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Michael Olteanu
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Michael Olteanu

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Google Docs + IPython has the potential to be an incredibly powerful way of collaborating.
 
Over the last year I've worked with some awesome folks (+Kester Tong  +Mark Sandler, +Corinna Cortes , +Matthew Turk,  +Gideon Mann  +Arnaud Sahuguet, +Adam Berenzweig) to understand how people collaborate on data analysis and to build better tools to support them. Yesterday, with the help of +Fernando Perez and +Wes McKinney we revealed this work at PyCon APAC.

We've created an interactive, collaborative analytics tool by integrating Google Docs, Chrome, and IPython. You can open a notebook from Drive. You can share notebooks like you would share a Google Doc. You can comment and edit collaboratively, in realtime. There is zero setup, because all the computation happens in Chrome. You can even quickly and easily package your analytics pipeline into a GUI for folks that don't want to program. In effect, you can go from zero to analytics with little impedance.  

What's even better is that you can build on our work. It will all be open source on top of public Google APIs. We'll have a larger Google Research blog post about this work when we release the code and the Chrome application.
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Created a web app that lets you host a python console on app engine. Lets you create python scripts that are hosted in the cloud with all the abilities of google app engine, i.e. datastore, retrieve URLs, send emails, scalable, etc. 

https://github.com/mikeolteanu/livepythonconsole-app-engine

Next step, combine with defunct code at https://code.google.com/p/google-app-engine-samples/source/browse/trunk/shell to improve the user interface and remove bugs.
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How Carnegie Mellon Created a More Inclusive Hackathon

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but decided now would be a great time since I'm missing out on Grace Hopper.

In February 2012, ScottyLabs (of Carnegie Mellon) organized the school's first student-run software hackathon, TartanHacks. It saw 150 participants, 50 of whom were women. And this is how it happened.

Two years ago, I was working on a side project to make APIs for school data. By exposing data such as course schedules, room reservations, and menus from campus dining locations, I hoped that students would be more inspired to take on side projects and create change in their community, and realize that they can solve the problems around them.

The team dedicated to exposing campus data eventually became known as ScottyLabs (after our school mascot, the Scottie Dog). We decided that a great way to promote these APIs would be to hold a hackathon. This was just before hackathons exploded; polling the freshman class had shown us that freshmen, overwhelmingly, did not know what hackathons were - the next year that was not the case at all.

From the beginning, we cared about creating a more inclusive hackathon. One big reason was attendance. If we cared about using this channel to get our APIs out there, we wanted people to show up! Hackathons weren't popular among the undergrads. The largest software hackathon on campus had been organized by an outside company and reportedly had 50 attendees, many of whom were master's students, and only 2 of which were women. We also partnered with the school's Women@SCS(School of Computer Science) organization, which meant that we had many conversations about getting more women to hackathons.

Inclusion was also something that was very dear to me personally. Even getting over the "double minority" thing (do you ever get over that?) I never did feel at home in the School of Computer Science simply due to my skills and interests and personality. I thought it was crazy that I was organizing an event I'd never, ever attend. A lot of the tweaks that we'd made would have made me feel more comfortable as an attendee.

So here's my list of changes that we made. Unfortunately, we didn't test the effectiveness of each of these in isolation, but hopefully this helps you frame tech inclusion in a more practical, less enigmatic way:

We told people what a hackathon was. - We didn't tell people about the type of person that we expected at a hackathon. We told people that a hackathon was an event where you could focus on building something cool - and we're all smart, creative people that know how to build things.

We told people it was okay to be a first-timer. - This was something we put on our Facebook copy, on our posters, and when we went around and talked to classrooms. We said that first-timers were welcome. A lot of people were afraid to even try it out, and telling them that this was exactly the type of environment to try things out made people feel more welcome.

We didn't mention it was a competition. - Internally we were having a fiasco figuring out what we were going to do with prizes, and so we didn't announce prizes until our session on the rules right before the hackathon. Afterwards, a lot of students mentioned to us that they would have been too intimidated to come out had they known it was a competition beforehand. (Students that wanted to believe that we had prizes and a competition either assumed or asked the organizers beforehand.)

We didn't make it grungy. - A lot of students thought that hackathons were gross, grungy events. We decided to put the hackathon in our beautiful new Gates building, and let them spread out. We also advertised that we were serving really good food - "better than pizza." We needed people to believe this was a nice event where they would be taken care of, and return on that promise.

We helped students see this as an opportunity to learn. - Beforehand, we held a weekend of "crash courses" to get students up and running. These were taught by other students. Our approach to crash courses was not "How much can you teach about Rails in an hour?" but "How can you make Rails seem accessible and learnable in an hour, such that students can then spend the necessary time on their own to learn it?"

We made it easy to ask questions. - At the hackathon, we had a team of student mentors, who could provide technical assistance and be a sounding board.

Also - it's important to note that we tried to reach a broad audience in terms of teachers and mentors. We didn't just ask the "hackathon type," but students from all over the community. In fact:

We made it about more than just "shiny webapps." - The second year we held the hackathon, a good friend of mine was the "machine learning" mentor on staff. She helped a prizewinning team build a service that alerted you if your Facebook friends posted suicidal statuses. I'm proud that we had participants that wanted to pursue this project, a mentor on staff to support them, and judges that could award them. Hackathons don't need to be about shiny webapps; we wanted to enable students to experiment with other areas of computer science. We worked to have a technically diverse mentorship staff, gave out prizes not for API use, but for categories like "Best User Interface" and "Best Hack for Hack's Sake" and "First Penguin" (biggest risk), and had judges that could discern the technical difficulty of a project.

We made sure they knew they weren't going to be alone. - We had a free agent mixer before the hackathon started, and also played matchmaker during the early hours. 

And last but not least:

We had pre-registration for women and underclassmen. - This made these groups explicitly know that they were welcome. Surprisingly, we didn't hear any complaints about this policy. This may have been because everyone that wanted to participate ultimately got in.

Here are some things that I was organizers to keep in mind:

The reasons why women weren't going to hackathons were the reasons why people weren't going to hackathons. - It's incredible that we had so many female participants, but it's also incredible that we had so many participants. We made a hackathon that was friendlier and more accessible to our community. We didn't paint it pink. We figured out why women didn't want to come to hackathons and we did our best to fix those problems.

A better hackathon for women was a better hackathon for everyone. - Women didn't get better food. Freshmen didn't get better food. Everyone got better food. A better hackathon is a better hackathon.

"First-timer" does not mean "bad developer." - Just because someone has never participated in a hackathon doesn't mean they don't know development. It doesn't mean they don't know full-stack development. It doesn't mean that they don't have good ideas, it doesn't mean they can't implement their good ideas, and it doesn't mean they can't win. It simply means they've never participated in a hackathon before.

I had another hackathon organizer (from a different school) ask me "How did you make sure the good people still came out?" If you're asking about a very particular subset of people that don't need encouragement to go to a hackathon - yes, those people were in attendance. But more importantly, by paying attention to the sensitivities of the community, we were doing just that - making sure the good people still came out.
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If you fly into Seattle just before sunset, you get a fantastic view on the way in.
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Coincidentally, this is how I phrase every command to a dog. "OK boy! come here!"
 
I’m really excited to be able to share this historic moment -  the first and only time I have written a pleasant/serious email to +Mat Balez (Glass Product Manager) or to anyone for that matter. Coincidentally, this email also includes the birth of the phrase ‘OK Glass’.   
 
Here’s the story of the lead up to that email.
 
[Some scenes have been fabricated for entertainment purposes]
 
I was invited out to dinner with Mat and his wife. Mat had already been working on Glass for a while, but at this time, Glass did not have a marketing team. I saw this as a chance to both impress Mat with my insightful marketing prowess* and get a free dinner. The dinner went very well. I relayed several hilarious anecdotes. So hilarious were these anecdotes, they rendered Mat and his wife breathless and thus, unable to fully enjoy the food before them**.

As the dinner drew on I realised that I was yet to flex my massive marketing guns in Mat’s tiny face***. I was saddened by this thought. I desperately wanted to be a part of Glass marketing (even though it didn’t exist yet) and I needed to do something to prove my worth.
 
In the car on the way back, Mat told me about how the team had been working on the “hotword” for Glass.  I must confess, I did not know what “hotword” meant. Did I ask what it meant? No. Did I nod whilst looking pensive? You bet your glass I did. As I listened to Mat, I quickly* * * * deduced that he was referring to the phrase that sets off the Glass menu. He then asked me if I had any ideas for the hotword. In that moment the only phrase I could think of was ‘OK Glass’. I didn’t tell him straightaway though. Instead, I continued to look pensive and muttered something about ‘looking into it’ just to appear as though I was going to put more than 3 seconds of work into it.
 
