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Facebook Fallout, Facts and Frenzy

theodp WSJ: Users seen as a willing experimental test bed (160 comments)

Facebook Experiments Had Few Limits"Thousands of Facebook Inc. users received an unsettling message two years ago: They were being locked out of the social network because Facebook believed they were robots or using fake names. To get back in, the users had to prove they were real. In fact, Facebook knew most of the users were legitimate. The message was a test designed to help improve Facebook's antifraud measures...'There's no review process, per se,' said Andrew Ledvina, a Facebook data scientist from February 2012 to July 2013. 'Anyone on that team could run a test," Mr. Ledvina said. "They're always trying to alter peoples' behavior.'...The recent ruckus is 'a glimpse into a wide-ranging practice,' said Kate Crawford, a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Civic Media and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research. Companies 'really do see users as a willing experimental test bed' to be used at the companies' discretion."

about three weeks ago
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Is K-12 CS Education the Next Common Core?

theodp CS Version of What Your 6th Grader Needs to Know? (113 comments)

Ever thumb through the series of books like "What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know" by now-retired E. D. Hirsch, Jr. to see if your kids were missing anything "big"? With schools in NYC and Chicago rolling out K-12 CS programs starting next Fall, has anyone seen a grade-by-grade proposed syllabus or checklist along these lines showing what's going to be covered at each grade level?. BTW, Hirsch unsurprisingly supports giving Common Core the old college try, although he conceded, "Not even most prescient among us can know whether the Common Core standards will end in triumph or tragedy."

about three weeks ago
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Yahoo's Diversity Record Is Almost as Bad as Google's

theodp Correction...should be (2 comments)

with a global workforce that's 37% female and U.S. tech workforce that's 1% Black.

about a month ago
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EU's Top Court May Define Obesity As a Disability

theodp Another Case of Life Imitating The Simpsons (625 comments)

King-Size Homer: In the episode, Homer despises the nuclear plant's new exercise program, and decides to gain 61 pounds (28 kg) in order to claim a disability and work at home.

about a month and a half ago
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GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch

theodp Straight out of Dilbert... (307 comments)

...but very dark.

about a month and a half ago
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Surface Pro 3 Has 12" Screen, Intel Inside

theodp $299 and I'm in... (316 comments)

...fuggedaboutit @$799

about 2 months ago
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Loses Deep Sea Vehicle

theodp Under Pressure (93 comments)

Under Pressure: Brings a building down / Splits a sub in two

about 2 months ago
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Silicon Valley's Love-Hate Relationship With President Obama

theodp The Rich Live Differently: Garden Gnomes 2.0 (131 comments)

The rich live differently: Yard art at the DNC fundraiser home of tech entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki (photo). From the article: "While Wojcicki hosted an exclusive tech round table for 20 -- at $32,400 per head, a total haul of $648,000 for the Democratic National Committee -- reporters got a glimpse of how some of those 20 live. Even the occupant of the White House may have been dazzled by the beautiful groves of lemon and lime trees, surrounded by fantastical rolling grounds decorated with life-size florescent models of animals fashioned from wire -- elephants, zebras, bulls, kangaroos and a big pig."

about 2 months ago

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Veep Joe Biden Briefs U.S. Governors on H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

theodp theodp writes  |  yesterday

theodp (442580) writes "Back in 2012, Computerworld blasted Vice President Joe Biden for his ignorance of the H-1B temporary work visa program. But Joe's got his H-1B story and he's sticking to it, characterizing the visa program earlier this month in a speech to the National Governors Association as "apprenticeships" of sorts that companies provide to foreign workers to expand the Information Technology industry only after proving there are no qualified Americans to fill the jobs. Biden said he also learned from his talks with tech's top CEOs that 200,000 of the jobs that companies provide each year to highly-skilled H-1B visa holders could in fact be done by Americans with no more than a two-year community college degree."
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No RIF'd Employees Need Apply for Microsoft External Staff Jobs for 6 Months

