David Erik

"This blog has more redesigns than posts" - Any reader

Moving towards your mountain

This post was found abandoned in an old folder. My routines have changed in many ways since then. But the conclusions are still valid. And I still lack a mountain. Also, the physical risk from floor ball did catch up with me and managed to destroy my inferior extensor retinaculum. I may have googled that term. But still.

A trip to Stockholm

This is a brief description of when my father and I traveled eleven hours south along the swedish E4 road with Stockholm as the end destination, in a dirty white car loaded with all my possessions. Except for a bike, a pair of downhill skis, and a coin collection with an approximated value of 1500 SEK, even though one of the coins actually is dated 1868.

When your phone dies, don’t die with it. Live without it

This is a story from a weekend when I visited Stockholm, long before I moved there and knew anything about the city. It should be mentioned, however, that it could as well happen today. My navigation skills are sparse, so to speak.

2013: a graphical overview

Expected images? Sorry. I can however present a tag cloud for 2013, based on daily logs:

2013 has been a really good year. If one looks back to the promises I made myself for the year, a few conclusions can be made.

Lift have been a stunningly great tool for me. Reading, writing, and exercising have been going really well. A few book recommendations at the top of my head: Into the Plex (a book about Google), Inside Scientology, American Gods, and A man called Ove (potentially the best book I've read - ever). Props to my Kindle Paperwhite that makes books possible. I have also started using Day One for microblogging on a personal level. Interesting to see how valuable it will be a few years from now.

Social media wise, it seems Facebook is less trendy now. I love it. Lets hope this continues. Next year, we might not have Facebook accounts. Fingers crossed.

When it comes down to my quarterly goals, I kind of managed two out of three important factors: get some work done, and travel a lot. Truth be told, I had aimed for higher level traveling, and as it is now I have not left Europe. But nevertheless, travel is still on the top of the list of things I want to, and should strive to do. A huge shoutout to my fellow travel companions that repeatedly decide places they want to go and then drag me along (kind of literally since I counted as "disabled" during our last trip to Paris - a stunning experience that everyone should try out, more on that later).

Quick highlight reel from 2013:

  • Climbing. The one exercise form that everyone should try out. Do it. Now.
  • Mountaineering in Sarek. Quoting Wikipedia:
    "Sarek National Park  is a national park [...] in northern Sweden. [...] The national park is popular with hikers and mountaineers, but not suitable for beginners."
    Hey, guys, you never told me that last part before we left. Before this trip, I would have answered "yes" to the question whether I was kind of in shape. Now I know better.
  • I guess I should mention that I got my master's degree this year. But then again, that week in Sarek alone was way harder than that.
  • Travel! Rhodes, Gotland, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris. Bonus points to Anton, Hanna and Viktor for participating in almost all of the above. You rock.

 Thank you, friends, for making the year this good. Hope to see you a lot next year.

Welcome to the North

We arrive late, almost midnight. Something feels wrong. We should not really be here.

The conditions are perfect for this kind of situation. A fog like no one before has invaded the air. And it is dark. In the north of Sweden, it is always dark during this time of the year. Add midnight and fog to that.

All of a sudden, I feel like I am part of a role playing game. One of those when you spend more time running around in scary environments than actually unravelling scary situations.

There are not many of us, but not few. Our drop zone is unusual for this kind of situation, and confusion takes place. The bravest of us start walking randomly in the only direction where there is light. Others, me among them, follow blindly. Don’t want to fall behind.

We approach a building. Good. We expected a building, just not this dark. One heavy door later and the game-like scenery continues - now it is that kind of building where construction work started many years ago, and abruptly stopped many many years before it should have. My instinct is to stop, as many others around me.

Luckily, we have our experienced heroes. They know the drill. Calmly, they guide us forward through the chaos, and we enter a more organized part of the base. In theory the safer part, but I see no authorized personnel on sight. Strange, since these kind of organizations hold security as a crucial issue. Now everything is closed down. The lights seem to be running on half speed.

We finally reach our objective, and assume that the worst part is over. But one look towards the vehicle, that will take us towards the next objective, reminds us of the fog. And the upcoming trip through a dark, deserted forest.

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I really wish I could say that Luleå Airport is world first with applying gamification to the arrival process. But alas.

Making small decisions

This is the strange result of trying to write down my mental model for quickly making small decisions. Ironically enough, after stating that every day is filled with small decisions, I could not find a better metaphor than the following, at least not at the top of my head. I hope you can make some sense out of this anyway. It’s really practical but hard to explain.

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Decisions. Don’t we all love them? Every day is filled with small decisions and sometimes (often) we spend too much time making them, when in reality both alternatives would be suitable and thus the entire process is just killing time. Even though they are often insignificant, we still make them like they are the most important thing in the world.

