What I liked 2016-09-04

This week was a busy one, and I didn't really consume too much web content.

A colleague mentioned that he was reading the book – The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps and it seemed to have some interesting ideas that I've never come across before.

The Berklee Indian Ensemble performed at the Bengaluru Ganesh Utsava and I went along with Sunil to their performance, which we thoroughly loved.

I liked some of Chet Baker instrumentals that I listened to this week.

What I liked 2016-08-28

I liked this article advising developers on having healthy relationships. Most of it is common sense stuff – "Whether it be a side project or main project, understand that sacrificing relationships isn't worth it."

I really enjoyed this article by Priyanka on how she started talking to Auto Drivers. She shares a bunch of stories of drivers she talked to, that makes me wonder how many more such stories just go unheard, because I don't talk.

@scopatz wrote up a nice argument explaining why @github should add back BSD to the list of licenses shown on the site. It taught me a thing or two about BSD and MIT.

I enjoyed spending the weekend at @_mavin's place, discussing continuous improvement in life, among other things. Also, had a lot of fun playing Psyche. The game is so addictive, but the app is not all that great. Someone should make a more robust app for this, or something that piggybacks on an existing network service like Telegram or Facebook chat or Google hangouts.

Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg is a lovely song, that I discovered this week.

What I liked 2016-08-21

Vox has a nice short video on shutting up about the y-axis – It's long past time to say no to y-axis fundamentalism, they say.

The New York Times has a great visual history of which countries have dominated the Summer Olympics.

This story of Dipa by ESPN is an inspirational read.

An old post on a Frameless Geodesic Dome that Bruce Hauman (of Figwheel fame) built himself is very cool!

This article on India's Gozoomo shutting down shop and returning VC money is heartening and gives me some hope about startups in India.

Create a Public Jupyter Server, quickly!

I create public Jupyter notebooks once in a while, to collaborate with a friend, or to make it easier for myself to work with data on a remote machine.

Each time I need to look up the docs, and manually set-up a few things, before I can start using the notebook.

I just wrote a bash script that does the following, quickly -

  • Install Jupyter into a temporary virtualenv
  • Create certificate files
  • Start the server with https enabled and a password
  • Delete all temporary files, when the server is shutdown

You can get it here, if you'd like to use it.

What I liked 2016-08-14

NYTimes has been doing some amazing visualizations for the Olympics and this time lapse visualization of Bolt's 100m Gold is great!

The History Project produced a book called Partitioned Histories that tries to contrast the narratives of India and Pakistan on their histories using school history text books. What a great idea!

This video about the Sunshine Orchestra being trained and tutored by Rahman and his KM Music Conservatory is touching.

Julia Evans' posts on how to decide and think about what to work on are great. "Even reliably recognizing good ideas is hard!", she says, and this resonates with me. Writing a release email as a way to think about why you are doing something is great!

Jasdev wrote about his monthly check-ins with friends. I thought they were such a great idea - simple, yet, powerful. "The only regret I have about these checkins is not starting sooner.", he writes.

This Vox article on America's increasing wealth gap along racial lines is really well done and thought provoking.

Google Trends, Clickbaits, and PV Sindhu

TL;DR

  1. Am I saying India doesn't have a caste problem?

    No, it's definitely a HUGE problem!

  2. Are these articles on Google Trends and Sindhu's caste useful at all?

    Just more click-baits and no useful contribution to the discussion on caste.


First of all, congratulations to PV Sindhu on making it to the finals and giving the world number one a hard fight!

This post, though, is not a celebratory one. I read this article – While PV Sindhu fought hard for a medal, many Indians googled her caste – by the News Minute thanks to a re-tweet by TM Krishna. I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to it, if not for the retweet by TMK.

Caste is a huge problem for the country, and if you still like to pretend it isn't – read this for a start. I'm not surprised that some people searched for Sindhu's caste while she was battling it out at Rio. But, some people also searched for Badminton rules, and others for Sania Mirza! What surprises me is that the article doesn't try to put the data in a context at all. Nor do I understand the contribution this article makes to the discussion on caste.

28818616900_d8e2b33cb0_b.jpg

I played around a little more with these search terms and Google Trends, and here are a few things that I thought were worth sharing.

