07 Dec 2017

Blog articles vs articles

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 3 min read (~524 words)

One thing I've been wondering about lately is when should one write blog articles (short articles ranging from 250 to 1000 words) or articles (1000+ words) which would be updated (in)frequently but not be as easily consumable.

The main reason I've preferred articles over blog articles is that it makes it possible to keep articles "alive", while once a blog article has been published, it will not evolve over time. By the time it is posted, it is effectively dead and has very little reason to change.

Being a programmer, I've always enjoyed seeing software project evolve over the years. They start small and grow big and complex over time. I like the satisfaction of seeing something grow step by step, and because of that, I've liked the idea of writing about specific topics and seeing these topics and articles change over time.

The problem with articles however is that it is difficult for visitors to consume. Some articles might grow large and complex. Furthermore, it is difficult for visitors to notice any changes from the last time they've come onto the blog.

Another thing is that articles allow the author to "refactor" what he has written, or rewrite/rephrase/reword, such that the article itself improves over time. With a blog article, it is still possible to do so, but the expectation is that a visitor that has already seen the blog article will not re-read it. And here's the important difference between the two: I expect blog articles to be consumed once, but articles to be consumed multiple times. This expectation is likely wrong. The only person that is likely to consume the same article over and over is its author. Visitors may come to the blog many times, but they are unlikely to expect articles to change over time. An extreme example of this idea would be Wikipedia. People will consult the page of the topic they are interested in, but once they've read it, they aren't likely to come back to it again. The only reason they might do so is if they contribute to it.

What this means is that it is still acceptable to improve both blog articles and articles. The difference lies in how we expect our audience to consume each ones. Articles are likely to be seen as references while blog posts are likely to be perceived as an ephemeral observation. One should expect both to be consumed at best once by a visitor, and that the visitor will not come again to see if it has changed.

Thus, in the end, what matters is what we want to communicate with our audience. Do I want to tell you about a thought (a blog article) or do I want to tell you about some information that is likely to evolve over time (an article).

In the case of my machine learning and artificial general intelligence research, what makes sense is to communicate discoveries or shifts in approaches through blog articles while using articles as a location for thoughts to be worked on.

06 Nov 2015

Fitness trackers

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 7 min read (~1242 words)
health

I've recently become interested in the Quantified Self and wanted to compare a few trackers in order to determine the quality of their solution.

In this study, I compare the Fitbit Charge HR, the Jawbone UP3 and the RS300X. The Fitbit and the Jawbone are known as activity/fitness trackers while the RS300X is an heart rate tracker.

Fitbit and Jawbone are known fitness brand trackers. It's been a couple of years now that these types of trackers are popular, so I'd expect them to have come to some level of maturity. The goal of this study is to evaluate the quality of the products, as much in term of hardware as software.

In my case, I will be testing the Android applications since I own a Nexus 5. I would expect the experience to be quite similar on iOS.

I've also bought an RS300X in order to test a live heart rate tracker.

  • Has a little OLED display.
  • UI/UX is pretty straightforward.

  • The bracelet broke about 3 months after I purchased it. Fitbit support was excellent though and I received a replacement bracelet within 2 days.
  • Website errored out when I tried to create an application (preventing people from creating apps?)
  • Cannot get fine grained data.
  • Heart rate day availability is very odd. Seems to lag out and may display only in chunks.
  • Shows up in my android smart lock as a bluetooth device I could pair with, but I can't select it.

  • None at the moment.

  • The bracelet broke about 4 months after I purchased it.
  • Cannot get fine grained data.
  • Doesn't do real time heart rate tracking.
  • Heart rate day availability is very odd. Seems to lag out and may display only in chunks.
  • No idea why they decided to go with some weird buckle design. It looks like it's a nice point of failure.
  • After about a month it feels like the buckle is becoming loose. It is more and more frequent that it becomes undone and comes close to falling and I have to attach it back...
  • After about two months the buckle is becoming loose very frequently. I'd say I have to "re-buckle" it at least 10-20 times per day. That is ignoring the fact that it'll unbuckle while I sleep, making it pretty useless to sleep heart rate while sleeping.
  • The four heart rate sensors on the lower part of the bracelet are uncomfortable.
  • All the people I've shown the device to asked "why is there no display, show at least the time...".
  • Terribly clunky UI/UX. Why can't I just swipe from day to day in any of the stats
  • For that matter, why is it so hard to display the metrics I'm interested in and get rid of all those "pretty" suggestions cards?
  • Why would you put unit selection (metric or imperial) as being configured through my height or weight? Is it to save me time or to confuse me?

The following chart is the data I've collected over 3 days. In black is the Jawbone UP3 data and in blue the Fitbit Charge HR data.

Overall, the Fitbit Charge HR data is more consistent (every 5 minutes) while the Jawbone UP3 may end up having no data point for up to 2 hours. I assume this might be caused by how I've been wearing the bracelet but that is a weak argument.

Accuracy between the two devices can vary a lot.

[Pedometer chart for comparison]

Both devices seem to measure approximately the same amount of sleep. However the Jawbone UP3 has a nicer chart that goes into the various stages of sleep while the Fitbit Charge HR only displays Asleep/Restless/Awake.

[Sleep monitoring chart for comparison]

  • None at the moment.

  • Cannot get data out of device (for free).
  • "If you want your data, pay us another 70\$ +taxes for a transmission device".
  • "Oh, and by the way, you're going to send us those precious data over our web service so we can mine it for \$".
  • Watch freaks out if too close from chest strap.
  • Who thought of this terrible buckle design? If I want to break the strap, that's how I'd design the buckle.

