theodp (442580) writes "Having seen this movie before, U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson called on the Obama administration Monday to scrutinize the tech industry's lack of diversity. "There's no talent shortage. There's an opportunity shortage," Jackson said, calling Silicon Valley "far worse" than many others, such as car makers that have been pressured by unions. He said tech behemoths have largely escaped scrutiny by a public dazzled with their cutting-edge gadgets. Jackson spoke after meeting with Labor Secretary Tom Perez to press for a review of H-1B visas, arguing that data show Americans have the skills and should have first access to high-paying tech work. Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition plans to file a freedom-of-information request next month with the EEOC to acquire employment data for companies that have not yet disclosed it publicly, which includes Amazon, Broadcom, Oracle, Qualcomm and Yelp. Unlike the DOL, Jackson isn't buying Silicon Valley's argument that minority hiring statistics are trade secrets. Five years after Google's HR Chief would only reassure Congress the company had "a very strong internal Black Googler Network" and its CEO brushed off similar questions about its diversity numbers by saying "we're pretty happy with the way our recruiting work," Google — under pressure from Jackson — fessed up to having a tech workforce that's only 1% Black, apparently par for the course in Silicon Valley."
theodp (442580) writes "Code.org reports that preliminary data on students who took the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Exam in 2014 show an increase of 8,276 students over 2013 and represent what the College Board called "the first real indication of progress in AP CS enrollment for women and underserved minorities in years." Girls made up 20% of the 39,393 total test takers, compared to 18.7% of the 31,117 test takers in 2013. Black or African American students saw their share increase by 0.19%, from 3.56% to 3.75% (low, but good enough to crush Twitter). Code.org credits the increased enrollment to its celebrity-studded CS promo film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg ("I even made a personal bet (reflected in my contractual commitment to Code.org donors) that our video could help improve the seemingly immovable diversity numbers in computer science," Code.org founder Hadi Partovi notes). However, some of the increase is likely attributable to the other efforts of Code.org's donors. Microsoft ramped up its TEALS AP CS program in 2013-2014, and — more significantly — Google helped boost AP CS study not only through its CS4HS program, but also by funding the College Board's AP STEM Access program, which offered $5 million to schools and teachers to encourage minority and female students to enroll in AP STEM courses. This summer, explains the College Board, "All AP STEM teachers in the participating schools (not just the new AP STEM teachers), who increase diversity in their class, receive a [$100] DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student in the course who receives a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Exam." The bad news for AP CS teachers anticipating Google "Excellence Funding" bounties (for increasing course enrollment and completion "by at least five underrepresented students") is that AP CS pass rates decreased to 60.8% in 2014 (from 67.6% in 2013), according to Total Registration. Using these figures and a back-of-the-envelope calculation, while enrollment saw a 26.6% increase over last year, the total number of students passing increased by 13.9%."
theodp (442580) writes "Back in 2012, Computerworld blasted Vice President Joe Biden for his ignorance of the H-1B temporary work visa program. But Joe's got his H-1B story and he's sticking to it, characterizing the visa program earlier this month in a speech to the National Governors Association as "apprenticeships" of sorts that companies provide to foreign workers to expand the Information Technology industry only after proving there are no qualified Americans to fill the jobs. Biden said he also learned from his talks with tech's top CEOs that 200,000 of the jobs that companies provide each year to highly-skilled H-1B visa holders could in fact be done by Americans with no more than a two-year community college degree."
An anonymous reader writes "Andrew Binstock has an article about the ever-increasing complexity required to write code. He says, "I got into programming because I like creating stuff. Not just any stuff, but stuff other people find useful. I like the constant problem solving, the use of abstractions that exist for long periods nowhere but in my imagination, and I like seeing the transformation into a living presence.
... The simple programs of a few hundred lines of C++ long ago disappeared from my experience. What was the experience of riding a bicycle has become the equivalent of traveling by jumbo jet; replete with the delays, inspections, limitations on personal choices, and sudden, unexplained cancellations — all at a significantly higher cost. ... Project overhead, even for simple projects, is so heavy that it's a wonder anyone can find the time to code, much less derive joy from it. Software development has become a mostly operational activity, rather than a creative one. The fundamental problem here is not the complexity of apps, but the complexity of tools. Tools have gone rather haywire during the last decade chasing shibboleths of scalability, comprehensiveness, performance. Everything except simplicity.""
