I’ll be honest: I completely forgot to prepare a post for my two year blogging anniversary until today. I’m vaguely disgusted that “two year blogging anniversary” is a valid English phrase, but sometimes languages are silly like that.
Ironically this is because I’ve been working on a larger post that’s been taking up most of my writing time. Hopefully I get that done soon.
I do feel I’ve been less productive this year than last year, blogging wise. Let’s see if that’s backed up empirically. Now, word count is a pretty bad metric for writing time, because in my experience most of writing is rewriting. But it’s the best metric I’ve got. Here’s a list of all posts I wrote this year, along with their word count.
1244 2016-09-07-contradictions.markdown 1936 2016-10-18-politics.markdown 1750 2016-11-08-right-questions.markdown 895 2016-11-12-hybrid-argument.markdown 1384 2017-01-20-mh-2017.markdown 931 2017-01-25-research-comm.markdown 592 2017-02-12-default-arguments.markdown 4035 2017-02-22-wasserstein-gan.markdown 1827 2017-03-18-we-have-a-problem.markdown 834 2017-04-19-acss.markdown 1925 2017-04-26-perils-batch-norm.markdown 3443 2017-06-27-hyperparam-spectral.markdown 1613 2017-08-12-openai-dota-2.markdown 22409 total
Here’s the same list for last year.
542 2015-08-20-things-i-did-in-my-khan-academy-internship.markdown 1744 2015-08-23-simulating-a-biased-coin-with-a-fair-one.markdown 2592 2015-08-25-perfectly-intelligent-mafia.markdown 599 2015-09-01-optimizing-process.markdown 1580 2015-09-09-the-other-two-envelope-problem.markdown 1988 2015-09-24-how-an-audio-play-about-a-time-traveling-pony-turned-me-into-a-fanboy.markdown 1703 2015-10-11-humor-proposal.markdown 1871 2015-11-02-friendship-games-geometry.markdown 465 2015-11-29-mlp-season-5-review.markdown 6376 2016-01-03-grad-school.markdown 1231 2016-01-20-mysteryhunt.markdown 1784 2016-01-27-deepmind-go.markdown 3101 2016-02-11-secure-computation.markdown 2647 2016-02-20-half-year.markdown 4537 2016-03-17-alphago-lsd.markdown 1353 2016-03-22-primes-pi.markdown 1323 2016-06-13-hillary-google.markdown 817 2016-07-03-email-time.markdown 714 2016-07-04-fruit.markdown 1361 2016-07-17-ml-sleep.markdown 1016 2016-08-03-pokemon-go-equality.markdown 39344 total
So, I wrote around 17,000 fewer words this year. What changed?
* * *
The most important change is that I’m been working full time the entire year. It’s been a lot harder for me to get side projects done than it was in college. This is a well-known experience with well-known explanations, but let me explain anyways.
In college, I didn’t have designated work times. I went to class, I had lunch and dinner, and the rest of the day was a blend between work and free time. It was very easy for me to work for 20 minutes, switch to playing Dustforce for 40 minutes, blog for 10 minutes, flowing back and forth depending on mood until 3 AM. Then I would wake up the next morning and start the process over again.
It was even easier for me to do this because I didn’t have many group projects, and I had very few homework groups or study groups. Overall there was no accountability on my schedule, and the blending was a natural consequence of that.
This wasn’t a bad thing. I wasn’t very focused, but at any time there was a chance I could switch to being productive, and the activation barrier between everything was much lower. Blogging slotted itself very naturally into my day. (Well, more like into my night.)
All that has changed. I have meetings, coworkers, managers. I’m working on a project with collaborators across three offices. Coordination is a lot easier if everybody’s working times overlap - one of my collaborators works from London, and he’s deliberately shifted his schedule forward because the only good meeting time is his evenings (which are our mornings in California).
It’s the same problem that most companies have, and there’s a shared solution: a homogenized schedule with similar working hours. When I was a student, I worked more, but the work was spread out over the entire week, like maple syrup on pancakes. Sure, sometimes I didn’t finish work until 2 AM. But I had relaxed enough during the afternoon to make this feel okay.
In a job, all the work gets compressed into a single block. I do take breaks, and I’m lucky enough to work at a company that doesn’t care how long your break is…as long as you get your work done. That nagging feeling of getting my work done means I don’t take a lot of breaks.
The end result is that my energy and motivation gets spent at work in one big burst. By the time I get home it’s hard to do much more than browse the Internet and play games.
I’ve thought a bit about whether I can reproduce the college working schedule, so to speak, but there are benefits to working similar hours to everybody else. Overall I don’t think there’s a lot of value in changing how I work.
* * *
Okay, time for more uplifting news! In last year’s post, I mentioned a few posts I said I would write this year! Let’s see how I did.
The post about Gunnerkrigg Court is going to happen. I swear it will.
Uhhhh, that post didn’t happen. Okay, next!
I wrote the start of a really, really stupid short story about dinosaurs. […] I hope that story sees the light of day, because the premise is so stupid that it might just wrap back around to brilliant.
That one didn’t happen either. Alright, what else did I say I was going to work on.
Oh, I said I was going to write a post about AI safety! That one is in progress! And not done! A bit far from done, in fact, but let’s round that up to a win. If failure is success rounded down, then surely success is failure rounded up.
To be serious for a bit: yes, I am a bit disappointed I haven’t written posts that I said I wanted to write. But I’m not actually that disappointed. It feels like I’m spent about as much time writing as I wanted to spend this year.
Well, maybe I’ve written a bit less than I wanted to.
Let’s say I’m more at peace and leave it at that.
In terms of life trajectory: I didn’t apply to PhD programs, mostly out of laziness. I should have applied, just to keep the option open, but I don’t see myself going to academia any time soon, unless my research interests or work drastically change.
I think I’ve changed less this year compared to last year. Again, this is a common sentiment. I found it easy to grow every year of college - it just happened naturally. I’ve been finding it harder to do so after leaving that environment.
When I think about what I would regret the most, it’s something like this: the worry that five years from now, I’ll look back on my life, and have no idea where five years of my life went. Something kind of like this.
Apple Bloom has sunk into a psychotic depression, because she knows this is how it all starts. Pretty soon they’ll all be living in different cities, and they’ll only see each other at New Year’s. […] Sure, they’ll start talking about things they did back in the day, like “Oh hey, remember that time we were happy and life felt like it had meaning?” And after a few drinks, it’ll feel like there’s still a connection between them, and they’ll share all their online handles and say they should get together sometime. […] Then the next day when they sober up, they’ll get right back to never getting around to it.
It’s that worry that pushes me to work on things, even when I have reasons not to.
Will pre-emptively thinking about quarter-life crises stop me from having a quarter-life crisis? Eh, maybe. We’ll find out.
I think I’ve rambled long enough. Two years down. Here’s to two more.