“Be curious about all fields. The future belongs to those who can connect creativity with technology.”
— Walter Isaacson, Author
“Be curious about all fields. The future belongs to those who can connect creativity with technology.”
— Walter Isaacson, Author
I must admit that it took me a long time to understand what Bitcoin is all about. I read about it in the news almost every day, but I just couldn’t make sense of it. One time, I even attended a lecture on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies just so I could figure out what it’s all really about. Alas, after sitting through the one-hour talk, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the topic. (Don’t laugh, but I once thought that Bitcoin “mining” involved actual “mining” – that is, the digging of the earth for minerals!). It did not help that I have no background in technology and the lecture was aimed at a technical audience.
Then while channel surfing one day, I chanced upon this short video by Deutsche Welle about blockchain. It was only over two minutes long, but it lit me up like a lightbulb. It did for me what the long lecture on cryptocurrencies wasn’t able to do – that is, it made me understand, in a nutshell, what Bitcoin essentially is.
My understanding was further improved when I read this book called “Ready or Not: The 6 Big Disruptions that Will Change the Way We Do Business” by Winston Damarillo. In it, the author discussed the major disruptions that is now happening in the world of business. Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, is one of those disruptions. (To put it simply, Bitcoin is just a digital currency. You can buy it online and use it to purchase all kinds of items. Yes, even illegal ones, unfortunately, because transactions are done anonymously. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cryptocurrencies out there. Bitcoin just happens to be the first and one of the most popular. Blockchain is the technology that makes all these possible. Each transaction that you make using Bitcoin and others like Ethereum are stored as encrypted files called blocks, and these blocks are then copied by millions of computers in a network. They form chains of blocks, hence the name “blockchain”. To complete the transaction, they are then decrypted. This act of decryption is what is called “mining”, and no, it doesn’t involve earth-digging.) As what many of us may already know, we are now in the midst of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0. Tons of innovations are happening in the technology space as we speak. It probably started with the invention of the personal computer in the 1970s and the development of the technology that later became the Internet in the 1980s, and continued with the creation of smartphones and mobile apps in the 1990s and early 2000s. It hasn’t stopped since.
The book is divided into eight chapters. In Chapter 1, Damarillo introduced his readers to his main topic – digital disruptions – which is now taking place in the business world. He said that there are basically six of these disruptions:
In Chapter 2, he talked about the first of these disruptions: e-commerce and online marketplaces and platforms like Amazon, Ebay, and Alibaba, which have really shaken the world of retail. For example, the vacancy rates in many shopping centers in the United States are currently increasing. The same trend may be happening in shopping malls here in the Philippines. The author argues that those who don’t adapt to these changes (read: digitally transform their businesses), will eventually suffer and perish in the long run.
In Chapter 3, Damarillo talked about the second disruption: Big Data. The moment we use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Amazon, etc., we leave “digital footprints” behind us. These footprints are data and there are companies out there which collect and analyze these data so that they can predict consumers’ behaviors and thereby develop ads and content that are personalized and designed for specific market segments.
There is a saying that data is the new oil. That is very true, because large companies pay big money for these data.
In Chapter 4, the author talked about tools that enable rapid creation: cloud computing (which are basically remote server spaces), platforms and interfaces like WordPress, Canva, etc. that make the creation of websites and blogs faster, and 3D printing.
Cloud services used to be very expensive. Only big businesses could afford to pay for them. But companies like Amazon, through their Amazon Web Services, made it more affordable for even small businesses to rent on a monthly basis.
Companies like WordPress have made it much faster and cheaper to start your own website or blog. Canva has disrupted the graphic design industry. It has made graphic designers unnecessary, at least for designs that are not overly complex or sophisticated.
3D printing has also disrupted the printing industry. Nowadays, you can print all kinds of things with a 3d printer; from shoes, statues, and tables and chairs, to robots, cakes, and even houses and rockets!
