I picked up my laptop 1000 times over the past few weeks and 1000 times I have put it away with blank pages for drafts. So today being a holiday, having a slow day and still in my pajamas, I thought I’d just pick it up and write whatever comes to mind. Writer’s block. The irony.
Writer’s block is staring at the blinking cursor on my blank page and becoming frustrated. Writer’s block is spending weeks looking for inspiration and coming up with nothing. Writer’s block is coming up with a topic for an article, getting two to three lines down then getting a brain fart and completely going blank. If you write, the you’ll realize it is the worst feeling a writer or an aspiring writer would experience. To be honest, it makes me dizzy.
I am picking up a few pointers on how to overcome it, or rather not let it take over my vibe. Here’s what I have on my list so far:
I do not mean climb a mountain, just sit outside your house or office, go for a walk, walk to somewhere instead of driving. Be outside and not inside a building or vehicle. This clears my head and helps me think straight without any frustrations. When it’s raining do the next best thing, watch a nature channel like national geographic. It’ll make you feel like you are outside 😛
Could be anything relaxing. A novel, a comic, or if you’re not much of a reader, watch something. Ideas tend to pop up when your mind is in its relaxed state.
Write down your topics
Writing down ideas for topics you’d want to explore and number them according to which one you’d want to start with, then start researching and writing drafts using pen and paper. As this process continues, you won’t even remember you had writer’s block.
Exercise and eat healthy
No, I am not trying to be a health guru, but my mind works best when my body is healthy, and I think that’s how the human body in general works. I bet it would be good for anyone. A healthy body = a healthy mind = an endless pool of ideas.
Read related content
Get inspiration from other writers. Could be blogs, books, magazine articles or videos. We don’t know everything. A little inspiration goes a very long way.
Lastly, a wise person once told me to just write. Take your notebook or your device and just write away. Whatever comes to mind, get it out. This post was not premeditated, planned, or thought of. I just took my laptop and started typing my fingers away.
Goodbye writer’s block, till next time. Hopefully not.
At some point in the lifespan of a laptop, it starts becoming excruciatingly slow. You may or may not know the reason why but either way, this makes you hate using that laptop that once excited you.
Here are a few reasons your laptop may be acting old and grey.
Too many programs running in the background.
There are some sneaky programs that start running on their own as soon as you turn on your computer making the start-up process a nightmare. Fear not though, this can be controlled by opening the task manager and ending all programs you think are unnecessary.
Full hard drive.
The reason may be as simple as you have too much stuff in your computer that you do not need. Get rid of it!! At least have 200- 500 MB of free hard disk space.
Sometimes we corrupt our hard disks without knowing. Remember in that first ever computer class when you were taught the procedure of shutting down a computer? Well that procedure happens to be quite important. Reasons for a failing hard disk may be:
Suddenly cutting off your computer’s power supply without a heads up.
Your hard disk may be infected with a virus.
The hard disk may be physically damaged.
Fixes for these issues are:
Following your first computer teacher’s instructions on shutting down properly.
Scan for malware.This can be done using malwarebytes, an antimalware software that finds and removes malware.
Scan for viruses. Have an antivirus installed or its equivalent like windows defender for Microsoft Windows which usually comes pre-installed.
I always install different apps on my phone much to its demur. When it complains of little space, I ignore that annoying notification and go on pressing “install” on whatever app I have in mind at that moment. It could be a recommendation from a friend, one that had good reviews, or a completely unnecessary one I found in my aimless wander through play store. Some of, actually most of them I never even open, let alone use. Those are the ones I uninstall to create room for the new exciting ones. However, there are some that I am so happy I came across. Here’s a list of my current favorite apps.
I have to admit, there is nothing I find more satisfying that crossing stuff off my to-do list. Looking at a list of tasks that are completed makes me so happy! My inner child does a little dance.I started using Wunderlist while in school and I was able to stay on-top of things the whole time. I would list my assignments, projects, presentations, set deadlines and reminders then just relax and not panic last minute.
My favorite part is that it has categories or folders, so I don’t have to mix personal tasks, work tasks and errands together in one long and very unappealing list. Every task has it’s own little folder.
