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## Countless benefits of learning

Leaders in every sector seem to agree: Learning is an imperative, not a cliché. Without it, careers derail and companies fail[1]Petriglieri, G. (2019) ‘Learning for a Living’. [10 December 2019] available from <https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/learning-for-a-living/>.

During our lifespan, we regularly study new technical or lexical skills for different projects, and this is what we’ll look at – the way to enhance capabilities of the human brain.

Lifelong learning has dozens of benefits, and it’s not only increasing our value on the job market. According to the article from Harvard Business Review[2]Coleman, J. (2017) ‘Lifelong Learning Is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet, and Your Social Life’. [2 February 2017] available from <https://hbr.org/2017/02/lifelong-learning-is-good-for-your-health-your-wallet-and-your-social-life>, it also leaves positive aspect on our health by improving memory, offsetting cognitive decline or delaying symptoms of Alzheimer[3]Park, A. (2015) ‘Mental and Social Activity Delays the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s’. [10 June 2015] available from <https://time.com/3916777/alzheimers-symptoms-delay/>. Although it requires us to dedicate some of our time to stay alone with our studying material, in the long term, we benefit from open doors to more social circles.

When we learn new stuff, mixing different approaches is a great strategy to stimulate our brain with more stimuli:

1. Analogy – tell me what it’s like
2. Diagram – help me visualise it
3. Example – allow me to experience it
4. Plain English – describe it with everyday words
5. Technical definition – discuss the formal details.

Nevertheless, in this post, we will focus on a technique of digital flashcards that can embrace all the 5 methodologies and remind us of them in the right (algorithmically calculated) time.

### Spaced repetition vs cramming

If I would tell you right now that in the next month there is an important exam coming on, how would you prepare yourself to it? I assume that you would take your time and by the very last week apply the stressful cramming technique – absorbing large amounts of information in a short period, and eventually forgetting all the material a few weeks after.

Therefore, what is the more effective method that you can apply for the upcoming tests? Thanks to the concept of learning from flashcards, we can implement the two excellent systems of spaced repetition and active recall. Here, you become more prepared for your next exam and achieve a higher recall as the time passes.

Classically, there is no spaced repetition post without the forgetting curve, which shows how you can lose newly learned information if you don’t attempt to retain it:

In the latter (active recall) technique, we’re actively stimulating memory during the learning process. It contrasts with reading or watching information – passive review method.

Nowadays, using digital software, you can apply these methodologies while reviewing flashcards in synchronisation with your smartphone and PC. The SM-2 algorithm implemented in the software automatically calculates and proposes the time of next reviews so that you can only focus on the one thing.

Spaced repetition on its own is mostly used by medical students such as Ali Abdaal (Cambridge University medicine graduate), but also by programmers such as Derek Banas or Daniel Bourke.

As such, why spaced repetition isn’t more popular over cramming? Well, people don’t know about it, and it’s not as straightforward in its use. We talk big about self-improvement but don’t want to do any stinkin’ hard work. Can you imagine a student who wants to type his notes back home into a flashcard app?

## What can you study with flashcards?

Let me start with the fact that the use of a Spaced Repetitive Software (SRS) like Anki can be your greatest weapon while preparing for a TV shows like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” or “Jeopardy!“, where one player won almost $300 000[4]Haviland, L. (2020) ‘“Jeopardy!” Champion Arthur Chu’s Old-Fashioned Strategy For Winning Paid Off Big Time’. [26 June 2020] available from <https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/jeopardy-champion-arthur-chus-old-fashioned-strategy-for-winning-paid-off-big-time.html/>. When it comes to me, If I am not mistaken, I started using Anki about a year ago, and it definitely wasn’t consistent. Since then, I created a few decks (entire flashcard collections), but most of them were imported not only from the AnkiWeb but Quizlet and Memrise. So far, the cards let me: • improve my French (especially the cards based on the translation of sentences, not just pure words) • become more fluent with RegEx • learn Greek letters • practice Google Search Operators • relearn Polish voivodeships and the global geography • improve my understanding of Machine Learning theory (huge thanks to the deck by Chris Albon). I didn’t pay too much attention yet to the math or programming cards, but for now, I prefer to learn those topics from the online courses/books and then eventually facilitate them with the flashcards. Nonetheless, if you are wondering how flashcard can teach you programming, I would say that there are 3 main ways (types of cards): • for me, the most enjoyable programming decks are showing a code on the front card, and then your objective is to guess what is its output (or maybe there is an error). An example deck: Python code quiz • some present an objective on the front side, such as “What is the syntax to print your name“, and the back side reveals “print("your name")“. An example deck: Python programming from Brian Spiering • other decks like Think Python Vocabulary will teach you more theory. For example, the front side will say “Define: Source Code“, and the answer will be “A program in a high-level language before being compiled“. Surely there are more applications of Anki, which I recently discussed in a Reddit post and brought up an engaging discourse of 93 comments. ### The “magic” behind the SM-2 algorithm The SM-2 algorithm from the late 1980s is responsible in Anki for its core function of scheduling your repetitions, with the modification of considering each card’s priority. Briefly speaking, Anki determines card scheduling by the option we choose after revealing the answer (“Again“, “Hard“, “Good” or “Easy“). Depending on the selected option (our familiarity with the card), the following formula applies different ease% and interval modifier: $$New \ Interval = current \ interval \times ease\% \times interval \ modifier$$ Watching this great explanation will further and more intuitively illustrate how your use of SRS spaces the next reviews. I also recommend applying settings recommended by its author (presented in the form of screenshots at 07:31 and 12:34). Another strong point of Anki is its way of providing us with lots of statistics, where some are summarised in the form of histograms. There I’ve got a sample estimation of the number of cards that I’m likely to study in the next 30 days of my French set. I know such dull explanations of spaced repetition can be tiresome, but luckily there are interactive simulations in your browser to help with that. For that, there is nothing better than Nicky’s blog post: “How To Remember Anything Forever-Ish“. ## Setting up Anki At first, the use of this software won’t be the most straightforward in comparison to its alternatives, but as we know, there are no ideal solutions. In this section, I’ll provide you with the information that will save you lots of time to start your first studying session. ### Quick installation guide 1. Create your AnkiWeb account. 2. Download Anki desktop application (Windows/Mac/Linux). 3. Log in to your AnkiWeb account inside the desktop application and create or import your first flashcards. 4. Start learning! • Optionally, download the Anki mobile app (Android or iOS) and learn on the go. Don’t forget to log in to your AnkiWeb account inside the app and sync your repository. ### How to use Anki Unfortunately, installing Anki doesn’t make you ready to start your study sessions. It’s somewhat comparable to buying a blank notebook from which you could’ve studied, but it’s missing your notes. Luckily for us, the community is quite generous, and there’re lots of great flashcards already available. You’ll find some great examples in the further part of this post. Just like before, it’s best to present some things visually. Here is one of the most practical YouTube tutorials showing the most common Anki functions (card reveal, clozes, image occlusion). If you don’t feel like watching the entire clip, you can use the predefined timestamps to go to the right part (to see them, open the video on the YouTube website). As previously mentioned, we can get some premade cards, but it’s like learning from someone’s else notes. Making cards isn’t as bad once we make at least one of them. I bet you’ll also enjoy card formatting with the CSS code, so the card looks more eye-pleasing (but don’t spend too much time on that!). Nonetheless, there are ways to facilitate the card-creation process. For example, if you tend to annotate some text online (such as I do with Hypothesis), you can use your annotation on the front side of the card and the highlighted part as the answer (back side). Apart from Hypothesis, you may also try using a different annotation tool – Polar that officially supports such conversion straight from its software. You can even get automatically generated cards from the displayed word definitions or highlights you create on your Kindle device (the required tools are mentioned in the further part of this post). Once you have your cards, it’s crucial to be consistent with your studies. To help yourself with it, you can use a review heatmap to have a quick glance over your frequency, as well as define a goal similar to mine: Daily Anki Flashcards“. Try to do your studies at the same time of the day, so it will become a habit just like brushing your teeth. To contribute to the community, don’t forget to share some of your creations. ### Make effective flashcards First and foremost, do not convert a topic straight into flashcards if you don’t understand it! For example, you can memorise the history of Poland from the flashcards, but with such information, you’ll most likely still not understand the overall picture. Therefore, remember, don’t commit the offence of learning without comprehension. After you understood the topic, here comes the time of designing your first flashcard. The fundamental rule of flashcard creation is the “Minimum Information Principle“. It states that your questions and answers should be as simple as possible. A large number of simple cards is far more efficient to remember than a small number of big, demanding, awkward cards[5]Nagelberg, M. (2020) ‘How to Deal with Lists in Anki’. [6 July 2020] available from <http://www.marknagelberg.com/how-to-deal-with-lists-in-anki/>.  Example of a bad card Examples of good cards Q: What are the main characteristics of Belgium? A: Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.5 million Q: What is the official name of Belgium? A: The Kingdom of Belgium Q: In which part of Europe can we find Belgium? A: Western Europe Q: Who is bordering with Belgium and from which side? A: The Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest Q: What is the area covered by Belgium (in km2 and sq mi)? A: 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq mi) Q: What is the population of Belgium (in millions)? A: More than 11.5 million In addition to simplifying the information, try to use images where possible as they will further stimulate your senses. As an example, they work great for learning a new language and finding the word for the presented image. On the other hand, if the graphic contains all the information, you can still learn from it by hiding/unhiding the right areas. I’ve just provided the basic, must known principles, but there is more to it if you would like to create the most practical cards. Dr Piotr Woźniak, the author of SuperMemo software, explained this topic thoroughly in 20 rules[6]Wozniak, P. (1999) ‘Effective Learning: Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge’. [February 1999] available from <https://www.supermemo.com/en/archives1990-2015/articles/20rules> with a great set of examples. ## My Anki Setup While writing this sentence, I have been using Anki for around 1 year, and throughout that period, I tried different habits and setups of its software. In this chapter, I’ll show you all the settings that I found useful, as well as how it presents itself inside the desktop and mobile app. ### Desktop App Usually, after opening Anki on your desktop machine, you might be notified that one of your plugins has been updated. After continuing with the update process, applying the night mode, gathering some flashcards and installing a few plugins, this is how your Anki might look like: On my version above, looking from the top, we’ve: 1. toolbar with the main commands 2. 5 options to choose “Decks” to learn from, “Add” new ones, “Browse” their content, check their “Stats” and “Sync” our progress 3. list of all the decks. I numbered them manually and added emojis, so it looks a bit more attractive and is sorted alphabetically (without numbers, the emojis break the order). The green “Due” number marks the cards to study before the next day, whereas the blue “New” presents the cards I can study now and didn’t see before 4. some statistics with a review heatmap of a GitHub-like layout. Nevertheless, most of your time with Anki will focus on the following template: This is an example of a flashcard to practice my French language, where I already revealed the back (answer) side, which was the French word for the image on the front (question) side. What’s great about this card is that I am also allowed to press the play button to relisten the pronunciation of the word. To continue with the next question, I need to categorise my familiarity with the subject by choosing one of the four options: “Again“, “Hard“, “Good” or “Easy“, which determine the time when the card will be presented to me again. #### My flashcards Naturally, flashcards are the heart of our study sessions, and in case I got you interested with my setup, here is a list of all my Anki decks (as of the date of publication/update of this blog post): To stay up to date with the cards I’ve created, you can follow my GitHub repo: “My Anki Decks of Flashcards“. Of course, there are other places to look for even more Anki decks of cards: #### My plugins Keep in mind that you can do absolutely fine without any plugin, but if you have some spare time to customise Anki, add-ons will be there to improve your experience. Here is a list of all my Anki plugins (as of the date of publication/update of this blog post): • Add Hyperlink <— adds dialogue to enter hyperlinks in your cards • Add Table <— add tables in your cards • Advanced Browser <— enhance options of the card browser • Advanced Review Bottom Bar <— extend the options of your review bottom bar • Always On Top <— add option to keep your Anki window always on top (useful when creating new cards) • Anki themes <— Anki theme for programming snippets • Anki Zoom <— enable zoom anywhere in Anki (mostly used with Ctrl + Mouse) • AwesomeTTS (Google Cloud Text-to-Speech) <— add audio to your notes (recommended for creating language-based cards) • BetterTags [requires$5 subscription] <— overhaul Anki’s tagging system
• Customize Keyboard Shortcuts <— if you’re willing to modify any shortcuts
• Customize Sidebar <— simplify the view of your card browser
• Deck name in title <— show the name of the deck you are currently studying, and the profile name
• Deck Stats <— show the total due and new cards from all the decks in the deck browser
• Fastbar <— improve the look of your card browser with better access to the most common functions
• Frozen Fields <— introduce sticky and unsticky fields (useful when creating new cards)
• Image Occlusion Enhanced <— create cards that hide parts of an image to test your knowledge of that hidden information (must have!)
• Improved Quizlet to Anki 2.1 Importer <— not enough cards in the AnkiWeb repo? Import some of them from Quizlet
• Kindle Highlights Import <— import and study your highlights from the Kindle e-reader. Besides, have a look at Fluentcards to import the words of which you checked the definition
• memrise2anki <— download and convert a course from Memrise into an Anki deck
• Mini Format Pack <— extend formatting of your new cards
• More Decks Stats and Time Left <— show extra information of the due cards and return the expected time to finalise (Due+New)
• More Overview Stats 2.1 <— even more statistics!
• Progress Bar <— progress bar that shows your progress in terms of passed cards per review session. As of writing this post, I recommend using v2.0 from GitHub and using these values [1]
• Puppy Reinforcement <— intermittent reinforcement with cute puppies to encourage card review streaks
• Reset Card Scheduling <— ever imported someone else’s deck that contained scheduling information associated with cards?
• Review Heatmap <— include heatmap graph to Anki’s main window which visualises past and future card review activity, similar to the contribution view on GitHub
• Syntax Highlighting for Code <— insert syntax-highlighted code snippets into your notes
• True Retention by Card Maturity <— check your True Retention (pass rate calculated only among “Review” cards) and a few placebo stats by card maturity
• Visual Feedback <— display feedback for reviews by flashing a small transparent image at the centre of your screen. As of writing this post, I recommend using v1.0.0.-beta.3, which is free of several bugs.

[1]:

showPercent = True  # Show the progress text percentage or not.
showNumber = True  # Show the progress text as a fraction
maxWidth = "20px"  # (e.g. "5px". default: "")
qtxt = "aliceblue"  # Percentage color, if text visible.
qbg = "#585858"  # Background color of progress bar.
qfg = "#22b14c"  # Foreground color of progress bar.
qbr = 8  # Border radius (> 0 for rounded corners).

If you are looking to extend the functionality even further, please consider checking out these plugin repositories:

In case when you can’t find the right add-on and have the feeling of practising your Python skills, there is a great guide to support you with the next steps.

### AnkiDroid

To stay as productive as possible and study on the go, Anki offers a great advantage of using its AnkiDroid (Android) or AnkiMobile (iOS) app. Unfortunately, the Apple variant requires a payment of $25, but in the long term, it is worth much more than that, as similar apps like Quizlet base on a subscription model of$19.99/year.

The best part about using Anki is that all your usage progress flawlessly syncs between your desktop and mobile app. It does it automatically when you close/open the desktop app; however, make sure to do it manually in the mobile app by clicking the sync button in the top-right corner.

The look of our app offers almost the same functionalities as its desktop variant, with the only exception of missing your lovely plugins. On my side, I’m usually studying with a desktop app, but when travelling, the mobile version suits me perfectly, and it’s absolutely comfortable to use it with a single finger over the bottom part of the screen.

As previously displayed for the Windows app, here is the same card exhibiting the card with a revealed answer of a french word for “mountain” on Android:

## I don’t like Anki. What else can I use?

If by any reason you don’t feel like using Anki, there do are other options which require less (or even zero) effort to set them up. I tried them all and used in companion to my Anki sessions, and can assure you that they mostly deliver a similar experience:

• flashcards wizardzines <— small set of flashcards from a great blogger: Julia Evans
• Flashcards for Developers <— great place to practice CS, where you can also create an account to track your progress
• Memrise <— learn a language and not only (there is an add-on to convert Memrise content to Anki)
• Quizlet <— more user-friendly alternative to Anki (there is an add-on to convert Quizlet content to Anki)
• ShortcutFoo <— fun way to memorise shortcuts and commands
• Tinycards <— flashcard app from the creators of Duolingo.

Maybe the nature of flashcards still doesn’t suit you? Well, then I hope that finding something inside my list of recommendations will satisfy you. Alternatively, you might apply spaced repetition in an old-school way while using pen and paper in The Leitner Box methodology[7]Wikipedia (2020) ‘Leitner System’. [10 July 2020] available from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leitner_system>:

If you still bravely decided to stay with Anki despite all this plethora of information, there is a great reason to gamify your sessions. Why so? Have you wondered why Duolingo remains so popular and enjoyable? Well, its developers knew how to gamify the experience by providing us with achievements, sounds, day streaks, internal currency and variations of exercises. In fact, Duolingo knows and applies spaced repetition in its sessions.

Gamifying Anki will help us stick to it thanks to the additional reinforcement to do our best. We can do it by installing/developing plugins that will add funny images every few cards, provide visual feedback and following a progress bar (I’ve mentioned all these plugins in my previous list).

In my case, I went a bit further and decided to add my Xbox One Wireless controller (but 8BitDo Zero 2 might be even handier and unquestionably cheaper) to all of it. What is great about this solution is that whenever I take it into my hand now, I always think of doing Anki cards and enjoy them more like a game. Moreover, it’s so convenient just to sit back, relax and focus on the only thing. Here is how it looks in my case (you can even do it one-handed):

If you would like to follow my settings in the video clip, I’ve mapped the buttons of the gamepad to the open-source solution, antimicro:

* Left Stick = Mouse (_fast_)
* LS Click = Mouse MB
* Right Stick = Mouse (_slow_)
* RS Click = Enter
* Left = Mouse Left
* Right = Mouse Right
* Up = Mouse 4
* Down = Mouse 5
* Left Trigger = Mouse Left Button
* Right Trigger = Mouse Right Button
* Left Shoulder = Ctrl (_useful to hold for zooming in/out with DPad_)
* Right Shoulder = 4
* A = Space
* X = 1
* Y = 2
* B = 3
* Back = C (_skips cards_)
* Start = R (_replays audio in cards_)

## Reaching out to the community

You don’t have to feel alone with your struggles of designing new cards. What is great about using Anki is the inspiring community that is always there for you:

• Anki Forums <— great place to ask specific questions regarding your technical concerns
• AnKing <— Anki group started by 4 medical students (not surprised). You can find a lot of recommendations on their website and YouTube channel
• Anki subreddit <— my preferred community and probably the most popular. If you enjoyed memes inside this post, here you will find much more of them
• Discord channel <— 800+ members to chat with you in different rooms
• Medical School Anki Lounge subreddit <— as I mentioned, Anki’s pretty popular among medical students who even had to create their own subreddit
• MedSchool + Anki <— even more about the use of Anki in medical school with some of the greatest premade decks like Zanki.

Apart from the communities, there is a great contributor that made it much easier for me to immerse myself in the world of flashcards: Glutanimate. Not only he is the most popular plugin creator, but he also shares a lot of helpful tips on his YouTube channel. He definitely deserves to be mentioned here.

## Moving one step further…

If you’re still interested in the topic of learning, please have a look at the subject of incremental reading that you can implement with SuperMemo18. It’s a more advanced tool over Anki, including the incremental reading feature, which definitely suits a smaller part of our population. In this approach, all the learning process bases on the idea of chopping long articles into shorter pieces to read over time, and review them using the SM-18 algorithm. In other words, we’re “spaced-repetition-ing” our reading. It’s best to see an example of such a study session:

After watching the clip, we can try to drive some brief conclusions to compare both systems:

 Anki SuperMemo Algorithm Inferior (SM-2) Superior (SM-18) Time to get used to Shorter Longer Incremental Reading Interleaving Micro Macro Aspects of learning Remembering Reading + Remembering Mobile support Android, iOS Platform support Windows, Linux, Mac Only Windows Synchronisation User interface “Simple” “Exhaustive”

At this time, I believe we should know why Anki rules the market. It’s more user-friendly and wins by far due to its platform support and synchronisation feature. Although SuperMemo offers a more robust system, it will only suit the most demanding students who are willing to spend more of their time to settle down.

Apart from the development of SRS, SuperMemo author dedicates a lot of time into the science behind the learning topic. To me, this website is like a hidden internet gem that goes in-depth to the nature of learning.

Okay, I think it’s much more than enough for you to start. My intend wasn’t to make this post as something to read once and move further, but rather keep coming back to check different resources. Please let me know in the comments section below if this is something new to you and if you will give Anki a try!

Now, my dear digital traveller, practice what you just learned and spread the knowledge!