Real life example: My soccer shoes is standing next to the door. I could pick them up and move them to their storage to avoid stumbling on them later, but there is a slight possibility that I’ll get to play soccer later this day - something that would render my action pointless. So should I take this action? As with any problem, I will make some calculations in my head (the odds for playing soccer tonight etcetera) and try to figure out the best action - this sounds overkill, but my brain does this anyway. But using my mental model, I have drastically reduced the time that I spend making this kind of decisions:

If you were to put this situation in a matrix, it would look like this: Two different actions, and two different future happenings.

Action 1: Leave shoes Action 2: Put away shoes
Future 1: Soccer! Optimal Have to get shoes
Future 2: No soccer Stumble over shoes later Optimal

In this case, both actions will have one ”bad” scenario and an optimal one.

Now lets look at the two potential futures and realize that there is often one future you would prefer over the other: In this case I want to play soccer rather than not. So if I leave the shoes (Action 1), I’ll have the bad outcome when the bad thing happened (Future 2). While if I put away the shoes, the bad outcome will happen because I’ll get to play soccer. And frankly, I’ll gladly go get my shoes from the storage if I get the opportunity to play.

The metaphor is not very strong. But view it this way:

Most often the decision is about something small, that will depend on something big (that we cannot affect). And the rule of thumb here is to simply take the action that will have its bad outcome if the big thing has a good outcome. Something bad, but small, is naturally less important to something good and big. By choosing action based on which one is worse if the future is good you ensure yourself at least one good thing, either small or big.

Using Skype is a horrible user experience

I would like to begin with a note that Skype is amazing at its main feature: Voice communication over the internet. And when you use Skype daily for voice communicating, you start to use its other main communication feature: the messenger functionality. And this is a disaster.

  • First of all: you cannot send messages to users when they are offline. This is probably due to the technical nature of how Skype functions (Peer-to-Peer) and this is (obviously when looking at the popularity of Skype) a brilliant  technique for making internet calls. But messaging is a whole other thing. If I send someone a message and they are not online, I need this message to be delivered to them directly once they login. And as it is now, if I log out before they log in, this won't happen until the next time we are both online.
  • The problem gets bigger when we consider that we use Skype on several machines. I might send some important information from my work computer, and since my target is not online, this won't be sent. And if I later login at my home computer, and my target comes online as well, this message is still not sent - it's only my job computer that knows of the message.
  • This fact that my different instances of Skype does not know of each other is incredibly annoying. When someone send me a message and I'm logged in on my phone and computer at the same time, I'll get notifications on both. And that's fine, it makes sense (Skype can't know where I currently am). But if I read the message on my computer, and later open Skype on my phone, I would assume that this would be marked as read. But no. I'll get notified that a bunch of new messages have arrived. And possibly the most annoying feature: I'll get notifications on my own messages to someone else. I spend a lot of time marking conversations as "read" by opening them on my phone, even though I have read them all already (and possibly written most of it).
  • Skype for iOS now carries advertisements - and that's fine. Skype is free and I would like to keep it that way. But the complaint is regarding how these advertisements act: they slide in at random times, moving down the conversations to take up some space at the top. This could happen 0.4 seconds after you change to the conversation list, which at several times has caused me to mistakenly click the advertisement instead of the most recent (top) conversation. Brilliant way to increase click-through, sure, but it is just wrong.
  • When sending messages from the iOS application, the timestamp occasionally turns out totally wrong (last time I checked it was off by 10 hours). And when I receive a message on a machine which hasn't loaded all the old messages between me and the sender (this happens), this message gets "hidden" by showing up in the wrong place: it displays before all the already read information that just wasn't already displayed. This causes confusion and makes it a headache to find the new message.
  • Finally, there are a bunch of other things that don't make sense on the iOS application, such as "recently contacted" containing people I have not spoken to in a long time (over people I talk to daily), and the recent message list not containing people that I am currently messaging with (so I have to open the Contact list, find them there, and manually open the "Chat" tab to read the messages.

Overall, I am not very impressed. Skype, it might be impossible to change the issue of sending messages to offline users due to how your technical solution functions, but at the very least fix the obvious bugs with the iOS application. Thank you.

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Ending note: Many problems is connected to the iOS Skype application. Skype applications for other phones might be better, and for their users sake I hope so.

I have a problem completing things

Completing things is most often what to strive for. You want to reach the goal of the task, independent if that is ”code this web application",  ”solve this particular problem” or "make dinner". And everything you do can be derived into smaller tasks. Cooking a meal for friends is partly cooking, partly making the table. And of course, cooking consists of chopping, heating, bleeding, and so on.*

There are several different approaches how to complete these tasks. If you look at the Scrum methodology for instance, you should prioritize all of these small tasks based on what is most important and then do these in that order, as many as you have time for until the next deadline.** And in normal life it is often a logical structure and flow to which parts you choose first (chopping onions before frying them, for instance, or letting the pasta water boil while you start preparing the other ingredients).

