The Software Sustainability Institute (SSI) is an EPSRC-funded project based at the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford and Southampton, and draws on a team of experts with a breadth of experience in software development, project and programme management, research facilitation, publicity and community engagement. It’s a national facility for cultivating world-class research through software, whose goal is to make it easier to rely on software as a foundation of research; see their manifesto. The SSI works with researchers, developers, funders and infrastructure providers to identify the key issues and best practice surrounding scientific software.
During my fellowship, I’m particularly keen to work closely with Software Carpentry and Mozilla Science Lab to highlight the importance of software skills across the STEM disciplines. I’m also interested in a broader open science/open computation agenda; see the Recomputation Manifesto and the recently established recomputation.org project.
More to follow in 2014!
Here’s a useful (draft) set of colloquial definitions for Big, Open and Personal Data on GitHub from the Open Data Institute.
Why is this a worthwhile exercise? Well, Open Data gets conflated with Personal Data, everyone talks about Big Data (yet no-one is exactly sure what it is, but many have tried to define it)…and we all should be concerned about Personal Data.
1. Big Data is (i) data that you cannot handle with conventional tools or (ii) a term used as a vague metaphor for solving problems with data.
2. Open Data is data that anyone can use; without legal, technical or financial barriers.
3. Personal Data is data derived from people, where you can distinguish a person from other people in the group.
(also, can Big Open Personal (BOP) Data exist?)
Computing is not about computers anymore. It is about living.
Being Digital (1995)
Here’s a simple arithmetic question:
A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
(the vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs ten cents; this answer is both obvious and wrong — the correct answer is five cents for the ball and a dollar and five cents for the bat)
Here’s another one:
In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
(your first response is probably to take a shortcut and to divide the final answer by half, leading you to 24 days. But that’s wrong — the correct solution is 47 days)
While we like to think (hope) that human beings are rational agents, studies such as the bat and ball question from Daniel Kahneman (a Nobel Laureate and professor of psychology at Princeton) can indicate the opposite: when people face an uncertain situation, they don’t carefully evaluate the information or look up relevant statistics. Instead, their decisions depend on a long list of mental shortcuts, which often lead them to make foolish decisions. These shortcuts aren’t a faster way of doing the calculation; they’re a way of skipping it altogether. Asked about the bat and the ball, we bypass our arithmetic and default to the answer that requires the least mental effort. We assume that intelligence is a buffer against bias, but a 2012 study suggests that, in many instances, smarter people are more vulnerable to these thinking errors.
Find out more about bias blind spots, anchoring bias, framing effects and “cognitive sophistication” in this interesting New Yorker article: “Why Smart People Are Stupid“.
Whitfield Diffie took the stand in Texas on Friday in the courtroom face-off between Newegg and “patent-licensing giant” (a.k.a. patent troll) TQP Development, who has sued hundreds of companies saying it has patented the common Web encryption scheme of combining SSL with RC4.
Enjoy this exchange:
Lawyer: “We’ve heard a good bit in this courtroom about public-key encryption, are you familiar with that?“
Diffie: “Yes, I am.“
Lawyer: “And how is it that you’re familiar with public-key encryption?“
Diffie: “I invented it.”
See the full Ars Technica article.
UPDATE: Newegg lost!?
Further to my most-read blog post (from May 2012: A set of top Computer Science blogs, 80,000 hits and counting), here’s a follow-up: blogs on computer science education.
- they focus on computer science education (research, policy and practice);
- they are of consistently high quality;
- I regularly read them.
Computing Education Blog by Mark Guzdial (@guzdial)
Mark is a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology and a researcher in computing education. His blog is about how people come to understanding computing, and how to facilitate that understanding, cross-cutting research, policy, practice and wider societal issues. And while it is US-focused (as you would expect), it is an excellent venue for the discussion of key topics in computer science education.
