Scratching your own Itches

“So if you want to start a startup and don’t know yet what you’re going to do, I’d encourage you to focus initially on organic ideas. What’s missing or broken in your daily life? Sometimes if you just ask that question you’ll get immediate answers. It must have seemed obviously broken to Bill Gates that you could only program the Altair in machine language.”

 -Paul Graham in  Organic Startups

Last Night, Faris came up to me with an idea. “Why not make a timetable for our dinner eatouts for the coming week?”. We always end up wondering where to go and after some confusion settle upon a place. I realized that this was a brilliant idea. So we set about making a Excel file and placed it in our Dropbox. I mean thats a good start to scratch our itch.

There’s a lot of truth in what Paul Graham says. You would find the highest motivation only to repair something broken in your day to day life. That’s what i have kept in mind these past few months whenever i thought of building something. Why would i be passionate about building something for someone else? You wouldn’t be.

Everyone has an itch that needs scratching. You only need to find it. Think for a while. Think simple. I am not telling you that you could come up with something that could bring world peace but maybe..just maybe you can find an itch and a solution for that itch.

2012: The Year of Online Learning.

If you have been an avid reader of Hacker News these past few months, you would have noticed a host of startups launching around the idea of teaching learning to an everyday person. Codecademy was one of the first out of the stable. The people of Codecademy introduced many of us to the world of Javascript for the first time. I was overjoyed about Codecademy but eventually realised from their usability that it was intended at a reasonably computer literate user. Their problem was that the forgiveness that they employed when teaching the programming novices was not very intuitive. I dont consider myself to be the dumbest guy out there but i was befuddled by the fact that their UI was not responding to an answer that was right but not in the way they had instructed us to code. Still they are getting there slowly, CodeYear was a great way of pushing ahead[1].

At around the same time, the Stanford online classes started off. Prof. Thurn who started the  ‘Introduction to Artificial Intelligence class’ gave up his tenure at Stanford and started a new online university called Udacity. I was not very interested in the first session but now i have enrolled for a class[2]. Lets see how that goes. MIT also decided to jump onto the bandwagon.

Then the trickle turned into a torrent which flooded the internet. Some of the websites i came across include

Ruby
RubymonkTeamTreehouse, tryBloc, tryRuby, RubyLearning
Clojure: tryClojure
Web Design/Development:Beginner’s Guide, TeamTreehouse, Codepupil.
Design: Method of Action

I also came across these two Reddit pages filled with resources. And last but not the least, I love the work Salman Khan is doing with his Khan Academy.

If you know of any interesting learning resources, do let me know in the comments below and i shall update this post.

Update: Another list of Learning resources includes Coursera.

Update 2: Knight Center is offering courses in journalism (They have courses on information visualization). Also adding Stanford’s Venture Lab.

Update 3: Now there’s uReddit, where anyone can set up a MOOC.

Footnotes:

  1.  Codecademy recently started out CodeYear to get more people to start learning. NYC Mayor Bloomberg is one among the many who has vouched to code this year.
  2. I have signed on for the ‘Human Computer Interaction‘ class which will start on 30th January 2012. Check out the entire Winter semester course list here.