The dark side of my mind

Pink Freud: The Dark side of the Mind
Image Source

TL:DR There is a 5 minute video of me talking about this topic.

Depression. I have it. I don’t like to say I suffer from it because it is a core element of who I am. If I had never experienced depression, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. However, it’s not healthy for me to indulge it. I like to personify my depression, maybe I’ll call it Fred? For me it’s not really a person though, it’s more of a dark cloud that sits on the fringes of my conscience and my conscience is in a castle trying to defend against the dark cloud. The darkness is always there, waiting for the moment that I let my guard down so it can come in. It also has a tendancy to overstay it’s visit (not like it was welcome in the first place). Once it’s in, it sucks all of the joy out of life, makes me feel like a failure and constantly reminds me of stressful thoughts. This is all bull though, the only thing in my mind is me but this mental model helps me to try and make sense of it. Depression is not rational.

Right now I’m experience a relapse of depression. I had a bad episode around 2011-2012, I’m not as bad now as I was then. I’m now able to recgonise the warning signs and I’ve seeked help before it has become disabling. I don’t think it’s something I will be completely cured from. Maybe it’s like a cancer in that way?

Part of my treatment is mindfullness, this time around I’m also trying it with some self compassion. I’m trying to remind myself that some thoughts aren’t very helpful and I’m trying to be kinder to myself. It’s easier said than done.

I had a break down last weekend. I went into a swanky delictessant and asked for some sliced bacon. There was a bit of a mis communication with the order that left me confused and with more stuff than what I needed. I felt overwhelmed and the confusion had gotten to me. Maybe I had experienced choice fatique where I had already made so many other choices that day that I had just had enough. Any way after I leave the deli, I start to tear up. When I get out of the supermarket I can’t hold it back anymore and i’m bawling my eyes out. This episode lasts for about an hour on the way home, there are some moments where I feel like I’m over it only for the sense of failure to come back. Basically, I felt like I couldn’t even handle a poor experience. I was disappointed in myself and I just got stuck on those thoughts. It was exhausting and for the rest of the day I didn’t want to do anything. I was grateful that I was able to get out of that mindset after an hour. When my depression was really bad, that type of episode would last all day where the smallest things would return me to tears. My menstrual cycle had just started that day and I think this also had an impact.

Today I experienced a trigger, it only lasted 5 minutes. I’m in Melbourne for a Yow Connected conference and there was this talk about banks, wearable tech and customer engagement. They were using a user profile of a 31 year old blonde female investor who was looking to buy property. I think she had a net worth of over 2 million dollars. I felt overwhelmed, I know I can’t manage my own finances and this reminded me of how I feel like a failure. There’s only 5 years different between me and this character. My thought was, “F*ck, is it normal to have that much invested? Why am I not on track to achieve that?”. I started tearing up but I reminded myself that it wasn’t helpful to think about it, I tried to rationalize it with the thought, “they don’t come from your upbringing, they probably came from a privelaged background where their parents were probably able to provide a lot of financial literacy, support and help with a starting investment”. It could be that today I was a little tired after a full on day yesterday and that I’m experiencing conference bowels. TMI, I know but when my bowels don’t feel healthy, I’m usually not a happy camper. I experience the same thing at hackathons. I love the mental stimulation but it can also be exhausting. Today’s episode was a minor incident in the grand scheme of things.

I don’t know what I want to achieve with this post. Blogging about it is it’s own kind of therapy. I don’t need your sympathy but I would like to make conversations around mental health normal.

Note: Just because I have depression, doesn’t mean I experience it all of the time. Most of time I’m a normally functioning human (whatever that means). Sometimes the world can be overwhelming. I think most people are a little bit dysfunctional but that’s where our beauty is.

Vandalism and street art

I look at vandalism in sydney and I wonder why is it seen as a bad thing? Instead of cleaning it up, what if we gave people the skills to turn their scrawls and tags into Street art? Give people the tools and resources to practice and perfect their style.

What if we studied Street art in highschool? How to utilise different techniques and explored some ideas that people were trying to portray in their Street art. Or what if we tried to add personality to concrete walls. Would that be a bad thing?

What if we had highschool competitions around Street art?

What if we encourage people to vandalise with respect, seek permission first and talk about your art idea with the person who is responsible for the wall that you want to decorate?

