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Usability Testing on 10 Cents a Day

I just read Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and while I really liked the whole book, what especially stuck out was the chapter on usability testing as often as possible.

It doesn't need to be an expensive or time intensive process - just grab 3 people for 45 minutes each, pay them 50$, show them your website or app and ask them to use it while thinking aloud. Maybe give them a few simples tasks to do.

Repeat this process regularly - say once a month - and you should be able to catch a significant fraction of the usability problems on your site very cheaply.


Standing Automation

I've had a standing desk at work for a long time, but I've always felt that I wasn't using it enough, that I still spent most of my timing sitting.

This week I finally decided to do something about it.

LV-MAXSONAR-EZ1

I bought a small sonar sensor (LV-MaxSonar-EZ1), hooked it up to an Arduino and added a little Python script to sample the sensor once a minute.

The sonar is mounted to my table and measures the distance to the floor, and with ~3 cm accuracy it's very easy to distinguish whether I'm sitting or standing.

Since the Sonar happily runs of 5V, I just connected its power input pins directly to the VCC and GND pins of my Arduino. Conveniently it also provides the measured distance as analog voltage on a pin, I just connected that to A0 on the Arduino.

The Arduino code to ...


Big Problems

After having been sidetracked by AlphaGo for nearly a year, I finally had some solid thinking time for myself today. Mostly inspired by an interview with Yanis Varoufakiscache and a remark he made about why we need basic income, I started thinking about the big problems our world has and what I can do about them. These are from my perspective as a privileged first world citizen in the 1%, my aim is to identify the steps that are necessary to bring us to the next level as a species.

As an example - there are two ways you can solve global water shortage due to farming. Either try to work with farmers locally in each case and try to help them become more sustainable, or make nuclear fusion production ready, desalinate water on a large scale, grow crops underground with LED lightingcache where they are needed. This post ...


Distractions

Reddit, Hacker News, Tumblr, Twitter, Imgur, Netflix, YouTube. The onslaught of pseudo information and conversation is relentless, it's easy to get lost in the comments. Feeling as if you are learning a something new all the time, a little gem in every post.

Somewhere along the way our natural curiosity and joy of learning has been hijacked and we waste away our lives reading and responding to useless chatter that seems useful and educating.

Every spare moment is filled by a quick glance to our smartphones, no time for thought and introspection left at all. Yes, that one post was very entertaining and spending half an hour reading all the comments sure felt interesting, but at the end of the day, what did you actually learn, what will you remember of it tomorrow?

Maybe waiting for five minutes on the tube with nothing to do but let your thoughts ...


AlphaGo - Lee Se-dol

After 5 long and exciting games AlphaGo finally managed to win 4:1 against the legendary Lee Se-dol, the first time in history a computer program managed to defeat a 9 dan professional player in an even match. And not just any 9 dan player, probably the best player of the decade. It was even awarded an honorary rank of 9 dan professional itself!

Obviously we are all extremely proud of this achievement, you can find out more about the details in our Nature paper. Most importantly, we still used roughly the same amount of hardware! This was a true algorithmic improvement compared to the Fan Hui match, really relying on the strength of deep neural networks, not just applying brute force.

If you want to relive the excitement or just study the games, you can watch recordings of all the matches in the DeepMind YouTube channelcache (these also ...


Mastering the Game of Go with Deep Neural Networks and Tree Search

Today we published our paper on beating the human state of the art in Gocache, the only major board game where humans (or at least top professionals) could still beat computers. No more. Our program AlphaGo achieved a 99% winning rate against the strongest existing Go programs, and defeated the human European champion by 5 games to 0.

(That's me playing at 0:10)

The first major breakthrough in computer Go - after remaining at weak amateur level for decades - came with the advent of Monte Carlo Tree Searchcache (MCTS) around 2007, massively improving playing strength. Still, Go programs remained much weaker than strong human players and started to plateau again fairly soon - Crazy Stone's feat of defeating a professional player with 4 (!) handicap stones in 2013 remained unsurpassed since 2013.

There are many reasons Go is difficult for computers - a huge state space (10^171 vs ...


Nutrition Information

Recently, I ran across a very useful website: Examine.comcache. They collect and summarize studies about many common nutrients and supplements. If you were wondering whether to take Vitamin D or what to think about creatine, this is the website to check.


A Book of Life

Inspired by Kaue's book about lifecache, I've decided to collect my experiences and the various lessons I've learned in one place and write down generally applicable advice.

Without further ado, the Book of Life.

Why post it on this blog instead of using Google Docs or something similar?

  • Full control of the platform. This is intended to be around as long as I'm alive.
  • No problems with link rot. Thanks to the Pelican plugin I built, a copy of every page I link to is automatically saved to my blog so it can be viewed when the original is not available anymore.
  • Indexed by Google Search. As this is also a collection of notes I might want to refer to in the future, having it easily searchable is great. (Yes, Docs has search, but not as powerful as normal web search).

There is the downside ...


Tidy your Life

I just finished Marie Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forevercache, but even before I was halfway through I couldn't stop myself from reorganizing half my room and finally disposing of many clothes I hadn't even looked at in two years.

I had always considered that I could just let things sit at the back of a shelf until the next time I moved flat and then I'd finally get rid of them, but while tidying yesterday I realized that I actually had many nice clothes I'd wanted to wear that I simply had forgotten about because they were obscured by all the obsolete ones.

Think of it in terms of software engineering: you want to refactor old code and clean up your codebase, otherwise you accumulate lots of technical debt. It's similar in your house ...


Cardboard Photography

Google just recently introduced Cardboard Cameracache. If you haven't tried it, do, it's amazing. It's the closest I've seen to transporting somewhere back in time to wherever you took the picture. I've used it with friends, parents, even grandparents, and always it is equally amazing to see the delight on their faces when they realise that they can see exactly what I saw when I was there; they can truly feel like they are part of the scene.

While the Cardboard Camera app includes a few sample images, it can often be difficult to get a sense of whether you'll be able to take such high quality images yourself. To that end, here's two pictures I've taken myself with minimal experience, and on the first try:

Desert Panorama

Courtyard Garden

To view these in Cardboard, first install the Cardboard Camera app, then save the photos ...

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