March 4, 2014

CoderDojo, CodingDojo or CodeJo?

CC-BY licensed picture of a Hacker Dojo by Mitch Altman.

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.

CodingDojo: @uomcodingdojo & @codingdojodotco

A group of students at the University of Manchester organise a Coding Dojo @uomcodingdojo see fb.com/uomcodingdojo. They practise problems in TopCoder and other puzzles [1-5] in order to compete in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. They do this because it’s fun, improves their skill and prepares them for the kind’s of problems that are commonly found in a Coding Interviews  – a variant of the infamous Microsoft / Amazon / Google / Apple / Facebook / Twitter interviews. [6,7]

(The Manchester Coding Dojo are nothing to do with codingdojo.com  an outfit in Seattle and Silly Valley who claim to “teach you programming in 2 weeks” see @codingdojodotco.)

Codejo: @manc_codejo

The Manchester Codejo is monthly coding meetup in Manchester, where developers improve their skills by performing Katas – exercises designed to improve coding ability through repetition. So at their last meeting for example, Gemma Cameron @ruby_gem recently ran a Codejo session on the Class-responsibility-collaboration card at manchester.techhub.com.

In other words…

So @coderdojo ≠ @uomcodingdojo ≠ @manc_codejo ≠ @McrCoderDojo etc. Hope this clears up some confusion…


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dining Philosophers
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight queens puzzle
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower of Hanoi
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling salesman problem
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two Generals’ problem
  6. McDowell, Gayle Laakman (2011) Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions Career Cup ISBN:098478280X
  7. Poundstone, William (2013) Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? Fiendish Puzzles And Impossible Interview Questions From The World’s Top Companies Oneworld Publications ISBN:1851689559

January 11, 2013

A joke about teaching and learning via Jason Bangbala


What, if anything, can stop the MOOC? Creative Commons licensed picture via Giulia Forsythe on Flickr.

The debate about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is making lots of people think harder about education and how people learn. Are we witnessing Higher Education’s Napster moment, where online services replace physical ones [1] ? Is undergraduate education over-priced [2]? How can education be improved [3]? What is the point of Education anyway? These are all interesting and mostly unanswered questions.

You might hear it said that secondary education is often delivered by excellent teachers, with questionable subject knowledge, whereas higher education is delivered by experts with excellent subject knowledge, but poorer teaching skills.

Jason Bangbala, an educational consultant, puts it another way.

What is the difference between primary, secondary and higher education?

  • In primary education, the teachers love their students.
  • In secondary education, the teachers love their subject.
  • In higher education, the teachers love themselves.

True? Hmmm, I don’t know. But it is funny…


  1. Moshe Vardi (2012). Will MOOCs destroy academia? Communications of the ACM, 55 (11), 5-5 DOI: 10.1145/2366316.2366317
  2. Salman Khan (2013). What college could be like Communications of the ACM, 56 (1) DOI: 10.1145/2398356.2398370
  3. Fred Martin (2012). Will massive open online courses change how we teach? Communications of the ACM, 55 (8) DOI: 10.1145/2240236.2240246

June 2, 2009

Michael Ley on Digital Bibliographies

Michael Ley

Michael Ley is visiting Manchester this week, he will be doing a seminar on Wednesday 3rd June, here are some details for anyone who is interested in attending:

Date: 3rd Jun 2009

Title: DBLP: How the data get in

Speaker: Dr Michael Ley. University of Trier, Germany

Time & Location: 14:15, Lecture Theatre 1.4, Kilburn Building

Abstract: The DBLP (Digital Bibliography & Library Project) Computer Science Bibliography now includes more than 1.2 million bibliographic records. For Computer Science researchers the DBLP web site now is a popular tool to trace the work of colleagues and to retrieve bibliographic details when composing the lists of references for new papers. Ranking and profiling of persons, institutions, journals, or conferences is another usage of DBLP. Many scientists are aware of this and want their publications being listed as complete as possible.

The talk focuses on the data acquisition workflow for DBLP. To get ‘clean’ basic bibliographic information for scientific publications remains a chaotic puzzle.

Large publishers are either not interested to cooperate with open services like DBLP, or their policy is very inconsistent. In most cases they are not able or not willing to deliver basic data required for DBLP in a direct way, but they encourage us to crawl their Web sites. This indirection has two main problems:

  1. The organisation and appearance of Web sites changes from time to time, this forces a reimplementation of information extraction scripts. [1]
  2. In many cases manual steps are necessary to get ‘complete’ bibliographic information.

For many small information sources it is not worthwhile to develop information extraction scripts. Data acquisition is done manually. There is an amazing variety of small but interesting journals, conferences and workshops in Computer Science which are not under the umbrella of ACM, IEEE, Springer, Elsevier etc. How they get it often is decided very pragmatically.

The goal of the talk and my visit to Manchester is to start a discussion process: The EasyChair conference management system developed by Andrei Voronkov and DBLP are parts of scientific publication workflow. They should be connected for mutual benefit?


  1. Lincoln Stein (2002). Creating a bioinformatics nation: screen scraping is torture Nature, 417 (6885), 119-120 DOI: 10.1038/417119a

Blog at WordPress.com.