Posts tagged Citizen
If you ever wondered what would scare the bejeezus out of a university’s computer science department, try this: In June, Google revealed that it no longer considers GPA scores as a hiring criteria.
“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that GPA’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring,” Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, told the New York Times.
To students who have been told their university grades are paramount, that’s a big shock. But to anybody watching the tech industry, such a statement was inevitable. It’s a reaction to the quickly evolving definition of what it means to be a professional programmer.
The “Citizen Developer”
When Google executives look at prospective hires’ portfolios instead of test scores, it expands the playing field beyond “anyone with a degree” to “anyone with skills.” Google no longer cares whether you picked up coding in school or just by teaching yourself, so long as you have the work and talent to back it up.
It’s a phenomenon that the tech world is calling the rise of the “citizen developer.” A phrase coined by technology research firm Gartner, the citizen developer is “an end user who creates new business applications for consumption by others using development and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT.” Or, in less of a mouthful, a non-traditionally educated programmer who uses the same skills as the formally trained pros.
Back in 2011, Gartner predicted that by 2014, citizen developers would build at least 25 percent of new business applications. Two years later, we associate programming success with college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, or with people like Tumblr CEO David Karp, who didn’t even enroll in college.
The sort of creativity and problem solving that allows star programmers to succeed isn’t exactly encouraged in the artificial and conforming environment of a college classroom. So it makes sense that Google would look outside the GPA for the best talent.
Tons of Jobs, Few Developers
Imagine if you could learn a skill that would practically guarantee you a high-paying job within months. Increasingly, that’s exactly the narrative that surrounds non-traditional programming education.
Boot camps and other forms of non-traditional programming education can afford to be cocky for the very reason that the job market supports such bravado. In 2010, there were 913,000 U.S. jobs for software developers and that number is expected to grow by 30% from 2012 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the predicted rise for all occupational growth over that same period is just 14%.
As our dependence on technology only grows, our demand for developers is increasing. At a time where the average developer gets four to five job offers in her career, that means some companies are going without.
The Self-Taught Coding Movement
It certainly helps that opportunities for teaching yourself to code are more numerous, convenient and accessible than ever. Combine that with widespread alarm about student loan debt, and you can instantly see the appeal of self-teaching.
Ryan Carson, CEO of Treehouse, said that the coding education company has reached the milestone of 37,000 active, paying students—about the size of a large university. Not surprisingly, he thinks companies like Treehouse offer a better education than traditional degrees would.
“A computer science degree is a rip off,” he told me. “I know because I have one.”
The difference? Carson says Treehouse has the data to prove whether students are ready for the workforce, something colleges can’t do. It does this through a point system that awards students for completing assignments on Treehouse.
“We’ve placed thousands of students in programming jobs, and the companies who hire them report back to us,” he said. “So we can say with authority that if you get 1500 points on Treehouse, we can place you in a job where you’ll have an 80% chance of success. And you just can’t do that now in universities.”
What About Traditional Education?
Not surprisingly, college professors believe as much in the longevity of the computer science degree as entrepreneurs like Carton believe in non-traditional learning.
However, Francois Pitt, a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto, told me that learn-to-code boot camps aren’t even competition to a computer science degree because they have completely different end goals.
“It’s not so much competition with us as a complement,” he said. “Programming is just the starting point of what computer science is about. We don’t just teach students how to code. We study programs and the problems they solve.”
Pitt compares the difference between having a computer science degree and knowing how to program as the difference between being a professional writer and knowing how to write. The important thing isn’t so much that you know English, but that you have interesting ideas and know how to structure them well, he said.
There’s something romantic about Pitt’s description of computer science’s in-depth theories. The difference students are going to have to look for? Whether they want the whole story or just a job ASAP.
“People getting into these programs need to realize that you’re not getting the same education as you would out of a degree,” he said. “Computer science is about so much more than just programming.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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We’d all like to get to know our neighbors and improve the places we live, in theory—but it’s frustratingly hard to connect in person, especially compared to the one-click ease of a friend request on a social network like Facebook.
This is where hyperlocal social networks come in—modern, friendly services that fit into our jumbled Twitter-Tumblr-Reddit-Instagram world.
There’s been failure after failure in this space, from Backfence in 2007 to AOL’s money-losing Patch network to NBC’s shuttered Everyblock service, which closed in February.
Finally, though, there’s a credible contender: the newly well-financed startup Nextdoor, based in San Francisco.
