The Best of the Internets

Why America’s Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous

A fantastic op-ed by Fareed Zakaria on why a well-rounded populace is a good thing:

A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy.

And on innovation for the future of the U.S.:

Innovation is not simply a technical matter but rather one of understanding how people and societies work, what they need and want. America will not dominate the 21st century by making cheaper computer chips but instead by constantly reimagining how computers and other new technologies interact with human beings.

I could not agree more. I studied pop culture and journalism in college after changing majors from marine biology my third year. I now have a very successful career in the STEM world, but I’ve never taken a computer science course. Heck, I’ve never even taken a typing course.

(I kinda regret that second one.)

I don’t think I would be where I am today if I did not spend time in psychology, sociology, literature, drama, and anthropology classes. It’s not that a computer science course or two wouldn’t have helped me (it certainly would have), but broad exposure leads to broad perspectives and innovative thinking. It helps us see the interconnectedness of what surrounds us and helps us do our jobs better, no matter what our jobs are.

Fareed makes a lot of great points in this op-ed and you should definitely give it a read, but I will leave you with this important warning:

Americans should be careful before they try to mimic Asian educational systems, which are oriented around memorization and test-taking. I went through that kind of system. It has its strengths, but it’s not conducive to thinking, problem solving or creativity. That’s why most Asian countries, from Singapore to South Korea to India, are trying to add features of a liberal education to their systems.




I Can Text You a Pile of Poo, but I Can’t Write My Name

A heartbreaking and damning assessment of the current state of Unicode by Aditya Mukerjee.

My name is not only a common Indian name, but one of the top 1,000 names in the United States as well. But the final letter has still not been given its own Unicode character, so I have to use a substitute.

Wow. Just, wow.

Worried about Unicode getting too big?

[O]ne might appeal to the limited space in the Unicode character set. Even if we take for granted the somewhat arbitrary maximum of 1,114,112 codepoints, the other alphabets included speak for themselves. The most recent update to the Unicode standard included the entire alphabet of Linear B, an ancient Mycenaean script that was not deciphered in the modern era until the 1950s. Nor does alleged scarcity explain the inclusion of Linear A, a Minoan script so arcane, scholars disagree on what language it even represented, let alone how to read the script.

His frustration is completely understandable:

We have an unambiguous, cross-platform way to represent “PILE OF POO” (💩), while we’re still debating which of the 1.2 billion native Chinese speakers deserve to spell their own names correctly.

And since the subject of diversity in emoji has been a hot button issue of late, here’s a bit on that:

Perhaps I wouldn’t mind that the emoji world now literally has “colored” people, if it weren’t for the timing. Instead, what could have been a meaningless, empty gesture becomes an outright insult. You can’t write your name in your native language, but at least you can tweet your frustration with an emoji face that’s the same shade of brown as yours!

This post is eye-opening on so many levels. You should definitely add it to your reading list because, as Aditya reminds us, “it’s imperative that the writing system of the 21st century be driven by the needs of the people using it.”



Once Upon a Time, There Was One Internet and It Was Open to Everyone…

A great discussion of the implications of Internet censorship on businesses and the economy. Choice quote:

When governments begin developing complex and counterintuitive online rules for their various jurisdictions, any semblance of global development is broken down. The resulting risk is that we will be left with multiple internets, each with their own rules, laws and guidelines.


YourBrowser.is

One of the hardest things about debugging websites is parsing bug reports provided by non-tech folks. And one of the most common issues with them is confirmation of what browser & version, OS & version, and possibly what device they are running it on. Do yourself a favor and have them hit yourbrowser.is to copy & paste the results for you before posting the bug.



The Big Web Show #130: Progressive Enhancement FTW With Aaron Gustafson

Jeffrey Zeldman and I discuss web design then and now; why Flipboard’s 60fps web launch is anti-web and anti-user; Genesis’ “Land of Confusion” video, and other bad ideas from the 1980s; design versus art; the demise and sendoff of Web Standards Sherpa; how the web community differs from other creative communities; and the 2nd Edition of Adaptive Web Design, coming from New Riders later this year.


Rendering Engine Updates in March for the Windows 10 Technical Preview

The new browser codenamed “Project Spartan” won’t be in it, but the March build of the public Windows 10 preview has a bunch of new features. Among my favorites:

RemoteIE should be updated soon too.