Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Incubator

A month ago, an article about Duolingo was published on Quartz and it sparked a discussion among contributors in Duolingo Incubator. Some think the article is inaccurate in many places, but one point that led to a longer discussion is about putting our (voluntary) work on our resumes. I put it on mine, many others don't.

Which made me ask myself, why did I put it on mine?

Of course, I put a bunch of other stuff on my resume, too. Obviously there's contact information, education history, and professional experience. And aside from the volunteer experiences and other activities, I also put in the online courses I completed, awards I won, and languages I mastered.

The last three things are easier to justify. I took economics courses online to reveal my interest and familiarity of basic economics theories despite my background from astronomy. I showed off my awards to hint at my ability to excel academically. I listed the programming languages to demonstrate my exposure to quantitative analytics.

My activities with Duolingo Incubator, though, would not directly tell you what aspect of myself I am selling. (And that's the point of a resume, isn't it? To sell yourself.)

On the face of it, I was not applying for a linguistic-related position. But even if I were, I had other credentials to emphasize. I like to think listing TOEFL/GRE scores are rather crass, but they could do. Of course, if the position had asked for someone with academic training in linguistics then I would be out of consideration regardless.

So my intent must have leaned towards showcasing my skills. In the discussion I mentioned earlier, a fellow contributor posited that volunteering in the Duolingo Incubator is an evidence of one's persistence, stubbornness, and patience--with a streak of insanity. But of course you would only know this if you are familiar with the workings of the Incubator. Most people don't--many has never even heard about Duolingo at all.

Evidently, we are not paid for our voluntary contributions. Ostensibly, this shows that we are employer's dream employees for willing to work hard for free. I think this is an overtly cynical view. Only predatory, exploitative employer would extrapolate that because a candidate listed voluntary activities in their resume they will hold that against them (maybe in the salary negotiation?). If that were the case, they shouldn't want to work for these employers anyway.

I have never been in the receiving end of my own resume. Naturally, or it would have been weird. So I can't tell you how my Incubator activities are being seen by the people who read them. The closest remark that I had was from Héctor--then a prospective employer, who said that I was "pretty enterprising", having seen the meandering path that I took with plenty of detours from astronomy to parliamentary debating, Tohoku reconstruction, and Amnesty campaigns (this was the days before I joined the Incubator).

Seeing that they then hired me, apparently listing volunteering activities did not hurt me. But I feel that in my former workplace, at worst, volunteering is neither here nor there. My boss volunteered in a health clinic. Some colleagues also did a stint with Indonesia Mengajar, which tend to come with ancillary volunteering activities once our stint was over. When I later took charge of the recruitment, candidates' volunteering/organisational activities were never the main reason behind our recruitment decision, but it's likely reading a list of volunteering history in a candidate's resume made me see their profile more positively[1].

A relevant infographic from Deloitte. Source: here.

In the end, I think it boils down to the fact that it feels great to be able to contribute in the Duolingo Incubator. I first joined when the English course for Indonesian speakers was still in Beta phase, and it has now reached 4.06 million users. That's almost the entire Costa Rican population using our course, right there. I had also designed the reverse course: the Indonesian course for English speakers, which Duolingo will hopefully launch into Beta this August. Figuring out the best structure to teach Indonesian in Duolingo has led me to find hidden gems of language resources, which had been really interesting.

Furthermore, I have to vet, recruit, and onboard new volunteer contributors in Duolingo, too. My interactions with the applicants and fellow contributors has also taught me what (not) to do when you need something done--which I can easily translate into my actual professional environs. It helps me grow.

In my resume, putting it there is my declaration of how I grew, and how I'm seeking to grow. That, I think, is really the reason why it's there.

----
[1] I'm not alone in this. In 2013, Deloitte surveyed 202 HR executives and found that the skills and experience acquired through skills-based volunteering are favourably viewed among most HR executives. Read more here.



Saturday, May 12, 2018

Kenikmatan

Seorang kawan mengunggah fotonya di depan markah nama universitasnya ke Instagram dengan takarir ungkapan syukur atas orgasme intelektual terus-terusan yang ia dapatkan dari program pascasarjana yang sedang ia tempuh saat ini. Saya yang membuka Instagram karena mencari selingan belajar jadi penasaran, pembelajaran macam apa yang kawan saya ini dapatkan di sana?

