writing prompt #3

A man jumps off the roof of a 40-story building. As he passes the 28th floor he hears the mobile phone ringing in his pocket. He regrets jumping. Why?

“I run faster than sound.
I can survive jumps from any height.
I am the strongest parahuman in this country.
I am a one-man-army.
I am Iron Fist.
I am here to protect this city.
I will bring The World Eater to justice!”,

he mutters to himself while jumping down a 40-story building to catch up with the villain. His mobile phone rings. A few seconds later he lands on the ground.

“…
I forgot to leave my phone at home.
I smashed it during the impact, didn’t I?
… I am SO stupid.”

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Writing something for this assignment gave me some trouble. At first I was thinking about dark scenarios. Maybe the man had lost everything or someone important died? Maybe he was just depressed and the call reminded him of the child he will leave behind? I couldn’t think of a justification for his regret that I liked under the assumption that he just heard the ringtone and never talked with anybody.

Having him talk with someone was not on the table either. A building with forty stories is quite tall, but I was pretty sure that he would not need much time to arrive at the ground. (I calculated it at home with four meters for each floor, 160m in total. If I didn’t do anything wrong, he would have about six seconds of flight time. A little bit less, even.)

So maybe he wasn’t trying to kill himself? Maybe he was a basejumper or something? From this thought I got the idea of a superhero. I am still not satisfied with the reason of his regret, but I liked this version way more than anything else that came to my mind before, so I went along with it.

Summary of “Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel”

The text “Warp Drive Research Key to Interstellar Travel” was written by Mark Alpert and published as an article in the Scientific American.

The author starts off with the history of the fictional warp-drive engine, which is a really important piece of technology in the Star Trek Universe. For example, it enables the famous starship Enterprise to travel faster than light.

This technology however is currently investigated in the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The head of the advanced propulsion program there, Harold White, works on an experiment with only $50,000 funding for this project. If it is successful, it may provide clues for the development of a device, that could warp space time. With the help of this device, faster-than-light travel could be possible. This is important, because the only spacecraft, that left our solar systems until now, would need about 70,000 years to reach any nearby star. With a warp-drive the amount of time needed to get to another star system would shrink down to mere weeks.

Voyager I is the name of this probe that has left our system behind. It was originally send out by NASA to study Jupiter, Saturn and their moons.

Because many people share the enthusiasm for interstellar travel, organisations were created, that explore more realistic means of space travel, which come with their own unique challenges. One of them is Icarus Interstellar, which is looking into nuclear fusion propelled craft. Their problem is mainly that nuclear fusion is not yet fully developed, despite being researched since 50 years.

Interstellar travel itself comes with a myriad of problems. For example there is space dust, which doesn’t sound dangerous at all, but becomes quite lethal at high or even relativistic speeds. Spacecraft need protective plating to withstand those impacts. Additionally, deceleration is needed to arrive safely at a destination. Therefore, additional fuel is needed.

Regardless of the challenges, research into interstellar travel is still ongoing. The exploration of other star systems or even earth like planets is said to be essential to the survival of mankind. If humanity is spread out across multiple worlds, planetwide calamities, like asteroid impacts or a nuclear war, are less likely to wipe out all human beings.

Writing prompt #2

“What was the research question of you bachelor’s thesis? How did the procedure look like? What were the results?”

I have to admit I did not remember what the research question of my bachelor’s thesis was. That’s why I started this assignment with writing about the procedure. I then thought about our results which helped my with the topic of the research question.

The Procedure:

The procedure was the lean start-up method proposed by Steve Blank. I already described it the short version of my bachelor’s thesis.

In short, we treated every thought and every idea we had about our start-up as hypotheses which we had to evaluate.

The Research Question:

I’am not really sure, if a question was ever formulated or just implied, but I think it was basically the following:
“Is our start-up idea feasible? Could it sustain itself after a certain initial investment?”

Those questions were accompanied by smaller ones like:
“How long does it take to return the investment to the investor?”
“How long will it take until black numbers are written?”

The Results:

As a result of our work we came to the conclusion that yes, our start-up would sustain itself after a certain investment (about 400.000$, I believe).

However, this conclusion is based on a lot of assumptions, which we could proof neither true nor wrong as of yet. For example, we cannot say for sure, how many people would use our application.

 

Writing prompt #1

“You are a travel agent of an intergalactic travel agency. A newly wed couple wants to got to Earth for their honeymoon. You try to talk them out of it.”

You want to go to Earth? I should tell you a bit about this planet, then.

The dominant species is not really far developed. They didn’t even start colonising other planets. That’s why the intergalactic alliance hasn’t contacted them, yet. This means, that getting there is rather difficult and accordingly expensive.

