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StChris

The 2016 Aims and Objectives Progress Thread

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Lu

Thank you, all of you! You are all correct and I'm now on page 30 or so. It is indeed a fairly easy read, the story looks interesting (two people got killed, but did the woman who is the prime suspect really do it?) and so is the theme. Some (too much) Chinese literature considers beauty the only measure for a woman's worth, which always makes me angry. Beauty is starting to be a theme in this book and I'm curious to see what Di An is going to say about it.

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Shelley

Is there going to be "2017 Aims and Objectives Progress Thread"

 

I feel the need to join in next year.

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Lu

I want one too. Are you going to start the thread, or should I?

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Shelley

Not sure, I guess it could be me, I thought it would be started by the same person who started 2016, but I realise now that it doesn't have to be.

 

Should we toss a virtual coin :) ?

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StChris

Well, as the person who started this thread (and thanks to Shelley for starting the 2017 one), I suppose it's about time for me to a post-mortem of my own 2016. 

 

Primary Aim:

 

To develop the ability to competently express complex ideas in written Chinese, without having to depend too heavily on a dictionary and grammar guide.

 

 

I can't really judge this as anything but a failure. Although I did in fact write more in 2016 than in 2015, I still didn't develop my writing skills to anywhere near the level I had hoped.

 

Daily Routine:

 

1. Add 5 生词 to my flashcard program per day (and actually complete the flashcard stack every day as well!  :lol:  )

2. Read a novel for 15 minutes

3. Write for 15 minutes (this can be about anything, whether a summary of a newspaper article, a diary of the day's events, or just a random story made up of new vocab). Write a longer and more complex essay once a week (and get it marked by a Chinese person)

4. Record myself speaking at least one sentence of Chinese, and correct my pronunciation (this is especially important now that I'm not living in a Chinese speaking environment anymore)

 

 

I achieved 1 in patches only. Although I did read at least 15 minutes of Chinese a day (probably closer to 30 minutes actually), these were mostly articles rather than novels. 3 was was ok for parts of the first half of the year, but really trailed off in the second. 4 didn't really happen at all, I'm ashamed to say.

 

Bonus, non-Chinese related aim for 2016:

 

Learn to code in Python.

 

 

This is where things get a bit more positive. It took me until around half way through the year to start, but I not only studied python, but also javascript, php, html, css, ruby and more. By study, I mean I used a variety of online resources (code academy, youtube videos etc), which included plenty of exercises and projects to practice what I had learned. I've seen lots of criticism of sites such as code academy, and it's true that completing a course on any of these sites doesn't make you a competent coder. I see it as similar to studying Chinese. No matter how thoroughly you study a Chinese textbook (doing exercises, memorising vocab), if you have neither the desire nor opportunity to use what you've learned in the real world, then your Chinese will never get to a decent level. Fortunately, within just a couple of hours of studying coding, I already had plenty of ideas for programs I wanted to write. I even managed to put together something which is now being used by over 100 people at work, automating a previously time consuming and error-prone process. My coding dropped off dramatically in the final 3 months of the year due to work being so busy, but I have plenty of ideas for projects to undertake in 2017. 

 

There are also a few other goals I forgot to mention in my original post:

1. Through working hard and living frugally, I managed to save enough money this year to be able to cover 3 years worth of studying and living expenses in China.

2. I hit the gym fairly consistently this year and made some decent progress. 

3. I tried to cook lots of new things and have added 5 new dishes to my repertoire that I can make to a decent standard, without having to look at the recipe.

 

Looking back on 2016, it's obvious that while my non-Chinese goals went ok, my Chinese related ones didn't go to plan at all. The main reason was that I gradually had to take more and more responsibility on at work, which seems to have ground away at my energy levels. Even when I have made the time to study, I've found that my focus and memory have been very poor, which makes it not even seem worth making the effort to set aside time in the first place. Looking at possible time sinks, I think I've spent too much time on youtube and news websites. While it's certainly been an interesting year for news, on reflection a lot of the media I have consumed has been of poor quality and hasn't really added any value to my life. On a more positive note, I did use my first time back in England for a long time to avail myself of the services of the local library. While reading English language books is a distraction from Chinese, I think I've read some good non-fiction books (including Capital in the 21st Century, and The 2nd Machine Age) and don't regret it. 

 

Although 2016 has been a disappointment in terms of my Chinese language development, there still hasn't been a day where I didn't watch, listen or read Chinese, so I'm confident I have at least maintained what I learnt in China, even if I didn't improve. However, I need to learn from the mistakes of 2016 if I'm going to put together a more effective plan for 2017.

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imron
I even managed to put together something which is now being used by over 100 people at work, automating a previously time consuming and error-prone process.

How general a problem does it solve?  I mean is it some process specific to the place you work or is it something that could be generally adapted?  If you are solving the problem for 100 people, it's likely you could also solve it for many more and also charge for the convenience.  See for example some of the sites showcased here.