Rasa penasaran saya tebersit dari pengamatan saya atas proses pembelajaran saya sendiri. Selama setahun terakhir ini, saya menggauli diktat-diktat yang berkutat pada makalah-makalah ilmiah besar. Saya belajar tentang berbagai terobosan penting yang dihasilkan para ilmuwan besar yang berpengaruh dalam membangun fondasi riset ilmu ekonomi modern. Tapi saya tidak menggapai "puncak kenikmatan seksual" dari proses pembelajaran saya. Apakah ada yang salah dengan saya?

Dan apakah kawan saya menggapai kepuasan seksual dari mengamati senggama intelektual yang ia temui di kuliahnya? Kalau iya, apakah dia semacam voyeur?

Sambil pulang, saya membawa sebagian diktat di tangan--rasanya seperti mengangkut stensilan. Saya jadi berpikir, kalau program si kawan bukan melulu ceramah dan membaca makalah, dugaan voyeurisme ini menjadi tidak sahih. Mungkin ia terlibat langsung dengan riset yang dilakukan di universitasnya, dengan profesor dan para staf pengajarnya. Pesta seronok langsung berkelebat di benak saya.

Saya hanya bisa berharap keterlibatannya berdasarkan hubungan suka-sama-suka. Di sisi lain, ketika ia harus bergelut dengan hasil penelitian yang bertentangan dengan konsepsi yang sebelumnya ia pegang, apakah ini suatu bentuk rudapaksa? Perih!

Kemudian apabila kita bicara fakta bahwa banyak program pascasarjana di disiplin ilmu tertentu yang didominasi oleh figur para pria, bagaimana kita menempatkan kenikmatan seksual yang diraih para mahasiswa ini dari proses mereka-reka body-of-work sesama akademisi pria ini di benak mereka?

Terlepas dari orientasi masing-masing cendekia, satu hal yang jelas adalah bahwa upaya memalsukan data adalah setara dengan mengubah penelitian menjadi pelacuran.

Alamak, pelik nian. Mungkin ini sebabnya pendidikan seksual yang pas harus menjadi hajat bersama. Agar tidak semua peristiwa bermuara pada glorifikasi senggama.

*Lalu direspon warganet, "Halah, tahu apa kamu soal~"*

Sunday, April 8, 2018

New Keynesian economics: abridged

... beyond the point of usefulness, dalam sepuluh langkah mudah*.

1. Real Business Cycle economists say the RBC model works. Here's how it works.
2. Other economists argue that actually, the RBC model isn't so great. Here are some critiques.
3. RBC doesn't care about money, but money actually affects real economy. Here's some evidence from VAR.
4. Unless you are taking a shortcut, adding money to RBC does nothing. Here's how you get money neutrality.
5. If you add monopoly, price now has mark ups over marginal cost of production. Here's how the Dixit-Stiglitz setup works.
6. If your firm can’t always adjust your price, when you do adjust it, you’ll take into account of the future where you can’t adjust your price. Here’s how the Calvo fairy works.
7: Shocks will change things. Here’s some predictions, though they aren’t always good (here are some critiques). Nonetheless, it’s the best model that we have for now.
8. If your central bank doesn’t want to commit, they should lean against the wind to respond to cost-push shock. Lean on the interest rate aggressively to respond to inflation.
9. If you can commit, it will bring benefits. Here’s how tying yourself to the mast will save you from the sirens.
10. When you can’t lower your interest rate any further, committing to inflation (or government spending) will ease your slump. Here’s how.

(* Yang sebenarnya ngga mudah juga. Tapi paling ngga saya masih bisa berhitung jadi penyajiannya beneran dalam sepuluh langkah.)

Adenda:
- Judul dicuri dari sini.
- Masih merasa ringkasan ini terlalu panjang? Ya sudah, intinya kuartal ini saya belajar tentang: uang. Ini adalah kelanjutan dari semester lalu yang dibagi menjadi dua kuartal: pertumbuhan (growth) dan ketidakpastian (uncertainties). Kuartal sekarang adalah kuartal kapita selekta: kelas makro saya akan membahas bunga rampai teori model pengangguran, perpajakan, dan ??? (belum ada di silabus).
- Kuartal depan? @#@??#$$#@!T_T@#@OTL

