The Role of Collective Intelligence in Learning

This is an amazing video, a well articulated, very different view of learning.  Here are some snippets:

  • Web is a hyper-personalized, hyper-individualized medium for learning content
  • We still need schools, since they provide the community that inspires people to participate in learning together
  • How can we get the students intelligence involved in learning?
  • Inspiring good questions (instead of giving them the answers)
  • Inspire each student to become an expert in a small part of the subject and have them share it with others
  • Create spaces where people can come together and learn together and inspire one another
  • Tests cannot be the center-piece of learning. It can be one of the many (but not the major) method of evaluation
  • Create a playful (fun) but serious learning environment (I think this is the greatest challenge)
  • Provide facilities for grabbing any information from anywhere


I found the link to this video on Twitter (like many other links I find nowadays). I have to thank @TheTransitioner who posts many valuable resources on collective intelligence.

Programming for the Non Programmers

If you recall, web was born as a way to help scientists share documents. Solving real problems, some times can start revolutions.

One interesting revolution may be programming for the non-programmer. If you think of programming as just a way to solve interesting problems in a flexible way, then we need a different approach to teaching programming. You need a language that is gentle, easy to understand, quick to learn and incrementally reveals its power. It does not have the limitations of a toy language or does not impose a certain approach.

One such programming language, and one of my favorites, is Python. So I am glad to see that there are efforts to create courses for Scientists and Engineers to learn it. I love the visiion behind this effort:

We are in the midst of a revolution – a fundamental change in the way scientists, engineers, and other technical professionals use computers. No longer do we need a professional programmer as an intermediary to write programs for us. Powerful personal computers and modern, high-level languages are making programming a vital tool for non-programmers.

Like the word-processing revolution that made typists obsolete, there is a saving of time and money, but the impact of this revolution is much deeper, especially for those of us whose work depends on an exploratory” or interactive kind of computing. Now we can write programs while staying focused on our project, and it is no more difficult than using a computer to write a technical report.

The Aristocracy of Talent

I was reading several posts from this blog. Some are very fascinating. But this made me smile:

The aristocracy of talent was all that mattered here, and why on earth would you put up with the potential of someone less talented than you telling you what to do?

It was a thought that used to run through my mind a lot when I used to work. It works the other way too, when you switch places and start your own company. If there is nothing some one can learn from you, why should they work in your company?

I heard a variation of this from a student more recently. “Why do I have sit and suffer through a class when I am not learning much?”. Definitely a question to ponder. Keeps coming up more and more nowadays.


The blog post that triggered this one is here. James has a lot of other insights worth reading about.

LinkLog: How Do You Measure the Success of Your Blog?

I just wanted to leave a comment on By What Metric Comes Success?. But the spam filter threw some funny message that did not make sense. So here is my comment. To make sense of this post, you may want to first read the original post.

Traffic is good but it is not everything. Intelligent comments are good but  people don’t often comment unless you say something great or too controversial. References of your blog posts are good. Like some one said about Retweets, if some one quotes portions of your blog, it may be an indication that you said something useful. But it all depends on why you are blogging. It could be anything from self-expression, an urge to share, to start a few conversations or participate in them.

What is my metric? If I can send my blog link to some one and they understand who I am and what my interests are, I would consider that a good metric.

Do You Want to be an Angel?

I think this is a fascinating topic in its own right. It provides some motivation for some one who wants to be an Angel (pun intended).

Here is the link to the study. I just reproduced the summary below:

The historical picture of angel group investor outcomes offers lessons in the practice of angel investing. These include:

Due diligence time – Investors experienced better returns in the deals where they exercised more due diligence. Sixty-five percent of the exits with below-average time spent on due diligence reported a return that was less than their original investment. Losses occurred in only 45 percent of the deals where investors did above-average due diligence.

Industry expertise – Analysis indicated that expertise has a material impact on angel investors’ returns. Returns were nearly double for investments in ventures where the investor had related industry expertise.

Participation – After an angel makes an investment, his or her participation in the venture – through mentoring, coaching, and financial monitoring – is significantly related to that venture’s returns, according to the study.

Follow-on investing – Deals where the angel investor made follow-on investments generated significantly lower returns. In ventures where follow-on investments were made, nearly 70 percent of the exits occurred at a loss. The study recommended additional research to determine the impact of other factors in these results.

I will add a couple of observations based on my own experience (mostly failures):

  • It is better to invest in times of steady or subdued activity than times of euphoria
  • It is better to do the due diligence yourself. If you don’t have the time to do it, hang on to your money
  • Don’t ever invest because some one you trust and made money as a VC or Angel invested
  • More angels with smaller amounts is in my opinion better than a few angels with larger amounts

Let me explain the last bullet. What you need from angels, more than money is help in building your startup. If each angel can turn into a micro-mentor, you will get a lot more help than just a check.

Some one once talked to me about the concept of micro-angels. C.K.Prahlad talked about it in his keynote at TES2008 as micro-investors. Imagine 100 investors putting in Rs. 10,000 (or $200) each in your company. Imagine that they are your unofficial PR team and some of them, even potential customers.

