Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Archive for July 3rd, 2013

The Email for FCMAT and CSIS is still down

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Last week I posted about how when I tried to reply to an email from Support@fcmat.org  of FCMAT / CSIS that I got an error back that “The email address you entered couldn’t be found. ”  Well, I’m still having this error, and of course, I can’t seem to email them about it! 🙂

It is important to recognize that this is the organization that is supposed to help school districts and others to have improved practices, and also manages the database of all the student information in California.  If they can’t get their email to work after over a week, it gives me some potential concern over the private data of nearly every child in our state.

I am going to try and call them today, and see if they can graciously acknowledge their issues, and fix them.  As that is the true sign of whether we should be concerned or not.  An organization that only tries to cover up and blame away their problems is one that obviously won’t fix the issues, and this is quite dangerous for the public when they are the keeper of your private information.  At this point I’m not making that accusation, but from my dealings with public agencies (and quasi-public agencies), my experience suggests that this could be an accusation that would need to be made, depending upon future evidence.

Written by Jacob Walker

July 3rd, 2013 at 8:37 am

My Thoughts on ScraperWiki or Don’t You Just Hate when New “improved” Software is Worse!

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A little over a month ago, I started to use ScraperWiki.  Which was a coding site dedicated to helping to get data from the web, and share it, and share the code.   It was almost a SourceForge for data, and had many of the things that I had wanted in the Data of Thought project that I’ve been slowly working on.

BUT, as with many websites, they changed, and unfortunately not in a good way.  First, they are now charging higher fees, and giving far less with their free account.   And of all the things about the changes, I understand this the most.  You can’t hire good staff, especially data scientists,  if you don’t have a business model that makes money.   But charging over a $100 a year for their basic account, which only gives 640 MB of space is ridiculous.  A 10 cent CD-RW has that much space. (Granted, you would never do any of this on a CD-RW, but it is important to see how their pricing is whack)   There are lots of web hosts that charge far less and give far more for a coder.

But, maybe the pricing would be worthwhile for having a good interface to do the scraping and a community to support the scraping.   BUT, again these are now worse.  While they say they have the same “Code in your Browser” feature, they changed this so that it no longer shows the panel for the console, data, and sources.  This was one of the best parts of their interface, as it really made debugging a scraper easier.   While I like their new way they show code in the browser, it is not worth having an interface that doesn’t specifically help code a scraper.  If I wanted a good standard IDE (Integrated Development Environment) I could just load one on my computer, instead of using them.

And  what about the community?  It seems to be gone.  I don’t see how I can share my scrapers with others, or look at their code, etc.    This negates any sense of them being a “wiki” as their name implies. I know they now have more integration with GITs, and this might be able to do the community thing, but they don’t make it very clear about this, nor have a seamless interface that clearly shows how this is the new community feature.

While I know they are going more after the market of journalists, and trying to make data analysis easier with their new “tools”, they didn’t have to make changes (other than possibly pricing) that takes away from what they have had before.  I am now needing to weigh my options, and see if the new features for the new pricing is worthwhile compared to how much stuff has been taken away.  I suspect that I won’t stay with ScraperWiki, but I want to at least give them a chance to address these issues, and then make my decision.

Written by Jacob Walker

July 3rd, 2013 at 8:12 am

Some Updates about Twin Rivers and the Adult School

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I just emailed the following to the Twin Rivers Adult School Faculty and Staff, and thought it would be good to share here as well:

It has been some time since I emailed everyone, but I thought it was appropriate.

First, I will leave some elephants in the room, and I won’t be talking about my unemployment nor the charter in this email.  I’ll address those in the future.  (You can also read my blog at http://JacobJWalker.EffectiveEducation.org/blog for general updates about many different things in my life, including sometimes those, if you are so inclined.)

But, I want to tell everyone that I am working on getting a volunteer badge, so I can help out a little (keyword here is “little”!), especially with wrapping up things, and possibly doing specific voluntary projects at the behest of the board.

Speaking of the board, I went to the board meeting last night, and I want to report some positive news for the Adult School:

First, Rebecca Sandoval, who has been a continual strong supporter of adult students was elected as President of the board.  Bob Bastian who strongly supports vocational education as a valid pathway for students became vice president, and Mike Baker has been re-voted as clerk.

And everyone knows we have a new superintended, Dr. Steven Martinez.  And, from my dealings with him thus far, I think he will treat the adult school fairly, and work to have continued adult education services for our community.

Also, Dr. Walter Garcia Kawamoto continues to support adult education, asking that the adult school becomes part of every superintendent report.

I think these are all positive changes and events, and I feel the speaking out that was done by us and our students contributed to this changing of the tide, and for more awareness of the adult school and the students we serve.

Written by Jacob Walker

July 3rd, 2013 at 7:22 am

Posted in Twin Rivers USD