One Year Into The Gradient Ascent Adventure
A convenient index of the best articles & reflections from a year of writing about AI
It’s edition #52, folks.
It's been just over one year since Gradient Ascent first hit inboxes, and boy has it been an incredible journey of learning and growth.
I started this newsletter with one goal–to create the most accessible and fun resource to learn Machine Learning (ML) and AI.
To achieve this, I'd have to get better at writing and sharpen my thinking. But, most importantly, I'd have to show up every week. Like any ML researcher worth their salt, I wanted to test if this would work before scaling up.
Could I reach an audience of 500 readers by the end of the year?
From a whimsical idea to a community of 6000 readers spanning 48 US states and 124 countries, this tiny labor of love has surpassed my wildest expectations.
None of this would be possible without your readership and support. You've been with me through thick and thin, from algorithm breakdowns to poorly drawn doodles. Before I go any further, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
💡Beyond the Stats
Writing has made me think clearly, teach effectively, and be a better leader at work. It's also opened some of the most incredible opportunities in my life:
Gradient Ascent was featured on wired.com.
Collaborations with incredible writers like.
Speaking engagements and workshops at various startups and communities like Write of Passage, The Hamburg Data Science Community, and Small Bets.
The feedback and questions I got each week from writing the newsletter inspired me to write and illustrate "AI for The Rest of Us" (Wink Wink: Looking for a great holiday gift for your friends and family who want to learn AI?).
Writing online has changed my life and connected me with a global community of kindred spirits.
✍️ "Gradient Ascent" Wrapped Year One
I've combed through every article I wrote since starting this newsletter and curated the best for you. This post serves as an index to find topics you're interested in quickly.
Language Models and NLP
Deep Learning Techniques
Interviewing, Tips and Tricks for ML Practitioners
Doodles and Visual Explainers
💭 Lessons Learned
Consistency is key. Perfectionism can be a trap. The best way to get better at writing and growing is to show up consistently. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, try to be 1% better each time. When you put in the reps, the quality will improve over time. Plus, you'll enrich the connection with your audience each week.
Listen to the Reader. This newsletter is here to serve the reader. I ask myself, "Will this piece help my readers?" before writing any article. It's also why I conducted the reader survey a couple of weeks back. One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from the book "Write a Must-Read" by A.J. Harper:
A book is not about something. A book is for someone.
Building a System. We welcomed a second child into our lives this year. Balancing a 9-5 and two small humans while writing a weekly newsletter is really hard. I owe my wife an insurmountable debt of gratitude for letting me do this, but it's not sustainable or healthy in the long run. So, I'm building a writing system that doesn't involve me editing a piece into the wee hours of the night before it's due. The author of Not Boring,said it best in his essay:
She wakes up fresh as a daisy and wonderful, and I wake up feeling like an extra from The Last of Us.
Experiment Often and Fail Fast. Part of finding the "product-reader" fit is to try many things out and learn from the results. This is something I continue to do today. Doing this also gives me creative energy. After all, if I want my newsletter to be fun and not a dense resource, that won't happen by doing the same thing week-in-week-out.
I'd be remiss if I didn't appreciate a few folks who've been incredible for me this year.
- : For your invaluable support with the book. It was one amazing adventure.
- and Zach Mueller for reviewing the book and giving me insightful technical feedback.
The amazing beta readers who volunteered their time and energy to make the book more readable.
- and 2 (and the Small Bets community) for the amazing Newsletter Launchpad course that helped me learn to ship a valuable newsletter.
- for her insightful feedback to improve my Substack (and writing).
- for seeing things others miss.
My best half and two tiny humans for tolerating this pet project of mine.
The amazing Substack newsletters that support my work and helped me grow. I owe you all a lot!
I'm sure I'm missing a ton of people, so please forgive my lapse. I plead a complete lack of sleep and raccoon eyes. You know who you are and please know that I appreciate you and can't thank you enough.
🦾 The Present and Future of Gradient Ascent
I've got quite a few ideas planned for Gradient Ascent, but here are the things on the top of my mind:
Growth: Triple the size of the Gradient Ascent community by the end of 2024
Value: Bring even more value to you through an infusion of fresh, carefully crafted content (look out for announcements)
Healthy Consistency: Build a sustainable writing system and get better at writing
Mentoring: I'm also going to open my calendar up in Q1 2024 to help a few selected folks level up in their AI journey. If you're interested in working with me 1:1, send me a message.
A massive thank you for being the most awesome readers I could ask for.
Thank you for every open, read, and share. Here's to making the complex simple, the boring fun, and the impossible possible. The AI train isn't stopping anytime soon. I said on day one that we're in this together. That’ll always be my north star.
Happy holidays to you and yours.
Special mention to, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and for your amazing support during and after the cohort.
Chris also gets props for editing a messy draft of the book 🙂