It seems our educational is actively trying to beat creativity out of people (reference sir Richard so Ted talk on creativity), so what if all I want to do is create? Wouldn’t it bring joy and new thoughts to the world? Maths and sciences are highly creative, why isn’t it portrayed that way?

The first question to ask is why do people vandalise? I know I start doodling when I have a pen near by and my mind is wondering. It’s a way to engage my mind. I imagine people are disengaged with society, they just don’t care and society doesn’t seem to care about them either. I think we all
want to do something, to create, to feel useful. Could this help engage people?what are your experiences with vandalism /Street art?

http://www.omgfacts.com/lists/16244/10-Cities-That-Embraced-Graffiti-As-A-Form-Of-Art-And-Made-Their-Streets-More-Beautiful

“Manual Testing”

I have an issue with the word “Manual Testing”. Say we compare a “Manual Tester”, an “Automatic Tester” and a “Developer”. When a developer builds a tool that helps them program it is not called “Automatic Programming”, it might be called a “Compiler” or some other new word. Developers do manually write code with their hands but it’s not called “Manual Development”, they use the tools and resources that are available to get the job done. Testing is the same; we use the tools and resources available to help get the job done. “Automatic Testers” manually write scripts with their hands, why are they different from “Manual Testers”? We test with our minds just like developers create with their minds. I’m a tester first and foremost; my goal is to find issues in software. What are your views?

(As a side note, this rant is heavily influenced by James Bach)

Robots Are Cool – Social Enterprise

This is an executive summary of my idea around a social enterprise, this is open for discussion and your feedback/ideas/questions will be greatly appreciated.

Mission

To create a social enterprise around promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through hands on Robotics workshops. This social enterprise will focus on reaching out to remote and rural communities in Australia.

 

Products that support the mission

1) Robotics Road Trip around Australia

2) creating an online community (www.robotsarecool.org) around sharing of robotic related resources. Will include lesson plans for teachers, robotic workshop videos for students and a social aspect to connect remote communities around robotics. This would start off as a YouTube channel. All of the resources will be released under a creative commons license and the videos will contain minimum spoken/written language so they can be used by a non-English speaking audience.

 

Plan

1) Enroll in a masters in teaching by distance at the University of Tasmania in mid-2015 doing 3 subjects per semester, this course will take me until the end of 2017 and will allow me to

    a) keep Centrelink off my back about not earning an income

    b) apply for scholarships that I can invest in the idea

    c) build up the products while living in the NW coast of Tasmania

    d) have credibility when I approach communities about running robotics workshops

    e) expand Robogals UTas to the NW coast of Tasmania

2) Start my first crowd funding campaign in mid-2015 to raise funds for a van, four Lego EV3 robotics kits, four laptops and a projector, also will be a marketing campaign to gauge how much interest is out there. A stretch goal of this campaign is to buy a Nao Humanoid Robot.

3) Start the actual road trip around mid to end of 2017 depending on course commitments, consider a second crowd funding campaign for the launch of the road trip. Spend at least 2 years executing the road trip

4) assess at end of 2019

 

Success indicators

1) An income of $30,000 for 2018 to 2019 financial year

2) Able to expand to New Zealand in 2020

 

Fees

I’m a believer in the “pay for what you can afford” mentality. That means my services will be free for the communities that need it but if they would like to pay I can charge for:

1) an amount of their choosing

2) expenses incurred while in their community (e.g. Fuel, Food or Accommodation)

3) a base amount of $40 per hour (business expenses $10 + salary $30)

Q. Hang on, if you worked a 40 hour week, you could earn $62,400 in a year and have $20800 for business expenses. Isn’t this more than your target income of $30,000?

A. Yes but this “base rate” will allow me to “work” for half the year and to “volunteer” for the rest or to hire someone as an assistant.

