Whirling Thoughts

Chewing, swishing, and spitting thoughts out. Personal blog of Nicholas Chan.

Month: June 2018

HackTPS – A Reflection On Innovation & Learning

Coming off HackTPS, which is a hackathon sponsored by Toronto Police Services and Ryerson’s DMZ, I wanted to take a few lines to highlight some takeaways from the event and reflect.

Business Case First

To be successful, you need to build the business case first, then worry about building something.

This reflects a lot of the ideas about the design thinking methodology that has gained so much traction. Not only should you find a problem, but you also need to think about how sustainable your model is and your ability to monetize the idea.

It’s really easy to get bogged down in a “code-code-code” mentality, especially at a hackathon like HackTPS. While it’s important to have some product to show, few judges end up asking about the technical stack or how you implemented the solution. What they end up caring about is your thought process on the problem, your business model, and assumptions that you made.

Keep It Simple

Building on the previous idea, you really don’t need to make your code the most complex and advanced as possible. What matters the most is that it works. No judge has ever asked “How many hours did you stay up to finish this? How many bugs did you solve?”

We put a lot of pride on “taking the hard way” and “making something for scratch.” But hey, those “easy ways out” exist and should be used if they fit in with your solution.

As an example, the runner-up for this hackathon made an AI chatbot that would allow TPS to handle and troubleshoot many of the unnecessary 911 calls that could occur to a service.

Did they hard code that themselves? Build the ML and AI algorithms from scratch? Nah, they used Google’s DialogFlow service which had all this information plugged in and ready to go.

The result? They got 2nd place at the hackathon, spent maybe 4 hours implementing their solution, and had something functional to show the judges.

Don’t work hard. Work smart.

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Getting Started With Investing Part 2: Common Misconceptions

This is part two in the “getting started with investing” series on Whirling Thoughts. The purpose of this series is to provide the underlying rationale for investing and small, actionable steps to get started with investing. I’m doing this because I believe that investing is a fundamental skill in life and something that many students / young people find very intimidating.

DISCLAIMER, not an investment expert and this is not investing advice. Just some general knowledge repackaged to help you get started. This is a beginner guide and not meant for finance whiz kids.

What Will Be Covered In The Series

Within this series I want to discuss a few key topics:

  1. Why should you invest?
  2. What are some common misconceptions about investing?
  3. What can I buy? Options, bonds, stocks, dividends, mutual funds, ETF’s and everything in between
  4. The concept of passive investing. Why ETF’s are a great place to start.
  5. Where can you start investing stocks? What platform can you use?
  6. The psychology of investing
  7. Sources for more information

If you have additional questions, please comment below, and I will make sure they are answered within the articles.

If you study business/already invest and have objections, questions, comments, and variations on “you’re dumb”, I also welcome those in the comments section! Feedback and debate are always appreciated.

What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Investing?

  1. It’s a path to get rich quick
  2. Investing is gambling
  3. You need a deep understanding of business to get started

In this article, I will present arguments and debunk some of these misconceptions. It’s a little boring and theoretical, but it sets up a good base for the next few articles.

Investing Is Not  A Path To Get Rich Quick

We constantly hear the stories about the traders and investment bankers who are making millions (occasionally billions) of dollars investing over a week. It’s tempting to believe that we are able to replicate similar success. As a beginner, this is the worst mindset you can possibly have because:

  1. These people are professionals who have access to knowledge and resource you do not have
  2. Investing is a long-term game. But not as long as you think.
  3. Risk is directly correlated with returns. The higher the return, the higher the risk. AKA you losing a lot of money

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Hitting The Gym – Beyond The Looks

Short and simple post.

I’m sure that I am not the only one who believes that there is a lot more to the gym than simply trying to stay fit and look good. There are certain psychological benefits and advantages which I find going to the gym helps with.


Going to the gym on a regular basis reinforces the concept of consistency. There are certainly days where the bed is just a little too comfortable and you’re tired. But those are the days where it is even more important to gather some willpower and go.

This practice of being consistent and mastering the ability to create willpower has effects which spillover into other areas of life. Writing is one of them. Coding is another. Reading is another. There are always going to be some excuses, but having the ability to say “damn it, I’ll do it” over and over again allows me to continue pursuing consistency in those areas.

Process Orientation

Working out at the gym is a long term game. No one is going to jump 50 pounds in strength within a day. Reaching higher levels of strength and fitness revolves around the acceptance of focusing on slowly ramping up weight and focusing on good technique. Maintaining a reasonably healthy diet also helps.

This has reoriented myself away from expecting results quickly. Instead, I reflect on workouts and appreciate the slow and steady progress that I am making. The extra rep. The extra 5lbs I can handle.

Looking at other activities through this lens is extremely helpful for my impatient soul. Coding? Every time I go to a hackathon, I always make some huge, time-consuming mistakes and don’t accomplish what I set out to do. Yet in the long-run, I notice that I have not made the same mistakes twice, have built foundational knowledge, and have been able to help and explain to others. It’s a painful process, but rewarding.

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Rant on Voice Technology – Not the Next Frontier

Recently had a discussion with a friend about where voice technology for general consumers is heading. Gary Vaynerchuk has consistently stated that “Voice is the Next Frontier.” Frankly, I would have to disagree.

Voice assistants are clunky at best. While I have not had much experience with Google Home, I have an Amazon Echo Dot sitting in my room and the Google Assistant on my phone. After 9 months with Amazon Alexa, I believe that voice is clunky, slow, and inaccurate.

Voice Is Clunky

Unless you are comfortable with an always listening assistant, which would have to understand context and parse through your conversations, voice will always have to be activated by a keyword or prompt.



To me, that is a really poor user experience.  What if you have a list of 4 tasks to be done? That involves screaming a keyword 4 times in a row.

While voice is good at those one-off tasks, you really hit a barrier when you are trying to perform several tasks in a row or when the task is complex.

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