Gamifying Good Habits

Everyone wants to be more productive. Or maybe its just me. We have short life spans and limited time to do stuff and make an impact and leave a legacy. An example to follow for our kids, if we are so lucky to leave them a way of life that follows the Quran and Sunnah. A life fulfilled is a life lived in making this world a better place for generations after us.

The more you can focus on the most productive activities and the more you can invest your time in the activities that have the longest lasting impact, the better. That is why Dawah: inviting people to Allah is such a huge deed. If someone is guided to the right path and lives a good life because of us, all their good deeds and the good deeds of the people whom they influence will be in our account of good deeds until the Day of Judgment. That is the power of Dawah. But that’s a separate article in and of itself inshaaAllah.

I’m always looking for better productivity and the biggest bang for my buck so to speak. I watch the productivity space and try to become an early adopter of the new research and the ideas and products that become available in this category. This topic has been trending lately: habit formation using apps to form good habits and to get rid of bad habits. These apps, specially game like apps that encourage good behavior, reinforce good habits through competition and repetition. Even the simplest achievement of a continuous streak of activity for the past X number of days, weeks or months gives a sense of satisfaction and maybe enough motivation to keep going. Once the habit is formed, it is part of us. In Islam, we have the five daily prayers that also help to form the habit of punctuality as one of its aspects.

There are tons of apps nowadays that work on building habits this way. Perhaps it is not applicable to every learner and every type of learning, but it does seem to be in line with human psychology in general. I have seen it work with learning languages. I have also formed some habits this way that I struggled to form for a number years before. It does work for me and may well work for a lot of people.

We are a sum of our beliefs and actions. If they are correct and good, we are set for life on this blue planet and the eternity in the hereafter.

And Allah knows best.

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What’s up with this thing called Data Science

Data Science is the newest thing that has become popular for Math, Statistics & Computer Science geeks. This is a new area of study that has increasingly gained popularity over the last couple of years or more. This is evident from the many courses and numerous well paying jobs that turn up with a simple Google search. The courses available online for those who are interested in acquiring this new skillset. And there seem to be tons of jobs for Data Scientists as well. Mose of these jobs require an advanced degree (such as a Master’s or a Doctorate).

Data Science is a new discipline that includes various topics of interest such as Statistics, Data Analysis, R or Python Programming, Regression Models, Machine Learning and more. Usually, the courses demand that learners have Math/Stats & Comp. Sci backgrounds but there are people who have business degrees or humanities background that have ventured into this area because it is so attractive to people who crave creativity and challenge in their work.

A typical Data Scientist does a lot of different things, but primarily it has to do with making sense of data in a meaningful way that is useful for a purpose. That sounds vague actually. It really means extracting meaning from and interpreting data, analyzing it with tools (using pre-built software like Microsoft Excel or custom programming usually with R or Python). It requires the use of Mathematics and Statistics skills. First and foremost it requires acquiring the lots of data, cleaning, cleansing and formatting data and asking useful questions and getting really creative with the use of the data in some way that may be useful for medicine or policy making or urban development or whatever else might be the area you are interested in using Data Science for. In other words, Data Science has tons of applications.

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iPad Pro: Latest from Cupertino

The latest from Apple has me scratching my head. Steve Jobs may have taken the company in a very different direction from where Tim Cook seems to be taking it. True innovation seems to be present in the products anymore, just enhancements to the existing stuff.

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The new iPad Pro is a huge tablet that can be coupled with a Smart Keyboard and a Pencil from Apple. A keyboard and a Pencil with a touch device from Apple?! Starting at US$ 800  this bad boy looks like it wants to replace the need for a laptop (when you add a keyboard, you may as well). Online reviews seem to suggest that it’s not going to be replacing laptops just yet as there are limitations on iDevices that just don’t cut it for serious work to be performed on a full blown PC.

To me it doesn’t seem like innovation but rather the act of a follower. Microsoft and Google are coming up with new stuff these days and Apple is mostly following along. Sad to see this from Apple. The company needs to invent some cool stuff. The Apple Watch is also  mediocre at best.

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Slow Internet Connection

One of the blessings we have these days is an Internet connection in the form of fast reliable WiFi. WiFi is a technology that needs to be ubiquitous as it is essential to a lot of what we do almost similar to electricity and water. In other words it is becoming like a utility. For the most part, major modern cities around the world (at least those that I’ve travelled to) have WiFi readily available.

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Now the question is their speed and reliability. This is where most ISP (internet service providers) lack quality or ease of use. You could go to a good mall or a coffee shop or an airport or even an airplane and enjoy free WiFi but some places have to nickel and dime you to what is my number one pet peeve (well almost number one): slow Internet Connection. If you’re already shopping at a mall or paying, paying airport taxes, airline taxes just include the darned 4 dollars and change cost of the use of a lousy Internet connection for the duration (at most less than 24 hours at an airport or an airplane) a traveller is there. Let him or her be in communication with the family. Is that so difficult to understand and implement?

Google is working on what it calls Project Loon to provide wifi access via balloons. Let’s see how far that goes and how people manage to screw that up [have some confidence in the screwability of people].

Other places such as hospitals, government offices, banks and other such places should have free WiFi available to make things easy for folks. True 3G, 4G and LTE is often available on mobile devices but not everyone has it nor can travelers get it easily. So it behooves major modern metropolises to work on this and integrate it to their utility offerings of electricity, water and gas.

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

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I just finished listening to the audiobook version of this recently released biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It’s a brilliant book that everyone should read or listen to.

Isaacson has a unique style of writing which is perfect for biographies. It’s easy to read, understand and follow along. He keeps you interested in the writing by keeping the suspense at just the right level without really making a big deal out of it.

He did a lot of research in writing this book which is probably typical of writing any historically accurate biographical book. However, what is fascinating about Isaacson’s method is his uncanny ability to ask the right questions of the right people making them open up to him.

Isaacson’s integrity to his writing mandated that he let his subject (Jobs) know from the get go that he would not stop at anything. This wouldn’t be huge with most personalities, but Jobs was notorious for secrecy. Granted Jobs had approached Isaacson to write the biography, still it’s a remarkable feat that Isaacson managed to accomplish with writing about Jobs’ personal life in such detail. The book, in my humble opinion, is a masterpiece, not just because of the quality of writing but because of the subject matter.

I would have loved for the book to have more about Jobs’ spiritual life, although there is a fair amount of information in it. I think Isaacson could have collected more material around that aspect of his life. If he collected it, it would have made a more wholesome read to have included more. The religious beliefs and actions don’t say a lot more about him than any other aspects of his life but they do offer a very interesting insight into their existence as a human being.

His background and his unwillingness to call his biological father (although having had a chance run in with him at a restaurant!), I will never understand. Why would he do that? Why do people do the strangest things that they do?

All in a all, Jobs was a fascinating personality we could all learn from. And not just from his positive qualities either.

 

 

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