After a fine, productive evening of coding PHP and javascript respectively, The Invisible Developer and I were discussing how to find a developer. We’re making good progress on 7 Generation Games and we’re pretty happy coding our own stunts. We did have someone come in to pinch hit last year when we were running behind schedule and he was great (thanks, Eric Gebhart).

A lot of start-ups we know are not as fortunate as we are and they are looking for developers and having trouble finding them. Some have even tried to poach The Invisible Developer away from me, but they have found it impossible to compete with my offer of paying him six figures, letting him work at home in his underwear and having sex with him. (Every time I say this, The Spoiled One puts her fingers in her ears and chants, “La la la, I can’t hear you!” )

Unhappy camper

If you are looking for a software developer of your very own, here are a few suggestions from me and additions from The I.D. Stop thinking about what YOU need and start thinking what you might offer. Yes, you might be able to go on some random website and find someone willing to code for minimum wage. I guarantee you that the best people (isn’t that who you want by your side to change the world?) are not there. They already are working on other projects.

1. Pay decent money: I don’t care WHAT stupid article you read that said technical people are motivated by more than salary. Yes, there are is a threshold. If you came in and offered us each a million dollars to work for you today doing something like creating a replacement for SQL or a new operating system, neither of us would be interested. The key point is, though, we are already making enough money to live by the beach and shop at Bloomingdales with The Spoiled One. If people can’t pay their bills on what you are paying they will either:

  • Quit your project for one that does pay enough that they can afford housing, food, clothes and Chardonnay, or
  • Take another job to pay the bills and work on yours in their spare time, which will be very limited.

 

2. Have interesting work: The definition of ‘interesting’ is a personal one but anyone who is really good got that way because they were continually learning. In selling your potential developers, talk about how they will have the opportunity to choose the language, IDE, libraries, hardware, etc. they use to develop. Talk about the new things they could learn. Certainly, there will be some limits. At the moment we don’t develop for Linux, although we’d love to, because it’s not compatible with Unity. Both the I.D. and I have left six-figure jobs for other jobs because they weren’t fun. Note that I did not say we left to work for free. Fun only matters after the rent and kids’ tuition are paid (see #1).

3. Have perks: Like interesting, this is a personal definition. For some people, it is having flexible hours so they can spend time with their children. For others, it might be telecommuting. At The Julia Group, we know we can’t match Microsoft or Google in salaries and other financial incentives. We can offer you the flexibility to set your own hours, work from home, maybe buy you the exact hardware and software to your specifications.

4. Address a need the developer is passionate about:  It seems most start-ups looking for a developer start here but I don’t know a lot of developers who do. This isn’t to say that I don’t know some great people who would like to have an impact on the world, but they first would like to pay the rent (Maslow’s hierarchy, anyone?). I know developers who are passionate about climate change, education, inequality – but really not all that many. I mean, they do care about those things but they aren’t any more likely to quit their day jobs and devote their lives to them than the guy who runs the car lot down the street from me. Your mileage may vary. I’m sure people I know personally are not a representative, random sample.

The Invisible Developer added this:

5. Hang out where the developers hang out: If you are looking for someone to create iphone apps, there are iphone developer forums. Lurk there and see who is asking beginner questions and who is answering them. In many forums, people will post if they are available and looking for work. If you’ve read a number of their posts, you might have an idea if you want to contact them or not.

6. Learn to code or at least a little bit about coding: I’m not saying you need to create your own operating system from scratch, but you ought to know the difference between a jpeg file and a website design, have some idea about how long it should take to code a web form (not very) versus a really good 3-D adventure game (the rest of your natural life – just kidding, sort of).

I was wrong.

Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that women did CSS and HTML and men did “real” coding like PHP, SQL, Python, Perl, javascript etc. Since life had taught me that predominantly male fields always paid better than female ones (construction workers get paid more than licensed practical nurses, for example), I decided to ignore CSS beyond the minimal amount to get by because seriously, real programming has arrays and functions.