Sigh of satisfaction. Pinterest is just an endless pool of ideas. I think I go to pinterest more times than to actual people for ideas. Saying that out loud makes me realize I need to reevaluate some aspects of my life. But it literally has everything: Color schemes, jokes, art, recipes, poetry… anything. I think it’s a really nice platform to share your ideas with the world. If you have not tried it, I think you really really should.
Sometimes I get bored of listening to music on my commutes but I would still want to escape to my own world with my earphones on. I discovered google podcasts just recently and have I loved every minute of it. It has a collection of different podcasts on so many different topics. It even has audio books for any book lovers out there.
Currently listening to the case book of Sherlock Holmes.
Aaaand…. I can download some episodes and have them offline so I don’t have to be connected to the internet whenever I want to listen to anything.
I love puzzle games. I try having one puzzle game at a time on my phone so I can finish it without being distracted by a different one. The one I am currently playing is Infinity Loop.
The challenge is to either disconnect an infinite shape made up of many tiny individual pieces until each piece is independent or to connect the same tiny individual pieces to make an infinite shape. Stuck on the latter’s level 11. It’s a good game to keep your brain’s juices flowing.
This is actually a technique. It does have an app which I uninstalled but still use the same theory with my timer. The Pomodoro technique is a time management method, where you break down your work into intervals of 25 minutes (called pomodoros), separated by short breaks of like 3-5 minutes. This has been life-changing because I have the attention span of a goldfish. I could be in the middle of writing code, then a few seconds later I find myself scrolling through my pinterest feed or looking for online shops with sales. It can get quite frustrating. Anyone going through the same would appreciate being able to stay focused for a whole 25 minutes without wandering off to Narnia. Plus it has made me so productive.
We are in the century when websites are the new posters. Hospitals have them, chefs have them, law-firms have them, schools have them, even some butcheries have them, literally every industry uses them. When anyone needs any information about something, they don’t even ask somebody, they go to the web and hope to find a website about whatever it is they want.
Building a website may or may not have a lot to it. Depends on what you really want at the end. Whether it is that first very simple website you built while you were learning web development or the super complex yet amazing netflix website. It mainly just depends on what you use in terms of the languages and frameworks.
Think of it this way, from potatoes, you can make over twenty dishes. Some exquisite, some boring, and some just alright. What you come up in the end depends on the ingredients you have, and to know which ingredients to use, you must have a vision (know what you want your end goal to be).
To Fry or not to Fry
You have with you a bowl of raw unpeeled potatoes and not exactly sure what to do with them. Will you make chips. mashed potatoes, home fries or something fancy like a potato salad?
Once you know what you want to create, (I like to make rough sketches), you need to figure out who your audience is. What are they like? What is their age group? What would they want to see…etc.This may actually affect your initial idea and take you back to the drawing board. No point in giving people what they would not like or want to use. That would be a waste of time, energy and a lot of investment. Besides, it beats the point of having one in the first place. Create with your audience in mind, just like you would cook with whoever is eating in mind.
With salt, pepper, onions, cheese, sour cream, bacon, potatoes of course and recipe from a cookbook you have yourself a delicious creamy potato salad, in your head.
Do I really need to?
After you know what you need and what to do, you may either get motivated by the challenge or discouraged by the tediousness of the process that awaits you, like the say, sometimes it is easier said than done.
This is the part where you decide whether you’re in our out. Will you challenge yourself to build the website from scratch / make that potato dish you have never made before?
If you choose to take the road to conquering Goliath and do it from the ground up, then pat yourself on the back. If you choose to go down the breezy road, then be grateful we are in the 21st Century where you do not have to be a chef to eat or serve an exquisite meal and you do not have to be a developer to build a top notch website.
You can always go to a restaurant or order take-out, and use website builders like wix and wordpress where what you may mainly do is just drag and drop elements however you like them to appear with the guidelines right in front of you.
Don’t be shy
There is this common notion many people tend to have that building websites is super complicated, and learning how to build one is rocket science. My few years in this field have taught me that this belief is all in the head.
