Happiness—How Does It Work?

Traurig sein hat keinen Sinn,
die Sonne scheint auch weiterhin.
— Farin Urlaub: “Sonne” (2005)

I know, I know. Not yet another one of those “How to find happiness” articles 🙄. So why am I writing this anyway? First of all, I think that writing is probably the best way of self⸗reflection—sadly, an art that is performed way too little by those who would need it the most. Second, because I moved to the United States recently—which can be considered a pretty significant life event I guess—I thought it might be a neat idea to read the various diaries and notebooks I’ve kept over the past ten years. So, while I was going through my diary entries—dating back as far as January 2007 (three months before I started my Bachelor studies at the University of Koblenz)—I noticed there might be some interesting patterns. And since I’m a guy who likes to play around with data from time to time, I prepared an Excel sheet and did a little number crunching. I’m not going to give you the raw data (because privacy), but it looks something like this:

met friends often? had a goal? worked out regularly? read a lot? happy?
yes yes yes yes 😊
some­what yes some­what some­what 😐
no yes no yes 😔

Here are the higher⸗level results I found (spoiler alert: the following is kind of obvious). It seems like I was happier at times when I (in no particular order)

  • didn’t worry about money
  • often met with good friends
  • worked out a lot
  • did competitive sports on a regular basis
  • pursued my hobbies

compared to times when I did none or only few of the above.

You’re still reading the article? That’s nice! Of course, from a statistical perspective it must be noted that the above are mere correlations (threshold = 0.7). This means, it could be that I just work out more when I’m happy for different reasons and working out doesn’t actually contribute to my happiness, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. Since all of this is about myself, I can ensure that a certain degree of causality is given.

beachHowever, the point of all this is not primarily to just tell you what makes me personally happy. Rather, I’ve observed that quite some people are not really aware of what actually contributes to their happiness. As I noticed, in this case, it can be very helpful to keep a diary and do the same little analysis that I’ve done. It’s really insightful to simply note down what you did and didn’t do at times when you were happy and at times when you were not, then search for underlying patterns. Because every now and then, we all easily miss the obvious.

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My 2015 in Blogging

In 2015 I was not as busy as last year when it came to blogging, mainly due to my new job and my PhD thesis. But still, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a very nice 2015 annual report for Twenty Oh Eight. I vow that I’m gonna post more regularly again next year!

In case someone actually reads this: I wish you a Happy New Year! 😉

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

why i’m a minimalist

(the funny thing is: i can’t really explain why. but i’ll try anyway.)

i believe that there’s sth. inherently beautiful to minimalistic design & content. this is what my sense of aesthetics tells me. i’d always prefer t. capote’s Summer Crossing over f. schätzing’s Limit, ’cause the former tells a beautiful story in 149 pages (🇩🇪 ed.) while the latter requires 1304 pages (🇩🇪 ed.) for telling a story most of which isn’t worth telling. probably the fact that it’s way harder to communicate sth. meaningful with as few resources as possible is what makes the exceptional beauty of minimalism—less is more (mies vd rohe; sorry for borrowing this cliché).

also, as so. who’s not uneducated in cosmology, i believe that our universe is so ‘astonishingly simple’ that who/whatever has created it must be a minimalist, too. so in fact, the most beautiful existing thing dictates us the way to go. thus, i also believe that there’s an exceptionally simple—and hence also elegant—theory of everything.

(btw, i’m rather dissatisfied with how many words this post contains.)

Farewell, Leipzig!

Dear friends,

Skyline of Leipzig
Skyline of Leipzig (CC BY-ND photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/zinner/)

as some of you already know, last year there were some complications with the extension of my PhD scholarship beyond December 31st. At the same time, I got a job offer from an augmented/virtual reality start-up in Aachen. I spent a long time thinking about all this, weighed up the pros and cons and ultimately came to the conclusion that I had to seize this great opportunity. So for the next two years (at least; hopefully for longer), together with the rest of the fantastic team at bitstars, I’m gonna work hard on making our new platform holobuilder.com a success story. Particularly, I’ll be busy with data analytics and creating a great customer experience. Since I spent almost three (mostly) wonderful years in Leipzig, at this point I wanna thank all the people (in no particular order) who made my stay there such a great experience:

My two co–PhD students
Ricardo and Micha

The SemWeb & friends crew
In particular: Christiane, Steffen, Bernd, Benno, Fred, Steffi, Josh, Henri, Thomas, Manu, AnBo, Matthias, Tomas, Marius, Didier, Sascha, and everyone I forgot to mention here (please insert your name: _________________________)

The best Master student I ever supervised
Snuck

The Kickers in crew
Phil, Peter, Saskia, Lars, Alex, Marvin, Rubén, Micha, Viet, Di(e) Maria, Javi, Jorge, Hendrik, Kerstin, Dave, Steffen, Hagen, Marco and Lutze

The VSR crew
Prof. Martin Gaedke, Fabian, Sebastian, Stefan, Alexey and Michael

People who do not fit into one of the above categories 😉
Mila, Inês, Majura, Manu, Benny and Aldi

I’m grateful for knowing all of you! See you soon!

