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+ - Google: You Can't Handle the Brazil Defeat Truth!

Submitted by theodp
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."

+ - Normal Humans Effectively Excluded from Developing Software

Submitted by theodp
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.""

+ - Kids Say the Darnedest Things: Achievement Trumps Empathy 1

Submitted by theodp
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)!"

+ - Algorithm-Generated Articles Won't Kill the Journalism Star

Submitted by theodp
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?"

+ - Does Google Have Too Much Influence Over K-12 CS Education?

Submitted by theodp
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 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 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.""

Comment: WSJ: Users seen as a willing experimental test bed (Score 4, Informative) 159

by theodp (#47375065) Attached to: Facebook Fallout, Facts and Frenzy

Facebook Experiments Had Few Limits"Thousands of Facebook Inc. users received an unsettling message two years ago: They were being locked out of the social network because Facebook believed they were robots or using fake names. To get back in, the users had to prove they were real. In fact, Facebook knew most of the users were legitimate. The message was a test designed to help improve Facebook's antifraud measures...'There's no review process, per se,' said Andrew Ledvina, a Facebook data scientist from February 2012 to July 2013. 'Anyone on that team could run a test," Mr. Ledvina said. "They're always trying to alter peoples' behavior.'...The recent ruckus is 'a glimpse into a wide-ranging practice,' said Kate Crawford, a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Civic Media and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research. Companies 'really do see users as a willing experimental test bed' to be used at the companies' discretion."

+ - "The Internet's Own Boy"

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "The Internet's Own Boy, the documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, was appropriately released on the net as well as in theaters this weekend, and is getting good reviews from critics and audiences. Which is kind of remarkable, since the Achilles' heel of this documentary, as critic Matt Pais notes in his review, is that "everyone on the other side of this story, from the government officials who advocated for Swartz’s prosecution to Swartz’s former Reddit colleagues to folks at MIT, declined participation in the film." Still, writer/director Brian Knappenberger manages to deliver a compelling story, combining interesting footage with interviews from Swartz's parents, brothers, girlfriends, and others from his Internet projects/activism who go through the stages of joy, grief, anger, and hope that one sees from loved ones at a wake. "This remains an important David vs. Goliath story," concludes Pais, "of a remarkable brain years ahead of his age with the courage and will to fight Congress-and a system built to impede, rather than encourage, progress and common sense. The Internet’s Own Boy will upset you. As it should." And Quinn Norton, who inadvertently gave the film its title ("He was the Internet’s own boy," Quinn said after Swartz's death, "and the old world killed him."), offers some words of advice for documentary viewers: "Your ass will be in a seat watching a movie. When it is done, get up, and do something.""

+ - Google: CS Global Impact Awards Make Teachers, Boys Beholden to Girls

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "After announcing that it's investing $50 million to get girls to code, it's no surprise that the Google Global Impact Awards for Computer Science are, for the most part, reserved for girls. Some may be surprised, however, by how Google is touting the benefits of its Promoting Introductory Computer Science for All, a no-boys-allowed initiative that sets aside $1,000,000 for DonorsChoose credits that girls who complete Codecademy and Khan Academy online programming tutorials can use to reward teachers and classmates. Google explains, "'Girls in the program have not only learned a new skill — they can also point around their classroom at exciting new materials and say, 'I earned that for our class by learning to code.'" Which may sound empowering to Google, but to others it may sound a little like how Don Draper established his dominance over Betty on Mad Men ("Birdie, what do you put in that freezer I bought you?"). One also wonders what pressure teachers might put on girls to get them to deliver close to $4,000 in DonorsChoose gift codes (e.g., 28 $100 codes + 2 $500 bonus codes). The Sun-Times notes that Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers are participating in a summer professional development program hosted by Google in its efforts to CS to schools in K-12 throughout Chicago: "The launch of CS4All [Computer Science for All], in partnership with and supported by Google, starts this fall in 60 CPS schools to try to bridge the digital divide and prepare students.""