Add to your skills by learning a few web development languages, test your eye for design by designing a website using a website builder.
You may just enjoy it and discover there is nothing much to it and not shudder whenever you hear about building one.
One day a few months ago I got an email about an interview I had taken for the position of software developer, I had gotten the job. I was thrilled, but only for a moment, then fear came over me. I had been used to the safe shell that was school, where all that was expected of me was only completed assignments and good grades. This was a complete change, and I was freaking out.
During these past few months, not only have I learnt a lot in programming, but also about myself. Still am.
To the person who is not familiar with it, programming may sound complex, complicated, convoluted, confusing, and any other word you can think of. Heck, I thought it was madness.
METHOD TO THE MADNESS
The long, endless, messy probably gibberish looking lines of code is only a means to an end. That end is finding a solution to a problem. Now that part seems familiar doesn’t it?
We face problems all the time in our daily lives. Problems are anything that need our attention. Like figuring out what to wear in the morning, or for an evening out, deciding what to make for your family for dinner, etc. The solutions to all these ‘problems’ are influenced by the circumstances and factors around at that moment. Dinner will depend on the ingredients that are available in the fridge and pantry. Our outfits this season are affected by the weather. In short, the solutions are the best and most efficient for that problem.
And that is basically what programming is. Finding the best solution to your problem, with what you have.
BUGS AND PULLING MY HAIR OUT
Some days if not most, I hit wall after wall after wall trying to point out bugs (flaws or abnormalities in a computer program) and to be honest it makes me feel like pulling my hair out then I remember that will be quite painful and unpleasant. Software development evolves around debugging (detecting and correcting bugs). Is it frustrating? Yes! But the feeling of accomplishment that comes after correcting that itty bitty error that caused your program not work is so satisfying. It even makes me smile for the rest of my day or night.
What I am learning to master to get me through a day of programming because for sure I will have to tear down some walls, is patience with myself. Sometimes we expect to know so much until we forget that we are human. Mastering your craft takes time. It took Leornado Da Vinci 2 years to complete the mural of the last supper, and 3 years to finish the Mona Lisa. No one can just wake up and expect to solve everything in a day. If you do, you will literally pull your hair out.
JOURNALING IN PROGRAMMING
I enjoy journaling. Writing down my thoughts, goals, reliving my day at night or just outright scribbling with no sense of direction. It puts my mind into perspective and makes me feel grounded.
It is so frustrating to go through someone else’s program that is undocumented. It’s like when someone asks you to meet them somewhere you have never been before and they don’t give you the directions. I would not want to put anyone through that, so I try my best to document my code to the point that anyone would understand and the fact that I enjoy journaling, this comes almost easily. No one programmer will work on one program for the rest of his/ her career. As it grows, you will probably have to bring in other people on board and since they were not with you from the birth of the software, they will not be familiar with almost everything. Explaining to your new team by word of mouth every single time is annoying and monotonous, so make your work easier by documenting it, and not just anyhow, but so that even non-developers can understand it.
Nobody would want to be left on a pitch dark road with no light and told to find their way home.
Documenting is the most important thing a developer would need to do. Think of it as a manual to a new device (though people rarely read manuals these days, anyway, it is the only reference I could think of.)
SMILE A LITTLE
Life is all about those little moments. Doing what makes you happy, feeling accomplished by the smallest of tasks like crossing off a to-do on your list. To stay in the best of moods while I am working, and even when I am not, I try to take note of every achievement. It may be irrelevant to my boss or any other person but it is of great significance to me. For instance I may be getting errors when I try to run a program and then spend hours trying to find what the problem was only to discover I had misspelt something in my code. Fixing that will not mean anything to anybody else, but it will for sure be one of the things that will make my day.
You’d be surprised by how much noticing the little things would make you extremely efficient at your work and even increase your concentration. Other than that, you will enjoy what you do and walking into the office everyday. Try it. Your life will be extremely simple without putting any effort.
Lastly, put yourself out there in terms of wanting to grow. Learn as often as you can and for sure you will not be disappointed.
It has only been a few months, but I have never been happier. Can’t wait to see what my next major milestone will be.
Creating products that would keep users interested for the longest time is probably the most difficult task entrepreneurs have to face, and unfortunately, it is not just a one time task. It is a concern that will always be there in the product’s lifetime, because ultimately, that probably determines the success of the product.
So the big question is, “How shall I get my users hooked?”
We all look at fortune 500 tech companies and think , “Wow!, how in the world do the manage to stay on top for years on end, what is their secret to global domination?” After research here and there, I realized it may be as simple as creating products that become habits, but then again, probably not so simple. What does that mean you may wonder.
Think about any social media app. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. In a day, how often are any of these apps opened? First thing in the morning after turning off your alarm, when stuck in traffic, while waiting in line, while in a boring class or meeting, literally any time and all the time, and the thing is, we don’t need a notification to remind us to check Twitter or open Instagram. This process of scrolling through endless feeds in our timelines has become so ingrained in our daily lives that if it was taken away, we would feel like something is missing.
The Hook Model.
Nir Eyal’s hook model describes what is needed to create a product forms a habit.
I’ll use my all time favorite app to explain how each step works.
The first step is what prompts the user to take action and it comes in two types. External and Internal triggers. An external trigger tells the user what to do next by placing the information within their environment. For instance, the huge login or signup forms on pinterest. This information is extremely clear on what I should do to either create an account or login to an already existing one. Or the pinterest app icon that’s on my phone screen.
Internal triggers however, work a little bit differently. We can’t see, touch or hear them. They instruct users on what to do based on conditioned memory and they sometimes take the form of negative emotions like boredom, lonliness, frustration, indecisiveness etc. I always go to pinterest probably whenever I need an outfit idea, or hairstyle idea, or a recipe, or when I am just bored. I aimlessly scroll though the infinite amount of feed that’s available on my timeline. These internal triggers are what forms habits and influence our daily routines. Figuring this out is probably the golden goose to a successful product.
Behavior in anticipation of a reward. A trigger determines the action. However, one must make sure that the action is extremely easy to perform. Action is determined by three motivators;
Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
Seeking hope and avoiding fear.
Seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.
and it is influenced by time, money, brain cycles, physical effort, social deviance and non-routineness. I do not have to check pinterest at a specific time of day, and all there is to it is just sliding my finger on my screen either up or down, right or left. And for as long as I keep scrolling, new pins appear on my timeline without having to lose time. This is a typical example of gaining reward from very little effort, mentally and physically. Its simplicity increases the intended behavior.
This comes in three forms, the tribe, the self and the hunt.
Rewards of the tribe are the rewards that make us feel accepted, important or needed. Usually triggered by FOMO (fear of missing out). With every pin, or post on social media, the user would highly anticipate some form of social validation, a like, a re-pin, a comment, exposure as a good player in the gaming community, etc and these rewards cause the need for more, hence constant pinning or tweeting or gaming.
Rewards of the hunt is the search for information while rewards of the self is the search of mastery, competence and completion. Like being a pro at a video game.
The investment stage comes with anticipation of rewards in the future. Following a recipes page on pinterest, or following someone on social media. This stage is determined by the variable rewards. I’d follow someone with the anticipation of seeing or knowing what new thing they would post next, and I assume that’s the same with everyone else. When someone’s pictures and videos are stored on a site over time, he/ she becomes personally invested with it and finds it difficult to leave. Or collection of weapons and points in a game.
Another example of how investment affects how often a product is used is The IKEA effect: when labor leads to love. Investment then loads the next trigger and the whole cycle begins again.
What to aim for.
An entrepreneur should aim to build a product that users want to use. Not one that he/ she wants the users to use.
Habit forming products have a great advantage over competitors because once a user becomes hooked and invested in one thing, it would be difficult to convince them to try something else, because not only is that trying to change what they have used for a really long time, it is also trying to make them break a habit.
Good habits or bad habits?
It actually may be easy to get users hooked, but it is also very easy to abuse this power. Use of some products may lead to bad habits then end up having a negative impact on their users like, unhealthy need for users’ validation, addictions, etc. . Ask yourself would I use what I am creating? Is it genuinely benefiting the life of a user? Am I just exploiting my users? Do I believe it can improve’s people’s lives?