theodp theodp writes  |  3 days ago

theodp (442580) writes "So, what does Microsoft do for an encore after laying off 18,000 employees with a hilariously bad memo? Issue another bad memo — Changes to Microsoft Network and Building Access for External Staff — "to introduce a new policy [retroactive to July 1] that will better protect our Microsoft IP and confidential information." How so? "The policy change affects [only] US-based external staff (including Agency Temporaries, Vendors and Business Guests)," Microsoft adds, "and limits their access to Microsoft buildings and the Microsoft corporate network to a period of 18 months, with a required six-month break before access may be granted again." Suppose Microsoft feels that's where the NSA went wrong with Edward Snowden? And if any soon-to-be-terminated Microsoft employees hope to latch on to a job with a Microsoft external vendor to keep their income flowing, they best think again. "Any Microsoft employee who separated from Microsoft on or after July 1, 2014," the kick-em-while-they're-down memo explains, "will be required to take a minimum 6-month break from access between the day the employee separates from Microsoft and the date when the former employee may begin an assignment as an External Staff performing services for Microsoft.""
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Too Old to Speak at CS Career Day, Too Young to Die

theodp theodp writes  |  3 days ago

theodp (442580) writes "After posting a screed on Why Age in Software is Bullshit ("People who love to create software will be doing it a lot longer than you think. And if you think this is something that only young people can do, you are wrong."), Dave Winer probably didn't figure on having his assertion challenged by the NY Times' Farhad Manjoo ("Do you think there's any part of coding you've gotten worse at as you age?" Manjoo asked. "Eg, maybe less open to new ideas?"). "I'm very good at adapting to new things," a frustrated Dave testily reassured Manjoo. Unfortunately, ageist attitudes in tech persist. Indeed, a presentation for Microsoft's TEALS program (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools), a fave of new Microsoft CEO Satyam Nadar and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith which aims to put computer science into every high school, seems to suggest that now even High School Career Day is No-Country-For-Old-CS-Men-And-Women. "Get good people [software engineers for college & career panels]," the presentation (6.5MB .pptx) advises its teacher audience. "Younger is good." Hey, never trust CS Career Day to anyone over 30!"
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Google, CNN Leaders in "Advertising Pollution"

theodp theodp writes  |  4 days ago

theodp (442580) writes ""Everyone gets that advertising is what powers the internet, and that our favorite sites wouldn't exist without it," writes longtime ad guy Ken Segall in The Relentless (and annoying) Pursuit of Eyeballs. "Unfortunately, for some this is simply license to abuse. Let's call it what it is: advertising pollution." CNN's in-your-face, your-video-will-play-in-00:25-seconds approach, once unthinkable, has become the norm. "Google," Segall adds, "is a leader in advertising pollution, with YouTube being a showcase for intrusive advertising. Many YouTube videos start with a mandatory ad, others start with an ad that can be dismissed only after the first 10 seconds. Even more annoying are the ad overlays that actually appear on top of the video you're trying to watch. It won't go away until you click the X. If you want to see the entire video unobstructed, you must drag the playhead back to start over. Annoying. And disrespectful." Google proposed using cap and trade penalties to penalize traditional polluters — how about for those who pollute the Internet?"
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Microsoft TEALS Presentation: "Get Good People...Younger is Good"

theodp theodp writes  |  5 days ago

theodp (442580) writes "After Dave Winer posted his screed on Why Age in Software is Bullshit ("People who love to create software will be doing it a lot longer than you think. And if you think this is something that only young people can do, you are wrong."), NY Times tech writer Farhad Manjoo took to Twitter to challenge Dave's assertion. "Do you think there's any part of coding you've gotten worse at as you age?" Manjoo asked. "Eg, maybe less open to new ideas?" "I'm very good at adapting to new things," Dave testily reassured Manjoo. Unfortunately, ageist attitudes in tech persist. Indeed, a presentation for Microsoft's TEALS program (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools), a fave of CEO Satyam Nadar which aims to put computer science into every high school, seems to suggest that even High School Career Day is No Country For Old CS Men. "Get good people [software engineers for college & career panels]," the presentation (6.5MB .pptx) advises its teacher audience. "Younger is good.""
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Solving the K-5 Scholastic Chess Facilitation Puzzle