Furthermore, the locals are rather xenophobic and barbaric. It is quite possible that they would kill you or perform experiments on you. I can’t even promise you, that those experiments are performed on your dead bodies. Maybe they would even start a war about you.

In addition you can’t expect any luxury there. We don’t possess any outposts in that area of the galaxy and the living standards of the locals are horrific! They don’t even have teleporters so you had to walk everywhere or take one of their so-called “cars” or “planes”, which are crashing all of the time. Those things can even explode!

All in all I cannot let you go there with a good conscience. How about something in Andromeda? They have lovely nebulas and really friendly locals. They may look a bit odd though.

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I have to admit I took a few minutes to correct some errors and changed the phrasing in a few spots to make the sentences fit better together and improve the flow a littly bit. I hope that is okay. 🙂

 

Homework

Assignment 1:

Done.

Assignment 2:

  1. State of the art of urban Internet of Things
  2. Generation of string test cases via multi-objective optimization

Assignment 3:

Not really done. I can think of a few general topics, that sound interesting to me. However, I can’t tell, which one I should choose. They all seem too broad and some of them could be too difficult for me.

Here is the list of interesting topics:

  • Quantum computation
  • Bio-Computation (for example DNA-Computation)
  • Unconventional computation in general
  • Artificial intelligence

There are most certainly many other interesting topics. I am open to suggestions and would gladly accept help in finding a topic.

An introduction of Wildbow

Hey guys!

I would like to introduce my favourite author to you. His name is Wildbow and he writes rather dark webseries.

The main reason I want to share his works with you is not only his style of writing (which is amazing btw), but his work ethic. He puts out at least two chapters a week on tuesday and saturday, often even an additional one on thursday. Those chapters aren‘t short either. He is keeping that schedule for nearly five years, even at christmas or while helping organizing the wedding of his brother or while moving to another city. He only made exceptions when he got sick. (EDIT: Nope, not even then.)

Wildbow has a little gimmick, where every single story title of his‘ has only four letters. Those stories are, in chronological order, Worm, Pact and my personal favourite: Twig. That last one isn‘t completed, yet.

Each of these stories take a while to get into, but they get really, really awesome.
As a starting point I would recommend Worm, because this story is finished and a few tads better than Pact.

Summarizing Worm withouth spoiling anything AND without sounding boring is kind of hard, but I will try nonetheless.

The following contains minor spoilers for Worm:
Worm is takes place on an alternative earth, which has superheroes. Those so called capes get their powers only after traumatising events. Therefore most capes turn out to be villains.
The protagonist is a girl named Taylor that recently aquired her powers, which let her control all insects in a certain radius, and wants to start fighting crime. Soon she starts a undercover mission to take down a group of local villains, but those turn out to be nicer than most people Taylor knows personally, which puts her in a predicament.
Her ability sounds weak and useless if compared to Wolverine or Ironman, but turns out to be quite versatile.
Furthermore Wildbow thought of many weird, clever, mindboggling or simply amazing powers. Yes, there are heroes with lame powers like superman, but also a lot of really interesting ones. For example there is this one guy who gets three powers at random that could somehow help him and gets to choose if he keeps those or if he replaces some of them with new random powers. He never knows what he gets and needs to learn how to use each power, but he always has three different powers at once, which makes him really mighty. Another one can inflict feelings on his victims. Anything from love or anger to pure terror and extreme horror is possible. Others are especially good at building gadgets, can teleport through fire, change how the dimensions of space work and much more.
What I really like about this story is that everything gets explained sooner or later. Even where the powers come from. I can‘t think of any loose ends that didn‘t get tied up at the end. Additionally the protagonist does not win every fight. She is still just human. She fails and suffers like everybody else.

I believe Twig to be Wildbows best work, because he excels at writing dialoges. The protagonist here is a social manipulator, which is part of a team. This means less fighting and more talking. Those are ideal conditions to let Wildbow shine.
Twig is set in a universe, where the Frankenstein experiment happend and succeded. From there on it developed lots of biotechnology at a really fast rate, but normal technology a bit slower. The year should be something around 1920. Houses are mostly grown, not build. Strange, interesting and dangerous experiments of the academy are everywhere and the crown constantly wages war to conquer other countries.
The protagonist, Sy, and his team are also experiments of the academy and are send on various missions as a form of stress test.
Twig’s strong points are definitely the manipulation done by Sy and the character building.
For anything else you better read the about page of Twig or even the story itself! 🙂

I will leave out a summary of Pact, because Twig and Worm are better starting points in my opinion.

I don‘t think I did Wildbows stories justice, so I really urge you to give at least one of his stories a chance. 🙂

The writing process of my bachelor‘s thesis

My bachelor thesis was a team project, which I worked on with two other people. This had a few advantages, but came also with a few challenges. Some of those are even relevant here.