Indian trends

First of all, the article says "Many Indians", and gives off cumulative month-wise numbers (UPDATE [2016-08-21 Sun 12:15]: which are so wrong! See Sankrant Sanu's excellent article on India Facts). But, what does it really mean?

I don't know if anybody actually wrote about how many people actually followed the match, but Sindhu actually managed to get a whole lot of people interested!

29105184025_777ac4e5d0_b.jpg

More people searched for PV Sindhu than the daily average number of searches (not hits) for Facebook and very close to the daily number of searches for Porn – two of the biggest things Internet is allegedly used for. Can you see the red line at the bottom? That is the number of people who actually searched for Sindhu's caste – a tiny blip.

Let's take a closer look. Here's a plot of some of the other auto suggest terms + badminton rules & courts compared to Sindhu's name.

28818617070_9c9fdfeb12_b.jpg

Nothing other than badminton rules (which is at about 1% of max. searches) is even visible, clearly.

So, these other terms (wiki & caste being auto-suggested ones) are nowhere near the actual number of searches being made for PV Sindhu's name alone.

Let's get rid of the name graph to get a closer look at the other terms.

29105184165_133734e300_b.jpg

  • The maximum number of people searching for Sindhu's caste is at about a fifth of the maximum number of people searching for badminton rules. Interpreting it is upto you. But, I'm not surprised knowing how significant caste has been in our society. Also, notice that searches for wiki and caste fall off more gradually than the searches for the rules which peak while the game is being played and watched.
  • Unsurprisingly, a bulk of the searches appear to be coming from Andhra and Telangana. Notice that the other states are searching more for the rules or her wiki page.

29105184295_f3e1448d10_b.jpg

  • Do you notice that the red (caste), blue (wiki) and violet (images) lines following a similar trend, until the last few hours? What do you think is happening there? It's the shitty click baits working! Look at the trends from ~8:30AM to ~12:30AM below – the red has spread to other states as well!

29105184245_6e691d318d_b.jpg

  • And this is how it looks by the evening (17:00-21:00). Well done, folks! The click bait articles totally succeeded!

29032147971_c9c3c13fdc_b.jpg

If you are wondering how much effect the auto suggestions are having in suggesting people to try searching for caste, I don't think that is much because wiki and images are the other auto-suggest terms, with no such surges in the number of searches.

Trends from the Telugu states

We could see that the two Telugu states were more worried about the caste, than the rest of the country. Let's see how abnormal they are.

29105183935_5bc55c03b4_b.jpg

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You can definitely see the red line more prominently. In case of Andhra the peak searches for caste are at about 5% of the name searches. A statistically significant difference from the rest of the country.

Let's zoom in at the auto-suggest terms alone.

28818617430_bca8ed9d1a_b.jpg

29105184115_a0a8e34f4b_b.jpg

Woah, Andhra is definitely quite an aberration from the rest of the country. From about 1/5th of the maximum number of searches for rules, the maximum number of caste searches jumps to about twice. Telangana also is different, but much less so.

Tamil Nadu's trends below for comparison. You can't help noticing the last few hours, can you?

28818617290_eb4b3a2535_b.jpg

NOTE: The trends and screen-shots for the states are slightly more recent than the others.

Conclusion

Without a context, I don't really see the point of these "news" articles. It seems more click-bait-y than useful to me.

If you still feel many Indians were searching for Sindhu's caste, while she was fighting it out, go ahead and play with Google trends here. Add/remove terms, change the time and location filters. Some terms that could be interesting to add to the comparison are: Kashmir, Independence day, Facebook.

Later, I looked at the search results and then found that this article wasn't the only one like it. I didn't bother to read the others, but I really hope at least some of them are talking sense. Is any of them really trying to contribute to the discussion on caste, meaningfully?

Also, the actual search results don't seem to give useful answers to the folks so curious about Sindhu's caste. I hope none of these articles are trying to help them out.

Finally, if you are using Google Trends to write an article, Danny Page has some really good advice.


Thanks to Kamal, baali and 9 for reading and reviewing drafts of this. Errors mine, obviously.

What I liked 2016-08-07

Great visualizations about how global temperatures have been changing in the last ~165 years. If you are still a global warming skeptic, you definitely must see them.

These visualizations of Michael Phelps' performances at Olympics over the years by NYTimes are great, too!

I came across these delightful videos (1, 2) of girls and boys playing cricket at Haji Public School. Look ma, no sexism in coverage of sports.

