Monday, January 31, 2011

mwahaha rfid "for pets"

>__> <__<

Education (response to two The Tech articles)

The following is in response to

Opinion: Can we make government more efficient? The U.S. government is unique in its inefficiency in providing services (By Keith Yost)
Opinion: In schools, effectiveness does not equal experience (By Ryan Normandin)
 but should require reading of neither.


Although Normadin raises valuable and valid points in the 26 January article "Opinion: In schools, effectiveness does not equal experience," I dislike what I feel is the overemphasis in discussion of education reform on the issue of what teachers have done wrong and teacher tenure.  I also disagree with the approach that Yost takes in "Opinion: Can we make government more efficient?" (published on the same day). Both articles look primarily at the stick (rules) or how to better apply the stick ("The size of these cuts is appropriate, but the method matters as much as the magnitude"). As Barry Schwartz says in his short talk "Practical Wisdom" : "like water, they [smart people] will find cracks in any set of rules." But neither am I saying that we should look for more carrots. We need both, but the root problem lies in neither.

Schwartz [and presumably Kenneth Sharpe, his co-author on Practical Wisdom] describes the preceding approaches as either enacting "more and more rules to protect us against an indifferent, uncaring set of institutions" or coming up with "the magic incentives that will get people to do the right thing even out of pure selfishness." He argues persuasively that, instead, we need people who possess Aristotle's concept of practical wisdom: the "moral will to do the right thing and the moral skill to figure out what the right thing is." We can't just "give teachers scripts to follow in the classroom, so even if they don't know what they're doing and don't care about the welfare of our kids, as long as they follow the scripts, our kids will get educated."

Although I'm skeptical that "unions are a large part of the reason why education reform often fails to make headway" (Yost), the larger point I would like to make is that "if there is one thing all educators know ... it is that there is no single answer to educational improvement" (Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System (available at MIT Libraries)). "If we want to improve education, we must first of all have a vision of what good education is ... [what] we want for our children and our society."

Zoe Weil proposes a vision in her talk "The World Becomes What You Teach." She asks the audience to do a thought experiment, where we imagine that all students graduate from high school, pass the No Child Left Behind tests, and find jobs when they exit the school system. Would we have succeeded at our goals for schooling? No! The problems that we face today and into the future will not be solved this way, especially not if we rest our hopes on creating jobs with rules and incentives that will lead to the solutions we need.  Rules and incentives
"demoralize professional activity: they demoralize the people who are engaged in the activity [who replace human judgment with rules] ... and second they demoralize the activity itself. The very practice is demoralized, and the practitioners are demoralized... It creates people who only do things for incentives" (Schwartz). 
Rather, we need to
"provide every student with the knowledge, the tools, and the motivation to be conscientiousness choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a restored and healthy and humane world for all. Or another way of putting it: I believe that we need to graduate a generation of solutionaries" (Weil).
Ravitch concludes that, in addition to a vision, we need "an excellent curriculum [0], appropriate assessments [targeting areas for help, not punishment], and well-educated teachers," schools with appropriate resources, and families [1] that "do their part to get children ready for school."

The forest of intertwined issues (discrimination, poverty, income inequality, culture, ...) lying behind education may cause us to wonder how we can make a difference. But I take heart from Paul Polak's strategy as relayed to my by a friend: Address one issue, and address it well. The other issues, being interlinked, will improve as well. [2] I also believe (and do correct me if you disagree) that, in many cases, the best practice is to start change in single community, and when scaling comes up, consider that no solution works everywhere. Rather than solving how to force a known solution upon x schools in y years, consider solving how to support and speed up the diffusion of ideas and a culture of improvement from school to school across the area (x schools), changing "one school at a time." [3]


[0] Why curricula? A curriculum serves as the roadmap. "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there" (Alice in Wonderland). Also note that "it is ... federal law that the U.S. Department of Education is not permitted to impose any curriculum on the schools. Thus, any national curriculum must be both nonfederal and voluntary, winning the support of districts and states because of its excellence." (Ravitch).