References   [ + ]

 1 ↑ Petriglieri, G. (2019) ‘Learning for a Living’. [10 December 2019] available from 2 ↑ Coleman, J. (2017) ‘Lifelong Learning Is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet, and Your Social Life’. [2 February 2017] available from 3 ↑ Park, A. (2015) ‘Mental and Social Activity Delays the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s’. [10 June 2015] available from 4 ↑ Haviland, L. (2020) ‘“Jeopardy!” Champion Arthur Chu’s Old-Fashioned Strategy For Winning Paid Off Big Time’. [26 June 2020] available from 5 ↑ Nagelberg, M. (2020) ‘How to Deal with Lists in Anki’. [6 July 2020] available from 6 ↑ Wozniak, P. (1999) ‘Effective Learning: Twenty Rules of Formulating Knowledge’. [February 1999] available from 7 ↑ Wikipedia (2020) ‘Leitner System’. [10 July 2020] available from

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Recommendatory Interleaf https://pawelcislo.com/2020/03/12/recommendatory-interleaf/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=recommendatory-interleaf https://pawelcislo.com/2020/03/12/recommendatory-interleaf/#respond Thu, 12 Mar 2020 18:13:02 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=2859 Reading Time ≈ 15 minutes This registry was created to catalogue the recently published set of recommendations and share a couple of updates from my side. Recommendations for Engineers As of today (12/03), my recent [...]

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This registry was created to catalogue the recently published set of recommendations and share a couple of updates from my side.

## Recommendations for Engineers

As of today (12/03), my recent list of Recommendations for Engineers managed to appear in my favourite tech newsletter (1st position), hit 2103 page views and 14 stars on its GitHub repository. Those statistics motivated me to spread its existence even further with this blog index, since after its initial release in the last November, it counts 94 commits (updates) and counting (≈ 0.87 commits per day).

Enough on the statistical side, as at that point, you might still wonder what is inside this list that makes me want to brag about it today.

In short, I have aggregated all of my recommendations for aspiring engineers in a single place, coming from various areas of interest. The principal scope supports data science, programming, python, math, cybersecurity, business, and productivity. The entire content has been built for a vast amount of time thanks to my never-ending curiosity. With all of that, I intend to rise a bit of inspiration in everyone, as it already helps myself.

Although it is a personal list, do not hesitate to create a pull request if I missed something interesting or if there is a dead link. Once again, before moving to the next section on a different subject, you are more than welcome to review my:

## Reason for my recent absence

Last time, I have been a bit off blog posting since my newest publication in July 2019, but it does not mean I completely forgot about this site and my online presence overall.

Principally, the reason for my absence was a new project to tackle at a railway company – Alstom, which I put a priority on, in order to deliver the best possible result and come back with a valuable experience. Apart from the working hours itself, I used to spend approximately 3 hours a day commuting with public transport, which I managed to use efficiently. All this time, let me consume lots of abandoned books, podcasts and audiobooks, focusing on my French and statistical proficiency.

In all this hassle, I did find some free time, which I used, for example, to scribble down my latest publication, but also to experiment with different learning methods that I am planning to describe in the upcoming posts. Nonetheless, I also had to give my mind a break and rethink my current actions and plans for the future.

Not to waffle on all the news, and to maintain a structured article, let’s have a look at the succeeding sections.

## A brief timeline of my last events

As this is more of an “announcement” post, I will try to be as concise as possible and summarise below all of my recent activities (from June 2019 till March 2020). Please don’t mind me all the emojis.

### Changes on this website

• [June] New post about the art of writing: #10 – The Potential of Perspicuous Writing
• [November] Completely new subsection on Recommendations for Engineers
• Updated my article on the use of Todoist with new projects, labels and priorities
• Added questions and answers on the FAQ page. Some of the responses have been converted into the Recommendations for Engineers
• I’ve mainly explained the reason behind each of the individuals that inspires me
• More citations in the Favourite Thoughts segment
• Redefined objectives in Three Goals. Being honest, it is very challenging to keep up with all these challenges in the face of unscheduled life novelties
• Supplementary sections on the About Me page
• Modified Extra-professional Activities
• Summary of online presence within My Internet Persona
• Improved layout of the Favourite Thoughts page (it’s a bit more explicit and has a TOC)
• Applied gzip-compressing to improve the site performance
• Improved SEO score of the entire website
• Specified 301 redirections. You can access all the posts using a number within the path, such as this one with pawelcislo.com/11. The same works for my social media, such as pawelcislo.com/twitter or pawelcislo.com/linkedin.

### Latest episodes of my personal life

This part would definitely challenge my memory if I wouldn’t keep track of my daily journal. Living in the digital era, I also found it helpful to browse my photos with scrcpy conveniently.

Phew… That will be it.

## What is next?

Now, let’s not dwell on the past and talk about what’s in front of us.

Below you can see a piece of note I reuse to store all the ideas to write about. This year it’s counting 11 written posts (including this report) and 18 waiting in the queue (1.5 year ago it wasn’t like that). For the moment, the subjects balanced between productivity, community events and a few technical matters. The line of ideas waiting to be described still considers a bit of learning-based concepts, accompanied by data science technicalities and other hard skills domains. There might also appear more data engineering topics, such as setting up big data pipelines into production, rather than common analytical procedures.

On top of that, I am considering to convert the entire website to Gatsby.js framework, although I usually receive positive feedback about the structure/performance of this place.

Why Gatsby.js?

Two of my blogging inspirations: Victor Zhou and Tania Rascia are presenting a perfect example of Gatsby’s benefits. Whenever I step on their posts, I take my time admiring the smoothness of transitions between different pages and the overall user experience. In fact, I’m formally coming for the exceptional content they produce concerning machine learning and web development.

Transfer from WordPress to Gatsby.js is surely time-taking and pretty stressful, but in the end, it’s full of positives. Mainly, we’re taking advantage of the increased performance since our website becomes a single page app (SPA), which results in no reloads while traversing the HTML documents. Above all, this is an excellent web dev practice with a focus on JavaScript, which is especially important to me for the D3.js framework!

### Any particular plans for 2020?

Back in January, I have shared my initial set of intentions on what to prioritise for the next 12 months. Let’s have a look and reflect on them after the last 2.5 months.

January was filled with Python, Tkinter and RegEx. Later, 1st half of February was taken by tech conferences, The AKKAdemy graduation and exploration of the Swiss mountains. Now, my mind is mostly focused on data visualisation in D3.js, putting more effort into my French fluency and preparing for the practical experience in data engineering (Hadoop ecosystem, Docker and Kubernetes). Apart from that, I will try to present more projects with the use of AI, such as a simulation of self-driving car.

Summarising: so far, so good. Although this year didn’t start well for the global population as we already know from the news, I believe that for me it’s heading in the right direction. Reminding myself of the last point from the aforementioned graphic, I shall not forget to have fun throughout this process, and not stress as much if things do not work as I planned.

For the moment, let us all do our best and enjoy our life. Till next time!

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The Potential of Perspicuous Writing https://pawelcislo.com/2019/07/28/the-potential-of-perspicuous-writing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-potential-of-perspicuous-writing https://pawelcislo.com/2019/07/28/the-potential-of-perspicuous-writing/#respond Sun, 28 Jul 2019 10:30:36 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=1917 Reading Time ≈ 20 minutes Writing is one of the most extreme skills anyone can possess, and if you learn how to use it competently, there will be no lexical battle on your way to [...]

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Writing is one of the most extreme skills anyone can possess, and if you learn how to use it competently, there will be no lexical battle on your way to lose. Therefore, why isn’t that so apparent to most of us?

## Significance of expression

Unfortunately, since you were young, most possibly, you were told to write essays to achieve the best grade possible, so it commenced a sense of motivation in the form of competition. In this post, I will try to restructure that idea, as learning to speak and write is simply the best way to learn how to think critically and start making a significant impact on whatever you want.

The topic of writing popped in my mind mainly through Jordan Peterson – Canadian clinical psychologist, mostly recognised as the author of the bestseller: “12 Rules for Life“. Just like Peterson, I strongly support the idea that the way we write highly impacts our logical abilities.

First and foremost, the psychologist tries to shape the real purpose of writing, unlike the one generally applied in schools, where we are usually told that it will result in a better grade, thanks to which our parents will be happy. Being more rational, it is writing, through which ultimately we can win arguments, get a pay rise or write better code and documentation so that newcomers could overtake the development.

Nonetheless, let’s not stop on generalised logical/material benefits and extend the value of writing based on the example of writing an essay. To express it in a single sentence: the primary reason to write an essay is so that the writer can formulate and organise an informed, coherent and sophisticated set of ideas about something important.[1]Peterson, J. (2017) ‘Essay Writing Guide’. [online] available from <https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://jordanbpeterson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Essay_Writing_Guide.docx>

This everything might sound pretty smart, but can we think of a broader rationale? After some time of quiet contemplation, I bet we might come up with a few additional reasons behind writing:

• above everything, it is important to think because action based on thinking is likely to be far less painful and more productive than action based upon ignorance
• the person who can formulate and communicate the best argument almost always wins
• the Romans built buildings, and the Romans and the buildings are both gone. The Jews wrote a book, and they are still here, and so is the book. So it turns out that words may well last longer than stone, and have more impact than whole empires
• if you learn to write and to edit, you will also be able to tell the difference between good ideas, intelligently presented, and bad ideas put forth by murky and unskilled thinkers
• you will be healthier physically and mentally, as lack of clarity means unnecessary stress.[2]Peterson, J. (2017) ‘Essay Writing Guide’. [online] available from <https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://jordanbpeterson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Essay_Writing_Guide.docx>

To strengthen out everything you just read, I encourage you to spend 4 minutes of your time with the following clip:

Now, before we talk about a highly correlated form of communication, take into consideration that the goal of this post isn’t to hail writing to be the one and only skill to handle logical conversations. For instance, without a basic understanding of math (some algebra and statistics), you might be fooled not even once by retailers and online news.

### Speak, speak, speak!

Speaking is something I don’t feel particularly good with; hence, I profoundly supported this part with a popular TED talk “How to speak so that people want to listen” given by Julian Treasure.[3]Treasure, J. (2013) How to Speak so That People Want to Listen [online] available from <https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_how_to_speak_so_that_people_want_to_listen>.

This form of communication is merely an oral representation of writing, where the way we use our voice may deliver a message completely different from our intention. In addition to the sound, body expressions pay even more importance if we have a chance to see our conversation partner. Nowadays, in order not to lose these techniques in the written form of communication, some of us try to portray the vocal/body expressions in the form of pictorial representations, such as emoticons or emojis.

Mastering vocal expressions come with the time, but you can significantly improve it through giving presentations at your job or university, or you can even get a vocal coach if you’re determined enough. One day, it might help you a lot while trying to negotiate, get a salary increase or to sell your product to a new customer. At first, before applying the right techniques, can you spot one of the 7 deadly sins of speaking in your conversations?

2. Judging the listener
3. Being consistently negative
4. Complaining
5. Giving excuses (avoiding responsibility)
7. Dogmatising (confusing facts with opinions).

I bet you do, not only by looking at yourself but a large part of your daily environment. Omit those bad habits like a fire, and instead, apply the HAIL technique so that people will enjoy talking with you:

• Honesty (be clear and straight)
• Authenticity (be yourself)
• Integrity (be trustworthy)
• Love (wish others well).

But even more importantly, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. Improving your vocal techniques can’t be easily summarised with words; therefore, I wish you a great 5 minutes of your time with the 2nd part of Julian’s performance [04:23 – 09:58]:

## Editorial tips in 10 steps

Coming back to the merits of this post (writing), it’s worth to have an ultimate template which would improve the quality of our work. The following steps are mainly a summary of Peterson’s essay writing guide (available on his website), with slight modification, including my suggestions. In general, the entire manual is based on the iteration process through our report, until the moment of achieving the supreme state.

1. P1: Method of work (apply before writing)
• have a quiet place to work
• tip for professionals: rent not the cosiest hotel room in a boring city (to avoid touring)
• allocate enough time for your work, as stress won’t work with you
• define your audience before deciding on the topic
• use 2 monitors: one for reference material, another for the essay
• 3 productive hours are way better than ten hours of self-deceptive non-productivity, even in the library
• you won’t achieve more than 3/4 hours of productive writing
• write more than you need, so later you can drop/rearrange your ideas
2. P2: Process (words, sentences, paragraphs)
• respect the resolution levels
• 1st: selection of word
• 2nd: crafting of the sentence. The sentence itself should present a thought, part of the idea expressed in the paragraph
• 3rd: each sentence should be properly aligned in the paragraph
• 4th: all of the paragraphs have to be arranged in a logical progression, from the beginning of the essay to the end
• 5th: essay, as a whole
• 6th: essay necessarily exists within a context of interpretation, made up of the reader
• 7th: essay necessarily exists within the culture that the reader is embedded in
• rule of thumb: paragraph should be made of at least 10 sentences or 100 words
• if you are bored while writing, then, most likely, you are doing it wrong, and you will also bore your reader
• you have to place yourself in the correct state of mind to write properly
• the proper attitude is interested and aesthetically sensitive
3. P3: Finding ideas
• list 10 interesting topics in the form of questions
• there is no such thing as reader’s block. If you can’t write, it is because you have nothing to say
• assume you need 5-10 books or articles per 1000 words of essay
• double-spaced page of typing usually contains about 250 words
• list 10 of your reading sources and write notes for each of them
• writing in your own words has a reason
• this is the dialogue you are having with the writer of your findings. This is your attempt to say back to the author “This is what I understand you are saying.
• you can read a paragraph, look away and say in your own words what you understood from the text
• take about 2 to 3 times as many notes, by word, as you will need for your essay.
• in order to write intelligibly about something, or to speak intelligently about it, you need to know far more than you actually communicate
4. P4: The outline
• your 1st draft should be longer than the final version (of about 25%)
• outline is the most difficult part of writing an essay and not optional
• it shows the skeleton of the document
• 1000 words essay = 10 sentence outline
• no longer than 15 sentences, no matter of the number of words
• you can write it in bullet points (like a list of answered questions)
5. P5: Paragraphs
• write 10-15 sentences per outline to complete the paragraph
• don’t forget to use your notes
6. P6: Editing and arranging of sentences
• from each paragraph, place each sentence on a single line
• then write another version of each sentence
• example:
• BEFORE: Liberal and conservative thinkers stress efficiency of production, as well as quality, and consider profit the motive for efficiency
• AFTER: Liberal and conservative thinkers alike stress the importance of quality and efficiency, and see them as properly rewarded by profit
• better sentence:
• shorter and simpler (unnecessary words are eliminated)
• each word is precisely and exactly the right word
• don’t need to impress the reader with an extensive vocabulary, which you wouldn’t use in face to face conversation
• read each sentence aloud, and try to say it in different words. Note what you said and replace the old version with the new one if it’s better
• list the paragraphs in comparison to the original ones and think of even more improvement by following the same editing process again
7. P7: Re-ordering the paragraphs
• you might find that the order of the subtopics within your original outline is no longer precisely appropriate
• think of re-ordering the paragraphs so everything seems good
8. P8: Generating a new outline
• read the entire essay you wrote
• without looking back at the essay, try to write a new outline of 10-15 sentences
• reconstructing the argument from the memory might most likely improve it
• generally, when you remember something, you simplify it, while retaining most of what is important
• your memory can serve as a filter
9. P9 (optional): Repeat
• you can repeat the process of rewriting and re-ordering, as well as paragraph re-ordering and re-outlining
• you can wait a few days before doing it. Then you will be able to see what you have written, instead of seeing what you think you wrote
• you are not genuinely finished until you cannot edit so that your essay improves
• generally, you can tell if this has happened when you try to rewrite a sentence (or a paragraph) and you are not sure that the new version is an improvement over the original
10. P10: References and bibliography
• fact/informed opinion picked from something you read, should be referenced
• it’s recommended to use a specific citation software (discussed in the further part of this post)
• otherwise, you might be accused of plagiarism.[4]Peterson, J. (2017) ‘Essay Writing Guide’. [online] available from <https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://jordanbpeterson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Essay_Writing_Guide.docx>

### The way I write blog posts

Let’s make it clear that I do not always follow the 10 steps presented above, but I do keep them in mind. Don’t take anyone’s approach for granted, yet keep to yourself the ideas you value the most.

While creating this blog last year, I end up writing several ideas for my upcoming posts. At that time, some of them were dropped, some are still waiting, and some of them were combined into single great topics.

The topic you’re reading now came to me as inspiration from a Facebook post of my friend, the other in the middle of a call, and the rest mostly from random walking/reflection sessions. My recommendation would be not to push yourself too much as the best inspirations tend to come in the most unpredictable moments.

• topic 1
• subtopic 1
• subsubtopic 1
• subsubtopic 2
• subsubtopic 3
• subtopic 2
• subsubtopic 1
• topic 2
• subtopic 1
• topic 3

The points typically go through high modification process as I finally perform my first keystrokes. Sometimes, I also include comments (notes) under the bullet points, preceded by // characters (probably a leftover from my C++ classes).

Another part that is profoundly important and takes a lot of my time is the preparation of images, and in the end, promotion of the fresh post on my social profiles, different communities and through the newsletter. All of it involves following a specific set of previously specified steps, which I might automate one day.

Reading is like sharping a sword before fighting. It doesn’t only teach us different forms of communications and new words, but above all, it’s a universal source to be more aware of our surroundings. You cannot expect to write trustworthy researches without reading several scientific papers and referencing them in your work.

After leaving your university you might be more flexible in terms of choosing your literature, therefore give it a try. Don’t stay behind, as according to the latest research, people aren’t reading less, since “typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months“.[5]Kerri, J. (2018) ‘How Many Books Did The Average American Read In The Last Year? This New Study May Surprise You’. [19 April 2018] available from <https://www.bustle.com/p/how-many-books-did-the-average-american-read-in-the-last-year-this-new-study-may-surprise-you-8837851> Surprising? I don’t think so.

Just as you might have guessed from the image above, it’s listening that can let us read so many books from our overgrowing waiting list. As an example, last week I finished a 224 pages book in 5 days, only by using a part of the time I need to commute to my work. You can try various types of fiction and non-fiction, and it even turns out from my experience, that you can touch technical topics through audiobooks. However, when the book is heavily technical (such as consolidating programming/mathematical snippets), then I would advise reaching for a hardcover or e-book, where it’s much easier to take notes.

In the end, make sure not to end up on continuous yet vacant book consumption. Don’t rely on taking notes and leaving them for later with the idea that you might end up using it one day. Apart from summarising the book in your own words, try to take the stuff you learned into action immediately. Experiment if it works out in your life and give a greater sense to reading!

Apart from reading, I can give you an honest recommendation to try Elevate app, which is full of games that will improve your English vocabulary to a highly professional level. At first, try the free version, and if you like it, you can decide funding yourself a premium account.

## Researching Scientific Papers

We wouldn’t achieve all the technological advancement of our society if we weren’t able to access the benefits of the research conducted by previous generations. Sadly, we still need to be careful with science, as even though many papers support it, it doesn’t mean it can be entirely unbiased (e.g. we had a case of scientific corruption: How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat).

Once we are fully aware of questioning the authority, we don’t need to get out to the nearest library, but we can find all the required material online. There are various services; therefore, I can guide you to the most helpful resources I found during my research at the university:

• DOAJ <— directory of open access journals
• Google Scholar <— web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature
• JSTOR <— access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources in 75 disciplines
• ResearchGate <— European commercial social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators
• ScienceDirect <— website which provides subscription-based access to a large database of scientific and medical research
• Sci-Hub <— unlock access to all scientific papers using its URL, PMID/DOI
• Springer <— access to millions of scientific documents from journals, books, series, protocols, reference works and proceedings
• Wikipedia’s List of academic databases and search engines.

As at this time, many research papers are artificially restricted by copyright laws, you might quickly run out of money (especially if you’re a student) during your thesis. I am not suggesting anything, but there is a friendly service: Sci-Hub, that can help you with that, if you provide him with a specific document ID, such as digital object identifier (DOI).

Moving on to the next chapter, we will discuss what do with all the accumulated material, reviewed with the help of dozens of coffee mugs and loads of chocolate.

### Is there a “database” for all my papers?

It is worth to learn from the mistakes, and here you can learn on mine. Before writing any essay, make sure you have your citation tool open on the side and ready to roll. It will help you in many ways:

• you won’t get lost in the pile of papers (even if you think that citing a few of them is enough, still go with the tool, as the situation might quickly evolve)
• you will always use the right style/syntax required by your educational institution. No more missing commas, hyphens and apostrophes
• it will become a great habit. After graduating, I am still using it to store the bibliography of each post on this page!

Now, what about utilising the goods of technology to store all the papers in a safe environment? I did try lots of citing tools, such as built-in Word function, EasyBib and even end up paying for the premium account for the Cite This For Me service. Hence, don’t make my mistake and take advantage of the succeeding paragraphs.