theodp theodp writes  |  about two weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "The good news, writes Michael Thomas, is that wired kids are learning chess at an unprecedented rate. Young children learning chess from tablets can quickly become more knowledgeable than their parents. But the bad news, laments Thomas, is there is so much demand for scholastic chess that there are not enough experienced chess facilitators to go around. Could technology like RFID-tagged chess pieces or services like ChessStream.com be employed to referee second-grader chess matches, Thomas wonders, or are more well-meaning-but-not-necessarily-expert human facilitators — a la T-ball coaches — the answer?"
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Google: You Can't Handle the Brazil Defeat Truth!

theodp theodp writes  |  about two weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "After Brazil's dramatic World Cup defeat by Germany, writes NPR's Aarti Shahani, Google's experimental newsroom focused on search trends that didn't rub salt in Brazil's wounds, choosing to not publish a single trend on Brazilian search terms. Copywriter Tessa Hewson said they were just too negative. "We might try and wait until we can do a slightly more upbeat trend." It's a decision that puzzles Shahani, but producer Sam Clohesy explained, "a negative story about Brazil won't necessarily get a lot of traction in social." In old-school newsrooms, if it bleeds, it leads. But because this new newsroom is focused on getting content onto everyone's smartphone, marketing expert Rakesh Agrawal says, editors may have another bias: to comb through the big data in search of happy thoughts."
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Normal Humans Effectively Excluded from Developing Software

theodp theodp writes  |  about two weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "Over at Alarming Development, Jonathan Edwards has an interesting rant entitled Developer Inequality and the Technical Debt Crisis. The heated complaints that the culture of programming unfairly excludes some groups, Edwards feels, is a distraction from a bigger issue with far greater importance to society. "The bigger injustice," Edwards writes, "is that programming has become an elite: a vocation requiring rare talents, grueling training, and total dedication. The way things are today if you want to be a programmer you had best be someone like me on the autism spectrum who has spent their entire life mastering vast realms of arcane knowledge — and enjoys it. Normal humans are effectively excluded from developing software. The real injustice of developer inequality is that it doesn’t have to be this way." Edwards concludes with a call to action, "The web triumphalists love to talk about changing the world. Well if you really want to change the world, empower regular people to build web apps. Disrupt web programming! Who’s with me?" Ed Finkler, who worries about his own future as a developer in The Developer's Dystopian Future, seconds that emotion. "I think about how I used to fill my time with coding," Finkler writes. "So much coding. I was willing to dive so deep into a library or framework or technology to learn it. My tolerance for learning curves grows smaller every day. New technologies, once exciting for the sake of newness, now seem like hassles. I’m less and less tolerant of hokey marketing filled with superlatives. I value stability and clarity.""
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Kids Say the Darnedest Things: Achievement Trumps Empathy

theodp theodp writes  |  about two weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "A new Harvard study found that kids care more about achievement than helping others. "We were especially surprised and troubled to find how many youth value aspects of achievement over caring and fairness," said Richard Weissbourd of the Making Caring Common project. "We need to take a hard look at the messages we're sending to children about success versus concern for others and think about how we can send different messages." Almost 80% of students ranked achievement or happiness over caring for others; only 20% identified caring for others as their top priority. Could be the kids are reading Steve Jobs' bio (tolerate only 'A' players), Bill Gates' Congressional testimony ('B' and 'C' players exist to serve 'A' engineers), and Netflix's talent management philosophy (non-'A' players are unworthy of jobs)!"
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Algorithm-Generated Articles Won't Kill the Journalism Star