Nextdoor writes in its mission statement—which comes in the form of a poem—that “we believe technology is a powerful tool for making neighborhoods stronger, safer places to call home” and “we believe strong neighborhoods not only improve our property value, they improve each one of our lives.” Amen to that.
So how does it work?
The Hyperlocal Facebook
Signing up for Nextdoor was the most unique social network sign-up process I’ve encountered. Where LinkedIn is concerned with your professional identity and Facebook wants to know who your friends are, Nextdoor is chiefly concerned with your home address. That’s meant to limit each neighborhood’s network to people who really live there.
There are several ways to verify your address. You can use a credit card (you’re not charged). If you have a landline phone, Nextdoor’s automated systems can call you. A current Nextdoor user can invite you or vouch for you. Or you can have a postcard sent to your mailing address. I chose the last option.
The postcard was in keeping with the design of the site: simple and clean, and mostly white with a splash of green. It was one more statement that Nextdoor really was a local network.
Checking the real-life mailbox for a website was a novel experience, and the increased security made me feel more comfortable sharing information about my immediate vicinity. (I never got into Foursquare because of the privacy concerns.)
GigaOm writer Mathew Ingram wrote that theses barriers to entry could be the key to Nextdoor’s future success, and I’d have to agree. It may slow down signups, but it makes you feel better about your interactions with Nextdoor users.
Nextdoor promises only your neighbors—those with verified addresses or proven connections to other residents—can see your posts. That should come in handy if you want to post your phone number in a message about your dog or cat being lost. Privacy concerns haven’t been completely eliminated, however: Nextdoor displays where your neighbors actually live on a map.
The site’s main function is to share news and information, sorted by seven categories which range from Review (for local businesses like Yelp) to Crime & Safety. Neighbors use these categories to post about yard sales, a meeting, or news affecting the neighborhood. Other site options include private messaging with your neighbors, a master list of all the neighbors who have signed up, and a calendar of events. It’s a good way to keep in touch with what is important to your neighbors.
A disclosure here: I may be more interested in local matters than the average digital citizen. I worked for various Patch sites covering the Chicago suburbs, as well as the Windy Citizen, a hyperlocal news aggregator and forum operator. I’ve also organized neighborhood cleanups and other local activities. But even if they don’t take it to my level, I feel like many people are interested in their neighborhood. They just need better tools to get involved.
Like most fledgling networks, Nextdoor’s main problem right now is the lack of active users, though my neighbors have been slowly signing up for the network as word spreads. In my Chicago neighborhood, many were former users of Everyblock, which was based in this city. But by the numbers, most people haven’t used any hyperlocal website. A 2011 Pew Internet study found most people—even those under the age of 40—still rely on TV news or newspapers for local information.
Even experienced users like me seemed daunted at having to rebuild their hyperlocal social-media experience all over again on Nextdoor. Some of the community organizations that got their feet on Everyblock—garbage cleanup groups, neighborhood beautification associations and anti-gang activists, among others—have dedicated Facebook pages.
Facebook Groups might seem like an obvious way to organize locally. Yet because it depends on existing social connections, it’s not a great way for neighbors to discover each other. Nextdoor’s address-verification system could give it an edge over broad-purpose social networks in this regard.
Creating the Perfect Hyperlocal Social Network
Everyblock’s core strength was its automated data streams. Public records like building permits and restaurant inspections were automatically indexed into a stream along with newspaper articles, blog posts and Flickr photos for each neighborhood on Everyblock. At the time, this was groundbreaking. But Everyblock took too long to add in contributions from users to capture those offline word-of-mouth conversations where a lot of local news is transmitted.
Right now, the content on Nextdoor is user-generated. But since there aren’t many users, the conversation often isn’t there. That’s discouraging for new users who sign up.
The perfect local site would weave automated feeds and social conversations to create a lively experience right off the bat. There’s a delicate balance where an urban streetscape tilts from loneliness to liveliness. Nextdoor could be on the cusp.
Photo by Ken Lund
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Apple may be that kid who never learned to share, but Microsoft over the years hasn’t been much better. While the company has long had a healthy partner ecosystem, if you really wanted tight integration with one of Microsoft’s products, you pretty much had to work in Redmond. Microsoft Office worked seamlessly with Microsoft Windows worked seamlessly with Microsoft SQL Server worked seamlessly with Microsoft Sharepoint worked seamlessly with… you get the picture.
Of late, however, Microsoft’s underdog status in key markets has made it more amenable to a truly open partner ecosystem, perhaps best exemplified by its open arms to open source.
Nowhere is this more evident than with Windows Azure.
