Monthly Archives: September 2014

Why I take a week off every 7th

There’s only a finite amount of time in the day, and when things feel out of control, our tendency is to fill the time with more action and busyness. But this exactly the wrong approach.

In order to maintain perspective, I do two things regularly, and it’s been immensely useful to me.

Thinking Thursdays

Every Thursday morning, I block off time to simply think. 

First, I do this starting 6am in the morning, when my wife and son are still sleeping. I close the door, lay out a yoga mat, put a clipboard with a pile of fresh paper and some pens next to it, set a timer for 90 minutes, and lie down to think. Continue reading Why I take a week off every 7th

What I learned from my failed UserVoice experiment

Just a quick post today, as I’m busy preparing for my PhD defense (on Monday!).

A few months ago, I started sharing a beta “public feedback” forum with a few Gingko users. I used UserVoice to allow users to submit ideas, and to vote on them.


In the end, I feel it was a mistake for this stage of Gingko’s life, and have since disabled it.
Here’s why I think it was a mistake, and what I learned from it.
Continue reading What I learned from my failed UserVoice experiment

Science without Borders

Today, a 3 minute blast from the past.

I believe that science needs to change, and that to do so, it needs a new medium to work within. 
I think Gingko is a step closer to this new medium, but the element we’re still sorely lacking is collaboration.

In any case, here’s a 3 minute talk I gave in 2012 (before Gingko), which summarizes some of these ideas.

Approaching Science as a Whole, with Childlike Wonder

I think we can all learn how to improve the way science works, just by observing how children explore their world.

The best part of my day is after breakfast, when I take my son out for a walk. My son and I get to spend quality time together, and my wife can have some quiet time to do her work (I’ve already done several hours myself during my 5:30am – 9am block).

Lately, instead of going to the park, with its slides and swings and plastic toy structures, we’ve been going across the street. To the massive, odd collection of concrete and ramps and hills and grass that is Montreal’s Olympic Stadium complex.

The Olympic Stadium “Esplanade”. Or, our personal concrete playground, as it’s often empty during weekdays.

My son loves it! We get to climb up and down (and up and down and up and down) stairs, to swing on railings. To run up grass hills, and down ramps. To sit on the pavement and throw rocks down sewer openings.

It’s a large barren place, but there’s always the occasional tourist. And here’s the thing:

I know we get some very odd looks.

After all, I’m 30, my son is not even 2, and we’re climbing around at random like delinquent monkeys.

  • “This isn’t a park!”
  • “That’s not a designated play structure,”
  • “What are you doing up there?”
  • “Are you allowed to be on that side of the fence?”

There are no sharp boundaries

I find this kind of thinking very often, and its sad. We start labeling things very quickly.

  • “That there is a park, but this here is an event area.”
  • “This is a wooden triangle, not a super-spaceship-rocket-thing.”

And while it’s easy to look at a sign that says “Designated play area for 2-5 year olds, only.” and think it’s comical that things have to be so sharply delineated (what if my son is a week shy of 2 years?), we forget that the rest of our lives are full of labels and sharp boundaries.

  • “I am a biologist, not a chemist.”
  • “I am a writer, not a scientist.”

And what happens is that, instead of seeing the world as it is, with its infinite array of texture and complexity, we start to see the world as a series of abstractions.

Our tendency to label and abstract everything hides the underlying unity and complexity.
Our tendency to label and abstract everything hides the underlying unity and complexity.

And abstractions & categorizations can never capture the entire picture. We start to believe in the abstractions far too much, and no longer see the underlying complexity and unity… Continue reading Approaching Science as a Whole, with Childlike Wonder