My kind of problemSat, 20th Sep '08, 11:00 am::
I love tackling problems whose solutions appear to be the opposite of their true complexity. In other words, I love solving problems whose solutions appear to be very simple but are actually quite complex. And I love solving problems whose solutions appear to be very complex but are actually quite simple. A problem of the first type is automated image/video recognition. It seems so simple, after all, babies can recognize their parents within months of birth and yet the most powerful computers have trouble recognizing individual people and objects in a video footage. On the other hand, untangling a ball of strings seems like an impossible task but if you are patient, it's actually quite simple. What I don't much care for are problems that seem simple and are simple, like solving most of the newspaper quizzes and mind-puzzles, and problems that seem complex and are complex, like nuclear physics, banking regulations, and e-commerce websites. The problems themselves are neutral and have no good or bad values associated with them, it's just that they don't interest me personally or worse yet stifle my creativity.
Earlier this morning, Juliet entangled one of her necklaces and handed it over to me while making one of those cute girlie-pout faces. She didn't realize that she had just jumped started my morning. It took me under five minutes to untangle the necklace and that made her happy and me sad. I was kind of hoping it would keep my mind busy for at least twenty minutes. I remember a couple of years ago my sister showed me her Newton's Cradle with fine threads that were mangled beyond recognition. It took me over an hour to slowly resolve the mess and in the end, the cradle was completely functional and I felt extremely satisfied.
What's the point of me writing all of this today? The point is that if you recognize and identify the kind of problems you like to tackle, then you can selectively work on things that excite you instead of draining the life out of you. I don't want to work on yet another YouTube, Facebook or E-Trade. I don't want to fix a broken car engine. I don't want to take IQ tests or play memory games. I want to work on problems that fool me into thinking they are too easy when they are not because I like challenges that aren't clear-cut from the beginning. And I think I have a couple of them lined up for me right now. How about you?
I had a pretty busy weekend. On Friday, Juliet and I went to see Tropic Thunder (one word review: hilarious) and then went to Tampa to hang out with her school friends at a bar/nightclub. Early morning Saturday (that would be about 11am), we signed up for a joint bank account. I can't believe I procrastinated so long to get that done. That brings me to the main activity of my weekend, a new application I'm still working on called untodos that learns about your personality and helps you manage your todo list based on your quirks. If every person is unique and quirky, then why does every task planning software treat us all the same? untodos learns about your personality and tries to assist you in better managing your life todos. It won't replace Outlook and complex calendaring software for everyone but I know it will help me sort out the tons of things I have to do in life. It's not fully done yet but do let me know what you think of it so far. It's completely functional and usable, just doesn't have the "smart" features yet. You are welcome to check it out for yourself and sign up for a free account.
Amidst all the programming, we also watched Spiderman 3, played with the gliders, had lots of yummy foods, and just sat in the Florida room for hours watching the turtles, and talked about life in general. Our lives are exhausting but good. I just have to make sure I don't lose sight of the good things while chasing the important ones. Hopefully, untodos will help me with that.
I'm not famousWed, 3rd Sep '08, 7:05 am::
Someone on reddit asked, "How are you famous?" As I expected, most people started listing their best accomplishments or personal anecdotes of importance. I thought I'd chime in with some of the cool things I've done over the years that got some media attention. It was while listing my accomplishments did I realize how trifling they were in the grand scheme of things.
I've had an article written solely about me on WSJ.com last year and was on the front-page of wired.com (with my pic) for about three days earlier this year. I've had newspaper and magazine articles written about me since age 16. One of my websites was reviewed on G4TV. My apps have been showcased in magazines all over the world, from Germany to Philippines.
Yet I don't consider myself famous, because I'm really not. Internet-fame is different from real fame. Internet-famous people have their own Wiki pages. Famous people have their own villas in France. We often forget there is a distinction between the two, especially when discussing it online. It has less to do with the amount of money you make and more to do with long-term personal relationships you build.
People with a website and an audience often forget that their audience is in a constant state of flux, just yearning to stumble upon something interesting and entertaining, be it via unconventional 'blog posts, established news outlets, or even email forwards. The fact that you have a daily readership of 20,000 or even 350,000 means nothing if the relationships stop at the keyboard. Of the millions who have downloaded my software over the past decade, there is exactly one person I consider a real friend. The rest were users who sent me valuable feedback.
Instead of making applications and websites that millions come across, I could have volunteered at a local charity and touched the hearts of just two people. That would be twice the number of real, long-lasting connections I've made in a decade spent writing code online. However, this doesn't mean I regret any of this. I will continue to make useful and useless applications for all to see and click around. I will try harder to come up with more interesting ideas to waste people's time in the hope that my little website makes someone's day. What I will stop doing is assuming that just because I am internet-famous, I am indeed famous or have done anything significant to impact the lives of many. Linus and Guido have, I haven't. I still have a lot to accomplish. As Shakespeare wrote, "Why, then the world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open."