Next term, I’m teaching a Computer Science course at the University of Toronto in which graduate and undergraduate students will do some consulting and/or development work for real-world clients. The students have backgrounds in areas as diverse as network security, user interface design, machine learning, graph theory, and numerical analysis, so pretty much anything is possible — the end-of-term flyer from last April will give you an idea of what they can do.
Here are the details:
- Students can’t get a grade for work they’re being paid to do, so it has to be pro bono.
- Clients in downtown Toronto are preferred (makes face-to-face meetings easier), but we’ve worked successfully with remote clients and open source groups before.
- Pure coding projects are OK for undergrads, but grad student projects have to require some novel thinking as well (and that’s preferred for undergrad projects too).
- They have to be able to talk about their project in public, and use whatever code they develop after the project is over. This doesn’t necessarily mean that projects have to be open source, but that definitely makes things simpler. (In the past, for example, students have sometimes had access to sensitive data that they couldn’t share with others, but were allowed to talk about the algorithms they were using and the patterns they were finding—that sort of thing is doable.)
So, could one or two of these students do something useful for you? If so, please let me know.
Prof. Sven Dickinson (acting chair of Computer Science at the University of Toronto) came in to talk to my undergrad software engineering class last Friday about life as a researcher. He made it sound pretty appealing, but his description of where his time goes made it clearer than ever that one of the reasons I’m not getting much research done is that I’m juggling too many other balls. This week, for example, I am supposed to:
- put together the final pitch to the department for a professional master’s in CS
- rearrange three chapters of the “CS-1 in Python” book (which is already up on Amazon, so we’d better get it finished)
- find projects for the 26 students in my consulting course next term
- write a final exam for the students in this term’s course (it’s due tomorrow, but that ain’t gonna happen)
- find money to keep the rewrite of DrProject on Django going next term
- review a chunk of Flash/Flex code to help a colleague decide whether or not to hire its author
- find (or invent) a coding scheme for scientific disciplines for the survey we’re running
- finish unpacking all the stuff in our new house (top priority: find the power cable for the TV that I so carefully tucked somewhere really clever)
- prep for a recruiting visit next Monday at the University of Alberta
- attend 11 meetings (so far—the number will undoubtedly grow)
The irony is, some of my colleagues actually think I’m good at time management and prioritzation…
The one-day StartupEmpire conference ran last Thursday, and by all accounts was a great success — see Jevon’s description for some details, and Osh Momoh’s for a more jumbled but equally enthusiastic view. I wish I could have gone, but reading this from Jevon almost makes up for missing it:
The Student Volunteers. Wow, this was one of the most hard working and impressive group of folks we could have hoped for. They took the iniative as soon as they got there and filled in gaps we had left. From creating an ad-hoc system of responsibilities to a make-shift coat check, they handled it all and left me in awe. I’d hire these folks in a heartbeat. A few of them are involved with the upcoming Impact Conference, which looks fantastic.
Later: Jevon has posted a roundup of commentary…
Via Nature: politicians from the UK Conservative Party will be required to take science lessons. On the one hand, kind of sad that they didn’t learn the basics in grade school. On the other hand, yay!, and when will Canadian parties require the same?
Over 1900 people have already responded to our survey of how scientists use computers, and it still has two weeks left to run. Our next task will be to analyze the data we’ve collected, which (among other things) means coding people’s free-form descriptions of their specialties so that we can talk about physicists and chemists as opposed to “this one person who’s doing N-brane quantum foam approximations to multiversal steady-state thingummies”.
Except: are “physics” and “chemistry” too broad? At that level, there are only a handful of sciences: astronomy, geology, biology, mathematics, psychology, um, computing, er, Curly, Larry, and Moe. Or maybe you’d distinguish “ecology” from “biology”. Or “oceanography” from something else, or — you see the problem. Rather than making up our own classification scheme, I’d like to adopt one that’s widely used and generally intelligible, but I’m having trouble finding one. Yahoo!, Wikipedia, and other web sites have incompatible (and idiosyncratic) divisions; the Dewey Decimal System and other library schemes have a very 19th Century view of science, and the ACM/IEEE publication codes are domain-specific.
If anyone can point me at something else (ideally, something with about two dozen categories — that feels like it ought to be about right, just from eyeballing the data we have so far), I’d be grateful.
We are finally in our new house — still lots to do, but this is now home. Yay!
…but too much has piled up for me to do more than post a few randoms:
- Remote control whale snot collection is even stranger than shrimp running on a treadmill.
- 50 of the 350 teams that took part in Microsoft’s Puzzle Challenge were from U of T — that’s almost 200 people. Florian Shkurti has a few things to say about how to do well.
- Jamis Buck has some interesting thoughts on LEGO, Play-Doh, and programming.
- The new president of the Maldives wants to buy a new homeland for his people in case global warming drowns the one they have. ’nuff said.
- On Spec magazine will be publishing my short story Still in an upcoming issue. Yay!
Our apologies to all readers of the streetknit.ca blog who are now getting third-bit.com items: our hosting service, site5.com, has messed up its configuration files, and has so far been unable to un-mess them. (Yesterday, for example, they were redirecting people to a Lithuanian culture site.) We hope they’ll fix things soon.