[1] On the importance of families, see "fourth-grade slump" (specifically Chall and Jacobs, 2003), or better yet read Why Don't Students Like School? (Willingham, 2009) (available at MIT via request from the Boston Library Consortium).

[2] Do beware of "educationalizing" issues. See

[3] Consider: does antagonizing teachers help this latter process?


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Real women build their machine shops from scrap metal

By the power of MIT libraries (and their speedy ordering system) I bring to you the fact that Real Women build their machine shops from scraps :)


The author:

The publisher:

The yahoo group (started in 2000):

Instructables Book 2 "The Lathe":

Anyway, all 7 books are now available at MIT Libraries after I finish skimming them.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

if I won 1 million in the lottery today

I would:
Set aside 500,000 for taxes / legal fees.

  1. 300,000: 
    1. pay off my education (I feel very indebted to MIT, Delta Community Credit Union, Girls Inc / Coca Cola, Joy Choi Foundation, 
    2. pay off any other outstanding loans my family has
  2. 150,000:
    1. 100,000: invest in financial market thingy, make sure I will be able to care for my immediate family, current and future
    2. 40,000: for extended family investments in education, particularly for girls
    3. 50,000: donations within the next 5 years
      1. 5,000+: donations for Peachtree Ridge students
  3. 50,000:
    1. 10,000 for fun projects / R&D / learning
      1.  dancing hexapod :D
    2. 5,000 for books for myself
      1. All those programming books
      2. recent: Half the Sky, The Death and Life of the Great American School System,  Cory Doctorow's books, Out of Poverty, Yunus' books, Gladwell's books, Small is Beautiful, MIT history books, ...
      3. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Visual Display of Quantitative Information
      4. historical: The End of Poverty, The White Man's Burden,
    3. 15,000 for family outings, personal travel
    4. 3,000 for lobbying for things
    5. 2,000 for hall (2nd west, pi tau zeta, putz) projects
      1. welder
      2. 3d printer, mini-mill and mini-lathe
      3. oscilloscope, 
      4. better kitchen storage solutions
    6. 15,000 for emergency funds for immediate family

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Orientation: Proposed Changes, 2011

The latest furor (although it doesn't seem to be as viral as dining reform) among the East Campus troublemakers' faction (not actually, though sometimes I wonder if that's what MIT administration thinks of us, especially after reading Dean Julie Norman's comments) is over proposed changes to Orientation, namely, shortening it.

My conclusion: Dean Julie Norman, on behalf of the Chancellor, agrees that Orientation should help students feel like part of a greater MIT class / community, and values that over having REX events (although she still values living group informed decisions because sad people do poorly academically), while East Campus (Fred/S.Haus/Rand) students and the West Campus students I know strongly value living group communities (regardless of class year). Also, there is a window of a few weeks to effect changes.
[Edit 29 Jan] Jackie, a putz alum, brings up an interesting point, we might be able to tell if this is actually the case (as opposed to worries that frosh are tired when they start classes) by asking if they might approve of randomized housing or freshman-specific housing.
And Brian comments that Dean Norman didn't sound defensive about shortening REX, almost like the administration believes they are making an improvement with little downside.
BTW, REX is very roughly analogous to Rush, but for MIT dorms. All MIT freshman must live on campus their first semester. [/edit]

As a peacemaker, I would like to point to Dean Norman's closing statement:
“I think we all share the same values — we want to welcome students, and have them be ready to find the right residence or community for them.”
[Edit 29 Jan] Also, speculation and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) is terrible, I should keep my fingers crossed that Chancellor Clay will come out with a reasonable explanation for this (which may be entirely unrelated to dorm culture). [/edit]

Some highlights in bold (from the draft UA [Undergraduate Association] minutes):
[Edit 29 Jan] 1 page summary available. Also, final version of minutes will be released 7 Feb, [/edit]
(and please view my snarky comments in light of the fact that these people didn't have time to sit in front of a computer and craft what they were going to say)

Tim J: Concerning the Chancellor’s charge, when he approached the UAAP and asked to revisit Orientation with the idea of making it shorter, were there any comment about budgets or costs coming from the Orientation, coming from the Chancellor?

