Posted on November 17th, 2014 by Tim Heaton
I believe that everyone deserves the chance to learn how to code, if that's what they want. And maybe that desire for equality's based in my nerdly values, but it's something that's important. I've been supporting Girls Who Code for some time now, and they do real good work closing the gender gap in the tech and engineering sectors. Women in tech is an effort I've been supporting pretty frequently.
Speaking of coding, a coupla weeks ago Tim Heaton, who's involved in Morristown community service, sent me an email about what's going on with tech in Morristown, NJ. Tim's email inspired me to ask him to write a blog post for craigconnects…
Who should learn to code? Everyone.
Bill Gates :“Everyone in this country should learn to program a computer.”
Cube jockey: “The Everyone Should Learn to Program” movement is wrong because it falsely equates programming with essential skills like reading, writing, and math. In my 30- year programming career…… ”
Thirty years ago there was one phone company. Michael Jordan was a freshman at NC. President Ronald Reagan made GPS available for civilian use. The McNugget was born. And the Apple IIe was introduced — one of its amazing features was that it could display lower- and upper-case letters!
Thirty years ago it was really difficult to learn a computer language. Running a program often meant getting up in the middle of the night for your allotted run time. Programs were boxes of punch cards. Machines talking to machines was sci-fi. A phone was something shared with neighbors. To this day a computer to my dad (an ex-IBM programmer) is a room-sized monster, nothing else qualifies. A PC is just a typewriter. A mobile phone is just a phone.
Career programmers don’t think just anyone can do it.
They will tell you that you need 10 years of coding experience to know enough to be “worthy.” And this was certainly true 30 years ago. Then it took a whole day to run a program, now it happens every time you turn on your phone. Most importantly, the open source community and free online learning sites is a true paradigm shift that has broken down the knowledge barrier.
In medieval times, the Guilds were founded to stifle competition by restricting knowledge. Today it is the same. Fortifying this false barrier in technology is the notion that jobs requiring even minimal skill need certification (with apologies to some of my favorite professions): Bar-Tending, Physical Trainer, Project Management or Database Administrator. The Guilds during the Middle Ages protected their members for the same reason as today's: Job security. However, developing your ideas into a product doesn't mean being chained in a cubicle for 10 years or lugging around a stack of cards in the middle of the night. Coding is no longer difficult. The open source movement has seen to that.
To the modern programming Guilds, I agree that it takes years to understand what others have written in the millions of lines of enterprise code. I’m not suggesting that everyone should be a programmer anymore than I would suggest that anyone could be a concert pianist. The difference is that developing useful applications with code is much, much easier than learning to play the piano.
So, if anyone could code, why is learning to code important?
Because being creative is not enough in today’s workplace. To be successful you must be able execute your ideas. And you have a far better idea of what is useful than the tradition-bound, 30-year career programmer – or some dude in Chennai for that matter .
A modern analogy may be found in music. Is the artist Pitbull a musician? If we could ask Friedrich Handel's opinion – maybe not, and if we could shoot him back to Handel's time – definitely not. Today however, Pitbull is a multi-platinum artist. Same thing with technology. One doesn't need to be a computer prodigy to be a successful technologist, one needs to know how the technology works well enough to write a song or build an mobile application.
A note to Handel: I don't think much of Pitbull's music either.
It’s more important to understand the market and communicate with people, in both music and technology, than to write beautiful composition or code. Most of the successful people in technology are not great coders, but they understand enough to execute their ideas. To the career programmers – the cubicles are yours. To the executors of ideas – the world is ours.
Rosetta Stone or Code.org? – One final note.
The most amazing thing about computer languages is that, like music, they are universal. Whatever I create in computer code is understood by everyone else in the world, immediately and simultaneously. Multilingual education forgot to include the universal language: Computer languages.
Who should learn to code? Everyone who has a problem that needs solving.
Teach yourself and join the effort to teach kids how to solve problems: Code.org
Guest Blog Post by Tim Heaton
Posted on November 14th, 2014 by Craig Newmark
Folks, it seems I've won the Bay Area's Most Influential Biz-Tech Figure… (clerical error?)
(you can see a bigger version of the image here…)
And, on that note…
I thought this photo seemed appropriate. Though, it's a bit of a joke, I'm in a pedi-cab modeled after the Iron Throne in the Game of Thrones. In the Game of Thrones, you win, or, well, you don't win. On the other hand, Mrs Newmark suggests that in the Turkey chair I look like a Turducken… Yes, the Throne kinda looks like Turkey wings, and I guess that makes it a TurNerden, the tech Turducken. Anyway, Winter is Coming.
Everyone, thanks for the very kind words you've sent my way, and please remember my reference to "clerical error."
Posted on November 7th, 2014 by Craig Newmark
Hey, women entrepreneurs run more than 8.6 million businesses in the US, generating more than $1.3 trillion in total revenues (according to nerdwallet).