Getting the pages in the game to all look alike was one of those tasks I put off until later, and maybe we would just hire someone to do it. Well, guess what, later has arrived. So, I spent a day reading Stylin’ with CSS (which rocks, by the way) . The main motivating factor was that I had to do some test questions for our game that match up to the type of items on the new computerized exams testing the Common Core curriculum. This means that I needed things draggable and droppable – no problem with jquery – but I also needed them laid out very specifically on a number line. I could have done this with the canvas tag, but really, css proved the perfect solution.

Not only was I able to use margins, relative positioning and float to get my objects on the page to show up exactly how I wanted them, but I was also able to do it so that I am pretty sure it will look the same in most browsers on most computers and not just my lovely cinema display using Firefox.

On top of this, I learned about the acronym tag which I could not believe I did not know existed before now. (Yes, I know it is an HTML tag but it was in a book on CSS I happened to be reading.)

In short, you do this

<acronym title="What you want to show up when you hover">The thing you hover over</acronym>

In our games, we use many words from the students’ tribal language. For example, for the game we are going to be piloting on the Turtle Mountain reservation this spring,

Grandmother

Nookomis says …

and in 100 places in the past, I had used javascript so that if you clicked on or hovered over something it would show the word and here there was a simple little tag all along.

How was it possible I did not know this? Because I had the stupid idea that CSS was a woman thing and if you want to make money in life and be taken seriously you hire someone at a low salary to do the things that women do and you concentrate in other areas.

I was wrong about CSS and that was the second thing involving stereotypes about women that I was completely wrong about this week. The other one was a book on women in fitness. You can read about that here.

I’ve written about the challenges of finding a mentor previously, Why the cool kids won’t hang out with you.

Let’s be frank, if you are old and pumping gas, not too many people are interested in you as a mentor, but the last few years have been good here at The Julia Group, and the dozen years before that didn’t suck either. I’ve gotten millions in grants funded, started a couple of companies. Just this year, I have a new game out to teach kids math, published a book on martial arts and another chapter in a book on Real Talk from Real Women, was listed in Forbes as one of the 40 women to watch over 40 – and that’s nowhere near everything. It’s been wild.

The more successes I have, and the older I get, the more I am asked to serve either formally or informally as a mentor to younger people. This could be anything from hiring someone for their first job to looking over a grant proposal. Regardless, there are far more requests than I could possibly ever manage to meet.

I try to do as much as I can, in part because I did benefit from some wonderful mentors when I was younger. I also try to do as much as I can because I am well aware that I did not get nearly as much mentoring as people who came from more advantaged circumstances, and that I could have done more in my career, and sooner, if I’d had the benefits of more mentoring. (I can already hear my sister saying, “Christ! You have a Ph.D., company president, founded a start-up and won a world championships, what more do you want? President of Harvard? Secretary of State?” Maybe. That’s not the point.)

Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that there are characteristics that probably make it hard to find a mentor.

1. If you are the opposite gender of the majority of the senior people in your field, it’s harder.

When a younger person of the opposite sex shows an interest in someone they may be uncomfortable for several reasons:

  1. They find this person attractive and that is uncomfortable in general. Most people in their fifties really don’t want to be involved with someone 20 years younger.
  2. They are afraid this person finds them attractive and have the sense to realize it is only due to their position, and they are not interested anyway.
  3. They are worried that their colleagues will misinterpret the relationship and they care about their reputation.
  4. They are worried that their spouse/ significant other will misinterpret the relationship and want to keep the peace at home.
  5. The younger person subconsciously or deliberately flirts and tries to use their youth/ attractiveness to appeal to a mentor.

Sex is a part of life and railing about how it is unfair isn’t going to get you anywhere. The unfortunate fact is that it’s usually impossible to tell whether your failure to connect with a potential mentor is due to one of those factors or that they are just plain too busy. The only one you can do anything personally about is the last one. I’ve seen people get some mentoring that way, usually attractive women, but sometimes men in female-dominated fields. Even if it works to get you some attention from a mentor or two, though, don’t fool yourself that it won’t be noticed by your peers that you are almost literally kissing up to older men. There will also be potential mentors who are very put off by that behavior.

I don’t know if for some young people that is just the only experience they have of interacting with the opposite sex other than their immediate family. Here is my suggestion, when you meet a potential mentor, treat that person like the mother or father of a good friend. If you went home for spring break with your college roommate, you didn’t call their mom or dad “Honey”,  you didn’t invite them out for  a drink, you didn’t touch them other than to shake their hand and you probably didn’t wear anything your Grandma would not have approved of.