In Chapter 5, Damarillo discussed peer-to-peer technology of which blockchain is a great example. Again, cryptocurrencies are basically just digital currencies. They make it possible for you to transact assets without the need for paper money and a centralized authority (like governments and banks) that records, validates, and verifies transactions for a fee. Banks and other centralized institutions offer the infrastructure of mainframes, servers, and databases to do all the recording, verifying, validating, and monitoring of monetary transactions. With cryptocurrencies, you don’t need all that. There is no centralized authority or institution that does the recording. When the transactions are encrypted into the blocks, they are copied immediately by millions of computers. Therefore, everything is decentralized. The transactions are also nearly impossible to hack, since the hacker would need to tamper with each of those copies of blocks that number in the millions.
Another example of peer-to-peer technology is torrents.
In Chapter 6, the author talked about another kind of disruption: the Internet of Things or IoT. IoT refers to a network of devices such as lights, thermostats, air conditioning units, TV, speakers, and so on that are connected to one another and to the Internet through a smartphone. These devices “communicate” (that is, exchange data, react, and make automatic adjustments) with each other. This technology comprises a “smart home”. It can be extended to power a “smart city”, or one where traffic lights, traffic signs, and so on, are all connected with each other and respond according to the volume of traffic on the streets.
In Chapter 7, he discussed the sixth disruption: robotics, artificial intelligence, and the related topics of machine learning and deep learning. Robots have artificial intelligence. They have a “brain” and they respond to stimuli from the environment. Machine learning refers to the ability of robots or other hardware to improve their own codes and programs. Deep learning and neural networks are subsets of machine learning.
Damarillo concludes his book in Chapter 8 by saying that these digital disruptions bring with them great opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.
It is perhaps a reflection of the author’s geekiness that he included a card game at the end of the book. It’s designed to help you play the game of disruption well in the real world. I haven’t played it yet, but it looks really fun.
On the whole, the book is a good read. I’d probably give it 3 or 3.5 stars out of 5. It doesn’t really go into a lot of details, just a kind of overview of the topic of disruption and technological innovation. It’s very readable because the style is conversational rather than technical.
I’m offering my proofreading, copy editing, and content editing services for free for a limited time.
Just post your website and/or blog addresses below and I’d be happy to proofread and edit your landing page or your most recent blog post (maximum of 500 words). Please provide your email addresses as well so I can send you in Word format the edited version of your lading page article or blog post with the edited texts and added words and phrases highlighted in red.
If you’re happy with the result, you can hire me. 🙂
We all know how powerful words are. An article, essay, or blog post that is written clearly, concisely, and effectively is even more impactful for your users.
There are quite a number of forums, platforms, and websites you can go to online to search for freelance writing gigs. One of the last places you’ll probably consider is Craigslist. But that’s exactly what I did. I went to Craigslist, searched for my city, and browsed through the job listings there for the position of freelance writer. I found several potential clients. All of them are of course companies or businesses based in the city where I live. I sent each of them an application. Almost all of them got back to me informing me that they’re interested in me. They interviewed me online and a few of them made me answer a few writing tests.
I passed all of them. One company in particular struck me. They have an office here in Cebu, but their boss is based abroad. They asked me to write a 1,500-word review of a product in Amazon. I did it and submitted it to them the following day. They liked what I wrote so they scheduled a final interview for me with their boss.
I passed that interview and the crucial moment finally came for us to discuss what rate we were going to agree upon before I’ll start working for them.
But first, a little backgrounder: The rate I charge my clients is $0.13 per word. I kept this at the back of my mind during our conversation. I decided to settle for this rate after reading somewhere (here, here, and elsewhere) that you can actually categorize how much freelance writers are making per word according to their level of experience:
Of course, the above is not a standard. I don’t think there really is a standard matrix for freelance writers’ rates per word.
I consider myself as belonging to the intermediate level. $0.13 sounds to me to be reasonable. It’s not very high within that particular bracket.
Now, going back to the final interview, I was pleased because the potential client was satisfied with my answers. So I finally asked him what his budget was for the writing gig. I was shocked when he said it’s around $5 per 1,500 words! That’s only $0.0034 per word!
It didn’t even make it to the Beginner category. It’s way below that. It’s not only a rip off kind of a deal, it’s exploitation.
There are a number of other writers in that company’s team, and I feel very sorry for them. For the sheer hard work of churning out probably a couple or more 1,500-word articles a day (not to mention the hours it will take to research each of the topics), they only receive a pittance. Perhaps “pittance” is an understatement.
