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2nd January 2014

Twenty Three.

I recently I turned twenty three and I thought it would be an ideal time to list some of the things I've learnt during the 23rd year of my life.


Sometimes you don't know you're truly happy until the time has past.
This is something that hit me hard this year. If you ever find yourself in a really great moment, or if you're just happy with how your life is going in general, try to appreciate that happiness while it's still there.


The world doesn't owe you anything
I think this is something we can all forget. We often believe life owes us something. We get mad when things happen that we can't control and when things don't go as smoothly as we want them to. Bad things happen and we can only do so much. There's a quote that I think sums this up, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."


Make the most of the youth you have left
Today is the youngest you'll ever be. So make the most of it while you can. Run, play a sport, even climb a mountain! Simply enjoy how able your body is. You're never too old to enjoy a walk through the park.


It's easier to burn a bridge than build one
It can take years to build a strong friendship or relationship with someone but it can take just minutes to destroy. It can be extremely easy to break connections with people. If you appreciate somebody in your life, show them.


Life goes on
Nothing is permanent, the worst times in life will eventually pass and the best times won't last forever. The best we can do is enjoy where we are in the present and be appreciative for the rich set of experiences that life brings.


29th November 2012

No pressure, have fun. It's all pointless anyway

I heard a quote recently, "Don't take life so seriously, no one gets out alive". I've heard it 100 times before but this time it resonated with me. Lately, while watching my friends and myself grow into young adults I've noticed a change in our attitude from when we were younger. We're no longer as driven by our long term goals, we have responsibilities in the present, and if that means sacrificing what we want in the long term so we can live easier in the present, that's what we'll do. We settle into a secure routines, maybe your job sucks but it pays the bill, or maybe you want to move away but that's too much effort.

Let's put your life into perspective for a moment. You're just one human alive today among another 7 billion other humans and the 100s of billions of humans that came before that. The planet you live on is just a spec compared to the size of the solar system, and even the solar system is a spec when compared to the Milky Way. Even the size of the Milky Way is irrelevant when compared to the vastness of the universe. Your freewill, it's probably an illusion and it's pretty likely that the universe you're in is just one massive simulation.

It can be a little unnerving how our human problems seem so trivial when compared to the scope of the universe, but the triviality of our lives can be used to empower our actions. Take a typical scenario where you might feel nervous about making a big decision in life, changing jobs for example. We can feel anxiety because it could be a change for the worse. We might not get on with the employees or it could be more stressful. This fear of change often stops us getting want we really want. During situations like this it can be comforting to remind ourselves of the real perspective of the situation. It's completely meaningless in the scope of larger scope of things so really we shouldn't be worrying so much and just get on with it, what's the worse that can happen?

It's not just big decisions this type of thinking can be useful to consider. It's also helpful for coping with stressful situations. We've all been in situations where we want to do something but we've decided otherwise because of our own self-doubt. Think of a great singer that's too frightened to sing on stage. Here it's helpful to take a step back and ask yourself, in the larger scope of things does it really matter?

Of course you should still stay rational about all the decisions and actions you make. Just keep in mind that we have little reason to take them so seriously letting our responsibilities and fears overwhelm us, leaving little to no room for our personal happiness. It's much more important for us to take a few risks and have fun living a life as close to our dreams as we can, even if that means doing a things that are a little frightening from time to time.

Have fun and try not to waste your future worrying about what people think of you, panicking about making the perfect decisions, or being a slave to responsibility. In quite a genuine way the epic scale of the universe we live in is really just its way of saying to us, "no pressure, have fun. It's all pointless anyway".


16th July 2012

Maximising Happiness

Let me put you in my shoes, I'm nearly 22, I've just finished university and I'm just starting to realise I won't be young forever like I once thought I would. I'm sure many of you have already pasted this stage in life and you've probably already had to think about the difficult questions on my mind at moment such as, 'what's my purpose in life?'

I'm sure you're wondering, why a 21 year old guy is worrying about all this? I'm still so young right? Yeah, I suppose but I know I won't be forever, and once my youth has past I'll never get it back again. There are no second chances here, not for any of us, I need to make the most of what I have left of my youth and then of my life. I recently watched a TED Talk where Jane McGonigal highlighted the top 5 most common regrets from the dying. I recommend you watch the full video but for now here's the list:

  1. I wish I hadn't worked so hard
  2. I wish I stayed in touch with my friends
  3. I wish I let myself be happier
  4. I wish I had the courage to express my true self
  5. I wish I'd lived a life true to my dreams, instead of what others expected of me

Think about what you want from life at the moment? Maybe you're saving up for a new car or maybe you're trying to get a promotion. I know most my friends who are finishing university are looking for full time employment right now, and that's great, but when you're lying on your death bed and someone asks you, 'what do you regret the most?' Would you reply, 'not getting that car', or, 'not getting that job'?

People often state, 'happiness comes from within', and I think that's probably half right. There are two categories these regrets seem to fall under. The first set are regrets about who we we're and how we acted during our life; our personalities. The second categories is what we did, and who we interacted with; our choices.

