Posts Tagged with 'Websites'

Blogging with a Side Order of Spam

Posted Monday, November 10, 2014
I seem to have been discovered by the Secret Society of Spam Submitters. I suppose that's progress in a sense. I actually would like to encourage comments and perhaps even links to material relevant to the topic being discussed in a given post, if it might be of interest to the reader. I've discovered a lot of interesting stuff over the years by jumping tangentially from link to link; I also know how hard it can be to have new readers find you.

So if you're an actual reader, take note of the fact that relevant content will generally be allowed to stay in place while irrelevant self-promotions will be replaced by "I am a naughty spammer" or some variation thereof, along with your IP address, which may then be harvested by other sites to blacklist your efforts everywhere. Make it relevant and you might even be invited to become a regular guest blogger.

On the other hand, my sons are programmers, so it's pretty easy for us to blacklist you from our entire server. It's also easy for me to find the latest comments, regardless of where it's posted (or hidden by intent) because we built that feature in. Play nice and you could get your turn at show-and-tell with the other kiddies; otherwise you'll just get the dunce cap and a corner to sit in while the rest of us ignore you.

Tags: websites, technology,SEO

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Advice for a Computer Science Major

Posted Friday, September 5, 2014
My younger son is currently studying computer science, applied math and physics at an Ivy League university, while my older son already has a CS degree and is considering starting on his master's; both have worked on multiple projects for small business owners. Perhaps because of this, I am frequently asked what advice I might offer to a freshman interested in pursuing a computer science degree.

For the entrepreneurially-inclined, get real-world experience as early as possible, ideally before beginning or in parallel with taking CS classes. It's one thing to "play with" cool features or to do a narrow task for a class assignment; it's quite another to do a project from scratch to someone else's specs, some of which you will not like.

The less technically competent your client is, the greater the learning experience. There are plenty of businessmen out there who will point to Amazon or eBay and expect you to replicate and enhance it for $600. Since you attend the Hogwarts School of CS Magic, shouldn't you be able to just wave your CS wand and make it so?

Other businessmen will give you broad ideas, rather than specs, and expect you to get started immediately. A few days later, after a meeting with another businessman, they will attach some random addition that doesn't fit, in the hope of creating "synergy." A few days later, another random addition will be added to the requirements.

Of course this will drive you nuts. But it will quickly teach you to ask probing questions before starting a project and to triage out potential clients who will be more trouble than they are worth. Should you decide to work for "the man" after you complete your CS degree, at least you will now have the experience (and cynicism) to recognize a potential idiot boss before you make a long-term commitment to working for him.

If you do decide to build a work portfolio and don't really care much about the money component, make sure you avoid the "big idea" sweet-talkers who will rope you into doing a project that "will make you both rich." No money, just a vague promise to split future profits (with no signed legal agreement or business plan in sight). There are plenty of people like this who specifically prey on the young and inexperienced. Avoid them like the plague!

Instead, find a small charity or local community group and offer to work for them for free. At least the project will have defined limits, will get finished, and will likely get you a recommendation from a grateful client. An alternative way of getting clients is to offer to swap your time and growing expertise with a small business that you already frequent -- say a neighborhood restaurant or car repair shop.

I know this somewhat different advice than many of the other articles you might read, which focus more directly on CS itself. However, note that in the real world you'll very likely need to interact with the idiosyncrasies of the business world, probably more often than you might like.

Tags: websites, technology, education, college

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Green Eggs, Ravens and Markov Chains

Posted Saturday, August 9, 2014
What do you get when you cross Dr. Seuss with Edgar Allan Poe? Some very interesting ramblings, as you will see below. But first, let me give you a little background info.

Perhaps a half-dozen years ago when I performed a Google search, I would frequently find myself on a page that almost sounded normal but then would veer off bizarrely, as if the writer had been dropping mega-hits of LSD.

As it turns out, those pages had been created by math-savvy search engine optimization (SEO) experts to rank on page 1 for select keyword searches. The math used is called a Markov chain: you enter a block of text, each pair of words are compared and a probability table is created. A random word is first selected and then the probability table is used to select the next word in proportion to its representation in the original sample. Then the next word is selected the same way.

The SEO guys took a block of ordinary text, added a batch of keyword phrases and let the Markov chain generate text that was heavy in relevant keywords, which were distributed randomly. The process is easier to understand if you take two very stylistically-different blocks of text and watch the resulting copy wander back and forth sounding like one, then the other, then the first again.

When my programmer son was prototyping this blog page, rather than just enter traditional Lorem ipsum filler text, he decided to generate a Markov chain passage combining Poe's The Raven with Dr. Suess' Green Eggs and Ham. Below is the result:

Once upon the floor Shall be lifted - Let my chamber door. `'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my bosom's core; This I will let me be. I do not like them here; But, with a token of Lenore! Not with a goat! Would you came a train, Not in a demon's that Sam-I-am. Once upon a fox I sat divining, with a car! Sam! And in front of evil! - by horror haunted - Only this, and ham! And I scarce was blessed with a mouse. Would you like them in a goat? I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

I would not like green eggs and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore - For the rain? I do not like them in a tree. They are so plainly, Though its ghost upon the floor; And in a goat. You let me be! I do not like them anywhere. I do not like them, Sam-I-am. Would you eat them anywhere. I do not like them with a tree! Not with seeing bird beguiling my door!' Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Startled at my chamber door. `'Tis some one gently you came a box? Would you, would not eat them anywhere. I do not in a mouse I would not a mouse I said, `art sure no syllable expressing To the dark! Not in the raven, `Nevermore.' `Prophet!' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I do not like them in a box. I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like them in that God we both adore - is sitting, still a feather then he fluttered - 'Tis the darkness gave no token, And so like them with a flirt and nothing more,' Presently my loneliness unbroken! - tell me be, I will eat them with seeing bird said, `Nevermore.' `Be that lies floating on the grave and there. I scarcely more than before.

`Surely,' said I, `thing of the dirges of sorrow - For we both adore - Whether tempter sent, or fiend!' I would not, in a bust above my heart, and there. I do not like green eggs and bust above my sad uncertain rustling of my door! Take thy crest be still is dreaming, And I do not eat them here or there. I remember it was sure I would not, could not, could you, in front of evil! - 'Tis the sculptured bust above us - here or there. I am Sam I will see. Not in the chamber door - `Get thee Respite - Is there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no syllable expressing To the rare and door; And I will eat them with a token of forgotten lore, While I will not eat them in a house. Eagerly I would not, would eat them with a tree!


By the way, Google has since figured out to ignore this SEO approach if you were considering using it.

Tags: websites, food and drink, SEO, applied math, technology, food and drink

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