Needless to say, I declined their offer.
Let’s think about it. It usually takes me two hours to write a 500-word article. That means I write around 1,500 words in six hours. That means that if you were working for that company, you’ll probably be able to write only two 1,500-word articles in twelve hours. If you compute that, that’s only $9.9 or Php 495 per day. Shocking, right? For working on two articles for twelve hours each day, you’ll only earn that much.
That’s $49.5 or Php 2,475 a week. In a month, that’s $198 or Php 9,900!
It’s too low. Even if you take into consideration that the Philippines is a developing country and has a lower cost of living compared to Western countries, it’s still low. Php 9,900 is hardly enough if you’re single, unless if you live with your parents or are living independently but is absolutely frugal (to the point of being almost destitute). How much more if you have a family? If you have a family with two kids, Php 9,900 is probably only equivalent to a month’s worth of groceries and a couple of family dinners at inexpensive restaurants. What about education, health expenses, transportation costs, house rental, car loan, and so on?
In America, for example, I think one of their considerations is that your monthly earnings as a freelance writer ought of course to be more than enough to cover your monthly expenses. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing it? You’ll be broke sooner than you think. That’s the reason why the average rates for their writers are higher.
In the Philippines, Php 9,900 doesn’t even begin to cover your monthly expenses, especially if you’re married. I wonder if that amount gives us a hint of what the average salary is for freelance writers in the Philippines. Perhaps the average is not far from that. If so, then that is really a pity, because Filipino writers generally have a good, if not an excellent, command of the English language. Modesty aside, our English communication skills are probably better than those of our Asian neighbors. That’s one of the reasons why many Koreans and Japanese go here to study English as a second language. Filipino writers deserve more than this. It’s kind of an insult to be offered a measly rate for your skills.
Good thing our market is not confined to Philippine-based companies. As freelance writers, we can and should aim high. Ultimately, your freelance writing rate shouldn’t be based on where you live in the world and how much your cost of living is. It ought to be based instead on the quality of your work and your client’s ability and willingness to pay.
Popular YouTuber and vlogger Casey Neistat’s tech company, Beme, is closing down.
In an announcement he made today over Twitter and YouTube, Neistat said that he will no longer be part of Beme.
He co-founded Beme with Matt Hackett back in 2014 and it was launched as a mobile app. However, the company was not able to reach profitability. In late 2016, it was acquired by CNN and Neistat and Hackett stayed on to steer the company to a new direction. Their primary aim was to build a digital news channel that targets a young audience, thus they created content in YouTube and built up their followers. They also built software products. However, all this was not enough for the company to maintain its independence.
CNN will absorb much of Beme’s team, but it will let go others. It will also continue its YouTube channel and utilize its mobile products.
Let me tell you a little something about myself. I am a non-technical person. That is to say, I have zero background in computer science. I have two college degrees, but none of them are technical or have anything to do with computers. Therefore, I am an absolute newbie when it comes to coding and software development.
That is the reason why when I joined Lambda School’s mini code camp a few days ago, I was more than a little anxious. I kept asking myself, “Will I be able to understand what they’ll be teaching? What if I won’t be able to grasp their material? What if I’ll only be overwhelmed by the lessons and tutorial?”
Day 1 of the code camp happened yesterday, and I soon found out that none of what I feared came true.
The tutorial was live-streamed in YouTube. Austen Allred and Ben Nelson, CEO and CTO of Lambda School respectively, opened the session by introducing themselves and giving their audience an overview of what Lambda School is, but it was Ben who did the teaching. The video lasted for more than an hour (or close to two hours).
Like I said, I was initially worried that I won’t be able to understand the tutorial, so I was surprised when I actually understood it. That was because Ben really wanted to start from absolute zero. He assumed that his audience were complete beginners, and he started from there. His style of teaching was very casual and informal so it was easy to follow.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:
1. Git. It’s a tool for managing version controls.
2. GitHub. It’s a website where you can save, view, and edit source codes or repositories of codes and collaborate with a team or large numbers of people.