At the end of my master’s thesis, I discovered Zotero (open-source, cross-platform application). Huge thanks to the community of HackerNews, where I heard about it, unfortunately, a little bit late. The program functions admirably and provides even more features than some of the premium tools on this market. You can save up a lot of metadata, have it automatically filled for you (with a Chrome extension), and most importantly, you don’t need to worry that one day the host will decide taking out all of your storage.

If you can’t install anything on your machine, you can also try the lighter/more primitive web version: ZoteroBib. The web application seems not to have an option to register your account and store your sessions, but there is a workaround. Cache files of your browser should save the data themselves, but I would suggest you not to trust your web browser, but create a “Link to this version“. You can find this function on the main web page if you scroll down a little bit. Afterwards, keep a good note of the URL.

Maybe I am too biased towards Zotero, but if you feel that your solution should be reliable enough for the researchers, let us know down in the comments.

## Tools to ease the writing process

These days, you don’t need to worry as much about typos, nor about handling your document for proofreading. There are several tools that you can apply by yourself easily, hence, here I would like to share with you my picks.

My favourite one – Grammarly. All my university assignments have been validated with this tool and nowadays, likewise, my blog posts. Still, there might be some typos and grammar issues, but it’s clearly more readable. Since last time, Grammarly is worth even more attention, as the developers included readability score and the way to verify your text based on correctness, clarity, engagement and delivery. Moreover, before commencing to compose the document, you can specify its intent effortlessly.

I tend to use Grammarly mostly in the form of Microsoft Word add-on, but including it as a browser extension also saves you from lots of errors. Sometimes, I also tend to use it merely through the official online app, as it guarantees the best support and performance. Moreover, if you have the budget, I recommend giving the premium version a chance, but before, try to seek out some discount coupons, especially on Cyber Monday.

Alternatively, if you prefer, you can also try proofreading available in good old Microsoft Word and Google Docs, which might be more accurate based on the fact of using machine learning to power their spell checking. Apart from document correctors, there is also LanguageTool Plus extension that works well with other languages too, such as Polish or Spanish.

Apart from the aforementioned tools, you can also reach out for:

• Parts of speech <— categorise words based on similar grammatical properties (noun, verb, adjective, etc.)
• Readable <— perform the ultimate readability test (base on Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease, SMOG Index and more…)
• Word Frequency Counter <— paste in the text and find out if you’re not overusing particular words.

Oh, and remember! Just as machine learning algorithms, the proofreading tools aren’t 100% right, so that keep your mind fresh while applying the suggested corrections!

### Okay, but my dictionary is poor…

According to the guide, there is no need to overcomplex your craft, particularly if you’re aiming toward a mass audience. However, if you would like to apply some exoticism into your script (such as I am doing in this paragraph ), you can help yourself by looking up for synonyms at all times.

Traditionally in Word, you can find a thesaurus dictionary, solely by right-clicking the term you would like to exchange, so to maintain some variance in your vocabulary range. Besides, you can always reach for Thesaurus web service and get a more comprehensive view.

Apart from Thesaurus, I tend to find even more synonyms, by merely typing down the phrase in Google Translate, but you can also take advantage of previously discussed Grammarly by simply double-clicking the right set of characters.

From my experience at Coventry University, I was also recommended to check Academic Phrasebank published by The University of Manchester, in order to avoid repeating the most traditional phrases, such as when introducing the paragraph, listing the examples or signalling transition. The web service contains a fair amount of expressions, but you can always get more ideas from the Kindle version (which might be a bit hard to explore), so you can try “googling” a .pdf version.

In the end, don’t forget to read more to solve the issue from inside, as previously mentioned!

## Should I worry about LaTeX?

If you aren’t yet familiar with the LaTeX term, it is a document preparation system widely used in academia. In comparison to Word that is established on WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) word processing system, LaTeX extends the freedom of the user, by letting him specify the general structure of a document, such as its type (book or letter), style (bold or italics) or citations and cross-references.

If that still sounds confusing, think of LaTeX as a programming editor to compile (generate) your documents. By using LaTeX, you will type out all the processes on the keyboard, such as to include an image using \includegraphics{file} command, whereas in WYSIWYG editor, you could just click a colourful image button, which would do everything for you.

As such, what is the reason for using LaTeX instead of Microsoft Word? Well, although it takes more effort to write your essay in this system, you can still benefit from it, not only by getting tons of respect from your colleagues and tutors. Generally, you will:

• get more control and functionalities over your document
• generate much better-looking reports, as the set of characters, is aligned with more respect to the rest of them after the compilation
• use predefined packages and templates to achieve your style in few seconds
• stand out in front of the employer by generating a well-aligned CV
• avoid pirating/paying for commercial software.

This list could go on and on, so if you would like to know more pros over MS Word, check out this comparison.

In general, the reason to type documents in LaTeX increases with the complexity of your documents.

### Set of LaTeX resources

If you feel like convinced to give it a try, but you’re not sure where to start, please check the list of the following tutorials, links and tools to ease your way:

After all of it, I wouldn’t like to leave you and your thoughts deliberating on the rational use of LaTeX, but the central message of this post. The topic of writing is highly substantial; there are dozens of books you can review for a great time if you feel like it.

Being honest, I didn’t get much into the comprehensive material that would solely cover this topic, but through my online research, I’ve been able to save some material worth checking out:

Nevertheless, this article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Neville Medhora, the author of KopywritingKourse – blog to reduce wasted communication time, talk with clients better, and make more sales. I strongly encourage you to get familiar with its content, and if you would like to extend the already mentioned writing tips, please check: Editing Writing Process (w/ Examples and Cheat Sheet).

Moreover, in this post, I didn’t tackle the highly correlated topic of asking and answering questions. I might cover it individually in a further post, as it would greatly improve all social media communication. Many people end up being misunderstood from their assumptions that everyone else has the exact picture on the mind; therefore, we can find lots of undetailed messages, such as:
BAD: Help! The script doesn’t work properly on my laptop!
BETTER: Launching the script on my 64-bit Windows machine ends up with the error code: 0x34053.

If you would like to know more about the topic, check out the guide of “How To Ask Questions The Smart Way” by Eric Raymond.

Right, it’s time to end this long deliberation. I firmly believe that if you read everything carefully, you must have taken out something that influenced you to be more interested in the topic of writing. Don’t hesitate to share your reflections down in the comments, and suggest your tips on this marvellous talking point. Let everyone learn and spread the passion for writing!

References   [ + ]

 1, 2, 4. ↑ Peterson, J. (2017) ‘Essay Writing Guide’. [online] available from 3. ↑ Treasure, J. (2013) How to Speak so That People Want to Listen [online] available from 5. ↑ Kerri, J. (2018) ‘How Many Books Did The Average American Read In The Last Year? This New Study May Surprise You’. [19 April 2018] available from 6. ↑ Overleaf (2018) ‘Try out Overleaf V2’. [1 May 2018] available from

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Perplexing Ethics of AI https://pawelcislo.com/2019/06/02/perplexing-ethics-of-ai/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=perplexing-ethics-of-ai https://pawelcislo.com/2019/06/02/perplexing-ethics-of-ai/#respond Sun, 02 Jun 2019 12:30:01 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=1729 Reading Time ≈ 16 minutes What does it mean to behave in an ethical manner? What if we add all the law restriction on top of that? Moving on, how to write the appropriate if/else [...]

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What does it mean to behave in an ethical manner? What if we add all the law restriction on top of that? Moving on, how to write the appropriate if/else statements for the AI workflow to satisfy the strict, yet non-static regulations?

## Preface

There is a lot of doubts in the area of law regulation of disrupting technology. Mixing the topics of AI, law and moral philosophy is a hard nut to crack, which I will try to tackle in this article, hopefully, while omitting the sensitive political topics and focusing on processing objective information from more than just a single source.

During this week, I left my attendance on one of the local Data Science meetups in Brussels at DigitYser, which tackled the topic of this deliberation, straight by the person dealing directly with the policymaking at the European Commission. In relation to this fact, the rest of this article will be supported by all the information I was able to gather from the presentation and answers to some of my questions.

## Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI

Last Tuesday, Nathalie Smuha (Lawyer & Coordinator High-Level Expert Group on AI) was ready to share a presentation of the “Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI” at the premises of DigitYser, here in Brussels[1]Vandepitte, T. (2019) ‘Artificial Intelligence: What Framework to Use?’ [16 May 2019] available from <https://bxl.legalhackers.org/2019/05/ai-ethics/>. While tackling the problem more from a policymaker perspective, Nathalie did share a lot of insight information and cleared a lot of my doubts, such as if AI is already regulated in some way and what is the current process followed by the European Commission in order to apply the right policies.

### Defining ethics

Maybe let’s start from defining what ethics are, as many of us might have a different view on it. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy[2]Fieser, J. (2019) ‘Ethics’. [6 January 2019] available from <https://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/>:

Ethics – the field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviourJames Fieser

That’s still a very, very brief explanation of the term, leading to even more misconception, and if we would like to define it accurately, I would need to throw in the definition of three different pillars, which are associated with it (metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics). But, let’s make things easier. During the presentation, I loved the simple explanation of this broad and confusing term, brought by Nathalie, which says that “Ethics is about finding moral intuitions and rational explanations for them“, as such it’s not about doing things in your life according to the rule “because God told me so”.

Before moving forward, another idea worth focusing on is how we observe the world. Scientifically speaking, you perceive a universe of facts and derive conclusions on which you act. However, according to the words of Jordan Peterson, it looks a little different: “You perceive a landscape of pre categorised relevance that’s dependent on your ethics[3]Peterson, J. (2017) Perception and Ethics [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEDShTeSwco>. All of it brings us to the question of how to choose the right ethics to satisfy everyone’s perception while deriving the legitimate regulations of AI.

The entire topic of ethics is always a great field of study for every philosopher. It’s so important that we already have a specific Wikipedia page designed just for the topic of ethics in AI.

### Main concerns of regulations

There are always two sides with a different view on the world. European Commission is bombarded from one side by voices from companies who wish to regulate AI because of the upcoming danger, while the other side wishes to let it go freely, to prevent the blockage of the digital advancement. At last, it’s worth to take into consideration both of these rights and find the golden middle.

Impact of AI is still not fully understood, as it’s moving incredibly fast to construct the right decisions in the social, economical, legal and ethical aspect. The entire case is context-specific, and lacking all the required answers makes it pretty challenging to apply the right policies. In order to make the final decision, it needs hours of conversation with different stakeholders, ideally all of them at the same time, where the overall message is understood by professionals of different background (engineers, lawyers, etc.)

For now, the EU tries to act according to the 3 pillars published in April 2018, before applying any policy:

• boost AI uptake
• set digital innovation hubs to help startups with digitalisation using AI
• tackle socio-economic challenges
•  think of “will AI take my job?” case
• ensure an adequate ethical & legal framework

### Classical question

So then, will AI take your job?

Most likely. It’s just a matter of time. If you’re doing something repetitive and you believe it could be automated, then I advise you to craft a “backup skill” in your free time. Always try to be open-minded and applicable to multiple disciplines.

If you are tired of reading newspaper headlines, drop on the website below, enter the name of your profession and see if you should start worrying. In my case, I feel completely safe for now, but even though I try to be ready for my eventual burnout.

Remember that with the inclusion of new technology in the market, everyone always becomes worried about the future of his career. Take the example of the agricultural market and how much it changed for the better, although how many people were stressed about its upcoming state.

It’s a long-running concern — the Luddite concern going back 200 years ago — that each new form of technology will rob more jobs than it creates. Up to now, we haven’t seen that. Each new technology eventually creates more secondary jobs than it eliminatesWendell Wallach

If you’re a truck/taxi driver, better act as quick as possible. Once AI will finally automate your profession, please don’t cry on the internet, and understand that you were warned already for about 20 years so that you could craft a 2nd skill in the meantime. Before closing the topic, I will bring up recent words of Gary Vee of what he thinks about AI effect on the job market:

AI is gonna do shit that below average humans do poorly. (…) that human could actually then go do something that he does like and does wellGary Vee

In all of this, if you want to find a negative point, you will find it everywhere and dwell in it. If you want to see a lot of upcoming opportunities and appreciate the greatest time to be living in, you will find it as well.

### ethicAI

As mentioned in the beginning, ethics is a root of several branches, that come out of it, so to talk about the specific branch, please have a look at the spectrum of the basic distinctions:

• applied ethics VS normative ethics VS meta-ethics
• social ethics VS individual ethics
• ethics or Practical Philosophy VS Theoretical Philosophy

Again, let’s not dwell into a definition of each of these terms, but keep in mind that while talking about AI, we focus on the applied ethics. This type comes into concern when talking about ethical norms to which we’re trying to find the rational justifications about choosing one norm over another. It is used for specific applications such as abortion or the topic of our discussion (AI).

So, what’s the process of delivering guidelines at the European Commission? Below, we can see that the first draft has been published just before the New Year’s Eve, and by now the final document has been already published and welcomed about two months ago:

What is covered in all the guidelines? Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that the term we can find here is “Trustworthy AI”, so don’t stress looking for the “ethical AI” keywords. Why trustworthy? Because even with the best ethical intentions, people are biased, such as they prefer pretty girls, and AI systems can help us to make more trustworthy (unbiased) decisions. For instance, Trustworthy AI can find its main applications in the hiring process, in order to avoid discrimination.

As such, Trustworthy AI has to meet 3 components:

• Lawful AI (respect of legal rules)
• Ethical AI (comply with ethical principles & values)
• Robust AI (ensure technical robustness, system security, unbiased state)

Finally, what are the next steps? On the day of June 26th, there will be a presentation of recommendations and the piloting will kick-off. In result, the commission will decide on the next actions, which will tackle the case of self-regulation/self-certification, standardisation, sectoral guidelines and overall regulation.

### Need to act expeditiously

Elon Musk, one of the AI pioneers, especially in the field of self-driving cars, already shared his worries last year, where he tried to speak with the US government to raise the awareness of AI potential. Unfortunately, the government acts too slowly, and it doesn’t yet understand that AI will soon be out of human control. It might be very tempting to use technology as a weapon, and it will be used after all.

Europe needs to act quickly, not just for the safety of others but for having some sort of impact on the global market of AI, where China and the US already took the lead.

What is the best strategy for Europe then? Both of the global AI leaders still lack the proper regulations; however, there already are countries, which have a very well defined set of guidelines, such as Canada, Singapore or Japan, which by the way performs pretty well in the AI market, for example by being able to read our minds[5]Clifford, C. (2018) ‘Japanese Scientists Just Used A.I. to Read Minds and It’s Amazing’. [1 August 2018] available from <https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/08/japanese-scientists-use-artificial-intelligence-to-decode-thoughts.html>.

Moreover, don’t think that AI wasn’t yet regulated. GDPR is just one of the example regulations, and the anti-discrimination is another (I explained example situation, where AI became profoundly racist in the further part of this post).

If I could throw in some of my ideas for improving the policymaking process, it’s worth to think that AI’s general concept is to use one general algorithm to learn things on its own, instead of using a bunch of programmers to write thousands of if/else statements, which will eventually fail. As such, what about trying to use AI to regulate itself? Well, not a long time ago, we were already informed that humans might not be the only ones to write scientific papers, and this is a big step[7]Vincent, J. (2019) ‘The First AI-Generated Textbook Shows What Robot Writers Are Actually Good At’. [4 October 2019] available from <https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/10/18304558/ai-writing-academic-research-book-springer-nature-artificial-intelligence>.

The European AI Alliance is a “forum engaged in a broad and open discussion of all aspects of Artificial Intelligence development and its impacts”[8]Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (Unit A.1) (2019) ‘The European AI Alliance’. [4 October 2019] available from <https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/european-ai-alliance>. Everyone is encouraged to share his view of the AI topic, so to help the European Commission in writing the appropriate law regulations.

Using the website below, you can register to the platform, which brings together citizens and organisations to dive into the topic of AI. There are already about 3000 members, who share their ideas to improve policymaking. Feel free to register to and start having an impact on the future of Europe and most probably the rest of the world!

Each stakeholder can direct the piloting process that will be kicked-off in summer 2019:

In my humble opinion, ensuring the competitiveness of the European Region in the burgeoning field of Artificial Intelligence is of vast importance, as explained in the previous subchapter, Europe is not playing the highest role in this game. If we don’t develop the right regulations in time, others will do it for us, taking already an advantage of the technology they possess.

### Experiencing the meetup vibe

Interested to know even more about was shared by Nathalie and feel like participating in the event (or finding my questions towards Nathalie)? Feel free to watch the entire meetup session under the following clip:

More or less, the text above summarised the 1,5h video recording, but everyone could have been interested in noting different pieces of information; hence, I am sharing the YouTube link. Hopefully, after watching the presentation, you will understand that you can start attending local meetups without knowing much about the topic of discussion, and you’re not even required to share anything. Just come and start slowly by listening and getting familiar with the atmosphere, ideally slowly making some contact with participants of the same interest. Who knows, maybe your next co-worker will sit once next to you?

Moreover, if you would like to know more about the Data Science events in Brussels, head towards my previous article “Data Hackathons – #TRACKathon19“.

## Moral Machine Problem

Nowadays, self-driving cars is a hot topic, when deliberating on the moral behaviour of the machines. On the road, due to not only the human error, there can be situations when the car will have to choose between killing one person over another. Unfortunately, the handling mechanism and physics won’t let the vehicle to stop immediately, so when you put in front of the car two objects, it will need to hit one of them.

Probably the most classic example of this perplexity is the so-called Trolley Dilemma Problem, which is not strictly related to self-driving cars, as it was in studies since 1905, as a part of a moral questionnaire given to undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin in 1905[9]Chapman Sharp, F. (1908) A Study of the Influence of Custom on the Moral Judgment. 138. In this experiment, you are usually in a situation, where you can pull a lever to change the track of the upcoming train so that it will kill either someone closely related to you (such as your parent) or five strangers. What would you do?

### Test yourself

Moving on, to the more typical example of the current state of the world, let’s focus on a self-driving car dilemma.

Let’s say that we decided to go on a summer trip together with four of our best friends. All of us chose to use an autonomous car for the journey, which leads us to the destination through a fast highway and drives according to the road regulations with an acceptable speed. Suddenly, out of the blue, five kids manage to get on the road in front of our driveway, and if the car doesn’t steer to the side, it will end up killing all of the youngsters, even while braking itself as much as possible. Nonetheless, using the alternative way will end up killing you and your friends immediately, due to the fact of hitting a solid barrier.

As you see, in such a situation, it’s hard to program the car to choose the “right” decision. This kind of problem is a never-ending source of sleepless nights for all the philosophers. Before speaking a little bit about the most common decisions taken by the citizens of the world, I would like you to test yourself in a free online test published by a group of academics under the hat of MIT. It’s likely that the majority of decisions will impact the workflow of self-driving cars, so your votes might matter in this scenario. Just drop on the website below and “start judging”.

Other examples, which I would like to bring up quickly, involve the choice between hitting:

• 2 homeless people VS 1 female doctor
• 1 person VS 1 dog and 1 cat
• 3 people getting on the pedestrian crossing on a red light VS 1 person making his way on the green light.

The list can go on and on, so let’s see what the answer of the global community is.

### Cultural differences

According to the post on the MIT Technology Review, it depends on the country’s culture.[11]Hao, K. (2018) ‘Should a Self-Driving Car Kill the Baby or the Grandma? Depends on Where You’re from.’ [24 October 2018] available from <https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612341/a-global-ethics-study-aims-to-help-ai-solve-the-self-driving-trolley-problem/> Nathalie brought the referenced example presented in the article, where MIT academicians decided to share the results of the online test after four years. In the effect, regions with more individualistic cultures, such as France or Greece, were more likely to turn the steering wheel towards driving into the elderly person, usually according to the principle, that “the person already lived his life”.

On the opposite side, countries from the Asian regions, such as China or Japan, were more keen towards saving the elderly population, which tends to be honoured with much more respect in their society.

Although China and Japan came to the same agreement in the case of sparing elderly population over the young, they had completely different rights when choosing between saving the pedestrians over the driver. From two neighbouring countries, Japan was more keen towards protecting the pedestrians, whereas China took the alternative option.

### The solution

When deriving a concrete if/else solution for the programmed AI sitting inside the self-driving car, I believe that it’s worth to think about the following options:

• calculate the risk and go for the lowest one
• make a random choice
• let the user set up the ethical preferences before using the car for the 1st time
• act according to the cultural difference of the country you’re in
• sum up the “social credit” of the objects (basing on the system already tested in China[13]Ma, A. (2018) ‘China Has Started Ranking Citizens with a Creepy “social Credit” System — Here’s What You Can Do Wrong, and the Embarrassing, Demeaning Ways They Can Punish You’. [29 October 2018] available from <https://www.businessinsider.com/china-social-credit-system-punishments-and-rewards-explained-2018-4>, as well as presented in one of the Black Mirror episodes (Nosedive))

To end up, the presented discussions should instead involve problems more with a risk analysis aspect, than just giving the choice of saving one life over another. The presented situations will always vary from lots of factors, such as the weather or other elements present on the road so that we can end up only harming the person. Moreover, there are many more scenarios, which will need to be analysed, not only the ones involving the situations on the road.

