Information Overload

Everyone knows there is way too much information. Both online and offline. There are way too many books and magazines to choose from. There is a dizzying array of electronic media to entertain anyone hours on end on a daily basis. There’s a lot of made up garbage that people ought not to consume but since its out there people do read it, listen to it or watch it. People mindlessly forward a ton of *crap* via Whatsapp (what the statistic I read the other day about Whatsapp handling 60 billion messages per day or something like that really must include).

Interpersonal relationships have suffered. People are not connected. Except virtually. Everyone’s connected via smart devices, social networks and ubiquitous global networks of wifi or cellular data connections. This includes children as young as two years old who can barely hold a smart device as well as seventy or eighty year old grandparents who have someone embraced technology in the form of smart devices so much so they too reach for their device at their bed side as the first thing upon waking up. And this is not just some people. This is the norm these days. A global norm.

Therefore there is a real need more than ever before for quality content that stands out (from the content creators’ perspective). And some kind of filtering mechanism that filters out the nonsense noise and only focuses on the good stuff (and I’m not talking AI (artificial intelligence) although that could very well lend a helpful hand. On a personal level, smart folks need to develop their own way of mind numbingly useless content from consuming their valuable time (I started deleting the majority of forwarded audio, video and image files. Also lengthy PDF attachments and forward paragraphs of text: who has time to go through any of those these days and yet people refuse to stop and think before forwarding).

Pardon my ranting. It’s a serious issue. We need solutions not whining 🙂

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Dictating On Voice Activated Devices

Dictating to a voice activated device is a novel experience for me. Sometimes you just don’t want to type your ideas but want to speak them out loud. The technology these days empowers authors like myself who are too lazy to type or just want to try out the technology for the sake of it. So I’m trying this out to see how it goes. I haven’t figured out everything yet. But I am pleasantly surprised that my voice is recognizable to the iOS software and without too many corrections I can get this thing done. The built-in software within iOS is pretty good at translating voice to text. It is far more challenging for me to get accustomed to dictating what I want to write to software. I have yet to Google how to delete my mistakes when I see them typed by voice commands. I would like this experience to be completely hands-free and smooth flowing. And it should not take too long to get to that stage.

So, in order to practice, I decided to test it out by dictating this article. Just to see if I can throw this thing off. So far it doesn’t seem to mind and types whatever I say as long as I say it in English intelligibly enough. I haven’t have to type any tongue twisters or easily misheard or misinterpreted words phrases or sentences. Abracadabra hocus-pocus this is truly magical, the thing ignores my coughing and sneezing and other noises from the background. While I cannot say that this software built into the device will work for everyone but it seems to work for me. So far so good. Now if I can only focus on the writing (dictating) it would greatly increase my writing speed and productivity. I do type pretty fast but naturally I speak faster.

Writing is an artform and it has come a long way since the days of pen and ink on manuscripts to typewriters and desktop PCs to small portable smart devices that support voice recognition so good that the writer can free himself or herself from the medium and focus on the content itself. It will take some time but it will truly be the way writers write in the future. I think. I’m loving this. I think.

I have to learn to use this dictation thingamajig properly before totally adapting it over typing. For instance I still pause, as it eight [hesitate], while I wait for it to type what I just said instead of just saying it because it does take a few seconds to process. I still have to figure out how to delete mistakes using voice commands.

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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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Top 10 Reasons to get an Online Education

Online education is increasingly becoming available for various fields where it makes sense. Business, Mathematics, Humanities and some theoretical courses from physical sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc.) can easily be taught online. Of course, online education is simply not adequate for some disciplines, but it’s only a matter of time when virtually everything could be taught online.

1-Availability: Online education has matured over the years and is now available from some of the top universities in the world. For instance, check out the following:

2-Affordability: It’s a much more affordable option when compared to the traditional brick and mortar institutions. Some even offer FREE courses online Here is a short list of some of the providers.

3-Flexibility: You can study anywhere, anytime. This is a definite edge for those who wish to acquire knowledge despite their busy lives. If you’re traveling, you can take the class from your hotel room. Or watch class videos offline or write your paper while you’re flying over the Atlantic.

4-Global Collaboration: Your virtual classroom can have students from around the world from various backgrounds. Students can come together to exchange knowledge and benefit from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

5-Fastest way to learn new technologies: As fast as technologies are evolving, it’s hard for most people to keep up. Offering online education and updating it as soon as changes occur is much more feasible than offering traditional offline instructor lead courses.

6-Way more choices for online courses: There is a dizzying array of courses available online from institutions from all over the world. If you find a subject hard to understand, you can even take the course from, say a university in the US, then follow it up with the same or similar course from the UK or Singapore or Canada or Denmarkor any university from anywhere in the world offering online courses.

7-Easier to acquire marketable skills: Some of the most marketable skills don’t seem to be available in every traditional school. If you need to learn the latest programming language or acquire Mandarin conversational skills.

8-Introverts, stay at home mothers and, in some cases, even prisoners can study: Online education is potentially available to anyone with a device and an Internet connection. You don’t even have to get out of the house much less travel to another city or country to acquire education via online outlets.

9-Great use of new technology: Online education technology has come a long way and matured enough to be very effective both for the providers enabling them to reach a much wider audience and for the students to have much bigger choice of courses available. Furthermore, courses can be provided in mixed media – audio, video, text, live sessions, discussion forums for students and teachers and more. This makes the experience for everyone involved much richer than the standard medium of face-to-face interaction, in some ways.

10-Continue acquiring knowledge long after your college days are over: Traditional education may be stopped after graduating from the university. However, online education can continue and anyone, young and old, can acquire new knowledge and skills.

What is missing from online education is the element of direct human interaction, in class rooms and on campus. This should be compensated for by having offline meet ups between local students and instructors where possible or simply taking some classes in traditional school settings. A hybrid online/offline model is probably the best option to get the best outcome.

In conclusion, do not dismiss online education. It’s real and it’s here to stay. Embrace it now as a viable alternative to traditional ways of learning or risk being left behind.

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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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