2014: My Year in Review
A stream of personal observations, data, and highlights for the year 2014.
Places & Transit
Thanks to Moves and their API, I have a pretty exhaustive data set of where I spent my time and how I got around. This data isn’t perfect for a variety of reasons, but I was able to come up with some interesting and useful insights.
Home: 5295.13 hours (60.45% of total time). This feels high to me — but might be explained by taking into account sleep, my relative lack of travel this year, and my mostly successful attempt to work from home once/week after moving to San Francisco.
Facebook Offices: 2183.88 hours (23.79% of total time). I had to do a lot of interpolation to get this figure so it’s likely not that precise. Walking around within a large place like Facebook HQ also creates imprecise data on Moves. This seems like a reasonable ballpark though.
Top 5 friends’ visited: Mark/Sisun/Josh (137.61 hours), Brad/Apoorva (85.45 hours), Serene (48.94 hours), Praveen (30.11 hours), Aaron (28.54 hours). All of these friends kindly let me stay with them while traveling or while in between apartments this summer. Thanks!
Nights in hotels: 11
Nights booked through Airbnb: 25
Cities lived in: Toronto, San Francisco.
Cities visited: Canggu (Indonesia), Singapore (Singapore), Tokyo (Japan), New York (USA), Austin (USA), Vancouver (Canada), Los Angeles (USA).
Average daily commute time (Toronto): 41 minutes
Average daily commute time (San Francisco): 142 minutes
Total distance cycled: 277.91 km
Number of flights taken: 18
Articles & Blogs
My 5 favourite blog posts published in 2014 are linked below, with some commentary in-line. Mostly a mix of philosophy, technology, and the intersection of the two. I’m sure I am missing some gems since I did not do a good job of tracking my favourite posts throughout the year — I resolve to do a better job of this in 2015.
Wait But Why became my favourite place on the internet in 2014. Tim Urban has the ability to express himself in ways that are simultaneously profound, accessible, and hilarious. His philosophy pieces do a great job at conveying feelings I think I’ve had for a while but haven’t been able to coherently organize or explain. The first two of my top 5 posts go to him:
The mind…can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. ― John Milton The mind is certainly its own cosmos. — Alan…waitbutwhy.com
Everyone feels something when they’re in a really good starry place on a really good starry night and they look up and…waitbutwhy.com
The concept of a growth mindset VS a fixed mindset has been a guiding principle in my life for a long time. Salman Khan’s personal essay below is one of the best I’ve seen on the subject:
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:43:00 By: Salman Khan Join the #YouCanLearnAnything movement My 5-year-old son has just started…www.khanacademy.org
A succinct essay on another topic that I think about a lot. Julie Zhuo has written a lot of great pieces this year, and this one is my favourite:
Kevin Kelly’s blog has been churning out good content for decades. While his writing frequency has slowed down, this was a recent gem:
Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 1985 when…kk.org
The best fiction series I read this year was The Mars Trilogy (Kim Stanley Robinson). Like most great sci-fi, it uses the future as a canvas to explore a huge variety of dilemmas (political, economic, social, scientific, etc.) that we’re likely to run into — and the results were really fascinating.
The best non-fiction I read this year was Capital in the 21st Century (Thomas Piketty). I loved how ambitious it was. It had the exhaustiveness of Guns, Germs, and Steel and A Short History of Nearly Everything — two of my all time favourites (I wish more non-fiction took as high level a view as these books). I feel like I have much better working understanding of macroeconomics after reading this book, but beyond the macro lessons, his frameworks (specifically the differences & breakdown between income from capital and income from labour) have become unexpectedly useful for my personal financial thinking and management.
My top three albums released this year: St. Vincent (St. Vincent), Ritual in Repeat (Tennis), and Boomtown (Ozma), and here are my favourite 25 songs that were released this year (in no particular order).
Update: after publishing this, I found Rdio’s Year in Review app. Here are some more stats. While most of my music listening is on Rdio, a small amount (~5%) is on other services like Soundcloud and iTunes so these figures will be slightly low.
Total minutes listened: 32,934 (15.97% of total time)
Number of songs played: 10,978
Top songs played in order: Kenaston (Gonzalez), Wintermezzo (Gonzalez), Southern Sun (Boy and Bear), Bad Girls (Tennis), Last Living Rose (PJ Harvey), Minor Fantasy (Gonzalez), Mason City (Fiery Furnaces), Cat on Tin Roof (Blonde Redhead), Competition (The Dodos).
