Feature Friday: The Back Button

So iOS9 has a back button. I’ve not seen it in action but I read about it when iOS9 was announced. And now iOS9 is out.

This is one of the things that Android has had and iOS has not. I’m not sure why Apple held out so long.

I’m going to try out the new iOS at some point in the near future. I’ll probably buy a 6S in a few weeks after it hits the stores.

I’ll be very happy to have a back button in iOS. It’s muscle memory to want to back.

I’d like to hear from those of you who have upgraded to iOS9 about the back button. Is it as big of a deal as I think it is?

Computer Science For All

Yesterday Mayor de Blasio announced Computer Science For All which is a ten year effort to train 4,775 NYC public school teachers on the fundamentals of computer science and how to teach it to their students. The goal of Computer Science For All is to have computer science teachers and classes in every one of the 1,700 NYC public schools within ten years.

The budget for this effort is $80mm over ten years and includes the costs to train the teachers, run the program which is the largest of its kind in the US, and a rigorous program evaluation which includes regular reporting on progress and impact.

Computer Science For All is a public/private partnership in which the City of New York​ and the NYC Department of Education is putting up $40mm and the private sector is putting up the other $40mm. The founding private sponsors of Computer Science For All are my foundation CSNYC, the Robin Hood Foundation and the AOL Charitable Foundation. To date, we have raised about 30% of the private money, we have our sights on another 20%, and we are looking for individuals, foundations, and corporations who would like to get behind this amazing effort and round out the balance of the private funds. Please reach out to me or my colleague Cindy if you are or know of an individual, foundation, or corporation capable of making a significant gift to this effort.

Teaching computer science to kids is not just about good jobs for the citizens of NYC and building the talent pool for the tech sector in NYC. It is about helping young students develop a new kind of literacy that they will need to lead successful lives in the 21st century world we live in. I called it “learning how to instruct a machine” in this blog post from a few weeks ago. Coding requires a student to deconstruct the problem they are trying to solve into small bits, think and write logically, and problem solve/debug when the instructions don’t work perfectly the first time. These are skills that are critical and transferable to other disciplines. I believe that every K-12 student should encounter the principles and fundamentals of computer science in elementary school, middle school, and high school and I am thrilled that NYC is going to ensure that its public school students get this instruction in the coming years.

If you can’t make a big contribution to the public private partnership but want to help and get involved, here are some things you can do:

  • Help support CSNYC which is NYC’s partner in this ten year effort. We will be raising the private funds, helping to shape the teacher training and curriculum development, and providing governance, evaluation and research around this effort. If you can make a donation to CSNYC, we would very much appreciate it. You can do that here.
  • Volunteer your time to help teach computer science in the NYC public schools. Here are two great ways to do that:
  • Join and attend our meetups. You can join here. And there is a big meetup on October 21 at Google where 30+ CS Ed groups/programs will be there to speak to educators and volunteers.

I will wrap this post with a video the Mayor’s office put out yesterday. It shows the City’s commitment to this effort and lays out the rationale for it. I would like to thank Mayor de Blasio for his courage and conviction to support Computer Science For All. I believe it will turn out to be a signature element of his equity/fairness agenda.

Some Big News On CS Education

I am driving up to the Bronx this morning to attend Mayor de Blasio’s speech on the NYC public schools. As the NY Times reported last night, in his speech he will announce a big public/private partnership between the city and the private sector to train up to 5,000 teachers on computer science curriculum, from elementary school through high school. The goal is to have computer science in all 1,700 public schools in NYC within ten years. I believe that in time this effort will be recognized as a signature piece of Mayor de Blasio’s equity/fairness agenda.

I will have a longer post on this tomorrow with details on how people can get involved in this effort. But since the news broke last night, I wanted to at least acknowledge it on AVC today.

As you all know, this is something I’ve been working on for over five years now. This work has been inspired and supported by so many people who won’t be acknowledged and won’t be credited today and in the weeks and months to come as this effort gets rolled out. People like Mike Zamansky, who is the godfather of CS Ed in the NYC public schools, and all the folks in the Department Of Education and City Hall, some of whom left a couple years ago, and some of whom arrived a couple years ago, and all my colleagues and board members at CSNYC, are the reasons this is happening. And since they won’t be on a stage or in a news article, I want to acknowledge all of them here. Thanks everyone for making this happen.

Question: Can You Get T-Mo Wifi Calling On Stock Android

So last week I ditched my Nexus 6 for a Samsung Galaxy Edge 6 from T-Mo so I could get Wifi Calling on my android phone.

A week later I am back to the Nexus 6. I just couldn’t take all the stuff that comes with the T-Mo phone. The autocomplete was driving me crazy. There are apps on the phone I don’t want and don’t have the time to figure out how to delete. Plus I like the form factor of the Nexus 6 a lot better. It just feels right in my hand and the Galaxy Edge 6 did not.

But I’m really missing the T-Mo Wifi Calling feature that drove to to the T-Mo store to buy the Samsung phone in the first place.

So a question for the AVC community – can I somehow get T-Mo Wifi Calling on a stock android phone?

If you know how to do this, please let me know in the comments.

CloudFlare and China

Our portfolio company CloudFlare operates one of the Internet’s largest networks. This blog is hosted on the CloudFlare network so all of you are passing through CloudFlare on your way to AVC.