05 Jan 2013

2012 ManicTime review

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 8 min read (~1572 words)
productivity time management

As 2012 ended, I wanted to take a look back at this year and review my computer usage/consumption in order to reduce time wasting activity. That time should be channeled into more meaningful activities like learning a new language, improving my current skills, practicing piano and more.

The following data has been collected from August 11, 2012 to December 31, 2012. There is about 14 days which do not have any data (application was closed).

The data covers my computer usage with over 966.21h of active usage. During the period for which I collected data, the computer was also powered off for 1686.30h and left unused (away) for approximately 58.04h.

If we account 2 months of 31 days + 2 months of 30 days + 20 days (August) - 14 days without data = 128 days of data. This would average to 7.55h/day of active computer usage. The way it is currently "structured" however is that computer usage during the week is about 4-5h/day while on the week-end, it is about 12h/day.

This sounds a bit high, but there's a reason to this. I'm not ACTIVELY using the computer for all that time. In ManicTime, the computer is considered active if the computer is being used at least once within a 60 minutes time frame. This means I could potentially be using the computer for 1 minute (or less) every hour and it would count as an active usage of 1h. But for the sake of this review, I'll consider myself as a computer addict (which I am) and will count every minute as an active minute.

The following top 10 items accounts for 876.18h out of the 966.21h of active usage of the computer.

Application Hours
Google Chrome 457.76
Remote Desktop Connection 179.11
League of Legends (TM) Client 72.69
VLC media player 62.9
HexChat 35.81
Free Alarm Clock 15.02
mRemote 14.9
Sublime Text 2 14.56
Windows Explorer 12.13
Torchlight II 11.3

On first sight we can see that I spend a lot of time browsing the web. I do various things on there and since it is the biggest chunk of my time, it is worth looking at what I do exactly on the web. The following table is the top 10 websites I've spent time on.

Website Hours
www.reddit.com 165.53
www.jolteon.net 19.33
www.youtube.com 17.51
docs.google.com 12.79
-confidential- 12.66
www.twitch.tv 9.34
www.google.ca 8.18
en.wikipedia.org 4.92
www.facebook.com 4.81
mail.google.com 4.08

This covers 259.15h out of 457.76h (56.6%) spent in Chrome. This means that I have a long-tail (a list of many different websites which I visit for a brief period) of 198.61h. The major time consumer here is www.reddit.com, which accounts for 36.2% of my time browsing. Even though reddit is a news/media website (useful for staying up to date with world events, not sure I do that...), it also contains a lot of content which I would categorize as time wasters: funny pictures, pictures of cats, videos as well as discussions about topics of interests (computer science, software engineer, robotics, electronics, etc.). I spent about 1.3h/day during the 128 days for which I collected data, which I find to be quite a lot.

As for the other sites, here's a couple of notes:
www.jolteon.net: This is a bug tracker I use to track new features/bugs where I work. It serves as a personal system for me to track these issues. I use it frequently to update task statuses as well as enter anything that I may have forgotten to add during the day. I also like to review it frequently to remind myself of what is left to work on (and let my mind figure that out while I sleep)
www.youtube.com: I often get on youtube because of reddit. I enjoy watching documentaries which last from 30-45 minutes on average.
docs.google.com: I've spent some time writing documents in Google Docs simply because it allowed me to share them with others so they could review my work.
-confidential-: This is a website I use to manage "things" for work. I generally go there every day and it takes me from 5-15 minutes on average.
www.twitch.tv: Watching streamers of Starcraft 2 and LoL for a while.
www.google.ca: Looks like I spend a lot of time searching...
en.wikipedia.org: Whenever I don't know something about a subject of interest, wiki is a good source (generally...)
www.facebook.com: Checking that everyone I know is still alive
mail.google.com: Because I like spam

If we go back to the applications I use, the next in the list is Remote Desktop Connection. I use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to my PC at work so that I can do some work from home. As you can see, I have spent almost 1.44h/day working remotely. Considering that I am not a "work at home" employee, I find this to be outrageously high. I would like to see this be as close as possible to 0h/day.

Next is League of Legends (TM) Client. I've recently been interested in the game and started to play it on a more regular basis. I would like to keep this at around 1h/day or lower.

I've used VLC media player to watch series as well as movie on my PC. Series are 20-45 minutes while movies varies from 1h40 to 3h40. I'd say that about 225h/year looks like an acceptable amount of time spent on this.

I've stopped using MSN to chat with friends. My main communication channel is now through IRC, for which I use the HexChat client. I want to spend a maximum of 1h/day on communication though.

I'm not too sure why Free Alarm Clock is part of the top 10. I believe this has to do with the note I wrote at the beginning mentioning that ManicTime would consider a program active if there was some movement on the screen in the last 60 minutes. Since Free Alarm Clock was set to show up (and take focus) every hour, it is quite possible that it simply appeared from time to time while I was away and "sucked" the time out of whatever was running in the background.

mRemote is another application I used briefly to do remote desktop. Since it doesn't support multiple monitor remoting, I've stopped using it.

Sublime Text 2 is my text editor of choice. I haven't spent a lot of time in it since August mainly because I haven't been doing any coding at all in the past few months.

Windows Explorer Some time spent searching for files on my PC!

I've played through the whole campaign of Torchlight II, which was pretty awesome! I'd be really happy to try multiplayer with some willing friends to see what the end content is like (single player end of game content was pretty funny, but playing it alone wasn't very satisfying for me).

The important part of this process, other than reviewing what time was spent on this year, is to decide new objectives going forward. This means deciding what should be cut down, reduced, increased or added. For each application I've already determined what was my goal/limits thus I simply need to make sure I follow them. A monthly review should be sufficient.

  • Reduce reddit usage below 1h/day
  • Reduce/cut time spend doing remoting for work
  • Redistribute free time on learning activities and skills improvement