I just now deleted my Facebook account.
- Freedom – Day by day using it makes me feel as if someone is dictating me how and what I should be talking to people about. The rampant, out of the blue censors by law enforcement and judiciary are the reasons. Even though I have never been a part of any such action, the atmosphere is getting too toxic over there in that domain.
- Irrelevancy – Most of the content that I encounter on my timeline are completely irrelevant to me and the only content that I engage with are blogs like Lifehacker and posts of a set of very few friends, both of which I think I can do without having to endure a non-free environment.
- Privacy – It has been a great concern for me ever since I became aware of its importance and ethics. Somehow kept telling myself, nothing would affect me. I think underestimating risks is something I am unwilling to do these days after reading “Fooled by Randomness“.
- Paranoia – Closely connected to “Privacy” – I was always thinking what if someday I discover that all the stuff that I have shared is sold/shared to someone and that someone uses it for purposes I never suppose it to be? Am I planning murder? No. But what if someone frames me for it? I am NOT paranoid by nature, I walk 1 among the billion+ in the country. But again, not all billion+ walk around recording data about what they read, where they go and what they think.
- Narcissism – One of the biggest effect of Facebook on character is, I think, breeding narcissism. It breeds a kind of self importance and provides an easy sense of achievement and forces a person to project a personality, real or otherwise. This becomes especially stressful when considering the fact when one is connected to all sorts of people from high school friends to working colleagues. A few recent encounters with people has left a bad taste in mouth about the whole “sharing” thing.
- Spam – Spam, spam, spam – there is just no end to it. I am generally very efficient in ignoring Ads and spam because all that I look for is content from people and never click any link other than blog-posts. But most of the time genuine and original content is very hard to come by and all sorts of false claims on history, technology, identity creep in along with celebrity, movie and all sorts of eye-ball catching stuff.
After considering all this, the most logical decision to make seems to be to leave the system and reduce a lot of responses that brain generates due to unnecessary stimuli.
Will I ever get on a social network again?
I currently do not have an answer to that. There are a lot of things to be considered as listed above and see how they play out to make a decision. With the current turmoil of internet censorship across the world, misuse of it as tools of destruction, authoritative control, capitalist bait holder, and as an enterprise looking to make money indirectly by using my data, I don’t think I am getting onto it (FB) any time soon. I specifically mean FB here because, there exists an alternate platform called Diaspora* which deals with all of my above concerns (okay, maybe not narcissism), but jumping into such a platform is pointless if I don’t really have the people I want to interact.
Basically I attempted two projects as a personal development venture.
52 Weeks 52 Books: Started with the objective of improving the number of books that I read in a year. Read about a total of 27 books in all this year. Better than any other year in my life. Though the project is a failure, I reaped huge satisfaction in the process.
52 Weeks 52 Maps: Started with the aim of creating and uploading maps for Wikipedia. I think I did only 8 in all. Even those were done in the initial one or two weeks. This failed spectacularly.
Hopefully 2015 would be a better year.
Update: This project never took off from the drawing board.
I work for Teach For India as a Fellow now and we have Teacher Development workshops, City Conferences once in a month where there are multiple sessions which provide technical training on multiple things at the same time. So we have a system where the Fellow chooses the sessions he wishes to attend. Presently here is how the session signup process works.
I am thinking of automating the red circle region by writing a web application that can run on Google App Engine. Since our organization uses Google Apps account for its IT needs. I think the integration could be more easily done with almost no cost.
Initiated the project using the Google App Engine. Signed up for a 60 Day & $300 credit Free trail from Google Cloud Services. – December 2,2014
I have been observing a pattern in my life over the past few months. I am obsessed about something in the evenings and the free time. It was books for a month, Far Cry 3 for another, and has recently turned into Chess.
I am trying to understand the underlying factor which is responsible for this behaviour. After reading through some pages about impact of games on human brain, watching the TED talks like Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world and assuring myself that I am not really going crazy, I think I have a plausible answer.
Like all young people I need to have that sense of achievement.
Being a introvert, the above explanation makes a lot of sense. I am not uploading pics in Facebook, I am not tweeting even an average of 1 tweet/day – other things that could keep me filled with the achievement and appreciation factor I am looking for.
The word hacking is being used in a lot of places where it means “modification” or “change” or “tweak”. I am trying to use it for channeling my obsession into something that could be productive – as in work – as well as supply me the required achievement factor. One activity which I know could do that is – Coding.
Taking a look at what I have done in 2014:
I think I would do what John Resig recommends – Write Code Everyday, starting from today December 1, 2014. Let me see how far the obsession hacking goes.