Comment: CS Version of What Your 6th Grader Needs to Know? (Score 1) 113

by theodp (#47340929) Attached to: Is K-12 CS Education the Next Common Core?

Ever thumb through the series of books like "What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know" by now-retired E. D. Hirsch, Jr. to see if your kids were missing anything "big"? With schools in NYC and Chicago rolling out K-12 CS programs starting next Fall, has anyone seen a grade-by-grade proposed syllabus or checklist along these lines showing what's going to be covered at each grade level?. BTW, Hirsch unsurprisingly supports giving Common Core the old college try, although he conceded, "Not even most prescient among us can know whether the Common Core standards will end in triumph or tragedy."

+ - Is K-12 CS Education the Next Common Core?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "In an interview with The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton that accompanied her report on How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution (the Gates Foundation doled out $233 million in grants to git-r-done), Gates denied that he has too much influence in K-12 education. Despite Gates' best efforts, however, there's been more and more pushback recently from both teachers and politicians on the standards, GeekWire's Taylor Soper reports, including a protest Friday by the Badass Teacher Association, who say Gates is ruining education. “We want to get corporations out of teaching,” explained one protester. If that's the case, the "Badasses" probably won't be too pleased to see how the K-12 CS education revolution is shaping up, fueled by a deep-pocketed alliance of Gates, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others. Google alone has already committed $90 million to influence CS education. And well-connected, which has struck partnerships with school districts reaching over 2M U.S. students and is advising NSF-funded research related to the nation's CS 10K Project, will be conducting required professional development sessions for K-12 CS teachers out of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon offices this summer in Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Seattle. So, could K-12 CS Education ("Common Code"?) become the next Common Core?"

+ - Should Billionaire-Backed Pay Its Interns?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "'s Corporate and Founding Donors page reads like a Who's Who of the world's wealthiest corporations and individuals. But a job posting entitled Marketing / Communications Intern (Seattle only, part-time, unpaid, Sept-Dec) (screenshot) makes it clear that no portion of the tax-deductible donations will trickle down to the successful candidate, who will be required to put in an unpaid 10-20 hours/week "under pressure" in a "fast-paced environment" for four months "assisting marketing efforts for December’s global Hour of Code campaign, coordinating prize packages, managing partner commitments and events in databases and researching media prospects." So, does this count as one of the "high-paying jobs" provided by the computing revolution that supporters told California Governor Jerry Brown about last May in a letter touting the Hour of Code? Perhaps is just trying to be frugal — after all, it's requiring K-12 teachers from school districts in Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Seattle to report to the presumably rent-free offices of Corporate Donors Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to be re-educated on how Computer Science should be taught."

+ - Facebook's Tech Workforce is 15% Female, 1% Black

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Facebook is mostly white dudes, writes Valleywag's Sam Biddle, cutting to the chase of Facebook's inaugural disclosure of diversity figures. "We're serious about building a workplace that reflects a broad range of experience, thought, geography, age, background, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture and many other characteristics," said Facebook, which has a tech workforce that's 15% female and only 1% Black. By contrast, Wikipedia's Baseball Color Line article notes that "by the late 1950s, the percentage of blacks on Major League teams matched or exceeded that of the general population." So, is it surprising that the company whose stated mission is "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected" is having problems connecting with the general population in 2014?"

+ - K-12 CS Teachers to be Re-Educated in Google, Microsoft, Amazon Offices

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Before they can teach K-12 Computer Science next fall under partnerships their school districts struck with, teachers will be required to attend professional development over the summer. After asserted that "we don't pursue the special interests of [our tech company] donors" — which include Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — some might be surprised to see that teachers from school districts in Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Seattle will be required to report to Google, Microsoft, and Amazon offices for their professional development. One imagines Google's recently-announced $50 million set-aside for girls may be the elephant in the room when high school teachers are asked to "reflect heavily on issues related to access and equity" on Google's turf!"

If this is timesharing, give me my share right now.