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Watch Out, Designers: AI Design Bots Getting Better at Building Websites

By Michael J. Coren // Quartz // June 30, 2016

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The first attempts by startups using artificial intelligence to design websites haven’t amounted to much. A much-anticipated company called The Grid has failed to deliver on expectations. There is still no AI art hanging in MOMA yet.

Data could fix that. Instead of building more clever bots, startups like Wix are mining troves of user data to train algorithms that offer sound design advice for business websites. Website building platforms are experimenting with AI as part of the future of design. The goal isn’t to replace great artists, but to make everyone else into a pretty good one.

It’s been a long time coming, says Nitzan Achsaf, head of Wix’s artificial intelligence efforts.

“I’ve been in tech 20 years, and I still can’t make a stunning website,” he said in an interview. It’s too difficult to avoid the “ugly zone” when choosing fonts, layout, image, text and structure. Those things require professional judgement.

Wix set out to build that intelligence into a product that makes personalized decisions in seconds. Developers tapped website data from Wix’s 85 million users (plus some human coaching) to extract some core principles about what design combinations and...

Students Will Pay $200M for Coding Bootcamps This Year

By Alice Truong // Quartz // June 23, 2016

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A few years ago, the idea of coding bootcamps—unaccredited programs that teach adults eager to break into the tech industry how to write software—was foreign even in Silicon Valley.

Today, though, bootcamps are a normal part of the tech hiring landscape, pumping out thousands of developers each year who compete against new computer-science grads for entry-level software jobs.

In 2016, an estimated 18,000 students will complete coding bootcamps in the US and Canada—a more than eightfold increase compared to 2013. That figure was released today (June 22) by Course Report, which tracks the coding school industry and offers a single process for people to apply to multiple schools.

All together, coding-school students will pay $198 million in tuition this year, up from $172 million in 2015 and $59 million in 2014. But the total amount of revenue for coding bootcamps is likely much greater.

That’s because there are a few different business models in the industry. Some schools charge only for tuition (in 2016, Course Report estimates an average fee of $11,000 for programs that typically last 10 to 12 weeks) while others receive payment from partner companies that employ their grads, similar to...

Want to Work in Silicon Valley? Move to Seattle

By Michael J. Coren // Quartz // June 21, 2016

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Seattle doesn’t want to grow up to be Silicon Valley. It’s happy just to grab companies with good prospects unwilling, or unable, to pay the high price of expanding in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

A steady parade of tech firms, including some of the giants from Silicon Valley, have set up shop in the Pacific Northwest in recent years. The Seattle area is now home to employees of Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Salesforce, eBay, Dropbox, Uber, SpaceX, Taser, Palantir, Groupon, Hulu, Electronic Arts and Yahoo.

Now, startups are joining them as Bay Area prices and competition, as well as new ways to work remotely, push them northward in search of sustainable growth. Bay Area companies have even been acquiring Seattle startups (Google’s Picnik, or Salesforce’s Thinkfuse, for example) and turning them into outposts without relocating anyone, writes Hadi Partovi, an investor and founder of Seattle-based Code.org.

For many startups, it’s about economics.

“From a competitive and talent availability perspective, Seattle is definitely winning,” says Victor Wong, CEO of Thunder, an advertising production shop competing with Adobe. Thunder, which is based in San Francisco, opened a Seattle office this year and found a...

American Schools Are Teaching Our Kids How to Code All Wrong

By Idit Harel // Quartz // May 25, 2016

Third-grader Jaysean Erby raises his hands as he solves a coding problem as Apple CEO Tim Cook watches from behind during a coding workshop at an Apple Store, in New York.
Third-grader Jaysean Erby raises his hands as he solves a coding problem as Apple CEO Tim Cook watches from behind during a coding workshop at an Apple Store, in New York. // Mark Lennihan/AP File Photo

The Labor Department projects that 1 million jobs in computing will go unfilled by 2020. These are good jobs, jobs that would allow economic mobility and great earning potential over the course of a career. We know why these positions aren’t being filled—a lack of skilled candidates.

In response, there has been a national movement to teach computing to students in schools across the country. Many organizations, including my own company, are up for the challenge. Our country must make a commitment to teaching every child computer science. That doesn’t mean teaching watered down content and using simple coding apps but a strong curriculum that leads students to achieve real deep and broad mastery of computer science.

The light and fluffy version of computer science—which is proliferating as a superficial response to the increased need for coders in the workplace—is a phenomenon I refer to as “pop computing.”

While calling all policy makers and education leaders to consider “computer science education for all” is a good thing, the coding culture promoted by Code.org and its library of movie-branded coding apps provide quick experiences of drag-and-drop code entertainment. This accessible attraction can be catchy, it...

So, What Does a CIO Actually Do All Day?

By Tom Shoop // May 23, 2016

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A day in the life of a chief information officer at a federal agency involves a lot of meetings, a search for consensus on key decisions and a dose of the unexpected.

So said four federal CIOs who appeared at the ACT-IAC Management of Change conference Monday in Cambridge, Maryland.

The four CIOs, who spoke under rules set by conference organizers that they not be quoted by name, said working with their colleagues in other parts of the agency is a constant -- and sometimes challenging -- task.

“My day is generally going to meetings,” said one of them. “A good day is when we can make a decision.”

One key challenge, another said, is that “the requirements outpace the budget” on a regular basis. “So on any given day, I’m negotiating, [asking] ‘Do you really need all this right now?’”

“Ninety-five percent of the time, I convince people to make the right decision,” said another. “Five percent of the time, I have to tell them what the decision is.”

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While the CIOs had varying degrees of authority and responsibility, all indicated that the heads...