Graphical Linear Algebra Post 5 on 2019-02-18

This is the 5th post in a series of daily posts on my Timeboxed Challenge to learn Graphical Linear Algebra (GLA). The source material would be the 30 episodes from the Graphical Linear Algebra blog. If you prefer to read my series from the beginning, start here with the first post. Today, I’m re-examining my end goal for my Timeboxed Challenge itself.


I spent the last 3 days rethinking my end goal and strategy for my Timeboxed Challenge. I also spent a considerable amount of time skimming through all the episodes in the GLA blog. I find myself drawn to some key points about the philosophy of the blog itself. But also find myself losing interest as the math piled on in the later episodes.

Given that my pace has dropped considerably, there’s no way I can cover all 30 episodes by end of the month, so I have to rethink my purpose and what a successful challenge looks like.

My Motivation to Learn Graphical Linear Algebra Relation to My Work

In the past, I didn’t have a clear direction what I wanted to work on in my career. I simply go where the trends take me. Since 2018, I have resolved to have more structure in my life and work. With that aim in mind, I have become more purposeful even in my usual nomadic style of reading. I was searching for a more meaningful direction to take my software development career into.

Recently, my nomadic reading led me to Workflow And Decision Automation, henceforth known as WADA. My interest in graphical linear algebra was because it reminded me of the Lego bricks I grew up playing with. I foresee that WADA is a possible area to benefit from having Lego-brick-like structure. Or in more technical terms, compostionality.

Now that I have finished skimming through all 30 episodes of the blog, I have come to realize even if I did grok the math behind this, I may not be able to apply it immediately in my work on WADA. Which brings me to the goal I want to further design for this Timeboxed Challenge.

Goal (Re-)Design for the Timeboxed Challenge

The past week, I have been working towards the challenge in a typical forwards orientation. I start from where I am, which is knowing nothing about GLA, and then try to figure out a way towards a goal. Now, I want to work in a backwards orientation. I discover in episode 24, that Pawel was trying to lead his readers to understand all the interacting Hopf monoids he and his co-authors come up with. Below is the full list.

The full list of monoids Pawel was trying to teach

With this in mind, it becomes easier to design a more specific end point for the Timeboxed Challenge. Instead of the original goal of writing a 1 page summary of the 30 episodes of the GLA blog, I would redesign that goal in a different way. I aim to write a cheatsheet. This cheatsheet should allow the least knowledgeable beginner to bootstrap basic understanding of these monoids in the shortest amount of time possible.

This might mean the cheatsheet is less interesting than Pawel’s own writing. But, I imagine the cheatsheet would serve as an easy reference point for those who have finished reading Pawel’s episodes. Which would be the purpose.

With that in mind, I expect to change my strategy for this challenge this week.

This is post #11 in my quest for publishing weekly.

As usual, all diagrams that are shown here were taken directly from Pawel’s blog at graphicallinearalgebra.net. All credit goes to him regarding the explanation of the idea. I merely gave my take on his explanation.

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