Friday, April 19, 2013

Time to do something

A lot of times an idea strikes me.
And I realize how smarter I am becoming smarter day by day.

A lot of times I want to talk about such ideas with others.
And it is then I realize, they already know of it.

They have already been there, done that.
They know the line of thinking in and out.

And they know the value of the thoughts.
Beyond a point, the thoughts stop making much difference.

One of my favorite law from computer science is Amadahl's law.
What it states is, that if a system is made of 2 components, and you improve one of the components by a 100 %, the overall improvement is proportional to the contribution of that component only.

That is, say you were designing a computer, and you have a hard disk for read and write, (85:15 % ratio for read vs write access), and if you could somehow give enough effort to do one of the following (Say doing either requires same amount of time, manaul effort, and you have to choose to do which one first)
either take 50% the read access time (make reads 2x faster),
or take 10% write access time as earlier (make writes 10x faster),
your overall system would be more efficient by
case-1 : 100 / (85/2 + 15) = 1.74 times
case-2 : 100 / (85 + 15/2) = 1.15 times

A smaller improvement in something that impacts more give you more performance boost easily .

And beyond a point, lets say you were able to make reads faster by 1 unit for every 1 day of effort
on day1     2x => 100 / (85/2   + 15) = 1.74 times
on day2     3x => 100 / (85/3   + 15) = 2.31 times
on day100 101x => 100 / (85/101 + 15) = 6.31 times
on day200 201x => 100 / (85/201 + 15) = 6.48387 times
on day201 202x => 100 / (85/202 + 15) = 6.48475 times

So yes, beyond, say a 100 days of such sustained effort, you are not going to see much improvement in the overall system if you focus on one thing alone, because something else would have become a bottleneck, no matter how insignificant it initially was.

A similar thing is there with the thoughts as well.
Beyond a point, you will get more improvement in you as a person, if you start spending more time doing stuff rather than thinking about it.

All those people, who say that first step is important, are right, it is important but only at the beginning.
Once you have crossed a threshold grey area, it won't matter whether you ever started or not, what will matter is what you are doing now, for your present and future.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My first interview experience

So I recently took my first technical interview. I sat on the other side of the table, and interviewed a candidate for a good 50 minutes. All in all, an experience in itself.

I realized why hiring is so tough and painful in startups - the amount of time you spend on hiring say 2 guys, will be simply huge, and given your team size, might be a complete drain on your resources.
There were lots of thoughts raging in my mind, regarding tips I would like to give myself for an interview, so I will try to document prominent lines of thinking here:

1) Bullshit with care 

You might realize that the interviewer doesn't know everything about a particular question, but he still might know something about it. You can try bullshitting your way inside, however, you try to bluff wrong about something he knows and you are gone down the drain.

2) Before answering the question, think from the interviewer's point of view

Usually, the interviewer wouldn't remember all the details about the question. In fact, he might be impressed if you give him an answer which is correct, which he hasn't thought of yet or that he wasn't expecting.
So before you answer, take your time, try to think what might be a good follow up question from the question currently being asked.
Try to think of something you would like to be asked about, from that question.
The more you lead them to asking questions you anticipate, the better.

3) The interviewer is also human, know when to stop
Sometimes, you might be done, but there will be no expression on the interviewer's face. Know when to stop answering. Keep the interviewer(s) engaged, as much as possible.

4) Listen carefully

And ask for clarifications, as many sensible ones as you can think of. No interviewer appreciates a candidate acting smart and answering non sense because he wasn't listening

5) Value the importance of time, both yours and the interviewer's

You have limited time with an interviewer. One goal is to maximize the difference between the good things he knows about you before and after the interview, while minimizing the amount of bad impression formed during it. There is no real metric to measure the two, but I hope the idea helps. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Ideas regarding the barrier theory, non linearity of time and idiots

Let me talk about my ideas regarding my barrier theory today

Though I don't know if something similar exists, and I haven't completely thought it off (its still half baked right now).

I have been watching a lot of videos these days, some of them related to rape victims, some others related to gun violence, yet others related to crimes and murders; basically, atrocities that humans commit against fellow humans out of their own insecurities and insanities,

And one thing, that people usually say for any new measure is, if someone wants to do it, they will do it, no matter whether you reduce the number of guns in the market, no matter whether you remove those window films for car tints, no matter whether you close pubs at the right time, no matter if women wear long clothes.