This (Telugu) interview of Dr Jayaprakash Narayan is truly inspiring. Also, YouTube recommended his conversation with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, which was unexpectedly insightful, and covers a wide variety of topics – spirituality, religion, social organizations, politics, socialism vs. capitalism.

What I liked 2016-07-31

Lots of Olympics stuff this week!

I really liked this ad - Rukna Nahi Hai - wishing all the Olympians a wonderfully spirited competition, at Rio. Go!

Brazilian marathoner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the man who lit the Olympic flame, inspires me with his spirit.

This story of Mohan Kumar from Ambattur, a Chennai suburb is inspiring. "Now I am on the relay team. But in the next Olympics, I want to qualify for the individual event. That's my aim.", he says.

@vandith recommended the Nike+ Training App to me and I really like it. They have some amazing workouts and pretty neat personalized workout plans.

Coke Studio Pakistan is trying a delightful experiment with their show this time – they are trying to use lights and vibrations to let the hearing-impaired experience the music on their show better!

Sainath's keynote at Film Writers Association conference was yet another of his thought-provoking speeches. He sends you down a spiral of thought, when he says, "How agonised we are when people die, and how untroubled we are by how they live". I also enjoyed watching his (long) casual chat from an year ago, talking about his life and influences on him.

David Sassoon the founder of InsideClimate News writes about Non-Profit journalism, the need for it, and how to have more of it. He writes about it in the American context, but India has its own share of troubles. I consume quite a bit of news from independent sources, but don't really contribute to keep them going. I should turn this around.

A bunch of residents of Urur Olcott Kuppam in Chennai responded to media's broken coverage of TM Krishna's Magsaysay award. I really liked how assertive they were about their role in the music festival, its role in their lives, and in clarifying how they see their fishing village as opposed to how the media portrayed it. They don't mince any words.


You can find my older weekly posts like this here.

Python reload and module dict

I was trying to play around with Nikola's code today and learnt about a documented weirdness of Python's reload.

# Work in a temporary directory
import os
import tempfile
os.chdir(tempfile.mkdtemp())

# Module content, original and updated
ORIGINAL = "# PLUGINS = []"
UPDATED = "PLUGINS = ['rss']"

def create_conf_file(content):
    """Create a conf.py module with given content."""
    with open('conf.py', 'w') as f:
	f.write(content)
create_conf_file(ORIGINAL)
import conf
# PLUGINS is not defined in the module, originally.
print(conf.PLUGINS)
AttributeError: module 'conf' has no attribute 'PLUGINS'
create_conf_file(UPDATED)
import conf
print(conf.PLUGINS)
AttributeError: module 'conf' has no attribute 'PLUGINS'

conf doesn't yet have a PLUGINS attribute, since the new module isn't imported until we reload.

import importlib
importlib.reload(conf)
print(conf.PLUGINS)
['rss']
# We write back the original file. PLUGINS should be empty!
create_conf_file(ORIGINAL)
import conf
importlib.reload(conf)
print(conf.PLUGINS, "<---Whaaaat!")
['rss'] <---Whaaaat!

The behavior is well documented, along with a reasoning of why it is the way it is, but you can trip over it if you don't know. I hit a bug and was wondering if there was a race condition somewhere, until I read the docs for reload. On reload, the module dict is updated, instead of creating a new dict. Any values not redefined in the new code for the module remain unchanged.

Assist time

I sometimes hang out on #org-mode or #nikola and answer questions. I usually am not able to answer off the top of my head and I look up docs or dig through the code. Sometimes, we find ready-made documented answers, but other times we end up contributing some documentation, filing an issue, submitting a patch or hacking up something for that super-special use-case.

Until now, I looked at this time as IRC time, which loosely translates to distraction time. But, I'm usually learning about the tools I use a little bit more. Even when I'm not, I'm helping someone do something they want to do. Sometimes empowering them to fix future problems on their own. And indirectly making the user community a wee-bit happier, and possibly the software a tiny bit better.

This isn't limited just to helping someone on IRC. Helping out a co-worker do something that they are new to, or just adding a comment or editing a Stack-overflow answer may end up in the "distraction time" bin, just because you weren't doing something on your TODO list. It needn't be.

Taking cue from scorers in Football, I decided to call this time assist time and to try to start seeing this time as (semi-)productive. Naming helps.