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Submission + - Black Boys Were Cut Out of a 2008 NSF Initiative to Get Them in the CS Pipeline

theodp writes: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, reports Politico, are flying to Silicon Valley next week to press the nation’s biggest tech companies to hire more African-American workers — a sign that the industry’s well-documented diversity problems are starting to generate new political heat in Washington. So perhaps they should know that back in 2008, the National Science Foundation's Broadening Participation in Computing program kicked off its million-dollar New Image For Computing (NIC) initiative, which was supposed to tackle tech's racial diversity problems. "The WGBH Educational Foundation together with the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and dozens of partners, proposes a major new initiative to reshape the image of computing among college-bound high school students, with a special focus on Latina girls and African-American boys," read the abstract. But that didn't last long. An interim report bearing the names of the NIC Leadership — including representatives of the NSF, ACM, Microsoft, Intel, NCWIT, Sun, and major U.S. universities — explained that getting black boys in the computer science pipeline was no longer Job #1. "Although the NIC initiative was originally designed to create messages that target college-bound high school students, especially African American males and Hispanic girls," explained the report, "our research shows little racial/ethnic differentiation in young people’s attitudes toward computer science. It does show, however, a significant gender gap. Because of this, the NIC initiative is shifting its focus and will initially concentrate on girls as a special target audience." According to a follow-up Wired story, the NSF money originally earmarked for African-American boys instead helped bring the world Dot Diva, a girls-only website that also received funding from Google, which was launched at a 2010 Microsoft-hosted event (video). And four years later, it was deja-vu-all-over-again, as Google used some of the $90 million it's earmarked for getting girls in the CS pipeline to bring the world Made With Code, a girls-only website, which was launched at a glitzy 2014 Google event (video).

Submission + - Facebook Shares Diversity Training that's Made it 1% Blacker than the KKK 1 1

theodp writes: VentureBeat can't resist pointing out the chutzpah of still-overwhelmingly-white-and-male-Facebook releasing diversity training to help others unlearn bias. Follow Facebook's tips for Managing Unconscious Bias, kids, and your company could also boast of having a tech staff that's 1% Black! Facebook's diversity slides and references, by the way, can be found at 0.30% Black-tech-employees Dropbox.

Submission + - For The Love of the Analytics of the Game: Before Beane, There Was AVM Systems

theodp writes: Those of you slugging your way through EdX's (free) Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics MOOC course might want to take a break from your R and SQL coding to check out Grantland's Before Beane, in which Ben Lindbergh tells the story of AVM Systems, the little-known company that jump-started sabermetrics and made Moneyball possible. Ken Mauriello, whose love-for-the-analytics-of-the-game led him to ditch a trading career to co-found AVM in the mid-90's, said of the early days, "Back in the day we weren’t doing presentations [to skeptical MLB teams] with laptops. We were carrying around two enormous boxes with an enormous monitor and an enormous tower. It was like Planes, Trains & Automobiles traveling around with that stuff. Watching a great big Gateway box with your monitor come tumbling out upside down, and you pick it up and it’s rattling. ... So we’re in the hotel, saying, ‘Please lord, let this thing work.’"

Submission + - Senate Passes 'No Microsoft National Talent Strategy Goal Left Behind Act'

theodp writes: Microsoft is applauding the Senate's passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the move will improve access to K-12 STEM learning nationwide. The legislation elevates Computer Science to a "core academic subject", opening the door to a number of funding opportunities. The major overhaul of the U.S. K-12 education system, adds Microsoft on the Issues, also "advances some of the goals outlined in Microsoft’s National Talent Strategy," its "two-pronged" plan to increase K-12 CS education and tech immigration. Perhaps Microsoft is tackling the latter goal in under-the-radar White House visits with the leaders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, like this one, attended by Microsoft's William "It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway" Kamela and FWD.us President Joe "Save Us From Just-Sort-of-OK US Workers" Green.

Submission + - Showgoers Brings Circa-1985 Bill Gates 'Virtual Dates' to Netflix

theodp writes: In their 1992 book Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry — and Made Himself the Richest Man in America, Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews described how Bill Gates and then-girlfriend Ann Winblad conducted a long-distance romance in the mid-eighties: "In a paroxysm of high-tech romanticism, the two would even have 'virtual dates': They would go to the same movie simultaneously in different cities, and discuss it on their car phones on their way to and from the theater." That was then. This is now. "Showgoers is a Chrome browser extension [public beta] to synchronize your Netflix player with someone else so that you can co-watch the same movie on different computers with no hassle. When using Showgoers, clicking play/pause or seeking to a specific spot in the movie will now send out a ping that causes your friend's browser to do the same thing. With your Netflix players automatically synced, you can focus on just sharing the experience together without hassle."