The other thing you can do to address points 2-4 is to get an introduction. If you call someone up and say your Uncle Bob or your advisor from graduate school, Dr. Schmoe recommended you talk with someone, they are a lot more likely to accurately interpret your interest and they are more likely to make time for you out of respect for Uncle Bob/ Dr. Schmoe.

2. If you grew up poor or in a minority community, it’s harder

There are two reasons for this. One is that you don’t have the family and community connections that will get you an introduction. You don’t have an Uncle Bob or a Dr. Schmoe who lives next door. The second is that your potential mentors are busy, and they are more likely to make time for people they hit it off with. Yes, I believe you are awesome, interesting, smart and hard-working. However, another fact of life is that we all have people will feel more or less comfortable around.

I have a daughter who just made a couple of movies and she is around a lot of what I call “Hollywood people”. They all talk about stuff that I know nothing about and could care less, who they were on this movie with – I almost never watch movies and I never know who any of these people are. They have had “work done” so they don’t have the same wrinkles, grey hair and scarred knees that I have. They ask me things like, “Oh, is that dress a Donna Karan?” and I answer, “No, it’s black.”

My point is that if I could pick any of those people to hang out with or you, I pick you. And there are some smart, hard-working, interesting people in that crowd, I am sure. They are just not the type of people I want to hang out with.

I will give you three recommendations for what you can do. First, try to fit in somewhat. I actually do own some things made by Armani, Steve Madden, Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor and Ralph Lauren that I try  to remember to wear instead of my jeans from The Gap when I know I’m going somewhere to meet with people like that. There are more cutting edge, high-end designers but that’s as far as I’m willing to go. I’ve given up on the name-dropping thing. Upon being introduced, I just say, “Sorry, if you’re mega-famous and I’ve never heard of you. I’m a statistician.” That is usually all the explanation they need. Second, do get an introduction – from your faculty members, from friends of a friend. I have hired several people over the years because they knew one of my children.

Third – Ask! You are going to have to be more proactive. The people you want to mentor you are busy and they have lots of people asking for their help and advice. They are not going to seek you out. Ask for introductions. I work on two American Indian reservations. Over the years, I have hired or worked with people because a parent, aunt or uncle called me up and recommended them. Ask your family members, your teachers if they know anyone who is looking for an intern/ can give you advice on college/ career advice, etc. Ask for help. I get far more requests to co-author papers, review grants , hire entry-level employees and even meet for coffee than I could ever do – but I notice that the people who have the fewest mentors in their lives seem to ask for it the least, perhaps because they don’t realize that they should.

 

It’s past two a.m. so that’s it.

 

I’m looking forward to teaching my first masters level course in a lo-o-ng time next week. Since this may be the first course students take in their masters program, the question I’m faced with is,

“What would you tell someone at the very beginning of learning about statistics?”

I’m starting with this:

Bias = bad

Bias is to statisticians as sin is to preachers.  We’re against it.

Bias is SYSTEMATIC error. While it is generally impossible to avoid error, in an unbiased study, error will be random.

Random = good

If error is random, we would be equally likely to err in one direction as the other, and so, on the average, would get the correct result. For example, if I was evaluating fighters to decide if they really did have brain damage as a result of being hit in the head too many times, in some borderline cases I might incorrectly decide the fighter was fine when, in fact, there was some minimal brain damage. In other cases, I might decide the person had damage, when he or she was just somewhat on the low side of the bell curve in terms of functioning brain cells. On the average, though, those errors should balance out and I should get the correct conclusion.

Random assignment is good because it means that people are equally likely to be assigned to one group versus another, so it is likely to control for confounding variables. What are confounding variables? Those are factors that may have complex relationships that distort the relationships found between your predictors/ risk factors and outcome variables. For example, people residing in nursing homes (my predictor) may be more likely to die (my outcome) but that might be because they are older or in poorer health (confounding variables).

Random selection is good because it means that everyone in the population has an equal chance to be selected, which means that, if you have a large enough sample, your sample is likely to be representative.

