Thought Experiments and Design Decisions


This is a log for a few of my thought experiments. These include my reflections and my learnings around them.

This will also have a few micro-decisions (both design decisions and logistics) that I am proud of.

Design Decisions

Hackathon Logistics

I was a part of TSEC CodeCell, a college committee. In TSEC Hacks'22 (Our Annual Hackathon), we were planning and thinking ahead-of-time for logistics and other requirements. Water was one of them.

The mainstream solution had been putting multiple 20 liters cans of dispensers with Plastic/Paper Cups on the side.

Looking at this felt so environmentally wrong and logically flawed. Environmentally wrong because of obvious reasons. Logically flawed, because a person on average will drink at least 8 to 10 times a day.

We decided not to have Paper Cups altogether. Three things take place here —

  • Cost Savings
  • Reduction of Waste
  • Waste Management, on-day logistically.

We decided to email and remind participants to carry Water Bottles (and other important belongings) along with the Problem Statements Release one night before. Everyone was bound to read it.

However, we also had a fallback plan — plastic water bottles. No, not those little ones that do not quench your thirst. Probably a worse decision than paper cups.

We chose the 500 ML (half a liter) bottles. Those are better quality and can be easily reused.

Gladly, a lot of people showed up without the need to use these bottles. Hence, we instead utilized them with Mentors, Teachers and External Judges. Reuse 101.

  • Hacks'23 Optimization

After seeing the response last time, we removed the dispensers and the fallback plan altogether. And the hackathon still worked out just as well.

Just because we have money and resources, doesn't mean we have to exploit them.

The event's success, the cash prize, the number of participants and the quality of projects may define the success metrics of a Hackathon. But these micro-decisions make me, at an individual scale, feel content and fulfilled. This is how I might define additional success metrics for me.

Indoor plants to judges of Hacks'23

Thinking about this still makes me spark up and feel proud.

We were going through to continue our discussion for ahead-of-time planning and thinking about things that could go wrong. I know that it is not possible to pan out every move on the chessboard.

However, it is a good practice to know what are the potential things that can go wrong and eventually be prepared for "Plan B"s. It is good to be aware of your surroundings and situations to take prompt but logical decisions.

Let's get back to the story.

We hand out a token of appreciation and gratitude to our Judges. The mainstream solution here was printing and giving out mementos. As usual, it was suggested out in the open.

My reflex response to this was — "Let's do indoor plants."

Plants (and books) are so meaningful and thoughtful gifts in my opinion. There is growth and nurturing of both — the plants and your knowledge. And you should surround yourself with growth.

For some reason, there was a miscommunication and someone thought we are doing one of those expensive bouquets. Sorry (not sorry) but bouquets are such a waste.

Bouquets just look good and eventually end up dying in a few days. A classic example of a superficial and shiny thing. Like swags or CTC. Eventually, none of it is going to last; but how you felt about certain things and experiences.

I went to a plant nursery and looked for indoor plants. After discussing a few options, we got the Jade Plant. We also purchased different kinds of pots and placed the saplings in them.

A picture of three Indoor (Jade) Plants

This picture makes me so happy and content.

Ironically, the total cost turned out to be lesser than mementos or those bouquets. Plus the satisfaction of doing this and a unique and thoughtful way to appreciate and express gratitude.

It was a win-win.

OTC MeetUp's Paper Cups Reuse

We organized OTC MeetUp #2 in October 2022. We had to figure out a bunch of stuff as well here — Food, Water, etc.

Here, we weren't really expecting people to carry water bottles. Although, it is always good to send out a reminder to carry water and hydrate yourself as you step outside the house in this intense heat.

So, we had to keep 20L Water Dispenser, which would have sufficed for 4 hours for about 70 people.

What about cups? The assumption is that every attendee will on average use a cup to drink four to six times. Plus we had aerated drinks with food.

I went to the store to purchase the cups and I was observing the inverse proportion of cost and quality.

I found these bio-degradable super good quality cups — Although, the cost was more with respect to the number of cups concerning but individual size was more than enough.

I went ahead and purchased the bio-degradable cups. The goal was to have one person reuse that one cup. Felt like an easy fix — write your name on that cup with a marker.

This solution felt so feasible. We executed and it was fairly successful. It felt unique and sustainable and I proudly announced how to use those cups and markers.

Checked off another success metric.

Thought experiments

  • Stabilizing/Normalizing the extremes of my feelings
  • Wearing an analog watch to reduce my phone pickups and eventually my screen time
  • A lot of things can go your way, only if you are nicer and kinder to everyone around

... to be continued