Python Links Jan 7, 2009

Was wondering whether I should just put this in a page instead of blogging every day. Anyway, here are the links.

  1. lxml 2.1.5- lxml is a Pythonic, mature binding for the libxml2 and libxslt libraries. It provides safe and convenient access to these libraries using the ElementTree API
  2. Blender 3D: Blending Into Python/Optimize – A wikibook for Blender Python API, a growing collection of Python modules (libraries) that give access to part of the program’s internal data and functions. Also see Blender Python API Reference
  3. IMDbPY 3.9 IMDbPY is a Python package useful to retrieve and manage the data of the IMDb movie database about movies, people, characters and companies.
  4. owyl 0.2.1 – The goal of Owyl: provide a fast and flexible Behavior Tree library implemented in python. For more on behavior trees refer to
  5. PyAMF 0.4rc2 The Adobe Integrated Runtime and Flash Player use AMF to communicate between an application and a remote server. PyAMF provides Action Message Format (AMF) support for Python that is compatible with the Flash Player.


Some of these alerts come from’s  Python Package Index (pypi) and others come from a variety of sources including PlanetPython (and variants), wikibooks and several other sources. The descriptions are simply extracted from the headings of these pages.

Python and Django Links Jan 6, 2009

Selected Django Links from TopicMinder alerts:

  1. django-reversion 1.1-An extension to the Django web framework that provides comprehensive version control facilities
  2. django-announcements 0.1.0 – Announcements for your Django powered website.
  3. django-timezones 0.1.0pre – A Django reusable app to deal with timezone localization for users
  4. django-notification 0.1.0 – Many sites need to notify users when certain events have occurred and to allow configurable options as to how those notifications are to be received.

Selected Python Links:

  1. pyhepmc 0.3.2 – A Python interface to the HepMC high-energy physics event record API
  2. SpiffSignal 0.1.0 – SpiffSignal is a Python module that implements a simple signal/event mechanism.
  3. strait 0.5.1 0 – strait is a simple implementation of trait-based object system for Python
  4. SourceClassifier: Identifying Programming Languages Quickly using a Bayesian classifier
  5. simplejson 2.0.7 – Simple, fast, extensible JSON encoder/decoder for Python
  6. EDDIE-Tool 0.37.3 – The EDDIE Tool is a system and network monitoring, security, and performance analysis agent developed entirely in threaded Python
  7. GChartWrapper 0.7 – Python Google Chart Wrapper.Made for dynamic python websites (Django,Zope,CGI,etc.) that need on the fly chart generation without any extra modules. Can also grab the PIL Image instance of the chart for manipulation
  8. Unrestricted Grammar used like a dictionary (Python) – Programs can be written as substitutions. This allows a set of substitution rules to be defined and then strings are transformed using these rules in a left recursive manner.
  9. bz2- bzip compression

Top 10 Posts

Once a year, I  pause and look at what people are reading from my blogs. WordPress is great. It provides you these stats.  This list tells me a lot about readership but also tells me that people who read blogs also want to know about the blogger. I don’t keep the About page updated,  but now I have an incentive to do that.

Here are mine from 2008.

Why I Love Python
Programming Language Trends
Treating Code as an Essay
Thirteen Dwarfs – Computational Kernels
Design Patterns for Parallel Programming
Implementing an Innovation Process
How Do You Choose a Blog Title?
Convert any Web Page to an RSS Feed
Technology Trends – A List

These are all time favorites.

Why I Love Python
Treating Code as an Essay
Programming Language Trends
The Definition of Work
Google Calendar Firefox Extension
Thirteen Dwarfs – Computational Kernels
Convert any Web Page to an RSS Feed
Implementing an Innovation Process
How Do You Choose a Blog Title?

How Can I Help?

The inspiration for a social network came from Reddit (some what indirectly). Here is the sequence of events that lead me to create it.

  1. A month ago, a friend (Mei Lin Fung) requested me to create a social network on “I want to help Program For the Future”. I thought it was a cool idea. I thought that a more generic version –  “I want to Help” may be even more useful.
  2. I received an email that edgen  was following me on Twitter. I normally check out the people who are trying to follow me and follow some of them back. I do this by reading a few recent posts. Among the posts, I saw a reference to <a href=” “>Feed a Need</a>, and a request to vote for their cause.
  3. I decided to check out Feed a Need and volunteered a few hours.
  4. That got me thinking. It must be easy to spend a few hours each week doing some random act of kindness. What are some good avenues?

I went ahead and posted this question on Twitter and put it on my LinkedIn profile and started this network. Frankly, I am not sure what we are going to do in that forum. I am sure that people will have ideas. We can start out by sharing information about places where others can volunteer. I will list a few that I know of. It will be great to see which organizations and individuals are channeling volunteers towards helping the world.

Feel free to join and contribute. Let us find and share information on more organizations like Feed a Need.

Wishing you all a Happy and Glorious New Year.