Ortus Rengi

Recently I’m into gaming. It started with a nostalgic craving to Half-Life, which I used to spend hours on, about ages ago. I wondered if there’s a version for mac, and found that there is, in Steam. I didn’t hear about Steam before (thinking about it, I did hear about it in one of the Cortex podcast episodes), but once visiting that service, there is no way out… a spent almost the entire night browsing through games, feeling I’m in an amusement park. I forgot all about half-life, and eventually immersed myself in Ortus Rengi, a closed-deck, deck-design strategy card game.

Aim Away From The Target

Yesterday my blog writing meetup got together. We talked about voice:
how do you transfer raw thoughts from your brain, to your hands and type them to the screen without losing their authenticity. How can you make your writing read as if you were speaking it? How can you make your readers hear you speaking to them through your posts?

Here are couple of posts we read, as examples for strong sense of unique voice, which the authors were able to maintain, or maybe convey:

My biggest takeaway from the discussion last night was that voice isn’t something I can think of or plan for when writing. Instead I should not think of it. Only when I won’t, my voice will find its way, and slip into my writing.

Holly, on of the group members, put it nicely,  paraphrasing on “Zen in the Art of Archery”

Aim away from the target.

If only it was that easy, though…

Chronicles of Addiction

6 months ago I listened to a podcast, and learned for the first time about this mechanical keyboard thing.

I was intrigued and began reading about it.

3 weeks later I bought a wasd code.

I kinda liked it, but not that much. The blue switches, together with the thin keycaps felt flimsy and hollow. The typing experience wasn’t what I imagined it to be.

More research, and I’ve learned about the different types of switches. I returned blues and replaced with a tenkeyless greens.

The sound and tactile feel of the green switches was better, but the typing experience still wasn’t there.

I’m looking for mechs on Craigslist and find this old Northgste keyboard. I google and find its an old classic. Trying to buy it didn’t work, but I’m getting hooked to old school keyboards. Shortly after, I venture with an Apple Extended Keyboard 2.

The AEK2 felt like a dream. But it’s 30 years old keys start to die one after the other.

I’ve turned into a keyboard doctor and gave it an open heart surgery.

I’m delving deeper into mechs, and spend hours at r/MechanicalKeyboards/.

I heard about Massdrop. This horrible site detached me from hundreds of dollars.

There is more to mechanical keyboards than just the switches. As it turned out keycaps is an entire area that I wasn’t aware of. I’m learning about all the different profiles. SA looked awesome, but there is a Granit DSA drop in Massdrop, and I can’t hold myself from committing to it.

I need to see and try more keyboards than I can buy, so I’m starting a mechanical keyboard meetup.

The granit drop was closed 2 and I’m getting the keys 3 months later.

I’m swapping the crappy wasd keys, but finding that the stabilizers won’t fit into the new granit keycaps, so I buy silicon tape and wrap it over the stabilizers to make it fit more closely with the new granits.

My renewed code can finally compete with the AEK2; compete but never win…

What have become of me… How have I been sucked into this world…?

Anyway, I’m starting to feel an itch for a portable mech. For travels. Going to hunt a 60% drop.

The lesson: never listen to podcasts again.

Morning Muses

One writing hack is to read something by someone you admire, before going about writing. Today, I went on my morning pages right after reading “The Tempest“, one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays. Here’s the outcome…:

[I’m] On a flight back from a well needed vacation in the Caribbean, the first, in a long time, which got me to an almost complete relaxation. I got my sleep deprivation sattled, feel refreshed and recharged, ready to a new adventure. And a new adventure is right by the corner, hopefully this week its nature I will uncover. Writing prosaically, a Shakespeare influence it must be, hence can settle the battle between writing and reading. My mind craves the taste of a good book, but bloated from the execive thoughts it has absorebed, with way not to let them out.

Such fun it is to write this way, encrypting my thoughts, the key to which known to only me.

What’s in me, but a storm? I can’t make my mind if I’m an owner or under someone else’s power. I want to make some of my own, yet can’t commit for the sum with which it comes.

I like this muse, it makes me flow, it make my mind fly, sing and play. Lots of serious business to consider, but I’m going to let my heart take the final decision.

Here, here, for a fun afternoon astir.

From an Idea to an MVP

So I have this idea for food recommendation, but now I’m struggling with where to start. What will be a good first usecase for a POC or MVP.

At the moment, I’m planning on a single page dashboard where users can login to, to get a report on their food ordering habits – top dishes and restaurants and more such data.

But I have are two issues with scope:

  1. Not sure users will see the value that I see in such dashboard. Now, sure, that’s what the MVP is for, but:
  2. It’s not testing the real product assumption that users will want to get recommendations for food.

With that in mind, I thought of two other options:

  1. Dishes following – as a user, I can follow the food that I like and see updates, recipes and places I can find them.
  2. Group ordering – offer a simple ‘negotiator’ for food ordering. For example, a group of 4 people who want to order lunch, will connect to this page and put their preferences. The system will match their preferences and come with a suggested restaurant. Users can then save their preferences by registering. It reminds me of doodle.com.

I like the other option both because it requires less technical effort – I can see how I can pull out an MVP without writing a line of code. In addition, this can turn out to be a utility that users will be willing to register to. Lastly, solving for groups orders introduce the possibility for virality and network effect.

