Friday Updates / 2020-09-11

What I’m working on

At Help Scout, a customer using Beacon wrote in asking about a warning that Chrome was displaying on their site:

The root cause seemed to be some attribution tracking cookies that were set by a script I worked on, so the support request made its way to me. Digging into it, we can see a lot of Help Scout cookies (including attribution tracking ones like _A_FirstTouchURL) are being set when Beacon is loaded on the customer’s site:

Despite having worked a lot with cookies and tracking scripts in the past, I was fuzzy on how these cookies were being set. Why, for example, were there Mixpanel and Google Analytics cookies when Beacon wasn’t loading them? Turns out that because the customer is loading Beacon from a domain, all of the cookies are made available on their site unless they’re explicitly set the cookie not to be passed along.

This can be achieved by setting the SameSite cookie attribute to Strict. In this case, there’s no need for most of these cookies to be passed along to third party sites loading Beacon, so we’re going through the steps to mark the cookies as strict when possible. Some cookies on are set by third party scripts and can’t be set to strict, so some amount of cookies getting passed along is inevitable, but at least we can minimize it.

This week I knocked out two DataCamp courses in my machine learning adventures: Hyperparameter Tuning in Python and Introduction to Natural Language Processing in Python. Typically I only am able to finish one course per week, but a lot of the material in these was covered by other courses so it made these courses fairly quick to work through.

One new thing was the introduction of TPOT, a tool that uses genetic programming to find an optimal classifier and hyperparameters for a given data set.

Long time readers may remember my Evolution of Color project in 2014. It uses genetic algorithms to evolve a population of colors towards a goal color. Unlike most of the other Emergent Mind projects that were I re-implemented other people’s projects in JavaScript, the Evolution of Color was completely original, making it one of the projects there I’m most proud of.

I hope as I continue down this machine learning path I get more opportunities to work with genetic algorithms.

And on that note, I’ve been mulling over where to focus in the coming months to keep leveling up my machine learning skills. Currently my plan is:

  • Finish the 11 remaining machine learning DataCamp courses by end of the year
  • Spend a few months in early 2021 focusing on Kaggle competitions to gain experience applying what I’ve learned
  • Figure out how to integrate machine learning features into a web application, whether it be for Preceden, a new app, or maybe even Help Scout if there’s an opportunity. Apparently deploying ML applications is quite difficult though. We will see.

What I’m watching

My wife and I just finished watching Umbrella Academy on Netflix:

It’s about a dysfunctional family of superheroes that need to work together to save the world. I enjoyed it and would recommend.

Product Recommendations

I’m in a mastermind group with Tom Davies and Jason Rudolph. Tom has two popular Shopify apps, Best Sellers and Flair, and Jason has BuildPulse, a tool that helps automatically identify flaky tests (automated tests that randomly pass sometimes and fail other times).

If you run a Shopify store or your team is banging their head against the wall dealing with flaky tests, their tools are definitely worth checking out.

What else

I’m on day 26 of a 28-day keto challenge. I’m participating through the Wearable Challenge initiative which basically means I’ve been wearing a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my arm and for every day that I stay below a certain blood glucose limit I get $25 on my own money back. I’ve lost about 5 pounds and feel pretty healthy, but probably won’t continue keto after the challenge ends in a few days. I’ll write more about this whole thing in a separate post.

Hope everyone’s doing well 👋.

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