 

Business expenses

1) Fuel, Food and Accommodation

2) Phone and Internet

4) Police checks

5) Van services and tires

6) Professional indemnity insurance

7) Contents and vehicle insurance

8) Accountancy/Tax returns

9) Travel to/from key events like the Sydney educators startup weekends or python conferences

 

Affiliations

1) Robogals

2) CodeClub Australia

 

Strategy for keeping business expenses as low as possible

1) charge for fuel used while in a community

2) charge for fuel that is used to get to a community

3) request to be hosted by people in the community

4) stay in hostels/air bnb places

5) sleep in van at a camp site

6) request Robogals covers the expenses that the community can’t cover

 

Sources of income

(* = pay for what you can afford services)

1) Community Contributions*

2) Online subscriptions*

3) Professional development courses*

4) After school/school holiday programs*

5) Tutoring*

6) Grants

7) Scholarships

8) Crowd Funding

 

Definitions

Social Enterprise: A for profit business that is focused on maximizing social impact rather than profits

Community: a school or group who will benefit from my services. A group could be a home school meetup, a council, a business, a learning centre etc

What makes a “good” tester?

I am talking about software testing but these ramblings could be expanded to other types of product based testing.

First of all, what is a “good” tester? I think it is someone who finds issues with software and is able to make someone else understand that issue. Some people say testing is about providing quality of software. In response; I say, “bah humbug”. The way I get a sense of “confidence” about the quality of the software, is by thinking up scenarios that I think will test the boundaries of the software yet still cover the majority of the functionality. If I test the boundaries and find no major defects then I will be relatively confident that the software does what it is intended to do. I say relatively confident because no one can ever completely guarantee that software works as expected.

In no particular order, I find the following qualities make a “good” tester:

Curiosity: Is being eager to learn about the product you are testing, ask lots of questions, be curious about testing a theory/idea/hypothesis that you have about the functionality of the software. CAUTION: curiosity might lead to passion. (*gasp* Can someone actually be passionate about testing?)

Rescourfulness: Being able to find/confirm information from several sources. Sources can be ambiguous, boring to read, hard to find etc.

Letting your voice be heard, don’t be a push over and sit quietly while people talk about the product. If you think a detail has been overlooked, raise it

Being able to humbly receive constructive criticism, acknowledge everyone makes mistakes (even you) and learn from them, this leads to good team work

Communication: If you cannot explain an issue effectively, how will you make someone else (with minimum effort on their behalf) understand that issue? Try to always improve your communication skills so people are less likely to misinterpret what you say.

Creativity: Being able to think up the most amount of scenarios that will test the most coverage in the least amount of time. Making testing fun is a challenge because by gollies testing can be mundane, repetitive and infuriating (at times). I had fun moving Darth Vadar into Tasmania and installing an electricity meter on his death star, as even Darth Vadar has to pay for electricity. If you get the chance to make up test data, have fun/be creative with it.

Obsessiveness/attention to detail/pedanticness: this can be both a good/bad thing. Attention to detail is good, helps pick up on issues/defects that might have been missed, obsessiveness means when I want to understand something fully, I won’t be happy until I’ve satisfied that learning itch, often giving me a better understanding of how it works but I might spend the whole day trying to understand GPS coordinatates and spherical approximations of the earth to try and calculate the straight line distance between two GPS points, making my own excel spreadsheet with the formulaes when there was a simple webpage that already did that for me.

 

All these will help the tester gain an understanding and to find issues, thus achieving the goal of being a “good” tester.

Workshop ideas

#TurtleRobot
This robot will be a basic robot that can be built in less than 30 minutes, preferably 20 minutes the average 10-12 year olds. I haven’t come up with a design yet, this will be one of the first workshops I create next year. The robot will have a pen attached and will be like a turtle program (anyone remember those?). This robot will be used to explore ideas such as geometry, algebra and fractions. Non technical skills include art, team work and communication. The robot will draw pictures on a very large piece of paper. I’ve got some cool ideas for this workshop and maybe a social media page, which takes me too the next topic:

#SocialMediaPage
With this turtle robot people can tweet pictures of their art work creations. There could be a page under the workshop dedicated to picking up the twitter feeds with the hashtag and having a dynamic collage of images. There could also be an upload section to the site which could generate a tweet. Anyone posting would have to agree with the general openess of the idea.

#MexicanWave
a large group activity with everyone’s robot doing a mexican wave. Lots of algebra involved. I have a whole lesson plan already in my head around this idea. I’ll develop it soon.

Licencing brain dump

The content on my tutoring page, workshop ideas the tech based education tool that I want to create will all be creative commons. My brand and image belong to me (Samantha Connelly). It’s something I’m quite protective and fond of.

I feel like I would need to expand my definition of content, I want to try and be as open as I possibly can. You can even have the code of my website, all you have to do is ask. So I want to share all of my content for free. HOWEVER, I need to make money so my brand is there for that part of my life.