3. Terminal. It’s a tool for accessing and editing the files in your computer directly without the use of a mouse.
4. Repo. Short for repositories, which are simply directories or a collection of directories or files.
5. Forking. The act of branching from a master repo (the original repository) into a duplicate repo stored in the cloud.
6. Cloning. The act of copying from the repo in the cloud to your computer or laptop.
7. Push. The act of saving the changes done to the file or files inside your laptop or computer back to the repo in the cloud.
8. Pull request. The act of saving the changes done to the repo in the cloud back to the master repo.
That whole process of forking to cloning to pushing (and the other actions in between like adding a new file to the repo or directory and “committing” it to memory) is called a work flow, and that is part of what a software engineer does every single day. Does it sound complicated and confusing? Well yes, a little, but that’s because you’re only reading a description of it here. In order to really understand it, you actually need to use Git, GitHub, and a terminal.
Anyway, my favorite part of the tutorial is when they taught us how to use and navigate a terminal. There’s a terminal for Mac and a terminal for Windows. My operating system is Windows, so I used this terminal called Git Hash.
They helped us understand what the different commands are for using the terminal. Please don’t laugh, but it made me feel like a coder or hacker, because that’s what they always show in movies and TV series — a geek hunched in front of a laptop frantically inserting lines and lines of codes into a terminal window. I could hear “Mr Robot’s” soundtrack in my ear.
I only listened for about two hours but already I learned a lot. The teaching style was so effective that even I could understand the lessons. Imagine what you can learn if you’d spend 8 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, and 6 months at Lambda.
What’s my biggest takeaway so far? This: Coding is exciting! It’s challenging, to be sure, but it’s also fun.
That’s right. You didn’t misread that. Lambda School, probably the best coding school in the world today in terms of the quality of their curricula (the latest in computer science and software engineering, and artificial intelligence and machine learning), the caliber of their instructors (software engineers from Apple, Blizzard, NASA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Standford University, and other top tech companies and Ivy League schools), and their business model (free tuition until you get a high paying job), is offering a mini coding bootcamp this coming January 22, and it’s totally free! I got an email yesterday from Karen Zachary of Lambda School announcing this happy news.
I’ve talked about Lambda School in a previous post. They currently have two 6-months long courses: The Computer Science Academy and the Artificial Intelligence Academy. Their tuition fees are completely free, until you get hired. That is, you don’t have to pay the tuition upfront. You will only start paying (17% from your salary for 2 years) when you get a high paying job (if you’re making more than $50,000 a year) as a software developer. You can’t find a more awesome deal than that anywhere!
However, that program is only available for US residents. For non-US residents, the $0 upfront is not an option. Your only choice is to pay the tuition in full, and that is equivalent to $20,000 (or perhaps more). In Philippine Peso, that’s a whopping 1 million! If most US residents can’t afford a $20,000 education, how much more for people who came from developing countries like the Philippines?
That is why this latest mini coding bootcamp is such welcome news. Granted, it’s only a much-shorter version of the full courses, but still, it’s by Lambda School! The instructors who will be teaching it are the same instructors from the two full courses.
The mini bootcamp will take place online (using Zoom, a video conferencing tool; Slack, a messaging tool; and VS Code, a tool for editing source codes) and will only last for an hour each day for 10 days (January 22-February 1) but it will probably be the most helpful and informative mini coding bootcamp you’ll every experience. It will give you a taste of what education in Lambda School is like and will probably encourage you to enroll in the complete curricula.
I hope there will be more mini code bootcamps like these in the future. Or better yet, I hope Lambda School will someday make their courses more affordable to non-Americans, or design a business model that will work for non-US residents. For example, how about if they’ll offer their courses for free and then once their non-US graduates find remote work, the latter can then start paying their tuition?
The bootcamp will begin on Monday at 6PM, Pacific Time. In the Philippines, that’s Tuesday, 10 in the morning. I can’t wait!
If I had lots of money and time, I’d love to learn these:
I think some of these knowledge areas and skill sets will become more and more relevant, and eventually indispensable, in the coming years. That is, they are skills we cannot not have. We won’t be able to avoid them, and we won’t be able to survive if we don’t learn them, because the jobs of the future will require them.