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Brave New World

"Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly---they'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced." [Chapter 4]
"I'm glad I'm not an Epsilon," said Lenina, with conviction.
"And if you were an Epsilon," said Henry, "your conditioning would have made you no less thankful that you weren't a Beta or an Alpha."  [Chapter 5]
"But if you know about God, why don't you tell them?" asked the Savage indignantly. "Why don't you give them these books about God?"
"For the same reason as we don't give them Othello: they're old; they're about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now."
"But God doesn't change."
"Men do, though."
"What difference does that make?"
"All the difference in the world."  [Chapter 17]
"I say, you do look ill, John!"
"Did you eat something that didn't agree with you?" asked Bernard.
The Savage nodded. "I ate civilization." [Chapter 18]
From Aldous Huxley's classic work Brave New World. Quotes are from Chapter 4, 5, 17, 18, respectively. I learned that this book is an assigned reading for high schools here.
 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

LinkedIn adalah media sosial paling nggapleki

*Buka app Mail*
from: LinkedIn
date: 12 March 2018 at 17:16
subject: Masyhur, you have a new suggested connection to review 
You are receiving LinkedIn notification emails.
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from: LinkedIn
date: 13 March 2018 at 02:02
subject: Masyhur, people are looking at your LinkedIn profile
You are receiving Professional Identity Digest emails. 
*Unsubscribe*
from: LinkedIn Updates
date: 13 March 2018 at 02:04
subject: Congratulate [name redacted] on the new position 
You are receiving Network Updates Digest emails.
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from: LinkedIn
date: 13 March 2018 at 21:03
subject: Masyhur, you have 8 invitations, 4 job changes and 28 new updates waiting for you on LinkedIn 
You are receiving Activity You Missed emails.
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from: LinkedIn
date: 13 March 2018 at 21:14
subject: Masyhur, more than 12,000 new jobs in Jabodetabek , Indonesia 
This is an occasional email to help you get the most out of LinkedIn.
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from: LinkedIn
date: 14 March 2018 at 19:01
subject: Ikea just joined the gig economy 
You are receiving highlight emails.
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from: LinkedIn Notifications
date: 19 March 2018 at 21:22
subject: Masyhur, see what's new on LinkedIn 
This is an occasional email to help you get the most out of LinkedIn.
 *Keluarin laptop, buka versi web LinkedIn buat matiin semua email notifikasi ga penting yang ga habis-habis.*

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Teh Talua

Nina seorang perempuan yang ingin makan di restoran Padang di simpang jalan. Makanannya enak, harganya terjangkau. Restoran itu selalu laris, dan ada banyak juga pelanggannya yang orang Jawa.

Bagaimana dengan Nina? Hanya dia yang tahu apakah dia orang Jawa atau Minang. Tapi kita bisa menebaknya dengan mengamati minuman yang Nina pesan. Kalau Nina orang Minang, Nina pasti akan memesan teh talua. Sementara itu, kalau Nina orang Jawa, Nina akan cenderung memesan teh manis. Semua orang tahu orang Jawa suka minuman yang manis.

Teh talua: penambah stamina kerja.
Foto Ramzy Muliawan

Tapi tunggu dulu, Nina bisa juga pesan teh talua meski sebenarnya dia orang Jawa. Ini bukan karena Nina suka rasanya ("Masa teh dicampur telur mentah?!" pikir Nina-Jawa). Seandainya ternyata Nina orang Jawa, Nina masih mungkin mengurungkan niatnya memesan teh manis.

Mengapa? Karena di restoran itu ada Joni.

Joni sudah memasuki usia ngebet kawin. Dua minggu sekali ibunya bertanya peruntungan asmaranya. Biasanya, ibunya Joni yang masih tinggal di Jawa sekaligus berpesan, “Goleko bojo wong Jowo wae, le.”

Inilah sebabnya Joni akan mengenalkan diri ke Nina jika dia melihat Nina memesan teh manis.

Tapi Nina malas. Ia datang hanya karena ingin rendang, yang ia inginkan adalah bisa makan dengan tenang tanpa gangguan. Nina tenteram jika ia bisa makan sendirian. Nina juga senang kalau bisa pesan minuman kesukaan. Di sisi lain, Joni suka kalau bisa berkenalan dengan Nina.

Jadi, apa strategi ekuilibriumnya Nina?

(Kalau Anda ingin mencari titik ekuilibriumnya, anggap perbandingan orang Minang dan Jawa adalah satu banding sembilan. Atur utilitas Nina dan Joni dengan angka-angka yang jamak digunakan.)