Idea Evolution and for profit vs non-for profit

HELP.

The website/content idea has taken over the robotics Road Trip idea.

First of all let me tell you about how this idea started. It started as me wanting to take robotics workshops all around Australia so I could travel to see what was in my own backyard and I could say I was doing something substantial along side it. This was something I thought I could do as a volunteering holiday for a year under Robogals. maybe call it the Great Australian Robogals Roadtrip (GARR for short ^_^). Then it involved maybe creating content and workshops along side it. Now it has become more about the free creative commons education resource that I want to create.

There are many great free online resources out there for learning. Dr Graeme Robotics Tutorials, khanacademy and codecademy are just to name a few. My biggest concern is they all are protected by copyright. I’m fortunate enough to live in the same state as Dr Graeme and he has offered my some advice in this area. However there is a video on his site I use quite a fair bit and would love to update but I don’t want it to be copy righted. A quick search for creative commons educational resources yields ample of results. I haven’t found something that reflects what I want to do yet though.

Now this brings me back to what I want to do. I want to make an online resource where I can publish robotics workshops/lessons and technology based workshops/lessons for both teachers and students. I want the content released under a creative commons license and I want people to be able to modify my content and to be able to create their own. I would also release lesson plans along side under creative commons as well. I could start off as just a youtube channel/ open education wiki media content and see if it takes off from there.

One of the ways I could make money out of this idea is to say to schools, “Hey, look at this awesome resource I’ve created that you can access for free, you can pay me to come to your school with all of the required hardware to run a workshop/taster/career talk or you can donate so I can take workshops to remote areas in Australia” or maybe I could get into the consultation/teacher training space to generate income.

I’ve been volunteering for Robogals for a few years now and I think what they are doing is great. We definitely need more females in Engineering and Technology professions. If only to create more diverse teams that come up with better solutions and are more innovative (there are a few studies to support this statement, I’ll dig them up later). As I changed from an Engineering course to a Computer Science course I saw a similar issue in IT. This has changed my focus to promoting Engineering and Technology.

As I’m still in the ideas phase I don’t really have much content yet. I’m hoping to spend the first 6 months next year focusing in this area. I’m happy to let anyone else take reign of the website component (or even the idea completely) as long as people stay true to the vision of general openness and open education. Maybe I should have a vision statement?

Another thing I have to figure out is how to make is sustainable. I’m willing to put at least the next 3 years of my life into this project and I need to be able to put food on the table from it. I like the donation-esk idea but it comes back to the issue of running it as a for profit or a non-for profit. I don’t think for-profits can ask for donations but non-for profits can’t really access the option of crowd funding. I would like to run it as a hybrid of the two (for profit enough to pay for my food but all of the extra profits will be going into rural initiatives and expanding the idea) but I think the law requires me to label myself with one or try to manage a mash up of the two.

Thank you for staying with me on such a long post. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

GovHack 2013

GovHack sounds like people hacking the government. Which is somewhat right but it’s with governments’ approval. GovHack is about governments opening up their data and seeing what a big bunch of developers and likeminded people can do with that data over the space of a weekend. There were over 1000 participants and observers nationwide and there were 135 teams formed. There were some amazing projects that came out of the weekend and $170,000 worth of prizes up for grabs.

Our Team, “The Tasmanian Tiger Team” produced a web based app where you can see a storm water map feeding into the Derwent River. We’ve tried to provide functionality where people in the community can monitor their own water ways by uploading pictures and tagging the map. Our presentation can be viewed here. It’s mostly a proof of concept and there is a fair bit more we could implement. However, we managed to walk away with 3 local prizes.

There were two Tasmanian teams that both received national prizes. One of my favourite apps is called, “Marvellous Ultimate Appliance” and it is a card based game where you get to pitch you house hold appliances against your neighbours to see who wins. Attack and defence are based on energy efficiency. Have a play here. Some other projects that I think are shiny are Australia in Review allows you to scroll through recent Australian History, Impress Me allows you to assess your carbon footprint and Deathmatch me is a fun way of comparing and displaying cause of death facts.

All of these great ideas are just some of the possible applications of providing open data to people and no we’re not likely to find any government’s deep dark secrets just by data mining sensis data.