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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Udacity Adds 3 More Google Courses - Online Education MOOC News

Announced via +Udacity  newsletter today: Udacity adds three more +Google Developers  sponsored software engineering, development, programming courses to its growing professional curriculum. All basic course material access is free of charge. Udacity is digging deeper in its specialization in real-world professional software development curriculum. This time it teaches you how to build apps with Google. Pretty impressive. Grab your free Google Development course content now.

Developing Scalable Apps in Python with Google App Engine

a course on Python and cloud computing with Google App Engine

Already 1500 students strong. Learn how to really do Cloud Computing with Google's App Engine, leveraging Google data centers. 6 weeks of advanced coursework.

Browser Rending Optimization 

aka Building 60 FPS Web Apps
a course on web performance

Already 3500+ students strong. This month-long advanced course. Learn how to build 60 frames per second (FPS) web apps and learn how to improve web performance. Developers will learn how to build apps that render smoothly.

Responsive Images

a course on working with images front-end development

This is an intermediate two-week long course with nearly 3000 students. Google will teach you how to use responsive images responsibly (LOL). This class will walk through the <picture> HTML element, <img> and the srcset attribute. A great short course for front end developers.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Learn to Code Full Stack with Udacity Nanodegree

I recently submitted Project 1 of the Udacity Full Stack Nanodegree curriculum. This blog post is my reflection and review on the experience. Overall, it really exceeded expectations. The price is still too expensive, but Udacity is really offering effective, engaging, alternative online education for programming, development #learntocode movement. It starts to distinguish itself as an online ultra-premium vocational school for software engineering using modern technologies, programming languages, and software frameworks like MongoDB, D3.js, Bootstrap, Github,, Android, iOS and more.

 Udacity took a long time to ramp up its course content by focusing on video-intensive, interactive basic courses for a long long time. It got famous, then got quiet until it re-entered the arena with a bang. Last year, it came back strong with blockbuster partner names like Google, Facebook and Salesforce, but it's not until this year's Nanodegree offering did it become clear that all the work and focus on fundamentals paid off. The full stack nanodegree and the data science nanodegree clearly integrates fundamental classes like intro to computer science, programming with Python, data analysis etc. These fundamental classes have been improved and adapted to the nanodegree, but the majority of the content stays true to its originals.

The leverage becomes clearer when students are struggling to submit assignments using Git and Github (in the iOS nanodegree). Udacity just added the Git and Github intro curriculum into the nanodegree after project one, and the content already exists elsewhere on Udacity, the process was super simple. Udacity's content is so much more integrated compared to Coursera, whose content is largely organized by university departments and specializations.

Project 1 of the Udacity Full Stack was intro to python programming. I expected the course to be a cruise for me as I already learned to code, and it was, but I was surprised to learn many useful Computer Science concepts which I missed out not having that formal education in college. The mini exercises were extremely useful, resulted in scripts that I could immediately use to make my daily professional life more productive e.g. find a secret message is really a python script for organizing files for content management.

The project is advanced for the level (I will explain this more in my iOS nanodegree reflection talking about the really challenging project). To complete Project 1 students must write the code to utilize a "" library / mini API to dynamically generate an HTTP file. i.e. generate an entirely new locally hosted website on the fly. Students can choose to ignore the file, all together, or can choose to dive into the mini API and learn how HTTP files are generated using Python. It was pretty cool.

The integrated grading process prefers students sharing completed work via Github integration with Udacity. There's some real life commit and code sharing practice. The content is rich and may be bit jam-packed for first-timers, i.e. they really mean what they say "minimum 10 hour weekly commitment" (the iOS commitment is really much longer than that, I previewed the data science one briefly and saw that it requires quite a bit of statistics background to make the curriculum a cruise). It seems that the essential goal of each nanodegree project is to generated presentable mini, relevant projects which can be showcased on Github, preparing the student for the interview / job seeking process. In that case, Udacity did a good job elevating its curriculum to real-world job relevance, distinguishing itself from the more academic counterpart -Coursera and the more fun gamified Code School and Treehouse.

Say More with Twitter Comment Replacing Twitter Quote Tweet

Read about Twitter Comment update on the official blog
Twitter updated its Quote Tweet feature, previously a retweet feature that will grab texts from the original tweet leaving only a few below-quota characters for commentating. Quote tweet used to look like RT "@name  .... original... tweet... takes up most of the space", now it almost looks like a shared link, freeing up 140 characters to express opinion and highlight relevance of this RT. You can now say so much more with this Twitter Social Media feature update.

