Why I started this website

I started this website with 3 goals in mind. They are, in order:

  1. I want to develop a writing practice.
  2. I want to develop a visualization practice.
  3. I want a CV website.

Well, actually I lied. There is a 4th reason:

  1. I am taking a class where the professor wanted me to create a Github website for an assignment. This website will be my submission.

But if 4 was my primary motive, I would’ve finished this website creation in an hour or so. I ended up spending (turns chair to look at the clock), about 7-8 hours, learning to play with Hugo and I am finally writing this post because I value the first 3 goals much more than the 4th one.

I especially value the first goal. While I have written before, I have not written consistently enough to hone my writing skills systematically. It has always been for one-off reasons like my Master’s thesis or an assignment. I hope spending 7-8 hours and creating a website and publicly admitting that I really want to do this will be a good motivating factor to start developing a writing practice. In addition to that, since I am back in college now, I am learning new things every week which gives me a new topic to write about every week. So that reduces the friction further to start practicing.

One thing I am not sure about is in regards to the word I used earlier - systematically. I don’t know how I will systematically get better at writing. In fact I am assuming that is something one can do. Since you are reading this, I hope you will stick around and read what I post to let me know what you think. A feedback loop seems like a good way to know if I am heading in the right direction.

Another method I have in mind is to note down problems I run into when I am trying to write and notice patterns in those problems. I am assuming that I can approach the writing practice like a computer scientist and reduce the skill of writing to certain classes of problems and then have algorithms in mind to attack those problems. It might be a fool’s errand to attempt generalizing something as context specific as writing but I have to start somewhere. I might also be biased to think about writing like a computer scientist would, since the best writing advice I have gotten so far comes from a computer scientist:

"… even if you have only 60 readers, it pays to spend an hour if by doing so you can save your average reader a minute." – Edsger W. Dijkstra, EWD1300

The one rule I try to maintain, albeit with much difficulty and failing often, is that of Computational kindness (links to video). That has definitely helped me draft good emails with more of a focus on actions the reader needs to take rather than information which they can search when they need instead of reading every word. But I can’t clearly see how to apply that idea to longer forms of writing when the whole point of the piece could be to convey information and not to call for action. I think the answer would be along the lines of ‘Edit ruthlessly’. But I am not entirely sure how to do that.

The second goal is to develop a visualization practice. I want to master Tableau. I have used Tableau before, but I have not mastered it. I believe I can tie up goals 1 and 2 together by writing with data visualizations interspersed. I am hoping to read the excellent book, Whole Numbers and Half Truths by Rukmini S, and replicate the visualizations available in that book as a practice exercise. We will see how that goes.

Atleast, goals 3 and 4 have been achieved (See my About page). I hope goals 1 and 2 will also be achieved to some extent. After all, to end my first post in this blog in an optimistic note:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

– “Hope’ is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson