Hello World!

3 minute read

Who am I

Hi, I am Alan Duan, a Masters student @ Columbia University majoring in Computer Science. I did my undergrad in City University of Hong Kong studying business (more specifically, accounting) as well as a bit of comp sci.

I love:

  • learning and reading and writing
  • building cool stuff (the definition of coolness is something that many folks will use and then say “man, I really love that”)
  • teaching and sharing: the sense of achievement I get after helping someone understand a complex concept is my caffeine.
  • efficiency and tools that boost my efficiency
  • high-quality life – good stuff to buy, interesting experiences to try out…

Why blogging now (and here)

This is my first time running a blog. I started to write diaries since October 2014, but chose to keep it as a private places for myself to relieve stress, brainstorm, or sort things out. Now I am happy to share some of my knowledge and thoughts in a more public environment as I hope this will benefit more people.

I became a user of Zhihu since February 2014 and joined Quora since December 2015. By saying user I really mean reader: both of them offer very high quality contents (especially in the field of computer science). I have read and learned a lot (and randomly surfed on them a lot). Although they are great platforms to share knowledge, I simply do not want to limit myself by the questions being asked, nor am I willing to be judged by the number of upvotes. Also I see quarrels on Zhihu sometimes, and it makes me feel resistant to answering when there may be chances of getting into a fight where people care about winning more than finding out the truth.

That’s why I decide to go for a more independent blog site and write my stuff there. I have been shopping between various full-fledged Content Management System websites and more light-weight, static sites like Github pages. I finally chose Github Pages + Jekyll because I want a platform where I can sit down and write (in Markdown) right away, without worrying about how to publish it or make things look nice with HTML/CSS/JS. But at the same time it has enough customizable features that I can discover and tweak later on. Again it’s my first time doing this so let’s see how it works as I am of course open to other great publishing platforms.

So what is this blog all about

I already got a bunch of topics in my head that I want to write about, but of course it may change based on my schedule (and mood):

  • Stuff on Python: An Intro to Python in 30 Minutes; On Writing Pythonic Codes

  • Things that are related to the course I have taken/am taking/am TAing: A potpourri of machine learning, discrete math, operating system, C++, algorithms, etc. It will be a combination of Notes/Video tutorials/Exercises.

  • Interview prep: If I saw a really interesting question or a fancy solution I will share it with you guys.

  • Efficiency: I love tools that will boost efficiency (GTD and more!). I will recommend some iPhone/Mac OS apps that I use a lot day to day. I will also cover some great skills/toolkits that I think every computer science student (or really, everyone) can benefit a lot in the long-term. To name a few: git, LaTeX, Markdown, vim, email management)

  • Learning: Here I want to include some learning strategies that may help college students learn better. I am a big of Feynman technique and Socratic method as I have benefited a lot myself from using them. I plan to share more about their effectiveness and how I apply them to my course work.

  • Random stuff: Whatever I like (alternatively, tell me what you like!)

Alright I think this is an enough-long hello world (maybe too verbose compared to Python). Stay tuned and I wish to post something interesting very soon!