Tag Archives: Computer Science

Pay Attention During Company Training!

Venessa Wong reports at Businessweek:

Online training technology company Mindflash on Tuesday announced a new feature called FocusAssist for iPad that uses the tablet’s camera to track a user’s eye movements. When it senses that you’ve been looking away for more than a few seconds (because you were sending e-mails, or just fell asleep), it pauses the course, forcing you to pay attention—or at least look like you are—in order to complete it.

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Bracing For A Post-Facebook Facebook

How will the company called Facebook continue to grow and innovate as Facebook the social network fades?

John Herrman of BuzzFeed tries to figure it out.

…while the internet moves fast, the world of social networking moves faster. Facebook, once a leader in almost every category it touched, now leads in almost none: it’s not the most exciting picture service, nor is it the next big messaging service, video service, mobile texting service, or news-sharing service. The only thing it definitely is is the leading identity service — something that a lot of sites are trying to take away from it.

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We Don’t Need News Summaries, We Need Better Analysis: Yahoo, Summly And The Folly of Semantic Analysis

With Yahoo’s recent acquisition of the startup Summly, an app that summarizes news articles for iPhone consumption, Hamish McKenzie of PandoDaily raises a good point: is it news summaries we want, or succinct analysis?

McKenzie’s thoughtful piece riffed off a razor keen blog post by Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer who argued that not only was Yahoo’s purchase preposterously stupid, but that the technology behind Summly represents a culture of mindless news consumption. Gun Sirer explains:

Our time is valuable, and we definitely need tools that help. And because digital information sources have become repetitive echo chambers, I would welcome tools that can extract the latent signals. “This article is really a fluff piece paid for by tobacco interests.” “This picture of attractive happy people of different races mixed together in the same proportion as society at large, sipping lattes at Starbucks, is probably an image ad by Starbucks.” “Yahoo makes outrageous purchase to get people to talk about its dying brand, and perhaps to indicate that it has cash to waste…

Instead of providing insight or the guiding light of expertise or data, Summly relies on technology that merely extracts basic facts using natural language text (this can be accomplished by cutting out the first sentence of news articles and copying the 2nd paragraph, where the who/what/where/when/why can be found, according to Gun Sirer).

And the natural language technology that Summly deploys isn’t even all that impressive. As Gun Sirer writes, “if Yahoo were to look at the work of anyone who is active in [natural language]…it’d immediately discover that this is a deep field full of exciting developments at its core. Gluing [a natural language] engine up to news surely adds some value, but pales in comparison to what cutting edge [natural language] algorithms can accomplish.”

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Harvard and MIT Complete First Course In edX [INTERVIEW]

When MIT offered an experimental online course this spring, 120,000 people registered immediately—only slightly fewer students than all of the University’s living alumni. And the class was on circuits, which isn’t exactly breezy material.

This fall MIT will take that experiment further, joining forces with Harvard University to meet the global demand for accessible education. The pioneering joint venture, edX, is a not-for-profit learning platform that expands the reach of the two schools beyond the borders of Beantown and into the cloud.

Offering a handful of preliminary courses next semester, edX will incorporate video instruction, digital labs, user ranked problem sets as well as immediate feedback and class forums. Students won’t earn college credit but, if they pass the class, will receive a certificate of mastery with a juicy Harvard or MIT stamp.

Unlike previous online learning programs, edX will be shared as open source software. The president of edX, Anant Agarwal, told me that by inviting other institutions to join, refining data-driven teaching techniques, and fostering the democratization of learning, “edX will become truly disruptive and widely adopted.”

Did I mention it’s free?

The first few pilot courses and the services attached to them will come at no cost. However, even with edX’s not-for-profit ethos, the education platform needs to be monetized so that it can be sustained. Mr. Agarwal mentioned the possibility of charging for certificates, offering premium courses, and selling career placement services.

Riffing off the wild success of Khan Academy, other digital classrooms are gaining momentum. Codeacademy, Treehouse and Udacity offer a piece of the app economy to ambitious DIY students. And the makers of Raspberry Pi want to foster a love for hacking, putting inexpensive computers in the hands of young people.

But it is the arrival of edX and a pair of the most prestigious institutions in the world that speaks to the untapped potential of community based online learning. Rewarding borderless curiosity with unrivaled resources is what the next level of education can be.

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