Eight Life Hacks

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My friend Dave Kadavy called me out on his blog to list eight life hacks – simple things that make you feel like you’re cheating the system. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Read on the train. I commute to and from work. I would consider that dead time if I was just sitting or standing on the train idle. Fortunately I whip out a good business book or Google Reader. A 2 way 20 minute commute comes to 40 minutes of reading a day, or over 3 hours a week.
  • Network during your lunch hour. I take full advantage of the fact that I’m smack in the middle of downtown to constantly connect with people outside my day job. If you don’t see the utility of this then read this book.
  • Work by day and hack by night. As Gary Vee says, 10PM to 2AM is plenty of time to do some major damage. I spend many an evening building cool stuff like Hot Tweeters.
  • Find a physical activity you enjoy. My passion is without a doubt wushu. It just so happens that it’s extremely physically demanding and keeps me in good shape if and when I do it. By having an activity you enjoy, working out doesn’t have to be a chore.
  • Squeeze in an exercise when no one’s watching. Lately I’ve been so slammed workwise that I don’t have as much time to devote to my wushu, hence I haven’t been working out as much. Now I take every opportunity when I’m idle or alone to squeeze in a quick exercise. For example in the morning on my elevator ride to the office, if I’m alone, I shadowbox all the way up to my floor. I can usually fit in about 100 punches. If you do 2 a day, that’s 200 punches while never setting foot in the gym.
  • Make your hobbies pay for themselves. I’ve spent a considerable amount of money investing into my martial arts training including lessons (at one point, I went to 3 different schools all at the same time), competition, travel, etc. However, I’ve been able to parlay my martial arts skills into work in the video game industry, corporate performances, etc that has netted me more money than I’ve put in over the years. And now I also teach in exchange for lessons so my monetary cost is 0. Another great example would be something like photography. This is a hobby that can quickly get expensive. You can spend a ton on different lenses and add-ons for your camera. If you can sell some of your work, then your equipment is paid for.
  • Use powertools. I don’t mean this in the literal sense but I mean using the right tool for the job. If you’ve ever worked on a home improvement project, you’ll know how handy a power drill is over a screw driver. I am constantly on the look out for software tools (being a developer) that will help make my life easier.
  • Keep a diary. I actually have more of an idea book that I use to jot down ideas that I have of stuff I’m working on or stuff that I’m thinking about. This helps me check back on them to validate by ideas months or years down the line to see how they’ve evolved or what I may have forgotten to think about.
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Exploring 3D Desktop Concepts and Natural User Interfaces

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I’ve been thinking about 3D desktops, alternative user interfaces, and user experience for a while now. I keep a sketchbook that has illustrations of some of my ideas. When I saw the Apple patent filings for their 3D desktop ideas, I was delighted to see that some other folks have very similar ideas to mine.

I hate 3D for the sake of 3D. When I think of adding a new dimension to something as vital as your desktop, many questions come up like:
What benefits does adding another dimension mean to the user?
Am I making certain tasks harder when I add another dimension?
What problem am I solving?

Watch this quick video on some of the ideas I’ve been tossing around.

Multiple Desktops
The Mac OS spaces have never made sense to me. I never use it, not because i haven’t tried. I’d rather stick to my dual monitor. But when I am out and about with only the 1 screen, I still don’t use it. Here’s why – When I put something in another space, I just forget about it. It’s out of sight – and out of mind. I rather just have tons of apps on one screen and use Expose to sort it out.

Having a shoebox/diorama analogy of multiple desktops makes more sense to me since I can zoom out and see where my other spaces are. I have a sense of the spatial relationships of multiple desktops as well and that is key.

Cover Flow on the Desktop
I’m a big fan of Cover Flow even before it was integrated in all the Apple products – when it was somebody’s plugin for iTunes. That’s right – it wasn’t create by Apple. However having it confined within the iTunes application feels restrictive. Once you have a 3D desktop, why not make cover flow a full class citizen of that desktop?

Carousel to Navigate Apps
This is probably one of my weakest ideas and needs to be fleshed out. The basic premise is once you have a 3D Desktop, your apps should exist in 3D space. I’m not sure on the benefits of the Carousel myself, but I felt it was a cool UI.

Using Head Tracking to “look around”, by looking around
To me, this concept is what makes a 3D desktop really cool. The scenario is this: Say I’m downloading something, I can put that window on the desktop on the side of my main one. When I want to check on the progress of the download, instead of having to hit keys on the keyboard to find out, I just very naturally look around to see how it’s going. This is a very natural interaction that doesn’t have to be memorized or taught. This interaction therefore has a low cognitive cost. Instead of having to explicitly take action via keyboard commands by switching desktops to see the progress and switching back, possibly losing context, I quickly glance over and come back to my task.

There’s a lot more than can be explored. Right now, the “floor” of the desktop has not been considered. Also, I have some ideas around 3d folder navigation that I can dive into in the next episode of 3D Desktop concepts.

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October 2008 Blog Report

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Time is just zipping by lately. I managed to squeeze in just 2 more blog posts than the previous month but that was because I got into a blogging frenzy towards the end. So last month I decided to do something different. I would post all (rather most) of my blog posts on all my social network account statuses. The results have been very positive and I will continue on with this experiment. Last month was also a very strong month for comments. As you can see, Facebook was a much more significant source of traffic that it ever was before. StumbleUpon continues to bring it traffic so I’ll keep stumbling my own posts and getting my stumble friends to stumble them as well.

Site Stats
Number of Posts 9
Number of Comments 16
Top Traffic Sources
Google Organic Search 826
StumbleUpon 186
Facebook 55

Looking at the traffic report and comparing it to last month’s, you’ll see that I actually got LESS traffic. Last month my blog got picked up by Jason Fried of 37signals when I blogged about his talk. Also, I had peaks from stumbleupon from old posts. However this month, there were no such spikes, but average traffic improved overall. Good times.

If any of you readers have any tips, I’m all ears.

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Sept 2008 Blog Report

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I can’t believe it’s been a month already. This month, I’ve been super busy with other activities and you can see that the number of blog posts have actually gone down. Comments are at an all time low. However, my traffic has actually more than doubled since last month.

Site Stats
Number of Posts 7
Number of Comments 2
Top Traffic Sources
StumbleUpon 781
Organic Search 393
Twitter 148

My old content is still generating decent traffic. My post about mac accessories is still generating the most traffic. Organic search is quickly becoming a major source of traffic. StumbleUpon is still bringing in the most traffic so I definitely recommend social bookmarking sites to people. Analyzing the traffic chart, the 3 small spikes were stumbleupon hits from my old blog posts. The last big spike at the end was my post about my evening at the 37signals Speaking of Success talk. Right after the talk, I went home and blogged about it. Jason Fried of 37signals picked up on it and tweeted it from his twitter account. That got me some good traffic right there.

September 2008 Google Analytics Report

So what’s the takeaway? I wrote almost half as many articles as I did last month but got more than twice the traffic. The key here is marketing. Just because you write it doesn’t mean they’ll come. Once you write a blog post, promote it like crazy. So next month I am going to try something new. I’m going to twitter, facebook status, linkedin status all my blog posts to see if that has any effect on the traffic.

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7/12/2008 Weekly Favorite Links

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I’m a little behind on my blogging. I was wrapping up my old job and started a new job this week. This week’s favorite links features sites that I found useful to me and therefore hopefully to my readers as well:

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