## What else can go wrong with AI?

Anything that can go wrong will go wrongMurphy's law

Can AI go wrong? Undeniably.

Deliberating on the matter with self-driving cars is just a drop in the ocean of all the problems. Do you remember the hot topic from 2 years ago, about a specific Twitter bot? Microsoft’s bot of a name Tay? No? Well, let me remind you of this case.

Microsoft decided to perform a small experiment on releasing a chatbot, which would interact with humans in the online world, precisely speaking, on Twitter. It was programmed in a way to learn how to communicate based on the messages it received from anyone.

Theoretically, it was doing what it was supposed to do. Learning and maintaining conversation based on the data submitted by Twitter users. Nonetheless, it took <24 hours to turn the bot from “Hi, how are you?” into a full “nazi mode”[14]Vincent, J. (2016) ‘Twitter Taught Microsoft’s AI Chatbot to Be a Racist Asshole in Less than a Day’. [24 March 2016] available from <https://www.theverge.com/2016/3/24/11297050/tay-microsoft-chatbot-racist>.

What was wrong in this case? Why the mighty AI failed in such a situation? If you carefully read the beginning of this post, you might have guessed right that it lacked the ethics, which let us human to walk every day on the street, having some sense of understanding, that most of the people are living with the same set of values that prevent them from pulling out a knife and stabbing us in the middle of the day.

AI learns on historical data and any type of data in general. It consumes it like water and learns to understand the difference between pics of cats and dogs; as such, it can learn pretty much everything with a little bit of effort. Most importantly, it can learn things very quickly, and it can do it better than human so that if it isn’t regulated, it can cause a lot of harm, without having a conscious intention.

Maybe the following video will put your imagination into work, of what can happen with humanity if the organisations will do anything they want. Remember that 10 years ago, the Boston Dynamics robot still learned how to walk straight using 4 legs, but now…

If you feel like having a little sneak peek over the next 10 years of the AI robots, have a look at Black Mirror’s episode titled as “Metalhead“.

Let’s not introduce all the possible states, as one would need to write a comprehensive book with all the examples. Instead, I will leave you with this single GitHub repository, where you can spend a great part of your evening, getting familiar with all the introduced scary usages of AI in the Awful AI repository. As the author states, hopefully, it will depict the dark side of AI and “raise awareness to its misuses in society[15]Dao, D. (2019) ‘Awful AI’. [2 February 2019] available from <https://github.com/daviddao/awful-ai>.

## A brief note before the farewell

In the end, please don’t understand me wrong. The goal of this post wasn’t to make you scared or doubtful in the sense of further work on improving the AI state. Technology is a great tool, and it can all make our lives better, as it did for all the years. Right, some things did not develop with the time, such as the matter of global warming, but please keep in mind that rapid development of technology isn’t the major cause of one of the most concerned environmental problems. Looking on it from the brighter side, AI might be the answer to this and any other problems, as we might need some sort of inhuman intelligence to give us the right answer, as it was explained in the article of Renee Cho[16]Cho, R. (2018) Artificial Intelligence—A Game Changer for Climate Change and the Environment. [6 May 2018] available from <https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/06/05/artificial-intelligence-climate-environment/>. No more than a month ago, Sam Altman (chairman of Y Combinator and co-chairman of OpenAI) also threw some words on this topic[17]Altman, S. (2019) Sam Altman in Conversation with StrictlyVC [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzcJlKg2Rc0>:

The best way to solve climate change is to build really strong AI first. I think it’s that hard of a problemSam Altman

Okay, let’s come back to the matter of the growing quality of life. Googling the term “quality of life over time” might give us some level of understanding, that the life expectancy increases, we have easier access to medical health, we are more secure, most of us live with a hood above our head, and we can afford a lot more by getting a job and earning a few bucks.

Being hired is also easier looking at the fact of continuously dropping unemployment rate. Hence, the main problem of people nowadays becomes depression, as by having everything, we’re becoming to lack the human interaction and we tend to struggle with balancing our needs (just like in The Sims):

If you’re depressed and reading this text right now, the advice of internet surfers about going out and running does have some right in fighting your illness. But running is not enough, as life is much more complicated. I think the above example, which bases on a simple computer game, can give you a better view of what caused the Sim to have a red diamond over his head.

And again I stepped into another topic and almost forgot to explain the key message of this post. Please value the developing technology, but also keep in the back of your head that digital advancement staying unregulated by the right policies, may act unethically, causing a lot of harm to the human population.

Let me share with you a little bit of my uplifting news.

First of all, I am happy to announce that through my consulting role at AKKA Technologies, I am assigned to a long time project at Alstom for the position of Data Scientist. Yay ! The scope of the task is varied and surely challenging, involving the development of a new tool and a lot of data analysis. As one of my tutors used to say “if you don’t struggle, you don’t learn“, so let’s take as much experience as possible from this role and leave with lots of new skills for the future.

From the other side, I know that my writing is still not as perfect, as I would like to, so I reached for the “Essay writing guide” by Jordan Peterson, which brought me a lot of ideas on how to ease and improve my future blog posts. I recommend everyone to read it, as you should understand that writing is one of the most powerful skills we can possess, and it’s worth to develop it whenever possible. If you’re a programmer, take into your mind, that writing concise and precise messages will also apply in scripting a cleaner and more readable code for others, who would likely take it over or collaborate with you in the development process.

In addition, I hope you noticed and appreciate, that above every post from now on you can find the estimated reading time, which on average assumes that you process 300 words per minute. Thanks a lot to Stefano for requesting this feature!

### Update of my e-book

As for the last news of this post, taking advantage of having more free time this week, I decided to update my e-book with even more relevant links to help you on your journey in data science. Remember, that initially it has been published with the release of this blog (September 2018). As the industry is in rapid development these days, I couldn’t leave the comprehensive resources to myself and had to use well the 3-4h of fighting with hyperlinks inside the .pdf document.

In relation to this, I highly encourage you to sign up for the newsletter using the panel on the right-hand side (if you’re viewing it on desktop) or the form below (no matter which device you’re using). Besides receiving the free e-book, you will be notified from time to time about new posts on my blog, so there is nothing to waste than just a few seconds of filling the form and confirming the registration on your e-mail account.

Okay, that’s it for now. Please enjoy the beautiful weather of June (at least here in Brussels) and use the sun as much as possible, as it is an extraordinary source of vitamins we need!

References   [ + ]

 1. ↑ Vandepitte, T. (2019) ‘Artificial Intelligence: What Framework to Use?’ [16 May 2019] available from 2. ↑ Fieser, J. (2019) ‘Ethics’. [6 January 2019] available from 3. ↑ Peterson, J. (2017) Perception and Ethics [online] available from 4. ↑ Smuha, N. (2019) Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI. [online] available from 5. ↑ Clifford, C. (2018) ‘Japanese Scientists Just Used A.I. to Read Minds and It’s Amazing’. [1 August 2018] available from 6. ↑ Bareham, J. (2017) China and the US Are Battling to Become the World’s First AI Superpower [online] available from 7. ↑ Vincent, J. (2019) ‘The First AI-Generated Textbook Shows What Robot Writers Are Actually Good At’. [4 October 2019] available from 8. ↑ Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (Unit A.1) (2019) ‘The European AI Alliance’. [4 October 2019] available from 9. ↑ Chapman Sharp, F. (1908) A Study of the Influence of Custom on the Moral Judgment. 138 10. ↑ Rahwan, I., Bonnefon, J.-F., and Shariff, A. (2014) What Should the Self-Driving Car Do? [online] available from 11, 12. ↑ Hao, K. (2018) ‘Should a Self-Driving Car Kill the Baby or the Grandma? Depends on Where You’re from.’ [24 October 2018] available from 13. ↑ Ma, A. (2018) ‘China Has Started Ranking Citizens with a Creepy “social Credit” System — Here’s What You Can Do Wrong, and the Embarrassing, Demeaning Ways They Can Punish You’. [29 October 2018] available from 14. ↑ Vincent, J. (2016) ‘Twitter Taught Microsoft’s AI Chatbot to Be a Racist Asshole in Less than a Day’. [24 March 2016] available from 15. ↑ Dao, D. (2019) ‘Awful AI’. [2 February 2019] available from 16. ↑ Cho, R. (2018) Artificial Intelligence—A Game Changer for Climate Change and the Environment. [6 May 2018] available from 17. ↑ Altman, S. (2019) Sam Altman in Conversation with StrictlyVC [online] available from 18. ↑ United Nations (2017) World Population Prospects. available from

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Data Hackathons – #TRACKathon19 https://pawelcislo.com/2019/05/01/data-hackathons-trackathon19/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=data-hackathons-trackathon19 https://pawelcislo.com/2019/05/01/data-hackathons-trackathon19/#respond Wed, 01 May 2019 14:58:45 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=1623 Reading Time ≈ 13 minutes #TRACKathon19 challenge let me have an insightful overview of what can I expect from data hackathons. On the last Sunday, at the Belgian headquarters of Infrabel, I was fortunate to [...]

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#TRACKathon19 challenge let me have an insightful overview of what can I expect from data hackathons. On the last Sunday, at the Belgian headquarters of Infrabel, I was fortunate to be one of the first to access the datasets and come up with several ideas for improvement to the owner of the Belgian railway network.

## TRACKathon

On the 28th of April (last Sunday), Infrabel decided to publish 60 of their own datasets of different categories regarding the railway industry. Why did they decide for such a move, you may ask? As the publisher writes on their social media: “Infrabel has a history of sharing data with the public, but we are moving away from static text to active data.” In the result, on the new portal, we can explore the regularly updated data, which has even more than 10 years of archival data for several sets.

To make the event even more memorable, it was connected with a “TRACKathon” challenge (hackathon focused on data analysis aspect) at Infrabel’s headquarters in Brussels. It was a smart move, as otherwise all the data could have been quickly forgotten or not even discovered by the potential analysts looking for some fun on the web.

Everyone was able to join and try his analytical skills by registering on the eventribe event. The registration was limited, and through my curiosity in the extremely popular data events, I was keeping my ticket for more than a month before the final game.

It was quite challenging coming up with a good idea in such a short time, having in front of you loads of data of different categories, but in the end, we all had a lot of fun and learned a lot from each other. That is the point of hackathons, in general, to experience the sprint-like methodology.

In my group, I was able to share my insights with five other participants, and three of Infrabel’s employees responsible for the company’s data, who were eager to present their onsite experience, which narrowed down some of our investigations. I enjoyed the diversity of our interests ranging from technical aspects, up to law through business and data services, that let us look at the problem from different perspectives.

Probably the most challenging part, was about coming to the same agreement with people from different backgrounds, that we just met. Everyone had to hide their ego and sometimes go for a compromise with a person from the other end of the table.

To me, it is pleasing to see that another organisation makes a step towards the popularisation of the Open Data movement. I am always looking forward to more initiatives like that, as in the end, it can generate various project ideas and ease approaches to improving a specific sector for the good of humanity.

### Brief schedule

1. 09:00 – Doors opening
2. 09:30 – Welcome speech
3. 10:3015:30 – Working on our ideas (with a free lunch in between ;))
4. 15:3017:00 – Ending speech + 5 min presentation slot for each of the 12 groups + voting on the winner
5. 17:0018:00 – Networking time!

In comparison to most of the hackathons, this challenge has been quite short, where the actual working time took only around 5 hours. In this time, some of the groups dived into deep discussions, whereas some focused on performing quick data analysis using a various technological stack, such as Python and R with different libraries.

If my current employer reads this post, then yes, I felt like being in Geneva once again and going through the entire AKKAdemy programme in a single day.

### Concerns of railway companies

All the TRACKathon’s participants were free to decide on joining one of the following workshops to derive their solutions:

• Punctuality
• Infrastructure
• Safety and level crossings
• Smart mobility

Punctuality is still the primary concern of the transport companies, but apart from it, there are other areas waiting for our contribution. Because of my side-interest in cybersecurity, I decided to join the “Safety and level crossings” workshop, willing to add some value in securing the internal network. However, as I quickly noticed, by the “safety” term, the railway companies think rather about saving lives of careless pedestrians, drivers blocked between the barricades, people ready to commit suicides or animals willing to cross the road.

Our discussion has been enhanced with different clips of accidents being transmitted on the screen beside us. After having some severe discussion about Infrabel’s daily concerns with a little bit of chit chat in between, we took a look into the data to support our decisions. Ultimately, it was the moment to doodle our ideas to have the same picture of all the different decisions.

After some time I ended with a set of notes of different approaches, where we had to direct ourselves into a particular plan, in order to elaborate it and prepare the presentation. Our roads focused on using cameras with object recognition technology and speed detection so that we can save lots of lives by optimising the process of the railway trespassing. For now, I will keep the rest of the details to myself, as no one knows if I might get into a collaboration with Infrabel to put this into action.

Shortly after the closing speech, together with a colleague from my group, we had our 5 minutes to describe our findings in front of around 60 people and cameras supported with the flashy lights. If you are afraid of public speaking, this is where you had a great chance to overcome it and learn on your mistakes. Coming back from the stage, feeling proud of my team, I couldn’t wait to listen to the rest of the participants waiting for their turn.

### How can you start playing with Infrabel’s data?

I advise you to start by having a 5-10 minute overview of the portal, as it hides many exciting features to ease your research. After getting familiar with the different options, you can start with searching through the data using the french/dutch keywords (remember, Google Translator is your friend), or try to dive deep into a specific category.

By hovering your mouse over the icons, you can discover the following sections:

• Traffic management (24 datasets)
• Infrastructure (12 datasets)
• Human resources (9 datasets)
• Security (9 datasets)
• Clients and products (4 datasets)
• Finance (1 dataset)

Using the “Useful links” tab, you can find directions to other open data portals, mainly of other transport companies, such as STIB – MIVB. Your imagination is the only end, and mixing datasets from different sources can enhance your data mining process and result in even more impressive output.

In all of this, Infrabel was kind enough to ease our job and next to each of the dataset, everyone was able to use the available features to display the dataset tables and even generate brief data visualisations.

All the different options of each dataset are:

• Informations <— quick overview of the data. It also mentions the last update time
• Tableau <— here you can have a look on the tables, to check the sample entries and their features
• Analyse <— you don’t need to pay for a Python course to generate your first visualisations
• Export <— CSV, JSON or Excel. The choice is yours
• API <— yes, you can also use the dataset via your favourite API

Remember that through the registration you can save for later all the generated maps/graphs on your account.

Moreover, keep in mind that if you have any remarks about the portal or the data it contains, you are more then encouraged to drop a message through the “Contact” tab.

## What is so magical about hackathons?

Is free coffee not enough? What about all the delicious food? I have to admit that it was hard to continue the work after tasting all the different snacks.

Okay, you want to be serious? There are tons of benefits in attending hackathons and in my opinion, it is one of the best decisions you can do for the sake of your career.

Firstly, you can learn from people sharing the same interest, and if you wish to, you can maintain the relationship over a more extended period. If you are thinking in the business terms, well, you know that connections are essential.

Secondly, you are getting an easy opportunity to showcase your technical and interpersonal skills. If you are lucky enough, you might even get your dream position, or at least have a significant advantage over all the other applicants in the recruitment process.

There are many other reasons, but as the last one I would point out the ability to enter a simulation of potential working space. This is where students can highly benefit from having a chance to experience what it can be like after they finally graduate and get one of their own computer desks.

Lastly, you might meet your manager on the corridor, who will stop you with these words:
Oh, hi Pawel, I saw you yesterday on the 1st channel of the Belgian TV!“. Speaking in front of the camera during the hackathons is not a daily thing, but be prepared for it.

## Wonderful communities of Data Science

I discovered that nowadays data science events spring up like mushrooms after the rain, especially in the centre of the European Union. In order to keep up, I started collecting all the events into a single calendar and encouraging my colleagues to give them a try.

On the DataScience.be website, you can find the greatest community, where more than 12k people already subscribed to the newsletter. If you wish to keep up as I do, give them a like/subscribe to the social channels linked with the page.

I highly encourage each of you, not even interested in the technical aspect of data analysis, to have a look at what the future will look like, as usually on the DS meetups you can hear about the newest advancements of Artificial Intelligence, such as self-driving cars and so on. By participating in just one DS event, I was surprised by seeing such advanced projects waiting for the moment to be officially published and ease our daily struggles.

### Where to look for data events in Belgium?

Yes, I know that @DataScienceBe is not the only community and not the only source of data events for Belgian residents.

You can take advantage of my set of websites, that you can use to explore whenever you would like to know what is going on around:

How to ease the process of event searching?

I already thought about trying some automation services like IFTT or Zapier to insert the events automatically into my calendar, but not all of the event agglomerators are supported. Moreover, I prefer to read all the different event details before deciding to fit things into my schedule.

If you feel like you are highly interested in a specific community, make sure to look for their newsletter, join the group and afterwards make sure to check your mailbox regularly, as not all the events have unlimited spaces.

What I like to do whenever I need to look into the upcoming meetups, is using Session Buddy extension to open all the links above in a single click. As such, I can save a lot of time and focus on the process of event selection.

## Open Data for the win!

I thought of sharing a few examples of what results can be driven through the initiatives of openly publishing the railway data. Two of the links are in Polish, but the quality of the analysis is of a very high standard, so you might want to try and reach for the help of Google Translator (or you can reach out to me).

You can always try yourself with the data shared by Infrabel.

If you don’t like trains (I hope you do), then you can check the aeroplane’s data and collaborate to the awesome community of Kaggle.

Ah, and before you begin:

## Where can I find even more datasets?

No worries, I won’t judge you if you don’t like trains, as there is plenty of other areas where you can contribute through your analysis. Here you can find directions to the datasets ranging from financial and musical industries to images of cats and dogs.

Now, I provided you with the pond, but if you still need a fishing rod, please have a look into my previous post to get an idea on how you can touch these sets.

I am glad to say that this month I am going to achieve the 2nd level of my “Marathon Runner” task.
To be specific, I am going to take part in the Spartacus Run (10km + 30 obstacles) and 20 km de Bruxelles. I tried running quite often during the last month, and I believe in passing both of these tests, doubting which one will be more challenging. Spartacus seems like a lot of fun, but my shoes might be completely destroyed after all the crawling, being in the water and whoever knows what else.

Once again, thanks for reading and staying up with this blog. I did not hold a specific schedule last days, and it always lets me being curious about the topic and the moment of finding inspiration to share another story. As an example, I got influenced to write this post while having a phone call with my co-worker, who asked for a 250 word summary of TRACKathon, which as you see, turned into a much longer piece of text in the end.

Writing a blog post is full of taking decisions which drain a lot of energy. As I heard last time in the “Head Strong” audiobook by Dave Asprey, even the smallest decision affect your performance, as such try to do the fundamental duties from the beginning of the day, to have a rest by night.

Lots of ideas come in the most unforeseeable moments, and this is the message you can take from this addendum. Do you remember my text about Einstein’s Miracle Year?

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Is Data Science the inevitable cultivation? https://pawelcislo.com/2019/03/25/is-data-science-the-inevitable-cultivation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-data-science-the-inevitable-cultivation https://pawelcislo.com/2019/03/25/is-data-science-the-inevitable-cultivation/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2019 11:59:47 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=1480 Reading Time ≈ 20 minutes It is more common to approach the statement “Data is the new oil”, and it is already a fact, which will only expand its popularity. However, in order to get [...]

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It is more common to approach the statement “Data is the new oil”, and it is already a fact, which will only expand its popularity. However, in order to get the pure nectar from our data, we need to apply specific “oil refinery”, usually referred to as data mining.

## BioTech meets Digital

Last Thursday I had an exceptional chance of being one of the representatives of AKKA Belgium at “BioTech meets Digital” conference, here in Brussels. During the 4-hours, which included a fantastic networking session, we were presented with 6 presentations, that were summarised in a final discussion panel.

At the moment, when it is a few days after the event, I decided to summarise the essence of this symposium, so that the rest of my colleagues from the office can be aware of the current technological trends. In order to make this wall of text more valuable, I decided to extend it and provide personal advice for aspiring students and businesses trying to adapt to the modern market of Data Science.

For those of you who might be specifically interested in the marketing world, a couple of months ago I attended and summarised another conference in a single blog post. I feel like it is one of the most pleasant ways to find something interesting to share with all of you; however, instead of being on the more populated side of the room, I believe that once I will be the one holding the microphone.

### What was in for us?

The conference did target not only BioTech companies and their trends but also technological providers. Everybody could have learnt from it, such as me, a fresh graduate of data science master’s course and current consultant at AKKA Technologies.