What did you like about the writing process?

I liked that we had to present a run down of what we planned to write in a really detailed manner. It was called a „Maxigliederung“. This gave me a few places to start if I got stuck. The writing itself was rather tedious, because I didn‘t like the topic. At first it sounded interesting, but I quickly realized it wasn‘t something I wanted to do. Furthermore I often got stuck at the beginning of a new chapter and spent far to much time contemplating the structure and wording of a single sentece.

The part I liked most was probably the night in that we turned all the text into a LaTeX document, which made the thesis at least look good.

What where the difficulties?

There were a lot of difficulties, including a classic. We started too late because we thought that there was plenty of time left. Nope, there wasn‘t.

Also I should have made a lot more notes and kept better track of my sources. The way I did it complicated things later on.

Differences in our writing styles were another problem. One team member wasn‘t able to write in a way that sounded appropriate. Everything this person wrote sounded utterly casual and I had to fix a lot of that. Additionally we argued in a threesome sometimes over small details in our phrasing.

The hardest part was structuring the thesis because we had to describe a process. This made me feel more like I was writing a strange kind of diary that tried to sound scientific. After skimming the thesis for this homework I already noticed some things in the structure that I would change now. That is not really a surprise. While I worked I felt like I had a bad case of organizational blindness. I clearly lacked the distance to correctly evaluate my/ our work.

Are you satisfied with the result?

I felt really insecure while I was structuring and writing the thesis. I wasn‘t happy while writing the thesis.

After just skimming I already found a few things I would change. In conclusion: No, I am absolutly not satisfied with my work. I can do a lot better.

Implementation of the lean-startup-method using the example of an android application

[My bachelor‘s thesis was kind of special, because it wasn‘t written alone, but in a team of three people.]

Introduction

In this work we will go through the start-up process using the method introduced by Steve Blank [1]. Our goal is to create a business model using a webservice or a smartphone application and to built a working prototype.

The Lean startup process

For this method, we had to create a basic business idea as a starting point. Every part of this idea should be treated like a hypothesis and needs to be evaluated later on in the process.

The evaluations are conducted using a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An MVP is the most basic possible form of the finished product, while still containing the basic function of the final product. It is used to collect feedback on our hypotheses concerning the product itself from possible customers.

Disproved hypotheses will be replaced with new ones. This process ends when all our assumptions are proven correct.

In this process lies the possibility for a so-called pivot. A pivot takes place after a fundamental hypothesis has been disproven. In this case the modell needs to take a new direction which can be completly different than in the first iteration.

Using this method, it is far less likly for our business model to fail because of wrong assumptions about the needs of our customers, the costs of certain aspects of our idea or similar misjudgments.

The Idea

We created the idea for a smartphone application that would help people organize their betting groups for soccer games. It will track the bets and statistics and will support private and public betting groups. Furthermore it will update as soon as the results of the games are in.

The Evaluation

The sentence Steve Blank emphasizes all the time is „Get out of the building.“ He tells us to constantly evalute our assumptions and change them accordingly.

That is what we did. We asked a lot of our fellow students for their opinion and even built a few surveys. One of those was even held at the Christmas market in Magdeburg, where we tried to find interested people that were no students. Our intend was to diversify our sample.

The hypotheses were changed according to the feedback. Overall we had to change only a few things and did not experience a pivot. I will just name one important change as example. We learned from the feedback we got, that most people were not willing to pay for the basic app, like we intended at first. The would rather take a free app with advertisment. Opposed to the majority, the core of our target group was willing to pay either for a few more advanced features, like more detailed statistics, or even for the whole app.

The Risks

Through our evaluation we learned of a few risks concerning our business model.

Firstly there are a few rival applications, but all of them lacked some features which we could try to provide.

Secondly our idea was possibly considered as a form of gambling by german law. This would mean we had to get a licence, which was practically impossible for us. The final decision if we would need one took longer than we had time to write our thesis. I cannot say if there is a result by now.

But we did plan accordingly. We found possible countries in which we could get a licence quite easily. This would allow us to work Germany thanks to european law.

The Outlook

According to our estimated plan for the next few months, we would need approximatly 413.000€ from possible investors. With this investment we would be able to further the development and marketing of the application. We expect to generate a positive balance after roughly 14 months.

After this point the investors will get a share of 35% of our monthly revenue, which will be ramped up to 50% or even 75% if our revenue is big enough. The payments will continue until the investor received five times his investment from us. We estimate that this debt will be paid after four years.

[1] Blank, Steve. The Startup Owners Manual The Step By Step Guide for Building a Great Company (1.Auflage). 2012.