Link to Original Source
Link to Original Source
theodp (442580) writes "After posting a screed on Why Age in Software is Bullshit ("People who love to create software will be doing it a lot longer than you think. And if you think this is something that only young people can do, you are wrong."), Dave Winer probably didn't figure on having his assertion challenged by the NY Times' Farhad Manjoo ("Do you think there's any part of coding you've gotten worse at as you age?" Manjoo asked. "Eg, maybe less open to new ideas?"). "I'm very good at adapting to new things," a frustrated Dave testily reassured Manjoo. Unfortunately, ageist attitudes in tech persist. Indeed, a presentation for Microsoft's TEALS program (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools), a fave of new Microsoft CEO Satyam Nadar and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith which aims to put computer science into every high school, seems to suggest that now even High School Career Day is No-Country-For-Old-CS-Men-And-Women. "Get good people [software engineers for college & career panels]," the presentation (6.5MB
.pptx) advises its teacher audience. "Younger is good." Hey, never trust CS Career Day to anyone over 30!"
theodp (442580) writes ""Everyone gets that advertising is what powers the internet, and that our favorite sites wouldn't exist without it," writes longtime ad guy Ken Segall in The Relentless (and annoying) Pursuit of Eyeballs. "Unfortunately, for some this is simply license to abuse. Let's call it what it is: advertising pollution." CNN's in-your-face, your-video-will-play-in-00:25-seconds approach, once unthinkable, has become the norm. "Google," Segall adds, "is a leader in advertising pollution, with YouTube being a showcase for intrusive advertising. Many YouTube videos start with a mandatory ad, others start with an ad that can be dismissed only after the first 10 seconds. Even more annoying are the ad overlays that actually appear on top of the video you're trying to watch. It won't go away until you click the X. If you want to see the entire video unobstructed, you must drag the playhead back to start over. Annoying. And disrespectful." Google proposed using cap and trade penalties to penalize traditional polluters — how about for those who pollute the Internet?"
theodp (442580) writes "After Dave Winer posted his screed on Why Age in Software is Bullshit ("People who love to create software will be doing it a lot longer than you think. And if you think this is something that only young people can do, you are wrong."), NY Times tech writer Farhad Manjoo took to Twitter to challenge Dave's assertion. "Do you think there's any part of coding you've gotten worse at as you age?" Manjoo asked. "Eg, maybe less open to new ideas?" "I'm very good at adapting to new things," Dave testily reassured Manjoo. Unfortunately, ageist attitudes in tech persist. Indeed, a presentation for Microsoft's TEALS program (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools), a fave of CEO Satyam Nadar which aims to put computer science into every high school, seems to suggest that even High School Career Day is No Country For Old CS Men. "Get good people [software engineers for college & career panels]," the presentation (6.5MB
.pptx) advises its teacher audience. "Younger is good.""
theodp (442580) writes "The good news, writes Michael Thomas, is that wired kids are learning chess at an unprecedented rate. Young children learning chess from tablets can quickly become more knowledgeable than their parents. But the bad news, laments Thomas, is there is so much demand for scholastic chess that there are not enough experienced chess facilitators to go around. Could technology like RFID-tagged chess pieces or services like ChessStream.com be employed to referee second-grader chess matches, Thomas wonders, or are more well-meaning-but-not-necessarily-expert human facilitators — a la T-ball coaches — the answer?"
theodp (442580) writes "After Brazil's dramatic World Cup defeat by Germany, writes NPR's Aarti Shahani, Google's experimental newsroom focused on search trends that didn't rub salt in Brazil's wounds, choosing to not publish a single trend on Brazilian search terms. Copywriter Tessa Hewson said they were just too negative. "We might try and wait until we can do a slightly more upbeat trend." It's a decision that puzzles Shahani, but producer Sam Clohesy explained, "a negative story about Brazil won't necessarily get a lot of traction in social." In old-school newsrooms, if it bleeds, it leads. But because this new newsroom is focused on getting content onto everyone's smartphone, marketing expert Rakesh Agrawal says, editors may have another bias: to comb through the big data in search of happy thoughts."