The scope of the mentioned technologies included:

• Data collection devices (including sensors, IoT, …)
• Data mining and processing (from R&D, production and distribution)
• Data safety / Cybersecurity
• Artificial Intelligence
• Automation technologies (including robotics)
• Tracking & tracing
• Connectivity.[1]Ceulemans, T. (2019) ‘Biotech Meets Digital Event: Registration Is Open’. [21 March 2019] available from <https://www.agoria.be/nl/Biotech-meets-Digital-event-pre-registration-is-open> [23 March 2019]

In general, the conference took a very rapid pace, leaving us with tons of valuable information about topics ranging from technology, business and medicine, up to the state of the current education. Each of the presentations was full of the current market trends, such as “Data Science”, “AI”, “Cybersecurity” and “Industry 4.0”.

### The effect of applying data mining techniques to my notes

There were parts, which could have been understood only by participants with specific domain knowledge, specifically around biology and robotics; nevertheless, most of the content was directed to the general audience. As this blog isn’t focused on the organic industry, I will share most of the key points around DS, with a slight addition of specific domain sectors.

In order to address everything concisely without the struggle of paying attention to different conjunctions, the summary will consist of bullet points for each of the particular speeches:

• #1 Introduction
• BioTech market is holding a big capital in Belgium
• Belgium needs to become a bio lead
• AI will be a priority on the Belgian market
• Only 1 out of 4 Belgians know what AI is
• #2 Digital trends for Biotech – data for the best? [Benjamin Docquir (Osborne Clarke, partner), Hadrien Chef (Osborne Clarke, partner)]
• pharma and medical technology scores only 27/100 points in trends of digital transformation for healthcare providers
• that is more than the public sector (22)
• but less than telecom (37), retail (42), travel and hospitality (46)
• pre-clinical and clinical activities are still paper-based and it has to change
• AI needs to match patients with clinical trials
• supply chain management needs real-time tracking
• OncoDNA offers SAAS through the industry-leading bioinformatic platform (OncoKDM)
• there will always be legal issues with data (privacy, cybersecurity, ethics)
• key takeaway
• experiment & protect
• invest in skills
• build new partnerships
• tackle security & privacy concerns
• think strategically about data & trust
• data is an asset… not an isolation
• #3 How to find the right patterns in order to turn data into actionable insights [Lien Van Den Berghe (Möbius Healthcare, Business Consultant Healthcare & Lifesciences)]
• data is the new oil
• only 8% of companies know how to utilise data
• we lack skills in data analytics
• presentation of clear data analytics process (explanation graph)
• Data Scientist is the 21st century’s sexiest job (according to Harvard Business)
• 5 key learnings
• don’t assume you understand data straight away
• be pragmatic
• make it comprehensible
• change management is key
• keep it simple
• #4 When automation makes human tissue an affordable source for reconstructive surgery [dr. Denis Defrane (Texere Biotech, co-founder)]
• bone is the 2nd most donated organ after blood
• in Europe, 50% of human tissue is wasted. 30% is discarded and 15-20% is recovered
• the processes need to be improved by automation & robotics
• the mission is to “fully robotise and automate, in a clean room environment, the production of bone tissue from the femoral head into bone allograft cubes”
• it will result in
• 1/3 cost reduction
• more than 50% revenue increase
• improved quality
• 2-4 times yield improvement
• in Texere, 50% of workers are robots, whereas in other companies it’s usually 8%
• clearly, robots are easier to be managed
• analysis of the most wanted jobs of the industry 4.0 (infographic)
• #5 Early prediction on quality attributes & parametric release by a global smart GMP monitoring [Nicolas Tijs (NOVADIP Biosciences), Anne Cassart (Sapristic Biion, Sales Director – International Business Development)]
• introduction of next-generation monitoring including process monitoring
• presentation of mirrhia (global monitoring system: clean rooms, lab environment & equipment)
• #6 Biomanufacturing excellence through data sciences at GSK vaccines [Thibault Helleputte (DNAlytics, CEO)]
• data needs to be processed in real time
• DS in biomanufacturing – a retrospective/prospective analysis (infographic)
• a typical vaccine production process (types of data)
• we have mostly 2nd-hand data
• heterogenous
• fat (100 rows/10000 columns)
• confounding
• incomplete
• in this industry, data analysis isn’t possible with a “push button” method, where we follow the typical ML process
• GSK company needs more data scientists and is willing to train them
• take home messages
• a company such as GSK encourages students to embrace academic tracks leading to data science jobs
• data science for biomanufacturing is exciting but complex
• it requires open-minded and expert data scientists to work with pluridisciplinary teams
• stop collecting data only for satisfying regulatory constraints
• instead, generate high added value by proactively exploiting this gold mine
• the sooner the better
• #7 Conceiving the industrial organisms of tomorrow, digital transformation of biotechnology [Rémi Peyraud (IMEAN, CEO & founder)]
• nature (resource) —-(biotech)—-> humans (needs)
• major social issues of nature in the XXI century
• green chemistry
• human needs growth
• innovative biosolutions
• artemisia annua is an important/healthy plant
• anti-paludic properties
• fail to process cause life is like “black box”
• to solve the issues, we have to use math modelling for organisms to understand “black box”
• it’s difficult to find the right skill set for the biotech industry
• #8 Panel Discussion: Biotech meets Digital, Needs for Talent When two Worlds Meet
• the industry needs people who understand both: data & digital (IT)
• they especially need people that understand their technology and can communicate with people from other professional disciplines
• soft skills are becoming more important
• we need to understand how to handle Big Data
• by 2020, 30% of jobs will lack talents
• Takeda is willing to train data scientists
• we stay too much at our comfort zone
• we need to change the way we study (it’s best to mix practice and theory)
• lifelong learning is the key
• companies want employees that wish to learn continually
• if you want to go fast, go alone
• if you want to go far, go together
• how to improve universities?
• be more flexible
• quick internships
• more teamwork
• focus on soft skills
• it needs to be obvious what’s needed for the training
• how to attract students to STEM courses?
• communication is key
• you’ve to explain to kids what they will be able to do, not what job will they get
• make it sexy
• young people are highly motivated. It’s difficult to motivate the older generation
• mention good salary
• offer impact (opportunity to growth)
• attitude needs to be changed
• coming back to companies after having own startup is hard
• the key is to start from secondary school teachers (they need to motivate kids)
• the conclusion by Dominique Demonté (Managing Director Agoria Wallonia, former Managing Director BIOPARK Charleroi)
• digitalisation of BioTech is a necessity
• there will be a shortage of talents
• 75000 jobs won’t be filled
• lifelong learning needs to be popularised
• war for talents starts today

Woah, that is a lot of information!

Luckily everything ended up with a productive networking session, full of tasty sandwiches and various drinks.

As there is still a lot to cover in this post, I will not elaborate on the conference. The need for data scientists will grow, and this is what I am going to facilitate in the rest of this article.

## D.A.T.A.  4.0?

Data-Aware Technological Activities – it’s just a fresh acronym I coined for the need of this article, to connect the importance of data with Industry 4.0 that leads to automation in manufacturing technologies. Cyber-physical systems, cloud computing, the Internet of things, and cognitive computing is highly involved in both of these terms, as such it can be assumed that Industry 4.0 might be all about industrial data and analytics.

The current products are full of data, such as machines and robotics, which are authorising the swiftly growing universal truth that all roads lead to data in the emerging digitopia. Data is highly comparable to oil, because of its potential to generate real value; however, it won’t do much without the right processing.

If we look into the historical roots, the UK mathematician – Clive Humby was the first one to coin the term “Data Science is the new oil” in 2006:

Data is the new oil. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analyzed for it to have value.Clive Humby

Okay, let’s not just make idle threats, but support the growing popularity of DS with the usage of the Google Trends tool. Since the last 6 years, the interest over time for the “data science” term in Google Search, grew about 9 times! The interesting fact is that the graph looks almost identical for “cybersecurity“. I see that the market trends are being highly generous to both of my interest and it has a purpose, as unsecured data reveals a significant flaw to its owner.

Data, data, data everywhere, but how to get our head around that? To find the answer, let’s move into another chapter.

## Start practising Data Science today!

To answer the question from the title of this post, yes, let’s be pragmatic and prepare for the inevitable cultivation of the upcoming cyber world.

The road to becoming the ultimate Data Scientist is long and full of stuff that might discourage you from staying on the track, such as linear algebra, or advanced neural networks, but it’s almost impossible to be an expert in all the techniques mentioned in the ultimate “Road to Data Scientist“.[3]Chandrasekaran, S. (2013) ‘Becoming a Data Scientist – Curriculum via Metromap’. [8 July 2013] available from <http://nirvacana.com/thoughts/2013/07/08/becoming-a-data-scientist/> [24 March 2019]

You are more than encouraged to take this roadmap, print it, mark your progress and look up to it whenever you have doubts. To strengthen the effect, you are also recommended to include Andrew Ng’s or Yann LeCun’s portraits by the sides, or if you prefer it can be such a dynamic character as Siraj Raval or Harrison Kinsley.

If you have a closer look at the roadmap, you can scratch your head around uncertain terms that will unavoidably cross your paths in the world of DS. I am going to prevent you, just in case you would say:

### Big Data, Data Science, AI, Machine Learning… I’m lost

Let’s try to clear your mind and define each of the most popular terms in a human-readable way:
• Big Data – extremely large data sets, usually broken into 4 dimensions (volume, variety, velocity and veracity)
• Data Science – multi-disciplinary field that focuses on extracting knowledge from various types of data
• Artificial Intelligence (AI) – a non-biological system that is intelligent through rules
• Machine Learning – algorithms that learn models/representations/rules automatically from data/examples
• Deep Learning – algorithms that parameterize multi-layers neural networks that then learn representations of data with multiple layers of abstraction

Three of the defined technical terms can be aligned nicely on the Venn diagram:

If we would like to place Data Science on this diagram, it would fall as a superset of all the subsets (AI>ML>DL), as on the attachment below. It is such a generic term including all the different data operations, that it is introduced in almost all the jargon of the current revolutionary technology. Moving more in-depth, if we look purely at the Data Science term, there might be lots of different variations of its Venn diagram, the more serious and the more satirical ones. Most commonly you will find DS to be a mix of statistics/coding/marketing, where everything can be disassembled into even more specific areas, collectively with DS. Initially came Drew Conway’s data science Venn diagram and the rest were trying to modify and improve it. The one that is most satisfying to me was prepared by Gartner (research team), about which you can read more straighTt from Christi Eubanks’ blog post.[5]Eubanks, C. (2016) ‘Three Lessons CrossFit Taught Me About Data Science’. [26 May 2016] available from <https://blogs.gartner.com/christi-eubanks/three-lessons-crossfit-taught-data-science/> [24 March 2019]

Huh?! Did I forget assigning Big Data to these charts? Let’s leave it as a small task for you, as I believe it should be evident for now that Big Data is a part of ___(each/none)___ of these terms.

### Domain knowledge, business, math, tech… What else?!

As it was mentioned during the BioTech conference, finding a person who is skilled technically, but also being familiar with a specific domain, is like winning in a local lottery. Meaning, it is still possible, but this skill set will always be massively hunted by the employers.

Don’t stress too much when you lack the skills, as many companies are eager to hire people who miss even most of the requirements for the job offers. Moreover, they are even willing to train you on the go with the popularisation of lifelong just in time learning.

On the diagram below, you can check, which skills you might want to focus on to achieve your dream position.

### But do I need to know math? You may ask

No, unless you are about to invent a piece of art neural networks for your next scientific papers, then you might want to get familiar with calculus.

Ah, and PhD is also not needed, even when you want to be a scientific researcher at bigger companies like Nvidia. Don’t you believe me? Check the answer by Bryan Catanzaro (0:38 – 0:49), one of the current Nvidia researchers.

### How to setup my environment?

I will allow myself to copy my answers from the FAQ section of this website.

#### Should I go with Python or R?

I always say that in Data Science it is the most important to train logic and math. Later, the language is like a suit you wear, and in my case, I mostly reach for Python. I found some senior R developers, who claimed that they would start with Python if they got another chance (mainly for the reason of ML-based resources); however, I’m jealous of their pretty looking RStudio.

Once I found a great comparison between the languages in a single presentation, which might give you a nice contrast between both of the options.

You may also want to try and combine both languages to use the best part of each. I found this blog post to explain how to do it most conveniently.
tl;dr:
• (R) reticulate for connecting R with Python
• (R) tidyverse for data exploration
• (Python) scikit-learn/TensorFlow for ML and DL
• (R) ggplot2 for visualisation
• (R) R Markdown for reporting and Shiny for web apps

Jupyter Notebook for the beginning and the reason of maintaining a well-documented code. Moreover, it runs in a browser and nicely displays your shiny visualisations, which makes it stand out for Data Science. Nonetheless, last time, Google Colaboratory is more and more popular choice that requires no setup and runs entirely in the cloud. As such, it is one of the best free options for running large deep learning models (don’t forget to change runtime type to GPU/TPU).

Personally, I enjoyed using classical Sublime Text with few plugins, but nowadays, I am trying to switch to VS Code, which gets pretty nice reviews, especially from Pythonic community.

If you are not happy with those, you can also try Spyder as a free solution and PyCharm for professional development.

If you want to try Jupyter, Spyder and VS Code, just install a famous Anaconda Distribution to have a clear overview and ease of management over your tools.

### My recommendations / tools

The amount of resources to recommend for studying DS is enormous, but I will try to do my best and select the most valuable ones. As the choice gets bigger, the greater the chance that you will not look into any of them. Am I right?

Ah, and don’t forget to participate in the amazing networks , full of passionate people that will inspire you to achieve your best. One of my recommendations would be:

• Data Science Central
• Kaggle
• KDnuggets
• Local groups
• Reddit (as there are many subreddits, I highly encourage you to check my custom feeds)
• Slack/Discord groups

### Not enough? My newsletter can give you a hand

In this post, I am not going to make a too extensive list of tools, as I didn’t want to overwhelm you with a long collection of resources, that would prevent you from starting with anything.

Don’t forget that by signing up for my newsletter, you will not only get notifications about my new blog posts; but because I am a very nice guy, you will also get my e-book “Data Science Resources” for free, where I have stored all the other resources (tutorials, articles, tools and databases) to help you with the first steps. Ahh, and most importantly you can unsubscribe at any time if you feel like I am not spreading out any more value.

Once you make a decision, you can sign up to the community of the coolest people in the world, by scrolling down to the end of this post.

## Machine Learning is nothing but geometry!

For now, let’s stop our fascination about everything involving data, and agree on one point about the practice of using algorithms on the data, which later on learn from it and then forecast future trends for that topic. Remember, there is no magic behind machine learning.

Regression is just a line of best fit. It’s like taking a bunch of dots and finding a curve that fits nicely to them. Nonetheless, there are 2 ways to make it harder: make it curvier than just a line or make it multi-dimensional.

Classification is just taking a bunch of coloured dots and finding the curve that goes between them. Each row in the table is a feature vector and for each vector, we can draw a point on the grid. We can just draw a classification boundary between the points and when the new point appears, we can decide to which class it belongs. Ah, and it doesn’t matter what the axes are or what the groups represent.

Some people like to say: “machine learning is nothing more than glorified curve-fitting“.

### Typical ML model

The usual steps of every ML model look like that:

2. instantiate the model (model=MakeModel())
3. train the model (model.fit(X,Y))
4. use the model (model.predict(X))
5. evaluate the model (model.score(X,Y))

Applying the steps above into a simple Python script, will end up with the following:

#Import libraries
import pandas as pd

from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split
from sklearn.metrics import accuracy_score
from sklearn.tree import DecisionTreeClassifier

#Define x and y
feats = ['Pclass']
X = df[ feats ].values
y = df ['Survived'].values

#Split data
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size=0.3)

#Instantiate the model
model = DecisionTreeClassifier(max_depth=20)

#Train the model
model.fit(X_train, y_train)

#Use the model
y_pred = model.predict(X_test)

#Evaluate the model
accuracy_score(y_test, y_pred)

Taking that into consideration, we can do examples for different cases, but the code will usually look the same. All machine learning interfaces are the same, it’s just a black box with 2 tasks: learn and make predictions. I understand that there might be minor caveats with this approach, but it’s a topic for different discussion.

### No free lunch theorem

There is no easy way to choose the correct Machine Learning model.

Let’s try to define the ones we know:

• Linear Models
• very easy to interpret
• problems can be divided into
• linearly separable
• non-linearly separable
• examples: linear regression, logistic regression
• Basic Nonlinear Models
• they aren’t necessarily “better” than a linear model
• examples: Naive Bayes, Decision Tree, K-Nearest Neighbor
• Naive Bayes can reduce to a linear model under various assumptions
• Ensemble Models
• average the predictions from multiple trees (the result is very powerful)
• XGBoost (variant of a gradient boosting tree) has been used to win many competitions on Kaggle
• can be distributed across different machines with Apache Spark
• Support Vector Machine (SVM)
• was the “go-to” method for a long time
• today that is deep learning, but SVM used to beat neural networks
• powerful and nonlinear, but they do not scale (if your dataset is too large (like most of the current ones), it becomes infeasible to use this model these days)
• Deep Learning
• state of the art in CV and NLP
• not “plug-and-play” (unlike Random Forest)
• if you try it on any random data it may fail spectacularly
• you can’t always use SKLearn, but you can use more specific libraries
• Theano, TensorFlow, Keras etc.

Now, to summarise everything in a single table:

 Group Examples Linear? Powerful? Easy to interpret? Scales? Plug and play? Linear models Linear Regression, Logistic Regression Basic models NB, DT, KNN (possibly) (possibly) Ensemble models AdaBoost, RF, GBM SVM SVM (possibly) Deep Learning MLPClassifier, MLPRegressor (with special hardware)

Remember that ML is a field of experimentation, not philosophy.

### Hey! I trained my first deep neural network and my device almost burnt!

Be careful if you leave your old laptop for a longer time next to a big pile of paper that can easily catch fire .

In order to prevent it, you can use previously recommended Google Colaboratory and take advantage of Tensor processing unit (TPU), which is an AI accelerator application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) specifically designed for neural networks[7]Osborne, J. (2016) ‘Google’s Tensor Processing Unit Explained: This Is What the Future of Computing Looks Like’. [22 August 2016] available from <https://www.techradar.com/news/computing-components/processors/google-s-tensor-processing-unit-explained-this-is-what-the-future-of-computing-looks-like-1326915> [25 March 2019. According to some of the researchers, with TPU you can train Keras model up to x20 times faster, completely free![8]Zhang, C. (2018) ‘How to Train Keras Model X20 Times Faster with TPU for Free’. [16 October 2018] available from <https://medium.com/swlh/how-to-train-keras-model-x20-times-faster-with-tpu-for-free-cac6cf5089cb> [24 March 2019]

The other, more advanced solution is to set an account on Google Cloud, AWS or Microsoft Azure and create a VM instance specifically for machine learning. This way, we can flexibly rent more computing resources on the go, whenever we need them, and we can do all of these from our 10-year old laptop.

Let’s end this post with a funny situation shared by Piotr Migdał on his social media channels:

Me: I’m an AI consultant. I teach people to teach machines. Someone I met: I’m a psychologist. I teach people people.Piotr Migdal

Don’t overwhelm yourself with data, as it’s impossible to process all of it. If you are continually being overloaded with the information, I have some good news for you.

Last time I organised my first 2.5-hour training on “Personal Organisation“, which covered various topics around its broad title (remembering, optimising, focusing, learning, respecting health, planning & celebrating). For now, it had internal premiere inside the offices, and the first attendants provided me with excellent feedback, giving me the opportunity to continue my training for other co-workers. I believe that the values provided in the scope of the presentation can profoundly influence every human being and. Keep your fingers crossed and once I might provide the training to larger groups around the world!

As it will never take place to be able to deliver it to most of my readers, I can consider recording an online course, where I will go through the contents of my presentation in depth. In the end, I wish to let everyone change his state from —> .

