16 April 2017

Up to this point, most of my personal projects have been more proof-of-concept projects. It has seemed more exciting to just build the cool parts and leave the infrastructure and best practices for school and work projects. I think I'm going to start taking a more best practices approach to personal projects from now on, because adapting a project to a best practices approach after already making significant progress is much more work.

Although, I was unaware of many best practice techniques and technologies until recently. I'm probably still unaware of everything that goes into a super high quality application. But, that's the benefit of working on personal projecs - building skills and learning new ones.

13 April 2017

Represented is coming along nicely. It's a class project for my software engineering class. We are currently polishing up the web app, implementing automated testing, and integrating the mobile app. I am able to demo it for friends with the web app pretty easily and it's all gotten good feedback. Being able to go from an idea to a tangible thing that evolves with user interaction is my favorite thing about software.

12 April 2017

In every class I'm enrolled in this semester, there has been an occasion where two students or a small group of students has been speaking during when the lecturer is speaking. It's louder than the students assume because of the acoustics of the lecture halls and it manifests into echoed murmurs. This is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Sometimes teachers handle this by stopping lecture and asking if the students have any questions, directing this at the students speaking during lecture. Sometimes, the lecturers try to ignore it. In one class, I took the opportunity presented during a break in the lecture to ask the group of students speaking amongst themselves during lecture to stop. In many lectures, there is no break and never an opportunity for a student to speak up unless they, too, want to be disruptive.

This kind of behavior should not happen in a college lecture. Each student pays to be there, and when a small group of students distracts everyone, they all miss out on what they are paying for. Don't speak to your friends in the middle of lecture, even if you think no one else can hear you.

7 April 2017

In my introductory educational psychology course, we learned about motivation yesterday. There was a section of the lecture devoted to attribution and causal attribution. There are three different factors in causal attribution: the locus, stability and controllability. One can attribute an event to be internal or external, stable or unstable, and controllable or uncontrollable. Problems arise when people fail to attribute correctly, or in a productive manner.

One can always consider failures to be internal or one can always consider them to be external; both scenarios are dangerous. If one always attributes failure to be internal, they risk losing motivation altogether and their self-esteen suffers. If one always considers failures to be external, then they can avoid responsibility. There are similar ways in which incorrectly attributing stability and controllability to failure can be detrimental.

It seems that there is a reactionary bias when determining what to attribute a failure to. My reaction is to first say, "well that was just one time" (unstable), "that task was unfair" (uncontrollable), "my team failed me" (external). However, I can take my time to think about failures and modify what I attribute them to. It seems much more productive to find internal attribution for all, or an aspect of, the failure that is controllable and stable. It sometimes requires a better understanding of the failure. I can then address my own shortcomings and modify my behavior to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

5 April 2017

Walking is the best form of transportation. Walking isn't about covering distance in a specific amount of time but, about using your own legs to transport you through the world in a way that humans have been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years. You can think when you walk, rather than worry about running into someone or give in to road rage. It's exercise, too.

I walk a lot. I hope that trend continues.

4 April 2017

It seems that learning programming, at least in the first couple of years, depends a lot on the learner's perceived context. There's so much complexity in setting up an environment, understanding an architecture and understanding the tools that many young programmers don't understand what they don't understand. I also realize this when trying to understand a new technology that someone is telling me about. I swear, it took me six or seven different explanations of Docker to have an idea of what it is, and I still don't understand it that well. When learning and teaching programming, we have to be very conscious of people's lack of context and understanding. Pride also plays a crucial role.

3 April 2017

The idea behind Represented is to create an unbiased, easy-to-use information aggregator for political information. Some of the challenges are determining what is relevant to users, how to provide enough information, avoid jargon, and maximize accessibility. My team and I decided on a hybrid web-mobile app to address accessbility, focused on legislation available through the Sunlight api and filtered/aggregated based on location-relevant representatives. My assignment was to work on the device-specific code, which was implemented in Xamarin.

I've really liked Xamarin so far. It's allowed me to share a ton of code and Visual Studio has plenty of built in tools. The only downside is not having a Mac for iOS development. I'm hoping there aren't too many bugs to work out once we get a Mac and iPhone to test on.