There is this awesome coding school that I really would love to enroll in, Lambda School. They have this program that gives you the option to study now and pay later, in the form of a monthly deduction from your salary. They offer two 6-month long courses as of the moment: Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. Once they accept you, you don’t need to pay the tuition fee upfront. You only pay them if you get hired, and only if your salary exceeds a particular figure. Meaning, if you get hired but your salary is not that high, you won’t have to pay them back. And the payment is only 17% for 1-2 years. A great deal, right? You don’t need to apply for a loan.
So that means that if you do get in to their school (and their acceptance rate by the way is low; they’re looking for quality students), you’ll be a software engineer, programmer, or designer after 6 months! How cool is that? Their graduates, by the way, are highly sought after, so that once they finish the 6 months, they immediately are offered high paying jobs.
I only have one problem, though: they only offer their program to US residents. I live in the Philippines, so I’m not eligible for the $0 upfront. If you’re a non-US resident, you can still enroll, but you will have to pay the tuition fee upfront, and that’s $20,000. In Philippine peso, that’s exactly one million. Too expensive!
There are free options out there, of course, in the form of coding bootcamps. The most popular of these are probably Codecademy, Free Code Camp, and The Odin School. You can probably get a basic grasp of coding from those schools, but I believe Lambda School is still unsurpassed in the quality of its curricula, instruction, training, and results. All of their instructors come from Ivy League schools and big tech companies: Stanford University, UC Berkeley, NASA, Hack Reactor, and many more.
If ever I do decide and manage to enroll in a coding school like Lambda, it will surely pave the way to a major career shift. I will probably spend the rest of my life as a full-stack software engineer (that sounds so cool!), and work on side projects which might lead to businesses.
Oh well. I hope Lambda will soon expand internationally, and find a way to help non-US residents afford world-class computer science education.
I really liked the name What the Tech? for this blog. I thought it was clever and highly original. Well, it turned out that it wasn’t really very unique. There are almost a dozen “What the Tech” pages in Twitter. I bet there’s also an equal number of those pages in Facebook. Someone also already took the domain name whatthetech dot com.
I wanted a title that captured and conveyed the idea of making the topics of technology, entrepreneurship, and startups easier to understand. “What the Tech?” seemed to perfectly capture that idea. It’s both an expression of curiosity (as in, “What is tech?”) and a manifestation of exasperation (as in, “What the heck is tech?”), because, let’s face it, sometimes technology is perplexing.
But an alternative name has to be found because many blogs, pages, and even vlogs have already taken it or are already using it.
Hence, I think I’ll just settle for TechEasy: Making Technology Easy. It’s not as edgy or clever, but it captures the idea I talked about above. There are also TechEasy pages in Twitter, but at least the domain techeasy dot com is still available.
Here’s the (tentative) logo:
I have a passion for technology and the startup world. But I’m not a software engineer nor a designer. I’m not a Computer Science graduate nor anyone with any formal background or training in computers. What I do have is an unquenchable curiosity of and fascination with everything related to startups and tech. My favorite pages in Twitter are those by Y Combinator, Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Jessica Livingston, Michael Seibel, Brian Chesky, Lambda School, Austen Allred, Hacker News, Hacker News YC, TechCrunch, Indie Hackers, Fast Company, Inc, The Verge, Futurism, and many others. I’m also a fan of podcasts, and I consume — no, devour — them daily, especially during my drive to and from the city where I live. My favorites are those by Y Combinator, Wall Street Journal Tech News Briefing, Tech Crunch Spoken Edition, The Indie Hackers Podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman, Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris, and others.
And here I come to the value I believe I can provide in this vlog. Technology can sometimes be confusing or difficult to grasp. For example, do you know what cryptocurrencies are and how blockchain technology works? Me neither, that is, until a few months ago when I actually took the time to read a book that explained what they are. I’ve heard of Bitcoin and Ethereum for a long time before reading that book, and I never understood what they actually are. I even attended a startup conference and one of the founders of a company that traded in cryptocurrencies talked at length about blockchain and none of the things she discussed registered in my brain.
