UI vs. UX

The user interface (UI) vs the user’s experience (UX) is a very modern “debate” in Computer Science. ux1This can also be summarized as the tension between usability and composability, between software that is user-friendly and software that is programmer-friendly (see this talk by Conal Elliott from Google). Consumers like software that’s easy to use. But programmers like software that’s easy to compose, i.e. to combine in unanticipated ways. Users want applications; programmers want libraries. Users like GUIs; programmers like APIs. It’s not immediately obvious that usability and composability are in tension. Why can’t you make users and programmers happy? You may be able to make some initial improvements that please both communities, but at some point their interests diverge. Looking at it another way, we can look at “operation versus expression” to express the same idea of usability versus composability (see this article by Vivek Haldar). Combining these ideas, we have these contrasts.

 Usability  Composability
 Operation  Expression
 Visual / GUI  Syntactic / CLI
 Bounded  Unbounded
 Externalize knowledge  Internalize knowledge

Neither column is necessarily better. Sometimes you want to be in the left column, sometimes in the right. Sometimes you want a stereo and sometimes you want a guitar.


When I file my taxes, I want the software to be as easy to use as possible right now. There’s no long-term use to consider since I’m not going to use it again for a year, so I’ll have forgotten anything peculiar about the software by the time I open it again. But when I’m writing software, I have a different set of values. I don’t mind internalizing some knowledge of how my tools work in exchange for long-term ease of use. Read the original article here


Hot major on campus? At schools big and small, it’s Computer Science

Leah Brumgard majors in studio art at Swarthmore College, Jeff Novak in math, and William Colgan in biology. But all three have a second major: Computer science. The trio is far from unusual. More than 70 students are dual majoring in computer science and another subject this year at the prestigious liberal arts college in Delaware County, and more than 50 have selected computer science as their sole major. Computer science has become the second most popular major on the 1,620-student campus, behind economics. It’s a far shift from as recently as 2010, when there were fewer than a dozen computer-science graduates. Across the country, the number of computer science majors at doctoral institutions has more than tripled in the last decade. It’s much hotter than it was


“There’s going to be so many options after you graduate,” says Leah Brumgard, in a computer lab at Swarthmore with Jeff Novak.

during the dot-com blitz in the late 1990s, according to the national Computing Research Association. The group refers to the current surge as “Generation CS,” fueled by the pervasiveness of computing across society and the plethora of jobs, some with six-figure salaries and eye-popping signing bonuses. Computation has become important to literally every field, whether it’s digital humanities or software-writing skills needed for economics.

“Math used to be the language of science, and now computer science is becoming another language of science, and not just science, but social science and humanities as well,” said Lisa Meeden, a computer science professor at Swarthmore. “Everybody feels that they need some computer science knowledge.”

The spurt also is occurring at big universities, including Temple, Rutgers, Villanova, Penn State, La Salle, Lehigh, and Drexel, where the number of computer science majors has in some cases more than doubled in the last five years and where the influx might be expected. Temple, for instance, had 294 students majoring solely in computer science in fall 2012, compared with 675 now, and many more dual majoring. Rutgers-New Brunswick has grown from 207 in 2011-12 to 937 last year. But it’s also happening at other small, elite liberal arts colleges, where the increase may seem counterintuitive, including Haverford and Bryn Mawr. “They still at the end of the day want to get jobs when they graduate, and these are hot fields for jobs,” said Stuart Zweben, of the Computing Research Association and professor emeritus of computer science and engineering at Ohio State University. “Whether they go to a big school or small school, that’s something that’s on their minds.” Nearly half of all students at Swarthmore take intro to computer science. Many hadn’t been exposed to it in high school or if they were, only in a limited way, professors say. So when they take that course, their interest is sparked. “I realized it was changing the way that I thought,” said Sarah Depew, 21, a Bryn Mawr student. “I was approaching problems in a different way. And I thought, ‘You know what? This is really interesting. I want to keep doing this.’” The junior from Monument, Colo., is majoring in math and computer science. Computer science majors start out learning how to program and construct algorithms and by the time they graduate, they will understand theory, applications, and systems. Novak, 22, of West Chester, said he had so much fun in the intro class that he decided to major in it. “You kind of explore this creativity and small problem solving,” he said. But it’s not just fun that is attracting students. The plentiful — and in many cases lucrative — job prospects also are a lure.

“There’s going to be so many options after you graduate,” said Brumgard, 20, a junior from Hanover in York County. “It’s not like you’re destined to just sit at a computer every day in an office and write code. There are a lot of different paths that you can take with it.”

