NPR covers Mark Horvath’s

I try and spend some time each week serving lunch at Project H.O.M.E.’s “Women of Change” with other fellow CIM Volunteers. I’m engaging some of the folks who work at Women of Change into possibly trying a project along these lines. I think Mark Horvath is onto something by sharing these stories as raw as he does. “Former Homeless Man’s Videos Profile Life On Street”

Reference Links:


Mark Horvath: haRdLy NOrMal

Online hero – Salman Khan

Starbulletin: “Khan’s tutorials display promise of broadband”.

PBS NewsHour: Math Wiz Takes Education to New Limits on YouTube


Khan Academy

What is software testing

We just concluded a lab week at CIM that was awesome. No other short way to put it. Read Jon’s post for the details.

For this lab week I worked with folks from QA exploring a tool (a MIT research project called “Sikuli”) for its applicability in functional testing. I’ll have a post sharing how well it went soon. We learned quite a bit, had a great exchange of experience across a departmental boundary, and now have an additional tool in the tool belt that we will be using in some cases.

I had an interesting mountain to climb to become familiar with the challenges faced in QA. What helped set the stage for me was a great Google Tech Talk by James Bach on becoming a Software Testing Expert. His video is really about becoming an expert in almost anything but the slide on “Perfect Testing” made me take pause (literally – I paused the video to consider the slide because it is so expansive and almost poetic):

Perfect testing is…

Testing is the infinite process

of comparing the invisible

to the ambiguous

so as to avoid the unthinkable

happening to the anonymous.

In other words, perfect testing is a challenge.

That’s quite a statement!

Bach goes on to fill in the picture around this statement. Watch the entire video for the context.

After taking part in this lab week, a lot of what James Bach said in this presentation has sunk in further.

I had thought I was empathetic to the work that is encompassed in software testing. What I found out was I wasn’t even close, and this experience has left me a bit humbled and inspired.

Online heroes – David and Barbara Mikkelson profiles the hosts of in “Mom-And-Pop Site Busts The Web’s Biggest Myths”.

I have a feeling some of this applies to becoming a better communicator overall

NYTimes: “Building a Better Teacher”:

But what makes a good teacher? There have been many quests for the one essential trait, and they have all come up empty-handed. Among the factors that do not predict whether a teacher will succeed: a graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try. When Bill Gates announced recently that his foundation was investing millions in a project to improve teaching quality in the United States, he added a rueful caveat. “Unfortunately, it seems the field doesn’t have a clear view of what characterizes good teaching,” Gates said. “I’m personally very curious.”

When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.

It was the tiniest decision, but what was teaching if not a series of bite-size moves just like that?


Uncommon Schools

Change This: Jon Wortmann: “The Best Communicator in the World”

“So what will it mean to bear witness in the future?”

They say that history is written by the victors. But now, before the victors win, there is a chance to scream out with a text message that will not vanish. What would we know about what passed between Turks and Armenians, between Germans and Jews, if every one of them had had the chance, before the darkness, to declare for all time: “I was here, and this is what happened to me”?

– Anand Giridharadas in the NYTimes in “Africa’s Gift to Silicon Valley: How to Track a Crisis”.

Ushahidi sounds inspiring.

The project is on Github.

Educational video on ‘Quants’ and their role in the financial crisis

YouTube: “Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street (Marije Meerman, VPRO Backlight 2010)”

Related: “The Modelers’ Hippocratic Oath”: I will never sacrifice reality for elegance without explaining why I have done so….I understand that my work may have enormous effects on society and the economy, many of them beyond my comprehension.

Seth Finkelstein’s Pew Research answers

Seth Finkelstein has posted his answers to a Pew survey on the future of the Internet, and Google making us stupid (or not) in a thought provoking yet grounded (which is rare on the Web – admit it!) post.

Seth – if you’re reading – I miss your blogging.

10 years of weblogging

I’ve been trying to write a riff on Garret’s 10 year anniversary piece on blogging for a while now. But every time I start, it ends up way too long. So just read his piece and come back.

Okay, did that? Because as is old fashioned blogger custom I expect you to derive context for my following thoughts from my links (did you read Garret’s piece yet?) and from what I usually talk about here.

The march towards a plethora of walled-garden-social-networks has been a drag. And maybe it will be standards that will provide us a way out of the counter-personal-ownership of data mess we’re in right now. I’m hopeful. And I hope to do some hacking along the way to try and put together some duck tape of my own.

But the important thing is here we are.

Flashback to 1999. Conservatives were accusing Clinton of ‘wagging the dog’.

We were about to intervene in the Kosovo conflict. I felt our intervention in the Kosovo crisis was misguided for different reasons than those on the RIght. I felt that bombs couldn’t be the answer.

Yes, I was (and am counting who you talk to) a peace loving hippie.

I wanted to share my view, but I realized my voice held little weight, so I collected stories that supported my opinion and added them to a headline feed.

I ran that feed of headlines into My.Netscape and My.Userland so that people who might be interested could follow.

The feed reached people around the world even though I believe there were only a few hundred subscribers. People from Russia and Kosovo sent me emails to comment.

Let me repeat that again “People from Russia and Kosovo sent me emails to comment”.

I had made some kind of connection, with people from different countries, talking about war.


All it required was a text editor, searching for interesting stories that reflected my view, and manually writing out the RSS XML and storing it on a Web host. I registered the feed with My.Netscape and My.Userland and away it went.

Today, any of us can open an account at or TypePad and do that and so much more. Everything we post to Facebook, Twitter, our blogs, our forums generates RSS and Atom. These common communication formats helped lay down what is becoming the foundation of the real-time web. Where any of us have the potential to reach anyone else, anywhere.

This very post, when it goes live, will appear in Twitter, and Facebook, and even more amazingly, Google and Yahoo! in the order hours if not minutes.

What Tim O’Reilly had called the “Architecture of Participation” and Dave Winer called the “Read-Write Web”, way back when, continues to evolve and grow.

There is still much to do for it to reach its full promise. It has never lived up to its potential to enable those who need to be heard to be heard. Human nature is human nature after all and we tend to tune into voices that resemble our own. But the potential still is there to make a connection across our own biases and our own filters. The potential and capability.

For all the negatives that still abound, all the opportunities left to explore, the challenges left to solve, blogging has helped me connect with Garret, and many other terrific online travelers across the world and here in my home town. People who I consider teachers. Thought provokers. Inspiration. Friends.

You know who you are.

Thank you to all the folks who laid down this architecture for all of us to participate, twist, turn, innovate on, and completely take for granted. And thank you to all those who have made that connection with me and enlarged my heart, my mind and world.