2 April 2017

I wonder when information overload became a mainstream problem. I read the phrase last week while reading research about Reddit as an online learning space for a class paper. I feel that millenials have grown up with information overload and it's a central idea of post modernism. The research I read suggests that tools like Reddit help combat information overload by organizing information for its users but, I'm not sure if one can apply metrics to measure success in overcoming information overload.

Filtering information always means that something will be left out. Social news sites seem to use the crowd to filter so, the crowd determines the most salient information. How does the crowd determine what's relevant? What if they miss some key small point in the depths of an unpopular piece?

Even with light-speed global communication for the public, information is still not always communicated.

31 March 2017

Watching creators on Youtube put out content on par with mainstream media motivates me to make my own content. I've made a few videos in the past and had a lot of fun doing it but, I want to pursue a more ambitious project. One idea that has really intrigued me is creating a video series on how the internet works for non-tech people. I'm sure there already exists series like these.

My CS education experience and web development experience could add to the quality of the series and allow me to practice my video-making techniques with a little more freedom. The idea came after realizing how important knowledge of how the internet works is for the public and how I've been able to successfully teach my friends and family members how the internet works at a high level.

29 March 2017

I just filled out an apartment application for an apartment in Phoenix. After living in a run-down and landlord-neglected college house for the past nine months, I'm really looking forward to this. Unfortunately, I'll be moving at the start of the summer -- not Phoenix's most enjoyable season -- so, it looks like I'll have to bear the unpleasant weather for an extra long time following the grey and cold Wisconsin Winter/Spring.

28 March 2017

When I tell someone that I don't have Facebook they seem surprised and ask why. I deleleted my account about four months ago and it has allowed me to step back and think about the platform and my use of it. My original motivation for deleting it was a fear of confirmation bias and disappointment in my friends' use of partial anonymity.

The first thing I noticed was that Facebook tries to create points of attachment that dissuade users from leaving. There were several dialogs encountered during profile deletion that emphasized the connection Facebook provides you with social groups. This is well merited with features like events and groups, as well as being a digital address book for hundreds to thousands of acquiantances.

Now, after being without the service for a while, I've noticed that I spend more communication effort on close relationships. I'm not as up-to-date on the goings on of my friends and I'm able to have conversations about life events without having already been exposed to them on Facebook. The main negatives I experience are those social connections, like groups and events. I've had to ask friends to look up events or search Facebook groups for me because of privacy settings that require a profile. Reddit offers these services as well and does a better job facilitating communication but, it doesn't have the user base that Facebook leverages to build social groups.

26 March 2017

I feel that inertia applies to much more than physics. Humans are creatures of habit and I've seen patterns that last years in some people that never change. It's difficult to change some aspects of one's lifestyle and sometimes there's no good reason why, or the only reason for not making lifestyle changes is that "I don't have time." Maybe we need to take advantage of life's inertia and our daily routines in order to make the changes we want. Exercising has most effectively been integrated into my lifestyle when I make sure to make it part of my daily routine. It even becomes undesirable to skip exercise on days when I normally would, after adding it to my routine.

I find this strategy can be employed with intellectual preferences as well. Living in Madison and going to UW creates a liberal influence. I watch Colbert and Bill Maher and agree with everything they say - find their jokes funny, side with them on the issues - and generally think highly of their content. I know there is a subset of the population that does not, however. That's become obvious with the political division being so clearly displayed on social media.

It's difficult to get the other perspecitve when the perspective you follow relies heavily on the weaknesses of their opposition. The jokes I laugh at on Real Time and The Late Show are based in the weakest conservative arguments and the stigma keeping many viewer away from Fox News is their less popular application of the same strategy. As a frequent podcast listener, I figured I could leverage my daily routine to overcome my life's inertia by adding a conservative podcast to my regular media consumption. It's been eye-opening to experience an alternative perspective.

25 March 2017

I decided to get more involved in my hometown school district a couple of years ago. I went to school in a town of 8,000 (the largest in the tri-county area) in the heart of the Northwoods in Wisconsin. Students would bus/commute up to an hour to go to my high school because the area is so desolate and it's one of the larger schools; it has a full football team, track, cross country, basketball, etc. The high school offered a couple of courses through Project Lead the Way when I was attending and, I took all of them. These classes solidified my interest in engineering as a career path and introduced me to computer programming; unfortunately, no computer science courses were offered.

