Reflections on Debugging Tips

I’ve had a copy of The Pragmatic Programmer (Hunt and Thomas) on my shelf for years but I’m finally reading through it in anticipation of teaching three programming-heavy courses this Fall. I just got to the section on Debugging and there are many tips in here that are helpful for reflecting on the mindset that novice programmers have as they start writing code and encountering bugs. A few of the tips are classics: “Don’t panic” and “Don’t say it’s impossible” – I think of student queries about whether the compiler might be broken as off-shoots of the later of these … Continue reading Reflections on Debugging Tips

The Other Reasons Small Classes Matter

A couple of weeks ago Inside Higher Ed briefly higlighted a BioScience paper, Do Small Classes in Higher Education Reduce Performance Gaps in STEM? The answer seems to be “perhaps for women”. It’s an interesting result but despite my interest in the topic what it really got me thinking about was how this is one more in a long string of “are small classes better” articles that talk about the question only from the perspective of whether students acquire particular knowledge or skills better. Obviously, this is important. But small class sizes permit a classroom experience where the outcomes for … Continue reading The Other Reasons Small Classes Matter

Finding a use for Twitter

As part of the obligatory year-end reflections, I have noticed that despite consistent good intentions, I haven’t been posting here regularly this fall. As always, I hope to remedy that as I don’t imagine ever entirely abandoning Screenshot. However, in my absence from this space, I have been somewhat more active in another corner of the internet. After some false starts and a general sense of apathy about the service, I have found a use for Twitter that seems to be working for me, mostly as a replacement for Delicious which I found became cumbersome at some point a few years ago … Continue reading Finding a use for Twitter

Next, they rise up and kill us all….

My most recent weblog post was on teaching ethics to self-driving cars, flippantly titled At least they’re not using GTA as a data source. Except…. Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto Let’s console ourselves that “there’s little chance of a computer learning bad behavior by playing violent computer games” and instead admire the clever efficiency of allowing them to get practice navigating the complexities of realistic roads. And, in this case, it does seem that they are just extracting photo-realistic screenshots rather than having to produce authentic training data, which is a cool trick. But the fact that the … Continue reading Next, they rise up and kill us all….

User Tracking Apps

There’s an interesting story out there about ads that play ultrasonic sounds that permit cross-device tracking. While this is being described as detecting devices that all belong to one user, it seems possible it would sometimes detect devices all belonging to the same family – a slightly different task but also one marketers are interested in solving. It likely depends on where and how frequently these linking ultrasonic sounds are emitted. And, as I’ve seen others note and is alluded to late in this article, the SilverPush software development kit that is largely being credited for current implementations of this technique … Continue reading User Tracking Apps

Security/Learning Linkdump

I’ve accumulated a big collection of links this summer that are roughly related to security and/or machine learning and mostly connected to personal identification or human characteristics that I’m intending to share with my senior students when they return to campus in a few weeks. Having just noticed quite how large the collection has grown, it seems kind to pull them together into a semi-organized structure, as compared to my original plan of hitting send on an email filled with URLs, for their sake as well as my own. Taken together, it’s a nice little reading list. How your smartphone’s battery life … Continue reading Security/Learning Linkdump

Leaving time for focus

This quote from a recent Chronicle article Infantilized by Academe struck me, particularly with the chaos of the end of the academic year: Our students are often more distracted than we are, and so inured to distraction that they are unlikely to notice it. As other commentators have argued, the process of gaining admission to selective American colleges now requires presenting an array of accomplishments so vast and varied that any reflection that might accompany them is purely incidental. This thought resonates with recent conversations I’ve been having with students and colleagues about the amount that students try to take … Continue reading Leaving time for focus

Counting down

I am a crazy fan of advent calendars. In addition to my physical calendar of ornaments, I’ve got a collection of online calendars I’m “opening” each day as well. Here are my favorites I found this year: Saveur Cookie Advent Calendar: A new cookie recipe each day – check out day six’s Alfajores Erik Svedäng’s Advent Calendar: Fun little widgets to watch and, in some cases, interact with Advent of Indies: Each day another indie game is promoted alongside a freebie to enjoy (some available only on the day the door opens) LEGO Star Wars Game Advent Calendar: play through … Continue reading Counting down

Applying Social Network Analysis

There’s a lot to love about this account of how social network analysis was used to illustrate a slumlord conspiracy – it isn’t just a nice example of a real world use of the tools, but the step by step construction of the network is a lovely example of data presentation. A quick and easy read that may become my go-to link to send students when they want to understand what this stuff is our networking course covers if it isn’t about hubs and routers and tcp/ip. [via BoingBoing]

Manual Publishing

In a stroke of brilliance, Florida Atlantic University produced their final student issue of the student newspaper using pre-computer technologies. Like manual typewriters, Xacto knives and rubber cement. And lots of math. This sounds like a total blast, and like a great learning experience. My favorite quote from one of the students involved: After looking at a finished page – a page that took us half a day to finish – we felt so content and satisfied. I’ll compare it to the difference between buying a McNugget and hunting down your own chicken, gutting it, deboning it, and cutting it … Continue reading Manual Publishing