About this Website

Wed 10 April 2013

This website is meant to be a record of my public writings and projects. On a personal level it is meant to keep me motivated to keep writing and exploring. Over the long term, I hope this website will - at least in part - will become a record of how my beliefs changed over time.

Design Constraints

I like the idea of minimalism. This leads to the following contraints.

  • I hate anything that is not text. Text is simple and if done properly is human readable and editable. So all my posts, essays and articles have to be plain text that I can edit with my trusty emacs.

  • I feel that a dynamic website with flashes and bangs would take unnecessary maintanence time. Hence, a static website. Dynamic components like comments and traffic monitoring can be handled by third part tools. Since these are not crucial to the display of my content, I can afford to off load them.

Blog vs Website

The blog vs website debate is crucial. Blogs are easy to edit - you just add a new post. But blog posts disappear. Someone visiting my website is unlikely to go through my short blog posts to figure out what I wanted to say, no matter how popular the post. A static website has a similar problem for a recurring visitor - they won't know what changed.

My solution is the following. I do have a blog section. It is not the front page of the website, though I am right now displaying a list of latest few posts there. But almost original content blog post gets replicated into a new page or its contents added to an already existing page. So as information flows in, it gets funnelled into a blog as well a static page. The page can be updated in the future, the blog cannot be.

Tags

Besides the typical content tags on blogs, there are two other very important tags. I owe my inspiration to them to gwern.net.

Completion Tags

  • notes
  • draft
  • in progress
  • complete

These define how complete a document is. 'notes' is just a dumb of random content. 'draft' means I have made some effort to organize it. 'in progress' means just this. 'complete' means the content is not expected to change.

Belief tags

  • certain
  • highly likely
  • likely
  • possible
  • unlikely
  • highly unlikely
  • remote
  • impossible

These define how strongly I believe in something. So overtime I can revisit a document and change my belief level on it. As a guide to readers trying to gauge my beliefs.

Writing Checklist

To write out a document I need a checklist to help me make sure I don't miss out on stuff. This version is stolen from gwern.net and is only meant to be a place holder and a guide till I come up with my own checklist.

syntax:
    balanced brackets & quotes check

    linkchecker for
        dead links
        inserting into archive queue
    do a Pandoc/Firefox preview for visible major formatting problems
    Markdown lint-checker37

references:
    for academic hyperlinks, include a tooltip with the title & author metadata
    for any papers cited: either link full text, provide a local full text, or submit a request; for books, insert an Amazon link (one day I will be able to dare to host ebooks)

language:
    spellcheck
    check readability level (eg. Flesch-Kincaid)
    probability word checklist
    check for use of the word "significant"/"significance" and insert "[statistically]" as appropriate (to disambiguate between effect sizes and statistical significance)
    convert English units to metric

content:
    mention any use of PredictionBook in Prediction markets
    mention any use of Fermi estimates in Fermi calculations

    arrange for notifications of future results (when relevant, eg. for following dual n-back research):
        Google Alerts
        Google Scholar Alerts
        PubMed alerts

after publication, publicize; currently:
    StumbleUpon
    Google+
    Reddit
    LessWrong (and further sites as appropriate)

Site Software

I currently use Pelican to generate the website. I am not a big fan of python and I would much rather have something written in emacs lisp. Then if I move to minimal system (as I plan to do at some point in the future) I won't have to bother installing python, just Emacs.

However, this serves my needs for now. Pelican uses Jinja2 templates. I have created my own theme out of simple HTML5 and CSS3. I use a bit of LESS even on site. In the future, I plan to either move off it completely or instead compile the raw css offline and use it in the theme.

I am using git to maintain the code and content for now.

Hosting and Domain

The domain name of this website was registered through Namecheap. You can view a WHOIS of the registration at http://www.whois.net/whois/abdullahkhalid.com.

The website itself is hosted by NearlyFreeSpeech.Net. I get to pay as I go along and I am expecting to pay negligible amounts for the hosting.

To Do

Features to add to the website or maintance tasks.

  • add search box
  • add tags
  • add belief tags
  • traffic stats
  • create a cv page
  • cool URIs
  • semantic ids in html/css

To protect our privacy, I have disabled my third party commenting system. You can contact me on twitter @abdullahkhalids, or email me.