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Computer Science Education (google.com)
369 points by dr_linux on Feb 2, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 234 comments

> Computers are everywhere in our world today and being an educated citizen requires an understanding of the fundamentals of computer science and its underlying problem-solving methodology of computational thinking.

I know this is just some copywriter writing this, but this seems the height of Silicon Valley bubble thinking. Plenty of people do just fine in their lives barely interacting with computers at all.

Sure, it's helpful to be able to use email and a web browser, but "being an educated citizen requires an understanding of the fundamentals of computer science"? Come on.

Plenty of people "do just fine in their lives" without knowing how to read. This is discussing how to "be an educated citizen", a far higher bar. An educated citizen:

* can have an informed opinion about the NSA's definition of "collecting" information [0].

* when told "we need to make sure that this list of 100,000 URLs are all valid websites", doesn't respond "wow, we'll need to hire a big team".

* can reason about data-driven classification of documents (e.g. Facebook's news feed, Google search).

[0] https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/wordgames#collect

I disagree. That is like saying that an educated citizen must:

* have an informed opinion on current Emission standards

* be able to change oil on their own car

* could describe how a 4-stroke engine works

Replace the computer with a car and you will see that what you consider basic knowledge is not basic to most people. They rely on experts for advice, opinion, and guidance.

People often forget, but educating the masses is a challenge that was discussed in length by the Founding Fathers of America as being a cornerstone of a successful democracy:


Education of the masses was believed to be instrumental to avoiding tyranny of the majority which was a very real concern (especially since so many Founding Fathers came to America escaping religious prosecution as the minority faith). It's my personal belief that the difficulty in achieving "sufficient" widespread education ultimately shaped the decision to model America's self-governance after a Republic with non-elected checks and balances (included non-elected ones e.g. Judicial) rather than a more direct/representative democracy.

The pseudo-perversion of the Electoral College leading to highly correlated Executive Branch elections with the popular vote I think undermines this system and heightens the education requirement of the average citizen.

Also, on a side note, the lack of perfect information has significant effects on Economic systems leading to market externalities.

Briefly intrigued as a sidenote: How many of the Founding Fathers themselves came to America as religious refugees?

Of the 145 people who, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founding_Fathers_of_the_United... were signatories of the Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, or US constitution, 14 were born outside of the British-American Colonies. Of these, 6 seem to have clearly immigrated for reasons (business, military or education) other than religious persecution. I only see evidence of one (Daniel Roberdeau, whose father was a Huguenot living in the West Indies) having had religious persecution as a recent proximal cause of immigration to the Americas. The rest are unclear, although it seems that a few of the Presbyterian Scots might have had religious reasons for immigrating.

So, short answer, if anybody else cares, virtually none (1-5%) of America's founding fathers immigrated due to persecution as a minority faith.

Perhaps, but the strong religious motivations for the early colonies is well documented. [1]

> Many of the British North American colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled in the seventeenth century by men and women, who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and fled Europe.

Even from the article you link quotes a wide range of religious beliefs:

> Of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 28 were Church of England (or Episcopalian, after the American Revolutionary War was won), 21 were Protestants, and two were Roman Catholics (D. Carroll, and Fitzsimons).[19] Among the Protestant delegates to the Constitutional Convention, eight were Presbyterians, seven were Congregationalists, two were Lutherans, two were Dutch Reformed, and two were Methodists.

And of special note most of the prominent Founding Fathers most Americans would recognize were either anti-clerical Christians or not specifically Christian or Deists:

> A few prominent Founding Fathers were anti-clerical Christians such as Thomas Jefferson,[20][21][22] who constructed the Jefferson Bible, and Benjamin Franklin.

> Historian Gregg L. Frazer argues that the leading Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton, and Washington) were neither Christians nor Deists, but rather supporters of a hybrid "theistic rationalism".

So it may have been poor wording on my part, but I don't think it unfair to consider religious freedom an important consideration for the Founding Fathers.

[1] https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel01.html

> So it may have been poor wording on my part, but I don't think it unfair to consider religious freedom an important consideration for the Founding Fathers.

For sure, and I didn't mean to be correcting you, I was just pondering what seemed like a sort of historical elision of "move to the new world to practice religion freely" and "founding fathers creating the USA" when the former predated the latter by more than a century.

I like to try to grapple with timescales as a way to understand history, so finding conclusions like "the vast majority of the founders and framers were born in the colonies" (and, in many cases, from prominent families that had been in the colonies for generations) are interesting to me.

An interesting distinction here: jkaptur says that an educated citizen "can", which I interpret as meaning that such a citizen possesses the ability to do or figure out how to do the thing, independently of whether they currently know it. This is different than your "must", which takes it a step further and defines things everyone should know.

I think an educated citizen should know how to, if they so desired, have an informed opinion on anything, whether it's current emission standards or the NSA's definition of collecting information. That citizen should be able to research and learn how to change the oil on their car, or to learn how a 4-stroke engine works.

Call me a nerd, but I'd call all of your points a pretty basic requirements for a citizen of a technological civilization.

Failing that, we end up with lot of crazy beliefs about the world that people wouldn't have if they hadn't forgotten 99% of stuff they spent learning in high school.

Why does someone need to know how to change the oil in their car, or how a 4-stroke engine works? The information is readily available if you should ever need it, but what's wrong with paying someone who does know that stuff?

Not having a basic understanding of how internal combustion engines work means not understanding one of the linchpins of our civilization as it is today.

I'm not saying you shouldn't be using third-party services - professional specialization is another linchpin of our civilization. All I'm saying is that people should understand these things, in order to have a chance of comprehending the world they live in.

Imagine someone unable to read - they lose access to an important source of information. Lacking basic computer literacy is similar - they lose access to news, modern encyclopedias, research, political announcements, etc. Those resources are critical to being an educated citizen and being able to participate in the democratic process meaningfully.

An educated driver may not be able to explain in technical detail how an engine works, but they can explain the basic rules of the road and understand that a car needs oil, gas and basic maintenance. They likely have a basic understanding of what a modern combustion engine is (it takes in oil and gas to produce rotational energy) and understand that emission standards exist and that they have to follow them to some extent (they can't dump oil in their backyard).

basic computer literacy != learning to code

Computer science != learning to code

You don't think the educated citizen should have an informed opinion on current emission standards? Your second two examples rely on specific facts or techniques, which I don't think mine do. For example, I didn't say that the person be able to write the script to check all those URLs, just be able to identify it as a task that an expert could easily do.

Citizens don't need to be educated, they need to listen to people that are. The problem lately (possibly always) is that the information exchange is being intercepted by special interests.

The educated are themselves special interests, even if not paid by external sources

And too close a following to the "educated" leads to the rise of your special interests; if it wasn't possible to turn the minds of many by using only a few, there wouldn't be anything worth intercepting

The trouble, i think, is that we assume the educated are educated, when they are not, and the educated are sincere, when they are not, and the educated are made of higher moral fiber, when they most certainly are not.

It's exactly like knowing how to diagnose and fix issues with your car. Is it helpful to know at least a little bit? Absolutely. Is it a necessity? Not by a long shot.

Did you mean like "knowing how to read and parse textual content for information?"

Almost the whole population of earth is affected by computers on a daily basis. Seems logical for the citizens to know the fundamentals irrespective of the domain they are in. Because almost all the domains will be soon run through computers.

But we live in a tech bubble. The fact that we lurk and post on HN is the proof of it. Of course knowing computers makes sense to us as a requirement to be an educated citizen of the world.

Take a step back.

All of the following are vital to our modern lives yet most people will only be able to check 2 or 3 of them.

- cars mechanics

- electronics / electricity

- radio / telecommunications

- computers

- plumbing

- hunting

- agriculture

- food processing

- medicine & first aid

- philosophy

- music

- cinematography


You will have advanced knowledge of very few of those. The rest you will barely interact with. Barely interacting with computers in the reality of a lot of people.

Who said anything about advanced knowledge?

We're talking basic literacy.

You should at least know how to learn more about most of those subjects as they're needed, or know who to talk to when specialist knowledge may be required.

Math and science isn't used in a lot of people's every day life, but you have to learn it.

I don't want to be negative here, But I think anyone who can convince Berkeley guys to re-activate this[1] channel would make humanity much much more service.

I am saying this because this channel changed my life, literally. I do live in third world country, I went to local college, where you will learn nothing after 4 year (not even writing a simple hello world, TBH). But after watching and learning from this channel and MIT opencourseware, right now I am working on internal of linux kernel (just think about not being able to write hello world after 4 year, and compare it with hacking linux kernel to get a feeling about how far I came) as hobby project, and I came this far only by watching various (from OS class to compiler, algorithm, etc) class and solving their assignments and writing their projects. I came this far by my own (only, without any help other than free material in resource I mentioned). I am 100% sure I will go further and further, because this is my thing, I may not be that smart, but I am resilient.

So I am perfect/live example of how free educational material can change people lives, and I do live in very small city (indeed very small, which most people are not familiar with computer until 3,4 years ago).

