John Resig : Write Code Every Day

John Resig, of the Khan Academy developers and the author of jQuery JavaScript library, ran an interesting experiment on himself – write code every day.  The rules were very simple:

I decided to set a couple rules for myself:

  1. I must write code every day. I can write docs, or blog posts, or other things but it must be in addition to the code that I write.
  2. It must be useful code. No tweaking indentation, no code re-formatting, and if at all possible no refactoring. (All these things are permitted, but not as the exclusive work of the day.)
  3. All code must be written before midnight.
  4. The code must be Open Source and up on Github.

Some of these rules were arbitrary. The code doesn’t technically need to be written before midnight of the day of but I wanted to avoid staying up too late writing sloppy code. Neither does the code have to be Open Source or up on Github. This just forced me to be more mindful of the code that I was writing (thinking about reusability and deciding to create modules earlier in the process).

And he got some very interesting results, not to mention – a whole lotta work done.

While I’m not the biggest fan of productivity boost experiments, this one does resonate with me.  I’ve done a similar one when I was learning photography.  I decided to take at least one picture every day with my camera (no mobile phones), with no automatic settings.  Some days were better, some were worse, but I manage to run it for about four month and I couldn’t believe how much better I got  – I was still a noob, but the difference between the first days and the last days was huge!  The routine, once you get into it, is a very powerful tool, apparently.

For about a year or so now I’ve been avoiding any side projects, trying to recover from a previous burnout.  But now, slowly, I am looking into ways to get me back on tracks.  This approach looks interesting enough for me to consider.

How much dirty lens affects image quality

The photographer Kurt Munger ran an experiment on how much dust, scratches and damages of the lens affect image quality.  The results are very counterintuitive.  At least for me.  Fingerprints, dust, scratches, and even bits of non-transparent duct tape have no effect what-so-ever.  The first signs of something going wrong appear with very serious lens damage, like this:

broken lens

Even then, the image is not as bad as you’d expect.  Here it is.


Read the whole thing for more details.

Discovery Channel Crashes a Boeing 727 For Science Documentary

Slashdot reports:

A Boeing 727 passenger jet has been deliberately crash-landed. The pilot ejected just minutes before the collision. The plane was packed with scientific experiments, including crash test dummies. Dozens of cameras recorded the crash from inside the aircraft, on the ground, in chase planes and even on the ejecting pilot’s helmet. All of this was done for a feature length documentary to be shown on the Discovery Channel later this year.

First of all, hats of to Discovery.  That’s some serious undertaking!

Secondly, just trying to imagine the meeting where this project has been approved makes me smile.  It must have been either too serious or too fun – either a preparation of the business plan, Gantt charts, discussion of the budgets and milestones; … or a “light bulb” idea in the morning after a huge part, and an after party.

Mark Malkoff Gets Carried in New York City

I’ve posted here about Free Hugs campaign some time ago.  Today I came across an experiment with a smaller goal, but of the same sociality (if there is even such a word).  Mark Malkoff gets a free ride across Manhattan island on the backs of total strangers, proving once again that this world is full of good, fun, strong and crazy people.

A quick follow-up on rapid development

Yesterday I posted about some ultra-rapid development – a couple of days for a web application. Well, it turns out I didn’t do my homework, since two days is an ultra-slow development.  At least compared to 45 minutes for a killer web application.

If you could gather together some of the smartest Web developers and ask them to brainstorm a killer app for you, what would you ask them to build? Oh, and they will only have 45 minutes to do it.

“Wow!” is all I that I can say right now… Stay tuned for the actual development.

Traces of digital revolution

The digital world is upon us.  Everybody knows it and nobody ever argues with it anymore.  But that’s too general.  What is actually changing?  What are the specific examples?   Today I came across one, while catching up with Slashdot news.  Here is a quote from the post:

 “An inspired professor at University of Washington-Bothell, Martha Groom, made an interesting pedagogical experiment. Instead of vilifying Wikipedia as some academics are prone to do, she assigned the students enrolled in her environmental history course to contribute articles. The result has proven “transformative” to her students. They were no longer spending their time writing for one reader, says Groom, but were doing work of consequence in a “peer reviewed” environment, which enhanced the quality of their output.”

If you read through the comments to the post, there are many insightful thoughts too.  Here is one of those that I liked (apart from the age criteria):

Wikipedia should be output, not input, for students past a certain age. It gets them used to writing for real people as opposed to just for getting graded, it gives them the experience of having their writing edited by people of varying abilities, and it gives them motivation for doing research. Another, easier, option would be to assign students to correct Wikipedia articles.

Another comment mentions that this is not by far the first time that this happens.  It conveniently links to the page with more examples of school and university projects.