A dojo (or a dōjō) is an event where people train to perform a given task. So for example, software engineers organise code dojos to hone their skills in making software. The term has become widely adopted, so much so, that you’ll often find many flavours of dojo in your local area. In Manchester, there are at least three variants and these often get confused, usually by me. So here’s a quick explanation of what the different dojos do and how they are different.
CoderDojo: @coderdojo & @mcrcoderdojo etc
CoderDojo.com is an open source, volunteer led, global movement of free coding clubs for young people. You’ll find Coder Dojos all over the world, the Manchester Coder Dojo meets once a month in The Sharp Project, and like many coder dojos is very popular and frequently over-subscribed.
I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, also unavailable on Samsung Android devices.
I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (ISIHAC) is a superbly funny comedy show broadcast by the BBC since 1972 and currently airing it’s sixtieth (yes 60th!) series. Unlike many other BBC programmes, ISIHAC is mysteriously unavailable as a podcast, which makes it difficult to listen to offline. Why is this? Professor Google doesn’t give a definitive answer and the BBC aren’t saying much about it either. So in the spirit of public broadcasting, this post poses the question, where’s the podcast? Currently there are a two theories floating around on the interwebs:
The podcast was destroyed by the lovely Samantha when she exceeded her bandwidth after … [insert smutty innuendo here]
If all you want is an ISIHAC MP3 of the broadcast that can be listened to offline at your leisure, then the lack of a podcast is frustrating. Of course, there various workarounds and hacks to roll your own using using get_iplayer, a digital recorder, XBMC or similar but this will be a lot of unnecessary hassle for most listeners. None of this seems to be in the spirit of public broadcasting and there’s a bigger (unanswered?) question about how the BBC decides what to podcast (and what not to).
So Jon Naismith, Graeme Garden and anyone at the BBC, if you’re reading this, please can ISIHAC be made available as an MP3 via a podcast? Much obliged.
Manchester Town Hall by Richard Hopkins, creative commons licensed picture via Flickr
The term Manchester is a misnomer, mutated from it’s original form. The name Mamchester might be more appropriate, but only if the pedants get their way.
The Man in Manchester is misleading and has little to do with Manhood or Masculinity. Instead, the word is thought to come from the name given to city by the romans of “Mamucium”, meaning breast-shaped hill. Somewhere down the line Mamucium morphed into Manchester and the Mam became a Man. That’s mam, not man, as in Mammary or as the Miserable Mancunian Morrissey put it,
Tweeting down Twitter Lane, Waddington, Lancashire
While passing through the beautiful Forest of Bowland the other day, I chanced upon a remarkable place known as Twitter Lane in the village of Waddington, Lancashire. Twitter Lane is an interesting place because of the people you find there and they way they behave . For example, the residents of Twitter Lane are characterised by:
Open-ness: residents share all sorts of information without anyone who will listen, from the banal to the profound, from the libellous to the incriminating, from the funny to the informative. All humanity is there, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Short attention-span: although a friendly and open bunch, the residents of Twitter Lane have very short … where was I … ah yes, short attention spans and communicate in even shorter messages. Residents are typically obsessed with news, celebrities and sport. They are a well supplied with the very latest real-time information on all of these things and more. However, sometimes the cacophony on Twitter Lane means it feels like everyone is talking, but few are listening.
So, Twitter Lane is an extraordinary place, with a large and a burgeoning population. Two important questions currently hang over it, how much is it worth and how many more people are going to want to live there on a long-term basis?
Rappa M., Jones P., Freire J., Chakrabarti S., Kwak H., Lee C., Park H. & Moon S. (2010). What is Twitter, a social network or a news media?, WWW ’10 Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World Wide Web conference, 591-600. DOI: 10.1145/1772690.1772751
Beekeeping can be very rewarding. Remind yourself how fascinating the biology of bees is: drones, workers, queens and swarms - you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
It’s a real buzz breaking the propolis seal on a hive full of ~60,000 bees and having a look inside, you can’t beat hands-on experience – handling bees was the highlight of the taster session.
Apiculture takes lots of time, in peak season you’ll need to be inspecting hives at least once a week for any potential problems, such as the emergence of new queen cells or pests & diseases like Nosema and Varroa mites.
Beekeeping can be a substantial financial commitment too, depending on how resourceful you are. There’s a lot of kit you need, see thorne.co.uk, bees-online.co.uk or beekeeping.co.uk for some examples of what you can buy and how much it costs.
One of the biggest threats to bees is irresponsible bee-keepers! If bees aren’t looked after hygienically, diseases can be spread to the larger population. You don’t need a license (yet) to keep bees, but it’s a good idea to register hive(s) with DEFRA’s BeeBase (not to be confused with BeeBase.org) .
For such a tiny insect with even smaller brain, bees are surprisingly good at maths and computation. For example, bees use sophisticated vectors  to tell members of the hive where the food is during their famous waggle dance. Also, honeycomb is hexagonal because this is the shape that makes optimal use of beeswax - covering the maximum area using a minimum of material.
The success of Manchester’s Digital economy is dependent on educating, recruiting and training a pool of talented developers to work in the region. As identified in the Manchester Digital skills audit,developers are often the hardest roles to fill, as many graduates and potential employees are drawn to other high-tech hubs like London, Silicon Fen and Silicon Valley, California for employment.
Addressing this issue is an important for Manchester Digital and requires closer collaboration between Higher education, Secondary education and employers. As a tutor at the University of Manchester, with responsibility for managing internships for students in Computer Science I am in a strong position to enable more collaboration between educators and employers. As a council member I would do this in four ways:
Encouraging students to consider employment in Manchester as their first job, by promoting internships and graduate vacancies with local organisations alongside traditional graduate programmes at larger multinational companies
People do find it curious that a chap of my age* likes the things that I like but I do honestly feel that it’s one of those situations where everyone’s out of step except our John, because in any other area of human activity – theatre, literature or something like that, you’re not supposed to live eternally in the past, you know, you’re supposed to take an interest in what’s happening now and what’s going happening next and this really all that I do, it seems to be a perfectly normal and natural thing to do.
*John Peel was a spritely 50 years of age at the time of the interview where he said that in 1990 . Isn’t it curious that, as Peel said, new music is largely considered to be the exclusive domain of “younger people”, while new theatre, new technology, new art, new science and new anything-else is not? Wonder why that is?
If you never got around to buying Peter Suber’s book about Open Access (OA) publishing  “for busy people”, you might be pleased to learn that it’s now freely available under an open-access license.
Open Access is open access I'm happy to announce that my book on OA (Open Access, MIT Press… goo.gl/fb/CaInj— Peter Suber (@petersuber) June 18, 2013
One year after being published in dead-tree format, you can now get the whole digital book for free. There’s not much point writing yet another review of it , see Peter’s extensive collection of reviews at cyber.law.harvard.edu. The book succinctly covers:
A lot of the (often heated) debate about Open Access misses an important point about open access being for machines as well as humans, or as Suber puts in Chapter 5 on Scope:
We also want access for machines. I don’t mean the futuristic altruism in which kindly humans want to help curious machines answer their own questions. I mean something more selfish. We’re well into the era in which serious research is mediated by sophisticated software. If our machines don’t have access, then we don’t have access. Moreover, if we can’t get access for our machines, then we lose a momentous opportunity to enhance access with processing.
Think about the size of the body of literature to which you have access, online and off. Now think realistically about the subset to which you’d have practical access if you couldn’t use search engines, or if search engines couldn’t index the literature you needed.
Information overload didn’t start with the internet. The internet does vastly increase the volume of work to which we have access, but at the same time it vastly increases our ability to find what we need. We zero in on the pieces that deserve our limited time with the aid of powerful software, or more precisely, powerful software with access. Software helps us learn what exists, what’s new, what’s relevant, what others find relevant, and what others are saying about it. Without these tools, we couldn’t cope with information overload. Or we’d have to redefine “coping” as artificially reducing the range of work we are allowed to consider, investigate, read, or retrieve.
It’s refreshing to see someone making these points that are often ignored, forgotten or missed out of the public debate about Open Access. The book is available in various digital flavours including:
“…the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science.”
A quick-and-dirty measure of the scientific coverage of wikipedia is the percentage of these fellows that have a profile on wikipedia at the time of their election to the prestigious Society. Let’s call it the Fellows of the Wiki Society index (FWSi), a good score of 100% indicates that wikipedia has excellent coverage of science while 0% indicates the opposite. Last year, that index was 40% because 21 out of 52 fellows were also Fellows of the Wiki Society.
This year the index is slightly better at 44%, with 24 out of 54 fellows having a wiki-biography, see [1-54]. So as well as more women this year, there’s more wikipedia too, although the difference isn’t particularly big.
“Universities are failing to educate graduates with the skills we need – this is the oft heard complaint by employers of IT graduates. Does the problem start in school with the dire state of ICT teaching and assessment at GCSE and A Level?  Should academia be trying to produce graduates with only ‘employable skills’ that have a shelf life of at best a couple of years? Are employers really expecting universities to produce a mature, rounded professional with 20 years experience straight out of university? Is it reasonable to expect Academia to bridge the skills gap when employers are not prepared to provide a robust career path for IT professionals?
Academia and the IT Profession seem to be out of alignment in a way that other more mature professional career paths are not. Medicine, law, accountancy and the teaching profession provide a clear path from university to the highest levels of those careers – not so in IT. The IT Profession’s skills framework (SFIA) is only a decade old, and IT is neither a regulated or statutory profession – perhaps employers ask and expect too much of Academia, when the IT Profession is still in its infancy.”
“Computing systems are now ubiquitous in all areas of our professional and personal lives – which means that are incredibly diverse from personal apps for your phone to remind you to exercise to safety-critical, world-wide air traffic management systems. The notion that there is a single body of practical skills that is applicable to all of these different types of system is ludicrous as is the expectation that university courses should attempt to cover all aspects of computing practice.”