theodp theodp writes  |  about three weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "The AP's announcement that software will write the majority of its earnings reports, argues The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker, doesn't foretell the end of journalism — such reports hardly require humans anyway. Pinsker writes, "While, yes, it’s true that algorithms can cram stories about vastly different subjects into the same uncanny monotone-they can cover Little League like Major League Baseball, and World of Warcraft raids like firefights in Iraq-they’re really just another handy attempt at sifting through an onslaught of data. Automated Insights’ success goes hand-in-hand with the rise of Big Data, and it makes sense that the company’s algorithms currently do best when dealing in number-based topics like sports and stocks." So, any chance that Madden-like generated play-by-play technology could one day be applied to live sporting events?"
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Does Google Have Too Much Influence Over K-12 CS Education?

theodp theodp writes  |  about three weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "Google's recently announced Global Impact Awards for Computer Science, part of the company's $50 million investment to get girls to code (on top of an earlier $40 million), are unsurprisingly very girl-friendly. Google's award for Promoting Introductory Computer Science for All, for instance, sets aside $1,000,000 for DonorsChoose credits that girls who complete Codecademy and Khan Academy online programming tutorials can use to fund up to $4,000 or so of their teachers' projects. In addition to learning a new skill, Google notes that girls in the program will be able to make-like-Don-Draper and remind teachers and boys who bought them all their nice things: "They can also point around their classroom at exciting new materials and say, 'I earned that for our class by learning to code.'" But Google's influence over K-12 CS education doesn't stop there. The Sun-Times reports that Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers are participating in a summer professional development program hosted by Google as part of the district's efforts to "saturate" schools with CS within 3 years: "The launch of CS4All [Computer Science for All], in partnership with Code.org and supported by Google, starts this fall in 60 CPS schools to try to bridge the digital divide and prepare students." And in two weeks, CSTA [Computer Science Teachers Association] and Google will be presenting the National Computer Science Principles Education Summit. "Attendees at this event have been selected through a rigorous application process that will result in more than 70 educators and administrators working together to strategize about getting this new Advanced Placement course implemented in schools across the country," explains CSTA, whose long-term Executive Director joined Google in June. The ACM, NSF, Google, CSTA, Microsoft, and NCWIT worked together in the past "to provide a wide range of information and guidance that would inform and shape CS education efforts," according to the University of Chicago, which notes it's now conducting a follow-up NSF-funded study — Barriers and Supports to Implementing Computer Science — that's advised by CPS, CSTA, and Code.org. The U of C recently received another NSF grant to facilitate the rapid expansion of CS K-12 education, seeking to capitalize on "an unprecedented time for the computer science education field as funding, public awareness, and employment needs are all merging for potentially coordinated support.""
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"The Internet's Own Boy"

theodp theodp writes  |  about three weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "The Internet's Own Boy, the documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, was appropriately released on the net as well as in theaters this weekend, and is getting good reviews from critics and audiences. Which is kind of remarkable, since the Achilles' heel of this documentary, as critic Matt Pais notes in his review, is that "everyone on the other side of this story, from the government officials who advocated for Swartz’s prosecution to Swartz’s former Reddit colleagues to folks at MIT, declined participation in the film." Still, writer/director Brian Knappenberger manages to deliver a compelling story, combining interesting footage with interviews from Swartz's parents, brothers, girlfriends, and others from his Internet projects/activism who go through the stages of joy, grief, anger, and hope that one sees from loved ones at a wake. "This remains an important David vs. Goliath story," concludes Pais, "of a remarkable brain years ahead of his age with the courage and will to fight Congress-and a system built to impede, rather than encourage, progress and common sense. The Internet’s Own Boy will upset you. As it should." And Quinn Norton, who inadvertently gave the film its title ("He was the Internet’s own boy," Quinn said after Swartz's death, "and the old world killed him."), offers some words of advice for documentary viewers: "Your ass will be in a seat watching a movie. When it is done, get up, and do something.""
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Google: CS Global Impact Awards Make Teachers, Boys Beholden to Girls

