Update: Why the pause?


June 16, 2020

It’s been nearly four months since my last post on this blog. I’d like to get back into writing things up here, but before putting up another normal post I figured it was worth giving a quick update on why things went quiet. Consider this less of a technical post and more of a personal update, and feel free to skip if you’re not interested :)

Excuse #1 - Finding the balance when consulting is hard

I’ve been working “full time” as a consultant for 18+ months now. For much of that I kept my hours fairly low, leaving plenty of time for personal research and other interests. I’m fortunate indeed to be able to live comfortably on fairly little - monthly expenses for my wife and I tally to something like 600 USD here in Zimbabwe [1]. However, work tends to arrive in batches and it’s always tempting to take on additional projects, especially if they’re interesting problems to work on.

By March, I had 5 ‘jobs’ ongoing, and was suddenly finding it hard to stay on track, especially with a global pandemic and local economic craziness adding their own wobbles. Thankfully I had supportive clients who were able to be slightly flexible - a lesson I’d share with anyone in this situation is to be very clear with everyone rather than trying to get it all figured out in secret. If you’re up front about difficulties, you can work out ways to minimize damage by pushing deadlines or working together to figure out what is most important to work on. I found that I had trouble focusing on anything without a near deadline, so I’d literally email clients and say “hey, as added motivation can we set an arbitrary deadline of Friday for this feature?” - this helped make sure I wasn’t just letting some projects slip through the cracks while focusing on the most urgent demands.

Somehow I seem to have escaped with no harm done, but this has been a good warning about the danger of taking on too much. I still have a few months ahead that will be busier than I’d like, but I’m saying no to all sorts of things now. If I keep it up, I can start picking up threads like this blog, and I might even manage a vacation in September :)

[1] - Fairly little by global Data Scientist standards. Many folks here live on less than a dollar a day, which is mind blowing.

Excuse #2 - Outlets Abound

Sharing knowledge is somewhat addictive, which is why I started this blog in the first place. However, over the last few months I found that blog posts as a medium were simply too time-consuming to be a viable outlet for me. The didactic urge was instead satisfied by:

  • Starter Notebooks. I like throwing up the quickest entry possible for data science competitions, and spending 10 minutes cleaning up the resulting notebook and sharing with the community is a very rewarding way to help fellow learners out and share knowledge. This also tends to lead to…
  • Emails! I love getting emails from folks working on different problems. Most rewarding are those where it’s a problem I’ve encountered myself, and I can save somebody some major headaches by sharing the solution.
  • Tutorials for Zindi (it’s not time-consuming if it’s the employers time!). I’ve done a few posts for Zindi, such as “Climbing The Ladder” - a tutorial on leveling up in computer vision competitions. It’s fun to have a more targeted audience, and to share what I can with that great community.
  • Teaching. I’m involved in a few online courses, which means creating lots of content for those classes (which might otherwise be turned into blog posts). As with emails, it reaches less people than publicly sharing something but it is super useful to those it does reach, which is rewarding in a different sort of way.


So, there are my excuses for the lack of posts. I have a backlog of ideas and half-finished projects, so hopefully we’ll be back on schedule soon. As always, do let me know if you have any thoughts or questions on this post, or any requests for topics to cover :)