Ini adalah modifikasi permainan bir dan quiche. Bacaan lebih lanjut bisa ditemukan di sini. Diposting malam-malam sebelum esok terjerembab ke sedu-sedan lihat hasil ujian mikro tadi siang.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Great Escape

It is possible to be unhappy or worried, or to feel stress, even at times when you think your life is generally going well. Indeed, sadness, pain, and stress might be inevitable during some of the experiences one must go through in order to build a good life. Army boot camp, graduate studies in economics, medical school, or dealing with the death of a parent are examples of unpleasant experiences that are nevertheless an essential part of life. 
The above is from Angus Deaton's The Great Escape, page 52. I agree with Nils' review of the book here.

Addendum: Shout out to my girlfriend who allowed me to steal her copy of this book. (In my defense, it's not really likely that she'll ever get around to finish it anyway.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Syukuran" dua tahun di Inkubator Duolingo

//reposted from https://incubator.duolingo.com/courses/id/en/status

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States and I thought it would be fitting to reflect on the progress that we've made since Meika wrote an update a year ago.

The main progress update that I can share with you is this: we now have the lesson tree completely mapped out. There will be ~1900 words that we will teach in 69 skills. We will continue to refine the word list as we add them to the course but now that we've built a map for the lesson tree, we should be able to progress steadily.

For me personally, this is an important milestone. We started this course nearly two years ago (Dec 2nd, 2015!) with the idea that we should prioritise teaching useful and frequently occurring Indonesian words. However, we didn't have a clear metric to select words from the Indonesian vocabulary to be included. I tried using the Indonesian corpus from OpenSubtitles repository and different online vocabulary lists, but I had never really felt satisfied with any of them. What I finally found satisfactory was the Indonesian word frequency list from Ivan Lanin, Jim Geovedi and Wicak Soegijoko's 2013 paper who have made their data available on github. I decided to err on the side of formality and use their Kompas and Wikipedia corpus as they require less additional data processing (as compared to Twitter and Kaskus which promised headache in trying to sort the standard Indonesian spelling from the colloquial ones). While the composite still require some sorting, this was a huge leap in completing the first roadmap for the course.

As I mentioned above, we are continuing to refine the plan as we build the course, and it is for this purpose that we have recruited Joe (@jsullysull), a UK-based graduate student to try out this course as we're building it. He has been sharing his impressions on the course and so far his reports have highlighted the need to write clear tips and notes for the skills for future learners (I personally used Duolingo more often on my phone so the importance of this has largely escaped me).

Nevertheless, our focus for now remains to add the words from our lesson plan to the incubator and create sentences for those. I have recently completed making the "Me-kan" skills that will teach causative verbs, and the next two skills on my list are "Education" and "Comparison and Superlatives". That being said, if you have been following our progress from the WIU update, you may see that the progress bar for this course will decrease/remain stagnant as we add new words to the course (boosting the progress bar requires making sentences to complete the skill, but making sentences require more thought and will of course be slower!).

Lastly, I'd like to give a shout out to contributors who was active in the past year: Meika (@Maycca), Ahdiat (@Ahdiat-P), and Nindita (@NHarahap). Thank you for your contributions to this course.

Until next time—tabik!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Alaska

I’m not gonna be scared of this anymore. I’m gonna really give this a shot. And then at least I’ll know if I’m capable of this or not.
—Maggie Rogers

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mata Mama

Saya mendapati Mama terpekur di sudut dapur. Ia duduk diam, dengan pandangan menerawang. Hati saya mencelos melihat matanya yang merah dan basah. "Mama kenapa?"

Saat itu kurang dari seminggu sebelum keberangkatan saya ke Amerika. Jadwal kepergian saya juga berdekatan dengan hari ulang tahunnya yang keenam puluh satu. Kami memang tidak punya tradisi merayakan ulang tahun, tapi saya toh merasa sentimental juga.

Mama menyeka mata. "Iki rodo perih bar taktetetesi kembang melati katarak," jawabnya.

Bunga pembawa mala untuk mata?
Mama menunjukkan sekuntum bunga berwarna putih yang dipetiknya dari rerumputan di samping rumah. Ia berkata Bu Wal dan Mbak Tiwi, tetangga-tetangga kami, juga sering mencari bunga tersebut untuk dipakai sebagai tetes mata. Saya endus-endus bunganya, tapi tidak ada yang tercium. Mama bilang memang tidak ada baunya.

