After having what seems like the most unproductive (code/design/dev-wise) month of my life, I have been killing it again in the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure why, but my life works in cycles where I am either ‘killing it’ or ‘being killed.’ Here is my attempt to examine what each means to me:
Killing it When I am killing something, everything else in my life takes a nosedive and is at most second-priority to my work. 24 hours a day, the only thing I can think about is the new project, feature ideas, MySQL queries, PHP libraries, Photoshop mockups, VC term sheets, user feedback, or business models. At the most random moments of the day — waiting for line at Subway, or listening to an audiobook in the library — I encounter moments of condensed excitement, followed by nightmares of executing something in the real world.
Either way, the challenge feels exciting rather than tedious, and when I am ‘at it’, nothing can stop me — no lack of hunger, thirst, sleep, or social interaction. It’s work all the way, and the output is always beyond satisfactory to me because it quite simply is my only real priority at that point.
On the downside, however, my mind is stuck in a bubble, so its radar for things like aesthetics is tainted at best. For example, I can look at a design and not realize that it only consists of one primary color, which, while ‘beautiful’, doesn’t do any favours to the eye.
I’m getting little sleep, food, or entertainment, but I am in an ecstatic flow where the mind just doesn’t need those to function — give it Photoshop, some inspiration, an energy drink, and that’s all it will ask for.
Being killed This usually comes after I’ve killed it for a few weeks and my mind needs rest — or rather — a break from working in Photoshop and looking at PHP code. Also, this is usually accompanied with a road block where I don’t feel like building something because I’m scared of the output sucking, or I simply can’t come up with ideas that would differentiate my work from the norm. Here, the last thing I want to think about is work, because the guilt of neglecting it is just too haunting and discouraging.
I watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of podcasts and music, read a lot of audiobooks, exercise as much as I can, attend parties, spend time with my family, do fun things, but it’s a stage where my mind is strictly limited to consuming and learning, and not producing and creating.
While unproductive, this stage I think is the mind’s way of keeping sanity. It needs the interaction, knowledge, food, conversation, and exercise to keep it growing and evolving, and most importantly, to use as ‘fuel’ for when I’m killing it later and I need my mind to recollect things further my output and fuel that ecstatic flow.
I’m being killed by the non-important things in life, but I’m also learning super-important things I’ll need later, so it’s a zero sum game.
Overall, both stages are important to me, but what’s more important is to know that when you’re in one stage, you will not remain there forever, and vice-versa. Everything is temporary, so your priority in any stage should be to make the most out of it.
“You don’t create job-seekers, you create job-generators.”—A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India’s former President, speaking about the fundamental difference between Indian universities and American universities.
Tumblarity is the smartest innovation so far by Tumblr.
Never a regular Tumblr user, watching it climb up so fast has encouraged and inspired me to keep posting great stuff on a regular basis. Then, the more I post, the more likes and reblogs and followers I get, which further increases my tumblarity and so on.
I’m working on an inspired version of this concept which should be incorporated into Nincha when we launch. I don’t know what algorithm Tumblr uses, but ours will roughly be something like “the average of the moving mean (mm) of the number of your shares/new followers/likes/comments per day in the last week, with a base of your average rank over the last six months.”
Only thing we are missing right now, though, is an awesome word like ‘tumblarity.’ Nincharank? Ninchalarity? The Nincherscale?
If you don’t know about Radio Lab, drop everything your doing right now and check out their hour-long episodes, “Diagnosis”, “Detective Stories,” “Memory & Forgetting”, “Laughter,” “Stress,” and “Morality”. After that, listen to the rest.
Since Saturday, I’ve gone through about twenty hours of this podcast, and I can’t get enough. It’s like reading a giant book full of the most obscure short stories, but they’re also true, informative, amazing, inspiring, and super well-produced. Each and every one of them.
You know that feeling you get when you find a half-eaten chocolate cake and realize it’s going to take the next hour of your life to get through it? I’m in that phase with Radio Lab right now and loving every moment of it (I have about six more episodes to go.)
