Friday, June 06, 2014

The path of the autodidact

I like learning, be it a new computer algorithm or political history. My problem is that I spend a lot of time looking around, sampling information from different domains but not being able to focus and get deeper. Since I am in need of depth to feel happy about a topic, I always feel that there is something missing. I watch lots of YouTube videos and I am enrolled (but have never finished) in dozens of online courses. There is no end to sampling in this age of easy access to all sorts of information. Since September 2012, I have a second job, namely being a father, which does not leave any time for prolonged concentration.

My plan: Sample for 6 months, then in the final two weeks, decide on what to focus on (at most 2 things). Take a week of off from job and get down and dirty. If it is related to programming, create a working application. Make sure there is a babysitter during the day, i.e. father time = mainly evenings and weekends.

So, here is my plan for July 2014: First, find a babysitter. Then take a week off and study German. Rationale: I am speaking German with my son but I am not as fluent as I wish to be. I feel that a concentrated push would result in a large leap. My primary study tool is Duolingo. Additionally I will try to improve German Wikipedia pages and watch videos in German, DW for example.

Future candidates:
  • Programming practice with Top Coder, Project Euler, CodeChef. Follow Ankara Java User Group.
  • Write a web browser (that's the project of a Udacity course I did not finish).
  • Bayesian statistics
  • Machine learning. Might chess be a good application? Check other people's projects and replicate one that could be completed in a week (documentation + test). See  Tic Tac Toe, alpha-beta pruning, Rubik's CubeDama, Backgammon, Java Chess Engine Tutorial.
  • Write a program to play 2048
  • Study AI in Quake 3
  • Finish the online courses (assignments + projects) that are worth the time spent.
  • Write a spam blocker for Android.
  • Write a lunar lander clone. Write an autopilot that handles speed control with minimum fuel consumption. Write a computer AI that can finish the game all by itself
24 August 2014: I took my extra one week vacation to learn German in August. For seven days I used Duolingo for exercises in the morning and YouTube for German documentaries  and movies in the evening.

Duolingo summary: When I started a week ago my word count was 344 and my level was 8. Now my word count is 1092 and my level is 11. Below are the numerical details of my progress. Note that every day I broke the previous days point (XP) record with a whopping 460 in the end.

06 February 2015: Took one week off and wrote a game in Java. I didn't have enough time to port it to Android. I will do it the next time. I plan on taking one week vacations every three months instead of six.

Update for May 2015

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