Norman: No, it’s not motivated solely by resources. Let me be honest. In my budget, I will save no money. The greatest expense is feeding freshmen, and we’re still feeding freshmen. We will not save  money in that sense. If we look at the resources of all of these stakeholders, all of the resources and spaces, the institute will save money. ... We’re sort of increasing the efficiency of all of our resources

James: James, East Campus. So, earlier, when we asked if money is a big issue, you said no – just overall. So, if money isn’t the main motivation, what is the main motivation?

Norman: It’s a problem in that, we see students losing their energy and participation. Faculty are concerned that, by the time they arrive at class, they’re worn out. The Chancellor has asked us to step back and say what is essential and critical.

James: So, it’s a student health thing,
Norman: It’s health and other student related matters
Pranjal: freshman, East Campus: We didn’t get burned out because it was too long. Rather it was more  because it wasn’t long enough. In such a short amount of time, we had to do my FPOP, 12 dorms, and so and so forth.

Norman: That’s the fundamental question of what is it you must do to find the right activities vs. what are some of the activities that are not relevant

Will: What would you consider then, a failure? What are you trying to avoid?

pg8 Norman: Those values that we put up there are what we believe should be in Orientation, that has not changed from past Orientation. What would I view as a failure? I think someone that has taken advantage of touring the dorm, someone that doesn’t feel like their part of the class and to the community, etc. I see that person as someone that is lost on Day 1.

(lolwut? You don't build a community of 10,000 people, you build communities of ~150 (says gladwell) and link them together...)

Paula: Paula, senior. I was rush chair this past year. As far as CPW goes, and student opinions, there is talk at Senior House every year about how we shouldn’t even participate because we’re just being the work horse of the institute. They’re  just going to come here because they think we’re cool not because the institute is cool.

lol senior haus  :)

Norman: I’ve said to you before, I want these freshmen to be living in the right place. They need to be at home. If they’re not, they’re not going to be good academically.

Well, if we're not at home, i think poor academics are a symptom, and mental sad faces are the actual consequence.

Donald: Donald Guy. The question is if the institute considers housing options as a priority.
(question wasn't ever really answered)

Anonymous: How set in stone is this schedule? Will we have time to make decisions, or is this futile?

Norman: I will not say it’s futile. I think we need to step back now and see what are our foundational things are. The feedback from your representatives, UA, DormCon, etc. will be helpful. It can’t be next April or May; it has to be the next couple of weeks.

Very interesting:
Mission Statement:
The mission of the MIT Orientation program is to assist new students in their transition to MIT by providing programs and services which outline the Institute’s academic requirements as well as social/developmental opportunities and to welcome students to the MIT community, introducing them to each other, upper-class students, staff, and faculty.
Essential to Orientation:
• Academic exposure and knowledge in preparation for registration
• Ability to navigate MIT
Class identity and a sense of overall community
(no mention of living group identity)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

send techcash to fellow students. daily recipes

TechCash: almost everyone at MIT has it. Should be able to pay each other TechCash online. That way, can pay exact amounts (no more splitting a pizza and realizing everyone has twenties)

[Edit 2 Feb 2011]
I sent an email.
Sun, Jan 16, 2011 at 3:58 AM
Feature req: send techcash to fellow MIT students
reciever: techcash
It would be very convenient if we could send techcash to fellow MIT students, ideally with low or no transaction costs. Almost everyone uses TechCash, and this could be an awesome solution to the ubiquitous "Well, we bought a pizza, but everyone only has $20 bills" problem. 
Further down the road, an API for Tech Cash would be amazing, although I have no idea how security and everything would work, and whether it's silly to have PayPal but for MIT.If such a feature is in the works, please let me know.
Well, mitcard responded that they're exploring these ideas with the TechCash vendor. They've also explored an API for years but found the cost prohibitive. Ah well.

