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OKR #8

Posted on Jan 8, 2023 by Chung-hong Chan

Previously on this blog: my objectives / adjustment; actual OKR #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7.

Thank you, Duo!

I said I will change my objectives. I was struggling whether I should write this OKR with the new trimmed ones or the old ones. I think it would prefer to write with the new trimmed ones.

The 2nd half of 2022 was a crazy ride. A lot of traveling, thanks to the 9-Euro Ticket; A lot of blogging, thanks to the Advent of emacs. But the biggest change perhaps was the ending of my job at the University of Mannheim. I started my new job in October at the GESIS Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften in Cologne. Well, “Gates open, point of no return.” I switched back to mostly WFH, which I like.

There were many issues with the people I care about, which I don’t want to write about here. I changed my lifestyle: I stopped working at 19:00. I made my Twitter account private, of course in a great part due to the Twitter Implosion since Elon Musk’s hostile take over. In the last OKR, I wrote:

Also, to my academic colleagues: If you feel like writing a 10-tweet thread again, write a proper blog post instead. And this is against all the advices from the social media savvy academians. But you will thank me when Twitter is no longer a thing.

Well, I didn’t mean to be a prophet. But Twitter, to me, is no longer a thing. I have a Mastodon account. But that’s not very meaningful to me, to be honest. I think I have kind of fatigue with the whole notion of social media. I even started to find videos made for YouTube (by YouTubers) annoying. I think the sentence can be a template: I find writing made for twitter (by twitter users) annoying. I find photos made for Instagram (by Instagrammers) annoying. The intention of catching eyeballs (rather than communicating, informing, teaching, sharing) makes everything kitsch. Our wetware, unfortunately, is too weak against these kitsch. I am still actively restricted my social media usage (including Mastodon) by the blocker, though.

I started to rent hardware. Our TV was dead. We took it to the Recyclinghof. Our new TV is a rented one. The laptop I am typing this is still that rented gaming laptop. Now, as the WFH computer (the previous WFH computer provided by the state government has been returned), it has been set up like a desktop computer and I don’t need to use the painful keyboard. It is kind of okay. My opinion about the laptop changed. I started to find that the malleability of a person for changing his or her opinion in the presence of new fact a great thing. Jump to the last section on a related note about opinion and innocence.

Compared to a year ago: 1) I am now using a tiling window manager (StumpWM is kind of insane, but after a few months of torture my configuration is in my blood); 2) my emacs (lisp) knowledge is way better; 3) I can read some Latin (and very little Russian, thanks to Duolingo); 4) I developed a (self-proclaimed) connoisseur taste for the following: (electronic) music, coffee, history book, and code quality.

Think out loud

Thanks to the advent of emacs, I wrote 36 blog posts in the last 6 months. A new record. Those 22000 words and the feedback from emacs.ch mastodon actually convince me that I can actually write a pretty decent emacs introductory book. But don’t encourage me. I have just given up writing one.

Contribute to open source

Regarding my own R packages, I have only managed to make one maintenance release of sweater. As written in another post, I am a coauthor of the R package rtoot. And I contributed some code to tidyRSS and reticulate.

fodira is a new R package of a collection of R functions for a research project I am a Co-I. But I don’t think it is very reusable outside of the project.

There are also some non-R things: ess-rproj is an emacs minor mode now; kkold is a js userscript.

There will be a pretty big release later this month. Maybe I can report it next time.

As written previously, next OKR will also report the progress of Projekt 71. I can already see some progress (in my skill).

And finally, as I am taking up more things, I can only giving up some things too. I am actually not very interested in working on academictwitteR anymore (given the current Twitter situation). As I said previously, all of my R packages will be on maintenence mode so that I can focus on Projekt 71. I will also step away from the development of academictwitteR, except in some urgent matters.

Publish top papers

Two papers were published in this 6 months.

It’s slight better than the last OKR. These papers had gone through some of the longest publication cycles I have ever experienced. Some of the R&R cycles were as long as a year. The R Journal paper was presented as poster at useR! 2019 (the first commit of the analytic script was on Jan 30, 2019; the first commit of the associated R package was on Jan 12, 2019; another good reason to have a git repo of your research project). The PLOS One literally started at ICA 2019 in Washington. The extended abstract was presented at ICA 2020 virtually. Jing, Mike, and I received the ICA CAT Division best extended abstract for it. And then the paper stuck in several rejections / desk-rejections and some super long R&R cycles. It took 30 months just to get it published. For comparison, the 1911 Xinhai Revolution only took 4 months and 2 days.

However, 30 months ago I was a mediocre researcher. 30 months later I am still a mediocre researcher.

Postscript: On innocence

I read Timothy Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom. He tells once again the idea of innocence and Tyranny in his another book On Tyranny. The war in Ukraine is a manipulation of the so-called Russian Innocence by the Russian dictator. Under this so-called Russian Innocence, Russians are the pure, innocent people who are not spoiled by the bad influence of the Western invaders (e.g. Nazis during the WW2); while the Ukrainians are spoiled. This war, from the historical perspective, is about the late Soviet fixation on the past and exactly on the WW2 triumph (but ignores the quirks such as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). And this fixation to the past glory (but not to the future of the humankind) is the surest way to bring unfreedom.

This kind of innocence argument is dangerously appealing. But it also fixates us to the past. I can see several similar arguments on this kind of so-called “innocence”: 1) in the past this country was free from migrants, and the past was great. 2) in the past we didn’t need vaccines to maintain the public health and the past was great. 3) in the past we didn’t need to care about CO2 emission and the past was great. 4) in the past we could carry guns but with no mass shooting, and the past was great.

This kind of arguments, regardless of whether or not the generalization of the past were correct or not, assumes there is no human agency to bring about any progress. I am a harsh critic of modern lifestyle, especially the social media. But I also need to remind myself that the old, “innocent” way of life was not automatically “great”. As the framing theory suggests, the world is complex and we need shortcuts to simplify the reality. But the shortcut of “innocent = good” is fallacious.

For example, it is extremely easy to say “Modern music sucks”. But this is a sweeping statement. For example, modern pop music might suck but which genre is pop is a moving target. If you match the genre between the past and the modern, it is not easy to find that modern music can be great. For example, italo disco and electronic body music were the pop music of the 80s. The 80s italo disco and electronic body music are still great to listen to. But the modern ones are also insanely good. Don’t trust me? Listen to this mix. I can say the same about Drum n’ Bass and new classical music.

“Classic”, “Original”, “Traditional” don’t automatically equal good. The same way “New”, “Innovative”, “Unconventional” aren’t always good. If you buy these things for being better based on their age, it is similar to the reason one buys something is because of it’s on sales, not because of its usefulness. Please be vigilant about this kind of arguments.

It also reminds us how to promote a technology. It is extremely easy to say some old things are good because they are “classic”, “traditional”: CLI, TUI, RSS, emacs, vim, C. But the reasons that they remain in general usage are because of some advantages. We need to find out those advantages, not just “classic” or “traditional”.

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