While the old world of Azure looked much like the image above, with Microsoft technology as far as the eye could see, the new Azure looks much different. For one thing, much of the best technology being served up on Azure wasn’t written by Microsoft. Really! I’m not joking.
For example, in partnership with Hortonworks, Microsoft has released its first public preview of Windows Azure HDInsight Service, Microsoft’s cloud-based distribution of Hadoop, the popular open-source Big Data processing tool. Another example of Microsoft’s classic embrace and extend strategy? Nope. This time around, Microsoft promises that HDInsight will be “100% Apache Hadoop compatible now and in the future.”
But Hadoop isn’t the only open-source technology included by the Azure team.
More than Just Hadoop
In the olden days, Microsoft would have put all its engineering into supporting its own technologies on a first-class basis. Others might try to catch the Microsoft train, but they’d reverse engineer their way onto the back of the caboose, with just a slight API tweak away from incompatibility. Now it’s Microsoft Azure that is adding support for Android, not to mention PhoneGap. All of which follows the Azure team’s long-time support for Drupal, various open-source databases, Linux virtual machines, and a range of other open-source software.
“Of course Microsoft supports open-source software on Azure because it’s a platform,” you argue, “and so Microsoft must support third-party technology as a platform provider.”
But that “of course” was lost on Microsoft for years. Through a personal agreement between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Microsoft Office came to Mac OS X, but it still hasn’t touched Linux. Same with SQL Server. You can get the popular database to run on Linux, but not as a first-class citizen. That’s reserved for Windows.
Windows Azure’s Open Community
Beyond directly supporting open-source software on Azure, Microsoft has also opened up its Windows Azure Community Portal to make it easy for partners to add third-party services to Azure, both open and closed. This is a big deal for SMBs and departments within enterprises that have traditionally been Microsoft’s mainstay, as BitNami founder and CTO Daniel Lopez told me:
“For customers who are looking to the cloud to run department or workgroup level apps… and who are already customers of Microsoft, the transition to Azure may be simpler and more cost-effective than moving to Amazon.
“Microsoft has traditionally dominated the SMB market. As SMBs move to the cloud, SaaS cannot meet their customization needs. They need to run their own apps – they just don’t want the hassle of running their own servers. Nobody has figured out the ‘Application layer’ in the cloud yet, but Microsoft is actually in a better starting position than its competitors (Amazon, Google) because it already has a huge installed based and an ecosystem of partners.”
Microsoft, in other words, finally groks “open.” In part Microsoft shows this by embracing leading open-source technology like Hadoop or Android, but it’s just as clear by its willingness to let partners embrace and extend Azure with other offerings. Yes, Microsoft has long done this with Windows, but it was never a level playing field for some kinds of technology, like open source.
Which is not to say Microsoft has won the public cloud. Today that distinction clearly goes to Amazon Web Services. But while AWS is sexy with the Silicon Valley set, the horde of SMBs and enterprises that have traditionally gone with Microsoft will be looking closely at Azure. Microsoft remains the CIO’s top vendor, according to a Piper Jaffray survey. By embracing open source, it stands a chance of being the enterprise developer’s top vendor, too.
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SEO Scholars education program getting results
13, 2012, under USA Today News Class was already in session one recent morning at the SEO Scholars program when a boy in a black winter coat shuffled into the expansive lecture hall and moved to occupy a quiet seat at the back. Nicole McCauley wouldn't …
privately funded Scholars program in NYC
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The latest forward-thinking digital initiative from The Guardian, n0tice.com, has just announced a healthy revenue sharing model for administrators of its hyperlocal message boards. n0tice is a location-powered Web community that combines a little citizen journalism with the future of classified ads. Owners can now earn 85% of the revenue generated on their noticeboards, while the Guardian takes 15%.
Alongside these local message boards are targeted ads for products, offers and events. They’re styled to match the forums, and they don’t intrude on the experience. Participants can post offers for free, and they can upgrade to Featured placement for £1/day (or the local equivalent). Payment is handled via PayPal, so n0tice can have an international reach.
n0tice is a refreshing return to the community message board format refreshed for 2012. It keeps the features simple, offering basic social sharing, RSS subscription and embedded media, but it mostly stays out of the way and lets neighbors share news and events with each other.
It’s a natural spot for some useful advertising. n0tice makes it easy to print out offers for posting in the real world, too, using QR codes to provide mobile Web links. The new revenue share is generous, creating potential for some real community-supported news under the Guardian’s digital-first guidance.