My approach to more complex things such as a programming project is almost always to begin with the hardest parts. The parts where I really have to think. I know I could get a lot of the other things done pretty fast, but they are not as interesting. Instead I focus on the most interesting part, even though this might not be very practical (doing the simple things first might result in the advanced part being unsuitable in the end). And this is how I like to do it.

The problem arises when these hard subtasks are completed. The moment I test them and realize they finally function as intended, I am hit by two seconds of happiness followed by a overwhelming disinterest in doing the remaining parts of the project. It is working now! The rest is just basic time consuming stuff that I already know how to do and I am certain that completing any of the remaining parts will not give me the same satisfaction. Many times I simply leave the project here, never to return.

This annoying but explainable happening totally kills productivity, even when doing something that ”must” be completed. Even though the simple remaining tasks should be the ones that are easy to complete, they are the ones ending up taking most of the time.

I don’t really know how to solve this. This is not that kind of blogpost. The only thing I can say is that to capitalize on this habit, I should probably work in a team and just focus on the complex things, while someone with better self control could do the no less important but relatively boring stuff.

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* That was a really long paragraph to say ”Tasks can be divided into smaller tasks.” Moving on.

** And that was a REALLY simplified version of the Scrum methodology. Still moving on.

Why this year will be even better than the last

Okay, so 2012 was awesome. The next step is to make sure 2013 is at least equally awesome. Or preferably even better. But if a year will be amazing or not is hard to tell beforehand. My method for trying to ensure I am satisfied when 2013 is over is to try to be consistent with the positive habits I have and try to avoid the negative habits I drag with me. I wrote about Lift earlier, a sweet little habit tracking app that I will continue using during 2013. I track most of the points below through Lift. There's something about statistics.

Lets not call these new year's resolutions. Lets call them guidelines. That I conveniently align with the beginning of a new year. Just like taxes. Kind of.

  • Stay positive (like THAT would be possible) | People sometimes think I am not positive enough. By putting it in a list, I cannot ignore them. Good song by The Streets by the way.
  • Less social media | Read "less slacking on Facebook and Twitter".
  • Read and write more
  • Sleep before midnight
  • Keep exercising
  • Log what I eat | Not because I eat too much or too unhealthy. I eat too little.

There you have it. My recipe for an awesome 2013. And, as with all recipes, it is often possible to change the amount of all the ingredients and still produce an amazing dish. And, cheesy enough, food is always better in the right company.

7 things that made 2012 awesome

Every time a year ends, we usually look back at it and remember a few special things in particular. These could be small or big, important or just a little fun. The relevant thing to consider is that after a whole year, such a list should in theory be incredibly long - since a year is incredibly long. After all, why wouldn't you be doing things worth remembering at the end of the year?

The problem is that even if we do many incredible things, we really don't remember all of them. This is why keeping a blog of some sorts comes in handy. And even if I'm not particularly  fond of social media, browsing through your posts for the year could also be helpful. Even though I haven't been very active at anyone of these methods, I have tried to remember things that I really liked during the now ended 2012. The list goes as follows, with an approximate ordering in time:

Norröna and Icebreaker

I bought my Norröna Lofoten outershell jacket early in 2012, and accompanied with a Norröna /29 fleece hoodie, I have the best possible jacket I can think of. This jacket is brilliant and helped enhance the experience of some points below. Regarding gear, Icebreaker gets another two thumbs up. Recently bought the 200g/m2 Icebreaker base layer, and it is amazing.

Iceland

Incredible place that I visited together with my father. I blogged about it here.

Renting a house in Ammarnäs

Ammarnäs is small place in Lapland, Sweden, with less than 100 inhabitants. Due to its location, it's an amazing location for snowmobiles and downhill skiing. Enough said.

Working with Max and Robin

Spent a large amount of time this summer working as web consultant together with two of my classmates, Max and Robin. You guys rock.

Books

Two books in particular made this list: I am Zlatan and Steve Jobs. Very different, but very good in their own ways.

Playing floorball with friends

A weekly activity that made every beginning of the week extra bright knowing that it soon was wednesday and floorball. Thank you for that.

Celebrating new year downhill skiing

This new year I travelled with friends to Kittelfjäll, Sweden, and spent a few days skiing. Not much sunlight this time a year in Sweden, but amazing nevertheless.

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All in all, 2012 was a very good year. Thank you for participating.