I think that my being a non-tech person, far from being a liability, is actually an asset for me, because I will be looking and writing about technology from the vantage point of a layman. I will be able to explain things in simpler terms, with minimum jargon. I will be able to discuss tech and related topics in ways people like myself will be able to understand.
And it’s crucial for us to understand technology because we live in a world pervaded by it. We cannot not learn and comprehend it.
So there. I can’t wait to start writing about tech.
In the coming days, I will start publishing in this blog articles on tech and will spread them through social media. I hope you can follow along and journey with me as we understand and learn technology together.
It pains me to say this, but I am saying goodbye to my Before I Became a Great Writer blog.
Seriously? Yes, seriously.
I am saying goodbye to the blog. It’s a very difficult thing to do, but it has to be done. I’ve had it for many years now (almost 5 years, to be exact) and I’ve grown fond of it. But I need to make a huge decision.
What is that decision? Well, I’ve decided to focus fully on being a freelance writer. I’ve started doing this almost a week ago. I accepted a writing gig from an overseas-based client last Thursday, and since then I’ve been writing articles like crazy. I’m talking about 450, 550, 800, and 1,100-word articles per assignment per day. And I wrote an average of 3 articles a day (since I wanted to do this part-time initially). Remember my New Year’s resolution to write at least 500 words a day? At first, I worried that I won’t be able to meet that challenge, but since I started freelance writing, I’ve far surpassed my 500 words-a-day target. Not bad, huh?
One of the things I’ve learned is that there are two general types of freelance writers: (1) those who write about general topics, and (2) those who write about more specialized topics, like law, medicine, computers, and etc.
For now, I belong to the first group of freelance writers. And you know what? When you’re a “generalized” freelance writer, you’re going to be assigned all sorts of topics; topics that are sometimes weird and crazy.
For example, I’ve recently wrote about a type of massage in India that’s called Sandwich Massage. Ever heard of it? Me neither. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Sandwich massage. I only knew about it the moment I was given the topic. What is it, you may ask? Well the name itself spells it out for you. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with literal sandwiches.
See what I mean?
I’ve also written about the most mundane topics — products that I didn’t know existed. Topics that are so boring I didn’t know how to review them. For instance, I had no idea there were these things called smoker blocks and charcoal briquets. But I was tasked to write 1,500 words about them! And I did it, too. What can one write about something as mundane and seemingly uninteresting as briquets and blocks? A lot, it turns out. Yes, I wrote every single one of those 1,500 words. How did I do it? Well, I started with an overview of briquets and smoker blocks. And then I gave a short history about them, of when they were invented, and how their wide usage came about. Then, I discussed their features in great detail. Then, I weighed their pros and cons. Then, I gave my verdict. I even rated the product according to a category. Let me know if you have trouble sleeping at night, okay? Because I will send you a copy of that article.
I did the same thing for these things called Forestry Mulchers. Do you know what they are?
But I enjoyed writing them, to some extent. I love reading about stuff, especially things I don’t know about.
My favorite so far was my review of a hotel in Spain. I read so much about that hotel and described it in such detail that I almost believed I’ve been to the place. My imagination was so vivid I actually felt like I was in that hotel in Barcelona.
I also wrote about zombie-themed player-versus-player (PvP) online multiplayer mobile video games and unlimited gold and money hacks. What was my level of knowledge of mobile games prior to the writing assignment? Zero.
In other words, freelance writing is fun.
But I won’t be giving up this blog itself, no, no, no, no, no. I’m only replacing the title.
TechEasy: Making Technology Easy will be a blog dedicated to making the topics of technology, startups, and entrepreneurship easier to understand. Why this title and these topics? Well, because aside from books, reading, literature, fiction, philosophy, theology, logic, and all those subjects that I’m passionate (and have written) about over the years, I also love technology, business, and entrepreneurship.
So my goal really is to move away from being a “generalized” freelance writer to being a “specialized” one. I want technology, entrepreneurship, and startups to be my niche topics. I want to write about them as often as I can in this blog, contribute to other tech blogs and other online publications, build my portfolio, and pitch my services to clients.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t be talking about short stories, books, and literature anymore. I still will. But my main focus are the topics I mentioned above.
If you or anyone you know are in need of a freelance writer, let me know, okay?
See you around.