CloudFlare wanted to operate its network in China but obviously that created some challenges. So for the past four years CloudFlare has been working with various partners in China to come up with a model that would work. About a year ago, they entered into a partnership with Baidu and now CloudFlare and Baidu’s joint venture is operating one of the largest networks in China.

The New York Times has a good post today on the partnership, how it works, and why it works.

This is a good example of how US companies can do business in China. It requires a lot of work but given the size of the chinese market, it is worth it for many companies to undertake such a thing, particularly if having a global network is strategic to your business.

Ten Years Of Techmeme

If you were blogging about tech in September 2005 when tech.memeorandum.com launched, you knew about it and you read it. There was a time when AVC posts would regularly be on Techmeme and AVC would regularly be on its leaderboard. That has not been the case for years but I still read Techmeme every day. It is as valuable a source of news for me as anything else.

Gabe wrote a short post about Techmeme yesterday on its 10th anniversary. There are few things in there that I’d like to react to.

  1. Techmeme’s original goals were to “1. Recognize the web as editor, 2. Rapidly uncover new sources, and 3. Relate the conversation.” These are awesome goals and made the site what it was and what it is. Techmeme does a better job at number 3 than anything out there, ten years after showing the world how it is done. Sadly they do not do a particularly good job at number 2 and have not for years. Gabe tacitly acknowledges this with this bit “However, as Techmeme became the first stop for tech news for a growing and influential segment of the tech industry, other goals became imperative too. In particular: strive for comprehensive coverage of the day’s most significant tech stories, and post big, breaking news story quickly.” I can get the “big breaking news” anywhere and don’t value Techmeme for that. But I understand that others do and frankly Techmeme can and should do whatever they think makes for the best site for the largest audience. But I do miss the time when solo bloggers made up most of the links. Those kind of voices are still out there and there really isn’t a great way to find them unless they are software engineers whose links show up on Hacker News.
  2. Techmeme survived each and every effort to supplant it. Gabe writes this “Later the phrase “Techmeme Killer” would appear fairly regularlyin headlines, most notably when Google itself introduced a would-be “Techmeme Killer”. Even after Techmeme survived Google’s Techmeme-killer, services like ePlatform and TechFuga would still elicit comparisons to Techmeme, while TechCrunch would later say of Tweetmeme, a Techmeme-like aggregator of tweets “If I were Gabe Rivera, I’d start worrying now”.” I’ve ranted on this before but nothing annoys more than the “xyz killer” headline. The fact is that that supplanting a category creator and market leader is not easy, as much as the media would suggest that it is, and Gabe and his team have done a terrific job of continuing to produce a great site day after day, year after year.
  3. Techmeme has never taken outside investment, allowing them to run the business as a “cashflow business” that creates a good living for the team. Gabe says this “I always hoped it would be possible to build and sustain Techmeme without the aid of venture capital or debt. Not so much because of real or perceived issues around independence or autonomy, not because “bootstrapped” is an impressive badge of honor, and not because I disliked investors (some of my best friends are VCs!) But rather because the media business we envisioned by its nature was just not destined to become the “unicorn” VCs always want, at least in its first of several possible iterations. So proving sustainability always seemed necessarily part of the plan. Moreover, in casual conversations with investors over the years most ideas for expansion suggested to me seemed destined to fail in my estimation (a fate borne out in a few cases by actual companies that carried out such plans).” Most businesses, including many that do raise VC including some we have invested in, should not raise VC. Kudos to Gabe for understanding that and financing his business another way (revenues).

Techmeme is an “internet treasure” to use the phrase my friend Mark taught me. I visit it every day. So do most of the leaders of the tech sector. It’s a fantastic resource and it’s been a pleasure to watch Gabe and his team build it into what it is over the years. Happy 10th anniversary Techmeme.

Fun Friday: Teaching Empathy

This is a serious topic, brought up by reggiedog in yesterday’s comment thread, but maybe we can have some fun with it today.

I agree with reggiedog that teaching empathy to children is necessary if you want to produce happy and healthy adults. We are fortunate that our kids’ school was damn good at that and we certainly never missed an opportunity to point out how their actions made others feel.

The Gotham Gal spent much of her high school years coaching kids sports. She had a whistle around her neck and pretty much every form of athletic equipment in the back of her car. And we encouraged our kids to do the same. Each of them coached middle school basketball when they were in high school. Looking back on that, I think coaching/teaching at a relatively young age is a great way to teach empathy. You learn how to deal with challenging situations and the emotions that come with them up close and personally.

Taking this to another level, teaching in general is a great way to learn to help others and feel the joy that comes from that. If you can put your kids in situations where they are helping others, you are likely to teach them empathy for others, which as reggiedog points out is a badly needed skill in this day and age.

I’m curious to hear from others in the comments how they have approached this challenge as a parent.

What Is Coding?

I did a fireside chat at Google NYC yesterday and was asked a great question by one of the engineers in the room. He wanted to get at what exactly are we teaching when we teach coding to kids and why is it important.

I responded that coding is just instructing a machine what we want it to do. Anytime you are instructing a machine what to do, you are coding. That could be writing python code, that could be setting the alarm on your phone.

The point of teaching kids to code is that machines are becoming an ever more important part of our lives and an ever more important part of society and the economy.

Those who are good at instructing machines will have an easier time navigating the life that is in our future.

That’s why we should teach kids to code.