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+ - Mark Zuckerberg Pays $500K to Substitute Teach Your Kids for an Hour

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Techcrunch reports that Mark Zuckerberg has donated $500K to expand the Hour of Code campaign, which aims to reach 100 million students this year with its learn-to-code tutorials, including its top-featured tutorial starring Zuckerberg (video). Techcrunch adds that Zuckerberg's donation will be matched by fellow tutorial team teacher Bill Gates (video), Microsoft, Reid Hoffman, Salesforce, Google, and others. Zuck and Gates appear to have a sizable captive audience — a Code.org District Partnership Model brochure on the code-or-no-HS-diploma-for-you Chicago Public Schools' website calls for partner districts to "hold a district-wide Hour of Code event each year" for three years."

+ - As H-1B Investigative Reports Emerge, Feds Set to Destroy H-1B Records

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "A year-long investigation by NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit and The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) raises questions about the H-1B visa program. In a five-part story that includes a mini-graphic novel called Techsploitation, CIR describes how the system rewards job brokers who steal wages and entrap Indian tech workers in the US, including the awarding of half a billion dollars in Federal tech contracts to those with labor violations. "Shackling workers to their jobs," CIR found after interviewing workers and reviewing government agency and court documents, "is such an entrenched business practice that it has even spread to U.S. nationals. This bullying persists at the bottom of a complex system that supplies workers to some of America’s richest and most successful companies, such as Cisco Systems Inc., Verizon and Apple Inc." In a presumably unrelated move, the U.S. changed its H-1B record retention policy last week, declaring that records used for labor certification, whether in paper or electronic, "are temporary records and subject to destruction" after five years under the new policy. "There was no explanation for the change, and it is perplexing to researchers," reports Computerworld. "The records under threat are called Labor Condition Applications (LCA), which identify the H-1B employer, worksite, the prevailing wage, and the wage paid to the worker." Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, added: "It undermines our ability to evaluate what the government does and, in today's world, retaining electronic records like the LCA is next to costless [a full year's LCA data is less than 1 GB]." President Obama, by the way, is expected to use his executive authority to expand the H-1B program after the midterm elections."

+ - Inexplicably, Feds set to destroy H-1B records->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "In a notice posted last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said that records used for labor certification, whether in paper or electronic, "are temporary records and subject to destruction" after five years, under a new policy. There was no explanation for the change, and it is perplexing to researchers. The records under threat are called Labor Condition Applications (LCA), which identify the H-1B employer, worksite, the prevailing wage, and the wage paid to the worker. "Throwing information away is anathema to the pursuit of knowledge and akin to willful stupidity or, worse, defacing Buddhist statues," said Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. "It undermines our ability to evaluate what the government does and, in today's world, retaining electronic records like the LCA is next to costless," he said. The cost of storage can't be an issue for the government's $80 billion IT budget: A full year's worth of LCA data is less than 1GB."
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Comment: Re:Apple's Ellen Feis Ad: Worse Than Targeting Boy (Score 1) 602

by theodp (#48238043) Attached to: Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

At its release, the Mac was "designed as an information appliance" for which a hobbyist programming language was deemed unnecessary. To me, this ad - targeting teen girls - is consistent with that leave-the-programming-to-others philosophy. Your mileage may vary. :-)

Comment: Apple's Ellen Feis Ad: Worse Than Targeting Boys? (Score 2) 602

by theodp (#48237739) Attached to: Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

If you were trying to discourage girls from trying to program computers, you'd be hard-pressed to top Apple's famous Ellen Feis 'Switch' ad (2002 Slashdot discussion). Btw, by introducing 'The Computer for The Rest of Us' in 1984 without a viable hobbyist programming language, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates no doubt helped discourage both girls and boys from studying CS, even if BillG is trying to make amends now.

+ - Not Everyone Feels NPR's Solved the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "After an NPR podcast fingered the marketing of computers to boys as the culprit behind the declining percentages of women in undergraduate CS curricula since 1984 (a theory seconded by Smithsonian mag), some are concluding that NPR got the wrong guy. Calling 'When Women Stopped Coding' quite engaging, but long on Political Correctness and short on real evidence, UC Davis CS Prof Norm Matloff concedes a sexist element, but largely ascribes the gender lopsidedness to economics. "That women are more practical than men, and that the well-publicized drastic swings in the CS labor market are offputting to women more than men," writes Matloff, "was confirmed by a 2008 survey in the Communications of the ACM" (related charts of U.S. unemployment rates and Federal R&D spending in the '80s). Looking at the raw numbers of female CS grads instead of percentages, notes Ministry of Truth, suggests there wasn't a sudden and unexpected disappearance of a generation of women coders, but rather a dilution in their percentages as women's growth in undergrad CS ranks was far outpaced by men, including a boom around the time of the dot-com boom/bust. So, any other factors that might help explain differences in the 1984 and 2014 demographics of undergrad CS programs? By introducing The Computer for The Rest of Us in 1984 without a viable hobbyist programming language, did Steve Jobs and Bill Gates inadvertently contribute to changing the CS study pipeline for the worse? Did the debut of the AP CS exam in 1984, and its choice of languages (Pascal, C++, Java), wind up driving kids away from CS study? Anything else?"