We all wish we were slightly different, maybe we want to be more confident or more outgoing but how can we make these changes and be the people we want to be? It's hard to just simply say, 'today I'm going to be more social', and then actually go do it. I've always been an awkward kid, I never liked social events, they made me feel like I was out of place and different to everyone else. Although I didn't like social settings I always felt I was missing out. I noticed all my friends having fun and wondered why I couldn't enjoy myself like that. I knew I didn't want to regret not being a part of that when I was older, so a few years ago I started making a change, I started going to social events and spending more time with my friends. This was the first small change I made. Next I decide I needed to be more sociable so I tried to interact with people whenever I could. Like with everything the more you practise the better you get and now I'm a lot better and I honestly enjoy going out and spending time with my friends and even meeting new people. If you want to change who you are you'll need to make these small changes. Put yourself into these uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations and realise although you might regret it at the time you probably won't when you're older. You know what they say, you don't regret the things you've done, but those you did not.

That's just half the story though, even if we have a great positive personality to truly be happy and be free from regret in our lives we need to have a rich set of experiences that make us fill we lived out our life to its fullest possible. They experiences could be traveling, or something crazier like skydiving or mountain climbing, basically doing things that make us feel we've accomplished something. Again it's not easy to just go out and do these things, but one way we could help increase the amount of experiences with have is simply to be move open to new things. If you have a co-worker or friend who is going to a cool place or has a cool hobby ask if it would be alright for you to join them. Try to say 'yes' more even when you're not sure if you'll enjoy it at the time, remember most the time you'll be glad you did it!

To conclude remember your happiness is the most important thing. A certain amount of money will make you happy but if you're working 6 out of 7 days every week you've probably not got a good balance. The first step in regaining control of your life is by realising you don't 'have' to do anything, and in fact everything you do in life is of your choice. You choose to go to work just like you choose to do anything. You always have choices, even if sometimes they might be difficult to make. So put happiness first and live a live true to your dreams without regret.


6th June 2012

Optimising the Hacker News community

We all love Hacker News for similar reasons. We share common interests in subjects such as hacking, technology and startups. As a community we also love to create things, with many of us putting large amounts of our free time each week into creating new products and services that will hopefully be used and enjoyed by people like ourselves.

Even when you have a great idea it won't always make a great product if the execution isn't perfect. We often need a little feedback on what we're doing wrong along the way, but we also need to know what we're doing right. Hacker News provides us the perfect community to obtain feedback from more experienced users through Show and Ask HN submissions.

I recently read an interesting article by Alex Ramadan explaining why we should always up vote Show HN submissions, and I agree, we generally should. I don't think we should stop there though, we shouldn't just blindly up vote the post, take a quick look. What's the first thing you like? What's the first thing you notice could be improved? When you've found something you like and something to improve leave a comment, it only takes a minute or two. I often see Show HN submissions with a quite a few upvotes with 0 comments or often worst, 1 or 2 comments along the lines of, 'I don't like the menu, it's too confusing'. That isn't helping anyone. Someone has probably worked extremely hard building that and they now have no idea if anyone actually found it useful or not. Sure let them know the menu could use some work, but they need to know what they're doing right.

So let's try to be a bit more positive. Often users aren't just looking for criticism but also for a little bit of encouragement and reassurance that what they've worked on for the last 6 months has been worthwhile.


6th May 2012

Is the UK becoming a bad place for internet startups?

The UK has been making some really bad decisions for encouraging tech startups.

For those unaware and reading from outside of the UK, a UK judge has ordered British ISPs to block access to arguably the biggest BitTorrent search engine, The Pirate Bay. Alone, this is a worrying act of censorship over internet access especially when you consider The Pirate Bay is currently (according to Alexa) the 77th most visited website in the world, and doesn't even host any pirated content on its servers.

Unfortunately this isn't the only poor decision the UK has made recently... They're also planning to make it effectively illegal for UK webmasters to use analytics and other cookie tracking services that can be used to collect information on their visitors.
http://h30565.www3.hp.com/t5/UK-Edition-start-here/Richi-s-Rant-Web-Analytics-Illegal-after-26-May-Crazy/ba-p/2892

In my opinion this kind of action displays a clear misunderstanding about the workings of the internet and will more damage in an attempt to address the problem they're trying to solve. It's evident that many users have a problem with websites tracking their browsing activity, but for concerned users this can be quickly fixed by disabling cookies. Ironically, if you are someone who's worried about being being tracked online, you'll be delighted to hear the UK government are planning to monitor all your personal email, phone and web traffic soon.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17590363

It doesn't end there though, the UK goverment are also considering to block all pornographic websites by default, requiring users contact their ISPs to first opt-in before being allowed to access adult content.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17952975

If these measures are put into action the UK would be making one massive step towards the great firewall of China, where the government has the power to dictate what the people can and can't do online. And how exactly are we defining a pornographic site? Many family friendly websites occasionally have pornographic content, take Tumblr, most users never upload any pornographic content to their Tumblr account, but occasionally users do, so do we block access to the entire website? Do we block access to any website with user added content? And what does this type of censorship do to the functionality of the web? Well here are some problems a software developer had when living behind the great firewall of china.

Any internet entrepreneurs looking to based their company in the UK should be worried; your website may be under threat of being heavily censored or even blocked completely over the next few years. If you're startup hosts user uploaded content, you could be under threat already.

If you're a UK webmaster leave a comment below, I'm interested to hear you're thoughts.


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