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“My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s”, Branwen 2018

Improvements: “My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2018-04-28; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

A list of unheralded improvements to ordinary quality-of-life since the 1990s going beyond computers.

It can be hard to see the gradual improvement of most goods over time, but I think one way to get a handle on them is to look at their downstream effects: all the small ordinary everyday things which nevertheless depend on obscure innovations and improving cost-performance ratios and gradually dropping costs and new material and… etc. All of these gradually drop the cost, drop the price, improve the quality at the same price, remove irritations or limits not explicitly noticed, or so on.

It all adds up.

So here is a personal list of small ways in which my ordinary everyday daily life has been getting better since the late ’80s/​early ’90s (as far back as I can clearly remember these things—I am sure the list of someone growing up in the 1940s would include many hassles I’ve never known at all).

“Internet WiFi Improvement”, Branwen 2016

WiFi: “Internet WiFi improvement”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2016-10-20; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

After putting up with slow glitchy WiFi Internet for years, I investigate improvements. Upgrading the router, switching to a high-gain antenna, and installing a buried Ethernet cable all offer increasing speeds.

My laptop in my apartment receives Internet via a WiFi repeater to another house, yielding slow speeds and frequent glitches. I replaced the obsolete WiFi router and increased connection speeds somewhat but still inadequate. For a better solution, I used a directional antenna to connect directly to the new WiFi router, which, contrary to my expectations, yielded a ~6× increase in speed. Extensive benchmarking of all possible arrangements of laptops/​dongles/​repeaters/​antennas/​routers/​positions shows that the antenna+router is inexpensive and near optimal speed, and that the only possible improvement would be a hardwired Ethernet line, which I installed a few weeks later after learning it was not as difficult as I thought it would be.

“Movie Reviews”, Branwen 2014

Movies: “Movie Reviews”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2014-05-01; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

A compilation of movie, television, and opera reviews since 2014.

This is a compilation of my film/​television/​theater reviews; it is compiled from my newsletter⁠. Reviews are sorted by rating in descending order.

See also my book & anime /  ​ manga reviews⁠.

“Blackmail Fail”, Branwen 2013

Blackmail: “Blackmail fail”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2013-12-10; ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

In which the author receives surprising offers from kind strangers

In September 2012, I was extorted for $42.8[^\$32.0^~2012~]{.supsub} for being gwern; I declined to pay. In November 2013, I called an encryption bluff that I was Dread Pirate Roberts. In December 2013, a crazy person tried to blackmail me for billions of dollars for being Satoshi Nakamoto⁠; I declined to pay. In March 2014, the DNM Evolution threatened to dox me if I did not reveal information about their security vulnerabilities. In February 2015, an Agora user doxed me in an unexpected way and I paid a small bounty.

“Tea Reviews”, Branwen 2011

Tea: “Tea Reviews”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2011-04-13; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Teas I have drunk, with reviews and future purchases; focused primarily on oolongs and greens. Plus experiments on water.

Electric kettles are faster, but I was curious how much faster my electric kettle heated water to high or boiling temperatures than does my stove-top kettle. So I collected some data and compared them directly, trying out a number of statistical methods (principally: nonparametric & parametric tests of difference, linear & beta regression models, and a Bayesian measurement error model). My electric kettle is faster than the stove-top kettle (the difference is both statistically-significant p≪0.01 & the posterior probability of difference is P ≈ 1), and the modeling suggests time to boil is largely predictable from a combination of volume, end-temperature, and kettle type.

“ Website Traffic”, Branwen 2011

Traffic: “ Website Traffic”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2011-02-03; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; similar):

Meta page describing editing activity, traffic statistics, and referrer details, primarily sourced from Google Analytics (2011-present).

On a semi-annual basis, since 2011, I review website traffic using Google Analytics; although what most readers value is not what I value, I find it motivating to see total traffic statistics reminding me of readers (writing can be a lonely and abstract endeavour), and useful to see what are major referrers. typically enjoys steady traffic in the 50–100k range per month, with occasional spikes from social media, particularly Hacker News; over the first decade (2010–2020), there were 7.98m pageviews by 3.8m unique users.

“Anime Reviews”, Branwen 2010

Anime: “Anime Reviews”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2010-12-14; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

A compilation of anime/​manga reviews since 2010.

This page is a compilation of my anime/​manga reviews; it is compiled from my MyAnimeList account & newsletter⁠. Reviews are sorted by rating in descending order.

See also my book & film /  ​ TV /  ​ theater reviews⁠.

“Design Graveyard”, Branwen 2010

Design-graveyard: “Design Graveyard”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2010-10-01; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Meta page describing website design experiments and post-mortem analyses.

Often the most interesting part of any design are the parts that are invisible—what was tried but did not work. Sometimes they were unnecessary, other times users didn’t understand them because it was too idiosyncratic, and sometimes we just can’t have nice things.

Some post-mortems of things I tried on but abandoned (in chronological order).

“Design Of This Website”, Branwen 2010

Design: “Design Of This Website”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2010-10-01; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Meta page describing site implementation and experiments for better ‘structural reading’ of hypertext; technical decisions using Markdown and static hosting. is implemented as a static website compiled via Hakyll from Pandoc Markdown and hosted on a dedicated server (due to expensive cloud bandwidth).

It stands out from your standard Markdown static website by aiming at good typography, fast performance, and advanced hypertext browsing features (at the cost of great implementation complexity); the 4 design principles are: aesthetically-pleasing minimalism, accessibility/​progressive-enhancement, speed, and a ‘structural reading’ approach to hypertext use.

Unusual features include the monochrome esthetics, sidenotes instead of footnotes on wide windows, efficient drop caps/​smallcaps, collapsible sections, automatic inflation-adjusted currency, Wikipedia-style link icons & infoboxes, custom syntax highlighting⁠, extensive local archives to fight linkrot, and an ecosystem of “popup”/​“popin” annotations & previews of links for frictionless browsing—the net effect of hierarchical structures with collapsing and instant popup access to excerpts enables iceberg-like pages where most information is hidden but the reader can easily drill down as deep as they wish. (For a demo of all features & stress-test page, see Lorem Ipsum⁠.)

Also discussed are the many failed experiments /  ​ changes made along the way.

“About This Website”, Branwen 2010

About: “About This Website”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2010-10-01; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Meta page describing site ideals of stable long-term essays which improve over time; idea sources and writing methodology; metadata definitions; site statistics; copyright license.

This page is about content; for the details of its implementation & design like the popup paradigm, see Design⁠; and for information about me, see Links⁠.