So long, and thanks for all the fish
Max

(This post has been predated to the day I actually left Leipzig.)

Über-Productivity in Just Three Steps

Know those guidelines for being productive that consist of “only” 20 or more rules? Keeping to-do lists, keeping anti-to-do lists, writing journals, reflecting on your day, the 50/10 rule etc. pp. …

Forget about them! Here is what I did to finish two CHI papers in the course of one weekend:

  1. Get rid of distractions: I put my phone in a different room and had only one browser window with one tab open, which was ShareLaTeX. Nothing else!
  2. Hide all clocks: I banned all clocks from my office space and worked in full-screen mode so that the clock in Windows’s task bar was hidden as well. I did this because if I’m aware of how long I’ve already been working, I’m more tempted to take a break—even if I don’t need one (“Phew, you’ve already been working for over an hour! Man, you deserve a decent break! Oh, it’s the Simpsons on TV.” Aaaand one hour gone). Without any clocks it’s more like: “WHAT? I’ve been working for four hours straight now?! Damn it, I missed the Simpsons!”
  3. Get your shit done!

Try it! It works!

Disclaimer: This absolutely works for me. No guarantee that it works for you, but might be worth a try.

P.S.: If you’re not good at working in silence, try Coffitivity, but that one’s optional.

Ecosia: Helping the environment while surfing the web has never been so easy!

Ecosia LogoLet me guess … you’re using Google for searching the web?! OK, I admit, that one was easy. I think if you bet $1 on whether someone’s using Google and won, you’d probably get only 80¢ back. So what’s the business model of Google’s web search? They provide you with high-quality search results for free and in return, you view (and maybe click) some ads from which Google generates money. That’s a fair deal, isn’t it? Because without Google and its superior search quality, information on the internet wouldn’t be as accessible as it is.

Yet, let me ask you: Have you heard about Ecosia (http://www.ecosia.org/)? Ecosia is a new search engine that has the exact same business model as Google. However, the important difference between the two is that Ecosia donates 80% of their income from ads to a tree planting program in Brazil. The money is given to The Nature Conservacy, who run a reforestation program in the Brazilian rainforest and can plant one tree for one dollar (http://www.plantabillion.org/). Currently, Ecosia earns about 0.5¢ per search and thus plants a new tree every 32 seconds.1

Ecosia: #Users and #TreesWhen talking to friends about using Ecosia, a common counterargument is that the search quality is not as good as Google’s. Yet, I don’t think that’s a valid point. Firstly, alongside its standard search, Ecosia also offers Google results. Although these searches do not count towards the tree planting program, Ecosia buys certificates for neutralizing carbon emissions and providing a CO2-neutral Google search. Secondly, you can still use Ecosia for a first try and then search again using Google if necessary. It doesn’t hurt! It costs you only a few seconds, but in fact plants trees in the rainforest! By the way, I’ve set Ecosia as the default search engine in all my browsers and I’m very satisfied with their search quality so far. At the moment, my personal tree count is 344.

In my opinion, there’s no excuse for not using Ecosia. I mean, how much easier can helping the environment get? If you’re even too lazy for this, there might be something wrong with you. Ecosia’s goal is to support the planting of a million trees by August 2014. The current tree count is 324,959. So get it on and start searching!

“Ecosia is a search engine that donates 80% of its income to a tree planting program in Brazil. By searching with Ecosia you can help the environment for free. Give it a try!”

1 http://www.ecosia.org/what

The First Post or: Welcome to my Blog!

Hi there! I’m very happy you found the way to my new blog. An obvious question might be: Why in the world did that guy name his blog “2008”? Fine, I’ll tell you why …

The simple answer is: 2008 was a good year for me. No, wait … it was really a very good year for me. I was in the middle of my Bachelor’s studies (3rd semester), i.e., the point at which you’ve learned how studying works and notice how awesome life as a student can be (summer, sun and party, anyone?). That year, I moved to Aachen, which is still my absolute favorite among the cities I lived in. I met a whole bunch of wonderful people, most of which are still very good friends of mine. Moreover, I became only the second ringtennis player to win the German championships in Men’s singles at age 21 (the other one being the legendary Elmar Herzog of ESG Karlsruhe). Overall, I have only good memories of twenty-oh-eight and I like to think back of it. Thus, naming this blog “2008” was an obvious choice, because it ensures that I’m in a good mood when posting something :).

The topics I’m gonna write about will be quite mixed. Some post will address my research as a PhD student, some will talk about ringtennis and others will be about random thoughts and stuff that just comes to my mind. Hope you enjoy!