The original tweet now looks like a shared URL freeing up space for 140 additional characters
This can be Twitter's response to the recent surge of unofficial infinite tweet apps (rendering words as images) which allow users to share unlimited number of characters and have gotten popular even on ProductHunt. Twitter Comment can really change the dynamic of Twitter conversations, making the "replying" process more cohesive. You can now comment, @ mention people, add detailed opinions that are relevant to the original tweet. This can really be a game changer. 

What will you do with an additional 140 characters? 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Have a coffee chat with Dilys via Square Cash?

Let's chat over a virtual latte using Square Cash.

Why coffee? I love coffee, which makes me really happy so I give better advice.

What's in it for you? The right advice at the right moment can change your life! For a cup of coffee, you can pick my brain for 15 minutes. We can chat about: growth hacking, e-Commerce, learn to code movement, consulting, startup, Y Combinator, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and more...

Why you want to chat with Dilys? She's unconventional and had a fabulous year in the learn to code movement, read about it here. She also has a shiny linkedin profile

  1. Use Square Cash to send me some "tips"$buydilyscoffee
  2. Select a hashtag # topic that you want to chat about for 15 minutes. See my twitter profile for ideas
  3. We just had a virtual coffee chat worth celebrating! It will go down in micro consulting history! The advice-giver is happy the advice-receiver is happy. The world is a better place.

Let's have a cup of coffee via Square Cash

Coursera Verified Signature Track Certification Takes WEEKS!

Update : I have finally gotten my certificates for both courses. The plus is that they can be shared on Linkedin. Courser certification is integrated perfectly with Linkedin Profiles. The minus is that the manually reviewed long winded Signature Track process took away the instant gratification of gamification and achievement. To finish the course, students must be disciplined at following step-by-step time-sensitive requirements of the course syllabus, making this process exactly the same as taking a college course, putting Coursera closer to "sharing college courses online" than "providing alternative and innovative education online". Udacity Nanodegree on the other hand, graded my highly individualized programming and coding assignments within a couple of hour thanks to its seamless Github integration. Github integration for submitting assignments is really a game changer.

An online learning junkie complains about the turtle speed of Coursera to stamp verified certificates from Signature Track. Coursera has innovated by adding some seriously awesome offerings (see last paragraph), but the certification process is off. Paying customers, suckers for gamified badges, online learning junkies like me are not getting the instant gratification of accomplishment and are prone to become massive dropouts, i.e. Coursera is doing good work but having no fun!

Just "finished" my first course on Coursera that is verified with Signature Track. Submitted all the assignments, I hope .. I won't know until later, because this "innovative" coursework still relies heavily on syllabus. You are on your own for keeping track of fragmented tasks (a few surveys, a few assignments, some multi-stage, peer-reviewed projects. There's no roadmap to showcase progress, nor instant gratification of completion. 

For people, who had trouble sticking to syllabus in college? Or didn't like the college studying style? Good luck. You are on your own. No wonder why MOOC's massive dropout rates or attrition is notorious too. Major media reports all covered this Massive Dropout Out Online phenomenon. 

Despite its innovative feel, the Coursera verification still relies heavily on manual verification that will take 2-3 weeks after the class hard deadline (meaning there's a long wait even after the class no longer accepts the late-beyond-imagination submissions). 

There's not much VIP treatment for those who become paid users, and that should be a big deal for all "startups" (FYI domain redirects to .org). There's quite a big of confusion for paid users, and there's no access to direct contact with any support staff (very different compared to Udacity - instant email replies). Coursera seems to focus on social support (Stanford research paper about MOOC dropout). While frustrated at the process, I was able to find fragments of answers in the forum, and even connect with someone who has completed those certificates before. He helped me understand that this may take weeks.

On his splashing Linkedin Profile, he proudly displays multiple signature track certificates from advanced and prestigious university courses! That was impressive. I instantly recognize him as a peer, despite that he's in Israel and I know nothing about the education system there. I also realized that there are people who finished some advanced classes I signed up for and consequently dropped out of in the past - guilt and shame creeps in. 