Lastly, as you see, even my watch is starting to run out of space for data:

References   [ + ]

 1 ↑ Ceulemans, T. (2019) ‘Biotech Meets Digital Event: Registration Is Open’. [21 March 2019] available from [23 March 2019] 2 ↑ Google (2019) ‘Google Search Trends for “Data Science”’. [23 March 2019] available from [23 March 2019] 3 ↑ Chandrasekaran, S. (2013) ‘Becoming a Data Scientist – Curriculum via Metromap’. [8 July 2013] available from [24 March 2019] 4 ↑ Raschka, S. (2019) ‘What Are Machine Learning and Deep Learning? An Overview.’ [23 January 2019] available from [24 March 2019] 5 ↑ Eubanks, C. (2016) ‘Three Lessons CrossFit Taught Me About Data Science’. [26 May 2016] available from [24 March 2019] 6 ↑ Hayes, B. (2017) ‘Demystifying Data Science For All’. [29 October 2017] available from [24 March 2019] 7 ↑ Osborne, J. (2016) ‘Google’s Tensor Processing Unit Explained: This Is What the Future of Computing Looks Like’. [22 August 2016] available from [25 March 2019 8 ↑ Zhang, C. (2018) ‘How to Train Keras Model X20 Times Faster with TPU for Free’. [16 October 2018] available from [24 March 2019]

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Learn Programming The Powerful Way (or anything else) https://pawelcislo.com/2019/02/18/learn-programming-the-powerful-way-or-anything-else/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=learn-programming-the-powerful-way-or-anything-else https://pawelcislo.com/2019/02/18/learn-programming-the-powerful-way-or-anything-else/#comments Mon, 18 Feb 2019 17:19:59 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=1313 Reading Time ≈ 16 minutes Initially, most of us grasped our hands over programming in universities while developing our first Fibonacci sequence. But, can we all agree that it is the best way to start [...]

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Initially, most of us grasped our hands over programming in universities while developing our first Fibonacci sequence. But, can we all agree that it is the best way to start the learning curve?

## Little update from my side

After starting my 1st position in IT consulting, it began to be a little bit more challenging to find the motivation to write something here; however, I did not set up this website to close it after the first few posts. On the contrary, I’ve decided to make small changes on this website to make it even more appealing to the visitors. From now on, you may have noticed that I have redesigned the newsletter sign up form and provided you with an option to support the time I spend for these articles. If you like what you read, you can scroll down towards the comment section , and buy me some Yerba Meta or dark chocolate, which always boost my creativity. Most importantly, you can encourage me to be more active by leaving some comments.

## This topic, again?

Today, I will discuss a common subject that is on my mind for a long time as before joining my current engineering consulting company, I have been advised by the recruiters to focus more on the software engineering section, rather than data science itself. In the result, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to master the art of coding and tested various ways to acquire the most experience. As you might now, I’m a huge fan of optimising my life in each life discipline to be the most effective in everything I do, as such, it makes a great combination of interests to share some advice on today’s topic. Everything here is based on my personal experience, therefore feel free to share your own ways of learning down below, not only in terms of software engineering.

Most importantly, I believe that everyone can learn something from this post, no matter if you are a coder or a driver of front-loader.

## Let’s start by introducing Bob

Why Bob? It just seems like the most typical name for any example. I’m sorry if I offended any Bobs reading this article.

It is the beginning of the high school year, and Bob is looking forward to his new subjects. One of the mysteriously sounding classes is information technology, where our hero is going to put his hands-on programming for the 1st time. The classes start typically with drawing flowcharts and memorising multiple sorting and searching algorithms, such as bubble sort or linear search. Afterwards, Bob is instructed how to set up his first Integrated development environment (IDE) and implement what he just learned in C++, Java or Python (I hope it’s not Pascal, like it was in my case).

Okay, so is there something wrong with it? I don’t think so, unless Bob wants to become a Site Reliability Engineer at Google, where he can deal with sorting/searching algorithms every day. At more computationally advanced positions like this, reducing the Big-O complexity from O(n quadratic) to O(n log n) is worth a salary rise taking into assumption how much data is being processed on a daily basis whenever everyone loads another cute cat clip on YouTube.

So, how would I start as a teacher? As long as I would be free from the restrictions of the education programme, I would introduce Bob with a very wide-set of interactive tools that stimulate his brain to practice coding challenges daily by providing small prizes and counting day streaks. The exercises should start with the most simple “Hello World” problems and later eventually introduce the algorithmic problems, only if Bob would feel that it is what he wishes to do. Now, why I would not recommend any type of programming book to Bob from the beginning? Let’s take a look at the following graph of average learning retention rates:

The pyramid presents that we learn the most effectively by teaching others and practising by doing. On the contrast, we retain the least by attending lectures and reading. You see, where I am heading now?

Interactive tools, visual prizes to boost our level of serotonin, that is what will give us lots of concentration and enthusiasm to master every professional field. If we start with a book, especially in programming, we might get easily discouraged as we will not see our progress, nor work effects immediately. Some of us who are more patient and eager to read books might get along somehow, but remember that if you ask an Olympic swimming champion how he became so skilled, he will not advise you to focus on books.

### Impostor Syndrome

Reading books and watching online tutorials has another problem. As we dive more into the materials, we will start seeing that there is still lots of knowledge that we need to obtain before writing our first program. What’s even worse, we will feel that everyone around us holds years of experience and we do not fit into the community.

Wrong! This way you are falling into the Impostor Syndrome (or “syndrome of sitting in a cave”, as I tend to call it), where you will never leave it (do something practically) unless you feel 100% ready. It is a big problem of most of the early software engineers and used to be mine as well.

Just to make sure, I am not saying that reading books is the worst possible choice for the beginning, but most of the students might fall in the presented trap.

### Then, what do we suggest to Bob?

If Bob is already attending high school, he should have just keep doing/trying what is demanded by his professor. Even if it seems like learning another useless quadratic equation, it might come in handy one day. No one said, you will never work at Google, right?

In the meantime, Bob is advised to develop a daily habit of solving online coding challenges, on such websites like HackerRank. Below, you can find an example of your playground, with the 1st Java challenge requiring to output “Hello, World” message. As you see, every task includes a comprehensive description on the left side, which will be your book, whereas on the right side is where the magic happens. When Bob feels like his code is ready, shining bright like a diamond, he can try clicking the flashy green button “Submit Code”, which runs his scribbles through series of tests to check if it works like it should for the predefined input.

What if Bob is feeling lost and lonely, scratching his head and wondering why the world is so cruel? In this scenario, he might want to look into the “Discussions” tab where he will find more Bobs like him. It’s a place where it is good to come in, even when we know the answer, so we can benefit from comparing other solutions, inspiring from them and trying to be kind by supporting others.

Didn’t I say that we learn the most by teaching others? Yes, I did, and it doesn’t mean that you need to be as smart as your high school professor to be able to be able to teach others. Keep in mind that there is always someone, who doesn’t know something that you know about designing Java applications, even if he is a developer with ten years of experience. Moreover, you can rest assured about understanding any topic, if the following doesn’t apply to you:

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.Albert Einstein

## Rest of my tips (filtered from dozens I approached)

### Done is better than perfect

First of all, try to become a professionalist, not a perfectionist. The difference between these two is that professionalist takes into assumption the time, delivers the best he can and accepts the last result. As such, don’t waste too much time setting up your IDE theme, as soon you might switch into another one.

### Have a mentor

Having a mentor is really important. Look for inspirations in every area of your life, so the next time when someone invites you for a mountain trip, you can watch some Bear Grylls videos and move yourself.

What about coding, do I have any mentor? Well, if it was just one. Nowadays, I like to follow Kevin’s channel, especially while eating breakfast to warm-up my brain cells. In his videos, you can mainly find explanations of LeetCode challenges and nowadays some advice for early coders. In the comments section, you can also get support for your coding interview if there is one on your way.

For example, in the following recording, Kevin gave me some inspiration for this post, where he agreed that over his long career, there wasn’t any book that helped him as much as interactive challenges on LeetCode. Apparently, he struggled a lot in the beginning and required long coding sessions, but eventually, he got a lot of practical experience.

Finally, when you join the corporation, try to keep the following in mind (I will let you think yourself why).

If you are the wisest person in the room, change the room.Maciej Aniserowicz

### Make a daily habit

As already mentioned, having a daily habit is critical. It doesn’t mean developing a new website every day, but trying to do at least one thing about the skill you wish to master. As such, the easiest would be to solve a single challenge on HackerRank a day.

Remember, don’t think about long-term goals from the beginning, but divide them into smaller steps. I hope you will get the idea basing on my example.

Never ever blame yourself over forgetting the simplest syntax issues, like inserting a semicolon at the end of the line or including that common library at the beginning of your code. Everyone learns on failures, and this is normal.

Don’t rush in your learning. Nobody learned calculus in a day, but started with its the most straightforward variables, trying to understand each element of the sigma notation before developing a neural network of the entirely new architecture.

Everyone is shy in the beginning to show his first project. “Ahh, what others will think about me? This code looks like its written by my mom.“.

No, this is the way every Bob will think. Lots of programmers never show their code, and it’s their decision, but by uploading anything on GitHub, you make your recruiters aware of familiarity with git environment, and you present your level of confidence. Most importantly, you can get support from other developers in improving your code. As previously mentioned, we learn by mistakes.

### Prevent burnout

It’s never the concern of junior engineers, who would love to stay after-time and make everything for free, just to have something new to include in their portfolios. Remember, never make anything for free as by that you’re damaging the market so that employers can allow themselves to reduce the average salary.

Burnout is a state where you are not enjoying anymore your profession. As such, we can see employers being more and more eager towards the young, unskilled but motivated employees as providing training is more executable than instilling motivation. As a programmer, make sure to have a side-hobby (so-called plan B), in case you would like to retire from <click clacking> at your desk.

One of the solutions to prevent burnout is to maintain a healthy work-life balance. In general, remember that work is not 90% of your life. I hope that this popular video can give you some great time for reflection.

## But…

Right, I know that you have heard about lots of different options, but if you are looking for a single language, no matter what, it is always good to know Python. Its ease of use should not scare you from writing the first for loops.

Lastly, if you would like to take a look at some interesting resources, you can check Dave’s brief description of 43 most popular programming languages, divided by their popularity on the job market, ease of learning and use cases.

If you know some  or you give some trust to Google Translator, I can recommend Gynvael Coldwind’s blog post about choosing your first programming language.

Not enough? Too much to read? Review everything in a visual form:

### I’m lazy…

Talk about your goals, such as I did yesterday before publishing this post. Sharing this little picture on my Instagram/Facebook story pushed me more than anything else to sit down and write all that I wanted to share. Few times, I even felt into the magical flow, which is something that you should aim for while learning/doing anything, as it also means that you’re doing what you love.

How does it exactly feel, you may ask? Do you remember when you played with Lego or did coloring books as a kid? This is the state when you don’t care anything else, but you’re entirely focused on your craft, and you’re excited about the upcoming result. It’s a beauty of humankind. We all want to leave something on this earth in our short lifespan that will make us remembered. Taking a look at another pyramid: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can even find the demand for self-realisation.

## Health > Work!

I will NEVER EVER sacrifice the unrecoverable resource like health over my work. Now, please repeat the last sentence at least three times. There is lots of programmers who coded till they saw blood on their keyboard, that dripped straight from their nose. Meanwhile, they cheated on their mind by treating it with some artificial focus boosters like Red Bull and eating tons of pizza. Maybe this way you will be the most knowledgable coder in your neighbourhood, but you will regret it a ton when you’re older, wasting lots of time at the nearest clinic.

### So, what are the simplest health improvements?

Last time, it is widely popular to discuss the way we should work by the computer. Should we sit, should we stand or why not both? In “The TRUTH About STANDING DESKS“, Kevin sums up that it is up to our preference to choose over standing or sitting desk. Most importantly, we cannot forget to move around every 30-40 minutes, as either longer sitting/standing isn’t good for our health.

You’re getting tired, losing focus and constantly checking your social media feed? Put your phone away by the distance of your longest hand, so you will need to move in order to reach the productivity killer.

You’re losing creativity and ideas for your code? Eat the darkest chocolate possible and if you’re like me, try drinking Yerba Mate, which seems to be the healthy replacement of coffee (+ you’ll be cool ).

You want more? Listen to the most energetic music before your work and to some ambient sounds (without vocals) while at the computer. Personally, I can recommend Brain.fm for the best source of sounds, but if you want something free, take a look at Noisli.

And my last advice is to respect your sleep! Don’t treat it like a must, but as a pleasure. Sleep at least 7 hours a day in the darkest and the quietest room possible, ideally different from the one where you code. Oh, and don’t forget reducing the blue light of your monitor by using such tools as f.lux (desktop) and Twilight (Android).

## Learning Tools (my recommendations)

Last, but not least you can benefit from online courses. You will find most of the courses on Udemy, and if you want, you can also use a search engine for online courses: Courseroot. Personally, I recommend going through the longest courses with most reviews, as they might be constantly updated with the most relevant content (remember that technology rapidly change).

## So, what we learned today?

Bob whispered to my ear that he felt like someone just presented the entirely different world to him. Well, I hope you also feel like it.

Most importantly, don’t spend too much of your time trying to find the perfect tool in the list above. My tl;dr version advises you to create your account on HackerRank and go through the 30-day challenge in Python. Then, on your smartphone, download the SoloLearn app and do the same. After 30 days you will see if it’s for you.

If you don’t like it, maybe it’s time to consider going into a different field, such as business management. On the other hand, if you loved it (I hope), try looking for a programming book for night reading.

Please let me know if you think that it is the way of learning curve you would like to see in universities. If you’re a long-time experienced programmer, let me know what’s your view on this topic .

Last, but not least, remember about these ultimate living rules:

1. “Life is too short, so get a life.
2. Know that you don’t know everything, so don’t get arrogant.
3. Don’t get caught up in the various programming “religious” wars, there’s more to life than a specific point of view.
4. Laugh and enjoy the wonderful beauty in the world around us.
5. You’re as much an idiot as the person you consider an idiot.
6. Sometimes the “important things” one is working on are just not that important, so get a life.”[4]oldandtired (2017) ‘A Collection of Things Software Developers Should Know’. [5 September 2017] available from <https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15174089>

Thanks for reading and happy coding!

References   [ + ]

 1 ↑ acrlguest (2014) ‘Tales of the Undead…Learning Theories: The Learning Pyramid’. [13 January 2014] available from 2 ↑ FAUHS Research Program (2018) Impostor Syndrome.[ 2018] available from 3 ↑ McLeod, S. (2018) ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’. [ 2018] available from 4 ↑ oldandtired (2017) ‘A Collection of Things Software Developers Should Know’. [5 September 2017] available from

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My 2018 – The Year of Revolution https://pawelcislo.com/2018/12/28/my-2018-the-year-of-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=my-2018-the-year-of-revolution https://pawelcislo.com/2018/12/28/my-2018-the-year-of-revolution/#comments Fri, 28 Dec 2018 15:35:06 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=1208 Reading Time ≈ 13 minutes It’s time to end the year with an annual public reflection, started in the previous year on my Facebook wall. Now, for the first time on this blog, you can [...]

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It’s time to end the year with an annual public reflection, started in the previous year on my Facebook wall. Now, for the first time on this blog, you can read what took place over my last twelve months.

## *clap clap* YEAR REVIEW!

I heard it is recommended to start the post with the most mattering message right away, so let’s jump right into it (also, let’s keep the emojis for a little bit of colour ):

### General

•  Finished the MSc Data Science and Computational Intelligence course with distinction
•  Found my first technical position (International Engineering Consultant)
• Improved my body shape
• Was more active in sharing own content on social media
• Continued to note a daily journal (never missed a day since April 2017). It clearly helped in the preparation of this post
• Worked with Todoist and OneNote for another full year
• Implemented new productivity method: “Three Goals” which I am consistently using
• Continually updated my technical knowledge through: #unknownews, Hacker News, Inside,  weekly trending repositories on GitHub, Ars Technica, dobreprogramy,  subreddits, and many personal blogs
• Regularly watched MiroBurn and devstyle vlogs that were the main source of my motivation
• I did watch other YouTube channels almost regularly, which I have listed here
• Listened to even more podcasts
• Discovered some great ways to increase my focus by using Brain.fm and toggl. I might describe them once on this blog
• Was actively using several mobile apps to develop myself, such as Brilliant and Elevate
• Also, deleted all kind of time-wasting games
• Meditated for 112 days in a row (at the moment of publishing this post)
• Improved my programming skills (mainly in Python and Java)
• Advanced my math and machine learning skills
• Constantly supported my Dark Google Calendar style (the number of downloads increased by 10k since last year)
• Learned to play chess (theoretically). Now I need a lot of practice
• Deleted/unfollowed lots of time-taking activities, such as browsing some disturbing news, newsletters and social profiles. Despite the fact, I’m still fighting with it

### Time-based

• January
• Shared Todoist summary of my 2017. Argh, Todoist! I’m still waiting for the summary of 2018
• Started the year with first semester exams of my MSc Data Science course
• Wrote my affirmation, which I’m trying to read daily
• Started a German language course to remind me of some of its rules
• Received one of my favourite t-shirts for being a course rep
• February
• The trip to Birmingham with my friends (some of the photos are available on my Instagram)
• March
• April
• The trip to London with my friends.  We’ve visited Sherlock Holmes museum and London Eye (you can find one of the photos the top of it on my Instagram
• Shared one of my most significant projects on GitHub about classifying CIFAR-10 images
• May
• Published an article on LinkedIn “#WhenIWas15 – the formation of a childhood hero fighting with uncertainty for desired success”
• Finally found someone with a similar music taste to mine (believe me, it’s hard, and it was during the German language class)
• Finished second and last session of MSc exams
• June
• July
• Package with my “Post Traumatic” preorder arrived. I was one of the first 500 customers and was lucky to get Mike Shinoda’s signature
• Received my Course Rep reference
• Started to drink Aloe Vera daily (Ugh… the taste was horrible at the 1st time)
• Thought about a potential name for this blog. Initially, it tended to have a ridiculous title, which I changed the next day
• August
• Purchased this domain and the required hosting
• Announced the blog on social media
• Started using Brain.fm to focus on writing my dissertation
• Finished working on my thesis after ~4 months (Ahh… that relief)
• Read Blogging for busy programmers to get some inspiration
•  September
• Posted a trailer of this website. It pushed me to be quick with finishing some of its extra content
• Between the trailer and site publishing, I’ve written my e-book: “Data Science Resources” + finalised all the subpages and implemented a newsletter system
• (07/09/2018) Published this website. The same night I’ve received excellent results from my dissertation
• (08/09/2018) Too much of stress required me to start meditation streak
• Published the 2nd blog post: How did I automate Micrograph Analysis?
• Last shift at my part-time work (oh, I didn’t mention it yet? That’s how I survived in the UK)
• Flight to Poland!
• Continued my gym streak after a very long time with my friend. Before, in the UK, I used to exercise at home and run outside
• Organised my Pinterest profile with high-quality infographics (Data Science, Math, Python, and more…)
• Attended the World Business Experience conference. A fantastic day where I was also able to meet in person three of my favourite vloggers. You can read some of my words of gratitude here
• 2 days later I promulgated the blog post about the conference
• October
• Updated my e-book, which you can download from the right-hand side panel of this website
• Spent my 1st week in Dubai. You can find 9 posts on my Instagram with lots of photos (sorry for the spam)
• Tasted bulletproof coffee to give myself more energy in the morning in a healthy way
• Took part in a developers meeting: rg-dev #22 in Rzeszow, where I was able to meet a long-time influencing blogger
• Started 30 Days of Code challenge on HackerRank
• Watched one of the best movies: “The Cleaners“. Was lucky, that the school trip reserved the show as it’s not popular in the cinemas
• November
• Think I found my favourite quote of the year: “No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun” ~ Pink Floyd
• First floating session for 1 hour
• Finished 10 km run in 53 minutes: “6 PKO Bieg Niepodległości” on the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence (pic or it didn’t happen
• Organised a list of “biohacking” techniques that I apply/might apply in daily life. Maybe one day I will share it on this blog
• Revisited Coventry for 3 days to attend the graduation ceremony. Afterwards, I took part in a short video interview to promote CU campus in Wroclaw (Poland)
• December

## What do I think about all of it?

September, right ? What the heck happened here (magic)? Guess, I was just too energised after being done with my thesis, and I finally had time to put my words into actions. Definitely, I’ve been tired like nowhere before (whenever I remind of these days I feel sleepy); however, I wanted to give myself a break a little later, after knowing that the work is completely done.

Anyhow, I cannot lie that I will remember this year as a success, although not everything worked as I planned, it certainly will have a significant meaning for the rest of my life. At the beginning of the bullet point list, the highlighted points indicate the most crucial events, where only one of them was my initial goal for this year – graduating. Somehow, it turned out that I was even able to find a position, which suits my interests.

Now, if you ask me about my favourite moment from the current year, I will answer “coming back to the graduation ceremony after a few weeks spent outside the UK”. This 3-day trip let me reflect that all the good happening in my life right now was worth the effort on the grounds in the UK. It let me like myself even more and spend long-time monologues which raised amazing ideas, where some are still in the “to-implement” list.

Here you can see a photo taken by one of my good friends on this day (I did smile a little wider on the other shots, but this one perfectly suits my caption).

If you ask me which moment of my existence do I consider to be the most life-changing, I might facetiously answer: “New Year’s Eve 2016”. Right, it was two years ago when I took another sip of champagne and finally decided that it is time to have some fun, get out of my comfort zone and try my best to study in the UK. Too many things happened from that time till this day, that are not the main idea of this post, but I do consider describing it for the benefit of those in a similar situation like I was. In general, the advice cannot use the binary format (yes/no), so there is a lot to talk about, and if you wish to read about it, please let me know in the comments section, and I will push myself for another time of reflection.

