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Because of What Someone Said

So a few days ago, I visited Borders Bookstore in IOI City Mall to get a book for a friend of mine. Incidentally, it is also my favorite bookstore, due to its quite nice selection of books and its location from my house. Anyway, the book that I wanted to buy was The End of Average by Todd Rose. I already finished that book (I want to write about it as well later), so I recommended it to my friend and she asked me to buy one for her. I had an exam on the day after but as far as I'm concerned, reading is more important than any exams that I will most likely forgot in a few weeks.

Also, each time I visit a bookstore, I will always walk out the store with at least one book. So, besides the book that I intended to buy, I bought two other books because I found it interesting. I know, it is a truly 'good' idea to buy two books when you have an exam tomorrow. In this post, I want to talk about the reason why I picked up one of the books.

This post is totally not paid for advertisement. 
The Master Algorithm, written by Pedro Domingos, is the newest addition to my library. Of course, I have a lot of other books that I haven't even touched but that's for later (when?). Before I get to the reason why I bought this book, I want to tell a story from two years ago.

Back in the final semester of my degree, I was working on my academic research. Honestly, the road to finishing the thesis is a disastrous one, mainly due to my incompetency and the lack of guidance from my supervisor. Basically, my paper was about the recommendation system, inspired by the recommendation system of the online store Amazon. I was just imitating the real thing, because I don't have what it takes to read through the whole paper of the patent. 

After I struggled to finally finished my writing, I presented my paper, and submitted it to the head of program. When the result was out, I only managed to get B+. 

It's not a bad grade, truthfully, but I was sadden by the fact that my thesis ended just like that. Not even a small recognition by my supervisor and examiner. Not even an echo of a word of encouragement, no one ever told me to continue pursue the field. It's like the paper did not ever exist. What was my efforts for 4 months worth? Nothing! Just for the sake of a stupid little grade, that I'm sure not even that meaningful as a whole. Give me back my time and tears, dammit. 

To be fair, it is JUST an undergraduate paper that we did to finish our study, so of course no lecturers will ever took it too seriously. The lecturers also need to do other important things for themselves and the society (am I not a part of the society?), so I decided to forget about my paper, move on with life and never ever mention anything about the paper ever again. I was quite ashamed with my paper, and I thought I was working on a truly useless paper. 

Until I read the introduction of The Master Algorithm.

"You may not know it, but machine learning is all around you." Read the first paragraph. Then the writer mentioned this:

"Go to Amazon.com to buy a book or Netflix to watch a video, and a machine-learning system helpfully recommends some you might like."

Recommends? Machine-learning?

Then it just clicked inside me. What I did back in my degree was not useless! Actually back then I already became a part of the society of machine-learning, but I just didn't realize it. At that moment, I realized that I had stepped into a new, exciting territory of technology, and I hunger for more. It's okay that I didn't invent anything original, because that was not truly my intention. I just want to know that what I did was not meaningless. 

Of course, back when I presented my thesis, there were a few shortcomings that I just realized. First, I didn't find any papers connecting recommendation system and machine-learning. Second, my audiences was the lecturers in the mathematics background, not IT. So basically, it was truly my fault for not knowing the strength of my paper, or what was it that I was doing. 

So the lesson to myself here is, don't simply write off my efforts as useless or meaningless. It has its values, given the right time and the right audiences. 

Now, I am more excited to dive into the world of machine learning, which then I straight away took the book to the counter. I will proceed to finish reading the book and satisfy my thirst for the knowledge of machine learning, even only on the surface. I must say, reading for the sake of knowledge is thousand times for meaningful than reading for the sake of exams (just to note, exams has their places as well, so I'm not discarding them here).

I'll write some thing about the books once I finished reading it someday.

About the title of this post, actually it was during the same night I bought the books mentioned in this post that one of my junior said that he enjoyed reading my blog. So I decided to revive this blog with more frequent (and purposeful) posts, hence the new design template that I chose. I like this green/blue color. Please forgive my lack of knowledge about the name of colors. 

Comments

  1. You said it in your post that you would at least come out with one book from the book store. Would you tell us how'd you pick your book(s)? Is it based on the title? or the author? or the summary from the book itself.

    Anyway, I wish you the best for your future reading! (and writing of course haha).

    ps: ce teka ni siapa

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    1. Macam Imran haha. All of those that you mentioned are the things that usually lead me to buying a book(s). If one of those piqued my interest, then I usually won't hesitate to buy it haha.

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  2. Replies
    1. Yup, this layout is simpler and cleaner.

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