theodp theodp writes  |  about three weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "After announcing that it's investing $50 million to get girls to code, it's no surprise that the Google Global Impact Awards for Computer Science are, for the most part, reserved for girls. Some may be surprised, however, by how Google is touting the benefits of its Promoting Introductory Computer Science for All, a no-boys-allowed initiative that sets aside $1,000,000 for DonorsChoose credits that girls who complete Codecademy and Khan Academy online programming tutorials can use to reward teachers and classmates. Google explains, "'Girls in the program have not only learned a new skill — they can also point around their classroom at exciting new materials and say, 'I earned that for our class by learning to code.'" Which may sound empowering to Google, but to others it may sound a little like how Don Draper established his dominance over Betty on Mad Men ("Birdie, what do you put in that freezer I bought you?"). One also wonders what pressure teachers might put on girls to get them to deliver close to $4,000 in DonorsChoose gift codes (e.g., 28 $100 codes + 2 $500 bonus codes). The Sun-Times notes that Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers are participating in a summer professional development program hosted by Google in its efforts to CS to schools in K-12 throughout Chicago: "The launch of CS4All [Computer Science for All], in partnership with Code.org and supported by Google, starts this fall in 60 CPS schools to try to bridge the digital divide and prepare students.""
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Is K-12 CS Education the Next Common Core?

theodp theodp writes  |  about three weeks ago

theodp (442580) writes "In an interview with The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton that accompanied her report on How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution (the Gates Foundation doled out $233 million in grants to git-r-done), Gates denied that he has too much influence in K-12 education. Despite Gates' best efforts, however, there's been more and more pushback recently from both teachers and politicians on the standards, GeekWire's Taylor Soper reports, including a protest Friday by the Badass Teacher Association, who say Gates is ruining education. “We want to get corporations out of teaching,” explained one protester. If that's the case, the "Badasses" probably won't be too pleased to see how the K-12 CS education revolution is shaping up, fueled by a deep-pocketed alliance of Gates, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others. Google alone has already committed $90 million to influence CS education. And well-connected Code.org, which has struck partnerships with school districts reaching over 2M U.S. students and is advising NSF-funded research related to the nation's CS 10K Project, will be conducting required professional development sessions for K-12 CS teachers out of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon offices this summer in Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Seattle. So, could K-12 CS Education ("Common Code"?) become the next Common Core?"
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Should Billionaire-Backed Code.org Pay Its Interns?

theodp theodp writes  |  about a month ago

theodp (442580) writes "Code.org's Corporate and Founding Donors page reads like a Who's Who of the world's wealthiest corporations and individuals. But a job posting entitled Marketing / Communications Intern (Seattle only, part-time, unpaid, Sept-Dec) (screenshot) makes it clear that no portion of the tax-deductible donations will trickle down to the successful candidate, who will be required to put in an unpaid 10-20 hours/week "under pressure" in a "fast-paced environment" for four months "assisting marketing efforts for December’s global Hour of Code campaign, coordinating prize packages, managing partner commitments and events in databases and researching media prospects." So, does this count as one of the "high-paying jobs" provided by the computing revolution that Code.org supporters told California Governor Jerry Brown about last May in a letter touting the Hour of Code? Perhaps Code.org is just trying to be frugal — after all, it's requiring K-12 teachers from school districts in Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Seattle to report to the presumably rent-free offices of Corporate Donors Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to be re-educated on how Computer Science should be taught."
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Facebook's Tech Workforce is 15% Female, 1% Black

