Emile

Comments

Blind Empiricism

I've been the guy religiously arguing for pushing an early version of the product in front of users as soon as possible (as the saying goes, "if you're not ashamed of your first version then you've released too late"), not in order to learn whether it's a good product or not, but to learn details of what needs to be improved but also what doesn't need to be improved (because nobody cares about / notices the "problem").

A related debate has been about how much you should spec out your product before putting it before customers - Big Design Up Front vs. figure stuff out as we go along based on user feedback. I usually prefer the second, but have to admit that Big Design Up Front is probably the best (albeit less fun) approach. Part of that preference for improvisation is probably because of some halo effect around the fox approach or agile or XP or empiricism or something.

(probably paraphrasing this post a bit) So we probably have an issue where "we" (nerds) have plenty of warnings about trusting theory too much, but few warnings about trusting empiricism too much, so we're bound to end up under-valuing theory. Especially once we start attaching identity labels (hedges vs foxes, scruffies vs. neats, hackers vs. architecture astronauts...).

Open thread, Aug. 10 - Aug. 16, 2015

if I could give them back just ten minutes of their lives, most of them wouldn’t be here.

He's wrong about that. He would need to give them back 10 minutes of their lives, and then keep on giving them back different 10 minutes on a very regular basis.

I disagree. Let's take drivers who got into a serious accident : if you "gave them just back ten minutes" so that they avoided getting into that accident, most of them wouldn't have had another accident later on. It's not as if the world neatly divided into safe drivers, who never have accidents, and unsafe drivers, who have several.

Sure, those kids that got in trouble are more likely to have problematic personalities, habits, etc. which would make it more likely to get in trouble again - but that doesn't mean more likely than not. Most drivers don't get have (serious) accidents, most kids don't get in (serious) trouble, and if you restrict yourself to the subset of those who already had it once, I agree a second problem is more likely, but not certain.

Getting Over Dust Theory

I mean, roughly, that not only are the two empircally indistinguishable, but that I don't even see a reason to care about whether I'm "in a simulation" or not, and it's not even clear what would qualify as a simulation...

Rational Discussion of Controversial Topics

A bug breaks it for me now:

I'm on iPad, any topic I click on redirects me to http://www.omnilibrium.com/topic_mobile.php, which doesn't exist. So I can't even read anything but the titles.

...edit: aaand it's been fixed, thanks Cleonid, that was quick :)

Open Thread, Apr. 20 - Apr. 26, 2015

I can't say I ran into it before (whereas "economists think humans are all rational self-interested agents", jeez...)

Language Learning and the Dark Arts.

Pretty neat website you got there!

Knocking through a bunch of exercises every day feels efficient but it's not exactly fun and I put in less time than I should.

I've been reviewing Anki pretty much daily for the past couple of years, and I put in enough time to have all my cards reviewed. What helps:

  • Doing it on my smartphones at times were I can't do much else anyway (in public transport, waiting in a queue); the most "productive" thing I could be doing with that time is reading a book, and even then, reading a book standing up is more of a hassle than looking at my smarphone.
  • All the stuff in it is stuff I added myself and considered worth learning, and if I have doubts about something (a card or a whole deck), i'll often suspend or delete it
  • "Finish today's cards" is a reachable, definite, objective (more so than "a bunch of exercises") but I still don't put big pressure on myself, since if I'm too busy to review today, I'll review a bit more tomorrow, and eventually catch up (I don't need to explicitly decide "I'll review some more to compensate", I just will have more due cards tomorrow).
  • I only add new cards if I don't feel overwhelmed by the daily review schedule

(and yes, I've been using this to learn Japanese and to review my Mandarin and German)

Request for help: Android app to shut down a smartphone late at night

Alternative implementation: an android widget that posts a "snitch" message somewhere online if ever your phone is unlocked in certain time frames; such that other people can easily see online whether you unlocked your phone in the "forbidden" timeframe.

Learning by Doing

As far as I can tell, folks either learn everything beyond the mechanics and algorithms of programming from your seniors in the workplace or discover it for themself.

... or from Stack Overflow / Wikipedia, no? When encountering a difficult problem, one can either ask someone more knowledgeable, figure it out himself, or look it up on the internet.

Open thread, Mar. 23 - Mar. 31, 2015

One charitable interpretation is "it's something you learn by doing, not something you learn by reading".

"Art" has a bit of a double meaning, there's the "something that's pretty/pleasing/aesthetic/original/creative", but there's also the "craft" meaning, as in "the art of XXX".

I want to focus on the "art is inherently intuitive and not about breaking things down into components like science" part. My thought is that these people who say this are confusing their map for the territory. They may not know how to deduce what the perfect painting would look like, but that doesn't mean that it's not possible.

Two reactions to this:

1) If someone says something can't be broken into component parts, a more charitable reading is that they think that trying to do so is a waste of time and less likely to bring progress than just a lot of practice. Even if it's possible in theory, that doesn't mean it's actually a good idea, so warning people against it can be totally reasonable, and isn't "confusing their map for the territory".

2) HOWEVER, in the case of art, most forms of art I can think of - drawing, painting, storytelling, animations, etc. - most definitely CAN be broken into component pieces, and often those component pieces can be broken into component pieces too, etc. - just check out the right section in any library.

You can't learn to draw by reading a book, but a good book on drawing can tell you what individual skills you should practice, and how to do so.

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