Software

Releasing Side Projects

July 15, 2018

It feels interesting to send side projects out into the wild. First of all, you have to recognize if you’re solving a need or just making something neat. Solving a need means you need to find a market. Making something neat still needs a market, but for a different reason.

At the end of the day, it’s a vulnerable thing that you need to enter with an open mind. Too many people release things that need iteration, and stubbornly refuse to update. Take Filezilla’s inability to hotfix, or Habitica’s mobile app limitations.

Releasing side projects can be rough, so you have to define to yourself why you’re doing it. Maybe even before you begin, because it will affect your outcome.

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Education

Teaching Life Lessons to Kids

July 14, 2018

One of the problems with teaching life lessons to kids is that the parents also have to understand. Parents can’t pass on critical life skills if they don’t understand them. There’s no point teaching a parent to deliver curriculum on growth mindset if they don’t know what that means.

Edtech for the home really has two audiences – kids and their parents. Because even if the parent isn’t teaching, they need to see value in what you do teach.

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Programming

Embedding Youtube Videos in React

July 13, 2018

Embedding youtube videos in a React component can be a bit of a pain because of its HTML parsing.

Luckily, I recently found success with the package react-youtube, which simplifies the process a lot. Embedded audio on a page for a site I’m working on is now one quick element. Consider using this package instead of the default embedding due to its ease.

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Sociology

Criticizing Fan ficiton

July 12, 2018

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t hold young people to the same standards as adults for most metrics. Because of their relative inexperience, they’ll always underperform. Sports, art, knowledge, and more are all relevant to this.

So, it’s interesting that the world of fan fiction gets such a bad rap. Teenagers are the majority composition of fanfiction authors, but their work becomes global laughingstocks. Examples of this include My Immortal and more. When we laugh at fan fiction, we’re laughing at children for expressing themselves.

I was never a fan of fan fiction, so to be honest, I couldn’t provide an example of good work. But it’s still notable that we hold an entire genre in a bad light considering the age of its main contributors.

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Entrepreneurship

Finding Tech Work

July 11, 2018

Finding tech work is interesting because the competition can come from anywhere. Project managers go down the path of the PPM, and financial analysts get one of two or three accreditations. But computer scientists don’t have to have degrees or really, any experience. A programmer who strikes gold with an idea they developed by themselves could end up anywhere, potentially without the soft skills required to succeed there.

Just a few thoughts that came up while perusing tech jobs on the market. I wonder who will take them, especially with the shifting landscape of work visas?

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Books

Freakonomics – Book Review

July 10, 2018

I’m torn on Freakonomics. Although the book is missing a bit of academic rigour, it’s greater than the sum of its parts and really did spark a societal trend of actively searching for underlying factors.

The main reason the book missed the mark for me is tied to the reason why I find the related podcast, Freakonomics Radio, so good. The key difference between the two is featuring expert voices versus relying on the author’s research. Dubner provides a crash course in a few topics such as sumo, the KKK, and education. The podcast provides experts who study only those fields. The background topics feel less cursory and more likely to be thoroughly explored when an expert in the field talks about them. After all, to accept many of Freakonomics premises, you have to accept Levitt’s assertions of causation – and how can you know all of the underlying factors if you only have cursory knowledge of the field?

That said, two things save the book. First of all, it doesn’t purport to be an academic study, only an exploration. Second, modern copies of the book include follow-up articles where Dubner admits to some mistakes in their reporting/research. 4 stars because of that, but it would have been 3 otherwise.

Dubner and Levitt definitely started something interesting, and I never felt like anything was too much of a stretch. However, some of the topics that they explored felt rushed and potentially incomplete.

★★★★☆

Stray note:

  • It’s bizarre to see all the 1 and 2 star reviews at the top of this book’s Goodreads page. Many seem incensed at the quality of the research, but only based on one or two points. I wonder where that comes from.

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Edtech

Goals of Education Technology

July 9, 2018

Check out this great list of goals for education technology. Reviewing this list is a reminder of what we’re building for:

  • Improving mastery of academic skills
  • Developing skills to promote lifelong learning
  • Increasing family engagement
  • Planning for future education opportunities
  • Designing effective assessments
  • Improving educator professional development and productivity
  • Making learning accessible to all students
  • Closing opportunity and achievement gaps

The world is full of children who don’t have access to good education because of poverty or other causes. Luckily, technology provides us with an opportunity to reach so many more people than before. Parents need help teaching their kids, and kids need help learning. Teachers need help because they’re overwhelmed and underpaid.

Sometimes, the idea of building something to help people can seem daunting. The world is a tough place, and there aren’t enough resources to go around. It’s our job as innovators to think our way around these problems.

Today’s children won’t become tomorrow’s global leaders on their own!

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Energy

Addicted to Coffee

July 8, 2018

At what point do you become addicted to coffee? I usually drink a cup every day of the week, save Saturday. Now, I start to feel tired in the mid-afternoon, after lunch.

Maybe this is a normal crash, and coffee is just a bandaid. Time to learn how people experiment with this.

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Energy

Living Out of a Backpack

July 7, 2018

Living out of a backpack would be so nice. In this age of expensive property and big cities, it seems like a dream to hop around the world with all you need.

WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg does something like that, and posts a breakdown of his bag.

There’s also the joy of being free of overconsumption. You can’t be tempted to buy things you don’t need if you don’t have space for them.

Maybe I just have my head in the clouds because I’ve been bit by the travel bug. Or, maybe I just need some spring cleaning.

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Excellence

No Quick Distractions

July 6, 2018

Scanning the Facebook or Reddit news feed in a quick distraction is too easy. Those sites steal your focus because that’s what they’re designed to do.

In a sense, the whole world is designed to steal your focus from what’s difficult to what’s easy. Avoiding social media is so hard because checking it is so easy. Not letting your gaze slip is hard because so many interesting things happen around us. Doing hobbies is hard because watching Netflix is easier.

These quick distractions add up to rob you of your time – not just in the doing, but in the refocussing.

Blocking distractions altogether is impossible, but training yourself to just not go for them isn’t. No quick distractions. Be better than that.

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