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Comment Re:UGH! (Score 4, Insightful) 372

I'm not sure if you are being sarcastic or not... That's a terrible way to create passwords: the character replacements are easy to guess and the method is so common that they are going to be included in the dictionary.

The point of using dictionary words in pass phrases is to think of them as letters of a password. A password with 8 random letters is much more secure than a random 8 letter word. Similarly 8 random words are much more secure than a random phrase with 8 words.

Comment Re:Don't be the ugly American (Score 5, Insightful) 653

I'm from Finland, where we don't have English as an official language. I think there is something wrong with Indians who don't speak English, same as with everyone else who doesn't speak it: they are at a great disadvantage in the international job market. I'm not saying it's necessarily their fault, they may not have access to language lessons etc., just that it's a smart move for people from anywhere in the world to learn English.

Comment Re:WOOT good work EP (Score 1) 307

I'm fine with the US requiring whatever information it wants to be able to fly there - every country has the right to police their territory. What I do have a problem with is that the EU just wimps out and gives the information to the US without requiring that the US hand over the same information on the americans flying to Europe. We let them have their cake and eat it too.

Comment Re:Why is it illegal? (Score 1) 574

The issue here is more of morality: while they didn't actually scam anyone per se, as a direct result of their actions, thousands of legitimate concert-goers had to pay more for their tickets than they should have needed to. In other words, they were sneaky and manipulated all these people into paying them more $.

The underlying problem is that the original ticket price is too low: if they were sold at fair market price, there would be no opportunity for scalping. The reason of course is that the point of concerts is more to promote the sale of cds and such, not so much making money directly. It would not be good pr to only play for the rich.

Comment Re:And why should they care? (Score 1) 441

the only reason someone would describe themselves like in the essay in the article is to appear smart, driven and ambitious; in essence gaming the system. The simpler the indirect measurements are, the harder they are to subvert.

Yes, that's the reason for doing it. What's important is the ability to do it.

The ability to communicate is important, sure, but is writing a fancy, bogus essay about how motivated you are really the best way to measure it?

I think it's important to show the ability to communicate with non-engineers, because in engineering how well we do that is going to be a major factor in our success. I think expecting somebody to show ability to communicate with non-engineers on technical matters would be setting the bar too high.

So writing about technical matters is too hard, so we should have the students write about their feelings and ambitions instead?

That usually takes years -- decades -- of experience post-university!

Obviously you wouldn't expect them to do it as well as a seasoned veteran, but being able to quickly learn about a technical matter and explain it in a clear, concise matter to someone without prior knowledge of the subject is exactly the kind of communication they are be expected to perform during the studies.

Comment Re:And why should they care? (Score 1) 441

With a little help anyone can write 500 words of bullshit like the "great" essay in the article.

No they can't. Believe me, they can't. I have to deal with countless engineers who can't string a coherent sentence together. The essay in the article showed a creative approach to the question. The author will almost certainly be a more effective communicator of engineering (and a better advocate for MIT) than somebody who produces a bland essay.

With alot of help then :) Personally, I found the essay to be the kind of pseudo-creative look-at-me-I'm-talented type of writing that shouldn't be encouraged for an engineering school. I don't blame the writer, she did what was needed to get in and did it quite well.

Subjectivity can be objectively better, but those who major in the sciences and engineering can have difficulty seeing that. The quasi-religious dogma of objectivity has led to countless cases of deterioration in performance (look at the gaming of hospital waiting lists in the UK for example).

Thinking too much like an engineer - you got me. The problem with many subjective measurements is that they can be gamed as well: the only reason someone would describe themselves like in the essay in the article is to appear smart, driven and ambitious; in essence gaming the system. The simpler the indirect measurements are, the harder they are to subvert.

I don't think that just saying they're motivated would have got them far in the MIT essay test. They had to show actual skill in essay writing.

I'm sure they have to show actual skill in essay writing, but is that really the way to measure communication skills in a would-be engineer? I don't think so. The biggest problem from the fairness pov is that these essays can be written with outside help. Maybe have them read an article on an engineering topic on site and summarize the main points. Or have them write a short paper like the ones actually done during the studies.

Comment Re:And why should they care? (Score 3, Funny) 441

I'm sure that a post in slashdot isn't going to make them change their policy. Since MIT has now removed the 500 word essay, it seems that it might not be a good way to measure the "drive, ambition, etc.". It seems to me that such an essay helps just as little in determining these important attributes as the xkcd capcha in differentiating humans and computers. With a little help anyone can write 500 words of bullshit like the "great" essay in the article.

I think the most important argument against the use of subjective measurements like these is that they can be used to pervert the selection system.

Here's my sample essay (in 33 words):
My dad is the CEO of Big Corp and is willing to donate millions to the university I'll be attending. So you see that I'm a very good candidate for MIT.

I agree that skills other than pure math are important for success in a top engineering school; test for those, but don't put people ahead of others because the say they're motivated.

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PL/I -- "the fatal disease" -- belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. -- Edsger W. Dijkstra, SIGPLAN Notices, Volume 17, Number 5