Next step for me:


Medical / S^3 / Health:
Should have recipe(s) of the day, or weekly groceries. So people like me who are too lazy to pick food don't have to think too much and I can cook with a group of friends and eat. Provide telephone support (or forum? like woot? or chat) so people can ask question about modifying the recipe.

(sell daily cooking "kits" with fresh ingredients and fruit? contract with local farms?)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MIT Libraries, tips and tricks Use Worldcat search, no one uses Barton search. Integrates book requests, and is generally awesome.

Finding books that MIT Libraries doesn't own:
Boston Library Consortium (BLC Request): 2-3 days. Pick up at MIT Libraries.
Minuteman network: Does not deliver to MIT. Pickup at any of the Cambridge Public Library locations (closest one, O'Connell, is closed for now. Others may be close to EZRide. Central Branch has the longest hours). Must apply for card in person.
Boston Public Library: Does not deliver to MIT. Right across the river. Can get an E-Card online and access for online books (of course, they're all DRM'd like crazy and it's ***  err "fun" getting them to work on Ubuntu).

Also available: request books that you think MIT Libraries should own.

Proquest library (O'Reilly books, including Confessions of a Public Speaker):

New Year, New Project: Education || post-in-progress

UPOP challenge: marketing engineering to high schoolers
Interesting: PLoS December 2011, EPICS service learning program in high schools, started / expanded from Purdue University (which supports teacher training with grants).

However, if truly aiming for broad coverage, our solution settled on mandatory engineering class for high school graduation, for freshmen / sophomores. (PLoS Dec. 2011, if I remember correctly, some 35 states have passed mandates for service learning). Because: a program where college students volunteered in weekend programs would be nice, but in some areas, no engineering universities, nor universities, and in some cases not even engineering companies are located near high schools.

Also, the EPICS program people are optimistic that even non-technically oriented high-schoolers can, at that point in their life, choose engineering and succeed. 

I, influenced by the people I've talked to, take the view that changing elementary school education is faster and easier. To really change high school or university, will come back to elementary school education.

I also am currently of the opinion that, "if students don't even know Algebra 1, it will be hard for them to engineer and work on cool projects (DIY movement, Instructables, MAKE), and students will be more easily discouraged."

I choose not to tackle policy myself, since I fear my passion will burn out before anything changes. Rather, I would like to play the role of a negotiator and get more people talking and realizing that all sides need to give to reach a consensus. I also think that there are no magic-bullet one-size-fits-all solutions. Each school needs to take it's own time to implement what they decide is best. I also want to be flexible and adjust my  list of best practices as I learn more.

First steps: 
Read more. Checked out: The Death and Life of the Great American School System (history), Work Hard Be Nice (founding a school / group of schools)
Done reading: One Day, All Children (story of the founding of the Teach For America movement from the perspective of a Princeton senior / just-graduate). The Tipping Point (the spread of ideas).
To check out: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

best practices in international development || post-in-progress

Three case studies:
Enron pipeline. NGO: tells enron, keep pipeline away from communities, preserve their culture. Cultural anthropologist says that when he visits, the villagers want the pipeline to come. (where is the disconnect? why did they not get buy-in?) (because we're human)

Malawi fertilizer. Government successfully promotes fertilizer use by optimizing subsidy program. Great, farming yields go up, people lifted out of poverty. But perhaps the fertilizer is actually chemically based. Twenty years from now, the land turns out to be ruined.

Community, the young generation: want TV. But other (very close-by) community, the older generation there says that TV has replaced original culture. (but cultural changes happen all the time. people in the US were afraid of the radio, that it would replace singing on the porches. people in the US are afraid of the internet, instead of being united by TV, we are split everywhere.) (So I come down on the side of technological change, but is that because I am young? As I learn more, will I naturally come to the conclusion that local is everything?)