theodp theodp writes  |  about a month ago

theodp (442580) writes "Facebook is mostly white dudes, writes Valleywag's Sam Biddle, cutting to the chase of Facebook's inaugural disclosure of diversity figures. "We're serious about building a workplace that reflects a broad range of experience, thought, geography, age, background, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture and many other characteristics," said Facebook, which has a tech workforce that's 15% female and only 1% Black. By contrast, Wikipedia's Baseball Color Line article notes that "by the late 1950s, the percentage of blacks on Major League teams matched or exceeded that of the general population." So, is it surprising that the company whose stated mission is "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected" is having problems connecting with the general population in 2014?"
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K-12 CS Teachers to be Re-Educated in Google, Microsoft, Amazon Offices

theodp theodp writes  |  about a month ago

theodp (442580) writes "Before they can teach K-12 Computer Science next fall under partnerships their school districts struck with Code.org, teachers will be required to attend professional development over the summer. After Code.org asserted that "we don't pursue the special interests of [our tech company] donors" — which include Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — some might be surprised to see that teachers from school districts in Chicago, New York City, Boston, and Seattle will be required to report to Google, Microsoft, and Amazon offices for their professional development. One imagines Google's recently-announced $50 million set-aside for girls may be the elephant in the room when high school teachers are asked to "reflect heavily on issues related to access and equity" on Google's turf!"
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Computational Thinking: AP Computer Science vs AP Statistics?

theodp theodp writes  |  about a month ago

theodp (442580) writes ""What if learning to code weren't actually the most important thing?" asks Mother Jones' Tasneem Raja. "Rather than increasing the number of kids who can crank out thousands of lines of JavaScript, we first need to boost the number who understand what code can do." Computational thinking, Raja explains, is what really matters. So, while Google is spending another $50 million (on top of an earlier $40 million) and pulling out all the stops in an effort to convince girls that code and AP Computer Science is a big deal, could AP Statistics actually be a better way to teach computational thinking to college credit-seeking high school students? Not only did AP Statistics enrollment surge as AP CS flat-lined, it was embraced equally by girls and boys. Statistics also offers plenty of coding opportunities to boot. And it teaches one how to correctly analyze AP CS enrollment data!"
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Girls Take All in $50 Million Google Learn-to-Code Initiative

theodp theodp writes  |  about a month ago

theodp (442580) writes "On Thursday, Google announced a $50 million initiative to inspire girls to code called Made with Code. As part of the initiative, Google said it will also be "rewarding teachers who support girls who take CS courses on Codecademy or Khan Academy." The rewards are similar to earlier coding and STEM programs run by Code.org and Google that offered lower funding or no funding at all to teachers if participation by female students was deemed unacceptable to the sponsoring organizations. The announcement is all the more intriguing in light of a Google job posting seeking a K-12 Computer Science Education Outreach Program Manager to "work closely with external leaders and company executives to influence activities that drive toward collaborative efforts to achieve major 'moonshots' in education on a global scale." Perhaps towards that end, Google recently hired the Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), who was coincidentally also a Code.org Advisory Board member. And Code.org — itself a Made With Code grantee — recently managed to lure away the ACM's Director of Public Policy to be its COO. So, are these kinds of private-public K-12 CS education initiatives (and associated NSF studies) a good idea? Some of the nation's leading CS educators sure seem to think so (video), although boys who aren't invited to the Made With Code Party could be excused for adopting a wait-and-see stance."
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Yahoo's Diversity Record Is Almost as Bad as Google's

theodp theodp writes  |  about a month ago

theodp (442580) writes "Comparing Yahoo's diversity numbers to Google's, writes Valleywag's Nitasha Tiku, is "like comparing rotten apples to rotten oranges." Two weeks after Google disclosed it wasn't "where we want to be" with its 17% female and 1% Black U.S. tech workforce, Yahoo revealed its diversity numbers aren't that much better than Google's, with a U.S. tech workforce that's 35% female and 1% Black. The charts released by Yahoo indicate women fare worse in its global tech workforce, only 15% of which is female. So, with Google and Yahoo having checked in, isn't it about time for U.S. workforce expert Mark Zuckerberg and company to stop taking the Fifth and ante up numbers to show students what kind of opportunities Facebook offers?"

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