Read more about this revenue sharing model on the n0tice blog.
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A post that made it to front page of Hacker News raises questions about the accuracy of citizen curated news. This and more in today’s Daily Wrap.
Sometimes it’s difficult to catch every story that hits tech media in a day, so we thought it might be helpful to wrap up some of the most talked about stories. Assuming this goes over well, we’re going to give you a daily recap of what you missed in the ReadWriteWeb Community, including a link to some of the most popular discussions in our offsite communities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus as well. This is a new feature at ReadWriteWeb so we covet your feedback. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments below or reach out to me directly at robyn at readwriteweb.com.
The story about MongoDB, now thought to be a hoax, made it all around the web thanks to its popularity on Hacker News. Despite a fast response from the CTO and the disbelief of several commenters, it still spread like wildfire, causing our own Joe Brockmeier to wonder whether or not citizen curation of content is helpful or harmful (or six of one, half a dozen of the other). What do you think?
From the comments:
Here are a few more must read posts, chosen by your fellow community members.
Have you claimed your place in our ReadWriteWeb Worldwide Meetup on November 15? Reach out to our community manager, Robyn Tippins, at robyn at readwriteweb.com if you have any questions.
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Most of the time we only get one view of a disaster like the floods ravaging Queensland, Australia. Media organizations convey the news but seeing people in harms way posting reports for a crowdsourced map is a new form of reporting that gives immediacy, a sense of connection and a fast way to assess the magnitude of a disaster.
Over the past several weeks, the Australia Broadcast Corporation (ABC) has been doing something a bit different by using Ushahidi to create a data visualization of the Queensland floods that have left the region covered in water. The crowdsourced map is powered by people in the region and professional journalists covering the disaster. It’s an encompassing view of the disaster, evoking a sense of real-time drama and a full context about the flooding’s impacts.
This is the second compelling visualization we have seen of a natural disaster this week. Earlier this week, we reported an email interview we did with journalist Peter Aldhous who created a data visualization in R that shows how Haiti’s relatively low seismic earthquake had as many fatalities as all but one earthquake in the past four decades. R is a software environment for statistical computing and graphics.
The Haiti graphic provides a historical context to the earthquake and its impacts. The Queensland data visualization is a real-time reporting mechanism for pointing to events such as a road closures, emergency evacuation routes and property damage.
ABC says on a Web page about the project that it is experimenting with Ushahidi to create the data visualzation:
ABC correspondents, reporters, presenters and photographers have been covering many dimensions of the flood disaster. However, the mainstream media cannot be everywhere at once.
This Crowdmap aims to combine verified reports from government agencies and media outlets including the ABC but potentially invaluable information supplied by people like you, who simply see, hear or record incidents or situations due to the floodwaters.
ABC goes on to explain that the platform has its own iPhone app, which can be used to report incidents and see the crowdsourced map.
Ushahidi emerged during the ethnic cleanings that plagued Kenya in 2007. Citizens used it to report incidents. ABC points out that four days after the Haiti earthquake, the Ushahidi platform received 100,000 reports from the ground.
Some of the reports from Queensland are quite dramatic as they provide a narrative context with the categorized data that is seen on a map. They mark each report verified or not. That helps give some idea about the checking process that needs to be done with these kids of projects. The map may not be completely accurate. Viewers need to take that into consideration when using it, especially if they are considering traveling in the area.
The UX for the map provides ways to view the map by category, by media type and chronologically by events. It has an updated feed about news in the region.
The map may be seen in street view, OpenStreetMap, satellite view or by topography. ESRI provides the geodata for the satellite imagery.
The ABC must have its mind made up about Ushahidi. It aggregates Twitter feeds and information from multiple sources. In looking at the map, you can see where the most significant devastation is occurring. That has to help in planning where to place reporters, photographers and videographers. And it helps expand upon coverage. It’s also a service that gives ABC a tremendous responsibility to provide the most accurate information possible. People in the region literally depend on it for coordination, planning and to seek help.
Ushahidi represents the future of coverage for breaking events and disasters. This is getting proven again and again. The Queensland project extends what it means to be in the media. The service shows how critical the media are in reporting and sharing information. Now it’s just a different magnitude of data that needs to be filtered so they can keep doing what they do best – getting out there and telling stories.
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I read in The Boston Globe this morning that Boston Red Sox owner John Henry has “stretched his sports empire across the Atlantic” by “completing what amounted to a hostile takeover of Liverpool FC, one of the cornerstone teams of the English Premier League.” Bollocks.
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