theodp (442580) writes "Over at Alarming Development, Jonathan Edwards has an interesting rant entitled Developer Inequality and the Technical Debt Crisis. The heated complaints that the culture of programming unfairly excludes some groups, Edwards feels, is a distraction from a bigger issue with far greater importance to society. "The bigger injustice," Edwards writes, "is that programming has become an elite: a vocation requiring rare talents, grueling training, and total dedication. The way things are today if you want to be a programmer you had best be someone like me on the autism spectrum who has spent their entire life mastering vast realms of arcane knowledge — and enjoys it. Normal humans are effectively excluded from developing software. The real injustice of developer inequality is that it doesn’t have to be this way." Edwards concludes with a call to action, "The web triumphalists love to talk about changing the world. Well if you really want to change the world, empower regular people to build web apps. Disrupt web programming! Who’s with me?" Ed Finkler, who worries about his own future as a developer in The Developer's Dystopian Future, seconds that emotion. "I think about how I used to fill my time with coding," Finkler writes. "So much coding. I was willing to dive so deep into a library or framework or technology to learn it. My tolerance for learning curves grows smaller every day. New technologies, once exciting for the sake of newness, now seem like hassles. I’m less and less tolerant of hokey marketing filled with superlatives. I value stability and clarity.""
theodp (442580) writes "A new Harvard study found that kids care more about achievement than helping others. "We were especially surprised and troubled to find how many youth value aspects of achievement over caring and fairness," said Richard Weissbourd of the Making Caring Common project. "We need to take a hard look at the messages we're sending to children about success versus concern for others and think about how we can send different messages." Almost 80% of students ranked achievement or happiness over caring for others; only 20% identified caring for others as their top priority. Could be the kids are reading Steve Jobs' bio (tolerate only 'A' players), Bill Gates' Congressional testimony ('B' and 'C' players exist to serve 'A' engineers), and Netflix's talent management philosophy (non-'A' players are unworthy of jobs)!"
theodp (442580) writes "The AP's announcement that software will write the majority of its earnings reports, argues The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker, doesn't foretell the end of journalism — such reports hardly require humans anyway. Pinsker writes, "While, yes, it’s true that algorithms can cram stories about vastly different subjects into the same uncanny monotone-they can cover Little League like Major League Baseball, and World of Warcraft raids like firefights in Iraq-they’re really just another handy attempt at sifting through an onslaught of data. Automated Insights’ success goes hand-in-hand with the rise of Big Data, and it makes sense that the company’s algorithms currently do best when dealing in number-based topics like sports and stocks." So, any chance that Madden-like generated play-by-play technology could one day be applied to live sporting events?"
theodp (442580) writes "Google's recently announced Global Impact Awards for Computer Science, part of the company's $50 million investment to get girls to code (on top of an earlier $40 million), are unsurprisingly very girl-friendly. Google's award for Promoting Introductory Computer Science for All, for instance, sets aside $1,000,000 for DonorsChoose credits that girls who complete Codecademy and Khan Academy online programming tutorials can use to fund up to $4,000 or so of their teachers' projects. In addition to learning a new skill, Google notes that girls in the program will be able to make-like-Don-Draper and remind teachers and boys who bought them all their nice things: "They can also point around their classroom at exciting new materials and say, 'I earned that for our class by learning to code.'" But Google's influence over K-12 CS education doesn't stop there. The Sun-Times reports that Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers are participating in a summer professional development program hosted by Google as part of the district's efforts to "saturate" schools with CS within 3 years: "The launch of CS4All [Computer Science for All], in partnership with Code.org and supported by Google, starts this fall in 60 CPS schools to try to bridge the digital divide and prepare students." And in two weeks, CSTA [Computer Science Teachers Association] and Google will be presenting the National Computer Science Principles Education Summit. "Attendees at this event have been selected through a rigorous application process that will result in more than 70 educators and administrators working together to strategize about getting this new Advanced Placement course implemented in schools across the country," explains CSTA, whose long-term Executive Director joined Google in June. The ACM, NSF, Google, CSTA, Microsoft, and NCWIT worked together in the past "to provide a wide range of information and guidance that would inform and shape CS education efforts," according to the University of Chicago, which notes it's now conducting a follow-up NSF-funded study — Barriers and Supports to Implementing Computer Science — that's advised by CPS, CSTA, and Code.org. The U of C recently received another NSF grant to facilitate the rapid expansion of CS K-12 education, seeking to capitalize on "an unprecedented time for the computer science education field as funding, public awareness, and employment needs are all merging for potentially coordinated support.""