When I got home, I tried my best to think of something else, anything else so that I could at least have a few options to send to Mat. Alas, I could not think of any others. I’ve been fortunately cursed with a one-track mind. So, I decided to put all my Glass eggs in one basket and send over a rationale for ‘OK Glass’ (below is the actual email I sent). A week later, it was implemented, at which point I asked Mat when I should start but apparently that’s ‘not really how it works’. I interviewed a week later and have been terrorising the Glass team ever since.  
 
Now, you’re probably wondering ‘What were the other choices the team had before OK Glass?’ Well wonder no more! I just asked Mat to send me over the list of suggestions, like literally, just now as I write this. Ok, I just saw the list and there is no way I could not share some of these gems.
 
Here are a few of my favourites:
 
Listen up Glass
Hear me now
Let me use Glass to
Go Go Glass
Clap on
Device, please
3, 2, 1...
Glassicus
Glass alive
Pew pew pew
 
Coming up with the phrase was the easy part. Figuring out if it would work, was another story. There’s a whole team at Glass who worked very hard testing and implementing it before it was adopted. It’s hugely exciting to hear “OK Glass” being used today. That said, ‘Device, please’ is growing on me.
 
*Dramatisation
**Dramatisation
***Not a dramatisation
****Took a while to
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Could crowdsourced government really work?  Finland aims to find out:

The 'Open Ministry' platform (available on GitHub) is about to go live in Finland (Oct 1).  The goal is to facilitate greater participation in government. Essentially any citizen who can get 50,000 'upvotes' for a proposed law can require the Eduskunta (Finnish Parliament) to vote on the proposal.

http://bit.ly/RFutBI
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Going to check this out next week, hope to meet some great developers..
 
New software co-working opening in Fremont - open house on Dec 18.
The future is being invented by software people. The developer community in Seattle is amazing and we want to create a space for software people to work, get to know each other, and have fun. We're focused on providing the things developers need to be productive.
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"Every programmer should look at what he was doing 6 months ago and be disgusted about the way he was doing things."
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Join us for our 2nd annual GDG Dev Fest!

RSVP ($10) at http://www.meetup.com/seattle-gdg/events/125948972/

Dev Fest is an all-day event for you to learn new Google technologies.  Bring your laptop too - we're going to feature hands-on labs so you can dig in and try out what you've learned with the help of our on-site experts.

At the end of the day, we invite you to present a 5 minute demo of what you've been working on during the day (and we'll have prizes for the coolest demos; if you don't want to demo your stuff - that's cool too; just come to learn and have fun).

We're focusing this year's event on these Chrome-based technologies:

1. Chrome Apps (aka Packaged Apps) - Build installable apps that 
run anywhere Chrome does.  
2. Angular.js - Javascript App Framework 
3. Dart - A new programming language and environment for building 
web-based applications.


Schedule

Friday, Sept 27 at Appature

5:30pm Mixer - Come meet our presenters and fellow attendees!

Appature, our host, is a Madrona funded startup that builds extensive 
cloud-based applications that run in the browser.

Saturday, Sept 28 at UW (Mary Gates Hall)

9:00am: Welcome and Breakfast
9:30am: Presentations
12:00pm: Lunch
1:00pm - 6:00pm: Structured Code Labs
6:00pm: Demos and prizes
8:00pm: After party (no host).

Please join our Google Plus Event to keep up with the latest news about GDG DevFest 2013.


Speakers

Joe Marini - Joe is a Sneior Developer Advocate for the Google Chrome team.

Mike Koss - Mike is a GDG Seattle organizer specializing in JavaScript application development.

Sponsors and Volunteers

Thanks to our sponsors and volunteers for making this event possible:

Google, Madrona VC, Appature

Heather Koyuk, Clive Boulton, Jason Kennedy, Chris Risner, Brandon Donnelson

Parking directions:

http://cses.washington.edu/cig/outreach/classes/uncertaintysem03/Uncert_Directions.htm
Seattle GDG Dev Fest 2013 - Chrome Technologies
Fri, September 27, 2013, 8:30 PM
Appature and UW Mary Gates Hall

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An interactive look at time...
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