+ - US Army May Relax Physical Requirements to Recruit Cyber Warriors

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Clifford Davis reports that only 30% of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are qualified to become soldiers primarily due to three issues: obesity or health problems; lack of a high school education; and criminal histories. While cognitive and moral disqualifications have held steady, weight issues account for 18% of disqualifications, and the number is rising steadily and it's projected to hit 25% by 2025, which Batschelet calls "troubling." The current Army policy is that every recruit, whether enlisting for infantry or graphic design, has to meet the same physical requirements to join — but that requirement may be changing. "Today, we need cyber warriors, so we're starting to recruit for Army Cyber," says Batschelet. "One of the things we're considering is that your [mission] as a cyber warrior is different. Maybe you're not the Ranger who can do 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups and run the 2-mile inside of 10 minutes, but you can crack a data system of an enemy." "We're looking for America's best and brightest just like any Fortune 500 company out there," says Lt. Col. Sharlene Pigg. "We're looking for those men and women who excel in science, technology, engineering and math." Batschelet admits that a drastic change in physical requirements for recruits may be hard for some to swallow. "That's going to be an institutional, cultural change for us to be able to get our heads around that is kind of a different definition of quality," says Batschelet. "I would say it's a modernizing, or defining in a more precise way, what is considered quality for soldiers.""

+ - Profits! Profits! Profits! Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a Real Business

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. “They make no money,” Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. “In my world, you’re not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don’t make money at some point.” Ballmer’s comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you’re going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there’s a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all.""

+ - NPR (Thinks It) Has Solved the Mystery of Declining Female Enrollment in CS

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Last Friday," writes UC Davis CS Prof Norm Matloff, "NPR ran a piece titled 'When Women Stopped Coding' [podcast summary]. It was quite engaging, but was long on Political Correctness, blaming things ranging from boy-oriented toys to sexist institutions, and short on real evidence. Mind you, I don’t disagree that a sexist element runs through parts of the field, but NPR’s explanations are just wrong." So, what does Matloff see as the major cause of declining percentages of women in undergraduate CS curricula since 1984? Economics. "I share the concern about the gender lopsidedness in the profession," explains Matloff. "Actually, I started voicing this concern to my department chair a bit before the issue became a nationwide topic around 2008. My theory at the time was that women are more practical than men, and that the well-publicized drastic swings in the CS labor market are offputting to women more than men. This was confirmed by a 2008 survey in the Communications of the ACM, a professional magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery, which found that in choosing to enter the IT field, women placed significantly more emphasis on job security." In addition to the causes cited by NPR, Matloff, and others, a number of other changes have occurred since 1984 that had some effect on the composition of the CS undergrad pipeline. 1984 was the year that high school CS education was changed by the introduction of the AP Computer Science exam, whose choice of languages (Pascal, C++, Java) has ironically been blamed by some for actually driving kids away from CS study. 1984 was also a watershed year in that it marked the introduction of the Mac, a computer "designed as an information appliance" for which a hobbyist programming language was deemed unnecessary. That, coupled with the killing of MacBasic by Bill Gates, no doubt reduced the number of students who would catch the programming bug and later major in CS. IEEE Today's Engineer noted that a decrease in Federal R&D spending in the '80s affected STEM student production. College demographics in general also began to change dramatically in the 80's as schools embraced a huge influx of international students (stats show foreign STEM students skew male) and public universities increasingly sought out-of-state tuition windfalls, leaving fewer seats for even higher-qualified in-state students. Check out a comparison of 1984 vs. 2014 enrollment demographics for CS majors at the Univ. of Illinois, which is certainly at odds with NPR's US-white-boys-with-PCs-rose-to-dominate-CS-programs hypothesis. Also, it should be mentioned that evolving CS/IT/MIS/STAT programs of study make it impossible to do apples-to-apples comparisons of "CS programs" over the years. Finally, legislation passed or shaped in the '80s also helped make programming a less attractive career to U.S. students. Section 1706 of the 1986 tax act, noted the NY Times, helped insure a scarcity of programmers, since Congress decreed that most individual programmers cannot be entrepreneurs. And the ever-evolving H-1B visa program (and associated rise of outsourcing/offshoring), which had roots in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, has also undoubtedly affected U.S. students' decision to major in CS. So, what made women "stop coding"? It's hard to say exactly, but there was certainly more to it than gender-skewed '80s PC advertising!"

+ - Be True to Your CS School: Best Colleges for Programmers?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "With apologies to The Beach Boys: "When some loud braggart tries to put me down / And says his CS school is great / I tell him right away / 'Now what's the matter buddy / Ain't you heard of my CS school / It's number one in the LinkedIn University Rankings'." The Motely Fool reports that the Data Scientists at LinkedIn have been playing with their Big Data, ranking schools based on how successful recent grads have been at landing desirable software development jobs. Here's their Top 25: CMU, Caltech, Cornell, MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, Univ. of Washington, Duke, Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, Illinois, UT Austin, Brown, UCSD, Harvard, Rice, Penn, Univ. of Arizona, Harvey Mudd, UT Dallas, San Jose State, USC, Washington University, RIT. There's also a shorter list for the best schools for software developers at startups, which draws a dozen schools from the previously mentioned schools, and adds Columbia, Univ. of Virginia, and Univ. of Maryland College Park."

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