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Nick Wilson
Software Engineer at Twitter by day, husband and father by night.
Software Engineer at Twitter by day, husband and father by night.


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I started my internship at Google about three weeks ago. "The Internship" movie comes out today; it's about two guys that somehow manage to get internships at Google. One of these interns is named Nick and is played by Owen Wilson. Coincidence?

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"Conversational search has natural language, semantic search and more built into it, and while it’s far from perfect, this really is one of those significant changes that makes even a “seen it all” person like me sit up and take notice." - +Danny Sullivan 

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A joke and an XKCD reference at the beginning of a quiz. Nice work +Coursera !

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Our Python packaging poster at PyCon last Sunday went very well. By the time we got out of the keynote and made our way to the poster session, there was already a sizable group of people huddled around our poster. And they just kept coming. It was nice to meet so many people and spread the word about a few of the upcoming changes to Python's packaging ecosystem. We got to talk to the developers of many of the popular packaging libraries and tools.

And when I say "we" did these things, I mostly mean the students for the project I'm mentoring: +TJ Michael, +Taylor Hand, and +Ryan Baker. I was right there with them at the beginning of the poster session, but took off to take care of some other business and didn't return until the end. They did great without me. How many university students get to go to a conference and present a poster as part of their senior capstone project? I'm guessing not many get this kind of opportunity :)

Oh, and here's a link to our final poster on GitHub. There's even a link in the README to a 5-minute video where Ryan gives an overview of our poster!

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Wow, that was a fun and busy couple of weeks in Silicon Valley.

It started with a two-day PyData Workshop at Google's headquarters for people interested in working with data in Python. Videos from the workshop are slowly starting to appear at,1090/index.html

Next up was PyCon in Santa Clara. What a great (and well-sponsored) conference! I went all out and attended two days of tutorials (mostly scientific and data analysis stuff), three days of talks (including a poster session; more on that later), and over three days of sprints. I really enjoy events like this because they are full of smart, motivated people that actually want to be there.

My plan for the sprints was to ease into contributing to scikit-learn, a machine learning library in Python, by reading some of the documentation and working on their issues tagged "EasyFix". Instead, my adventures with scikit-learn started by debugging a test that runs a clustering algorithm in parallel but hangs only on Mac OS X Lion. I spent all day narrowing down the problem in Python, then went to bed while a couple of the core developers tracked it down to a segfault in Apple's Grand Central Dispatch that occurs "when calling dgemm for square matrices above a certain size inside a forked child process." Ugh. With that out of the way, I was free to work on some of the EasyFix issues as planned.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable trip. I learned a ton, met a lot of great people, and picked up plenty of free t-shirts. Now it's time to start working my way through the videos for many of the talks I didn't get to see in person...

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+Coursera adds Computer Vision to the list of courses! Begins March 2012

Computer Vision [1] has been added to the list of Courses offered by Coursera. The course will begin in March 2012 and will be taught by Jitendra Malik [2].

Jitendra Malik is Arthur J. Chick Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley, where he has been on the faculty since 1986. He is also on the faculty of the department of Bioengineering, and in the Cognitive Science and Vision Science groups.

Prerequisites for Computer Vision class are as follows:

Linear algebra, calculus, and probability at a level expected of a junior or senior undergraduate in science, engineering or mathematics. Programming experience and basic algorithms. Machine learning background would be helpful but not strictly necessary, as pointers will be provided for self-study.

Tipped by Sayyed A. Bashir


Computer Vision and other classes offered by Coursera, Udacity and MITx can be found at

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Yay, our Python packaging poster was accepted for PyCon US 2012 in Santa Clara next month!

I am currently mentoring a few computer science students (+Ryan Baker +Taylor Hand and +TJ Michael) at Oregon State University for their senior project/capstone class. We are working with Pip, the popular tool for installing and managing Python packages, with the goal of updating it to work with the upcoming major changes to packaging in Python. We submitted a PyCon poster proposal to share everything we have been learning about packaging Python software, and we recently found out that it was accepted.

Our poster will provide an overview of the current Python packaging ecosystem, explain the limitations of the current standards and tools, and then dive into the details of the new standards and distutils2 library ("packaging" in the Python 3.3+ standard library).

All four of us will be going to PyCon. The poster session is on the morning of the second day of the conference (Sunday, March 11th). Very exciting!

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+WIRED goes behind the wheel of our self-driving car in a new article:

The Prius begins to seem like the Platonic ideal of a driver, against which all others fall short. It can think faster than any mortal driver. It can attend to more information, react more quickly to emergencies, and keep track of more complicated routes. It never panics. It never gets angry. It never even blinks. In short, it is better than human in just about every way.

Read the rest:

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I'm annoyed with +Coldplay for not offering their music on +Spotify, but finally gave in and purchased their latest album on Google Music. Only $4.99!

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I'm taking Stanford's free online database and machine learning classes ( and this term. I wasn't planning to take any classes next term but I don't think I can pass this one up...
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