we’ve got in the cause of making something new and strange and hopefully, awesome.

– Anthony Bourdain, Mamma Roma

Friday, 25 November 2016

2 weeks with the MacBook Pro (esc)

I’ve been using Apple’s new MacBook Pro for a couple weeks now, and here is my bulleted take:

  • Keyboard. The limited travel aggregated me at first, but after a few days the feel of the keys started to grow on me. When I was able to ignore my self conscious thought and just give in to the feel, I started the appreciate the speed and smoothness of typing. However, the first few key keystrokes still feel slightly awkward, and phslysically my ability to find my place without looking is still off.
  • Speed. This new MacBook Pro replaced my MacBook Pro I bought in 2009, so of course the thing is lightyears ahead of what I am use to. So take my word with a grain of salt here, but this thing is fast.
  • Lack of ports. This is just fucking annoying. Not being able to use my Apple Cinema Display or wireless mouse without having to buy an adapter (which I have yet to do) sucks. But more aggregating is the lack of an SD card slot, which means until I buy a dongle, I have to first import my photos in my old MacBook Pro, then copy them over to my new MacBook Pro. It’s a hassle.
  • Form factor. It’s beautiful. What can I say. It’s sleek and looks good and feels good to hold.

    Ok. So it’s official. Apple, it seems, is no longer giving priority to power users, and is going all in on the consumer front. Does Apple no longer live at the edge? Are they now the safe bet?

    My sense is that by the time I’m ready to upgrade again, my only choice will be an iPad. 

    AI is not right around the corner

    It never will be. Computers can’t think and I wonder if they ever will. Abstracting layers on top of one another does not mean we’ll ever get tot henpoint where computers are doing the core thinking.