What’s a sample? What’s a population? What’s representative?

Well, we’ll get into that shortly.

But, speaking of random, I thought the most important thing to begin with was not how to find a mean or standard deviation but that bias is bad, because if you have bias, you are worse off after you found the mean than before you knew how to compute it. Before you didn’t have any information, you didn’t know the mean and you knew you didn’t know it.

With bias, you still don’t know the mean, but you think you do. You’ve actually gone backwards.

Think about it.

I am old. I remember punched cards, COBOL, dumb terminals and having to walk over to the computer center and load tapes on to the drive if I wanted to use large data sets – large back then meaning 100,000 records or more with a few hundred variables. We thought that was pretty big data.

By the time I finished graduate school in 1990, almost everyone I knew who still programmed using COBOL was over 40. They had learned it in college, or picked it up somewhere along the line and stuck with it. I didn’t know anyone who was learning COBOL. It was pretty clearly on the way out. Java, C++ , PHP, Perl and javascript were all taking up the attention of the cool kids on the block. SAS was a relatively new, cool thing if you were into statistics, while BMDP was on the way out. BMDP – that was another thing no one under 40 seemed to use.

So …. when I went to the Western Users of SAS Software conference this year, I was struck by the fact that I seemed to be about the median age. There were A LOT of people older than me. Most of the younger people were the student scholarship winners and junior professional award winners.

This does not bode well for SAS, and it made me a bit sad, because as I said in a prior post, the model selection procedures were cool, from a statistical perspective, there is a lot of good stuff from SAS.

I used to go to the user group meetings and they would give you a book (yes, on paper, children) that had macros written by SAS users. I think that was the first time I saw the parallel analysis criterion code for factor analysis – a macro I used in my dissertation and in one of the first articles I published.

Tonight, I was looking for a way to do power analysis for a repeated measures ANCOVA and I could not find it for SAS, neither using PROC POWER, PROC GLMPOWER nor any user-written macros. It may exist – I looked several other places as well, found a paper on how to do it using SPSS syntax (although that code did not work!) and someone else wrote a procedure in R that I didn’t try.

SAS used to be the place for the cutting edge. What happened?

One reason is that everyone used to use either SAS or SPSS at universities and that isn’t the case any more. A second is that SAS is really expensive, so universities who do not have a license aren’t inclined to get one.

This all sounds like the death knell is tolling for SAS and it is just a matter of time until it follows COBOL and Blackberry as one of those things that people ask, “Why are you using that?”

I think there is still some possibility for SAS to turn things around – although whether they will or not remains to be seen.

The smartest thing SAS has done in years is to come out with SAS On-Demand for Academics. This makes SAS free for university students and professors. It’s perfect for on-line courses because you can upload your data to the class website and all of your students can access it.

Now the next thing SAS needs to do is start making that available at a reasonable cost once students graduate. Instead of charging them thousands of dollars a year for a license, they can charge $50 a month like Adobe does for its design package or Google does for its apps. (Yes, Google apps for business are cheaper than $50 a month but they don’t do all that much.)

New graduates aren’t going to pay several thousand dollars for a license because they don’t have that kind of money. They might shell out $50 plus occasional extra charges to access some high performance computing capabilities.

SAS already has millions of lines of code and tens of thousands of pages of good documentation. It’s some good stuff.

Think about this – years ago, the Mac was considered a better computer than Windows but over-priced. Many people thought Apple would go under. Instead, they came out with the iPhone and the iPad and they are wildly successful.

The Web Editor and other cloud products could become the SAS version of the iPad.

Here’s to hoping they don’t fuck it up.

 

I was looking at one of the problems from the new common core assessment for mathematics at the fourth-grade level. To keep from being sued, I will change the numbers, but it looked like this:

4,0_7
1, 35_ –
——–
2,_99

The student is to fill in the blanks. I *suppose* that the question is designed to get at the student’s understanding of number concepts, that if you have 7 minus something equals 9 then that something must be 8.

Remember that part in Freaky Friday where the mom exchanges bodies with her teenage daughter? The Algebra II teacher is telling her that she will need this information when she is an adult and the mom-in-the-daughter’s body says,

I can guarantee you that I will not need this.