I did have 40kb connection, sometimes I spent a whole day waiting for downloading a lecture, to watch it, considering I had to use VPN, you can understand how hard it was to download a whole class from youtube. Right now I have better connection.

[1] : https://www.youtube.com/user/UCBerkeley/videos

The issue was that people with disabilities across the country (i.e. non-Berkeley-students) were suing* Berkeley for not making their videos accessible. That's why you can't have nice things unfortunately. See here: http://news.berkeley.edu/2016/09/13/a-statement-on-online-co...

Lectures up to 2015 are still there though? Do you consider their materials obsolete or something?

*Edit: Specifically, the Attorney General was threatening to file a lawsuit pursuant to the ADA, and damages were ordered to be paid (I don't know if they actually were). Follow the link above to find the Department of Justice letter; the interesting bits are on the last two pages.

What? So a lawsuit to allow more people access to knowledge resulted in no one having access to more of it.

Damn, that's just.. I'm struggling to refrain from saying a word that'd get me in trouble.

Yes, we live in a time where minorities tyrannize the rest.

Or at least lawyers purporting to represent minorities, who collect 30% of the payout while the minorities get a $20 gift card (or some similar token).

No. Minorities are still in worse situation than majority globally. And all so called "minority tyranny" is just a random malfunctioning of institutes usually directly involved in screwing minorities. E.g. some black woman successfully sued some white white male for racial/gender reasons and it was bad for common sense? That's because it was possible in the first place to do that, only previously it was done the other way.

PS: I'm not a minority.

> Minorities are still in worse situation than majority globally

The "group average" of a persons designated (prescribed?) demographic is irrelevant on the level of comparing individuals and their interactions.

> only previously it was done the other way.

Given it was different individuals, this is only true if you define groupings specifically to, say, match a racist white and a non-racist white, from different generations, simply because they are both white; Hence mistreatment of some innocent, random modern white can be interpreted as 'comeuppance'..

I'd pause to blame them, ultimately the law allows this stuff to happen.

The doctrine of Disparate Impact is way out of control.

> So a lawsuit to allow more people access to knowledge resulted in no one having access to more of it.

There is a merit in the lawsuit here. This is how discrimination starts. Over a reasonable period of time, the horse has left the barn and then will scramble over quick fix solutions to stem the rot.

You'd get symmetric situation if someone sues a biased employer who only hires gingers, and the guy decide to shut shop instead---don't you?

Arbitrarily discriminating against gingers isn't the same as not doing extra work to make the videos more accessible.

Further more, the right to run a business, and participate in a particular economy, is regulated in many ways - these videos were given away for free to everyone, possibly at cost.

I don't think a free educational resource should have to meet this burden.

I'm not sure whether it makes a difference, but in my example the biased employer was arbitrarily discriminating in favour of gingers.

Yes, I was suggesting your example was different to the situation in the article, or not relevant in the same way.

It would be symmetric if hiring gingers was cheaper, like making non-accessible videos.

> The issue was that people with disabilities across the country (i.e. non-Berkeley-students) were suing Berkeley for not making their videos disabled-friendly.

What the f#$k? Suing because their videos are not "disabled-friendly"? What does that even mean? God, the lawsuit trigger-happiness of some people...

> Suing because their videos are not "disabled-friendly"? What does that even mean?

Sorry, bad wording on my part (had other things on my mind and wasn't Englishing properly). Meant to say the content was not accessible; see edit.

Specifically, it means subtitled. So that deaf people can acess them.

> "disabled-friendly"? What does that even mean?

I'd say lawsuits such these would be far fewer if people were at least aware of the existence of disabled people, and spend a modicum of attention on how to enable their participation in society.

"video" being latin for "to see" may provide a clue as to the type of disability that could have trouble accessing this content.

I'm not familiar enough with the subtleties of this case to know if subtitles, which IMHO could have been created rather cheaply or through volunteers, would have been enough to make them accessible, or there would have been problems with, for example, visual content such as diagrams and photos. In any way, I suspect the project was on weak footing within Berkeley anyway, and whatever support it may have had within the administration couldn't overcome the legal risks.

It's rare to find an example where the outcome, in strictly utilitarian terms, is as clearly negative as it is in this case. However, the ADA and similar legislation will always be a net negative if you're evaluating it in those terms.

To use the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which has recently been in the news: guaranteeing disabled students equal access to public education is a losing proposition in terms of total utility. There will always be cases where a school needs to spend, say, $30,000 to make the new library accessible to people in wheelchairs, or may even decide not to build that library in the first place, because it doesn't have those $30,000. Without a doubt, spending the $30,000 on more books for that library would create more "total learning", even if means the few students in wheelchairs never even see a real book in their lifetime. There will even be cases where all this happens at school that don't even have any students in wheelchairs.

The reasoning, therefore, has to be different than purely utilitarian. Laws for disability access are a collective decision to break with purely economic rationality in an effort that emphasises a limited core of rights to be guaranteed for everyone much stronger than the broad welfare of society as a whole. That's not an unusual tradeoff. It's the same that's at play when we don't torture drug dealers to get them to give up their suppliers.

Note that there lots of reasonable exceptions on the books. Nobody is saying that your paragliding school needs to make accommodations for people in a persistent vegetative state. In this case, I'd argue that remote learning is an opportunity almost tailor-made for people with disabilities, and that whoever made this ill-fated decision at Berkeley – knowing how it will become a talking point against disability access – made a grave mistake.

> I'd say lawsuits such these would be far fewer if people were at least aware of the existence of disabled people, and spend a modicum of attention on how to enable their participation in society.

I'd say people would be much more tolerant towards people with disabilities if there weren't such crazy laws and lawsuits.

By the way, you don't have to put utilitarianism against disability access.

You just need your utilitarianism to either maximize the the minimum welfare (ie help the least well-off member of society first); or use something like the sum of logarithms of welfares (similar idea).

> Laws for disability access are a collective decision to break with purely economic rationality

but which collective?

> It's the same that's at play when we don't torture drug dealers to get them to give up their suppliers.

I disagree a similar situation is at play.

> whoever made this ill-fated decision at Berkeley

The legal instruments that caused this are to blame, not Berkeley. It's not Berkeley's job to manage public opinion wrt disability access when it regards the action of third parties.

> "video" being latin for "to see"

Really? I thought it was a subtitles thing.

Yeah, I watched most of them already, But it is always better to have more and updated classes.

There's also this list of MOOCs https://www.reddit.com/r/learnprogramming/comments/4rimxf/he...

What I do is find a university and look at their course public page where often in the calendar/schedule you can find lecture notes, slides and sometimes the lectures. If you find the lectures immediately grab them with some browser plugin to archive because they tend to disappear.

TU/e in NL has a lot of open english taught courses I've found, like this one with lecture videos http://www.hyperelliptic.org/tanja/teaching/crypto16/

Wow, you are fucking awesome. I dont know how to thank you.

I do the same. I downloaded your link and will look at TU more carefully from now on.

P.S. It is always this way, every time I find a new lectures, I get way too excited.

Carnagie Mellon has some open too http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~213/schedule.html (Lectures) https://scs.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Sessions/List.a...

That book you can get the global 3rd version from Abe Books for $20something since you aren't in Can/USA

There's other courses in there, like this awesome math/compsci course https://scs.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Sessions/List.a... (click on the RSS(Subscribe) logo in the upper right, can download them). They also have some fully open courses like this db course with lectures on youtube http://15721.courses.cs.cmu.edu/spring2016/

I would like you to make an AMA or a blog post about your story with details. It is pretty inspiring.

<slightly offtopic> I remember a story about Google doing some optimization on YouTube page to make it load faster. They done it, tested and then deployed changes to main site. After that they had seen that average page load time increased despite that page definitely loaded faster with fix. In the end they realized that lots of people from 3rd world could now load YouTube not in say 20-30 seconds but in 5-10 seconds (don't remember exact values) and so it changed from unreasonably long to acceptable. And so massive influx of slow clients dropped average time of page load.

That was a few years ago, so we can see that there are still maybe millions of people with very slow Internet connection out there.

tons of 3rd world developers are like that. i never went to college so i learned everything i know from watching videos on my 1mb connection and learning documentation.

after 10 years and a couple of startups, i wanna say that went particularly well :)

I will, let me to finish next phase of my plan before writing any blog post or AMA.(next phase : starting to work for big company or starting a successful startup)

Take your time, but keep in mind that getting your story out there could help your next phase.

Are they offering anything on the site for people who want CS education? From clicking around a bit it seemed like it was focused entirely on people teaching and learning in physical classrooms.

I was pretty excited at first, thinking this was something like a Google-sponsored version of EdX or OpenCourseware that was laser focused on CS.

From the linked page there is a section titled "Learn Computer Science" which contains a section titled "Student Learning" which contains a variety of learning resources that can be experienced through the browser.


Looks great if you're Indian, Irish or female.

Edit: Or AU/NZ, missed that one.

I don't see why this rather insightful post is downvoted. The site specifically targets these groups by name.

Why in the age of a _World_ Wide Web and "post-discrimination" are large companies such as Google deliberately targeting specific groups? What will be in the girls-only code program that might be inappropriate for boys?

> Why ... are large companies such as Google deliberately targeting specific groups?

Large companies are judged by the diversity of their employees. They want to hire more women. In order to hire more women, there needs to be more qualified women applying for jobs. In order for there to be more qualified women applying for jobs, there needs to be more qualified women. In order for there to be more qualified women we need to be teaching more girls how to program.

> What will be in the girls-only code program that might be inappropriate for boys?

It's more about what won't be in those classes, specifically: inappropriate boys.

One school of thought about why there are less girls in computer science classes is that the environment/culture? of the currently self-selected students can sometimes (seem) abrasive and uninviting.

Maybe that is just a stereotype, but offering classes specifically for underrepresented demographics is at least a method to test that theory.

> Large companies are judged by the diversity of their employees

And here is the problem - diversity has become a goal rather than a natural consequence of everyone having equal chances.

It's not the lack of diversity that those companies should focus on - much more important is an elimination of any kind of discrimination based on gender/race/religion etc.

I see it as more of a temporary compensation for earlier gender based biases.

In a world where boys and girls are given the same opportunities at (even) younger ages, you wouldn't need something like this.

As it stands right now, it is intimidating for a girl to sign up for her first computer science class knowing that it will be full of boys that have been encouraged to do computer sciencey things from an earlier age. There is the perception that the girl will come in at a disadvantage.

Allowing a them to sign up for a class with the perception that they all have equal footing/previous knowledge could give them the confidence they need to join the classes with boys that are perceived to have more experience.

When the time comes that girls are signing up for computer science classes at the same rate as boys, then classes like this would no longer be necessary.

That being said, public schools cannot create X-only classes. There is no discrimination in which students can signup for my computer science classes and I have unfortunately low female enrollment.

> I see it as more of a temporary compensation for earlier gender based biases.

So you tolerate that a complete sex shall be punished for former sins. Clearly not my sense of justice.

> In a world where boys and girls are given the same opportunities at (even) younger ages, you wouldn't need something like this.

Everybody can use the internet to learn coding. But at least to me it seems that mostly boys (with few exceptions) seem to love doing this - in particular from young age on.

> So you tolerate that a complete sex shall be punished for former sins

This is not a zero-sum game. Creating a new opportunity for girls does not remove an existing opportunity for a boy.

> But at least to me it seems that mostly boys (with few exceptions) seem to love doing this - in particular from young age on

Maybe you should try talking to more girls and asking them what they are interested in.

> > So you tolerate that a complete sex shall be punished for former sins

> This is not a zero-sum game. Creating a new opportunity for girls does not remove an existing opportunity for a boy.

Not when quotas are involved. In Germany, where I live, every few years serious attempts to introduce women quota for companies are attempted to pass as a law (which typically are only prevented in the last moment because of massive protests of business associations).

So are there any gender quotas currently in place?

Some political parties already have quotas in their statutes for a long time (Die Grünen (Green Party) - 50%; SPD - 30% I think).

Since Januar 2016 gender quotas for the supervisory council of the 106 largest market-listed companies were introduced. For restaffing in the supervisory council there is a quota of 30% for both gender (or the position has to be left vacant).

Wikipedia link:

> https://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Frauenquote&oldid...

Here a Reuters article about the topic:

> http://web.archive.org/web/20160619090749/http://de.reuters....

Here an "official" article by the Federal Minestry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth ["Federal Minestry for everybody except men" ;-) ]:

> https://www.bmfsfj.de/bmfsfj/themen/gleichstellung/frauen-un...

> This is not a zero-sum game. Creating a new opportunity for girls does not remove an existing opportunity for a boy.

Head count is orthogonal to gender make up of the company

> So you tolerate that a complete sex shall be punished for former sins.

You are not inoculated from the past sins of gender discrimination. So simply because you did not discriminate does not mean you did not benefit from past discrimination. While this fact should not be used to hold you accountable, it should be used to pursue policies that offset that advantage.

A company offering a program for girls is not punishing boys. It's giving girls a boost that was given to boys of previous generations.

Simply giving equal opportunity after decades (longer, really) of inequality is not truly equal. As an analogy, imagine if a government gave extremely preferential treatment to one company over another for an extended period of time (lower taxes, looser regulation, etc.) and all of the sudden started treating the two companies the same. Would you expect them to have an equal chance of success? Surely the accumulated benefits of the one company would still provide a significant advantage that would have to be remedied before the companies have an equal chance of success.

Edit: I realize I assumed you are male, which your comment does not state. Mea culpa. Read this comment as directed at any male who opposes policies that promote gender equality in STEM education.

of boys that have been encouraged to do computer sciencey things from an earlier age.

YMMW but IIRC my experience has been a bit different :-/

Edit: added IIRC

>I see it as more of a temporary compensation for earlier gender based biases.

That hasn't been proven or quantified. If you're going to use sexism to fix perceived sexism, you should quantify and prove the original sexism first.

Apologetics only gets you so far. In this case I don't care for the attempt. Let those who have an interest take advantage and the rest catch as catch can. This marketed approach is badly conceived.

You cannot stop an object in motion without applying a force in the direction opposite the motion. And you cannot eliminate a large scale social trend by declaring it over.

> And here is the problem - diversity has become a goal rather than a natural consequence of everyone having equal chances.

And here is the problem - people think diversity is a goal per se, while it is actually a competitive advantage.

It's a wrong assumption that diversity of demographics is the same as diversity of thought. It's also wrong to assume that a lack of diversity in demographics automatically equates to a lack of diversity in thought.

A competitive advantage would be gained through diversity of thought. Making gender, skin color or any other superficial characteristic into a numbers game in order to look diverse is in no way a competitive advantage.

> It's a wrong assumption that diversity of demographics is the same as diversity of thought. It's also wrong to assume that a lack of diversity in demographics automatically equates to a lack of diversity in thought. > A competitive advantage would be gained through diversity of thought. Making gender, skin color or any other superficial characteristic into a numbers game in order to look diverse is in no way a competitive advantage.

Well, not really. I mean, not at all. I appreciate you took your time to tell me I'm wrong, but you might want to support it with something more solid. Diversity of thought is not just what happens when you get two people together. If those people have a very similar upbringing, chances are they think in a similar way. They might reach different conclusions and one of them might reach the right one, but they might be missing points of view that could increase their accuracy when making decisions.

Your upbringing shapes how you think, what you fear, what you wish. Of course even inside the same communities very similar people might have completely different trains of thought, but what you call "superficial characteristics" as gender or skin colour it is (unfortunately) not superficial in many places. Many men can't even imagine the things a woman has to endure at the workplace, or your skin colour when you're a minority.

Even things like being a native speaker of a foreign tongue shapes how you think. The culture of your hometown, province, region, country defines you, too.

If you've lived a different life because of your gender, ethnicity, passport, disability, country of birth or even family wealth chances are you can bring quite different points of view than people with different gender, ethnicity, passport, disability, country of birth or even family wealth.

There are studies that show correlation between higher diversity and better performance (Forbes, McKinsey).

P.S.: I suspect you're the one that downvoted me (just above 500 karma, only reply to my comment). I appreciate you followed up with a comment, but downvotes are not "I disagree" signals. Please learn to be a bit more tolerant with people that does not think like you, instead of trying to shut their voice down.

N=1 personal anecdote: A few years ago I spent a day visiting Wellesley College's CS department (all-women's school) to give a talk and to meet with professors and students. And one of the main vibes I got was that students felt way more comfortable there just focusing on hacking, understanding, debugging, struggling, etc. with the hard parts of CS/programming without worrying about the tons of well-documented implicit biases, stereotype threats, and issues that are commonly-found in regular CS classrooms. It wasn't that they somehow wanted special treatment as "women studying CS" (they didn't) -- they just wanted to be able to focus on CS without all the other external crap that their peers in traditional CS programs need to deal with. See Unlocking the Clubhouse for a comprehensive study of this phenomenon.

> Large companies are judged by the diversity of their employees.

As the one judging the ones doing the judging, it's fun to imagine that the judgement is what motivates the corporation's actions. I don't think that's actually what happens though.

The motivation I've actually seen corporations act upon, is that diversity in employees has direct benefits to the company's bottom line. For example, googling "facebook diversity" gets me this paragraph:

>"Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. In order to achieve that mission, we need an employee base that reflects a broad range of experiences, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and many other characteristics."

You can assume that they're all lying to virtue signal if you want, it's impossible to stop anyone from assuming such things. But if you're proposing an alternative to their stated motivations, you should probably explain why that motivation isn't actually true.

> can sometimes (seem) abrasive and uninviting

Well that's just discriminating against nerds

> Well that's just discriminating against nerds

This is exactly the problem. You've assumed that 'nerds' -- people who are skilled and passionate about tech things -- are male. It's that kind of assumption which enforces a massive mental barrier for women to be able to consider themselves legitimately passionate and skilled about tech, and also for men to recognise them as such too.

Until the association of nerds with masculinity is broken up, boys and men will dominate tech at the expense of others. And until that that point, programs like Google's which foster different ('minoritean') associations with being passionate and skilled with tech will be needed.

"Stereotypes" come from patterns in empirical reality. They are not created and administered by some Evil White Male committee as you seem to think. Women are in no way discriminated against in tech, nor have they ever been. Passionate and skilled women in tech certainly exist, they are just relatively rare. Withholding resources from boys because of their gender actually is discrimination, and should not be encouraged.

> Women are in no way discriminated against in tech, nor have they ever been.

I don't even.

> Passionate and skilled women in tech certainly exist, they are just relatively rare.

exactly. I dont agree with you that women have "never been" discriminated against, but I do agree that vocational fields are not homogeneously populated (and that is not the result of discrimination).

* I dont see very many women police officers

* (this was mentioned on HN last week) not very many oil-rig workers are women

* I dont see many heterosexual men working as hair dressers or bridal shop/wedding planners/fashion designers/makeup artists ("this is clearly a glass door organized by the Gay Male Establishment to prevent heterosexual men from breaking into this field. Such abuse of privilege" /s).

* I don't see many women working as bouncers at night clubs

* I don't see many women working as commercial pilots.

But you know, for all the "I don't see"'s , when I do see one that defies the norm, I dont think much of it. They're people just like anyone else, free to pursue whatever they want. But it's not automatically discrimination when groups of people gravitate to certain fields.

Politeness and intelligence/knowledge are not mutually exclusive traits.

> What will be in the girls-only code program that might be inappropriate for boys

Unfortunately, a lot of tech companies these days consider "positive discrimination" as a good thing.

I have no problems with these groups in themselves, I'm of Irish descent so it would be a bit stupid if I did. It does seem like a very limited selection, though: there are hundreds if not thousands of other groups which could be accommodated with their own courses. Where are they?

From the piecemeal nature of these programs it seems to me most likely that they were resources from past initiatives by their local offices that this website just aggregated.

Well, my guess is as follows: Irish: big corporate tax breaks in that area. India: outsourcing potential. Perhaps more liberal attitudes towards CS education? Women: we really need more women in tech, though on a corporate level where money is the motivator I can only guess what the incentives are.

The above are my assumptions and may be wrong.

As for your girls-only code program comment, I have taught kids to create things using visual scripting tools. There is a difference in what the girls want to make and what the boys want to make. This was my first hand experience and is a limited insight into a small world.

>Why in the age of a _World_ Wide Web and "post-discrimination" are large companies such as Google deliberately targeting specific groups?

Because the gender ratio in STEM fields skews heavily towards men.

>What will be in the girls-only code program that might be inappropriate for boys?

I can't imagine there would be anything that was 'inappropriate', though there may be some boys less excited about making a dress light up. Google is using existing gender roles to introduce girls to code and get them excited about STEM, something that may be far more difficult once they grow older.

> Because the gender ratio in STEM fields skews heavily towards men.

Girls are free to study what they want. If they don't want to study STEM fields - their problem, which I don't feel having to care for.

Apparently it's your problem as well, because you appear to be personally upset by a program that only helps them.

I am always upset over discriminatory programs. If one would replace "women only" by "white people only", you would probably be upset, too.

How do you feel about Spanish language programming courses? What about affordable housing?

How do you define discrimination? I think there isn't a clear line, and we have to use our evolving best judgment depending on the context.

How else can we attempt to more quickly resolve unfortunate and unfair dynamics the past has brought us?

Lastly, I think it's a mistake to assume all discrimination is zero sum. We will all reap benefits from previously disadvantaged groups receiving more opportunity.

> How do you define discrimination?

Using any other criterion than ability for e.g. staffing jobs/university places/... In this sense every forced quota on gender/skin color/race/... is discrimination. Women only programs are, too (as "men only", "white only" or "black only").


> How do you feel about Spanish language programming courses?

Living in Germany I openly don't understand what you want to imply with this question.

I'm implying it's not as simple as you are making it out to be. Does Google fall under your definition? They must, or it wouldn't seem fair to be upset at them. What counts as a "program"?

If your complaint is mainly about quotas, I don't have as much to say about those. My intuition is that strict quotas are overly heavy handed and also treating the symptom not the cause. I would guess that programs that seek to help certain groups closer to the source (e.g. in the education and training phase) are more effective.

To clarify, I was referring to Google's C.S. education program that is targeted at women, not hiring processes

>I think there isn't a clear line

A clear line has been drawn in the form of protected classes. Primary language spoken and income are not protected classes. Gender is.

>Girls are free to study what they want.

Of course, but when the disparity is so large we should at least question why that is. Are girls biologically less inclined to find any appeal in STEM, or is it due to upbringing? This course appears to be following the latter, and either challenging any social bias that may dissuade girls, or balancing out any extra persuasion of boys

> some boys less excited about making a dress light up

you're using gender stereotypes ("girls like dresses", and implied its corollary, "boys like machines") in an argument against gender exclusion.

Yes. Regardless of anyone's stance on them, these stereotypes exist right now and are being re-inforced by society.

It's not easy to break down cultural barriers, and doing so in one fell swoop is near impossible. Employing these stereotypes in order to bring an end to them is not necessarily a bad thing

Pink code highlighting? :)

Presumably Google is targeting India, Ireland, NZ and Australia because they have significant bases in those countries.

In regards to targeting young women, they're making an effort to redress the obvious gender imbalances and male dominance of the tech world. Why is that a problem?

> "In regards to targeting young women, they're making an effort to redress the obvious gender imbalances and male dominance of the tech world."

It could be that they are just virtue signaling and trying to appease the easily offended bloggers and tech "journalists"

Problem: There's a massive gender imbalance in CS and amongst the coding community. There are loads of men and hardly any women. Most of half the population would never consider working for us or our partners. Solution: Make a website which specifically encourages young girls to see themselves as coders.

Problem: We have invested loads of money into our Irish, Indian, Australian/NZ offices, but we could increase our pool of workers from those countries. Solution: Make a website which specifically encourages kids from those countries to start their journey into CS and tech.

What is the problem?

No problem for you. And I have learned to live with it but as a young boy it was extremely frustrating to see girls getting advantages throughout the whole school system just for being girls.

Now I am fully aware that I have certain advantages ("privileges") as well but as I said: when you are young this can be extremely frustrating.

I mean, it's frustrating at any age. It's not a popular opinion, but just because you know "some" things are easier for you than say, "girls", doesn't make it any less frustrating.

Sure, they're frustrated too i'm sure - i'm not denying that or putting anyone down, to be clear. It has always just seemed like the wrong approach to a problem, or possibly projection of a problem where a problem doesn't exist.

It's frustrating because you don't have all of the advantages, or just the advantage that you really want?

It is frustrating because as a kid/young adult you don't see the full picture : you only see you are being discriminated against.

It is frustrating because for many young men the disadvantages often seems to outweigh the advantages.

It is frustrating because as a kid/young adult some of the the countermeasures are so broad that they are hard to understand as anything but pushing one gender ahead at all cost: try to make sense of the fact that for years there was extra study points for women in higher education, including studies where female students were overrepresented like chemistry and nurse studies. (Yes, now it has been adjusted somewhat from what I see.)

Edit: and it is frustrating because it seems unfair. It seems almost like we have a built in "fairness" scale which is miscalibrated so by default it only detects unfairness against me: like when a kid go and have a really great time and come home and are angry their siblings got a candy while they were away :-/

This is true; the advantages I have are not as well advertised. For example, no professor ever told me anything like, "Women don't study mathematics," as my girlfriend had.

I can't speak for your particular experience at school, but in general I think it's a shame that people whose lives are, as you say, "privileged" by the systems in which we live feel like they are at a disadvantage because of concerted attempts to raise others to their level.

You know, I was a lot younger then.

Furthermore I was answering a direct question: "What is the problem?"

Also I put the "privileged" word in quotes for a reason: while being male gives me a number of advantages it also gives me a number of disadvantages.

Furthermore there is all the rest: coming from a low socioeconomic background should account for a lot as well (buying a pc was a huge deal - I think I was 15 when my dad finally managed to get hold of one, going abroad for holiday was never an option, working unpaid at my dads business was pretty much expected and I started working as a farm hand with other farms when I was 15. )

As I said I don't care much but I think I can explain why for a lot of young men the idea of male "privilege" feels like a reality they don't experience as for them any male privilege seems to be overshadowed by a number of other factors.

I can see that. It must be very juxtaposing to see upper middle class blacks/hispanics/females (the typical "oppressed minority" working at big tech companies) getting special benefits.

Typically I don't care.

All I want from people I work with is that they are good so we can move projects forward and that they don't bully or otherwise negatively affect lives of people around them.


Class > Identity politics

> What is the problem?


It has been justified for centuries with all manner of reasoned arguments. Hopefully we will eventually learn discrimination is a Bad Idea.

> Hopefully we will eventually learn discrimination is a Bad Idea.

... including discrimination against boys/men - which quota regulation and "women only" programs are (imagine the outcry if one would replace "women only" by "white people only").

You seem to be worried about over-correction where there is clearly none.

If we had a CS field dominated almost entirely by women then the "women only" programs would be undesirable.

This is a man in a boat protesting that a drowning woman is being helped out of the water but he is receiving no such equivalent assistance.

> You seem to be worried about over-correction where there is clearly none.

I live in Germany - and there the situation is IMHO different.

What are you on about? I'm a PhD student at one of the top German universities for CompSci. There are around 10% women in our bachelor's and master's programmes. The department is actively trying to get more women interested in studying computer science, because it very much is a boys' club.

The problem isn't about access to courses. It's that existing programmes don't appeal to women, and it's dumb to ignore half of the population when you need more qualified people. That's why we need to make getting into computer science more attractive to women. Acknowledging that the current system just doesn't work for them is a necessary first step towards making it work for everyone.

> What are you on about?

The laws for women quota: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13551798


Nobody forces women to study a non-STEM subject - they decide it themselves. So doing promotional programs for women has the implicit implication "women are too stupid to get on their own what they should study (while men are smart enough to find this out on their own)" - something I would never ever claim.

No, nobody's claiming that. If that's your takeaway from outreach programmes, maybe you should talk to women about their experiences in computer science.

The reason for outreach programmes is that what's currently offered seems to appeal to men but not nearly as much to women, and that we should fix that. There's nothing patronising about admitting a problem and attempting to alleviate it. Some attempts might be misguided or based on incorrect assumptions, but that shouldn't discredit the entire endeavour.

(Since we're talking about computer science education, I'll disregard the entirely unrelated comment about quotas in businesses.)

> (Since we're talking about computer science education, I'll disregard the entirely unrelated comment about quotas in businesses.)

There are also (more implicit) women quota in the university laws (Landeshochschulgesetzen) of Germany's federate states e.g. for casting professors.

The majority of high skilled tech jobs aren't held by men? There are no selective barriers to entry?

People are free to study what they want. If there are more men who want to study a STEM subject, this will of course lead to a majority of men. Indeed, typical STEM subjects have no limitation on your A-level mark (Numerus Clausus) for being allowed to study it. So there is clearly no selective barrier to entry (Numerus Clausus) [but I'm not a native speaker of English - so it can be that "selective barriers to entry" has a subcontext in English that I'm not aware of].

Have you ever been somewhere where it was clear everyone noticed you didn't 'fit in'?

> Have you ever been somewhere where it was clear everyone noticed you didn't 'fit in'?

There are multiple ways to answer the question:

1. I often don't fit in - and don't consider this as a problem.

2. I have yet to see a woman studying a STEM subject who is very skilled at it and made such complaint.

3. Saying one does not study, say, computer science because one does not fit in means that "fitting in" is more important to you than the things you learn in computer science. In other words: You don't consider CS as something really important to you. This is clearly not the inner urge for the subject that I expect from people studying it.

> I have yet to see a woman studying a STEM subject who is very skilled at it and made such complaint.

Seriously, you should actually talk to some of these women about their experiences.

> > I have yet to see a woman studying a STEM subject who is very skilled at it and made such complaint.

> Seriously, you should actually talk to some of these women about their experiences.

I have.

> "Have you ever been somewhere where it was clear everyone noticed you didn't 'fit in'?"

Yes, being an actual liberal in SV and not just a Dem apologist...

That's not possible in the tech field because the tech field is very diverse. With the high immigrant %, most people do not fit in because there is no majority/in-group. The demographic is fragmented with the immigrant groups clustering by native language and country of origin. You end up with maybe 30-40% Americans in an engineering team.

I didn't mean specifically in the tech field.

My peers in undergrad computer science were as you described, except I would estimate 60-70% Americans, 95% male 5% female.

I now work for a small-ish company with ~25 developers on a few different teams. All men.

I understand that this is anecdotal, though not uncommon.

> Discrimination.

So it's a problem in CS but not in education or healthcare, where women are the majority?

In what part of healthcare are men systemically impeded from involvement?

I don't think it can be demonstrated that women are systematically impeded from involvement in STEM fields and CS when there are many programs actively targeting women and girls. A skilled woman in CS appears to have a huge advantage in hiring, at least in any company I've been in.

Problem: women face selective barriers to entry in this field.

Solution: introduce programs promoting the field to women and girls.

Problem: women have a huge advantage due to the programs.


> In what part of healthcare are men systemically impeded from involvement?

In what part of CS women are systematically impeded from involvement?

Have you a better one?

Doing nothing isn't a better idea.

Discrimination isn't just an idea, it's a material reality. Women are systematically disadvantaged on every level of tech, from the assumption that 'nerds' are boys, which seems to go back to IT marketing from the 1980s[1], to their being prevented from holding senior offices in the biggest tech corporations. They are discriminated against by a male-dominated industry and culture. Only when the systemic, material conditions of patriarchy are no longer in force will it make sense to no longer 'discriminate'.

Also, care to name one thinker from history who doesn't advocate discrimination of some sort? Seriously. Who is your model?

[1] http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-...

> Only when [X happens] will it make sense to no longer discriminate.

Problem is, no one can agree when X happens (or has happened).

"Only when we're safe will it make sense to no longer spy on all our citizens."

"Only when our enemies are defeated will it make sense to no longer have Emperor Caesar."

Your evidence of "material reality" is just you repeating your claim.

The problem? Because those actions are discrimination. Using discrimination to fight discrimination largely targets the under privileged members of the privileged groups.

It's basically a call for equity instead of equality, except it is limited equity which automatically assume some do not need equitable help. It is also limited in how it's applied.

Find the actual problems causing any modern day biases and fix those. Personally I work with some kids to help them love math. In my (admittingly anecdotal experience) there is a bias noticeable in middle school for all kids to not like math that evolves into a gender bias but to some extent hurts both genders' ability and desire to learn. Identifying and remedying the cause of this would do more to help both girls and boys than targeted aid in high-school or college.

There's also a middle-school program.

For those who didn't look there is a very short list of programmes mentioned which discriminate on sex, age, ethnicity.

A "short list" which is four of the five listed programmes. Id est, 80% of the programmes on the list discriminate.

Bad wording, my intention was to say they all discriminate, assuming "middle-school" is intended to refer to an age range.

5 is a short list, no.

I assume it's the start of what may later become a directory of offerings.

There are masses of MOOCs that aren't discriminating though.

I too was very surprised by the limited options. I keep seeing American companies investing overseas instead of building a stronger base at home. It's frustrating.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand these are international firms and it's good to see CS education targeting other communities and certain imbalances in the system but...

Their are large swaths of communities right here in the US that could use the support of American companies investing right here in their home-base. As a result, I see these efforts by US firms as a marketing gimmick to help them further their interests in entering new markets and appealing to certain political alliances.

Apparently if your racial group is listed in the "Other" category of Google's diversity report they won't throw you a life line on education. You know, after they made sure Google Voice wouldn't service one of the tribal community colleges, they could at least do a little outreach.

I wonder if I'd qualify. I have dyslexia and dyspraxia but always feel like "learning difficulties" put you in the camp of "not disabled enough". I managed to get a first class degree in compsci and recieved the standard disability grant from the uni.

You got a disability grant? Would that be considered reverse discrimination?

In the UK it's fairly standard to get financial support in terms of technology to help with the disability

The student link was the very first one I clicked on, but I must have missed something. I couldn't find anything on compilers, OS, Automata, or anything that looked remotely like a CS course. Did you find any CS material in the "learning resources that can be experienced through the browser" that you mentioned?

If so, would you mind sharing a more specific link? I'd be particularly interested in a Systems and Networking course.

The 'CS First' link on this page was not discriminatory though, and anyone anywhere can do that : https://www.cs-first.com/en/home

I had the same excitement ... then seemed to find nothing resembling a path to a CS degree.

They have some courses on Udacity, but there are so many great resources available that it wouldn't make sense to reinvent the wheel.


Meanwhile, google discriminates against older people ("old" being pretty much anyone in their late 30s). They are so inclusive, and so diverse... as long as they get to decide what diversity and inclusivity are.


I was past 40 when I was hired at Google, worked there for almost 10 years, knew many other older devs. I disagree that they were discriminatory. At least in my experience, that was not an issue.

The experience of those filing the law suit differs from yours. You may have known some older devs, but the numbers are very clear: the average age of a google employee is 29. The US national average is 42.

Google itself is not very diverse by most metrics. Maybe they should practice what they preach?


Disclaimer: I work at Google (opinions are my own)

How would the people filing the lawsuit know whether Google didn't hire them due to their age or for other reasons? I see posts all the time about people complaining they didn't get into company X because of some silly reason but frankly, unless you are the interviewer you likely will never know the reason. Shouldn't we wait to see the outcome of the case?

Indeed Google itself is not as diverse as we would like to be, but that's actually the reason we have these outreach programs: to try to get a more diverse applicant pool, which hopefully will translate to a more diverse workforce.

The average age being 29 doesn't surprise me because there are many more young applicants than there are older ones, since CS is getting more and more popular. Not only that but typically a larger company will have more junior developers than senior ones, and most junior developers are also more junior in age.

I don't know whether Google discriminates by age since I don't have the numbers, but I will say that Google takes diversity and inclusivity extremely seriously. I don't think a day goes by that I don't see a post asking for volunteers for some activity to promote diversity. That being the case, it would surprise me if we discriminate in a systemic way. For some individuals to do so unconsciously wouldn't surprise me just because it's human nature to be biased, although we do our best to unlearn that behavior.

To play devils advocate here, Google has been an absolutely mind blowing company. They didn't do it by being Average, and perfect diversity means exactly that... Average.

Why are people so interested in screwing up something that obviously works, and works so amazingly well in pursuit of absurd ideologies?

I think you're using a wrong definition of average there. Yes, if you aggregated every quality of the populace, then you would be correct. But talking of age, for instance, wouldn't be the case. I'm quite sure there are plenty of people older than me (45) who could run rings round many of Google's employees, but wouldn't get the chance to do so (or maybe want to be there given the culture).

Google may have been 'mind blowing' but there is a bucket-load of things they simply seem unable to do (such as have a clear overall strategy, leading to the mess that is their approach to messaging), and in addition while they have clearly been hugely profitable, they may not give the best experience for some of their users (I've heard the phrase 'regularly cut off [their] own limbs' used). Whether this would be changed if their workforce was more diverse in terms of age (and therefore more experienced) we will never know, but I have my suspicions.

I believe it's because research supports the idea that greater diversity leads to a better workforce.

For example, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ekaterinawalter/2014/01/14/reapi...

There have been specific times as well that being in our little bubble has hurt product decisions as well, although I don't think I'm supposed to go into those.

Google got lucky. There were lots of sites out there when it was turned on that did the exact same thing. They figured out how to monetize searching before the others did, and once market share was had, it was and still is unbreakable.

Everything else other than advertising has failed or is held up by that ad revenue. They may want to play world leaders, but they're an ad company.

Now - back to your point about absurd ideologies, it's against the US law to discriminate based on age. This ad company needs to play by the rules, regardless of how many ads it has sold.

That article is mostly about female to male ratios. Certainly we need more women programmers, but there aren't enough to hire. Every company I've ever worked at wanted more women, but there aren't enough graduates. At google, one way they were able to hire women devs was to pay for women were were stem students to go to the grace murray hopper conference who were cs students and then interview them and hire them on the spot. I know one very successful person at google who was found and hired by this strategy. You have to be faster than the other company to snap up those desirable hires.

I didn't mean to be an apologist for them, but this is one area I have personal knowledge of. It's probably true that they aren't going out of their way to hire old programmers like me. I don't think they pay for old white guy devs who cost more in salary than a new grad (but we have more experience! :-)) to go to a special conference and try to hire them. Instead I had to pass the usual interview bar. It was really hard and I admit to being proud I passed it.

Everywhere I've been begs for female applicants. I feel like the low numbers of women trying to get into tech is a fantastic example of how market forces do not solve everything. There is an enormous gap between the supply of female applicants and the demand for them with little change in sight. To any women reading this comment. Places are desperate to hire you so do not be afraid to apply at places where you feel you may be a little under qualified.

OK, so could you help me understand something?

I certainly can see how there could be some injustice in the gap between men and women in the industry. And I could certainly see how the lack of perspective from women causes decisions that are suboptimal in some contexts. There are probably some companies in some subindustries that would benefit from hiring women programmers.

But every company being desperate to hire women? I don't see how most companies benefit from hiring a woman vs. a man.

To clarify, I'm saying that it seems that hiring a woman vs. a man has roughly the same value to most, but not all, companies. Thoughts?

I see it as related to what you are saying. You will be more likely to have software features or whatever you are designing have features that are applicable to women. You'll think of problems that men don't notice - the classic is startups full of 20 something guys solve different problems that women, such as women with families. Women just face different experiences than men. Similarly, someone from China will probably have a different idea about some things than someone from the US. Companies avoid sexist choices - a female friend who was a layer was at a place that had an offsite activity where women couldn't be members at a golf club (really!). The women you have will be more comfortable if they are not a super rare bird. An office with women should have supplies in the bathroom like tampons. A company with men might think of razors or deoderant but not that.

> Places are desperate to hire you so do not be afraid to apply at places where you feel you may be a little under qualified.

My automatic reaction to this was "lol what"...

I don't really think most companies are desperate to hire women. I can see companies paying more attention to women (for better or for worse), but desperate is absolutely not the word I'd use. You're still going through the same interview process as everyone else, and having interacted with various people who were applying to the same companies as myself, everything looked exactly the same and acceptance/rejection rates were very similar. It's not like being a woman waves a magic wand to get rid of the many troublesome parts of an interview process that affect men and women all the same.

I don't know if I'd want to work for a company that was desperate to hire a specific subgroup of people, anyway...

I'd take a referral over being female any day.

And yet my wife who has masters in computer science, multiple years of experience finds it hard to get a job because she took multi year break from work for raising kids...

Plus, it was discovered that when looking at the list of requirements for a job offering, women wouldn't apply if they didn't meet some requirement, while men would apply as long as they met ~3 of the requirements.

Do you have a source for this?

Not criticizing, just want citations for my interesting fact/study results.

I'm afraid I don't have one: I heard it in a talk about gender in tech jobs, but the talk wasn't posted online. If you do find the study where it comes from, please let me know!

My first gut feeling was that the average age of developers has to be lower. My reasoning was that since the number of computer science degrees is increasing and the average age of graduates is low there should be a lower average age of developers.

But this data suggests otherwise https://datausa.io/profile/cip/110701/#workforce_age

And this as well https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_349.asp Assuming that the average age is 25 for Bachelor's, 27 for Master's and 32 for a PhD I get an average age of 47.

Am I missing something?


I have a theory to explain this.

If you count average is 29, then that means there is a whole bunch of 25 - 35 in the range, all over the world. Typically CS students graduate from undergraduate around 22, 23 years old. Google and FB are very popular in the new graduate community and they needed a lot of fresh blood every year to fill in the gaps. Not every position at Google is going to be exciting. The job description is catchy but the your responsibility and assignment may be dull. A lot of older folks may find dissatisfying and because of their seniority they can find similar pay at other companies. There is also a network effect. Sure, younger folks tend to connect with other young folks.

Like other comments said, one can't prove age discrimination easily. Google has a very rigorous hiring process. One ex-Google said one time the hiring committing sat in a room and rejected all applicants. The recruitment team came in and said those profiles were the committee members themselves when they applied to Google.

> the numbers are very clear: the average age of a google employee is 29. The US national average is 42.

This assumes that the hiring market for Google is representative of the entire US workforce, which I think is a big stretch. I think if you looked at any tech company average you'd see it far below the national average.

> the average age of a google employee is 29. The US national average is 42.

Correlation does not imply causation.

It almost certainly varies from manager to manager. I cannot imagine that Google has a company-wide practice of discrimination.

And they would certainly never have an company wide policy of wage constraint. Why, that would be illegal!

They were older, but were they hired as "older", straight out of school or a career change? I feel like if they were older, they were probably senior programmers at other companies and just moved to google for the money/glory.

This. I got a BFA straight out of high school on a full-ride. Thought things were gonna work out great for me in the movies, but life happens.

I then went back to school as an "older student" at 25 and holy cow is it hard! Most Unis don't want you (literally), getting any kind of scholarship beyond a loan is out of the question, most of these "opportunities" are usually offered for people in high school or just starting college...

I mean, it's great for them. However, just thinking about the US' current economic problems where automation and trade are shutting down blue-collar jobs and these people don't have any other skills but would like to maybe try something in tech but can't...it's no wonder shit's hitting the fan right now.

You basically have to pick a school that has an older-than-average program. This is actually a problem in the Native American community because many students enter college later in life. It is not uncommon for students to start at 30 after a stint in the military or just working for some years after high school. Often they also have a family for added difficulty.

Tribal community colleges and some of the regional universities are aware of this lifecycle and make adjustments. UND at one point had a program that was "basic training" for college with a structured set of classes that were general requirements and support around them.

I commend you for putting in the effort, but our colleges are not helpful to older students and that actually makes life difficult for certain minority groups. I find their lack of inclusion a bit hypocritical.

I graduated with a CS degree in 2004 from Carnegie Mellon University and Google didn't give a shit about me until 2011 where they told me they would only hire me if I were working for another local company first. The other local companies didn't want to hire me, because they thought I would just go work for Google. Never met anyone at Google who cared that I was a good programmer or had devoted my life to it. They seemed focused on stealing workers from their competitors. If they want to hire computer scientists, then tell their employees to focus on that in the hiring process. If they have someone with a Computer Science degree who is a great programmer who wants to work with them, maybe they should find the time to speak with them or to explain how they could get a job in computer science or programming.

My experience is that Google things a Computer Science degree is worthless. It can't get your foot in the door to speak to them, you have to be a race or gender they are looking for.

Being the "right" gender (assume you mean female?) with a solid Computer Science degree wasn't enough to get my foot in the door to talk to anyone there either. They're picky, elitist, and unless someone already there recommends you they won't even talk to you.

At least that was the case before I got Amazon on my resume. Now it feels like every company on the planet wants to recruit me, including Google. I know a lot of people at Amazon who didn't have connections and didn't have a degree from an elite school (or a degree in CS at all in some cases) and they were still great. I'm sure google would never give them the time of day.

The one person I do know who works at Google is awful to be around (he is the "wrong" gender and race btw and went to the same school as me, but got referred). Google is all he talks about. I invited him to a party once and he actually started working on his laptop mid-party and snapped at me when I came over and asked him what he was up to ("It's confidential!" he said as he closed the screen and left).

So feeling rejected sucks, but maybe you dodged a bullet there.

Just saying this because on the off chance it might help you, but I think likely the reason that Google has some reservations about you is because of your attitude. Bringing in race and gender out of nowhere does not signal good things.

I think what you are up against is that Google being Google, they can afford to commit a large number of Type 1 errors in hiring engineers (rejecting good engineers) and still remain the top company. It's nothing personal.

I look at that page and all I see is icons for Word, Powerpoint, Access and Excel in a line. My brain has been hard-branded for so long. Google need to change that page a bit.

Primary colors have been used in branding since forever, what brand it invokes is a Rorschach test. I'm personally reminded of the logo on our first color TV.

I see SNES buttons...

I don't. I just see colours.

My punishment for reading the comments before clicking the link is that now I'll never know what I would have seen.

We replicated a CS degree path which you can fill with free MOOCs: https://www.coursebuffet.com/degree

Admittedly we have left our course list dormant for a while but we will be pushing an update in a few weeks.

I like the idea. I want to start studying Software Design (economist here) and did some research and found the BEng Software Engineering from Edinburgh. I am currently trying to replicate it. If I had know about your page before, maybe I would have taken your suggested path.

I've just started, but I can say that some courses (from this particular degree) are not available in a MOOC version, like "Functional Programming with Haskell" (1st semester) and "Computational Logic" (1st semester). But for CSCI particularly, I'm sure there are more MOOC courses available.

In the "Math Segment" of your path, I would include "Linear Algebra". There is a good MOOC version in edX called "Linear Algebra Foundations to Frontiers" from U. of Austin TX.

Thanks for feedback. We looked at the CS and management degrees/minors offered by a lot of universities. We did our best to craft a path that reflects requirements most have.

That being said there are courses that might be required that we don't have in our requirements. Later we may add a public section were users can add in suggestions for courses to include in a learning path.

We also need a major update in courses listings. That is coming.

Nice work - just signed up. What criteria you use in selecting MOOCs for the degree path? How do you keep it up to date?

Even before we had a degree path we set up a classification system. This means we assign a subject and level to every course similar to what is done at many leading universities. Courses that cover the same or similar material will have the same CourseBuffet subject and number.

The goal of this system is for a user to be able to directly compare courses that cover similar material (liner algebra) , not just aggregate courses of same general subject (math). We only list courses that are roughly equivalent to a course that might be found on campus. We don't list say a 1 week on say Photoshop. While that material might be valuable it isn't a traditional university course.

When creating the degree path we looked at dozens of US universities' CS and management degrees and their requirements. We tried mirror what they required using our classification system. For example you have to take intro to computer science (we list as CS 101), Algorithms (we list as CS 295), etc.

All the courses we had previously classified as falling under say CS 101 then can be used in the degree path since we said CS 101 is a degree path requirement. The goal being a path that is provider neutral so one can pick and choose without having to be tied to only Coursera, edX, etc.

It is in no way a perfect system. While courses grouped under a classification should cover roughly the same material they are not perfect substitutes. We encourage users to use their best judgement.

As for keeping it up to date that is a huge challenge. If we were doing basic aggregation it would be a matter of just posting up new courses as they became available. But then users would have to take the time to sort through say all the math courses. With our classification systems they don't have to waste their time doing that.

The problem with having a much better organization of courses than anyone else is it is harder to maintain. At the moment we are behind in listing new material and thats why in my first post I gave the disclaimer.

I'm a big proponent of MOOCs, having participated in a few, and currently taking the Udacity Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree (the others I took also revolved around ML).

That said, the thing that bugs me about them is how they may be perceived by a potential employer?

Granted, anyone can put on their resume/cv that they went to school x/y/z and gained a BA or MA; most employers probably don't even look at it. But a few probably do investigate further; and there is always the chance that a new employer might look into your stated background and find that, "No, you didn't graduate from XYZ, and oh, btw, you're fired."

Having that piece of documentation from an accredited school means something. Furthermore, if you have a certificate or something from another place that isn't recognized, it might be looked upon as a "diploma mill" certificate, not worth the paper it is printed on, so to speak.

This is why I support companies like Udacity and Coursera, because they might lend an air of legitimacy to their certificates (much like the various Microsoft and Cisco certs), to help prove to potential employers that you are the "real deal". That's not to say that Course Buffet can't do the same (and honestly, there's a lot still needed to be done to communicate to employers that these MOOC offering do have merit) - but right now, outside of having an extensive project portfolio and some other measures of demonstrating to the employer, there isn't many ways to convey to them that "Yes, I have a level of knowledge equivalent to a BA in CompSci."

Ultimately, as always and regardless of your degree (or not), it all comes down to how you sell yourself to the employer. Still - if it comes down to two people who have convinced the employer to consider them for hiring, it might just come down to who has the "actual" degree - the guy with a known institution on that piece of paper, or the guy with a random PDF certificate (or 20) from random online sites?

This is an unfortunate bias in our educational and employment system, and it is going to be a difficult one for MOOCs to overcome - but I do hope it happens, because frankly, college education, despite its certain advantages, is very expensive (and some would say overpriced). Not to mention its structure and student-body makeup, being naturally skewed toward a younger student population, tends to turn away an older population who may want to seek a degree in their later years, but don't want to feel out of place.

MOOCs can fill that role, but there are a lot of prejudices and assumptions that need to be overcome in the meantime to get employers to understand their value.

I don't disagree that "Having that piece of documentation from an accredited school means something"

If one can go to a top or mid-tier school then one should go. But that is not a reality for some people. There are also a lot of people who went to a university but after a few years wished they had studied something else.

We wanted to give people a dead simple way to replicate a degree/minor path if going to a "real university" was not available or to inconvenient.

I glimpsed at the content for 30 seconds. This does not look anything like a computer science education: "Pencil Code", "Blockly", "Coding Adventures", "Craft Small Projects in HTML/CSS". These are just glorified baby-games for 5 year old's; or at the very most a stupefied introduction of basic development for girls and malnourished Indian children.

I'm going to express an annoyance that I usually have with things like this. It's not really a Google problem, or a computer science problem. More of a society problem.

Why is everything related to education always targeted at young people? My ability to synthesize new knowledge has increased substantially after I was already out of college for a few years. But once you are in that age range, educational resources suddenly dissipate. Well, it's not the only thing that dissipates...

But, seriously, the amount of resources that were thrown at me while I was younger was ridiculous. Interestingly enough, I could hardly keep up with it.

A bit odd that everyone acts as if they think that there's no chance of developing people further after the age of 25 or so. Do they really have a much higher demand for fresh grads, as opposed to people with experience? Is it that much harder to get a shallow understanding of computer science as opposed to a deep one?

People need to learn how to learn first ... the Trivium ... grammar, logic, and rhetoric ... after a successful baseline there then they can teach themselves CS or whatever ... too early exposure to CS just continues the trade school factory mentality prevalent in current pre college education

With all of Alphabet's resources, data, this is all they could manage on all of Computer Science? Whats the data/measurements behind this?

This is not what I was expecting. I was expecting something similar to Udacity or Edx but for computer science education instead just seems like a bunch of kid games or am I wrong, I expected more from Google on this topic.

Computer Science will end up like Math. Lots of adults today learned geometry, trigonometry, and calculus in school. If you ask them how much of it they use on a daily basis most will tell you they don't.

I was really hoping this was going to provide some path to completing my CS degree.

At least they're acknowledging the importance of education.

What is the importance of a CS education?

I honestly don't feel like my exposure to CS has changed my life in any way outside of my career. If I imagine some future where I am retired, it is not obvious to me where I will use anything I have learned or how it will shape me into being a better person.

It certainly has been useful to me in finding gainful employment, but if that is the only thing it brings to the table, one could argue that Google is only doing this in their self-serving interests. It is clear to see what benefits they would gain in having a larger labour pool available.

"...outside of my career"

Ummm... isn't that a pretty major effect? Doesn't that have some impressive side effects?

I watch my so many of my non-CS friends cycle through jobs (and debt) with limited ability to add long-term stability. If information sciences are having an impact on every industry, and encouraging students to explore those options gives them better access to jobs, and thus improve their life, that seems like a noble goal.

My career has been significant in my life. I was fortunate enough to take an interest in CS before we started pushing it on every man, woman, and child. Since there have been few of us with the necessary skills up to this point, job stability and compensation has been fairly great, relatively speaking.

But success is rarely duplicated! The cure for high prices, after all, is high prices. With the push for more and more to get into CS, there will undoubtedly be more and more looking for careers in CS-based professions in the future. The added competition will leave these jobs in the same state that your friends have found themselves dealing with in mature careers who have already gone through the same dilution of people. If I'm wrong and these people do not pursue careers that are related to CS, what have they really gained?

To put simply: Value lies in scarcity. If CS is no longer scarce, it will no longer be valuable.

Really? I find myself touching on some part of my CS education almost every day, and I'm not currently employed. But then, I got into CS because I enjoyed it, back when it wasn't the hot new job skill.

It's as much part of who I am as bitter cynicism and an inordinate love of fried rice.

As they say, it is difficult to appreciate something until it is gone. It may be that I fail to recognize the value it has brought to my life simply because I do not know a life without it. And it has been a part of almost my entire life, as I too enjoy it, and started my journey into the topic of CS when I was very young.

How are you touching on some part of your CS education each day in an important way? I may not even realize how I use it in my own situation, outside of the obvious practical application of writing software.

I look to my family and friends, many of whom know nothing about CS, and they have quite meaningful and fulfilling lives. It still doesn't seem all that important in the grand scheme of things.

I want to know when we have the conversation about how every developer doesn't need to be a college graduate.

Sweet, just started a course in CS, so anything that can help is welcome!

Instead of applauding this (oh, they are spreading knowledge), I'm going to point out that they just want cheaper labour.

You know why we create software? To automate things, stuff that before required lot of accountants can be now down with software + one accountant. So we made accounting "cheaper" cutting a lot of jobs; should we stop making software because it makes labor cheaper? should we stop making robots because it makes labor cheaper? Fuck that; if socio-economics has a problem we need to find a solution that doesn't involve stopping how far and wide knowledge can be spread.

I got into a discussion about this recently. It seems like most of the time new technology and automation inherently creates less jobs than it depreciates.

Meanwhile, the population only goes up.

Assuming those two statements are true in a given economy, then this is going to become a major problem for society as the number of people drastically outmatches the number of (skilled?) jobs that need performed.

At a certain point we're going to have to find a new paradigm to replace our "compete for a job and you can earn a living" system or else find ourselves in a situation where the employer has all the power and the vast majority of people who can even find work endure terrible conditions.

> I got into a discussion about this recently. It seems like most of the time new technology and automation inherently creates less jobs than it depreciates.

> Meanwhile, the population only goes up.

That's why one should consider people who produce children as "evil-minded". There are few things that are similar as cruel as producing children who will have no place in society. Antinatalism for the win.

Sort of.

On the other hand, on a national or global scale having children is not optional.

If you want your species to continue, some people have to have children.

That said, I agree in that I believe contraception should be essentially free to anyone who wants it. There's simply no logical reason for society to bring unwanted and superfluous children into the world.

> If you want your species to continue, some people have to have children.

But only as many as society really needs (currently we have to many) and and only if there exist people that are willing to bail if the child will be unemployed (a risk that will increase with even more automatization).

Without children the human species will simply die. If that's your goal or an accepted side-effect of your goal, then Antinatalism makes sense.

If you don't want humanity to die, then it is far too simplistic and it would actually be wrong to not value people having children -- at least to some degree -- since as far as we know it is the only way for humanity to continue.

In reality, as with most things, there is a lot of grey area and difference of circumstance that factor into the morality of such a decision.

"Disrupting" is maybe the most popular reason for creating software. It is not the only reason though. There are others. Like enabling people to do/experience things that weren't possible before.

The solution clearly isn't to stop making software but the solution also isn't to immediately replace all jobs by a machine. You have people who've worked towards a specialized skillet for most part of their life only to realize that this skill isn't needed anymore. In such situations, we need to come up with mechanisms to help people transition.

What are you trying to say? You want education to be less accessible, so that poor people cannot compete with you?

Computer science is like a self-devaluating industry.

We have tons of websites dedicated to teaching our trade, most of them for free. We actively encourage everybody to learn to code, and tell them how easy it is, and how it makes you a better person. We say schools should teach everybody how to code.

Do you imagine medics, attorneys, engineers, etc doing the same things about their own professions/skills? "Yes I'm an architect... yeah but you should learn the same skillset, this thing I do is super easy! Everybody could be an architect easily!"

Of course corporations like this: more coders! Cheaper labour! For example I found this video disgusting while everybody else applauded the effort:


Do you really think your (our) skillset is worth 0?

What I'm getting from your post is: When you teach other people, you devalue your own knowledge. Knowledge should be hoarded, guarded jealously, and others discouraged from learning the things you know. Because if knowledge is shared, that knowledge becomes less valuable, and so you are less valuable, and so can earn less money.

Is this a fair statement of your views, or am I misinterpreting you?

I didn't interpret his post the same way as you did. I think he was suggesting that we, as programmers, tend to act in ways that are not necessarily conducive to maintaining our own job security. We often advocate (strongly even) for importing labor, making CS education and tools cheap/free etc. all of which while certainly making knowledge more accessible also increases the supply of coders.

And it's true, you definitely don't see doctors, lawyers, accountants etc. acting in the same way. I'm not suggesting a grand conspiracy on their part, but the certifications (difficult to obtain), years of schooling etc do have the effect (intended or not) of limiting competition.

It's hard to argue for better wages and treatment from employers on one hand, while simultaneously propagating the view that "anyone can do this". Well, if anyone can, then why should you get paid $150k/yr or more?

From an individual & egoistical perspective, that is a very logical point of view.

I was wondering what their motivation is. Maybe this is it. It's so strange how so many programmers seem to want other people to learn to program. Why is this? I accepted a long time ago that probably less than 1% of the population have the ability to be a good programmer. And even if more had the ability, do we really need that many programmers?

I can't imagine any other industry doing this. I don't go on to the website of 3M, for example, and see stuff teaching me how to make my own glue. When I speak to a lawyer they don't try to teach me how to be a lawyer. Why do so many programmers feel the need to do this?

>Why is this?

Because they like what they do and sharing knowledge helps you learn and network. Go on youtube and look for tons of drawing tutorials, music creation, sculpting, etc. pretty much anything creative and accessible will have people who will give away knowledge for free, sharing what they discovered or w/e.

There's also selection bias, programmers create digital content so it's bound to be over-represented on the internet.

> Why is this?

Many of my hardest problems involve people in decision-making positions that don't have any idea about how computers or programs work. Getting the rest of the world to be more conversant in programming will allow for more meaningful work. For example, we know what an EKG and an APB are, but people don't know what a compiler is.

Programming is a very general skill that can be applied to almost anything and it has a low barrier to entry.

In the view of those promoting programming education it is a skill that everyone should have the opportunity to learn -- more akin to reading or writing than specialized skills like making glue or regulated subjects like law.

There is also a lot of room for creativity in programming, which means it probably has a higher chance of being adopted just for fun.

You can say the same thing about Calculus. "Why does nearly every single High School in the US teach Calculus in some form or another? Why do they push it on every child? Including in College for weeder courses?" Because it's critical, important and integral to our society. Now that programming has invaded nearly every aspect of our lives, wouldn't it be nice if we all taught everyone how to be programming literate? It would be like learning a language. Or learning Calculus.

I agree with you.

Here is my thoughts: spreading knowledge and making it accessible is not a bad thing, of course. But, isn't it true that the current education system (form k-12 to academia) is built to produce a workforce for the industry(2.0)? Here is a quote from a recent HN thread: "Our current system is designed to produce factory workers for the industrial economy, which was adapted to produce knowledge workers for the information economy. But we are moving towards full automation of most of those jobs.

We will need to prepare people to be adaptable in a fast changing automated world: more entrepreneurial type skills are needed." [https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13533759]

Education for the sake of knowledge/science ended after Industry 2.0. Maybe that's why the world doesn't have great innovators & scientists and giant scientific leaps as got once until late 19th to early 20th century.

So, it's true that all the current frantic efforts (bootcamps, online degrees, nanodegrees etc.) to teach youth to code are about pouring easy-accessible workforce into the market - towards the final phase of Industry 3.0. After the Industry 4.0 is arrived, millions of workforce will be left out, IMO.

I'll reserve my right to applaud at the end of the show, even if the singer was just being excellent for the sake of a pay check.

In fact it's the opposite, they can get cheap labor - if the labor is ignorant - not with knowledge! Hypothesis failed!

While I don't agree with lineindc, they are clearly talking about unit costs or something else that measures price per productivity.

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