theodp writes: TechCrunch reports that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will take two months off from Facebook for paternity leave. Why? "Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families," Zuckerberg explained in a FB post on Friday. "At Facebook we offer our U.S. employees up to 4 months of paid maternity or paternity leave which they can take throughout the year." No word on why Baby Zuck will only get 50% of that time — maybe that's what the gains chart suggested as a good tradeoff — or if expectant parents who apply to send their children to Zuckerberg's new Primary School, which aims to "help children from underserved communities reach their full potential," will be expected to make a similar commitment.
theodp writes: Over at the Stanford Computational Journalism Lab, Dan Nguyen's Exploring the Wall Street Journal's Pulitzer-Winning Medicare Investigation with SQL is a pretty epic post on how one can use SQL to learn about Medicare data and controversial practices in Medicare billing, giving the reader a better appreciation for what was involved in the WSJ's Medicare Unmasked data investigation. So, how long until a journalist wins a Pulitzer for SQL reporting? And for all you amateur and professional Data Scientists, what data would you want to SELECT if you were a Pulitzer-seeking reporter?
theodp writes: In partnership with Gallup, Google has released a second report with its take on the state of U.S. K-12 CS education. Entitled Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents and Educators in the U.S., the report suggests tech's woeful diversity can be traced back to Hollywood's portrayal of Computer Scientists. "Students and parents perceive that there are few portrayals of women, Hispanic or Black computer scientists on TV or in movies," the report explains in its Key Findings. "These groups are much more likely to see White or Asian men engaged in computer science. They also often see computer scientists portrayed wearing glasses." In an accompanying post at the Google for Education blog, Google's Head of R&D for K-12 Education adds, "The results show that there's high value and interest in CS among all demographics, and even more so for lower-income parents. But unfortunately perceptions of who CS is for and who is portrayed in CS are narrow-White, male, smart with glasses. Even though they value it, students often don't see themselves in it." As a result of this and other factors, the report notes that "among the 49 states with at least one student taking the [AP] computer science exam, 12 had no Black students participating in 2014." It's an alarming factoid, but also a misleading one. As Gas Station Without Pumpsexplained two years ago, it is hardly surprising from a statistical standpoint that there are no Black student test takers in a state if there are essentially no test takers at all. So, let's not forget about girls and minorities, but let's also not forget that pretty much everyone is underrepresented if we look at the big AP CS picture — only 46,344 AP CS scores were reported in 2015 for a HS population of about 16 million students. So, shouldn't the goal at this stage of the game really be CS education for all? Towards that end, perhaps Google might want to look into commissioning a free programming book for kids from O'Reilly instead of another point-the-finger report from Gallup. But if Google wants to continue its search for things that have discouraged kids from coding, it might want to look in the mirror. After all, dropping a programming language for kids — as Google did with App Inventor in 2011 after CEO Larry Page ordered the plug pulled on projects deemed unworthy of Google 'wood' — didn't exactly send kids (and their perplexed teachers) the message that CS was for them, did it?
theodp writes: Let's play Jeopardy! A. Al Capone. John Dillinger. Pretty Boy Floyd. Baby Face Nelson. Smart white males with glasses. Q. Who is Public Enemy No. 1? In partnership with Gallup, Google has released a second report on its take of the state of U.S. K-12 CS education. Entitled Images of Computer Science: Perceptions Among Students, Parents and Educators in the U.S., a key finding of the report is that bespectacled White and Asian male Computer Scientists are apparently the new menace to society. "Students and parents perceive that there are few portrayals of women, Hispanic or Black computer scientists on TV or in movies," the report explains in it Key Findings. "These groups are much more likely to see White or Asian men engaged in computer science. They also often see computer scientists portrayed wearing glasses." In an accompanying post at the Google for Education blog, Google Head of R&D for K-12 Education Sepi Hejazi Moghadam gets more specific, declaring smart White males with glasses Public Enemy No. 1: "The results show that there’s high value and interest in CS among all demographics, and even more so for lower-income parents. But unfortunately perceptions of who CS is for and who is portrayed in CS are narrow-White, male, smart with glasses. Even though they value it, students often don't see themselves in it." By the way, for a company that's chock-full-o-Data-Scientists, the Google report's spin on AP CS testing results includes a nugget ("among the 49 states with at least one student taking the computer science exam, 12 had no Black students participating in 2014") that is likely to alarm but mislead readers who are not informed that overall AP CS participation is dismal regardless of race/ethnicity for these states.
theodp writes: It's almost time for America's answer to the Running of the Bulls (YouTube), kids. So, if you're dreaming of a cheap tech Christmas, it's time to peruse the 2015 Black Friday ads and make your game plan. Get lucky at Best Buy this year, and you could score a $299.99 Dell 15.6" touchscreen laptop (i3, 8GB memory, 1 TB HD), a $399.99 Microsoft 10.8" Surface 3 (Atom x7, 2GB memory, 64GB storage), $899.99 MacBook Pro 13.3" laptop (i5, 4GB memory, 500MB HD), $99 Acer 11.6" Chromebook (Celeron, 2GB memory, 16GB storage), or, for those on a tight budget, a $34.99 7" Amazon Fire tablet. Fight the crowds at Walmart, and you could snag a $199 HP 15.6" laptop (Celeron, 4GB memory, 500GB drive) or $199 iPad mini 2. And for stay-at-home shoppers, Dell's Windows 10 price-breakers include a $149.99 14" laptop (Celeron, 2GB memory, 32GB storage) and a $229 15.6" laptop (i3, 4GB memory, 500MB HD). So, in your experience, has Black Friday been like a claw machine — suckering you with big prizes, but never delivering — or have you actually walked away with a great deal?
