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Comment At the very least it's an unethical hack (Score 1) 138

A person could use this app to run a blog of sorts, and as popular as it became the blogger would be hosting it on the cheap. You host the app and tweet the shortened URL's. The content is hosted, but not by you. The URL shortener hosts the content. But unlike LiveJournal or Wordpress.com, the URL shortener never agreed to hosting your content. You've essentially repurposed its functionality and subverted its intent.

I'm guessing the various URL shorteners will respond to this very quickly. The hack will end up being as short-lived as it is cool.

Comment Exactly when is "everyone" going to code? (Score 2) 255

This isn't an exact analogy, but calculus is more than 250 years old, and it's not like everyone is doing calculus. In fact, never mind calculus: there are plenty of people who, though they have sat in an algebra class, don't get even rudimentary algebra. So, why are we imagining that someday everyone is going to code?

Comment Sorry, but some of these "math guys" scare me (Score 3, Interesting) 616

Certainly, not every programmer with a strong background in math is like this. But I've worked with people who are proud of their math ability, and who would be the first to tell you how critical math is to programming, who write terrible code. And I think their math ability may be at the root of the problem. I've decided that the kindest thing I can assume about them is that they're, perhaps, math savants.

They pride themselves on their "uncommon" ability to keep lots and lots abstract details "in their heads," and in their "analytical" skills. Their ability, I imagine, encourages them to write their programs as one big ticker tape, and their programming suggests they have no idea of how to name variables, much less compartmentalize. Next, they "debug," which translates to running their coughed up hairball of code through the debugger, iteration after iteration, until they've finally straightened it out and "got something working." And, then, that's the end of it for them—program, done.

I would much rather work with someone of either more modest math ability, or someone who, in addition to their math ability, had some idea of how to communicate (which, I think, is a critically important skill to a good programmer). That person might actually have a chance of writing maintainable code, instead of producing a "class" that's 5,000 lines long with 30 instance variables, and a 7 or 8 methods all marked "static."

Comment "Mom and Pop" (Score 5, Interesting) 474

I work for a "mom and pop" shop, as you call it, and I can sympathize with what you're saying. But it goes both ways. We built an application for a company that I am sure you heard of. Let's call it "Acme Inc." One of the application's requirements was that it support SAML authentication. That's fine, we could handle that. All we asked for was some particulars about Acme Inc's environment.

Could we have a sample SAML token, to see what kind of assertions Acme would be requiring? Could we have the SAML version, 1 or 2, that Acme uses? The responsibility for providing us with any of this was "delegated" to people who already have too much on their plate, don't really know what is going on themselves, and who lack the mojo to get a quick response from the various systems administrators at Acme who could help. A couple of weeks later, the stakeholders at Acme are crying, "Come on, come on, come on! We want the product!" Of course, none of these preliminaries have been attended to.

Then, when the product is finally delivered, the guy at Acme charged with putting the product through its paces has no idea how SAML works, and is asking me to walk him through it. (Remember, this was their idea.) We come to find out that he has no test server to use as an "Identity Provider" (don't ask!), and he wants to know if can I help him there.

Granted, this is all ultimately a managerial screw-up. But, my point is that even if a mom-and-pop does code up an LDAP, who's to say the customer has it together on its end?

Comment Public Service Announcement (Score 5, Interesting) 112

Don't talk to cops.

Seriously, the scary thing here is that you could quite innocently find yourself the subject of an investigation, and have your whole life spiral out of control from there. The FBI has manufactured "terrorists" by leveraging their criminal informants, and innocent people have gotten caught up in the agency's overzealous and amoral crusade to "catch bad guys."

But, don't take my word for it:

  • http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-fbi-entrapment-is-inventing-terrorists-and-letting-bad-guys-off-the-hook-20120515
  • http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/08/fbi-terrorist-informants
  • http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/471/the-convert

What I would like to see is someone give it the old college try and write up a "compare and contrast" essay: The FBI vs. the Stasi, KGB, et cetera. I worry things are getting that bad in this country. Now we have to worry about what we might re-tweet!

Comment Re:Hard to take sides (Score 1) 355

I taught middle school and high school for a little while, and my experience jibes with what you say. I think it works like this.

In a class of 30, there are 1 or 2 pathological miscreants—basically, irredeemable troublemakers who need another environment (whatever that may be). Then, there are about 6 kids who need only those troublemakers as a catalyst for them to become troublemakers as well. On the other side of the coin, there are 5 or 6 kids who are model students in terms of behavior. The rest are mere ballast.

I've seen where throwing merely 1 kid out of class—permanently—and then cracking down on the rest can turn an entire class around and make it manageable. But if you can't get rid of that 1 or maybe 2 kids, there's a good chance that class is lost.

The great tragedy in American education is that we are willing to cheat so many students out of an education because we cater to the very few who don't deserve an education.

Comment "How did the teacher fail these students?" (Score 3, Informative) 355

I can sympathize with number 1, and partially with number 4, but 2 and 3 hold no water at all. They should not be the concern of the professor. These undergraduates are supposedly a subset of adults.

Your immediate reaction is to ask: "How did the teacher fail these students?" Sadly, your reaction is endemic; and, moreover, indicative of the problem at every level of U.S. education.

Comment Re:But why? (Score 5, Insightful) 634

[I]t does assert that inherently, no person should be favored over another in how they are treated by the government or, indeed by society in general.

I don't get that at all. If you read John Locke, as Jefferson did, and as did just about every educated, politically-minded person of the time, you'd know in what sense "equal" is being used. It's a very narrow concept. "All men are created equal" means that there is no man or group of men on earth who can claim a right to be the political rulers of anyone else. It's an axiom against the idea of divine right. It's an axiom against the notion of absolute monarchy. In the context of English politics, it's an axiom against the political primacy of an un-elected monarchy or hereditary aristocracy; an argument for the primacy of Parliament. In the context of American politics, it's a political argument against kings and aristocracy; an argument for representative government.

The concept is ante-government, or "meta" as we say (in this half-literate age). It comes before government. It's the rationale for what kind of government is right and just, and it's a strictly political concept—not a social one. It doesn't have anything to do with the egalitarianism that you allege. It has nothing to do with society, and certainly nothing to do with the modern concept that styles itself as "social justice."

You've been Berkeley'ed!