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We spend too much on silly litigation

Lucky Me! After tortured litigation and lots of legal fees (not mine, of course), I am receiving a check for $0.47 as my payout for the litigation between Hanson and Google.

What, never heard of Hanson? Well apparently the law suit was about Google doing something wrong in how the charged or paid for Google Adwords. Which I think I might have used a little some long time ago.

But really, how does it make sense to pay out 47 cents? I am sure the lawyers (for both sides) are laughing all the way to the bank!

Stupidcheck 2

[ELECTIONS] Continuing debate on hand vs. machine counting

Just from today's New York Times:

"Voters in New York State use a vote-scanning system that can tally votes swiftly and, in most cases, correctly. Not New York City. The city’s Board of Elections uses a creaky system of counting by hand that is prone to embarrassing errors on election night." (from Why Can't NYC Count Votes?)

[EDUCATION] Is the innovators’ dilemma coming to higher ed?

An interesting fact:

"In the last years of the nineteenth century, Charles Dow created an index of 12 leading industrial companies. Almost none of them exist today….[…]… Four years after Dow invented his average, a group of 14 leading research institutions created the Association of American Universities. All of them exist today." (fromThe Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak)

The article goes on to talk about where Higher Ed's staying power has come from:

"I think that rule is going to change, and soon. Many factors explain the endurance of higher education institutions—the ascent of the knowledge economy, their crucial role in upper-middle class acculturation, our peculiar national enthusiasm for college sports—but the single greatest asset held by traditional colleges and universities is their exclusive franchise for the production and sale of higher education credentials. (fromThe Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak)

The question arises: how long will those credentials continue to be worth so much money? Every day we read in the paper about a new educational entrepreneur (yours truly included) who wants to offer valuable and relevant educational opportunities outside the University walls, to bring it to a wider and underserved cohort, and for a more realistic cost.

I love teaching at Brandeis University and hope to continue doing it for a long while to come. At the same time I believe there is a major unmet demand from Computer Science students and career changers for a super intense introduction to what I like to call Applied Computer Science, with a strong focus on doing and building products. I feel that what we are trying to achieve is a clear part of the trends covered in The Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak)

[EDUCATION] Booting up experienced technical talent who have dated skills

As you may know, I've been working on launching Bootup Academy, which will offer applied computer science or engineering programs to college students who want to supplement their studies with an intensive 10 week summer program. That's why you may have seen more posts here labeled [EDUCATION].

We're now adding an additional focus, Booting Up experienced technical folks who have never put together a web or mobile application, have not worked in an agile environment, and so may not have the right check boxes on their resume.

We think they may be interested in rapidly bring themselves up to speed, develop skills, knowledge, contacts, and importantly, a portfolio of designs and code, and actual working products. We think that with that they will be invigorated and more easily make the move into a new startup or innovative company. And they will stay in Boston!

In the New York Times today is an article: "A Sea of Job-Seekers, but Some Companies Aren't Getting Any Bites":

"Case in point: Gabriel Shaoolian, chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design and marketing company with 85 employees in New York, said he had 10 openings right now because his company could not find enough highly qualified people with technical backgrounds. “If you’re a professional developer, Web designer or online marketing specialist, you can pick the company you work for,” Mr. Shaoolian said. “There is a shortage where demand severely outstrips supply.” (from The New York Times)

Carrots vs. Sticks in affecting behavior

Instead of charging extra ('congestion pricing') to drive your car during rush hour, how about giving me a reward (a lottery ticket) for driving using less congested routes? That's a clever idea that is being tested by a Stanford professor:

"[…]So this spring, with a $3 million research grant from the federal Department of Transportation, Stanford deployed a new system designed by Dr. Prabhakar’s group. Called Capri, for Congestion and Parking Relief Incentives, it allows people driving to the notoriously traffic-clogged campus to enter a daily lottery, with a chance to win up to an extra $50 in their paycheck, just by shifting their commute to off-peak times. The program has proved so popular that it is to be expanded soon to also cover parking.[…]" (from The New York Times)

This is a really cool idea! I wonder if we can try it here in the city of Boston!

But what would it actually mean? In my experience, cars flow through openings and alternate routes in perfect proportion to the time it takes and the convenience it has. There are no 'secret routes" to avoid traffic, because enough people know them that the 'invisible hand' guides just enough people to each option so as to make everyone arrive more or less at the same time.

That means I think that the reward has to be for taking routes that are clearly inferior. Perhaps if I am trying to get from the BackBay to the FInancial District, I might take Storrow drive, or go directly through the city streets. I am guessing that during rush hour those two obvious routes are equally congested. But if I instead got on the Mass Pike and took that to the Leather district, that might be rewarded.

So a cool idea, but I wonder what actual traffic experts would say about it!

LinkedIn Passwords: Who stores passwords in the clear

I am a pretty regular LinkedIn user, so the news that some unspecified number of LinkedIn users had their passwords compromised was of some interest to me.

Here's what a recent post on their blog says:

"We want to provide you with an update on this morning’s reports of stolen passwords. We can confirm that some of the passwords that were compromised correspond to LinkedIn accounts. We are continuing to investigate this situation and here is what we are pursuing as far as next steps for the compromised accounts…." (from LinkedIn Blog)

Not that I would be all that harmed if someone hacks my LinkedIn account, but still, it does affect me. So far I have not seen an email from LinkedIn telling me that my own account is in trouble.

But, the thing that mystifies me is that they make it sound like user passwords are stored in the clear on their systems. Isn't it elementary that one does not store passwords in clear text on any server? I won't even give any links to back up this point as it is practically in Chapter one of any web development book.

So, either LinkedIn knowingly violated a totally elementary security best practice and stores passwords in clear text. In my opinion this is very unlikely.

Or, the news reports were purposely misleading because what actually happened would give away something that they don't want to give away.

What could that be, I wonder?

Happy Manhattanhenge

ManhattanSunset SmallToday (May 29) is Manhattenhenge. One of two days every year when sunrise and sunset are exactly aligned with the Manhattan (New York City, New York, USA) street grid. Just a fun fact.

" What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season." (from Sunset on the Manhattan Grid)