Students are being recruited by Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other high-tech companies, as well as financial firms. Dianna Xu, computer science department chair at Bryn Mawr, recalled a conversation she overheard among seniors last year. “One student said, ‘Oh, Facebook is offering me $120 or $130K a year, and they’re giving me $100,000 start-up cash. Should I take it?’” Xu said. “The rest of the students go, ‘No, no, wait for a better offer.’” Colgan, 21, a junior from Montvale, N.J., hopes to become a research biologist and use his computing knowledge in his research. Other Swarthmore graduates have gone on to such jobs as clinical research associate for a Seattle hospital, project manager for Facebook, and software development engineer for Amazon. The burst in interest among majors — and non-majors who want to take courses — has left computer science departments scrambling to find enough qualified professors to staff classes and students jockeying to get classes they want and need to graduate. Students at Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore sometimes take classes at one of the other campuses, or at the University of Pennsylvania. “I’ve been lotteried out of things, but if you go and just sit in the back of the class and keep talking to the professor, you’ll eventually get in,” Colgan advises. Meeden said students typically get at least one class per semester and make progress toward their degree. Novak finished classes for his major during junior year, but would have liked to take more. “I wasn’t able to go into whatever class I wanted after that,” he said. Swarthmore’s department has gone from four to nine computer science professors in seven years but, as at Bryn Mawr, professors say it’s not enough. “We think we probably need at least 12,” Meeden said. “And we’ll still have average class sizes of 40,” noted Richard Wicentowski, Swarthmore’s computer science department chair. The growing department has converted a lab and hallway space into offices and took over room in the chemistry department. Construction on campus is expected to alleviate that crunch in the next few years. Hiring professors has posed a challenge, too, Wicentowski said. “Almost every school now is trying to hire new faculty,” he said. “And the number of people getting Ph.D.s hasn’t dramatically increased.” Xu said Bryn Mawr has not been able to fill an adjunct position since 2014. Non-majors who want to take classes sometimes can’t get in. “They’re not happy about this and they are complaining a lot,” she said. Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy said the college is evaluating the department’s expanding needs and is preparing to open a computer science teaching laboratory as part of a $40 million science center renovation. The college also is emphasizing digital skills across subjects, she said. The school spent a year interviewing faculty, students, employers, alumni, and parents about digital skills students will need in their personal lives and for work, and then “mapped” those skills across the curriculum. “No matter what a student’s interest is,” Cassidy said, “they are realizing they need to have digital skills and digital fluency.”

Read the original article here

It’s time to diversify the tech scene…

Anisah Osman Britton is challenging the concept that the tech industry is a man’s world. Since completing the IB Diploma Programme (DP) at Bilborough College, in Nottingham, UK, Anisah founded 23 Code Street – a coding school for women in the UK, where every paying student will fund a lesson for a disadvantaged student in the slums of Mumbai, India. The school, which is based in London, gives students the foundation that they need to become developers. While in India, it is working closely with a Mumbai-based non-profit, which concentrates on women’s health, to plan classes in the


The founder of 23 Code Street, and IB alumni, Anisah Osman Britton, tells IB World magazine how she is making coding more accessible to women in the UK and India

city from September 2018. 23 Code Street will focus on digital skills, which will provide the necessary skills to help women get data entry jobs and regain independence. In the future, 23 Code Street will also teach coding. Looking back, Anisah always thought she would go to university after school, as this seemed a natural pathway.

“I don’t think I had really considered anything else apart from going to university,” she says. “But the IB made me realize that university wasn’t my only option.  “The open-minded way of approaching education and the way you are encouraged to question everything you know, made me realize that I had other options open to me and that, actually, I had the skills and confidence to go down another route”.

Lack of women in tech

Anisah realized that she wanted to start her own company, and after graduating from Bilborough College, she interned in businesses around the world to gain an understanding of what was needed to start and grow a company.

“I didn’t have any knowledge of technology. But, as I fell into the tech industry, I realized how valuable it would have been to have had some of these skills at college, and have had conversations around the impact of technology, the lack of women in the industry and the change we could have been part of”.

Five years ago, when Anisah was working at The Bakery – a company that pairs brands with tech startups – she realized that the tech industry was male-dominated. Nine out of 10 people she worked with were men. “I heard views I disagreed with, I found people patronizing towards women who didn’t have technical skills, or, more importantly, who didn’t have tech jargon as part of their vocabulary. I saw that we worked with a majority of startups, which were led by men, and the female-founded companies had to prove themselves that little bit more.

“I saw men in Third World countries, especially the rising working class, who had doors opening for them because technology was accessible to them. And I saw products and services that seemed to forget that women existed”.

For example, Apple released a health app without a period tracker on it for women.

“23 Code Street was born out of a need to give women the skills to build the future, to be part of the conversation and to diversify the tech scene”, says Anisah.

She started pushing for more women on teams at The Bakery, and over time the gender split improved from 20 per cent female, to 40 per cent. Tom Salmon, founder of The Bakery, realized the value women bring to the industry and invested in Anisah’s idea of a coding school for females.

“We need women who are marginalized and often forgotten in certain societies to have the tools and knowledge to be able to even imagine a change they could create”, explains Anisah.

She credits the DP for the success of 23 Code Street, as it challenged her in ways that she’ll never forget. “The DP taught me how to ask for help and to be grateful for that help, and how to be a team player. I hire smarter people than me and don’t feel threatened. I challenge people to be better than me in my own company. I go to employees for advice”, says Anisah.

“The IB also taught me to be proud of being a feminist. Nobody had labelled me that in a positive way before. I came to understand feminism meant the fight to be equal. I debated history, literature and science, to understand the role (or lack of) of women in the world. The day I graduated, my English teacher gave us all a book as a parting gift. I was given A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by Mary Wollstonecraft. I read it and realized how far we’d come but also, how far we had to go”.

Expanding into Europe

To date, Anisah has won four awards and has been nominated for ‘We are Tech Women finalist 2017’ and ‘Forbes 30 under 30 nominee 2017’. In addition, many London students have successfully completed the course and gone on to work in the tech industry. But, it’s just the beginning for Anisah and 23 Code Street. She wants to create more courses in the UK and expand to other cities in Europe. “We are also bringing the courses online”, she says.

“In India, we want to create a sustainable model where our alumni begin training our new students. If we were to ever close, which is not the plan(!), we want to have left the infrastructure for the community”.

See the original article here