For some reason, every time a TED audience applauds at something (or better yet, gives a standing ovation), I can’t help but imagine them subconciously saying to the Internet audience, “Hey, look at us! We are the top 0.00001% citizens of this world, and we are applauding a positive, world-changing action taken by our 0.00001% exclusive fellow speaker! We have money, power, fame, and everything you don’t, so the least we can do is applaud our fellow 0.00001% speaker who is doing something for you from our behalf! Keep dreaming, watching our videos, and maybe you’ll join us some day!”
TED has some great speakers and I appreciate them putting up their videos to share with the world, but I feel a huge cringe-factor when it comes to anything involving their audience. The way they laugh, clap, and give standing ovations to every speaker who is doing something to save the third world, or cure AIDS, or spread music in Venezualian high schools, makes it seem almost like an old-boys-doing-good-before-going-to-hell club.
Good work should be appreciated, but not in such a contrived and artificial setup where every person in the audience looks like they’re obligated to clap and stand up, or they won’t be welcome at the next TED anymore and declared Dr. Evil. Not every good deed in this world is stand-up worthy, which is what I wish they’d realise that and stop with the jumping and perhaps, I don’t know, do something on their own?
[Although, don’t get me wrong. I would love to go to TED any day, and could do almost anything for a 2011 invite. :-)]
“I think that a lot of what happens next depends on how quickly WolframAlpha can open up their system for participation by third parties. The power of a web search engine derives from the fact that the underlying corpus is constantly growing through many individual additions. The additional structure required for computational search meant that WolframAlpha had much of its corpus manually prepared in a controlled fashion. That of course does not scale. If WolframAlpha can open up the system to third party contributions of data and eventually of algorithms, then it will take us a big step closer to that omniscient computer from the Star Trek bridge.”—Computer, What Is WolframAlpha? - Continuations (via fred-wilson)
I’m still wondering why it doesn’t work like this:
Update is made by @aplusk with his blackberry.
A new entry is added to the MySQL database with “username” set to aplusk and “update” set to the text.
I am a friend of @aplusk or @johncmayer and I load my Twitter stream (using the website or one of the apps.)
Twitter checks for my @reply setting, and if it is the default, it checks the database for all tweets by my friends which, if they mention a user, mention at least one of the other people I follow (I follow 100 people), or no one. "Return 15 most recent tweets by users [x], [y] [z] … the people @sidyadav follows … as long as, if a tweet mentions a @user, it mentions [x], [y], [z] and nobody else."
If my setting is not the default and I set it to see all tweets, then the job is even simpler. “Return 15 most recent tweets by users [x], [y] [z] … the people @sidyadav follows.”
One of the tweets it finds is the @aplusk reply to @johncmayer, and it shows up in my stream.
Why the “deliver the tweet to 1.75 million people” headache? Twitter doesn’t have to “deliver” anything — they only have to make sure that the tweet shows up when one of the 1.75 million people load their Twitter stream.
It’s a productive Saturday for me today, as opposed to one of those “laid-back-chill-out-watch-Bill-Maher” ones. So, I’m going to attempt to do something I haven’t done in a long while, ever since I handed over my gig over at Rev2: review a web product.
Unless you’re living under a rock, you would have seen or at least known today that Wolfram|Alpha, a much anticipated and hyped search engine, sorry, “computational knowledge engine”, launched today. If you haven’t done so already, go to their examples page and try it out.
As opposed to a traditional search engine like Google, which searches web documents it indexes from crawling the web on a regular basis, Wolfram|Alpha (which I’ll refer to as Wolfram from henceforth to ensure my hands don’t cramp out), basically curates algorithms and statistical/factual information, as inputted and made understood to its database by humans. While the approach is different, Wolfram looks to do exactly what Google and Wikipedia do: give you answers.