As someone who uses math every single day of her life, I can guarantee you that I will never need to solve a problem like the one above, unless maybe I decide to play Sudoku. I’ve never actually played Sudoku, so maybe it doesn’t help with that, either.

A few minutes ago, out of idle curiosity, I wanted to solve a problem that was (.01* 2**42)/(1E5)

It took me about 10 seconds. I used Excel.

This isn’t to say that all of the common core test questions are bad – they aren’t, nor that the the underlying idea of teaching fewer concepts with deeper understanding of each one is a bad idea – it certainly isn’t. It also isn’t to say that you can judge a test just by how good the questions look on the face of them (you can’t). It is to say that perhaps common core has been over-hyped as teaching real-world math and critical thinking skills.

Another example of this over-hype is the lauding the new tests for not having any multiple choice questions. Here is another, again modified to keep me from being sued for copyright infringement.

Drag the results less than 1 to  Box A. Drag the results greater than 1 to Box B

——————-

|       A             |

——————-

—————-

|       B           |

—————–

Then you have a bunch of items like:

1 x  3/4

4 x 1/8

2  x  3/4

and so on.

Please explain to me how this is really different from:

1 x 3/4 is greater than 1

A) True

B) False

It might be a better question in that  young children might be more amused by dragging and dropping the answers into a box and thus more likely to pay attention, but as far as revealing a greater depth of understanding of mathematics, I just don’t see it.

What the hell is WUSS? Why would *I* ever go to anything with the name WUSS? wuss_hats It’s not just so you can get the cool hats which double as lunch bags, although that’s one possible incentive.

It’s also not just so you can get your own original, signed illustration of the difference between ordinary least squares and maximum entropy methods from Don from SAS,

normal_entropyAlthough if you are lucky, that is an added bonus.

I was very pleasantly surprised to learn more than I expected at WUSS this year. I was aware of the GLMSELECT procedure available to select the best-fitting model, but I have not actually used it. Funda Gunes, from SAS, gave a great talk on model selection methods. To summarize the last hour – you create 1,000 or so bootstrapped samples, then run models with those each of those and select the average coefficient estimates from the 1,000 models. This is the best model not in the stepwise regression sense of giving you the highest explained variance, but as in most likely to correctly reflect the population values. That is a GROSS over-simplification but I highly recommend if you have any interest in model selection techniques, you download and read her paper which should be available from the conference proceedings, which will be published on the WUSS site eventually.

A second good paper on model selection was by Scott Leslie, pretty much on the polar opposite on the technical side from Funda’s, where he showed a series of ROC curves to illustrate the gradual (or sometimes substantial) improvement in a model as new predictors were added. He ended with a discussion of what might be better predictors of adherence to a prescribed medication regimen and how would you get that data.

In Kechen Zhao’s presentation, I learned about using PROC GENMOD to compare four different model types – logistic, log-binomial, Poisson and modified Poisson.  He discussed relative risk as a variable of interest versus odds ratios, and the fact that logistic regression in particular can produce substantially different estimates then the other models. This is worth a whole post in itself that I will try to get to next week.

As an added icing on the cake, in a session by Marie Bowman-Davis I learned about a public use data set, the California Health Interview Survey. (I did not know these data were available for public use and they are obviously a great resource for teaching.)

Despite all of these good things, I left the conference a bit concerned about the future of SAS – the average age of attendees at the conference was probably over 50. More about why that is and why that’s a problem later, since this post is already long enough and I have actual work to do.

 

 

Since I am at the Western Users of SAS Software this week and on my sixth city this month in the traveling statistician/CEO tour, I drafted a guest blogger for today.

Eric Ortiz wrote the following blog post. He is married to my oldest daughter, Maria. He also is the founder of Moblish , a mobile-first publishing platform for journalists, and his company is competing for a $20,000 seed grant. You can vote for Moblish here , or you can read on to learn more about them and vote for Moblish at the end of the post.

Eva and sister

Being an entrepreneur is a lot like being a parent. The job is thankless. You are responsible for everything. And you have no one to blame but yourself when something goes wrong.

The key to success is patience.

Eternal patience.