Profits and revenue may be the key drive to businesses, but also having users trust and is a core in the success of a product.
I attended the Women’s Circle DevC event at ihub Nairobi on the 17th of this month, which was quite interesting to say the least.
Towards the end, something sparked up a very involving discussion. Are female only developer meetups necessary? The best way to come up with an answer is by thinking about why they are held in the first place.
Developer meetups are held very often here in Nairobi and quite a number of people attend them, unfortunately, ladies are very few every time. Organizers of these meetups have always wondered why this is the case. Is word not spreading widely enough? Are ladies not interested in meeting other people in the same industry, or could it be due to the feeling of intimidation that comes from being in an industry whose majority occupants are male? My money is on the latter.
I’d be lying if I said I am not intimidated by being a girl in the software development world. Just like may female devs out there, I always wonder whether I am good enough, whether I should ask question and risk sounding “stupid”, whether I should go on, or just quit while I still have time… and the emotional and mental turmoil goes on… however, I think the biggest mistake is to let all this show. I mean why would anyone take us seriously if we do not believe in ourselves?
During the discussion that happened on the 17th, the argument that caught my attention was that female devs need a “safe space” or “safe haven” to express themselves. I think because we believe that, then it is a sign we do not fully believe in ourselves as developers, and we are stereotyping ourselves in a way in this world that is starting to warm up to female developers.
Women started programming as early as in the 19th century with the pioneer being Ada Lovelace, the first person (notice I said person and not woman) to write the world’s first machine algorithm for an early computing machine. Someone had to be the first, and it happened to be a woman. She worked alongside Charles Babbage in inventing the Analytical Engine.
Another pioneer of computer programming is Grace Hooper, a computer scientist in the early 1900’s. She invented one of the first compiler related tools, popularized the idea of machine independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, a high level programming language that is still in use almost a century later.
Some women have also risen to leadership roles of giant tech companies, like Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprises from November 2017 to February 2018 and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo from July 2012 to June 2017.
Between the 1800’s and now, very many women have left a mark in the computing world, and have faced the same challenges and worse than we have. But if they did not take and own their stand alongside their male counterparts, then no one would be talking or learning about them now. Maybe even programming would not be as we know it now.
Female programmers need to let intimidation be what drives them to leave their comfort zones and believe they are equal to male developers, and I don’t think that will ever happen as it should if we accept to be a stereotype that mostly exists in our heads.
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained” -Marie Curie.
2018 is here with us and this post is already long overdue.
I try making resolutions every new year but for some reason, (and I know I’m not the only one), I always forget about them, or lose the book I had written them in. This year however, I decided to do things a bit differently. I decided not to write them down and not to call them resolutions, but goals instead, because for me that reduces the pressures a bit 😀
One of my goals this year is to maintain consistency in my blogging which I found really hard to do last year. I used to think content is key to blogging, but then with consistency, content just comes automatically.
So definitely this year I’ma shift gears and work on my my consistency.
All Snapchat users are aware of their hilarious, scary, cute filters. Just recently I decided to try them out and was truly fascinated by how they recognized my facial features in real-time. Many people may find them silly, ridiculous or cool but the architecture and engineering behind these filters or lenses as Snapchat calls them, is no joke.
The technology that made all this come to be is Looksery, a Ukrainian startup that snapchat acquired back in late 2015 for a booming $150 million. Snapchat’s filters are tap into the largely growing field of Computer vision (Applications that use camera pixels to interpret objects and 3D space.), which in layman’s is how Facebook knows who is in your photos, or how self driving cars know how not to hit people or objects and of course, how you give yourself bunny ears.
Computers don’t exactly “see” like the human brain does.
The Viola-Jones algorithm is the tool that computers use to detect faces, The theory behind this tool is looking for areas of contrast, for instance the eye-sockets are darker than the forehead and the middle part of the forehead is lighter than the sides of it. If these tests find enough matches in one area of an image it concludes that is a face, which is why cameras put boxes around a face.
