Since 2002, I have run a course at U of T in which teams of senior undergraduate students do projects for clients from local startups, non-profits, university departments, and the research hospitals. Last year, as an experiment, I took on students from other universities as well, including Waterloo, Lakehead, Alberta, and Havana.
Colleagues from several Canadian universities are joining with me this fall to scale up this effort . We plan to have 20-25 students from half a dozen schools work on a handful of open source projects. Students will register in the appropriate course at their home institution, but each project team will include students from at least two (and more usually three) universities, so that students will gain first-hand experience with the time zone and language issues that have become a routine part of global software development. Just as importantly, these projects will give students a chance to get to know their peers elsewhere in the country—something they have little opportunity to do otherwise.
A key part of this course will be bringing the students together for a three-day code sprint at the end of September. As we found out in February, this pays off in all sorts of ways. Several companies and organizations have now pledged financial support to cover travel and accommodation expenses; I’ll post the list (and my thanks) as soon as the paperwork is in place. I’ll also post the list of participating universities, along with contact information.
It’s going to be an exciting fall…
 These cross-Canada projects are separate from the consulting course I described last week, in which graduate and undergraduate students from U of T will do projects using the City of Toronto’s data.
The newly-launched Federal IT Dashboard shows where and how the US government is spending money on information technology. I want one for Canada—and for the City of Toronto.
Congratulations to the whole Firefox team on the occasion of their latest release — and double that for welcoming students with open arms. W00t!
We get our electricity from Bullfrog, which supplies power from renewable sources. I recently found their “Bullfrog Powered” list and their Green Directory, both of which list Bullfrog’s customers. It’s cool, but what I really want is a downloadable list that I can throw onto a Google Map. Nice to have either way, though; we’ll be checking the list before shopping in the months to come.
For the duration of the garbage strike in Toronto, the staff of War Child Canada will be doing pickups at $10/bag or 6 for $50. All the proceeds go to helping young victims of war. Hard to think of a better cause…
Thought-provoking post from Dru Lavigne about the scarcity of women in open source:
To me, equating “code” with “open source” is so early 90s. The closest analogy I can think of is equating “doctors” with “health care”. While doctors tend to get the glory, there is a whole ecosystem of paramedics, RNs, candy stripers and volunteers, technicians, midwives, administrative staff, etc. and etc. that keep the health care system up and running. As open source projects mature, they go light years beyond a developer scratching an itch into ecosystems containing foundations with administrative staff, advocates, lawyers, conference organizers, trainers, support contracters, technical writers, and so on.
So, at the risk of raising the ire of women programmers everywhere, I propose that the problem to be solved isn’t “how do we get women to program in open source?” but rather “what are the roles in open source and who can we get to fill them?”. I think that projects who can define and enable their roles will be both richer for the experience and pleasantly surprised to see how many women pop out of the woodwork.
I’m not sure I agree, but I’m not sure I don’t…
Useful summary from Steve Easterbrook of some recent Royal Society papers on the environmental e-science revolution. Lots more to read…
For a lot of geeks, the most interesting part of the British parliamentary expenses scandal has been the way people like Simon Willison have leveraged the web to dig up the truth. This recent post has a nice summary of lessons learned. As other people have found in other contexts, for example, adding pictures of real people increases interest and participation.
Interesting new paper titled “Tool-use induces morphological updating of the body schema“, summarized in this Discover blog post: “using a tool for even a brief amount of time caused volunteers to update their body schema, and to consider the tool a part of their bodies.” The effect is subtle, but measurable. Question: how many software tools have this effect?
We have a green light! As I hinted back in May, I’m going to run my consulting course this fall (CSC490 for undergrads, CSC2125 for grad students), but with a twist: every project will involve doing something with the data that the City of Toronto is about to start making available for citizens to use. The course will run 3-5 pm on Mondays from September to December; we hope to know by late July or early August exactly what data sets we’ll have access to.
I’d therefore like to ask you all for help. First, if you’re a current or former student, please help me get the word out about this course. (I only have access to students’ university email accounts, which most don’t check over the summer, particularly if they’re doing a PEY internship.)
Second, if you had access to everything the city knows about itself, what questions would you ask and why? Suggestions so far have included finding out how the introduction of larger blue bins has changed the amount of recycling the city does, seeing who’s providing what kind of food at what cost to city schools, and as-close-to-real-time-as-possible updates on crime statistics by neighborhoods. What else could we build that would make your life better and help the city deal with all its myriad challenges?