For example, while a regular query on Google may be “top 10 hotels in paris,” — subjective, human-opinionated information, Wolfram doesn’t really look to serve those kinds of questions, so it will have nothing for you. Give it “differentiate 3x^2 +2x + 1” or “gdp india vs usa” or “internet users in new zealand”, however, and now we’re talking. Note the difference: Wolfram answers obvious, objective, data-driven questions where the answer you’re looking for isn’t dependant someone having written a blog post or reviewed something, but where the answer simply exists.
Of course, while Wolfram fails when subjectivity comes in, Google can be used for both kinds of queries. It’s not like you won’t be able to answer “gdp india vs usa” or “internet users in new zealand” using Google, but your journey will involve looking through snippets of web pages and finding the best sources to satisfy your question, something Wolfram completely eliminates. Use Wolfram, and you’ll get the answer, not ten places where it might exist.
I have seen and read all sorts of mixed feedback so far, but to me, it seemed obvious the first time I tried it. Four years from today, you’ll be using Wolfram alongside Google and Wikipedia. Whether it will be a part of Google, or another product all together, I believe the concept behind Wolfram — that there is value in structured data, and computers can be used to make it more accessible and searchable — exists.
Consider this. When Google started, search engines weren’t nearly as good as they are today. Every one on them, in today’s comparison, including Google, sucked. But Google was light years ahead of the others, and this is where I see Wolfram in comparison to its competition (for example, Google’s own knowledge computation play which shows up when you type things like “weather in seattle” is fairly limited.)
It’s unfair to look at Wolfram today and dismiss it as the future. Instead, one has to first look at the service it provides. If it worked like it should, would it be immensely useful? Yes. (Just like if a search engine worked like it should in 1999.) Then, consider the competition and the market. Does it suck today? Yes. (Just like search sucked in 1999.) And finally, look at Wolfram in comparison to the other services that do the same thing. Is Wolfram light years ahead? Perhaps not, but much ahead. (Just like Google was, in terms of everybody else, in 1999.)
As Stephen Wolfram, puts it, “it’s a long-term thing we’re doing.” So if Wolfram does have the fortune to stay around for long, it’s my opinion that it is going to make it. If not, another product will. But the value in getting answers — not web pages — is imminent and where the future is headed.
“I am inspired by Apple products. Every morning, I look at my PowerBook, and it says to me, ‘what will you do today that is worthy of me’?”—
As a fellow Apple enthusiast, this is so true. Buying an Apple product is like buying a gym membership. It’s expensive, that’s why you know the motivation won’t be as much about how lazy you’re feeling at the moment, but how much you paid for that god damn thing and how much you will lose [financially] if you don’t use it. Oh, and add on top of that its beauty, elegance, and Apple employees/Steve Jobs saying to you at every moment, “We created this beautiful product. What can you create that’s beautiful with it?”.
A lot of people have been getting into them. I myself started two years ago, and haven’t looked back — it’s now my single favorite form of entertainment, pleasure, and timepass. The audiobook format I believe takes the best from all forms of media and story-telling (music, movies, books), and I love how the genre is still so obscure and unknown to a lot of people, making my experience less mainstream and more personal.
Here are some must-reads for you — Google them for the Audible link:
The Dip, by Seth Godin
Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson
Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, by Alan Deusthman
The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch
Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
Copy This!, by Paul Orfalea
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
The books above are the ones I’ve found generally suitable and would recommend to everyone in this world. Also, co-incidentally, they all happen to be non-fiction.
The following are some novels from the murder-mystery genre which I personally love. Reading these is my new-found passion, and probably one of the most enjoyable things I experience. The genre might not be your cup of tea, but if it is, check these out (in the order I list them, starting from the top):
Lost Light, by Michael Connelly
The Narrows, by Michael Connelly
The Closers, by Michael Connelly
Echo Park, by Michael Connelly
(I’m currently reading The Brass Verdict, and after I finish The Scarecrow which comes out next week, I plan to go back and read all Michael Connelly novels from the start, in anticipation for the next one in the Harry Bosch series which comes out in October.)
