Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 In Review


This year I resigned from my day job in June. I intended to do an ad-funded educational website, a mental continuation to the Finnish Annotator project I did a decade ago. The site has been online for a month now. During that month exactly one reader has arrived to the site through search engines. Consequently I haven't bothered to put any ads there. At the end of December I have been sending job applications to return to salaried employment as I'm obviously not making an income with the site. In this blog I used to easily get random traffic with relevant search terms when when I was writing it weekly. Therefore I thought that with conscious SEO effort I could get to the first search result page in various Russian grammar topics. That turned out to be untrue.

The feature which distinguishes the site from other Russian grammar site are annotations, which make it easier to read Russian text by hovering over unknown words. All grammar and vocabulary topics are presented in sentence context, and all example sentences are annotated. However, Google's guide for webmasters says that sites shouldn't contains hidden or autogenerated text as can be black-hat SEO to make the page match more queries. However, foreign vocabulary annotations are by definition both invisible (until the user hovers on them) and auto-generated, so it harms SEO.

The idea for the site emerged when I took Russian classes and browsed existing grammar websites when writing Russian diary entries to check details of grammar. The sites were mostly old and I thought that I could do better. The learning paradigm behind the site is contextual (all topics are presented in sentence contexts) and behavioristic (later, there will be space-repetition exercises about all topics.) The latest and greatest learning paradigm currently is communicative language teaching (CLT), where the student should have communicative intent when forming sentences. For example, writing diary or a letter or buying an airoplane ticket has communicative intent. Physical textbooks have been doing CLT for decades with their pair exercises. Currently there are about 2 Russian educational programs, which reach CLT level: Livemocha and World of Warcraft. Livemocha is a peer-reviewed essay-writing service and World of Warcraft with Russian language pack is an environment where you have to understand Russian language to advance your character and participate in raids.

If the site had worked as expected, it would have established a feedback loop where I could see which pages bring users and write more the kind of content that interests users, but that feedback loop (palautesilmukka, ei takaisinkytkentä) never started.

The economic background is that my need for money substantially and permanently decreased as I got my mortgage net paid and I wanted to give a shot for earning a modest income without salaried employment. Currently I am sending job applications and writing an improvement to the NLP core of the site. The improved NLP engine will make it easier to auto-generate flashcards (allowing, say, making higher-quality-than-currently-exists flashcards for 10000 most frequently used Russian words with reasonable effort) and other exercises. Also, it will allow pronunciation stress to be marked to the Russian sentences (and manually adding it is too much effort.) However, that feature won't bring any income either.

Mere ad-funded monetization is never going to be sufficient for earning a living. Another way to monetize it could be co-operation with textbook authors to make it a "digital arm" of a traditional textbook, where the authors do not have know-how to author interactive digital content. Textbook-specific content would reuse existing content (for example textbook-specific vocabulary lists which would merely reuse a ready flashcard collection of most frequently used words) and be behind a paywall, accessible with a code in physical textbook.

Exercise - Hapkido

This year I started in Hapkido class. Before that I rode the in infamous Viharatikka 9 tram line for half a year. The line is infamous for drunk tourists returning from boozing trips to Estonia and also for going through Kallio bar area. The loud drunks harassing passangers can be a bit scary, so I wanted to learn some self-defence skills in case I have to choose between witnessing an assault and reading afterwards from a newspaper "drunken asshole manhandled a passanger and nobody did anything to stop it" or shouting "stop it" loud and possibly pulling a drunk from clothes, attracting his aggression toward myself.

Hapkido is so-called dao sport (among many others), which means that following "the way of hapkido" aims to increase practicioner's general wellbeing in addition to teaching martial arts. This is visible in code of conduct, which includes a lot of formal respect; in the 9 rules which include healthy eating, avoidance of alcohol and mental self-control; and in teaching meditation. Hapkido is clearly a straight-edge movement rather than an aggressive movement. One out of 3 black belts who teach the classes is 2 dan in go. When he recounts his experiences as a doorman he takes pride in solving difficult situations by speech judo and not by violence. Those tales started in elementary course, so you could say that speech judo is an unwritten part of the curriculum.

Hapkido includes two sparring forms, kickboxing with light contact (pisteottelu), where strikes mainly demonstrate that you let your guard down or were too slow to evade, giving the other person an opportunity to strike. The other sparring form is wrestling (mattopaini).

Based on my experience of being beaten in a nightclub once, I'd say that the kickboxing training is efficient against typical impulsive and drunken street violence. I don't think it would help me against a practised or determined attacker, though. For example in the recent case where a neo-nazi kicked a man down to street and he died by concussion, there were many places where hapkido kickboxing training would have helped. When seeing the other person run towards you you would have taken a more stable fighting posture, feets separated and center of gravity low. This makes falling less likely and rebalancing steps more likely. Secondly, you might have had time to rise your hand to protect you. Also moving your torso just 10cm away - if you are quick enough to grasp and act, which is dubious - would have taken the edge away from the kick. Finally, in warm-up we regularly practise falling safely, so that practise would have resulted in milder concussion if any part of the practise routine kicks in.

Other execrise

Bought a new pole in July. The older pole was so slippery that I couldn't advance to new positions. However, only in December I've really started to practise. I am behind the level where I was at the end of 2015 after taking classes. My fundamental positions (invert, layback) are more smooth now but I've forgotten most of the follow-up positions. Not sure if I should take classes or not - OTOH I hate the genderbending aspect of male pole dancing, OTOH if I use it weekly for "gymnastic" practise anyway, why not learn a bit more under competent tutoring?

I've been jogging a lot since the publication of Pokémon Go. Now I am in the second-best running condition of my life. In 2004 I once ran 20km as a practise run. In 2016 I've ran 15km once, but in longer trips there is still too much temptation to walk because of soreness.


In Tampere I ran out of Chinese courses to take. Fortunately in Helsinki there is Confucius Institute, which offers full range of courses to full media literacy. I'm taking a 4th year course. They speak 90% Chinese there. Listening is very difficult but vocabulary is very easy - this reflects the biased practise methods I've used since graduating from Tampere.


This has been a year of frustrated attempts in seduction. The women whom I asked for dates (who had all shown some preliminary interest in me) didn't want to go, so I still haven't been on my first date. I also created a Tinder profile and got 4 matches, but after telling in the profile that I am 163cm tall I haven't gotten any matches. Apparently that is a serious handicap in itself.

According to Mystery, a PUA, a man should signal that he is (1) a leader of men, (2) preselected by women and (3) protector of loved ones. In this sense I've improved seduction position by starting to cross the "protector of the loved ones" checkbox this year with martial arts hobby. I haven't found any way to be leader of men, my job applications to manager positions have been rejected (and rightly so as I don't have any experience or social skills needed to perform well in such positions.) One attraction of pole dancing hobby is that mentioning it implicitly hints at being preselected by women, although it is unclear if it comes out as slimy and perverted or as an attractive quality.

Overall, I'm interacting in non-drunk situations quite fluently and am frankly wondering what the hell is going wrong when I seem to do everything right (but alcohol still makes it very difficult to socialize.) Got versatile hobbies for meeting people, weekly social life, ok physical shape, dressing ok, life control ok ...

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