20 Feb 2020

Writing one article per day

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What are the benefits of writing one article per day?

The main benefit I get from writing at least one article per day is that it forces me to spend time to think about a single question and to write down and express my thoughts clearly.

It allows me to practice my writing abilities, even though I use them daily to write down notes. It forces me to ask myself whether my grammar is correct and whether what I wrote makes sense, which is something I care a lot less about when I write down notes.

It lets me get into the habit of writing daily, so that writing and communicating doesn't feel like it requires a lot of energy.

I see writing one article per day as a habit to acquire in order to be able to write more effectively and communicate better. It is like exercising regularly. The purpose is to keep the muscle of writing alive and strengthening it slowly over time. By writing a lot we slowly acquire a voice that we can work to change and improve. Just like processes that are made explicit can be improved, so can communication be improved by spending time to write down what you want to share with others.

19 Feb 2020

PHP semantic versioning checker

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I use semantic versioning 2.0.0 for my PHP libraries and I'd like to know when I generate breaking changes to my code. I would like to have a tool that tells me when that happens, as soon as possible so I can avoid creating backward-incompatible changes.

In 2015 I was working on a lot of PHP code and releasing various libraries as well as using a lot of libraries which were not always respecting the semantic versioning 2.0.0 rules. I understood that it was difficult to keep track of all the changes done to a codebase and that you needed a certain level of expertise to tell what kind of semantic versioning impact changes had. I knew that most of the semantic versioning rules however were rules that could be codified such that you could run a program that would look at a before and after snapshot of a piece of code and tell you how it changed. Those changes could then be categorized according to what they changed, and based on the semantics of semantic versioning, a semantic versioning change could be generated for the code change itself.

Thus PHP Semantic Versioning Checker was born. It analyzes a before and after snapshot of a directory of source code and generates a report of all the changes that occurred. It is then possible to review all the changes by their type (class, function, method, trait, interface) and their semantic impact (major, minor, patch, none). It also computes a suggested versioning change, which is the highest semantic impact found amongst the different types inspected.

I hope that this library and the concept of scanning source code for semantic versioning changes becomes more mainstream, such that every project runs this kind of tool as part of their CI pipeline.

19 Feb 2020

Reading one Wikipedia article per day

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 2 min read (~259 words)

What are the benefits of reading one Wikipedia article per day?

From my experience so far with reading one Wikipedia article per day, I've enjoyed learning about topics I had not looked into for a long time.

I find biology, and more specifically genetics, highly interesting from a programmer's perspective because I see DNA as code and it makes me wonder how Nature developed this code.

I also find astronomy and everything related with space (space travel, planets, organization of space) also deeply interesting because I rarely spend any time thinking about it, yet I used to watch a lot of TV shows on parallel universes, string theory, etc. which I found fascinating.

I've spent some time reading on statistics as well since it is a tool I use daily at work and I think it is important that I master it as much as possible. Wikipedia allows me to explore and discover new topics that are related to statistics, something which might be a lot more difficult to do by simply reading books.

I think that as long as you add variety in what you read, Wikipedia will provide you with a lot of information and additional references that might be interesting to investigate.

18 Feb 2020

Anki recorder

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I'm learning a language using Anki flash cards and I'd like to record my progress over time. I'd like to be able to hear what I sounded like when I started learning.

In 2017 I started learning Chinese. It was quite difficult for me given that I had very little prior experience with Asian languages, other than learning a bit of Japanese through a Rosetta Stone program where I couldn't figure out what they wanted me to learn based on images alone (they were trying to teach me color, but it was not obvious).

I imported the Memrise Mandarin Chinese flashcards level 1, 2 and 3 through the use of an Anki extension (https://github.com/wilddom/memrise2anki-extension) and I started my journey to learn. After practicing for a few weeks, I started being interested to have some form of recording of my progress, so I thought I could simply record my voice when I was asked to recall a word. Anki already had a recorder as part of its features so I simply piggy-backed on it to implement an Anki extension which I called the Anki recorder.

When a new card is shown to you, the recorder starts right away. As you recall the word, you have to pronounce it. Once you've said the word, you can then check if you were correct or not, at which point the recording is stopped. Each record is timestamped, which allows you to listen to any of the words over time. It's rather funny to listen to yourself when you started learning a language and how you sound a few years later.

With this tool I was able to record over 193k audio samples over 3 years. There's a good chunk of those records that is only silence because it would also be triggered on cards with text only (where you had to remember how to write the word, or what the word meant).

Hopefully this tool can allow you to record your language learning progression and have fun after a few months of practice!

18 Feb 2020

Tracking my readings

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 2 min read (~230 words)

Why do I track how much time I read and how many pages I've read?

It allows me to have an idea of how long a book will take me to read. It also allows me to determine over time if I'm getting slower or faster reading books by using a website like How Long to Read. While the website says that reading a book such as Liu Cixin's Death's End should take 10h to read to the average reader at 300 WPM, it took me more than 20h to read it, which means I'm a very slow reader and that I read at less than 150 WPM.

The benefit of knowing how long a book will take me to read is that I can decide if I want to actually spend that time finishing the book or not. When a book is good, this question is not considered, but when it is bad, it is important to decide whether spending more time is a worthwhile use of my time.