When you get hooked and find it difficult to get anything else done, don’t blame me.
I went with a friend of mine to see Star Trek: The IMAX Experience at the AMC Theatre in Burbank today. I drove out of my way to see the film on the large IMAX screen and paid an extra $5 for the ticket, which felt worth it at the time.
HOWEVER, we get in the theatre and its just a slightly bigger than normal screen and NOT the usual standard huge 72 ft IMAX screen. I was very upset and apparently this problem is happening all over at Regal and AMC theatres. Here’s a graphic representation of what’s happening at these “FAKE IMAX” screens:
If you don’t want the whole long story, I did some research online and found this article that explains it. Basically IMAX is whoring out their brand name and trying to trick people. These new “IMAX” theatres are really just nice digital screens with good sound, but they ARE NOT IMAX, in that they don’t have the huge 72 ft gigantic screen which people would expect. However, they still charge $5 more for tickets as they would for the regular IMAX.
REGAL, AMC, AND IMAX - YOU ARE LIARS!
Boycott them. Fuck them for taking advantage of people and charging them $5 extra. If you’re in LA, go to the Arclight from now on, and fuck the IMAX screens (fake and real).
Some people at Regal and AMC both wanted to call these screens IMAX Digital so as to differentiate it somehow from the giant IMAX screens people are used to associating with the name IMAX. Apparently IMAX doesn’t see anything wrong with duping customers like this and insisted on simply keeping it as IMAX. Well, I have a better term how about - “BULLSHIT IMAX.” Cause that’s what it is.
According to this piece, IMAX CEO, Richard Gelfond said the company only puts IMAX digital systems into multiplex auditoriums that meet certain criteria. He jokingly said, “It’s a very scientific test. It’s called the ‘wow’ factor. So if you don’t go in and go ‘wow,’ we won’t do it.” HAHAHA! REALLY FUNNY RICHARD!!!! What happens if I go in the theatre and go “This isn’t a fucking IMAX screen, I just got ripped off for $5!!” Do I get my money back?
At the AMC theatre this was my experience at guest services:
Aziz: Yes, I’d like my $5 back. I paid $5 extra for an IMAX screen and that’s not nearly as big as what I have known IMAX to be. Guest Services: I can’t sir. Its IMAX quality picture and sound. Aziz: But the screen isn’t big, that’s the whole reason I pay $5 more for IMAX. Guest Services: Well sir, you watched the whole movie, you could have come out and we could have given you tickets to a different one. Aziz: Why would I do that? I’d leave Star Trek, the movie I wanted to see and you’d give me a ticket for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past? Oh yeah that’s fair! No, you need to give me the $5 back, its the principle of it. Can I see a manager?
Manager: Sir, we can’t refund the money, you saw the whole film. Aziz: I don’t want $15, I just want $5 cause AMC lied about IMAX. Manager: Sir, I can give you popcorn and a drink. Aziz: I don’t want to go home and drink a nasty soda and eat nasty ass popcorn. I want my $5 back. Its not about the money, its the principle of the matter, ITS NOT IMAX. Manager: Sorry, I can’t do anything. Aziz: You know what Twitter is? I have 25,000 followers, I’m tell 25,000 people you run fake IMAX’s and that they should boycott AMC. Manager: I don’t really care sir. Aziz: Yeah, I wouldn’t care either if I worked here, but you know you are in the wrong! You should give me $5!! Manager: SIR, I CAN GIVE YOU POPCORN AND A SODA. Aziz: I DON’T LIKE POPCORN AND I DON’T LIKE SODA, I WANT MY $5!!! Manager: Ok here’s two free passes. UPDATE: In addition to this terrible tragedy, there are also terrible things going on in Darfur. Please Google around for more info on how to help there.
I knew I wasn’t crazy! I went to the theater in the illustration (Empire 25) today and I remember thinking, I could have sworn these used to be way bigger back on the Upper West Side (Lincoln Square). Fuck this.