My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

IN WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and else­wise a recently-graduated student of Computer Science and Math, oc­cas­ion­al­ly writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: April 2)

A collection of things that I was happy I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they're interesting, not because I think they're correct, unless indicated otherwise.


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Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | On Automoderation -- Zvi concretizes much the the vague disease I was feeling around Automoderation, despite it being an eminently plausible approach to its design specification.


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Blog: JeffTK | Slack tool: predict -- Note that Jeff's implementation is of a market mechanism that's not budget-balanced, and rewards marginal improvements of the "last price", rather than marginal improvements of the "current best price". I suspect that these design decisions have the net effect of denoising the signal of predicter quality.

Blog: Schneier on Security | New Gmail Phishing Scam -- "The article is right; this is frighteningly good."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Baffling Politics

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"Weedout" Courses Considered Harmful

"The Perils of JavaSchools", by Joel Spolsky, is a wonderfully fun read for students of computer science. A veritable demigod of the software world tells a story -- ringing with appealing truth throughout -- of a tragic fall from grace in modern CS curricula...and at its core, that great deluder Java.

It's relentlessly snarky, and feels relentlessly true, as it lays out in gruesome detail the extent to which kids nowadays are being coddled and left tragically unprepared for the big scary world where pointer arithmetic, abstraction, and recursion are inescapable necessities. It's hard to read it without coming away with the sense that Spolsky has hit upon the great uncomfortable truth in computer science -- that some curricula simply fail to properly train young minds in key concepts.

It's a fun read.

But it's got some problems.

Though I am loathe to disagree with such a titan of

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Scariness and Self-Selection: A Shopping-Week Meditation

nb: For those outside of the Harvard ecosystem, "shopping week" is the first week of classes, during which all courses are open to drop-ins. It's only at the end of shopping week that we submit study cards and are assigned final schedules.

One of the things that inevitably happens during shopping week is that classes are overfull. Since almost all students shop weakly more courses than they end up taking, even classes with correctly-sized rooms end up crowded, short on chairs, and/or with students sitting on the floor.

I've noticed that this problem is remarkably bad in upper-level CS / Math / Stat courses (it might also be bad everywhere else; I just don't have enough data to say). Once you get past the intro-programming and intro-theory sequences, concentrators have almost-infinite freedom in selecting technical electives in the department, so there's a lot of comparison-shopping going around.

To make it

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Yes, you should hire college-educated computer scientists

Daniel Gelernter, CEO of Dittach, has a WSJ op-ed titled "Why I’m Not Looking to Hire Computer-Science Majors":

The thing I look for in a developer is a longtime love of coding -- people who taught themselves to code in high school and still can't get enough of it...

The thing I don't look for in a developer is a degree in computer science. University computer science departments are in miserable shape: 10 years behind in a field that changes every 10 minutes. Computer science departments prepare their students for academic or research careers and spurn jobs that actually pay money. They teach students how to design an operating system, but not how to work with a real, live development team.

There isn't a single course in iPhone or Android development in the computer science departments of Yale or Princeton. Harvard has one, but you can’t make a

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Happy Ada Day!

For reasons which are pretty opaque to me, apparently today has been designated Ada Lovelace Day? Which is kinda weird, since "October 14" appears nowhere on her Wikipedia page, but well, okay. At least it makes a convenient excuse to write a blog post, since she was a pretty damn cool person.

If you've never heard of Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace before, there are much better places to read about her life than on my blog. (Like what, Ross? Well, uh, this piece on The Mary Sue? Is kinda over-excited, or maybe just adequately excited. In any case, probably go read it and come back.)


So yesterday, when a friend asked me the other day what exactly "theoretical computer science" was, if not programming, I thought a little bit and said something like:

Well, imagine that, instead of actually sitting down and telling a computer to do something, you

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