Tolstoy answered some of my questions in his short story:
It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.
(credit to "What Tolstoy said to the development worker,", for talking about "analysis paralysis" and linking to Tolstoy's story)

("Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"塞翁失马) (google for the full story, e,g.

The only thing I can do: a holistic optimization. It takes a long time to do so properly, and not on scales of student time, but real-life time, where a year is nothing. (yet a year is everything -- funding, competitions, gathering support, finding a team, momentum).

We play the role of bringing knowledge to a community, not making their decisions for them. "Stakeholder analysis"
I'm not some savior, even if I'm sacrificing our time, money, effort -- my life -- ultimately, it cannot be about me.
Even if we are hardworking, intelligent, skilled -- but we aren't not open minded, then we can't always reach a consensus within a reasonable timeframe. (UPOP and Leadershape, both gave me newfound respect for and insight into the difficulties of being a negotiator, and common failing points. And watching William Ury's TED talk, his happiness amazes and inspires me).

Support from the community is essential. In the Malawi case, if I was the program director. If the community knew I tried my best, if they agreed with my decision at the time, even if both they and I were completely unaware that more research needed to be done. Well, at the end, we are still friends, and we can move forward and fix and learn from our failures. But if we didn't agree, at the end, we are enemies, and then I can't do anything to help the community. I can try to fix the consequences of my failure, but likely anything I do still won't be enough in the eyes of the community.

What I thought D-Lab Dissemination would be about:
studying how to distribute knowledge, how to scale. Studying questions such as why, even though the cure for tuberculosis was developed 60 years ago, tuberculosis still kills millions of people today. I suspect that what's needed is a ton of hard work.

instead: case studies of cool projects, also work on our own projects (developing and submitting a proposal) (fun class still)

Everything is interconnected. That doesn't mean that it's hopeless if we don't change everything all at once (e.g. health, education, income). Rather, (according to Paul Polak) it means that if we focus all our attention and really effect positive change in one area (e.g. income) the others will change as well (more income, spend more on health, more health, more education, more education, more income...). (e.g. Paul Polak, focused on income, worked on irrigation, now two harvests, one in the dry season with crops worth more, health goes up, ...)

Where I can go from here: pick a community, any community. Listen to them, find what they need. I will pick up the skills along the way, driven by my passion. (not "Can I" but "I will").

What I'm worried about: Not being capable of hard work. Not being skilled enough. Being a daydreamer and not a doer. (stop worrying so much and just do?) (am I destined to be a HASS major and never learn technical skills? For Leadershape, I picked elementary school education, specifically changing attitudes and collecting best practices, not any concrete technical magical bullet. Who am I to try to change this, anyway? And I certainly won't be learning skills to work on cool MEETERS-worthy projects while I do that, which in theory to accomplish I should be spending all my time on) (stop worrying! just do what I want to do at this moment in time, and be happy)

One measure of the success of an NGO:
If, over time, it has shifted from being mostly outsiders to being mostly community members.
For any group of people, outsiders (people from community who connect to outside world, and/or people who come in from outside world) are needed to bring in fresh knowledge and skills. However, for those knowledge and skills to persist, need to be community based. Either teach people the skills, or enable them

Talk more to people at MIT, because everyone here is amazing and open and helpful.

Perhaps the answers to the things I want to learn can't be taught. They can only be learned; I can only learn by doing.

In conclusion:"Just Do It."

Friend recs vs. IMDB / Rotten Tomatoes, Yelp, other ratings sites

Does anyone else routinely use IMDB or Yelp to pick from selections, as opposed to friend recommendations?

I suppose that when I get friend recs, I treat them fairly highly. Perhaps I need to investigate what would happen if I solicited more recs from friends: does a point exist where my list of movies to watch would be mostly friend-based?

