Earlier this year Stanford ran an experiment with some online courses - machine learning, artificial intelligence and databases. Instead of publishing classroom material on the web in a one way dump they tried offering a class experience with lectures, tests and graded projects.
I was intrigued and signed up - and so far I'm quite impressed. There are some teething problems and I don't always have the time to focus enough on my classwork but overall I'm quite happy - the courses are generally ipad friendly and I find it quite easy to plug in my headphones and find a quite spot for 30 or 60 minutes when I can. In fact I find it a great way to not watch TV :-)
Standford have since announced many more online courses and if they follow the same formula I expect to take a lot more over the next few months to refresh my memory and expand into some new areas.
If you're interested in data, machine learning, artificial intelligence or computer science in general I highly recommend you take a look at the following courses. If you're a startaholic (aka Entrepreneur, wannable entrpreneur or VC) then make sure you catch Steve Blanks Lean Launchpad course.
.. and it's been way too long.
A lot has happened since I last published here. I moved continents from Dublin, Ireland to the San Francisco Bay Area to successfully deliver a once in a lifetime project with Informatica Corp. As a result my work/life balance was pretty much one way - work only! Fortunately that's changing and I look forward to exploring the Bay Area tech, food and social scenes over the coming months - so watch this space.
In the meantime follow me on twitter as @peerside and keep in touch.
Most noted tweets for the 3th week of October 2009
Sometimes thinking outside the box means your ideas seen as blasphemy by the established status quo … a challenge if your success is measured by that same status quo.
A reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.
Every day the reCaptcha team serve over 30 million randomly chosen pairs of words from scanned books and newspapers to users around the world. For an overview of the reCaptcha system and how this min Mechanical Turk works check out the interview with co founder Luis Von Ahn.
As an avid tracker of new, and particularly disruptive, technologies I despair every time someone reads the excellent Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen and announces that the pattern he highlights is no longer relevant, the examples are “obviously” old school companies that didn’t “get it” and today and of course “our company” is immune etc.
As you may have guessed I fundamentally believe in, and am a fan of, the disruptive cycle so I was glad to see the recent Wired article The Good Enough Revolution – When Cheap and Simple is Just Fine which highlights a number of modern examples including
If you believe that every industry at some point will be disrupted by a good enough technology then the challenge is in spotting that technology or solution and working out how you harness ( not necessarily counter ) it.
What in your industry is cheap, doesn’t meet the specialized 20% of features you market and pretty simple to use ? If you can think of examples then they may just be good enough to disrupt your existence if not your entire market.
Worth reading/listening too:
Peerside: The Innovators Dilemma in Summary
Sure you can get them from the YCombinator site themselves but when you’re out and about and want to think differently dip into these – the YCombinator Startup Essays in PDF
Last night I was introduced to the purple tie laundry service by my neighbors' as a big, and very silent, purple and white truck turned in our drive way. Apparently not only do they offer a personal pick up and delivery service to your home anywhere in the bay area they also have a corporate service where they do the same from work locations and for a reasonable price. They also offer shoe and bag repair and film processing. All those awkward drop off and collect in a few days chores that just eat into time unless they’re literally next door to your home or work and open at decent non work hours.
I stumbled upon this early 1960s interview with Ivan Sutherland about the invention of the revolutionary Sketchpad system.
The video is actually quite humbling ( for techies at least ) when you consider the number of groundbreaking concepts and boundaries his team pushed at the time - object orientated systems, graphical UIs, light pens, interactive problem solving etc.
For me the most interesting part of the interview is the prelude where Ivan outlines why the Sketchpad system is so revolutionary - particularly because it's a nirvana we still strive for - the day we can lean on a computer to not only find but solve problems we didn't even know existed. I particularly like his vision of a incremental feedback and interaction between the user and software program - something I believe we'll need more and more of to cope with the wave of data we're experiencing today.
Remember this is all 1963 - over 40 years ago !
"You will see a designer solve a problem step by step and he will not at the outset know precisely what his problem is nor will he know exactly how to solve it and little by little he will begin to investigate ideas and the computer and he will be in cooperation, in the fullest of cooperation, in this work.
The conventional way, the old way, of solving problems with a computer has been to understand the problem very,very, well indeed and moreover to know at the very outset to understand what steps have been required to solve the problem - so the computer has been nothing more than a very elaborate calculating machine. But now we're making the computer be more like a human assistant and the computer will seem to have some intelligence, it doesn't really - only the intelligence that we put in it - but it will seem to have intelligence."See the interview here on youtube.