Hackathons and 20% Time

According to this article, Google’s 20% time never really existed. I’ve always guessed as much, joking with Google friends that their 20% time really could only be taken on Saturday and Sunday. Which is all the same: Engaged employees do what they feel needs to be done no matter what and when.

Hackathons, however, exist. Facebook, SAP, and Suse are example companies that organize them with the purpose of prototyping potential new products. For all that I can say, the dirty little secret is that there are no successful hackathons without 20% time (make it +/- 15%). I’m betting that rarely was there a successful hackathon without a run-up to the hackathon that involved significant preparation, that is, “20% time”.

As a consequence, for hackathons to succeed, employees must not be disenfranchised or overworked. Otherwise they won’t spend their personal time talking about and preparing for a hackathon. Also, they should have a purpose, that is, be tuned in to the company’s mission. I guess this means that the better the company is doing, the more likely it is to get something out of their hackathons.

Should Children Learn to Code?

According to the WordPress summary of my site, the most popular post in 2014 was “Should You Learn to Code?”, beating out the perennial favorite “The Single-Vendor Commercial Open Source Business Model”. Obviously, the broader the interest, the more readers.

This morning I read about the call by a German politician to introduce mandatory programming courses into elementary (primary) school. The idea is that being able to program is such a basic culture technique these days that kids should learn it early on.

In my prior piece on learning to code, I answered mostly in the negative. If you are an adult and don’t aim for a career in programming, don’t bother. With children, the story is quite different: I agree that children should learn to program, but as a boost to early acquisition of abstraction skills, and not for programming skills in themselves.

Let me explain.

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Sexist Ads Alive and Well in 2015

I just saw an advertisement for software from an anti-virus company, homepage pictured below. The ad showed the woman flirting with the man (licking her lips, sliding her finger along the rim of the glass) while an overlaid text box was saying: “You don’t have to understand it, you just have to install it.” The man was intently talking to her.

Ignoring the derogatory depiction of the woman as a dummy, what I never understood about ads like this: Who are they marketing to? It can’t be women, can it? So they are marketing to men, suggesting men feel good when explaining something to women where they assume they don’t understand much about it? And how does the sexual innuendo help?

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How Academics Spend Their Time? Not Me.

I just read this review of how professors spend their time while working. It struck me that a key component that I spend a substantial amount of time and energy on is missing: Fund raising. Here is a visual summary of the article courtesy of someone on reddit:

I first looked through other practices like “letter writing” and “research development” but these require no time at all so I don’t think that’s where fund raising is hiding.

I then thought that perhaps fundraising hides in meetings, making fund raising talking to industry (rather than grant proposal writing). Here is what the article says about meetings:

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German Universities to Take University Rankings Serious

Germany is the best place I know to be a professor if you value your independence. Your rights have been codified in the German Basic Law (Constitution) and no dean can tell you what to do. You are your own person.

On the downside, German professors and universities have been (for the most part) blissfully ignorant of how the rest of the world evaluates universities. Common sentiments in computer science are that “Journal publications are for wimps, real researchers publish in the leading conferences” and “University evaluations? Those are all fraudulent, focusing on crappy criteria that have no connection with reality”.

Some of these critiques are proper. For example, almost all German universities are public universites and many have a unique and positive symbiosis with industry, fueling Germany’s economic growth—where is that being accounted for in these rankings? But for the most part, Germany’s hesitance to join the international ranking game has been harmful.

In one experiment, two German universities recently decided to report their numbers to the Times Higher Education (T.H.E.) ranking with the goal of optimizing their rank. That is nothing uncommon, Northeastern University, for example, has undertaken a multi-year effort to game the US News and World report ranking, much to their benefit, apparently.

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Vortrag zu Open-Source-Geschäftsmodellen auf dem 10ten OSE Symposium, München, 2015-01-23

Ich werde am 23.01.15 um 16:00 Uhr auf dem 10ten OSE Symposium im Haus der Bayrischen Wirtschaft in München einen Vortrag zu Open-Source-Geschäftsmodellen halten (in Deutsch) und danach an einer die Tagung abschliessenden Diskussions­runde teilnehmen. Weitere Teilnehmer der Diskussionsrunde sind Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (ehemalige Bundesjustizministerin) und Jimmy Schulz (ehemaliges MdB). Hier die Rahmendaten:

  • Veranstaltung: 10. OSE Symposium
  • Termin: Am Freitag, den 23. Januar 2015 von 8:30 Uhr bis ca. 17:30 Uhr
  • Ort: Im Haus der Bayerischen Wirtschaft in München
  • Tagungsthema: Escrow und Nachhaltigkeit von IT-Geschäftsmodellen
  • Tagungsleitung: RA Prof. Dr. Jochen Schneider, Kanzlei Schneider Schiffer Weihermüller (SSW)
  • Agenda/Sprecher: Siehe PDF oder www.ose-international.org oder www.davit.de/veranstaltungen
  • Kostenbeteiligung> EUR 230,- zzgl. MwSt. (Reduzierung für OSE-, davit und DGRI-Mitglieder).

Es handelt sich um Vortrag #1 meiner stehenden Vorträge.