More likely, I think that I would only really value the recs from a few friends, and those friends wouldn't have enough Highly Rated movies between them to saturate my To Watch list.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

IAP 2011: chopsticks and toy top (blacksmithing and MITERS lathe)

Blacksmithing is awesome. I had 2 hours of instruction (safety and demo), 1 hour of hands-on time, and then I made these chopsticks in 1.5 hours today. They're super easy to make. Hot metal has the consistency of clay, and we used modelling clay (or something similar) to model blacksmithing operations.

So, in conclusion, random blacksmithing is not difficult, all you do is heat up the metal and work it.
It's (a) the setup can be expensive or time-consuming and (b) getting good at blacksmithing takes infinite time.

Also, to learn / refresh on lathe-work, I made two wooden tops.

Monday, January 10, 2011

IAP todo

first: super sekret site
then by easy -> hard: Putz wiki, La Vaquita, Jiu Jitsu website (mad work)

Blacksmithing, zombie 6.001.
(UPOP, Leadershape, 2.670)

2.007 prep: hexbot design, 6.091 teach self.

Punted: DIYbio version of SynBUM IAP class.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yay! Engineering For Change allows for global brainstorming and one place for ideas

Just as I was spending so much time thinking of ways to meet the need of sharing knowledge around the world (instead of scattered in wikis and small websites and archives of peace corps / world food organization archives and ... ), and connecting people face-to-face, comes out. 

I'm still exploring the site (see workspace at and it's not immediately obvious if it has all the features I would like. It's interesting the differences between how I imagined a design would work, and how E4C is implemented.

I am most concerned about the issues most pressing for me: keeping knowledge flowing inside a loose group of students / people, and making sure it's not stuck inside email. I'm not sure I like the "discussion, whiteboard, activities" format, mainly because of presentation and navigation concerns. There's no "search within this workspace" so far as I can tell, and no way to limit read or write access. So it may not be suited yet as the end-all-be-all for my needs.

For reference, I sent this email on 12/19/2010, 3:32 AM:
MIT Global Challenge Website is awesome! It is a great way for teams to get publicity and for people to meet people.

However, there's another related unmet need. Whether this falls inside MIT GC's vision (integrate this functionality, or create new site) or not, I'm not sure. (Temporarily, calls this site "EXPflow" for experience flow)

I was talking to g.g. about the need for a way to keep information flowing from student to student inside a team, and from team to team related to a topic or skill. Issues:
  • A lot of stuff is stuck in someone's email *
  • the PSC requires team documentation but doesn't allow anyone to see it (related: teams aren't motivated to create quality documentation)
  • this info is also not shared with people outside of mit (publicity) (contributing to community, who will then contribute to us, we figure out best practices and get to more effectively help people)
  • a lot of information is not passed on from student to student because people are too lazy or hosed to ask for it / find it (not centralized).

thoughts on the design of EXPflow:
  • you create a team ("project"?) 
  • associated email archiving created automatically (cc all your relevant emails) or better yet, just create a mailing list, use some existing code library for searching / navigating / displaying Mailman archives and integrate
    • pro to just creating or separately having an email address to cc (former option) is, you have flexibility of privacy control -- maybe a subset of conversations would be suitable to general public, not just your team?
    • also, definitely not stick with default mailman navigation, because it's terrible to search for something and you can't view all replies to a topic as a "conversation" all on one page
  • tags, mainly for location and topic
    • perhaps make location and topic tags mandatory
    • allow for tag hierarchy, e.g. recognition that La Vaquita and Guatemala are both projects in mexico, so someone can search for "mexico" and get both these results.
      • this "duh location hieararchy" tags should be automatic if possible (aka county or province info added automatically) and possibly invisible (not user-added, don't need to see a zillion "province a" province b" tags (so maybe they don't fit 100% with "tag" concept) 
      • user should still be able to group tags under a single tag, e.g. if there's a new group "alliance of farmers in southern mexico"
      • Topics should be similar... 
    • now, people can search for "what have people done in watsan" or "what projects in zimbabwe can i join, or do they not exist" (perhaps autosuggest "not found, here are some topics from regions nearby"
  • Great if there was view-access-control, so people browsing the internet from other schools can read public stuff without making an account, and be inspired to join in
  • and definitely OpenID awesome, or signin with gmail / facebook / whatever
  • awesome if opensource, other people can decide to host their own GC server code, or modify it to suit their university, (perhaps GPL or other license so their modifications must be shared with everyone? debatable)
  • other stuff that I forget now