Penjelasan Mama membuat rasa sentimental saya berganti menjadi rasa khawatir. Mungkin Mama melihat raut muka saya sehingga ia berkata bahwa perihnya akan reda. Lalu, pandangannya akan menjadi terang.

Aduh, yang benar saja, pikir saya. Bagaimana kalau justru berbahaya? Saya harus menghentikan Mama mencoba-coba pengobatan alternatif yang tidak jelas landasan medisnya. Tapi sifat keras kepala saya juga turun dari Mama, jadi bagaimana cara saya membujuknya? Saya perlu dukungan kakak dan adik saya.

"Hul," keluh adik saya via whatsapp. Kakak saya menggerundel, karena dia yang hidup serumah dengan Mama sudah pernah melarangnya mencoba-coba cairan bunga ini. Masalahnya kami bertiga cenderung curiga terhadap sebaran-sebaran serampangan di internet, tapi Mama relatif gampang percaya. Mama memang baru akhir-akhir ini terhubung dengan internet di ponselnya. Meski kini ponselnya selalu riuh dengan notifikasi pesan baru di berbagai grup whatsapp yang ia masuki, saya tidak yakin Mama mengerti cara memanfaatkan mesin pencari.

Ini wajar sebetulnya. Kalau saya yang nyaman menggunakan ponsel pun kadang kesulitan menemukan informasi yang diperlukan lewat peramban ponsel saya, apalagi Mama. Begitu pula dengan kasus tetes mata cairan bunga melati katarak ini: saya menemukan bahwa bunganya juga disebut bunga kitolod, kembang jangar atau bunga bintang lima, tapi tak banyak informasi berguna lainnya dalam bahasa Indonesia yang bisa diverifikasi.

Menyebalkannya, saya justru terputar-putar di sekumpulan blog iklan obat-obatan herbal dengan isi yang repetitif; hasil salin-tempel sembarangan antara blog satu dengan yang lain. Singkatnya, saya menemukan bahwa tidak ada yang menyitir studi ilmiah ketika mengklaim manfaat bunga ini. Pun tidak ada pakar kompeten yang pernyataannya dikutip dengan sanad yang baik.

Saya makin sangsi dengan klaim khasiat kitolod. Di kombinasi kata kunci kesekian saya menemukan pakar yang bisa diandalkan justru menyatakan sebaliknya. Lewat Twitternya, Ferdiriva Hamzah yang berpraktik sebagai dokter mata di Jakarta Eye Center memperingatkan bahwa meneteskan cairan bunga ini ke mata justru bisa menyebabkan infeksi di mata. Infeksi ini bisa menyebabkan nanah dan yang lalu menggenang di mata. Hasil akhirnya sama: tetes mata ini bisa mengancam penglihatan.



Ini yang lalu kami tunjukkan ke Mama. Kami tunjukkan juga beberapa tweet balasannya dari orang lain yang mendukung pernyataan dokter tersebut.

Maka kami meminta Mama untuk selalu berkonsultasi dengan dokter jika ada yang mengganggu dengan matanya. Tiga hari setelahnya, adik saya menemani Mama periksa ke klinik dokter mata di RS Islam Klaten. Ibu dokter yang mereka temui meresepkan obat tetes mata betulan untuk meredakan keluhan mata yang dirasakan Mama. Ia juga menyarankan Mama mengompres matanya dengan air dingin tiap pagi dan malam.

Ketika Mama mengantar saya ke bandara di Jakarta, ia lupa membawa tetes matanya. Meski demikian, ia merasa baikan. Saya mengiyakan, sembari berharap Mama selalu dilimpahi berkat kesehatan.


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Catatan kaki:
[1] Halaman wikipedia tentang bunga yang saya sebutkan di atas ada di sini. Beberapa kutipan yang relevan:
[A] small amount of sap in the eyes can cause blindness. 
Ingestion of lobeline may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, dizziness, visual disturbances, hearing disturbances, mental confusion, weakness, slowed heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased breathing rate, tremors, and seizures. Lobeline has a narrow therapeutic index; the potentially beneficial dose of lobeline is very close to the toxic dose. 
[2] Sejauh yang saya temukan, eviserasi yang disebutkan di salah satu tweet balasan di atas adalah operasi pengangkatan isi bola mata hingga menyisakan bagian putihnya saja (sklera). Terdengar mengerikan, memang.