On Not Writing

I’m sitting in Pret, at my favorite spot in the store, dark coffee with tons of sugar, listening to Requiem For A Dream for the gazillionth time. This was the soundtrack of my life for the last month, playing in an infinite loop, and with every repeat charging me with more energy. So much energy, that I’m about to explode.

For a month now, I’m doing some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever did. At work, the product and team I’m leading got the recognition it deserve1, being featured by Mark Zuckerberg in the opening keynote at F82.

In parallel, I’m working on my own thing, and while looking for a technical co-founder, I’ve started to get my hands dirty with code. Elastic search, python scripts, email scrapping, logstach and kibana are just few of the technologies I got myself familiarized.

Everything’s good except for one thing, though: I didn’t write a single post during all that time. If writing was part of me, this would have been the best month for it to flourish. I could share so many experiences, learning and lessons; I could also even brag (just a little) about some the successes my team had. But nothing got documented. This month was like a dream vacation where I took no photos.

But all is not lost. When I started this blog, I “bought” an “insurance policy”, specifically for that situation. I initiated the Blog Writing meetup and surrounded myself with people who are passionate about writing, who can support me, while supporting each other, to stay on the wagon (or is it off the wagon…).

This week, I made a claim to my insurance. In our monthly meetup, I shared with the group my struggle in keep writing during this crazy month, and my frustration when finding that the writing mussel got weaken so quickly when not being trained for only this short period, hindering me from getting back to writing.

Fortunately, my investment paid off. I learned from members of the group not only the writing-hacks that might help me get back on writing, but that I’m not the only one suffering from those symptoms.

Sue Hellene, a novelist and a published author, shared that she has different moods for writing, and can’t write productively at night. She also related with my feeling that writing is like a muscle, and that it weakens if not trained regularly. Melody had many good tips to overcome writers’ block. For her, setting a deadline for each post, absorbing herself in the editor, eliminating any possible destruction (read – disconnect from the internet…), and, sometime, the a glass of wine, help keeping her writing on track. Dee-on reminded me of the morning pages, which were my initial inspiration. And lastly, Joe’s post, “The Look of Silence”, helped me think of my posts as notes-to-self again, and not worried about those who might read them, hence freeing myself to write whatever on my mind.

And thanks to that group, here I am, writing again. Sitting in this coffee place, starting from a morning page that turned into this post, my Emacs is in full screen and I’m committed to push publish before going back home. Nothing special, interesting, or helpful in this post, just a small, personal, step forward; a light jog after a month of no exercises. Rarely will a quote from physics will be that appropriate:

“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” Newton’s First Law of Motion

Footnotes:

1

At least from the technology world. wish it would have a fraction of it internally…

2

Details on what that product is will come in a follow-up post…

Make Food Fun Again

So this idea that I had. I was talking with a company that is doing personalization for jobs – UpScored. I knew Elise, their CEO, from twitter and gave their newly launched product a spin. I came back with some feedback, and after a good chat with Elise, I realized that the problem I’m working on my day-to-day – personalization engine for content, is relevant for other fields as well.

A day later, I was introduced to on of the co-founders of Plated – a meal planning service. He’s story, of how they’ve started the company, reminded me a lot of how and why I’ve started FeedMe – a marketplace for food company that I started about 5 years ago and close about a year later. He was talking about Plated as a food-tech company, while I was struggling what technology had to do with the service, other than having a consumer facing website.

Anyway, at that point I was doing one plus one in my head, and the idea to develop a true technological approach to food discovery popped up. I want to develop an app that will tell me what I want to eat. Let me offer some context, though.

While food related technologies and services proliferate, the simple question of “what to eat?” becomes harder than ever.

Here’s an example: last weekend I went to Austin, for the SXSW festival. I landed on Friday morning, and headed downtown for breakfast. I opened Yelp, to “discover” what I should be eating. But after looking into the first 5 results (out of hundreds), I became hungrier and less patient, so I picked up the first restaurant that I saw across the street, and which seemed decent. Yelp didn’t help me to “discover” the best of Austin.

Another example: Every night (no exaggerations), I have the same dialog with my wife:

Screen_Shot_2016-03-20_at_00.03.51.png

So the problem is that not being able to choose what to eat takes the fun out of the food experience. I want an app, or a service that will take the decision for me, based on my history, my taste, my diet and that’s of my partner for the order.

I spent the previous week researching, brainstorming with friends, wire-framing and what not, and got a long way in defining the problem and focusing the approach for the solution. More on it in following posts.

Just A Couple Of Emacs Keybindings

Every now and then I’ll type something in Emacs with a certain goal, just to find that I get something completely different from what I’ve intended.

When in org file, I tried to convert a list item to a sub-header. The keybinding to make this conversion is C-c *. But when I (thought I) typed it, instead of getting a sub-header, a new buffer opened at the bottom of the frame – a calculator:

emacs-calc-mode.png

Figure 1: Calc mode

view-lossage

I had no idea how did that happen, and luckily recalled a tip I got, on how to move back in time using the view-lossage command, which display last 300 input keystrokes. Doing so, I found that instead of C-c *, I typed C-x *.

So now I know (and hopefully remember) that:

  1. There’s a calculator1 in Emacs, bound to C-x *
  2. C-h l is a useful way to track back clumsy keystrokes

Footnotes:

1

Not that I had any doubts there is, just didn’t think to look for it just yet. There are so many other “to-learn” things on my list…