You can’t get upset when the clinching game of the World Series is on TV, and your 5 1/2 and 1 1/2- year-old daughters want to watch “The Wiggles.

The same temperament is required when finding a UX designer takes weeks, not days as you thought it would.

You can read every book ever written on parenting, but when Mom is on the road for work and your kids don’t want to go the f**k to sleep , no amount of Dr. Spock, Dr. Ferber or Dr. Seuss will get them to sleep any faster. You just have to ride out the storm, stay calm and wait until the wailing turns to dreaming.

Startups can be stubborn, too. Just as no handbook can replicate raising children, experience is the best teacher for starting a company. You can think you have the greatest idea in the world. Validate that idea with potential users and customers. Segment the market. Determine TAM, SAM and beach head. Complete a financial plan with five-year projections for revenue, gross margins, operating expenses, head count, balance sheet and cash flow. Create an innovative business model. Check off all the due diligence boxes. Have the smartest advisers. And prepare for every contingency.

The failure rate of technology startups is still 90 percent .

Successful first-time entrepreneurs quickly learn the most valuable lesson of first-time entrepreneurship: What little you thought you knew is even less than you thought.

The only way to build a company with staying power is by doing – by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Every day is a series of micro wins and micro losses. Some days you are up. Some days you are down. Some days you pull an all-nighter. Some days you pull back-to-back all-nighters. Some days you are sick. Some days you are tired. Some days you are discouraged.

But you keep showing up. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. There are no breaks for startup entrepreneurs.

Parents know the feeling. When you want to sleep in and your toddler wakes up at 5 a.m., sleep time is over. Your kids are counting on you to feed, clothe, shelter and buy them stuff.

As an entrepreneur, the startup is your other child. And you keep showing up.

I have no choice — my office is my kitchen table. I want to change the world  and have the will to believe I can.

My name is Eric Ortiz, and I am developing Moblish as a Knight Fellow  at Stanford University.

Moblish is a publishing platform for professional and citizen journalists that streamlines mobile reporting. The challenge  is to make live multimedia storytelling more efficient, increase the flow of quality information worldwide, and create monetization opportunities for journalists and news organizations.

We are in the process of building the Moblish prototype. The product should be ready for beta testing with journalists and media outlets by December.

We need your help.

Moblish is in the running for a $20,000 NewU Startup grant . Please vote for us .

If you have a problem here are the 3 most likely suspects

1. You’re a professor and uploading a file. Connect using FTP.  It seems like every program I have on my computer is set at SFTP.  Change that.

2. Trying to log into the web editor with your email address. You have a user name. It is not an email address. It doesn’t have any @xxx.edu  It’s just something like bozoclown

3. You have a data set for your class, you are sure it was uploaded, but you can’t find it. Even though your data was successfully uploaded to the class directory, it is not going to show up under libraries unless your program includes a LIBNAME statement. Then, you need to run that program. Now you should see it under LIBRARIES

If you’re interested in learning more about the SAS Web editor,

Here is a bit about uploading files and a caveat on working with open data at the last minute

 Here is where you find what your LIBNAME is. If you’re a professor, be sure to send your students an email with this information if you want them to access data you upload for your class.

Here is some more about using PROC CPORT/CIMPORT if you are uploading data in an older SAS format

And that’s my tips for early morning in Las Vegas. Now I’m headed downstairs to teach a class on categorical data analysis and attend WUSS13. If you’re here, be sure to say hi.

 

if you read yesterday’s post (and how could you not!) You were treated to my scintillating tale of my experience with Microsoft customer support where I called five people and got five different answers to the question about upgrading to Windows 8.1 Pro. Although two people did give me the same answer, one person gave me two different answers, so it cancelled out.

I said I would let you know which story turned out to be true once I got home and opened the package from Microsoft  ….

And the answer is ….. NONE OF THE ABOVE !

When I got home, there was a box with no DVD despite the fact that the website and the receipt both said DVD – English. The box contained a product key and correct instructions.
Go to the Windows start screen
Type in Add features to Windows 8.1. Then click SETTINGS.

Click Add features to Windows 8.1  then click I already have a product key

Enter the product key and click next.

There is no DVD.

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