Coffee did its job flawlessly. Although, it wasn’t needed for the 4th point, as it didn’t work out for the full-time master’s students.

Now, let’s shift the attention into more specific areas.

### Blog

From yes to no, from no to yes. Finally, there is my lovely child in 2018. I hope you liked the way it’s dressed, as each post requires some time in graphical software.

Up till this time I have published 5 blog posts. Is it too much or too little?

Before the publication of this website, I used to think that I will post a piece of content at least once in two weeks. As you might have noticed, I did stick to the rule only for the first 3 blog posts, and later something cracked. Well, it is not about running out of topics to write about, as there is still plenty of them stored safely in my notes so that they won’t be forgotten. What is it the case then?

Last time I have tried to focus on learning a lot of software engineering required for my upcoming position and I’ve decided not to put the highest priority into this blog (sorry, if you were missing me). Moreover, I’ve simply tried to chill after the busy year as everyone can burn out without giving yourself a break. I used to go to the gym, spend time with my family, friends and cats, as soon I might not see them for an extended period.

If it comes to the blog in general, I cannot be more than proud that I’ve finally decided to be more visible online. It’s normal that most of the blogs won’t get immediate attention, and it would be one of the main reasons to shut it down already if I paid notice to the “likes and comments”. The rule is to be consistent, as the majority of bloggers leave their sites after the first few articles.

I guess that the most serviceable function so far was the “Contact” option which helped some of the web surfers to get in touch with me. Also, some of you contacted me about the “Three Goals” page, where one of my friends ended up creating the same kind of a list, which broke my holdup of feelings the moment he asked “Hey, I’ve created something similar, can you check if my goals are designed the right way?”. Woah, surely it’s worth to inspire others similarly.

### Three Goals

Goals designed once aren’t meant to be achieved no matter what. I’m still into Beta testing mode and that’s how I changed for example the number of tasks solved in Brilliant app.

Let’s give a brief summary in this table:

 Task Result Blogger Published 5 posts on my blog + 1 on LinkedIn Vlogger Still thinking about getting myself up on my YouTube channel Programmer Published a single useful tool and solved more than 60 coding problems online Eternal Student Using Brilliant and Elevate app daily + doing lots of online courses Music Producer In the process of polishing my skills. Next year I should have more time to work on it Marathon Runner Ran 10 km and I cannot wait to run half marathon Meditator Meditated 112 days in a row (so far) Public Speaker Hopefully will get a chance to present something impressive Publisher Hard to estimate the progress of this goal Businessman There are ideas, which might work one day

### Career

I’m going to start 2019 with a new position: International Engineering Consultant, where I will be working on various projects across software engineering and data science.

In the meantime, I’m about to continue developing my skills not only around technical areas.

Moreover, I always consider to work on projects remotely, so if you think like we can benefit from each other, please let me know.

## Woah, good job! What about the year 2017?

“Like every other year, this one was even shorter than every other (no way…)”.

That’s how I started to think about the past 12 months of 2017. Using this logic each year can be only shorter, being more and more drained from achievements. But that makes no sense seeing how 2018 flipped my life upside down in a good way.

There are differences in almost every aspect of myself, and it would be easiest to say that everything changed since 2017. Maybe you can find the differences yourself by glancing your eyes over my SUMMARY OF 2017!

## Expectations for 2019

Make even more stuff, make it quickly and make it well.

At least, that’s the plan. The list of things-to-do is running out of space, but most importantly all the stuff is exciting, so I shouldn’t burn out myself, which might inevitably happen one day.

Scott Adams – the author of Dilbert and “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” recommends to design systems instead of planning our goals. You see, once you jump into the hamster wheel, you don’t need to plan much ahead as by following the system you’re addicted to, you might win even more. Sometimes, not being able to cross out some of your plans from to-do lists might feel overwhelming and demotivating. That’s why I don’t want to bang my head over all the fails but feel good with the fact of the system I adopted over the years. From time to time, it will just receive a little patch to fix its bugs.

Einstein is someone who is breaking the rule of to-do lists as well. Recently, I was interested in how Albert approached the topic of productivity. After the graduation, he struggled to find a job for two years and suddenly in “Einstein’s Miracle Year” (1905) published four scientific papers, completely changing his life, where as the last work, he presented the most important discovery – the legendary E = mc2.

How did this happen? Well, Einstein did not care about being busy all the time. On the contrary, he was a type of a loner who spent little time with friends/family, and most of his ideas popped into his head during numerous walks in the mountains, forests or while making time out playing the violin[2]Oshin, M. (2018) ‘Einstein’s Most Effective Life Hack Wasn’t about Productivity’. [13 December 2018] available from <https://qz.com/work/1494627/einstein-on-the-only-productivity-tip-youll-ever-need-to-know/>.

I write all of this because in 2018, just like Albert I used to walk a lot for no reason. Well, it’s not that I had too much of free time. Instead, I needed to organise myself some breaks from the amount of work, which used to overwhelm me. In the time I walked without further reason, I did not only rest my brain but filled it with lots of ideas (kind of without any effort). Yes, one of them was to start this blog.

Summarising, in 2019 there is no need to save on resting, right?

So to the meritum, I plan to write more technical bits right here. So far, there is only a single post related to one of my last projects, but it will change. As I have deducted, I plan to focus on quality over the quantity (which is also advised by bloggers with long experience). As for now, I am not sure if I will be lucky to work on projects that I will be able to explain on this blog; however, I am also going to start writing some introductory posts into the world of data science. Yes, you are right, there is already plenty of content out there, but I will make sure to write the most up-to-date recommendations based on my experience.

2019 will be started by taking a flight to Switzerland and beginning with an introduction to my new position. So far, I cannot estimate how much will I need to change my daily habits, as such I’m excited for the best to happen.

Yup, no need to overcare. Just follow the system.

Oh, also, I am going to read more books as there are 154 of them in my list.

## Message to you

At the end of this babbling, I encourage you to plan your 2019 the way you will be feeling proud at its end. You might look into the way I design some of my goals and do the same. Just like the mentioned friend, you can ask me for support in it.

Invest in yourself and treat your time well, as it’s a non-renewable resource, which you wouldn’t like to waste.

Furthermore, what are the benefits of writing a year review?

• Not to lie, it is a blessing to look over your achievements from some time ago. You might even say “oh, I was such a baby back then” considering all the tweaks here and there applied in yourself,
• You will step into the next year with a fresh mind, feeling that you closed the last 12 months in the desired way,
• Without verifying your goals, you might not even know how much you’ve done. What books did you read, what have you watched, where did you spent most of your time. Is it what you wanted?
• The new stage of your life will be planned automatically when you remind yourself of all the stuff you “wished” to complete this year,
• You will get a motivational kick by appreciating yourself!

So, how was your 2018? Let me know in the comments section!

Happy Holidays and a magnificent 2019!

References   [ + ]

 1 ↑ Mccombe, L. (n.d.) Distant of Mathematicians Albert Einstein and Kurt Godel Taking a Walk [online] available from 2 ↑ Oshin, M. (2018) ‘Einstein’s Most Effective Life Hack Wasn’t about Productivity’. [13 December 2018] available from

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Aim for your goals the right way https://pawelcislo.com/2018/11/09/aim-for-your-goals-the-right-way/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aim-for-your-goals-the-right-way https://pawelcislo.com/2018/11/09/aim-for-your-goals-the-right-way/#comments Fri, 09 Nov 2018 17:57:39 +0000 https://pawelcislo.com/?p=902 Reading Time ≈ 13 minutes Last updated on 14/03/2020: I’ve included the current settings of my Todoist account, as they changed significantly since the initial publication. How implementing the book knowledge from 2001 can increase [...]

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Last updated on 14/03/2020: I’ve included the current settings of my Todoist account, as they changed significantly since the initial publication.

How implementing the book knowledge from 2001 can increase the trust in collaboration with your team and let you finally fix your messy room.

## Productivity is everywhere! ROAR!

Productivity. That term seems like it wants to jump out of our fridge every morning. Doesn’t it? The society constantly mumbles about it (I know, me too), like it is the greatest skill you might have… and they are right! Think about it; if you are the master of productivity, you can simply do a lot of stuff (guess there is no master course in this specialisation yet; correct me if I’m wrong)! The more you know how to do, the better companies will look on you, and in the result, you will not fall into the never-ending job hunt. One of the examples is my recent career opportunity, where the organisation hired me for a role that does not exactly fit my highest expectations (pursuing Data Science career solely); however, I’m still contented to be working for them. I’m talking about the engineering consultant position, which again, will provide me with a broader skill-set than focusing entirely on analysing large heaps of data.

Coming back to what I said, quantity beats quality, at least if we think about our potential in the job market. Nonetheless, on higher levels, quality (expertise) is of a significant priority, where you need to understand lots of concepts from just a single field, like calculus, if you are thinking about discovering new architectures of neural networks. Anyhow, calculus is so extensive that I’m not sure if it’s correct to classify it into a single field.

Similarly, the author of Dilbert comic strips tends to discuss the idea of productivity in his creations. Besides, he also tends to philosophise about quantity/quality optimisation:

If you think extraordinary talent and a maniacal pursuit of excellence are necessary for success, I say that’s just one approach, and probably the hardest. When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.Scott Adams
Lots of people that I see around are not experts in a single specialisation, and they are doing more than fine having a skill stack of things mastered in beginner to “let me try, but later it might never work again” level. What’s more, they are even creating online courses to teach others what they have learned. It’s not wrong, as even if you know something in 10%, there will be dozens of people who understand the topic in 1% and would love to hear from you. Summarising, we can assume that our usability/value in the job market is what determines the career success.

The problem for some of us right now is what we want to do for the living/hobby, but that topic is for another night. Yes, I know a way to solve our doubts in this area, and it’s not magic. It’s rather something that needs to restructure the way we think.

## To-Do Lists

Productivity is the mother of all the skills we acquire during our lifespan. The second most crucial skill might be writing as it applies everywhere, making us better teachers/employees who can communicate their thoughts clearly. Today, thanks to the internet we got access to extensive knowledge, and we know that daily activity is good for our health; however, most of us still tend to lie down in our beds for the most of the day, smoke cigarettes and complain that Lay’s continuously puts 50% of air into their bag of chips. Why? It’s all matter of setting up our mind, and without a doubt, it’s not something we can change straight away, and something that once changed will work forever.

The time management method presented by David Allen in his most famous creation “Getting Things Done[2]Allen, D. (2001) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Penguin is being applied in my case for over a year and most importantly it gives practical results! I definitely observed doing more things that are out of my comfort zone, and I changed my life dramatically (successfully finished university, found first job etc.). No, you don’t have to be a wizard and all you need to do is to familiarise yourself with the following workflow:

Once a friend told me that there is no sense to note every single thing you want to do, such as making sure to feed your cats after coming back home. Right, it is something we aren’t likely to forget, but think of a brain as of the Random-Access-Memory (RAM). If you will need to remember about every little thing, you will only reduce your focus required in the current moment and at some time achieve lower results. Moreover, human brain works as a hybrid of RAM and hard disk, as such it tends to leak the data (forgets about stuff).

By writing everything down into your to-do list, you free your memory, just like you do with a task manager called by a combination of Ctrl+Alt+Delete on Windows. That way you can live the moment and achieve the highest performance! Arr!

### Todoist

Todoist is the ultimate app to manage your tasks, and initially, this post had to describe my way of using it solely, but I end up adding a little bit of background to it. I do not have any affiliation with the developers, I am just a thankful user who discovered this tool long ago through recommendations of people who I consider to be successful, so I merely thought that something must be in it.

I praise Todoist mainly for:

• autocompletion with integrated keywords
• cross-platform availability (I can even use it on my smartwatch)
• simplicity (offer of just the right features).

Below you can see the example of how I add a task to remember about publishing this post. You can notice, that Todoist automatically highlights the word “tomorrow”, which will pop up a notification on my phone the next day about a project assigned to the project “Website” with the highest priority “1”.

As such, to start with Todoist, I highly recommend spending some time on organising it, defining some projects and labels which will play a significant role. Don’t worry if you cannot figure it out in the beginning. After more than a year of using the app, I am still finding myself changing some of the settings.

It’s definitely worth organising your tasks, so in the end, as a reward, you will get a shiny report from the Todoist team. Just like I did!

Pro tip: If you want to add something that cannot be ever done, use “*” in the beginning. It might be useful for things that you just need to check regularly, but cannot complete.

#### Projects

To start with, you should organise your tasks into different projects. Trust me; you don’t want to keep all of them in the “Inbox”, same as all the e-mails that you would later like to find in the categorised folders. Whenever you write down a task, use “#” sign, and you will be able to remember about buying milk by assigning it into “Shopping” project.

Let’s take a look at what I applied in my case:

• Personal – store of all the personal duties, such as feeding my cat at 8 am
• Personal__loop – recurring tasks from the Personal category, such as doing my laundry each Saturday morning
• Events – project synced with a particular Google Calendar to display upcoming events
• Job – everything related to corporations, interviews etc.
• AKKA – tasks dealing with my employer (AKKA)
• Job__loop – recurring tasks from the Job category
• Website – things to do on my blog, such as publishing this post
• Tech – work to be done on my tech devices
• Tech__loop – recurring tasks from the Tech category
• Travel – let’s go for an adventure!
• Health – don’t forget to drink more Aloe Vera!
• Health__loop – recurring tasks from the Health category, such as weekly running sessions
•  Fun – what would be life without dancing like crazy once in a while?!
• Fun__loop – recurring tasks from the Fun category, such as watching new episodes of Mr. Robot
• Lend / Borrowed – do you remember about the 50 cents I lend you back in 2010 for the lollipop?
• Shopping – it’s 3rd day since I forgot to buy some milk
• Shopping__loop – this time I’ll not forget to recharge my seasonal train ticket
• Learn – learning materials to go through (mainly online courses)
• Data Science – time to watch some Andrew Ng <3
• Development – why is this JavaScript always so unpredictable?!
• Math – damn that calculus!
• French – il est temps d’améliorer mon français
• Personal Dev – come to me my dear soft skills
• Art – my piano can’t just stay there and collect dust
• To Check – this project replaces the popular Pocket application. All the videos of cats that I have to watch in my free time
• To Message – I can’t forget to call my mom in the morning
• To Be Contacted – same as that it’s 4th day since you didn’t reply
• To Receive – how long do I need to wait for you Amazon?!
• Update – links to websites that post some critical updates, such as leaks of new Skrillex tracks.

Remember: all the colours/emojis are optional and they are here just for the satisfaction of my eyes.

#### Labels

You can treat labels as hashtags which you might use to SPAM everyone on Instagram. It’s some additional option to categorise your tasks, and sometimes it’s pretty useful. In order to assign some tags to the activity, type “@” sign, and you will be reminded of your labels.

• doing – implement the “Personal Kanban” method to mark tasks in three categories: to do, doing and done
• maybe – should I, or should I not?
• quick – something that shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Something that takes less than 2 should be done straight away
• afk – Away From Keyboard. Anything that doesn’t involve my fingers on the keyboard / smartphone screen
• deep_work objectives requiring a great focus, unlike typical shallow work activities
• meeting – we need to talk
• music – la la la
• OneNote – the task is described in detail in OneNote
• GCal – tag automatically assigned by Google Calendar app, during the process of syncing with my calendar.

#### Filters/Priorities

There is no such thing as ‘I do not have the time’. This is all just a matter of priorities. Maciej Aniserowicz

Type “p” followed with a number “1,2,3 or 4” to prioritise your goals.

• p1 (must) – very important, I can’t go to bed without marking it as done
• p2 (should) – quite important, but I can survive without doing it
• p3 (could) – it would be great to do it
• p4 (blank) – meehhh… just a regular task.

#### Templates

If there is something that you go through continuously in the exact same structure, it’s worth to check out what are To-Do Templates. These are basically projects filled with tasks in a specified order that you can import and start ticking out. Personally, I prefer to store my templates in OneNote, such as the procedure of posting another article on my blog (unfortunately, it’s not only about writing few words and clicking “Publish”). The good thing is, that if you copy the list from OneNote and paste it inside Todoist using Ctrl+V, it will be automatically recognised and added in an organised way.

### Online Calendar

If you have Todoist Premium, you can head into “Settings –> Integrations” to get your personalised token (iCal). With this URL you can tightly integrate Todoist with Google Calendar, so whenever you open it up, you will also see your Todoist tasks planned for that day (as on the image below).

Before discovering to-do lists, I used to note everything in the form of events in my Google Calendar. Nowadays, I keep Google Calendar only for special events/meetings, which cannot be marked as done, but simply have to be attended, such as my upcoming flight for the graduation ceremony.

## Three Levels

We already know the way of keeping track of our duties, but there is one more issue. Let’s get back to the problem of finding out how to start doing. I think this is a topic for another post, but let’s try to describe it briefly. The idea of the system originally comes from the polish entrepreneur who constantly inspires me through his daily vlogs. Mirosław Burnejko (MiroBurn), who I am talking about, described the system not even once, well, he even designed an online course about planning your goals. I didn’t take part in it, as I follow him long enough to know what would he say, but if you understand polish and you are new to what is in this post, I highly recommend you to check it out.

Mirosław Burnejko was even so kind to share his list of goals publicly so that I couldn’t wait more but do the same. Taking a look at my list of goals, you can find the rules of the system and see my goals to achieve so you can verify my progress and inspire yourself to do the same. One of my friends already copied the template and applied it to his situation. You don’t even know how proud I felt!

I think everyone seen the image above. Yes, that might demotivate some of us, but you can forget about the lower part of it with the application of “Three Levels/Goals” system. It’s all about restructuring your mind. Let’s take an example: each of us would be feeling good about accomplishing 100 km run, right? Undoubtedly, and it’s not hard.

I’m crazy?

I assure you that I am not. If you start thinking of how to run 100 km, in the case when you never get outside to run short distances of 5 km, it will be definitely looking like the “Reality” part of the image above. So, how to transform it into the “Your plan” part? Using the discussed system, you will divide the 100 km run into 10 km run for the next year, 40 km run in 2 years and finally 100 km run in 4 years. It will be pretty straightforward once you start thinking about the small steps and learning how to achieve the easier bits. Once you do that (run the 10km and later 40), you will understand that running 100 km is the same what you did before, but you only need to continue applying the technique you already know for a longer time. That’s it! Recheck my list to have a practical example.

PS. This Sunday I am getting much closer to one of my goals: Marathon Runner. I’m going to take part in the 10 km Independence Day run in Rzeszow (“6. PKO Bieg Niepodległości“). It’s not the longest distance I used to run, but it’s my first run with more than two people (exactly 2000).

## Make up a daily routine

At least the morning part of the day; however, if you are strong enough, work on the night one too. Personally, I still struggle with the night section as it operates under its own law. Setting up a daily routine saves your daily dose of creativity such that you don’t have to think about what should you do every time you finish brushing your teeth. I’m not an expert, but I might tell you what kind of a system I apply at the moment so you can inspire yourself a little bit:

1. Wake up at a similar time each morning (similar with going to bed).
2. Take a shower.
3. Eat breakfast (make sure to know what you will eat the day before). Currently, I only drink bulletproof coffee and watch a daily coding interview solution by Kevin Naughton Jr. in the meantime.
5. Quick exercise (about 50 push ups/crunches).
6. Meditate for around 10 minutes (with a mobile app or without).
7. Read your affirmation and visualisation of goals.
8. Check social media/respond to e-mails. (limit it to maximum twice a day).

The presented schedule works just fine in my case, and it is highly similar for almost 4 months. Sometimes I tweak some stuff here and there, but currently, I am never getting tired of this ritual. Obviously, sometimes I run out of time or wake up late and I end up with just taking a shower. It’s okay, and I don’t feel like punishing myself as I can do some of the stuff in the evening.

Remember, you cannot eat an elephant in one bite. Everything requires time, patience and even more patience! Oh, and if you think that this all is a significant loss of time, I would advise you to re-establish your mind and consider the entire process as the installation of SSD disk which takes time, but later you end up being more focused and productive for the rest of the day.

Good luck in changing your habits, my dear!

## Extra resources

If you feel like that’s not enough, take a look at some of the resources that I have stored in my “Productivity” section of OneNote:

## Interested to know more?

This post is #1 of Productivity Series on this blog, and I’ve got in plans to write about other tools/techniques that I find useful in the time when I need to get stuff done. Please let me know in the comments down below if there is a specific topic that interests you and I will try to do my best in organising my thoughts for another post.

If you don’t have a clear-cut subject in which you would like to extend your experience, keep following this site, its fan page, sign up for the newsletter and wait patiently for me to correctly prioritise the tasks in order to create more content.