 

Having some sort of web-based (the technology stack you mentioned was web centric) passive income can be a great way to fund living and studying in China.

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Flickserve

Post mortem- no predefined goals. I just get terribly frustrated if I don't acheive them.

But what did I acheive? I finally managed to understand how Anki card works. IMO, the instructions for writing a card can be done much better if it would tell people a step by step process of how it is done.

I worked out how to use subs2srs creating anki sentences from mp3 recordings.

I used workaudio book extensively to repeatedly listen to isolate sentences and subtitle them.

I started using the software extensively at around October and the effect was quite impressive. Beforehand, I had been trying to learn by exposure to one to one conversations and following text books which was not very successful.

After the intense listening period and dropping interactive conversations (which I was not good at anyway), my own spoken Mandarin sentences started improving in fluency and tones. I would be using these sentences in brief conversations that come about at work.

I also feel less stressed when listening to people talk Mandarin. Even though I don't really understand fully what is being said, I am starting to follow the gist of a conversation (in a simplistic manner).

These results have refined my learning philosophy/strategy.

This month, I took three italki lessons with three different community tutors and recorded the lesson. It generates about 30 to 60 sentences spoken by the tutor - a mixture of sentences that I really know and some with new vocabulary. It takes me about an hour to review and identify the sentences that I want and I send it back to the tutor for typing out (including their 那个,那么 utterances). Once I get the text back, I subtitle in workaudio book and create Anki cards.

For the sentences that I know and the tutor has repeated saying, I just repeat mimicking. I figure there must be two possible reasons for them repeating. Either my tones are wrong or grammar is wrong.

The other sentences represent new vocabulary. These I try to review but it depends on the subject matter. Previously, I had approached it with random conversations of different nature and hoping some would stick banking on what comes up frequently will be reinforced - mud stick on a wall philosophy. Now, I will have to make more effort in selecting a topic beforehand.

I guess it will take three sessions and my own practice with a tutor to really make sentences and vocabulary stick in my head for listening and speaking. Slow but probably better progress.

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StChris
How general a problem does it solve?  I mean is it some process specific to the place you work or is it something that could be generally adapted?

 

 

 

It solves a general industry-wide problem, it's not specific to my company at all. Just to give a little background, my job mainly involves giving advice to other financial service professionals who are experiencing difficulties finding the the best product for their clients. While there are tools available to help sift through the market (including subscription based "sourcing" software), these are all inadequate in their own way. After just a few days playing around with python, I was surprised that I could begin to write little programs to fill in the gaps that were not covered by the other tools. Maybe it's because the people writing these programs have no experience of being a user, and the users haven't been able to clearly explain to the IT people what they require. Whatever the reason, I was able to put something together using just a few simple algorithms. 

 

Due to a lack of time, what I did end up producing was actually an Excel spreadsheet, primarily due to the fact that the my python programs all had this ugly "command prompt" style user interface, which is a lot less user friendly than Excel. Obviously, using Excel meant that I lost a lot of functionality, and it mainly focused on automating the "math" side of things (which is actually a part which causes people the most trouble - you'd be surprised, and probably horrified, at how bad at maths many "finance professionals" are). By using html and ccs in conjunction with php or javascript, I should be able to create an attractive web-based interface, along with the functionality of my earlier python programs. That's going to be easier said than done, but I'm going to resign from job a little earlier than planned in order to create the extra time to do this (I was going to quit at some point in 2017 anyway in order to go back to China). Although I still primarily consider this to be a personal educational project to increase my coding skills (I'm still very much a newbie after all), I know from my own experience that there's definitely a gap in the market and I should be able to commercialise it (so long as I manage to do it well). The best way would probably to make it free to use and to then earn income from advertising and commission from the banks or brokerage firms for providing client leads. I even have an idea for an android/ios app (although maybe that's an idea for 2018).

 

Thanks for the website link imron. It's good to read how other people developed their own projects. I have a pretty good idea of how to build the website (even though it will take a long time), but I'm utterly clueless about the marketing side! It will all be a good learning opportunity anyway. With all this going on, I just hope I find enough time to actually study some Chinese in 2017...

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imron
but I'm utterly clueless about the marketing side!

This is usually the hardest part.  It sounds like you'd at least be able to get an initial client with your current employer - start figuring out how much time and money your solution saves a week/month and you can make a very simple value proposition to them about how much money they'll make/save by using your program.

 

You might find the articles on this site interesting also, as they go in to the nitty details of running and marketing an online software business.

 

Here's an article from that site where the author makes a detailed breakdown of how the marketing of a service run by one of his friends could be improved, and is well worth the read.

 

 

 

The best way would probably to make it free to use and to then earn income from advertising and commission from the banks or brokerage firms for providing client leads

It might be - who would the product provide the most value for, banks and brokerage firms or the people using your software?  Target those people as customers, and remember, it might even be possible to target both.

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StChris

Thanks for the advice and links imron. The marketing side really looks like an entirely different world in itself. It looks like I've got a busy 2017 ahead of me. 

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