Exist – the personal dashboard

Let me share with you the thing I found on the internet. That thing is called Exist.io. They aren’t paying me for this ad but I’m still going to do it as it reignited my push for the quantified self.

The premise is simple. The Exist.io asks for your permissions to certain services and on your behalf collects, aggregates and presents these as nice graphs. It’s a personal dashboard with metrics making it easier to observe progress. They also provide means for adding metrics such as mood scale and, a very limited, tagging system but based on the transparent roadmap that might change one day.

Yes. the privacy issue is huge, so you simply have to trust them that they won’t abuse permissions. However, based on their privacy policy and business model (monthly subscription), I’m less concerned about them than probably most other services. Besides, not knowing where exactly these things go or how they are protected I’m not going to give them access to sensitive data such as email or location. Feel free to steal my sleep time, coffee intake or steps count (might even publish these one day).

The dashboard works for me. It doesn’t give many meaningful insights but I like that everything is in a single place and I can export from there to my personal storage. I can also tell what is missing and how I’d like to collect the other information. It made me even start working on my personal tools for collecting productivity time and forecasting mood changes and “life cycles”. It’s a great source of personal multivariate time series (clickbait) understanding of which will literally change your life.

Overall, big thumbs up. If you like to know more about yourself, especially to have solid numbers in a single place go for it. And, if you think about yourself in number, let me know. I’m planning to work on a few projects that would like to release to broader an audience in the “near” future.

Referral link that gives me $2: exist.io

Barren pages get some words raining

There has been a surprising shift in my approach to writing. Any external request to express or clarify something in a written for would evoke a passionate hatred. I could feel the amount of time that is going to be wasted for no good reason what-so-ever. What others might complete in 5 min I would need to spend more than an hour. The reason was that many people considered my expression style as “weird” or “unusual”, and would often ask for clarifications in the way they wanted just to make sure that we are on the same page. Talking is easier because you quickly clarify these concerns and carry on. Writing, however, is a double pain. I’d spend hours on rewiring and polishing a couple of sentences trying to clarify what might be potentially unclear and, then, I’d spend a couple on replying to feedback which typically meant “unclear.” It’s a frustration spiral.

At times when I’d panic and plea for help, the most common advice was reading more books. Probably great advice, but doesn’t work for me. As an (too) active person, I have trouble sitting down and reading. The most productive reading is when I’m walking in a dull room with white noise and without anyone. As you might expect, this isn’t always possible, so my reading is slow. How can you write clearly if you don’t know the rules, and how do you know the rules if school grammar is different from the common folks’ expectation?

The solution isn’t clear but I think I’m approaching it. Not only starting a new paragraph isn’t problematic anymore, but I’m also spending less time on polishing expressed thoughts. A year ago I’d quickly run away from any writing task but now I’m scribbling a coupled of pages every day. Some pages are for myself; personal notes and thoughts to keep my life organized and properly archived. Others are for work. Even though, at the moment, I’m a Software Developer Engineer, which some might imagine solely writing code, I’m daily updating documents, be that a documentation, design explanation or ideas pitching.

What’s the change? To be honest, I’m not sure and it might be anything. But, if I were to highlight a few potential reasons, three that come to mind are:

  1. The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. It took me a while to start reading this book but the delay was mainly because “it is a book” and books are scary as they typically have more than 50 pages (too much). But, depending on the edition, it’s about 30 pages long and concisely explains “dos and don’ts” in writing. Logical rules to follow; a simple guideline to follow; a blessing!
  2. Grammarly. A service and a web application acting a spell-checker on steroids. It detects grammar misuses, unclear sentences, word repetitions and has a built-in thesaurus. Each detection comes with a brief explanation of why it was triggered and how to solve the issue. Given the broad demand and lack of alternatives, there’s definitely more to come from the Grammarly.
  3. Lower expectations. Quality bar for writing outside academia is significantly lower. This isn’t an insult. It’s actually great to not stress out about imperfect sentences and slightly ambiguous words. Words don’t carry that much liability so people are encouraged to make mistakes are that can be cleaned in the process. The focus is more on the story progression and less on defending thoughts. Lower threshold allows realistically learning from experience.

This blog as a whole was intended to be scientific. Even when I wrote that it’ll be less ‘scientific’ than before, I meant that it’d be less ‘precise’ in words’ synthesis. Given that I already left academia and my ties with the scientific side are decreasing, the intention needs to change. Expect more docs on general topics but still in engineering/technology theme. I’m still considering having a separate blog dedicated to philosophy, so, who knows?