On this page:
  • Yay! I rocked - (2)
  • Categorical imperatives versus genetic algorithms - (8)
  • Index cards - (3)
  • Weekly review: Week ending September 19, 2014
  • Learning from the Alternative Uses Task - (2)
  • Programming and creativity - (2)

Yay! I rocked

I’ve been working long hours over the past few weeks, getting ready for an event that wrapped up yesterday. It worked out really well. Yay!

I picked up AngularJS for this, and I’m glad I did. Angular made it really easy to update parts of the page with data and bind various events to clicks. It would’ve been pretty hard to do it without a framework like that, I think, what with all the changes.

My brain is still a little frazzled from the concentration. We did a lot of prep leading up to the event in order to prepare for stuff, and I did some quick fiddling during the event to troubleshoot. Good to make things happen!

It’s nice to downshift from the intensity of the event. We have a few things to take care of, but now I can carve out more time to cook, to write, to draw. It was great to know that even with the long days and focus, I had enough sleep and enough energy. =) W- kept things going at home, and I trimmed practically all the discretionary stuff. Now that my schedule’s loosened, I’m looking forward to picking up what I temporarily put aside.

On to more adventures!

Categorical imperatives versus genetic algorithms

I was thinking about why I like thinking in terms of experiments, and how that’s related to how I generally don’t have strong disagreements with people.

I think most people I spend time with have a “live and let live” sort of policy similar to mine. We explore different life paths and have different opinions, but that’s okay. It results in more information and more insight.

Sometimes I come across people who express their opinions more strongly. Reading Reddit posts about people dealing with strong and probably well-meaning advice reminds me that there are people out there who are firmly convinced they know what’s good for you. I know I sometimes slip into that kind of advice-giving mode myself, especially around things that give me heebie-jeebies.

2014-09-12 Categorical imperatives versus genetic algorithms

2014-09-12 Categorical imperatives versus genetic algorithms

I like the idea that most of us are figuring things out in good faith. I haven’t thought through the limits of this idea yet (one’s choices might limit someone else’s, for example), but there might be something there worth exploring.

Index cards

I’ve been drawing more on index cards than in sketchbooks lately. I keep a stack of index cards on my bedside table, and I have a few more in my belt bag. Index cards are great because they really can contain only one thought, so they’re not at all intimidating to start. I know I’ll finish the card. Index cards are also sturdier than the small notepad I carry around, and since I’m not tearing off pages, I don’t have to worry about fiddly little paper bits. Compared to index cards, a 8.5×11″ sheet feels like such a generous expanse. Although the extra space of a sketchbook lets me get deeper into a topic, it also sometimes results in half-drawn pages when I’m distracted by another thought or something that I need to do.

2014-09-10 Index cards

2014-09-10 Index cards

So maybe that suggests a new workflow for developing ideas. I can start by brainstorming topics on an index card. Then I can pick some ideas to flesh out into index cards of their own, and from there, to sketchbook pages. Blog posts can explain one sketch or collect several sketches, and they can link to previous posts as well.

2014-09-10 Possible workflow for developing ideas

2014-09-10 Possible workflow for developing ideas

This should help me think in bigger chunks

Weekly review: Week ending September 19, 2014

Lots of work getting ready for a big event. =) Surprisingly still managed to get a lot of sleep, at the cost of giving up other discretionary activities. But it’s for a good cause, and it’s temporary anyway.

Blog posts

Sketches

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

Wow, almost 60 hours of consulting. And lots of sleep, actually – 9.3 hours on average, with a 13-hour stretch on one of those days. Intense thinking makes my brain tired. =) Hardly any discretionary time, but that’s okay; sprint, not marathon. More delivered food than I’ve had the rest of the year, I think. So this is what my schedule looks like when I pare it down to the essentials so that I can focus on work…

  • Business (62.3h – 37%)
    • E1: Prepare for stuff
    • Earn: E1: Big event
    • Earn (57.5h – 92% of Business)
    • Build (3.4h – 5% of Business)
      • Drawing (1.9h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.1h)
      • Paperwork (1.4h)
    • Connect (1.3h – 2% of Business)
  • Relationships (4.6h – 2%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (2.8h – 1%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
    • Pay Mastercard
    • Writing (1.3h)
  • Discretionary – Play (1.0h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (20.6h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (11.3h – 6%)
  • Sleep (65.4h – 38% – average of 9.3 per day)

Learning from the Alternative Uses Task

There’s a creativity test called the Alternative Uses Task, where you’re asked to come up with as many different uses as you can for an everyday object (for example, a paperclip or a brick). I was thinking about it recently because I was curious about programming and creativity, and how my clients sometimes tell me, “I had no idea XYZ could be used for that!” (Javascript, AutoHotkey, etc.). I like coming up with alternative uses when programming, and for things in general. I was wondering how I could get even better at divergent thinking based on what I can learn from the research into it.

From “Evaluating the Alternative Uses Test of Creativity” (Caitlin Dippo, National Conference on Undegraduate Research, 2013), I learned that while the first few responses tend to be pretty common, the more responses you make, the more you tend to come up with original ones. “Divergent thinking: strategies for generating alternative uses for familiar objects” (Gilhooly et. al, 2007) identified a number of strategies that people used when coming up with ideas: memory, property use (breaking it down into properties), broad use (looking at broad categories), and disassembly use (considering its parts). I also remembered the forced association tips from various creativity games – when you try to relate two different ideas together, your brain’s pretty good at filling in the gaps.

2014-09-10 Alternative Uses Task test

2014-09-10 Alternative Uses Task test

How can I use that to be more creative? Well, coming up with more answers helps – especially more different ones, not just variations on a theme. Elaborating on ideas and smooshing them together is fun, so I wonder how I can incorporate that kind of play into my learning – maybe through drawing, or brainstorming alternative uses for the tools and tech I have?

2014-09-10 Applying insights from the Alternative Uses Task Test and brainstorming research

2014-09-10 Applying insights from the Alternative Uses Task Test and brainstorming research

Hmm…

Programming and creativity

My client had been bringing me a constant stream of little technical challenges to solve. I pulled together different tools to make things happen: AutoHotkey, NodeJS, shared files, optical mark recognition, and so on. He said it was fun watching me figuring things out. It got me thinking about how programming can involve many different types of creativity. If you can tell the different types apart, you might be able to focus on improving some of those aspects.

2014-09-10 Programming - What does it mean to be creative?

2014-09-10 Programming – What does it mean to be creative?

Here’s a rough first pass:

  • Design: Probably the most obvious form of creativity in development, whether we’re talking about interfaces or architecture.
  • Imagining or anticipating needs: When people don’t even know what they’re missing
  • Imagining practical applications: Starting from the solution or from an available tool
  • Seeing gaps and being curious about possibilities: Maybe related to anticipating needs? More like, “Hmm, what if?”
  • Collecting components/capabilities and combining them: API functions, tools, etc. Like collecting puzzle pieces and then being able to dig up the right combination later on.
  • Making adapters: Smooshing different systems together.
  • Generating variants and other ideas: Coming up with different approaches, or coming up with variations on a theme.
  • Incorporating feedback and iterating effectively: Probably related to generating variants or shaping requirements, but also related to getting beyond vague requirements or too-concrete requirements.
  • Breaking things down and building a plan: Seeing the components and figuring out a good order.
  • Shaping requirements: Translating vague requirements/feedback or seeing past what people think they want.

Hmm…