Update: December 20,2014
Well. This doesn’t seem to be as simple as it seems. Gaming, reading books, chess – all have been entertaining and relaxing. Because that is consumption of content. But coding is production of content, hence has proved to be a much difficult and straining task. I haven’t been able to get to coding at all. The experiment so far has been a big failure.
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder is one of the best books I have read in my life. The book is a chronicle of how project Eagle came into being at the company Data Central and its progress. The most important thing about the book is it doesn’t chronicle the technological milestones, rather the people and their (let me say) soul.
One thing that really struck me is how those engineers involved were portrayed as human beings who were vulnerable, who feared, who were unsure yet persisted and how it was not a super-human who carried it forward. Having born so late into this world when computers were already ubiquitous, and the people who were involved in their development had already become cult idols, it struck me very differently, giving a grasp into the reality.
Personally speaking– I, for one thing, clearly understood the meaning of “bigger than oneself”. The looked back 7-15 years in my life and understand why certain things happened that way.
Some of the things that I highlighted while reading is:
Most Engineers, I think, consider themselves to be professionals, like doctors or lawyers, and though some of it clearly serves only the interests of corporations, engineers do have a professional code. Among its tenets is the general idea that the engineer’s right environment is a highly structured one, in which only right and wrong answers exist. It’s a binary world; the computer might be its paradigm. And many engineers seem to aspire to be binary people within it. No wonder. The prospect is alluring. It doesn’t matter if you’re ugly or graceless or even half crazy, if you produce right results in this world, your colleagues must accept you…
West usually left to work for a little after seven in the morning and set out for home a little less than twelve hours later. The drive took only about twenty minutes, but the distance he traveled couldn’t be measured that way.
Engineers are supposed to stand among the privileged members of industrial enterprises, but …. are not content with their jobs. Among the terms used to describe their malaise are declining technical challenge, misutilization; limited freedom of action; tight control of working patterns. No one who made it through the Eagle project could in fairness have raised such objections.
I think, there are actually far more important lines to note and I haven’t done it because I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want to spoil it by stopping to read and do highlighting.
An ambitious project to use my free time.
Continuing from the previous post, let me write down everything that defined my work setup.
This is where the fun starts. I worked with two different curriculum throughout the year. The school wanted me to teach the mandated Samacheer syllabus and the organisation that I work for wanted me to teach to the Common Core Standards. The Samacheer part contained the Social, Science and the “English as a subject” subjects to be taught, the organisation gave me Mathematics and “English as a standard” subjects to teach. It is actually painful to be a teacher and teach language either as a subject or as a set of standards. More on that separately sometime later (which is almost never).
The Red Ink
There were 37 notebooks for each (3) Samacheer subject to be checked and corrected 3-5 times in every term. Each term itself is about 3 or 4 months. And there where 2 mid-term term tests and 1 end of term test for each term. For the organization’s part, we were supposed to conduct Unit Assessments, which is one in 6 weeks, Weekly assessments and if possible Daily Assessments. I just did the Unit Assessments. Tried Weekly assessments but dropped it after a couple of weeks, it was getting out of hands. English made up for it, by making me correct a set of at least 10 questions every alternate day. I remember sitting, standing, sleeping, walking and even jumping on/off trains with my bag on the shoulder, papers on the left hand and red pen on the right.
The organisation’s way of making sure we are fully equipped to handle everything in the classroom. It was usually planned in the evenings after school when we are in our lowest glucose levels and looking out for a corner to curl. The sessions did make a lot of sense to the people who were organizing them. They were usually about how to teach, how to handle kids, how to understand a particular area in order to deliver it the way it is supposed to be. But one thing no one seemed to care/understand/grasp was there was no single way to do stuff.
Canon LBP2900. One trademark of being a TFI fellow is we print more paper for each kid than what government or the school would. Having a laser printer really does help. One can be free of the timing restrictions imposed by the Xerox shops and save a lot more money. I printed about 8000-9000 pages in the last 4 months alone. 1500 rupees for all that paper and 400 rupees for the toner and the immense flexibility of being able to print whatever and whenever.
The travel was two/three legged. I usually started off with short bus ride 5E/23C/49 from Adyar depot to Madhya Kailash, took a train from Kasthuribai Nagar station to the Beach Station, and then finally took 44C from Beach Station to the Power House stop. Sometimes the 5E-Train combo was replaced by the 21H/PP19 from Adyar Depot to Parry’s Corner. Initially used 6D from the backside of Adyar Depot, but extra 300m walking and having no alternate buses made me switch to other options. One thing good about the train travel is I always found space to sit and even work on the laptop if required. Having a monthly season ticket for just 105 rupees was another boon. Never had to worry about tickets/queues and oversleeping during return journeys.
These define the physical boundaries of how I worked in the past one year. But how did I actually work? What was “The process”?