Submission + - Microsoft: Every Child Achieves Act Advances Our National Talent Strategy Goals

theodp writes: A major overhaul of the U.S. K-12 education system by the Senate that would make computer science a "core" academic subject, boasts Microsoft on the Issues, "advances some of the goals outlined in Microsoft’s National Talent Strategy," a two-pronged plan to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas. Microsoft gives a special shout-out to Sen. Al Franken, to whom Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith prescribed H-1B visas as the cure for U.S. kids' STEM ills in his 2013 Congressional testimony. Smith, who proposed creating a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis to "galvanize action" in 2012 as he introduced Microsoft's National Talent Strategy, is also on the Board of tech billionaire-backed Code.org, the learn-to-code nonprofit founded in 2013 by Smith's next-door neighbor that has inked deals with the 7 largest U.S. school districts and taught President Obama to code at the White House last December under Microsoft's watchful eye. Presumably, the tech immigration goals of Microsoft's National Talent Strategy are being addressed on the down-low in cozy White House meetings with the leaders of Mark Zuckerberg's H-1B visa seeking FWD.us PAC, which — like Code.org — was formed in 2013 and counts Smith, Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, and Bill Gates among its backers.

Submission + - Melinda Gates: Facebook Engineers Have Solved One of Education's Biggest Problem 1 1

theodp writes: Asked by the NY Times if Silicon Valley is saving the world or just making money, Melinda Gates replied, "I can say without a doubt — because I’ve seen it — that some of them [SV companies] are innovating in ways that make life better for billions of people." As an example, BillG's better half suggests that a handful of Facebook engineers have solved one of education's biggest problems with their 20% time project at billionaire-backed Summit Public Schools, a small charter school operator. Gates writes, "One of the biggest problems in American education is that teachers have to teach 30 students with different learning styles at the same time. Developers at Facebook, however, have built an online system that gives teachers the information and tools they need to design individualized lessons. The result is that teachers can spend their time doing what they’re best at: inspiring kids." Some people — like the late Roger Ebert — might not be quite as impressed as Melinda to see Silicon Valley trying to reinvent the 1960's personalized-learning-wheel in 2015!

Submission + - Game About Killing Poachers Vies for Top Prize in Microsoft Student Tech Contest

theodp writes: GeekWire reports on a group of students from Nepal who will be competing for the $50K top prize in Microsoft's Imagine Cup student tech contest with a first-person shooter in which players track down and kill poachers. "Until and unless the player kills all the poachers," reads the description for Defend Your Territory, "he/she cannot progress to next level. To make the game more interesting, there will be lots of weapons and vehicles unlock." So, is this the inspiration Google needs to take their anti-poaching drone program to the next level?

Submission + - Is Advertising Morally Justifiable? The Importance of Protecting Our Attention

theodp writes: With Is Advertising Morally Justifiable?, philosopher Thomas Wells is out to change the way you think about Google and its ilk. Wells begins: "Advertising is a natural resource extraction industry, like a fishery. Its business is the harvest and sale of human attention. We are the fish and we are not consulted. Two problems result from this. The solution to both requires legal recognition of the property rights of human beings over our attention. First, advertising imposes costs on individuals without permission or compensation. It extracts our precious attention and emits toxic by-products, such as the sale of our personal information to dodgy third parties. Second, you may have noticed that the world's fisheries are not in great shape. They are a standard example for explaining the theoretical concept of a tragedy of the commons, where rational maximising behaviour by individual harvesters leads to the unsustainable overexploitation of a resource. Expensively trained human attention is the fuel of twenty-first century capitalism. We are allowing a single industry to slash and burn vast amounts of this productive resource in search of a quick buck." Hey, you don't get a $470B market cap by passing on chances to monetize infants in hospital beds with contextual ads for mattresses!

Submission + - Microsoft Uses US Women's Soccer Team to Explain Why It Doesn't Hire More Women

theodp writes: "It is not surprising that the U.S. women have been dominant in the sport [of soccer] in recent years. The explanation for that success lies in the talent pipeline," writes General Manager of Citizenship & Public Affairs Lori Forte Harnick on The Official Microsoft Blog. "Said another way, many girls in the U.S. have the opportunity to learn how to play soccer and, as a result, they benefit from the teamwork, skill development and fun involved. That’s the kind of opportunity I would like to see develop for the technology sector, which presents a different, yet perhaps even more significant, set of opportunities for girls and young women. Unfortunately, the strength in the talent pipeline that we see in female soccer today is not the reality for technology. The U.S. is facing a shortage of Computer Science (CS) graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every year there are close to 140,000 jobs requiring a CS degree, but only 40,000 U.S. college graduates major in CS, which means that 100,000 positions go unfilled by domestic talent." Going with the soccer analogy, one thing FIFA realized that Microsoft didn't is that if you want girls to play your sport, you don't take away their ball!

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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