Crafting Questions: Discovery vs. Exploration

Asking good questions is a key to effective communication. However, what makes a good question? Are the attributes of a good question always the same or are they dependent on the situation? What does it mean for communication to be effective? This blog post is designed to be my own musings upon this subject. These tips should apply whether you are in a corporate setting, talking with your spouse, asking questions to a college professor, or anything in between. Our plan is to start with definitions and then learn some question asking strategies.

Effective communication literally means communication that effects, or brings into being, some desired outcome. The first ingredient is to have a desired outcome. Without this communication by definition cannot be effective. Before asking a question determine your desired outcome. This is your goal. Sometimes your goal is a specific answer to a specific question. Other times your goal is to invite the other person to explore the space of possi…

Experimenting with Conway's Game of Life

I recently discovered Conway's Game of Life, "a cellular automaton devised by the British mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970." as described by Wikipedia. This is a "game" with a simple set of rules. There is a grid, and each grid can be alive or dead. Living cells with two or three live neighbors remain alive and dead cells with three live neighbors become alive. Those are the only rules, and yet with these rules unexpected emergent complexity can arise as illustrated by the below gif [1].

The simple rules and emergent depth fascinated me, and this has been used as an example of emergent complexity, a metaphor for how complexity can exist in our own universe, and as an educational tool. It is also a chaotic system, in that slight changes to the initial conditions can dramatically affect later states in unpredictable ways. The game has no definite history, as the rules cannot simply be played backwards. Any one state could have many possible previous state…

PWA Starter Kit with Netlify and a Custom Domain

Below are the steps I followed to integrate the PWA Starter Kit with Netlify and a Custom Domain:
Create GitHub projectClone the PWA Starter Kitgit clone --depth 1 my-appgit remote remove origingit remote add origin<your-github-username>/<your-repo>git push -f origin masterPersonalize package.jsonpolymer.jsonmanifest.jsonindex.html<title>several meta fieldsappTitle attributeRename <my-app> elementRename "my-app" in src/components/my-appCreate Netlify projectChoose to integrate with GitHubChoose to configure Netlify on Github and allow Netlify to have access to your GitHub projectUpdate the build command to be npm run build:staticUpdate the publish directory to be build/esm-bundledAdd custom urlGo to domain management in Netlify and add custom domain.Follow the steps that Netlify provides.This will likely include adding a CNAME record to your domain name provider.Add a _redirects file with …

My Top 10 Board Games

I am a tabletop gamer threw and threw. While roleplaying games and miniature games have accounted for a lot of my play time, board games are certainly my favorite. They promote social interaction, help people break out of their shell, are versatile for many different types of crowds, and great for many kinds of occasions. The board gaming world has seen an explosion in the past decade, and now some 18 thousand board games are ranked on "The Geek". Games have become better produces, with stunning artwork, and streamlined gameplay. However many older games still stand the test of time in a way that other forms of entertainment often struggle to do. With the decade behind us, I wanted to share my own top 10 board games of all time.

Number 10: Splendor
Splendor fits into a unique category of games where the shear brilliance of the game mechanics takes the forefront. Turns are quick and choices are limited, and yet every action you take delicately effects the choices of every ot…

Defending the Lack of Originality in Hollywood Blockbusters

One does not have to go far to find someone ripping on Hollywood for a lack of originality. Remakes, sequels, and movies based on existing material are common place. The current fulcrum of criticism is Disney with their yearly stream of live action remakes and sequels; from 2016's "The Jungle Book" to 2019's "The Lion King". It is argued that Hollywood, and Disney as one of it's representative constituents, should take more creative risks and drive towards originality. A creative and original culture around the largest piece of the entertainment industry would be illustrative of an open minded and creative audience. However when the largest piece of our entertainment industry is risk adverse and lacks originality it shows an audience that is accepting of repeated and rehashed material.

I argue that this is not true.

The key here is, "the largest piece of our entertainment industry". The question is: where should we expect the creative engine …

Semantic Arguments Are Important

The phrase, "well that's just a semantic argument" is often repeated. Even when the statement is true, the intended effect is often misguided. It is a phrase which means that an argument is about definitions but is meant to disregard someone's opinion. The implication is that if you are arguing about the definitions of terminology then your argument is unhelpful. This is most certainly not true because terminology is the bridge between the understanding of things and the reality of things.

Any communication, whether written or verbal, is about something. To say it differently, all communication has some substance which underlies it. That substance might be something physical, conceptual, fantastical, or it could even be an outright falsehood. However there is always a substance that the communication is about. This substance is distinct from someones understanding of that substance. Our understanding is in our own minds and can be divergent from someone else's u…

The Golden Jam of Web Stacks

Over the course of time my preferred tech stack for web development has changed. At one time it was Ruby on Rails with Heroku, then Firebase and React, then Polymer and lit-html. While all of these had their place and still work brilliantly, I have been able to fine tune my go-to technologies; simplifying development while also broadening capabilities. As I see it these are the major problems to solve in web development:
RenderingHostingSource controlContent managementBusiness logicData storageDelivery mechanism Every tech stack will need to have an answer for these problems. The set of technologies that I use falls under the JAMstack paradigm. Here they are listed in same order as the problems they solve: OrisonNetlifyGitHubContentfulNetlify functionsFirebase FirestoreSPA + PWA The beauty of JAMstack is that any one of these seven parts could be replaced by another technology which solves the same problem. On any given project I might use Gatsby instead of Orison, Firebase Hosting ins…