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Churches Use Twitter To Reach a Wider Audience 169

In an attempt to reverse declining attendance figures, many American churches are starting to ask WWJD in 140 or fewer characters. Pastors at Westwinds Community Church in Michigan spent two weeks teaching their 900-member congregation how to use Twitter. 150 of them are now tweeting. Seattle's Mars Hill Church encourages its members to Twitter messages during services. The tweets appear on the church's official Twitter page. Kyle Firstenberg, the church's administrator, said,"It's a good way for them to tell their friends what church is about without their friends even coming in the building."

Comment Re:Jeopardy really that challenging? (Score 1) 213

On the other hand, WWTBAM questions have a limited answer pool whereas Jeopardy! questions are generally open-ended. Also, much of the information that can help you in Jeopardy! questions are concealed (often with some sort of joke) in the category and clue, which would be hard to parse. Oftentimes an entirely-right answer might just not fit a category, and the category is phrased such that it is not horribly straightforward literally.

With some google-fu, I bet it would be very possible to make a bot that would do well on WWTBAM with no real AI because of the limited response pool.

Comment Point of View (Score 1) 328

I'm afraid I don't entirely see where you're coming from. LaTeX is not showing its age in lack of version control (indeed, many recently-developed software packages have none), it's showing its philosophy. LaTeX has plain text source files, not some special format, which has many advantages and disadvantages. These files have to be managed externally, such as by subversion, as you note. Both LaTeX and subversion are nerd-friendly and have some learning curve issues.

LyX...I do not think is a good option. As someone gets deep into it, they are going to hit advanced issues as they want to do various things. Howeverâ"unlike straight LaTeX usersâ"they have no experience navigating LaTeX syntax to enter stuff. I suspect that people too early hit problems with LyX, and this has been what I've discovered helping people with their documents.

If the learning curve isn't worth it for your application, the other option is Word, I suspect.

I hear that Word now has a good deal of version control features (should be lots about them in this thread and plenty of other places), maybe not quite up to what you want, but up to some level. More importantly, you say this is academic writing and if you're going to submit stuff to conferences or journals, most require Word or LaTeX, and in my field at least all journals and many conferences allow either.

Something more obscure isn't going to be worth it. I'd really want to go with LaTeX because, well, I'm a big fan, but if you don't, using System X that no one's ever heard of isn't a great alternative.

Comment Re:I love Python, but... (Score 1) 214

The class is about problem solving, not problem creating.

Seriously though, spreadsheet programs make it too easy to start punching crap in, and makes it too easy to write something that you haven't thought through. If you realise there's a better way later, it's hard to refactor compared to a traditional programming language.

Python seems like a good enough idea to me (if the teacher is proficient). It is high-level enough to focus on the problem solving element, you don't typically go through a separate compilation and execution procedure, and can even run the interactive interpreter and play with stuff. There are libraries so that students can do all sorts of things they can imagine, and especially enthusiastic students can do *really* cool stuff.

OP, if the teacher has few requirements on the course, break it down into several-week projects that solve different kinds of problems using the same language. Do some screenscraping with BeautifulSoup. Do something mathy at their level with math, numpy, or sympy. Do something cool with PyGame. The key part is the same in all of these--breaking down a problem into its various essential chunks.

Social Networks

Facebook Nearly Added Twitter To Friends List 124

nandemoari writes "It seems the world's most popular social networking site was just moments away from acquiring another — and few of us ever knew about it. A Facebook executive has revealed that a planned takeover of Twitter only fell apart because of a disagreement over stock valuations. Despite the rather miserable economy, Facebook is still looking to buy out other firms and says it could make a billion dollars a year from advertising. Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist who put up some of the money behind Facebook, discussed the deal in a Business Week interview. Thiel says the two sides agreed a $500 million purchase price and that Twitter would receive the payment in Facebook stock rather than cash — which is a common solution in large takeovers where there simply isn't the money available for a buyout."

How Google Decides To Cancel a Project 75

The New York Times is running a story about the criteria involved when Google scraps one of their projects. While a project's popularity among users is important, Google also examines whether they can get enough employees interested in it, and whether it has a large enough scope — they prefer not to waste time solving minor problems. The article takes a look at the specific reasons behind the recent cancellation of several products. "Dennis Crowley, one of two co-founders who sold Dodgeball to Google in 2005 and stayed on, said that he had trouble competing for the attention of other Google engineers to expand the service. 'If you're a product manager, you have to recruit people and their "20 percent time."' ... [Jeff Huber, the company's senior vice president of engineering] said that Google eventually concluded that Dodgeball's vision was too narrow. ... Still, Google found the concepts behind Dodgeball intriguing, and early this month, it released Google Latitude, an add-on to Google Maps that allows people to share their location with friends and family members. It's more sophisticated than Dodgeball, with automatic location tracking and more options for privacy and communication."

Comment Re:PHP? (Score 2, Interesting) 962

Python makes sense to a degree, but its trademark The Whitespace Thing might prove especially frustrating, as adolescents tend to pay little attention to subtlety, so I could imagine the somewhat-subtlety of indentation could be problematic. Maybe I'm wrong; this is untested.

In general, I like the idea of using a clean, interpreted language like python. If a compiled language is used, the interface used should make that automatic. Still, playing with an interactive session might be invaluable.

I guess that doesn't really conclude anything.

Comment Re:I'll still avoid it (Score 1) 357

Hmm. All three of those work fine in Python. The meaning of x, y, and z would affect how I stored my variables, but I would probably use something like your first option (though I would probably add spaces around the operator). I would also use something like that in C and maybe even PHP. I would only use your most pythonic solution if x, y, and z should be thought of together in some way. If really wanted to save space, I would go with the top solution of x, y, and z don't relate in some way.

Shorter does not mean better. x,y,z = 1,2,3 does not make source code clearer, as you defend meaningful whitespace as doing.


Submission + - Geohashing for local meetings (xkcd.com)

scooter.higher writes: From the Geohashing Wiki: XKCD comic #426 contains an algorithm that generates random coordinates across the U.S. every day. These coordinates can be used as destinations for adventures, a-la Geocaching. They can also be used for local meetups.

The official xkcd meetups happen every Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM. If the coordinates for your area are in the ocean, a military base, or somewhere otherwise unreachable, that meetup is of course postponed. Unless, of course, you own a boat, are a soldier at said military base, or are James Bond. If you can, record who's there, take pictures, and post them here.

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Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell