Joining Khan Academy

We’re about 20 years into the age of the Internet, and I feel like it’s just getting warmed up. The Internet and modern computing have changed so many things, but the potential still seems limitless. Any area related to sharing of information is undergoing massive change, and education is certainly about sharing information.

I’ve been intrigued by Khan Academy ever since I first heard about it.  Sal Khan’s “here, let me walk you through that” videos made for a solid base upon which Khan Academy has grown and tried new ideas. The site offers a bunch of tools for flipping the classroom so that Internet-based learning doesn’t need to be limited to humans interacting with computers alone. They use machine learning techniques to figure out which problems you should be presented with next. They offer SAT prep. They have run experiments like LearnStorm in conjunction with traditional school systems.

And, they do it all for free. KA is a non-profit and their “mission is to provide a free, world?class education for anyone, anywhere.” Their code is open source and they’ve been one of the biggest contributors to React. Education can make a huge difference in people’s lives and this is an organization that is constantly working on ways to make that difference for as many people as they can.

Bill Gates called it the “future of education” at the end of Sal’s TED talk. And even Mr. Money Mustache says that “Sal Khan is pretty much The Man when it comes to great do-it-yourself education.”, though I daresay the Bill Gates endorsement likely carries a bit more weight.

We’ve already entered a period of unprecedented educational choice and opportunity, and by joining Khan Academy I’ll have a chance to do my bit to help children and adults who want to learn.

I’ve enjoyed my conversations with the KA people I’ve met so far, and I’m looking forward to getting started! What will I be doing at KA? I’m joining the tech staff and I’m looking forward to seeing how I can best help out once I’m there. I’m back to blogging at Blue Sky On Mars (more on that in another post), so expect to read more about my experiences at KA in this space.

What is SlowNews?

The move toward real-time everything is wrong. We have enough interruptions in our days without having random links and news sprayed at us 24×7. Not to mention that there’s no real thought that goes into real time, and generally very little thought that gets compressed into 140 characters. Length also does not guarantee quality, and too much text can be a waste of time. The trick is to be concise.

I’ve adopted my SlowNews newsletter-like format for sharing and commenting on what’s going on in the software world. A weekly post for software developers and technically minded product managers. This is a way to keep up with interesting things that are happening, but through the lens of a weekly view where the uninteresting is edited away, the more interesting is promoted to the top and a bit of commentary ties it all together.

SlowNews is a chance for me to gather my thoughts and to review the truly interesting things that are going on in software product creation.

Blue Sky On Mars SlowNews is published on Tuesday mornings at 9am Eastern time.

A change to my blogging

First of all, my blogging has been very sporadic of late. Well, it’s always been irregular, and that’s not going to change. I do plan on blogging more frequently than I have been over the past couple of months. I have recently concluded a very busy job search (more on that in a separate post) and can get back to a bit more writing.

Blue Sky on Mars (BSOM) has been my blog for everything for several years now. I’ve had lots of software development blog postings, but also have had articles about parenting, politics, music, money and, as you’d get on Woot, random crap. Not to mention things that originated on other sites like delicious and twitter. I want to change things on BSOM to make things more useful and predictable.

BSOM has been largely about software development. Now, it will be exclusively about building software products including software development and product management, possibly with some software process mixed in for good measure. Everything that appears on BSOM henceforth will be longish articles and commentary, all related to modern software.

I will still use Delicious to track interesting things that I find online, and Twitter for small, random bits of commentary. I use Friendfeed to aggregate all of that stuff.

Finally, I’ve started a blog over at for all of the non-software stuff that had previously been here. I won’t be doing anything crazy like moving blog posts from here over to there, however… A lot of people find my writing via search engines and I don’t want to disrupt that.

To sum up: subscribe to BSOM for software topics, if you’re interested in my views on other things, follow me on Twitter for the truly random or subscribe to my Delicious bookmarks for cool stuff that I find.

(By the way, there will be no change to my feed that appears on Planet Python which is focused strictly on my Python category.)

In the market for a job

Short form: I’m looking for a job. Are you doing something interesting? And hiring? Send me email! kid @at@

I’ve opened up my LinkedIn profile to make it easier to get a quick rundown.

I bring a lot to the table: 20 years of experience in product management, management and software development. Some of my work in Python is out there and well-known. In September 2005, I released TurboGears, which led to an interesting and fun flurry of activity for me (talks at PyCon 3 years running, plus talks at EuroPython, CodeMash and the upcoming PyWorks conference, the Prentice-Hall book with Mark Ramm, the self-produced and published DVD, etc). At Arbor Networks, I applied Python (and others) in many parts of their security product, and even convinced them to release TGWebServices, an open source library that takes the pain out of SOAP. And, this year at SitePen I released the Paver build tool.

Most recently, at SitePen, I was the Product Manager in an otherwise custom services company. I oversaw the launch of SitePen’s growing Support service, and the Dojo Toolbox, created in collaboration with Adobe.

Throughout my career, I’ve been taking collections of raw materials and turning out packages that customers can really use. In the earliest part of my career, I created insurance company billing software for doctors’ offices. The people using that software were decided non-technical. I had to quickly learn to speak their language, figure out what they needed to accomplish and then make it happen. I also had to help spark their interest in our product.

And, I’ve been doing that all along. My audiences have varied and my role has varied (sometimes I’ve been a manager with people reporting to me, other times I’ve been a developer on the team), but the product management aspect has been there all along. I’ve also spent a couple of years doing enterprise sales and have been involved in marketing along the way.

Of course, I’m also a very technical person. I did a lot of the software development on the SitePen products I was involved with. I have a ton of experience in Python (going back to 1995), plus solid experience in JavaScript, Java and Perl. I’ve been using relational and other styles of databases forever. I’ve been using some variety of *nix since the early 1990s.

I’m located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I’m willing to telecommute (and have done so for 4 of the past 10 years).

There are many jobs out there listed on the various jobs sites, but I also know that there are plenty of great opportunities that are not listed on those sites. If you happen to know of one, let me know!

The Big Moo Canoe wrapup

As I had reported earlier on, my cousin Rob was planning a charity canoe event called “The Big Moo Canoe” to support Heifer International. Last month, he burned a solid 22,000 calories to complete the 250 mile route. He has a nice wrapup page for the event.

Donations are still open until July 20th, and Rob is hoping to turn this into an event that more people can take part in next year (send him email if you’re interested!)

Great job, Rob!

Yesterday’s tweets

  • 11:50 Dear Microsoft: when you ask me if I want Silverlight and I say yes, don’t send Silverlight.exe to my Mac. Thanks. #
  • 11:59 @crazybob Alas, if you’re looking for anyone without contradiction (snipers in Bosnia) you’ll need to move to another country. #
  • 14:43 what’s with these people that follow tens of thousands of people on Twitter? #

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Yesterday’s tweets

  • 19:18 smithee awards. Woot #
  • 19:19 most ludicrous premise #
  • 19:40 revenge of dr x #
  • 19:40 oblivious #
  • 19:50 wow. Really terrible movies again this year #
  • 19:51 dr. Tarrs torture dungeon looks insane #
  • 20:31 broke my iPhone case. Bummer #
  • 21:36 "if you say we should split up, I’m going to bitchslap you." #
  • 21:37 best one liner scarecrow gone wild #
  • 21:51 superargo against diabolicus. Quality bad filmmaking #
  • 22:02 metallica inane dialog "you survived. You’re alive." #
  • 22:56 monster-a-go-go crummy ending, lost script, new director, monster vanish #

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