Learning Something Every Day of 2016: July Report

Month 7 down, and 4 months of working on my side project.

spreadsheet screenshot, things learned by date

The things I learned in July.

Previously:

Ugh It’s Boring

It was very temping to procrastinate on writing this post, but it’s sort of part of the plan and practice in itself, so here we are!

And Inspiring?

One of the things that has stood out to me so far this year in talking with friends and coworkers, or whoever it comes up with, about my learn-a-thing project is that a decent number of people respond along the lines of “that’s a great idea!”, or “wow, that’s so inspiring!”. This was not something I had anticipated going in, and it’s interesting to contemplate that this is probably the first thing I’ve done in my life that has elicited this response from anyone.

Probably no coincidence that it is likely the first activity that I’ve undertaken in my life which has required any amount of dedication over such a time frame, aside from say “be employed”, which has external drivers like hunger and the desire to have a home.

Efficiency

I’ve found now that my time is slightly more structured and I’m approaching each day somewhat more proactively (at least in part), instead of “just seeing what happens” that it becomes more clear to me when I am or am not benefiting from doing one particular thing over another. When I watch TV it’s because I’ve decided to watch that show, not just because it’s something to do and as a result the fact that I might not actually be enjoying it stands out much more strongly. Maybe because it means my decision was wrong, and like many people I have senses finely tuned to identifying things I feel are wrong (mostly in others, but what can you do…).

Whatever the reason, it makes it much easier to make decisions. The quality of this book is not as high as I expected, so I stop reading it, and I never need to look back. Same with TV, or whatever other activity. Because it was a decision to start, and not just sort of a wishy-washy thing that basically happened to me, it’s a decision I can reverse when appropriate and move on to something else more useful.

How to Learn?

This extends to my learning activities as well. I’ve definitely found a range of effectiveness and quality in the sources I’ve used to, and it turns out if you’re trying to learn something difficult, a lot of effort can be spent just trying to find suitable sources to learn from. This is probably a sign of how spoiled I am having mostly grown up with the instant information gratification of the internet, at least since my mid-teens. People used to have to physically go to a library and search with their eyes to find information, and there was a good chance it just wasn’t there, or it was out of date, or somebody else had the book. Or you know, before that nobody knew anything, and if you wanted to know something you pretty much had to figure it out.

That being said, the New Way is definitely better, but it’s got a ways to go. We have the tech and knowledge now to basically make education entirely free, and as efficient as possible. I don’t mean to disparage teachers who provide an invaluable service. But the automated learning tools we do have could be greatly improved and expanded on.

Khan Academy has proven in my experience to be one of the most effective and rewarding sources I’ve found so far. The interaction and responsiveness, the “lightness” of the content not weighed down with a lot of cruft. I find my time flies by when I’m using it, I enjoy myself, and I’m gradually retaining the knowledge as intended. It’s only one tool, and it only fills a particular type of learning need, I’m just fortunate that it matches closely with my goals for the time being.

The Learning Rabbit-hole

I hadn’t really intended to be back at Khan Academy so soon, I’ve been trying to learn about automated trading, but wouldn’t you know, some knowledge is built on other knowledge, and while I could probably get by without understanding exactly what I was doing and just using algorithms and systems that other people have published, that’s not really the point of the exercise. So I started reading up on some book that were recommended reading in the field Predictably Irrational (which I stopped reading as I wasn’t getting much new from it, having a pretty good layman’s understanding of irrationality), then Algorithmic Trading, and then down to Python for Finance, trying to find a book that fit at the boundary of my knowledge so I could build on what I know, and learn something that I don’t.

I was struggling with any discussion of statistics, and so down I went again, to Probability & Statistics on Khan. I’m happy here for now, it’s another gap that I’ve wanted to fill for a long time.

Game Jam vs. Side Project

I’ve only been averaging about 9 hours worked out of the month on my side project. Meaning 3 months of “side project” is about equivalent to 3 days of “game jam” (which Klei has been hosting for employees every year). This is pretty depressing. But as usual, it’s important to remember that it is progress. Something is better than nothing, and I’m still on schedule from where I had hoped to be by this date.

It takes a long time, and it’s a slow change, but my Done list has grown considerably, and my To-do list only has a few more items before I’m ready to move into “production”, as much as that means anything on a one person side project.

Checking The List

TL;DR

I like Khan-Academy. Game project Phase 2, coming Soon™.