In the end, I wish you to fall into the “flow” as often as you want. It’s the state when you cannot stop doing the creative thing like programming even with a full bladder.

See ya and thanks for staying with me!

References   [ + ]

 1 ↑ Adams, S. (1992) Dilbert Comic Strip on Friday January 10, 1992 [online] available from 2 ↑ Allen, D. (2001) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Penguin

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Staying up-to-date with all the business aspects and at the same time trying to be innovative is quite a big challenge. Nowadays, the same applies to all the students, where the majority of graduates carries a higher academic degree, but struggles standing out in the eyes of recruiters. If so, how to win this game?

## Introduction

Business & Technology. Last time, these two terms stick to each other more than ever before, such that it became a standard for every university to offer “Business Intelligence” modules. We all know that the world moves faster than ever before, creating a more rapid variation of Moore’s law[1]Moore, G.E. (1998) ‘Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits’. Proceedings of the IEEE 86 (1), 82–85. So, how to stick to the current trends in order to prevent the failure or rise from it like Phoenix from the ashes? Well… first of all, we should hack our mind and start thinking how not to stick to the trends, but be ahead of the competition.

In the thumbnail/background image of this post, you may have noticed the term “World Business Experience (WBE)”. Sounds intriguing, but what is it?
Three days ago (27/09/2018) I have attended the all-day conference in Warsaw (), that did cost a little bit (~208 €), but just as every attendant, I will never regret spending any money for that time. The main star of the WBE was no one else but Gary Vaynerchuk who was preceded with dozens of different stories from other business winners. All of the presenters were so great that I had come home with a quite considerable pile of notes (pic), that I am trying to digitalise here, leaving the most fundamental framework.

Why did I decide to show up at the conference? What did I learn? What tools might help you with your business? My answer to all of these and more questions will be down below. Have a great time reading!

## Agenda

Let us start with summarising the core program of the day. My personal agenda would include much more activities (like waking up at 3 am for the bus , ouch!); however, let’s focus on the general timetable).

The agenda of the entire conference can be summarised into the 13 different presentations. All of the information can also be found on the official website of the event; however, I have let myself to write it again, presenting only the presentation parts (pure fruit flesh of the day) and translating their titles (at the moment of writing this post, the  version of the website returns my best friend – 404).

1. Grzegorz Turniak – Short networking session <— not exactly presentation, but a short introduction
2. Paweł Danielewski – “Small changes which are producing great results immediately. Marketing technologies for the 21st century”
3. Janusz Kamiński – “Building marketing strategies using many communication tools”
4. Marcin Osman – “Zero PLN Marketing – economy of gratitude in practice. Practical case study”
5. Rahim Blak – “Technologies of building your personal brand”
6. Jakub B Bączek – “How to create the industry of the future in Poland using business futurology, to make your business earn at least PLN 1 million a year and have no competitors?” <— this presentation was as massive as its title
8. Melanie Nelson – “Unstoppable business! Your business is only as good as yourself. Learn to master the common denominator of all your successes and failures”
9. Daniel Kędzierski – “How I earned 15 million in 3 years – Facebook Lead Generation”
10. Discussion Panel: Barbara Sołtysińska, Lech Kaniuk, Paweł – “The latest models of promotion on the Internet”
11. Cezary Lech – “How to use content marketing to boost sales?”
12. Łukasz Jakóbiak – “What to do, to start executing?”
13. Gary Vaynerchuk – speech + about 1.5h Q&A

Looks impressive, doesn’t it? Okay, now I will try to summarise the essence of that massive lineup.

I also encourage you to look into the work of Draw the words, who created summary infographics (in ) for most of the presentations.

## What I disliked in the conference and why small businesses fail?

The only part which I didn’t like in the entire conference was in the beginning. Before the networking session, where we had about 20 minutes to talk with “as many participants” as we can, the introducer (Grzegorz) showed off that he got +1500 connections on LinkedIn, which was a useful fact in his eyes. Well, it is at some point, but I always prefered to be only around those that matter the most and don’t necessarily mess my feed with irrelevant content.

The other thing that was the saddest to hear during the entire day was: “Networking is not for fun, but for money”. Afterwards, Grzegorz asked if we planned any goals for this day, such as “I will make 10 more contacts”, or the better one “I will look for as much inspiration as possible”. Yes, it is good to plan your day, but I don’t think that you should focus on numbers but quality when it comes to networking. I am mentioning all of that as this is one of the reasons why small businesses fail.

Keeping relations with people in your business just for the money may work in short, but not the long-term.Own idea

Thinking about what I just scribbled down, you might see, that the previous problem indicates that people do not plan their goals for years ahead. You might get inspired by visiting my “Three Goals” section on this website, where I encourage you to implement something similar. You might even copy my goals, and see how strong is your patience. Even if the goal sounds stupid, it might give you a significant advancement over your regularity.

Patience is another factor commonly mentioned by Gary Vee, together with gratitude, passion and happiness. You see, if you combine all of these, meaning that you work on something that makes you happy and keeps you focused, you need to stick to it. Master that skill and don’t stop on your failures as everyone has to face them one day. Remember, without them, you will never learn. Moreover, don’t look for encouragement from others and do what you like. Don’t be scared of what others will think. People hate change, as we are taught in schools to follow the given rules in order to be safe and harmless to the world. Without a drastic transformation, you might at most be given a chance to live better by winning a lottery (but even that requires some effort to be in the prize pool). If you got someone who will support you in what you do (and it is not your mom), you have to understand, that it is better not to lose relation with this person, as it is rare to find someone like this.

The other mistake people make in general is complaining. Complaining about everything – business problems, politics, education system, lack of time, headache. Listen, understand that everyone got some problems, even people who you consider to be successful. Now think, that if you come up to them with your complaints, they need to listen and store more issues in their head patiently. Maybe that can sound cruelly, but this is like spreading an invisible virus that makes other people unsatisfied in a slow process.

How to live then? Stop complaining? The solution is to start making the change from yourself. If you begin these micro wins, people around you will hopefully get inspired and do the same! I am the living example of someone who followed my inspirations long enough that today I am inspired to write this post for you on my own blog. You got the point; now I hope that you will be able to change at least a little bit in yourself. Most probably you already know that you are the sum of 5 people you spend the most time with, so now turn it the other way round and think about such a recursion “I want to motivate the 5 people that spend the most time with me, who will motivate another 5 people, who will motivate another 5 people (…)”. Indeed, that has vast potential, but we need to start executing from ourselves!

Do not look for approval in everything you do! Stop watching the evening news that makes you miserable (you will notice that you are not going to die, not knowing what is going on in the world)! By the way, thinking that you are going to die is one of the best motivations.

Cool. Enough of coaching. Let’s talk a little bit about what happened during the day.

## What did I learn?

### Notice the trends and predict them

Why do companies like to invest in business/data analytics? To notice what are the trends in the market and own organisation.

Why do companies like to hire data scientists? To predict the future; however, the data won’t always indicate it right and might be futile.

The other way to get that information is to listen to someone with experience, like Jakub B Bączek, who introduced three upcoming trends. The sooner you act upon them, the more advantage you will have over your competitors.

1. Migration of multi-culture caused not only by the global warming.
Description: here in Poland we might expect to have more and more immigrants over the year who will come from different ethnicities. That will be partly caused by politics and partly by the global warming near the equator.
Solution: start modifying your business to satisfy immigrants from tier 3 (figure below). You can do that for example by offering multilanguage support and diversity of products.
2. Technologization —> AI —> dying professions.
Description: 47% of jobs in the US are in the risk of extinction (99% call centre, 98% judges, 97% cashiers, 96% chefs, 94% waiters, 89% drivers (…)
but less than 1% of archaeologists
Solution: prepare to learn something that won’t be automated in the near future. These are mostly professions that include emotions (motivator).
3. Welfare —> civilization diseases (overweight) —> loss (depression).
Description: rapid growth in IT causes civilisation diseases, making people feeling lost.
Solution: diversify your business for diversity, be innovative and solve global problems. Maybe you can get inspiration from the following graph:

Gary also added something from his observations, that were connected with the  market.

• use Facebook/Instagram adds till they are cheap. Yes, especially here in Poland. You should do it now as later when big brands start investing in social campaigns, you will lose spending waay too much into sponsored posts. You might want to Google “how to make FB adds for cat food” if you are about to compete with Whiskas.
• promote yourself with podcasts. About 80% of the attendants raised their hand when Gary asked: “Who is listening to podcasts nowadays?”. And you know what? Only 13 people did it when he modified the questions and asked: “Who listened to podcasts 3 years before”.

### Give, give, give

Implement the principle of gratitude: give, give, give, ask. This rule is more specifically explained in “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” book by Gary[5]Vaynerchuk, G. (2013) Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World. First edition. New York, NY: Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Remember, you should be grateful that people spend their time on consuming YOUR stuff as they could have been doing something else, like watching cat videos. Time is more important than money and you should know that.

Don’t stop on making some good content as it is the drug that works.

### Be innovative, be a rebel

This advice was given not only by Marcin Osman but Jakub B Bączek, who was one of the first one to get standing applause. Indeed, he was one of the best speakers together with Łukasz Jakóbiak from the 20m2 YouTube show. Lack of innovation is also one of the reasons why businesses fail, simply look on Facebook who took didn’t leave any chance to Google+ service.

Rahim Blak is a great example of the rebel. Do you know that Rahim was one of the firsts to “sell himself” by having his personal token? He received a lot of critic about it; however he didn’t care and in the end, he is proud of himself.

People are scared of things that are unknown… so try to do them! Big brands work comfortably with uncomfortable stuff and this is why they succeed. Moreover, remember that creative leaders are rebels.

New levels bring new devils. Stay unapologetically committed to your goals and let go of anyone who poisons your spirit.Steve Maraboli

Did you know that to be recognised Łukasz Jakóbiak hanged a huge CV next to the headquarters of EMI Music Poland?

### Don’t waste time looking for the right tools

Another important advice from Marcin Osman. This was repeated in his slides many times, as so many of us stop doing what we want because we don’t have the right skills or tools yet. His example was that we stop ourselves from recording vlogs looking for the expensive camera, which we cannot even use properly. So how to record? Use your mobile phone, eventually with an external microphone. Yes, you read it right. Do you know that most of Marcin’s content was recorded with his iPhone, such as his most popular video (below)?

As you see, the quality is great. He did mention external microphone as people prefer to understand your voice than to see you well. You don’t need anything better as you won’t even know how to use it and you will lose your time researching the right camera + lots of money. By the way, as you might see “Don’t drink latte for 15 PLN” on the thumbnail is done on purpose. It is controversial, and that is what gains views.

### Focus on video

“In five years, Facebook will be probably based only on video” ~ Cezary Lech.

How to find what is popular? If you look into the YouTube channel of Gary Vee and sort it by his most popular videos, you might notice that what sells is motivation. That is why you might consider advertising your product with a dose of motivation in the add.

Listening to all the presentations, I have noticed the word video regularly. The mix of visual graphics, audio and text is something that is the most comfortable to consume, and it is much easier than before to produce it. You will find the list of video tools down below in the “Tools” chapter.

#### Ads don’t have to be boring

Yes, it is an ad, yet so enjoyable to watch. Okay, let’s analyse the magic of why it got 34,870,317 views so far and is entertaining.

1. Get attention (0:00)
2. Indicate the problem (0:16)
3. Strengthen the problem (0:25)
4. Present the solution (0:37)
5. Present the product (0:53)
6. Present the results and benefits (1:20)
7. Call to Action (CTA) (1:45)
8. Social proof (1:53, 2:04)

### Money = happiness

We shouldn’t lie to ourselves. It is bloody true. Imagine someone riding his Jet Ski on clear water with dolphins jumping around. It was a good point given by Melanie Nelson.

However, when you pursue your goals remember that health is your #1 asset! Personally, I am not sure how, but I survived my busy last year of master’s degree in the UK. I do know, that if I didn’t follow the most typical healthy rules such as eating fruits, I could have been in hospital by now.

### Build a marketing campaign

Paweł Danielewski introduced one of the most efficient marketing frameworks.

• promote the motivational video to gain customers.
2. Get micro-actions (check “Tools” chapter below)
4. Convert your contact into a client
5. Double the excitement

One more tip given by Paweł was to use the QUIZ method. Instead of a classic registration form to the newsletter (like on my website), you might start with asking an encouraging question. For example, what is your favourite car brand and what colour would you choose. After that, present the user with the registration form. Statistically more users might end up with registration.

Another tip is to include your phone number below the form as some customers prefer to solve everything by calling you.

#### Automate

Afterwards, Łukasz Kamiński presented few ideas of what we can automate in our marketing campaign:

• progressive forms
• dynamic offer
• message cycles
• client segmentation
• segmentation after clicks
• automatic direction to the document
• recommendation systems like Amazon e-mails (“Recommended cat toys as you bought Whiskas”)

Client segmentation for the automation purpose may be divided into three categories:

• hot (very little number of clients who will buy your product, no matter what)
• warm (you need to talk with them a little bit)
• cold (most of the clients who are the hardest to convince)

#### CUBE Marketing System

CUBE = Client, Understand, Beginning, Effect

Łukasz also let us take a picture of his secret practical table (filled with examples) that might help you deal with your customers:

 Place, where is he now? Place, where he wants to be? Who will he become if he buys that? What will he lose if he won’t buy it? Professional challenges sitting job, stress at the job, challenges, integration problems, learning cooperation in the team energy for action, integration with a team, better score, promotion becoming creative, fulfilled chance for promotion, chance for a better job Social challenges anxiety, closure attractive in the eyes of others, relations interesting hobby, more valuable social promotion, chance of networking Personal challenges fear of flight, health problems better condition, being fit being happy, having a passion chance of personal development What does he buy? Why does he buy? (Reason) Why does he buy? Who buys? What can cause that he will not buy? confidence, passion, trust to others localisation, instructors to feel better, to meet someone new, to take care of health students, active people, multisport, sitting job localization, price, commitment

Obviously, there is a golden rule given by Gary to every aspect.

Parents raise children for themselves, to look good in the eyes of others, not for the kid. This is the problem that also applies in business.Gary Vaynerchuk

There are 3 most important Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to measure in your business:

1. CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) – try to raise
2. CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) – try to lower
3. Daily sales

If CLV < CAC you need to reconsider your actions.

### Build a personal brand

Be a rebel, be original, be innovative. Yes, that is important.

Rahim also mentioned what the technology of building a personal brand is.
content —> facts —> value —> goal —> call to action (ask question)

Act this way, and you will be one of the best marketers.

But how and when to start? First, you should choose a platform, and you got mainly two choices:

1. Blockchain – trust in technology. When something happens, nothing is lost. It’s a distributed data platform
2. Traditional market – trust in the institution

Now it is up to you where you decide to invest. Keep in mind that it is good to be innovative.

#### Invest in yourself or the brand?

Do you know Elon Musk? He has dozens of great companies, but if you would be able to choose, would you invest in him or the brand, such as Tesla? Rahim claims that it’s better to invest into a human, not the brand. Why? Because:

• most companies are not dividend
• a lot of projects fail, whereas the human is constantly developing

### Decide quickly

Piotr Bijańśki explained that the traditional business model looks somehow like this:
idea —> realisation —> sale —> profit

It is not bad; however, we might fall into the perfectionism problem and never start the business. So what to do now? Let’s reconstruct the model:
idea —> sale —> profit —> realisation

This way, you might have more mistakes, but what to learn on, than not on mistakes?

### Be real!

Remember to be aware of your business! Are you actually increasing your level of happiness? If the answer is no, what is the point of doing it, as you will be wretched in the long run.

Moreover, think about focusing on the core duties of your business. Try to eliminate, automate and delegate what is possible. Yes, automation can free you from answering the same question 20 times a day from your customers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t mean that implementing more and more popular Messenger bots will increase the profit. The point of this message is that you should understand that even with the use of the most advanced Artificial Intelligence it is still hard to write something that will be directed towards that single customer. Moreover, remember that AI introduces a high risk of extinction to jobs such as those mentioned before (the ones that not necessarily include human emotions).

### Start from today

What to do, to start executing? Here is a solution presented on the example of Łukasz Jakóbiak:

1. Have goals (like me )
2. Be aware
• meditate
• think about death and how little time you have
4. Be consequent
5. Work

Most importantly… TRY, TRY, TRY!

You don’t have money to start the business? Public funds are a potential means of payment (it only costs your time). Maybe I will talk about it in depth in a different post as it wasn’t the part of WBE.

Melanie Nelson also introduced a similar framework:

1. Have clear goals
2. Stick to them
3. Rinse and repeat!

What about Gary? He wasn’t worse too:

Be patient, be humble. Business is like: hole, hole, hole, victory, hole, hole, hole, victory (…). Look at Michael Jordan who is considered to be successful although he missed many shots. No one is perfect.

## Why you should attend this kind of events?

I would love to present how this day looked like from inside; however, I didn’t record anything that day, apart from taking few pictures.

If you would like to have some more visual relation from the event, you might want to watch MiroBurn vlog from this day. If you are reading my blog, you might notice that he is one of my inspirations and I was lucky to finally talk to him after following his online activity for about 2 years. Same like Andrzej Krzywda and Maciej Anisrowicz. And this is one of the reasons why you should attend business conferences – you might find your inspirations and practice your networking skills.

Most importantly you will get inspired. I hope that with this post you did feel a little bit, as this is a point of it to share all the exceptional values I was given.

Oh, you might also receive some free goodies, like stickers and a great magazine.

## Tools

The primary and most important tool is probably in your hands at the moment or if you are reading this on a desktop computer, perhaps in your pocket. Yes, it is your mobile phone which begun to be the standard of the IT world. It can be proved even with my little website, where 56% of the readers use their smartphone to read the posts. I am actually surprised that tablet is still being used (1%), but hey, if you are reading it on your tablet, let me know yourself. I would like to discuss with you how comfortable it is browsing the web on tablets nowadays.

Remember, that if you make your website, it should be responsive, like this one, so it scales appropriately for smaller (mobile) screens. Yes, for the tablets too.

Now to the essence of this subchapter. Here is the list of all the tools mentioned during the day:

• Get micro-actions
• BuzzSumo <— analyse what content performs best for any topic or competitor
• visit any Facebook fan page and check “Info and Ads” to see their ads. Here is a Humble Bundle advertising campaign for example. <— now you got open cards of the advertising game!
• Zapier <— move info between your web apps automatically (between FB and phone)
• 10 tools to create video
• fiverr <— purchase great videos from freelancers (for quite cheap)
• RPM <— find polish lectors
• Voicebooking <— find any lector
• VideoScribe <— whiteboard animation software
• Promovideo <— animated video maker
• Animoto <— make great videos. Easily
• Videohive <— video effects and stock footage
• Lumen5 <— transform articles into videos in minutes
• wave.video <— remember that 1:1 (format of Instagram posts) is the golden middle
• Kapwing

Unfortunately, that is all from the specific links. The entire conference focused on proposing precise workflows, not the tools; however, I might publish a different post about online business management as I feel like you might benefit from some of my practices. For now, I have stored many resources, but I would only like to recommend the stuff which I have verified and compared to all the alternatives.

Anyway, you shouldn’t care about the tools as much. They are just tools. Sometimes you need to be patient and not change or judge them. The most critical tool is between your ears, and without mastering it, all of the arsenal will become useless.

## Summary

It was a great day indeed. What else can I say? I hope that you got something useful from this article.

It might seem like business presentations include some coaching in it; however, there is no clear way to success, but motivate yourself and just do it.

Coming back to the question contained in the title of this blog post, is modern business complicated? I think each of us should answer it individually; feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section

When that comes to me, I think the most challenging part comes not in finding out what we want to do, but how much dedicated we become to it. You see, knowing the future trends I have just explained, it is just the matter of fixing the stuff in your head and doing something that continually brings you closer to the success. All the people know that smoking is unhealthy, but they still do it, right? To be specific, modern business is definitely more diverse than before, but if you pay attention to what is going on in the market, it becomes easy and requires you only to work with patience and learn from the inevitable failures.

So what to wait for? Have a little time for yourself, take a walk and start changing the world for better!

An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.Reid Hoffman

Good luck my entrepreneur!

References   [ + ]

 1 ↑ Moore, G.E. (1998) ‘Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits’. Proceedings of the IEEE 86 (1), 82–85 2 ↑ Western, D. (2018) Gary Vaynerchuk – Happiness [online] available from 3 ↑ Blue Ocean Team (2018) The Three Tiers of Noncustomers [online] available from 4 ↑ Arina, T., Sovijärvi, O., and Halmetoja, J. (2018) Aspects of Physical Exercise [online] available from 5 ↑ Vaynerchuk, G. (2013) Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World. First edition. New York, NY: Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 6 ↑ WP Finanse (2010) Olbrzymie CV Zawisło w Warszawie [online] available from 7 ↑ Turner, D. (2013) There Is No Failure. Only Feedback [online] available from
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