My two cents: those who buy expects premium services, so don't just offer a support page. Get more peer staff, community staff to hand hold students. Despite that I  graduated from a great university, I have learning obstacles (adult ADHD) and focus issues sticking to a text-heavy screen. This may be the case for many "students" seeking the likes of Coursera and Udacity out as learning alternatives.  When signup is massive and difficult to manage, peer evaluation helped, community-based peer support and Q&A FAQ will definitely help too. True story: a lot of us who don't have parents who went to ivy league elite colleges, struggle with one big thing when landed in an university like Stanford - I had no idea how to navigate and organize around the massive resources that are available. I didn't know how to manage my course load and catch up on materials for which everyone else attended two AP classes in the past. I didn't know how to track a syllabus and finish things on time. Plus, last but not least, if I am paying for a certificate with a brand name university / organization, yet no actual credention, to show off, I am a sucker for badges of gamification, and give me those badges ASAP for instant gratification! If I have great self-discipline for delayed gratification and self-regulation, I really won't be chipmonking and spazzled on the internet.

Final thought: I am finally discovering the beauty of Coursera this month. Until now, I never finished a course, nor paid for things, because the text-heavy interface seemed so boring for me who has adult ADHD. The fact that it offers some sort of verification, partners with name-brand universities (some even in China, very impressed), integrates with Linkedin to display your badges, and offers classes that are unique and impressive like a 101 on dinosaur, is something that deserves serious applause!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Many faces of the Apple Watch apps - What do the apps look like?

What do the Apple Watch apps look like?

Here are some fresh screenshots from the Apple live event today showcasing new apps designed for Apple Watch. 

The many faces of Apple Watch

A visual overview of the Apple Watch apps

Apple website displaying a mosaic of Apple Watches

A blooming flower as a newly imagined watch face for Apple Watch

Disney Mickey Mouse as the classical playful design on Apple Watch

The traditional watch face with augmented rich details of tech enabled daily lives. #AppleWatch

Apple Watch as the ultimate fitness device to replace FitBit Fuelband and Jawbone UP delivers heart rate.

Take incoming calls and send text messages with Apple Watch.

Apple Watch's built in mic and speaker allows incoming and outgoing calls on the wrist.

Digital touch records and sends hand drawn mini art.
Digital touch sends recorded animation of personalized emoticons #AppleWatch 

Apple Watch trying to be cute allowing you to send your loved ones a beating heart.

3 Ring data visualization for personal fitness tracking on wearable devices.

WatchKit allows easy development of Watch apps with Apple's Swift programming language.
Apple Pay, photo view, video play, dictation, iTune, Passbook, maps all work on Apple Watch

A day in the life of an apple watch starts with important reminders and notifications.

Apple partners with WeChat appeals to its Chinese customers.

Apple with WeChat allows emoticons.

Apple Watch allows uses of emoticon and emoji in text conversations appeals to its Asian customers.

Apple Watch works with Instagram

Apple Watch can call and get a Uber cat in minutes.

Check in to flights and view flight status with PassBook built in for Apple Watch.

Apple partners with Starwoods hotels and properties to allow on-the-wrist check-in and unlocking rooms. W Hotel

Apple's Brand New ResearchKit Apps for Medical Research

What do the ResearchKit apps look like?

Here are some screenshots freshly picked from the Apple live event showcasing apps built with ResearchKit for medical research for hospitals and universities. Apple wants to utilize the 700 million user data and healthcare partnership to turn Apple devices into futuristic diagnostic tools.

ResearchKit : enables iPhone to be used for Medical Research as a surveying tool and a diagnostic tool.

ResearchKit : enables iPhone to be used for Medical Research as a surveying tool and a diagnostic tool. 

ResearchKit Logo

ResearchKit framework as a diagnostic tool.

ResearchKit partnership landscape.

Parkinson's Disease partnership with University of rochester Xuanwu Hospital Capital Medical University, Sage Bionetworks. 

Finger tapping diagnostic approach to identify patients with Parkinson's disease.

Apple wants to help diagnose Parkinson's Disease right on the iPhone.

Diabetes partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital.

Cardiovascular disease partnership with Stanford Medicine and University of Oxford.

Asthma partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital Well Cornell Medical College.

Breast cancer partnership with UCLA school of public health, penn medicine, sage bionetworks, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Five health apps available today as a featured download in the App Store.

Voice recognition as a diagnostic tool