However, in order for the filters to be placed appropriately on a face, the app needs to do more than detect the face.It should also locate facial features. According to Looksery’s patents, this is made possible by a statistical model of a face shape that has been trained by people manually marking the facial features on thousands of images. The algorithm uses this trained data as a “template” because it is never a perfect fit.The algorithm adjusts the points of the template to match those of your face.These points are used as coordinates to create a mesh, which is a 3D mask that can rotate,move and scale along with your face as the video data comes in for every frame. Once they’ve got that, they can do a lot to the face mask like change the face shape, eye-color and trigger animations once you open your mouth or raise your eyebrows.
This technology is not new, but setting it to work in real-time on mobile devices is pretty recent. I have to say as much as these filters may seem inane, they are pretty impressive form a technical point of view. 🙂
Can’t wait to see the next step in Computer Vision.
Change is something that scares many people, because no one is always willing to go for something with so much uncertainty or give up something that they have been used to for a long time. Sometimes it’s a willing decision while other times it’s because we don’t have a choice. A different school, different neighborhood, a different job, moving to a new city, all these can get really scary, the idea is even unappealing sometimes, though there’s always a silver lining.
I recently switched from something that I have been used to for so long, to something completely different. Though reluctant, I thought “Why not? I might end up liking or even loving it, who knows?”.
I have used an iPhone for quite some time and I just recently switched to an Android phone. I was so attached to apple devices that one of my friends even called me an “iSheep.” To be honest, there are moments I am tempted to switch back to iPhone. If you’ve ever been home-sick, then you can almost relate because the feeling is close to that.
Anyways, I have been asked by a few people what it has been like to switch, how I find the interaction with android, is iOS better, etc., so here goes. But before I continue, lemme say that this is not meant to be an exhaustive review and does not delve into the technical aspects. It is an opinion.
I’ll start with the one thing that we do over a million times in a day. Picking up the phone and turning on an app. The iPhone is the easiest phone to use. Some people might complain about the lack of change in its User Interface (UI) over the years. It has remained the same since the original iPhone to the iPhone 7. I for one consider it amazing that it pretty much works the same as it did way back in 2007.
A comparison between the UI of the iPhone 6S of September 2015 and the iPhone 4 of June 2010. The icons and the feel of the UI are exactly the same. So for those who are not very enthusiastic about change, I’d advice you stick to iPhone.
Even the dialer still looks exactly the same.
It’s always just a simple procedure, “pick it up, turn it on and open an app”. I feel like Android has too much going on with the app drawer and the annoying overlay.
Both android and iOS have millions of apps in their stores, but from what I have discovered iPhone has always been favored by developers when it comes to the platform of choice of launching the hottest Apps.
And speaking of apps, when I was on iPhone, I never got the annoying problem of ads like I do now on Android.
I am not being biased but yeah, I said it, iPhone will always be the best when it comes to apps.
I must say though, the affordable price of Android phones with good designs and amazing specs is quite impressive, and to add to that, there’s sooo many to choose from. Phones, phones, phones,
unlike the iPhone with its exclusive factor of going all out when it comes to pricing and a very shallow pool to choose. Actually, there’s no variety, just one phone, the iPhone. It only has different developed versions.
Almost anyone can afford an Android phone that would fit their needs. When it comes to affordability and variety, android takes this one home, no questions asked.
Being able to change the look of your phone according to your own preferences is really cool, I have to admit. A strong point of android is the level of customization it allows. While Apple prefers to keep control of literally everything to maintain a uniform software and hardware experience, Android allows you to customize your phone however you want, from live wallpapers, unique keyboards to custom ROM installation.
For the creative and artsy people out there, I bet you’d enjoy this customization freedom. Go crazy!!
It has been just a few weeks since I stopped using an iOS phone and added an Android phone in to my daily life. Yes, there are moments I am tempted to switch back, but then, like I said earlier, there is always a silver lining. Android has its advantages, so I can’t really say one is better than the other. They both have their yays and nays.
For anyone out there who wants a new phone but is going through the dilemma of having to decide between android or iOS, (which i went through by the way), so from experience ,
I’d say list the pros and cons of either, and follow your heart, neither is a wrong choice 🙂