Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dude. Florida has a lot of license plates

I was just looking at the list of Florida license plates. I can't get over how many there are! We seem to be a very demanding state, telling everybody to save this and protect that. =D Any guesses to which one I have?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Web 2.0 Analogy

The thesis I completed for my Master's degree was on a Web 2.0 technology, and I frequently get asked by technical people and non-techies alike exactly what Web 2.0 is. Most folks know that Web 2.0 makes the old web look prettier and "slicker" and has something to do with community, but many are not sure of how to distinguish between the two.

Problem is that Web 2.0 isn't exactly anything. It's fuzzily many things. So here is my current analogy:
Web pre-2.0 : dinner at a friend's house :: Web 2.0 : a potluck dinner

I like this analogy because it addresses the inherent fuzziness in trying to define something that is an evolution of its previous existence. First, I'll explain the dinners, then try to relate them back to the different Web x.x's.

When you go to a friend's house for dinner, your friend makes dinner for you...most of the time. Maybe you brought over some brownies for dessert, and maybe he ordered in an appetizer from the local Indian place, but basically, he is presenting dinner.

When you go to a potluck dinner, everybody brings a dish (except those sneaky little lurkers who just show up and help themselves while contributing nothing). You probably would not have eaten 0l' Peggy's meatloaf had you just run into her on the street, but there is an inherent sense of trust at this location, so you help yourself to a large slice. You like Jerry's mini-quiches so ask him for the recipe, which he readily gives you (unlike Lenny who encouraged you to eat all of his rice pilaf you like but would not tell you how it was concocted). You talk to Ann about her potato salad and end up making plans to play tennis in a week.

The Web pre-2.0 is very much like a friend's for dinner. You are going to a specific place for a specific purpose. You used to go to your bank web site to check your account, just as you go to your friends to eat your dinner. Maybe as the web evolved, you began to pay bills there. This made it a two-way street: instead of just getting information, you were giving some back. This is kind of like you bringing a dessert to contribute to a dinner.

On to our potluck. Imagine a typical potluck dinner, maybe at a community center. You look around the room and see all kinds of different people. You wonder which food they bought. You see some people that look out of place or that you may not trust, but most people in the room have earned some kind of trust from you by sharing the communal purpose of a potluck. Some folks are there to see others, some are there to promote services (like the local injury lawyer), some are there to watch you.

Web 2.0 is defined by a communal atmosphere: instead of the company or host bringing the goodies, the community brings it. It is also defined by an atmosphere of trust; not absolute trust, but more trust than was perhaps exhibited before. For example, AJAX is a large part of the slickness of Web 2.0 interfaces. However, AJAX is little more than JavaScript made beautiful with stylesheets. Many people (myself included) used to have their browsers set to not allow JavaScript, as it could be used for unsavory purposes. However, as the Web community grows more trusting, more and more users are allowing JavaScript, trusting that those that wrote it will not be invading their desktops. (Yes, I am ignoring spyware concerns for problem at a time, folks).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Programming Language from MIT

MIT has been testing a new programming language designed at enticing the younger crowd into coding. My programming experience started when I was in elementary school with a book on BASIC my dad gave me in which I would "code" designs that would eventually print out something resembling an American flag, a house, or a dog.

In Nancy Leveson's class on programming language, we often discussed how there was very few differences among the languages, whether they be procedural, object-oriented, or a loosely-classified "other." However, in this case, it's not so much the language as the perception of it.

There are still way too few female programmers. I remember my first week of freshman year at Dartmouth, walking into a large theatre-style-seating lecture hall to take a placement exam for computer science. Most of the seats in the hall were filled. I was the only female.

Since then, I've often considered why girls don't go into programming. I think there are a variety of reasons for it. Perhaps two of the largest are the nerdy stigma that goes with it and that lack of a social quality. Face it; despite how many meetings or collaborations we might have, developers still sit in front of a computer most of the day (except for those doing the XP-team-programming thing).

I loved that this article pointed to the collaborative element of this language, that students could laugh and share a joke. The picture at the top of the article showed two girls laughing while sitting in front of a machine. So, while the BASIC I learned on was simple like Scratch, it did not have the collaborative, "fun" element this new language seems to have. While I do not think that this language will be the panacea for the gender disparity in programming-type jobs, I do think that people on the Scratch project are thinking in the right direction.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Weather in Sarasota

The air in Sarasota today is so smoky it made my eyes water. It's been smoky since last night; it's very eerie out. The sun was red as I drove to the gym today.

It's an understatement to say that we are all ready for a little rain down here. There's a chance of thunderstorms toward the weekend, but not much before then. Who ever thought I'd be *hoping* for rain???

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Love from Florida

Just wanted to say a quick hello to everybody and let y'all know I am still doing well here in Florida. It's just like Boston, only sunnier, less rain, and instead of an influx of college students from September through May we get snowbirds from December through May. Yup, those are the major differences in a nutshell.

Last night I saw "Akeelah and the Bee." If anyone of you remember this blog, you will recall that I love spelling bees. I began to miss blogging while watching the movie, especially when I actually recognized spellers from past competitions in the movie. Typical Ilana moment I thought my blog followers might appreciate.

I am going to MIT in June for my official graduation and getting very excited for it. I'll try to slip a few posts in here and there, as I do miss blogging and have been doing some cool stuff with AJAX that a few of my geekier readers may enjoy learning about =)