Teach Computing by Alan O’Donohoe (@teknoteacher)
Alan is a busy chap: as well as being principal teacher of Computing at Our Lady’s High School in Preston, he’s the founder of both Hack To The Future and Raspberry Jam, the global community of events for everyone to discover the wonders of the Raspberry Pi. His blog tracks his five-year computing journey: from improving classroom practice (listen to his Teach Computing podcasts), contributing back to the community as a CAS Master Teacher, to shaping the development of a new curriculum subject in England.
Miss Philbin’s Teaching and Learning Journal by Carrie Anne Philbin (@MissPhilbin)
Carrie Anne is an award-winning secondary teacher at Robert Clack School in Essex and a passionate advocate for women in technology. She is the creator of Geek Gurl Diaries, a YouTube web series for teenagers who want to be makers and creators of technology (which recently won a Talk Talk Digital Hero Award) and vice-chair of the CAS initiative #include to address diversity issues in computing. Her blog also covers the gamut of classroom practice, the transition from ICT to computing, supporting the wider community, to shaping policy in England.
Academic Computing by Neil Brown (@twistedsq)
Neil is a research associate in the Programming Languages and Systems Group at the University of Kent, working on the BlueJ and Greenfoot projects. He writes thought-provoking pieces on topics spanning computing (and more broadly, STEM) education, programming and socio-technical issues. He also has a second blog on learning and applying mathematics through computing: The Sinepost.
An Open Mind by Miles Berry (@mberry)
Miles is a principal lecturer and the subject leader for Computing Education at the University of Roehampton. He sits on the boards of both CAS and Naace, with wide experience of curriculum development in the UK. His blog, a personal perspective on education, technology and culture, covers a range of interesting pieces on computer science and programming pedagogy, CPD and agile practice.
Computer Science Teacher by Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo)
Alfred is a high school computer science teacher in New Hampshire, having previously been the K-12 Computer Science Academic Relations Manager for Microsoft and a software developer for 18 years. He currently sits on the board of the Computer Science Teachers Association. His blog covers a wide range of topics, including computer science and programming pedagogy, curriculum development and US education policy.
Knowing and Doing: reflections of an academic and computer scientist by Eugene Wallingford (@wallingf)
Eugene is an associate professor and head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Northern Iowa. He has been blogging since 2004 on topics across computing, software development, higher education, learning and teaching, as well as managing and leading.
Raspberry Pi Blog by the Raspberry Pi Foundation (@Raspberry_Pi)
These guys need no introduction, especially after the two millionth Raspberry Pi was sold in October! With the huge success and penetration of the Raspberry Pi over the past two years, the platform now exists for the Foundation to fulfil its wider educational objectives. A diverse blog, ranging from technical posts, peripherals and resources, to superb examples of innovative uses of the Raspberry Pi.
CSTA Blog by the Computer Science Teachers Association (@csteachersa)
The Computer Science Teachers Association is a membership organisation (free to join), supported by the ACM, that promotes and supports the teaching of computer science and other computing disciplines in the US, providing opportunities for K–12 teachers and students to better understand the computing disciplines and to more successfully prepare themselves to teach and learn. Its blog covers a wide range of topics across computer science education, programming, curriculum design and education policy,
CAS Online by Computing At School (@CompAtSch)
Computing At School is a membership organisation (also free to join), supported by the BCS, that promotes and supports the teaching of computer science in UK schools. Formed in 2008, it now has over 7000 members from across schools, colleges, universities, industry and government and is the subject association for computer science. Along with numerous high-quality articles in the quarterly CAS newsletter, Switched On, CAS Online provides the UK computer science education community with a wide range of forums, events, policy discussions, consultations and a veritable wealth of resources to support learning and teaching.
This set is most definitely incomplete — please post your computer science education blog recommendations in the comments below. You can also read some of my posts on computer science education.
If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible he is very probably wrong.
Arthur C. Clarke
When, however, the lay public rallies around an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion — the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
(reblogged from Futility Closet)