* As a stop-gap measure, teams should be encourage to create Mailman mailing lists which have archives. So future teammates can simply sign-up and get up to date (eliminates "info stuck in email of graduated student" problem).

Definitely a solution to similar problem to learn from  (though we have clear different needs, like the concept of a "team"), (see venn diagram)
Then see guidelines here which is actually a good listing of some of the content that we would want on EXPflow:

And on 12/19/2010, at 11:37 AM (yes, 8 hours later):

Quick note-- I think of this as on a higher level than just the IDEAS competition. E.g., these groups of people ("teams") form, and do things and may never opt to enter the IDEAS competition or even structure their actions for the IDEAS competition.

It's a way for me to sort through the bewildering amount of information out there (peace corps, UN Food and Agri, ...).

I mean, more efficient biodigesters? People have been improving the concept and localizing them for decades. Agriculture? We're talking centuries.

At the highest level, the level I would make design decisions, I would think of it as similar to stackoverflow--a solution anything with similar needs can use.

That would be a vision. I also support actually getting things out the door so other people can come and critique and help out ("talking to the customers early in process").

Hmm, maybe there's a third site! The "Q&A" site, similar to stackoverflow.

  • sharing of information so it's easy to get up to speed on the most current best practices
  • with trust levels:
    • within "team"
      • hierarchical. Then, the IDEAS competition adminstrators are simply a meta-team
      • and entire universities are meta-teams (I trust the average person with MIT certs more than average Joe Schmoe out in the world)
    • anyone with internet access
So in a sense, Users:
  • Carrie just read The End of Poverty and wants to start looking at all the things out there she could do to help, and maybe she's an MIT student and wants to see what's being done that has need for her skills
  • Nassu has a startup she founded, has insights into creating a startup in USA
  • Raz went on a PSC trip to La Vaquita and knows a lot about La Vaquita and possible projects there, with context
  • Feng is some international NGO dude who has field experience in many countries working mostly on watsan stuff, interested in sharing watsan experience
  • Bob is some local NGO dude who's been working in Zimbabwe for years, interested in sharing Zimbabwe context
  • Zog has been working at XYZ Giant Co. in the manufacturing side and can share how to scale production to the millions
But these are overlapping communities (IDEAS, EXPflow, q&a) so they should be integrated.

I do like stackoverflow within fields. So... in a sense Stackoverflow sites would simply be a part of this meta^meta-site. But centered around this vague concept of "concerned with the less well-off"
  • that's another design decision, to what level should we aim for, are we talking just "bottom billion" or do we also want to include e.g. work in the USA
Okay, I lie, that wasn't a quick note.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

ohloh: should have more features, because I'm not interested in donating toward many open-source projects now, but it would be cool to see how much developers are asking for, and then when I am no longer a student, or if I make money using their software, I can see. Also, it'd be cool to see an average of self-reported earnings using open-source software (perhaps excluding things like apache? maybe just targeted at small-business?).

This could help persuade the Small Business government people to subsidize open-source software development, although it has to be done carefully to make sure it doesn't drag around the focuses of open source software unduly. Then people wouldn't try to charge money for really useful features, because no matter if they spent a large amount of time on it, I'm not going to pay for it if I'm trying to bootstrap myself, and I'm forced to reinvent the wheel. I would, however, be willing to pay for modules if eventually I make money (?).

Kind of like the whole subsidizing fertilizer versus vouchers or lending credit which simply shifts the burden to when they have money (right after harvest) instead of when they likely have a lot less money (right before planting).