Some similarities and some differences to my qualitative top 25 — the key factor being year released, I think. It seems like around half the music I listen to are new releases. Solo Piano II by Gonzales wasn’t released in 2014 but was definitely my top album this year (and was the driver for me to re-learn piano).
This year I got back into three activities that I had neglected for a while: basketball, soccer, and strength training. For the second half of the year (since my move to California), I did one of these three almost every day.
Strength training in particular I started taking seriously, and I’ve been slowly making progress on my goal to increase my body mass in the two months I’ve started lifting weight. I will make bigger gains in 2015.
Most of these trends have been in progress for years — but 2014 is the year I personally felt a significant tip in the scales for the ones listed. In some cases I might be an early observant, and in others I’m probably late to the party.
I captured more, but shared less
I took more than two thousand photos this year (likely more than any year in my life), but shared less than 3% of them with an audience wider than one. I published 68 photos to Instagram, 8 photo stories to Facebook, zero photo albums anywhere (more on this later), and 52 non-photo stories on Facebook to a broad (friends/public) audience (mostly links). I was actually surprised by how high these numbers seemed to me (it felt like I shared even less) until I looked at some numbers for 2013 when as an example, I posted 90% more photos on Instagram. While 2013 may end up being the year of “peak share” for me from a broad audience perspective, my net communication increased in 2014 and will likely continue in that direction (because our tools for managing audiences are getting better at mirroring natural behaviour).
From “heavyweight” to “lightweight”
My past work flow for photography was to shoot a relatively small number of photos on my SLR camera, save and post-process a relatively high percentage (~20%), and then broadly share the bulk of my saved/processed photos. This has been flipped around — I now take a high volume of photos, and share a small percentage of them right away (individually). I also gave away my SLR for most of the year. The photo album had a short lived tenure as the canonical unit of sharing on the internet.
Cost of organization > cost of creation/storage
It’s so easy to create content and I have so much of it. The content stored in my Evernote, Camera Roll, Facebook Messages, and email inboxes are extremely valuable to me as a whole and the rate at which I add to them is increasing every year. The irony is that as creation and storage get cheaper, computation and organization seem to becoming more (mentally) expensive. Before, our content had to be high-signal because it was high-cost, but that’s no longer the case. The challenge has become drawing meaning from it all. This seems like a problem that could be solved by weak AI — we might just be in an awkward phase of techno-history where we can capture everything for free but are systems aren’t smart enough yet to help us figure out what to do with all of it.
Images replaced words
I don’t have a great way to figure out what percentage of my input on Facebook Messages consisted of stickers & photos, but I am sure it grew like crazy in 2014. Words were useful tools to help us convey thoughts and emotions in a world where the cost of using a higher resolution medium (i.e. images) was impractical, but that’s no longer the world we live in. This trend was pronounced everywhere for me, except for email. It’s unclear if stickers & photos will scale well to email. I think it’s more likely that professional/collaborative communication will move to more image-friendly mediums (i.e. IM, Slack, Video, VR). People have been prematurely ringing the death knell for email for years and it hasn’t happened. Maybe the move from words > images will be the catalyst.
The #1 trend I felt made meaningful progress for me in 2014:
Decline of ownership
This year I took 173 rides with Uber, 32 rides with Lyft, and I rented a car (in my home city) with Getaround 5 times. I spent less money in total on these services than I would have on owning a car, for significantly more utility. Given my personal set of circumstances (living in a dense urban center, free transit to work, etc.), the trade-off has definitely tipped in favour of not owning a car.
The #1 trend that did not make meaningful progress for me in 2014:
Besides the computer in my pocket, the only wearable technology I use everyday are my eyeglasses. No wristband on the market is a big enough incremental addition/improvement to my phone. Instead, it seems like we’ve put more “wearable” type technology into the phone itself (one of my personal favourites this year: measuring heart-rate). That said, it’s clear that there is some set of inputs (i.e. sensors and controls) and outputs (i.e. information) that make more sense to be on your body than in your pocket. We just haven’t figured what this mix should be yet. Time as an output is an interesting historical example, since it already moved from our pockets to our wrists. Wristwatches have been around almost as long as pocket-watches (~16th century) but didn’t start to replace them in the mainstream until the early-mid 20th century. One of main reasons for this shift was the invention of the quartz mechanism. I wonder what will be the “quartz inflection point” of the new era of watches.
Thanks for reading this far. If any of the ideas or items linked resonated with you, please let me know.