Makzan / I share what I learnt

My 2010s Review

A conclusion of my last 10 years.

This is the last month of the decade. Let me take some time to round up my last 10 years. Here are the highlights.

  1. Began my book writing
  2. e-Learning and MakClass
  3. Building my own productivity and knowledge system.
  4. Coming back to WorldSkills skill 17
  5. Got married and built my lovely family

TL;DR

On writing

10 years ago I wrote my first book. Later on, I wrote several books about HTML5. I don’t call it success. I failed to publish more books in recent years. I’m now writing the CSS3 Effects book which I started the project in 2018 and paused after my 2nd son was born last summer. Writing more is one of my biggest goal in the next decade.

On e-Learning and MakClass

I taught a lot in the last 10 years. I created my own online teaching and learning system to support the teaching. The system allows me to create private and public classrooms to group students together for learning material and quizzes and workbooks. The system also benefits my students so that they can review the materials at home. In conclusion, it works well but there are plenty of improvements waiting for my implementation.

On productivity and knowledge system

None of the existing software or services fit my needs. Not Evernote, Apple Notes, Google Keep, OneNote, Bear, Notion. The closer one is a physical journal with a mix of Bullet Journal system and daily Eat that frog + time block approach. I built my own system and iterate the system eight times. There are many lessons learnt along the building journey.

On Skills Competition

I was competitor in Web Design skill at 2003 and I came back to this skill-17 family as expert since 2009. This became my life changing event for the past 10 years. I also look forward the coming 10 years of web technologies.

On Family

Getting married and having 2 sons is another life changing moment. It is roles changing and the responsibility forces me to grow. It is like I finally grow up from a small boy at 30 year-old. 


On writing

I wrote my first book at 2010. It was Flash Multiplayer Virtual World, published via PackPub. Then no one uses Flash anymore and Adobe didn’t invest into the Flash/Animate too. So I moved on building iOS games and then HTML5 games. Then I wrote the HTML5 Game Development by Example: Beginner’s Guide and HTML5 Game Development Hotshot. I also tried creating video course for HTML5 game development as well. In total, I have created 2 video courses and 4 books published with PackPub from 2010 to 2016.

I shared the experiences and things I learnt when building massive multiplayer virtual world in my book. The book was death-on-arrival at 2010  because it was written for Flash and ActionScript 3. And I learned a lot from the writing process and now I was trying to self-publish books through LeanPub.

The result of book selling is not good. Not good enough for living. But it encourages me to share my experience and what I learnt. That was also the reason I started exploring different e-learning approaches and writing process for the last 10 years. This experiments become MakClass.com eventually.

I falled in love with writing. And I started my email newsletter since 2014. I shared tips and tricks I learnt on web technologies and productivity with links and my comments. I also shared a quote every week. 

The newsletter writing wasn’t a smooth process too. I kept changing my email newsletter servide to find the one that fits my need. I tried TinyLetterConvertKitMailChimp and finally settle down with Substack. The minimal UI of Substack lets me focus on the writing. And I was able to import all my newsletter into Substack to create a full archive of my newsletter.

I tried hard to send out email every week but every summer I paused for months. I was able to publish 25 newsletters in 2019 and 109 newsletters in total since 2014.

Skill competition

Skill competition and development was one of the main thing I did in the last 10 years. I was competitor at 2003 and came back to WorldSkills at 2009 and I have a very enjoyable years with the Web Technologies family. 

I met many fellows and learnt a lot from how other regions are training web developers and designers. Every year or next, we have plenty of time to work and chat together. We share a lot about not only our profession but also our families and life at each home towns. We are like a family that gather every while.

In terms of skill development and teaching, I built an online teaching system for my training needs. I called it MakClass

There are two aims for my online teaching system. 

  1. Help me to organize teaching notes and handle assignments and worksheet submissions. 
  2. Create mini test projects and marking schemes. 

Raising the skill training and development, rather than the skill competition, is the purpose. The competition is the mean to increase awareness at regions so that the standard of skilled professionals raises as result. Building test projects and the marking scheme is difficult because test projects has to be balanced between realistic and testing environment constraints. They also need to have good coverage of the scope to really reflects how well the competitors do. The marking scheme must be designed to allow efficient and effective assessment. At last, the industry reviews provide feedback on how we modify the whole scope to fit the latest industry need on the web technologies skill.

By building the MakClass mini test project system, I can keep creating tiny marking scheme so that I can keep looking for a better assessment approach and marking scheme design method within the balance mentioned above. The first stage of the MakClass works, in the coming years, I will upgrade the test project system into an automated assessment tool for the submissions.

Building my own productivity system

Over the past decade, I was trying to build my own productivity systems. They are web applications to manage my tasks my clutters and my thoughts.

Now it is my eighth time rebuilding the system. Before that, I tried the following approaches:

– Twitter-like thoughts logging system called log-n-forget.
– Rich-text editor based document system called write.md.
– An all-in-one system that I called VVA, Virtual virtual assistant.
– A card-based system called MZKB, Makzan’s Knowledge Base.

The twitter-like system is very good for quick inputs but the recording finding system is too messy. The all-in-one was trying to do too much that was re-inventing the wheels. It even reads emails for me. The MZKB was a good success, but the code based was not optimized and I was trying to do too much to it too. MZKB ends up with too many aims with too less flexibility.

Currently, my 8th system is a mix of benefits of my previous system.

This system is flexible with byte-size records. It allows me to manage different inputs every day into one organized place. The inputs include clips, readings, important emails from boss, good and bad examples found, my thoughts, my ideas, my sketches. Each record is a pack of information that I need. The information could be an archive of something I learnt (Knowledge) or a group of information that I will need in future (Decision Making).

The system will be messy if I only organize the records by tags. On top of tags, I also use “Channels” and “Roles”. 

Channels are group of records that I need for the short-term projects. For example, I have a channel for the trip next month, a channel for the 6-month project.

Roles are long-term. It could be my position at current company. I am also a writer. So every thing that are related to this kind of long-term life goal are marked into roles.

Beyond the channels and tags. I can also group my records by dates and location. And I can search by attachment types and URL.

By having multiple entry point to the records and having connection between records via tags, channels and replies. I can create a massively connected pack of information system that fits my needs.

And one of the key point is to find a good balance between the flexibility and framework of organization. 

On Family

I got married in 2013. By then, Candy and I had met for around 10 years and had been dating for 9 years. Now we have married for 6.5 years and have two sons. Raising sons is the most ever life-changing event to me. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

— an African proverb

Now I am never alone. Every day I go with my family and it was full of joyful and love. 

On Skill 17 Family

As mentioned above, I came back to the web technologies skill and met many fellows there. We are so strong connected that we are like a big remote family who gather together every two years. We travel to visit other experts and had dinner at their home, had mini trips with their family, had fun together all over the world.

I’d like to close with a quote from Mark Twain. More than a century ago, he was looking back on his life, and he wrote this: “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

— What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness, TED.

Look forward to go further with my family in 2020’s.


Note: Part of the content is re-post from my newsletters.


Published on December 31, 2019. More articles like this: Highlighted, Personal, Productivity, Skill 17 Family.

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