The argument boils down to having a better policing, rather than focussing on all such measures.

While I agree with them, that the perpetrators will do it no matter what, I think what people miss out from the bigger picture is, the barriers.

As a law enforcer, a civil servant may not be able to prevent all the crimes. The civil servant belongs to an organisation, all organisations have finite resources. No matter how huge they be, most organizations are not as big as the number of possible perpetrators. Which practically can involve anyone not part of the organization, and might also involve some internal members because of internal inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. Thus, they/ their agents cannot stop all the crimes (each and every instance of a crime).

Yet, some steps, like law, punishment, deterrence, help them increase the barrier to committing crime, on the average.

So yes, one cannot prevent all rapes happening behind those blackened windows in cars, psychos will rape no matter whether there are tinted windows or not, but you can, definitely reduce the average number of such cases.

Its because most people are not intrinsically bad (or good, they are in the grey zone), they have their moments of lapse of judgement  and effective policies that increases the barriers to stop them from committing the crimes can be good enough in short term.

Of course, just preventing the crime is not good enough, it doesn't kill the thoughts from people's mind. But then, Preventing such thoughts from people's mind, providing them a good upbringing, making people as better human beings is  not something for the police to achieve, its the education system. The former is a short term measure, the latter, a long term measure, and both are important for a society to maintain its standards of sanity.

I guess why people frown on measures like these is, because these measures tend to shift focus from the real issue. Its basically like, lets say the system works 50% of the time, for effectively curbing, we need to make it work to say 75% of the time, with barriers we can probably do with system working for say 67% of the time. People are not frowning the barriers (always, though many a times they do), they are frowning that in the name of the barriers, the workingness of the system will be ignored, and it will stay at 50% rather than move up to minimum 67%.

So the bottom line is, there is always a tradeoff - you increase the barriers for stopping the bad from happening, and you need lesser amount of manual interventions. But you still need a minimum amount of intervention effort to be able to handle situations correctly. The barriers work only beyond a certain point of parity.

An effective system is one, which continuously keeps lowering the barriers for people to commit good, while increasing the barriers to stop people from commiting bad.


So, now I think I can move on to another theory of mine, non linearity of time.

A lot of people believe that all humans are created equal.

I disagree. I believe most humans are created almost equal. But there are mild differences. Some are created faster than others, some are created smarter than others, some are created sharper than others, and so on, IMO, the original belief usually stems either from the fact that all people are equal before the eyes of the law, or from some socio-religious preaching. 

Anyways, the problem starts arising, when people start comparing their times with someone else's time.
I have 24 hours in a day, so has the prime minister of India; However, the amount of change he can potentially bring in 24 hours, will be much higher than what I can bring, at this stage.

No, its not about his age alone, you take the prime minister and another random guy aged 77, and the dear prime minister can still cause much more change than the random guy could possibly make.

Its about the responsibility a person has, the number of things someone is responsible for. That makes his time non linear, more important than the time of the other people around him. Because, each of his minute can have possibly more ramification than those of others.

Interestingly, even the same person, lets say I, will find that my time is more valuable now than it was an year or two ago. (That is, if I am on moving up in life) Because now I am responsible for more things than I earlier was.

There are many ways to view life, I think one of the ways to view life can be to view it as a maximization problem  - you try to increase the value of your time by as much as you can. 
Yes, time is money, and you have to invest it carefully, so that its value grows over a given duration.


A third thing I wanted to talk to talk about is about life of idiots. I was (and still am) reading a book - The Dilbert principle by Scott Adams. Scott mentions how we spend a major part of our day being ignorant idiots at different times in the day.

So one day, I was just thinking, when finally the realization set in how we are all idiots.
Basically, if I haven't invested my time to learn anything new yesterday, I am an idiot for whiling my time away. If I have, then I was still an idiot, since I knew less than what I (potentially) might be knowing today, I would be less smarter than what I was today.
A flipside is, I keep forgetting a lot of things as I grow, hence I am still an idiot, I know much less today, in comparison to the sum total of all that I have know for my life (Think every piece of knowledge added over every day of my lifetime)

For me, being an idiot is all about being ignorant.
Its funny, how there are so many idiots all around us, yet no one likes being told on their face that they are an idiot. Its kind of a bubble in equilibrium - Everyone believes that they are smart, while we are all only smarter than what we were yesterday and what we forget tomorrow.