theodp writes: The New York Post has published an excerpt from Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires and Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels Are Screwing America's Best and Brightest Workers, a new book on the H-1B debate from conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin and programmer-turned-attorney John Miano. "Sold Out," notes a Computerworld review, "clearly has a point a view about the program (crapweasels, for instance), but it backs up its assertions and gives H-1B supporters a high threshold to cross. A serious argument in defense of the visa program requires explaining how America gains when a U.S. worker is replaced by a foreign visa holder hired to do the exact same job. If you are going to justify the H-1B program, then you have to defend firms that force their employees (no severance otherwise) to train their replacements. That may be the point here. This book lays bare the replacement process, the broad use of the H-1B visa by the IT offshore outsourcing industry, and the lobbying effort in Washington to minimalize the visa's use in displacing U.S. workers." With anecdotes like "how Microsoft wined and dined the Bush administration to expand the foreign worker supply through administrative fiat to circumvent public disclosure and congressional debate," the book seeks out a broader audience than just those already familiar with the H-1B issue.
theodp writes: Eliminating Star Wars items and videogames from classrooms, suggests a widely-publicized research paper entitled Computing Whether She Belongs: Stereotypes Undermine Girls’ Interest and Sense of Belonging in Computer Science, "may play a significant role in communicating a feeling of belonging to girls and help to reduce current gender disparities in STEM courses." But now — just a month after the New York Times repeated the warnings of the dangers of Star Wars in the classroom — tech billionaire-backed Code.org has announced a partnership with Lucasfilm to make Star Wars videogame-themed coding tutorials available to every U.S. classroom during this December's Hour of Code (a week before The Force Awakens premieres) in an effort to encourage more girls to code. Which certainly seems to contradict the conventional unconscious bias wisdom. "Items such as stacked soda cans, Star Trek and Star Wars images and paraphernalia, video game boxes, comics, science fiction books, electronics, and computer parts communicate a lower sense of belonging to women than men," explains the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). "Attracting more female high school students to computer science classes might be as easy as tossing out the Star Wars posters," NCWIT added in an Aug. 29th Facebook post. So, why was NCWIT dissing Star Wars in the classroom at the same time its partner Code.org was working on the mother-of-all Star Wars classroom events? Well, it could simply be that NCWIT was clueless about the Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code project. "We began the work at the beginning of the summer," explained Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "and due to Lucasfilm’s strict requirements on secrecy we had only a few people at Code.org who even knew about the project, and they had to work in a locked room with no windows so that nobody else could find out." By the way, a cynic might suggest that Lucasfilm and Disney — which provided the Code.org Frozen-themed tutorial used by President Obama last year — might have 435 million good reasons for wanting to see more kids code.
theodp writes: "Mnemonic operators," writes SAS's Rick Wicklin as he weighs the pros-and-cons of Symbolic Versus Mnemonic Logical Operators, "tend to appear in older languages like FORTRAN, whereas symbolic operators are common in more recent languages like C/C++, although some relatively recent scripting languages like Perl, PHP, and Windows PowerShell also support mnemonic operators. SAS software has supported both operators in the DATA step since the very earliest days, but the SAS/IML language, which is more mathematically oriented, supports only the symbolic operators. Functionally, the operators are equivalent, so which ones you use is largely a matter of personal preference. Since consistency and standards are essential when writing computer programming, which operators should you choose?"
theodp writes: "As part of our Made with Code and media perception initiatives," wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki over at the Official Google Blog, "I'm excited that we're supporting award-winning documentary filmmaker Lesley Chilcott — of An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman [and Code.org] fame — on her next film, CodeGirl. Starting today and until November 5, Lesley’s film will be available for free on YouTube, before its theatrical debut in the next few weeks." Microsoft is pretty jazzed about the movie too, as is Al Gore. Decidedly less excited about CodeGirl is film critic Inkoo Kang, who writes, "CodeGirl, a chronicle of this year’s Technovation contest, is just as well-intentioned as its subject. It coasts for as long as it can on the feel-good fuel of watching smart, earnest girls talk about creating an app, but with virtually no tension, context, narrative or characterization driving the story, the documentary grows to feel like a parent describing their daughter’s involvement in an international competition. The girls' achievements are impressive, but you definitely don’t want to hear about them for nearly two hours."
theodp writes: At first glance, the proposal for A Code of Conduct for the Go Community (attributed to Google's Andrew Gerrand) seems reasonable enough. How can you argue with the goal of treating everyone with respect and kindness? But the Devil is in the detail, and the proposed Code notes there soon could be consequences for calling someone an "idiot" or saying something is "so simple even my grandma could understand it" (the latter "marginalises women and the elderly by implying that something need be simple for an old woman to understand it"). And the punishment meted out by the Go Code of Conduct Working Group to those who find themselves on the receiving end of an anonymous complaint could be anything from nothing to "a request for a private or public apology, a private reprimand from the working group to the individual(s) involved, a public reprimand, an imposed vacation (for instance, asking someone to 'take a week off' from a mailing list or IRC), or a permanent or temporary ban from some or all Go spaces (mailing lists, IRC, etc.)." And no, this doesn't appear to be a goof. So, might individuals and companies think twice about embracing a programming language whose community's Code of Conduct threatens to ruin reputations and ban people from technical support resources for life? Too late to get this added to the list of questions for Alan Donovan and Brian Kernighan?