First semester college computer science is difficult when each student has a different background in CS. I've heard there is a bimodal curve in the grade distribution with one peak for the students who took CS in high school and one further in the B to C direction for the students new to CS. I felt at a disadvantage because of this and slightly resented my high school.

As a computer science elective, I took a class called "Introduction to Teaching Computer Science K-12", one semester. It involved weekly meetings going over education topics or lesson plan activities and a once-a-week site visit to actually lead a computer science club for 4th and 5th graders in a local elementary school. After taking this class, I realized I now could apply this model to computer science education in my hometown. I thought if introduction was successful in younger students that could drive interest for more computer science education at a higher level of education.

Since then, I've got the wheels starting to roll but I really need to continue pushing this. There's been little progress lately and that's partly because I'm confused where to go next.

24 March 2017

Wisconsin Badgers basketball team takes on Florida tonight in the sweet sixteen. They busted brackets last weekend when they beat the number one overall seed Villanova and hopefully they can keep this win streak going. Even if they don't win tonight, it has still been great attending Wisconsin these last four years and following the basketball team in March Madness.

Freshman year I remember how stories and photos circulated from the last time the Badgers had made it to the final four (2000?) in the days leading up to the elite eight game against Arizona. All of my friends kept talking about how cool it would be if we made to the final four again but, the Badgers were underdogs so, we were all only hoping. After the win against Arizona to send the Badgers to the final four, we all ran out of our dorm rooms and up and down the halls cheering. The giant crowd of freshman I was now part of sprinted mob-style to State Street which turned into one of the greatest nights of college for me.

It was poetic the way the basketball team beat Kentucky the next season to advance to the national championship after having lost to them in the final four my freshman year. Again, the Badgers were the underdogs going into that game since Kentucky was undefeated and the clear favorite to win it all. Storming State Street was even sweeter after that win. Unfortunately, Duke prevailed in the national championship and the head basketball coach retired the following season. Still, they managed to make it to the sweet sixteen my junior year.

Now, as a senior graduating in just over a month, I again am following an exciting Badger basketball team who remains the underdog. They went into the tournament on a bit of a losing streak and were seeded much lower than expected but, still show that they can win in the tournament. I'm hoping they can pull off the win tonight and keep it going all the way to the championship so I get the opportunity to party with thousands of Badgers on State Street again. If not, it's still been amazing to root for the underdog that keeps on proving everyone wrong!

23 March 2017

I've owned a Samsung Gear VR headset since January 2015 so, I've been using VR for a couple of years. My first impression was that the experience was really immersive but, the headset was uncomfortable and a bit clunky. The best experiences, in my opinion, were the artistic 360 degree photos and high resolution 360 degree videos. It's hard for me to use the headset for more than 5-10 minutes without becoming uncomfortable and I find that I feel very vulnerable having my real-world sight taken from me while I use VR. For these reasons, I prefer viewing 360 media without the headset by just using the gyro in my phone to pan the media.

Speaking of 360 media, I'm a huge fan of Casey Neistat's vlogs but, his 360 videos don't carry the same inviting style that his 2D content does. When I first noticed this missing element in his 360 content, I wondered whether the filming was responsible or the interaction method. In this video it is clear to me that the filming is not to blame. Interacting with 360 media on a laptop/desktop requires dragging the mouse or using wasd keys, each of which are easy enough to use but just don't feel right.

The amount of high quality 360 content being produced is going to increase and there will need to be a widely accessible way to view this content in order for it to become popular. The mobile gyro-based interaction is great but, the screen is too small to appreciate really high definition media. My proposed solution is using gaze tracking through a laptop/desktop webcam to pan around 360 media. I've been testing my solution out recently which utilizes WebGazer.js and A-Frame to run in a web browser.

22 March 2017

On spring break and my roommate told me that my website was cool but asked, "Why does it look so bad?". To which, I went on a site overhaul adding a domain name instead of using the ip on my server and implementing this fancy style. I decided to add a blog because I deleted my Facebook and a couple of other social media accounts. This will be the first post and I will place new posts above it to display them in reverse chronological order.