Jason Cohen’s latest post, titled “You’re a little company, now act like one“, points out that a startup’s first customers are going to be early adopters who like living on the edge, not big corporations that expect marketing doublespeak in web sites. He ends by saying, “Be human. Stop hiding. Be yourself.” which I think is pretty good advice for anyone.
More resources for students interested in doing projects with Toronto’s data this fall:
- GeoGratis: a portal provided by the Earth Sciences Sector (ESS) of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) which provides geospatial data at no cost and without restrictions via your Web browser.
- The Cyclist Who Drew Toronto: five years of bike rides in an Etch-a-Sketch visualization. Very cool.
- HelpMeInvestigate.com: help people get answers to the kinds of questions you’d think you’d need a private detective for.
- Open Government Data: Starting to Judge the Results.
Adam Goucher was at Agile 2009 last week, and has been blogging the highlights. Two that particularly caught my eye were Arin Sime’s talk “How to sell a traditional client on an Agile project plan” (which I’ve had to do from time to time to justify non-waterfall processes in software engineering courses) and Chris McMahon’s “History of a Large Test Automation Project Using Selenium“. Two more people whose work I need to follow…
In my experience, people often come to different conclusions not because they disagree on fundamentals, but because they weight the factors in play differently. Mark Guzdial’s recent post about instructors backing away from his media-based approach to teaching computing is a case in point: as he says, “None of the teachers I have heard from are saying that our studies are wrong. Media Computation, across multiple schools, does lead to improved success rates and broader participation in computing—women and members of under-represented groups succeed as well as white or Asian males. These teachers are simply deciding that success rates and broadening participation is not their most important priority.” Well worth reading, particularly if you’re new to teaching.
Andrew Petersen (a lecturer in computer science at the University of Toronto at Mississauga) has written a very good post about deciding whether or not to attend grad school. If you’re starting your final lap as an undergrad, now’s the time to start weighing your options, and Andrew’s post is a good guide to what you should be thinking about.
MarkUs, a Rails-based tool for marking student programming assignments, just released Version 0.5. MarkUs aims to provide the convenience and flexibility of pen-and-paper marking over the web; it will be deployed this fall at the University of Toronto, and is one of the eight cross-country open source projects we’ll be working on starting in—um, really? Just one week from now?
And speaking of the fall, Bill Konrad has posted some ideas about what’s next for Basie. If you have preferences, we’d be grateful for your input.
I accumulated a few links this summer about gender equity in computing, particularly in open source. The two that bear re-reading are:
- Robert Kaye reports on Kirrily Robert’s OSCON keynote “Standing Out in the Crowd“. Five years after Michelle Levesque and I looked at gender ratios in open source, the average is still only 1.5% female (though some projects, like Drupal, have reached the same 15-20% as the industry as a whole). Most of the talk was upbeat, though, as some people are working hard to address the problem.
- Maggie Fox’s “Oi! Are we invisible or something?” makes some of the same points, and offers a checklist of things conference organizers can do to help.
I’m planning to give my aging MacBook to my mother-in-law as a couch-top email machine, and am looking for a replacement. I don’t do much programming any more (and when I do, I need more oomph than any truly portable machine can give me), so yesterday I checked out some light and ultralight machines. The Asus Eee felt better than I expected (I’m a touch typist with large hands, so keyboard is as important to me as battery life), but I’d find it hard to work on large documents with such a small screen.
The Acer Aspire caught my eye next. It’s only a bit heavier than the Eee, but has a full-sized screen, and a not-bad keyboard. But then I saw the Asus K501J: 15.6″ screen, also very light, and a 100% keyboard with good recoil. I thought I was in love.
Until I actually tried typing on it. In the name of all that’s holy, what idiot laid out the keys? Putting “/” and “|” between the letters and the left-hand shift is bad enough; doing it on both sides (yes, duplicating one of the least-used keys on the keyboard) and then making one shift key less than half the size of the other is an act of cruel vandalism. I would have bought the machine there and then if its quote designers end-quote hadn’t decided to make typing mistakes and keyboard-induced RSI their primary aims.
So I’m back to square one. I want a large screen, a keyboard with all the keys in their usual places (no double-wide reaches for shift and control keys please), and good battery life; CPU power, RAM, and storage capacity are all negotiable. Any suggestions?
New article in NOW Magazine about Toronto being stuck in “version 1.0″ when it comes to all things web. On the bright side, that means there’s plenty of scope for our students to improve things…
I had a good discussion yesterday with Jon Udell about goals for the students working with him this fall. He has since posted two very cool things:
- Using FriendFeed to manage a loosely-coupled team. Jon admits he’s an outlier, but I expect I’m going to learn a lot watching him work with his team this way. It’s also going to push integration between Basie and other services higher up the to-do list.
- A lengthy description of how to make elmcity and WordPress play nicely together. A calendar aggregator plugin for WordPress would be very cool (think about a City of Toronto blog that aggregated and displayed events harvested from neighborhood-level blogs), but Jon’s description of how it works is a good intro to elmcity for would-be curators.