Breaking down silos is a great way to get stuff done. It's critical to take a look at what's already being done in an effort to create real change. Too often orgs try to do their own thing without checking if it's already being done.
My team and I have researched 5 women-run startups that are being done right now, and these are some startups that might inspire you to collaborate or come up with your own startup idea.
We think that they're the real deal. You can also follow them, or their founder, on Twitter for some insight into their work.
4 Creative Startups That Are Getting Stuff Done:
1. Soceana is working to generate social good by creating a vibrant community of volunteers, nonprofits, philanthropists and corporations. Soceana aims to create a central hub for key data analytics, personalized skills-based matching, and an engagement platform. They say, "it’s almost like a Facebook with its employee-led event planning and photo-upload features meets LinkedIn with its messaging and professional development all tied together with data analytics to create a unique product in a thriving space."
Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Tess Michaels:
2. Tock is an antisocial social app. It's both an app and game that rewards users for being away from their device. It encourages more people to talk face to face, not phone to phone. Compete against friends to see who can stay away from their phones the longest and discover what exists beyond the screen. Speaking of collaboration…
Rachel Samples is the one walking the walk behind Tock:
3. TaskRabbit was inspired by a yellow lab. TaskRabbit allows you to live smarter by connecting you with safe and reliable help in your neighborhood. You're able to outsource your household errands and skilled tasks to trusted folks in your community. They say it’s an old school concept – neighbors helping neighbors – reimagined for today.
Founder & Engineer turned Entrepreneur, Leah Busque:
4. YouNoodle helps startup founders get advice, prizes, and opportunities. Having run over 400 different contests and challenges, they try to learn more about their entrepreneurs and introduce them to opportunities unavailable to most. YouNoodle connects entrepreneurs with advisors and investors, and they fast-track startups into accelerators and other programs.
Co-Founder Rebeca Hwang's philosophy is that it's powerful to link people and ideas, and help them connect and cultivate ideas.
Folks, who would you like to see on this list?
Posted on October 21st, 2014 by Craig Newmark
Just like a lot of people, I've been playing with photography, some using a serious camera, some using my phone camera, then applying filtering.
Here's some stuff the Mrs and I did, hope you like it!
A tower, with reminder:
Rooftops of New York:
New York dawn:
Birds of the Lower East Side:
Gum trees of Cole Valley:
A view of Aspen:
New York in the rain:
Sunrise in Cole Valley Heights:
Another view of San Francisco:
[super] moon over Cole Valley, recently…
Any of these places look familiar to you? And more over on my Pinterest board…
Posted on October 17th, 2014 by craigconnects
Let’s Fix It: Why Is It So Hard to Find Ethics and Trust in the Media?
Coupla years ago, I blurted out that "the press is the immune system of democracy." That's what I learned from my high school history teacher, Anton Schulzki.
That's not working so well. We've had major press scandals recently, including some obvious failures to follow through with widely known information. A few, really egregious failures: WMD, the economic crash around 2008, ObamaCare, VA scandals starting in 2002 and the current badly misreported scandals, and the IRS failing to pursue fake political nonprofits.
With a track record like this, should anyone want to buy news?
I'm a news consumer, and I just want news I can trust. For around a decade, publishers, editors, journalist and ethicists have given me quite the education. I've never suggested how to fix the news — I just want to fix the trust and ethics part.
I see how tough the job is; people have to fill the "news hole" every day, with something sensational that might sell some soap or something.
That's a lot of pressure, lots of job insecurity, and I always want to give people a break.
Let's do something constructive, maybe starting with an allusion to an article by danah boyd, "Rule #1, Do No Harm." In that article, she wonders: "When did it become acceptable to make shit up?"
So, first, a generous and constructive approach starts with "do no harm." Beyond that, I'm looking for serious good faith in conducting serious fact-checking, and serious correction of the errors that get through anyway.
Since bad info spreads fast, sometimes virally, honest correction might be challenging. It would require repeating the truth, asking other news outlets to correct the disinfo, and even some SEO work. Corrections should not reinforce the error, a common problem given human perception.
How will news orgs start to self-enforce in tough situations?
For example, how do you catch a reporter who is skilled in making up plausible but false stories, or who relies on other unchecked reports?
How can that happen if a heavily burdened editor says, "Just don't get caught"?
That is, news orgs should be held accountable for damage they cause, just like other professionals are held responsible for malpractice.
There's hope; both the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Online News Association (ONA) are doing good work.
With this renewal of trustworthiness via ethics, we could reestablish the immune system of democracy.
No one has the answers for the hardest challenges, but the next step is to adopt a serious ethics/trustworthiness code, and then start working on accountability.
I'm a news consumer. I won't tell anyone how to do their job — I just want news I can trust. Through this ethics/trustworthiness effort, maybe we all can help the pros fix this huge problem.
Specifically, how can we all work together to make this happen?
Photo: Author's Own and Juan García / Flickr