Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

New platform to showcase Stanford student innovation… FoSho

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

An incredible new product is ready to launch here on campus and change the way that Stanford innovators are able to promote their work. Stanford Founder’s Showcase, or Stanford FoSho for short, is a platform designed to help Stanford developers gain recognition for their creations, let the rest of us to see the cool stuff that our fellow students are building every day, and provide dynamic, relevant content for life on the Farm. The platform will host student-built mobile apps, websites, and video, and will be available for download in the app store by the end of July.

0174_Stanford App_Fo Sho Tile_R4

Got an app? FoSho is opening its first round of submissions.

As developers know, the app store has become a sea of over 700,000 apps, each competing to get on the “featured” page to drive downloads. Without serious help in the right places, even the best apps can fail to get recognition, slowing their growth and limiting the hype they deserve. With this in mind, we envisioned a platform that was the first stop for any Stanford innovator when trying to get their creations airborne, providing valuable recognition from the Stanford community and useful feedback from the world’s techiest campus. The win-win here is tremendous: developers get to hit the ground running with their innovations and Stanford students get a sneak peek at the next generation of the world’s best apps.

The platform is designed with a built-in feedback tool for users to rate their experience, giving the developers analytics and data which provide much deeper insights than the App Store. Even cooler – users don’t have to update the app to receive and access new content, meaning new stuff goes straight into users’ hands. Once we receive and approve an app, we plug it into the platform and it appears on the user’s device in real-time.

The first two pages of the app will be split into “Around Campus” and “Developer’s Club”. All the apps and mobile sites pertaining directly to campus life will go on “Around Campus”, while other Stanford-built apps and cool stuff will go on the Developer’s Club page. We’re still working on a third page which will change all the time depending on the time of year. Fall quarter will likely include resources for frosh, football, and other autumn-y things for life at Stanford, for example.

But we need to start from somewhere. Step 1 is to scour the area for apps being built right now and launch version one of Stanford FoSho, so we are hereby opening our first round of submissions for the platform. Calling all Stanford developers: we want your apps! You can be a current student, recent grad, or anyone working on an app meant to serve the Stanford student body. Below are instructions on how to submit:

Step 1: Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StanfordFoSho

Step 2: Fill out this form: http://dashboard.metaneer.com/admins/sign_up?institution=14

Step 3: Wait to hear back! You will be hearing from a member of our team in the following days after completing steps 1 and 2.

If you have any other questions, want to network with us, or want to join our team, we’d love to talk. Contact us and learn more via the links below:

Email our team at: foshoteam@lists.stanford.edu

Learn more about us: https://studentaffairs.stanford.edu/fosho

Interested in joining our team? Contact the co-founders:

James Mwaura: james.mwaura88@gmail.com

Andrew Bellay: andrewbellay@gmail.com

 

The Internet is Public

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

That shouldn’t be a shocking statement by now. 2012, specifically, was a year where the lines between what was private and public online were especially blurred. It raised questions about the privacy of minors and adults who are active in social media.  Writers for Jezebel made it nationally known how easy it was to use hashtags to find out who made racist comments about the president on  Twitter. Programmers and data scientists were able to come together and create a website called NoHomophobes.com that tracks homophobic comments through Twitter as well. Taking a step back from the fact that all the things listed were offensive, this raises important questions about how much responsibility individuals should have for what they share on personal but public accounts.

In both the circumstances  listed above, Twitter hashtags were combined with nonexistent privacy settings  to create both the article and the website. The two projects listed above were only possible when the users left their profiles public. People have a right to be public online. They also have a right to say protected speech. Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten that the Internet is a sound box that records what you say and allows everyone on the Internet to replay it. Over and over again.  And unfortunately they chose to say very negative things.

But the investigative data mining that solely belonged to Twitter will now get its turn on Facebook. Facebook has started to roll out its new search engine, linking its users in a social graph. Through the new service you’ll be able to search for friends and connections through likes, comments, locations, photos and more.  On the outside, that actually seems pretty cool. I can look up all my friends who  live in my area that are fans of the beloved but short lived show named Pushing Daisies, just in case I want to have a heated discussion about it one day. The social graph can be seriously beneficial.

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Badasses of Stanford: Derek Ouyang and Stanford Solar Decathlon

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Initial concept renderings of Stanford Solar Decathlon’s practical yet beautiful Start.Home design.

This week we caught up with Derek Ouyang, ’13, Project Manager of Stanford’s first Solar Decathlon team.

How would you summarize Solar Decathlon in a sentence?

Solar Decathlon is an international competition to design the home of the future, and Stanford is going to win.

Who or what inspired you to start a Solar Decathlon team at Stanford?

Taylor Brady (’13) came up with the idea of putting together a Stanford proposal to compete last Spring. It didn’t make sense to us that Stanford has never competed in such an awesome competition. We submitted last November and received word from the U.S. Department of Energy this past January that we were one of 20 international teams selected to compete next October in Irvine, CA.

What kind of faculty / departmental support do you have?  Where could you use more support?

We have support from almost every department in the School of Engineering and committed faculty advisors as well. We recently got the d.school on board in a major way, helping us move from an engineering design approach to a more human-centered approach. We are starting to get support from the Communications Department and Graduate Business School to help us with marketing and sponsorship, and could definitely use more talented students from these areas.

From a big picture perspective, what do you consider the greatest potential impact of a project like Solar Decathlon?  

From the very beginning we knew that we didn’t want to create a cool showcase house just for the competition — we wanted to use this incredible opportunity to showcase a real industry-changing idea on an international stage. Our idea, called Start.Home, is a new kind of sustainable home module which can be mass-manufactured on an industrial scale and shipped all around the country to build the next generation of net-zero homes. We hope it’s an inspiration to industry, and already some of our supporters want us to build additional core modules for them — who knows, maybe it will become a business sooner than we think!

“Sustainability at the push of a button” – preliminary construction of a building core.

What has been the biggest challenge to the project so far?

Having 100+ people excited about the project is both a blessing and a curse — I spend nearly 40 hours a week just managing our huge team of at least a dozen subteams. But the point of this group is not to be exclusive — it’s really to reach out to our school and engage as many people as possible in sustainability education and an incredible hands-on design project. I just wish sometimes that we didn’t have to go to so many classes on the side.

What has most surprised you about the process?

I’ve been surprised by how much support we’ve gotten from various groups at Stanford and beyond. Sustainable Stanford, VPUE, and the Precourt Institute of Energy are major donors for our project. We were able to get a temporary construction site right by the Terman fountain from March to September of next year from Stanford, and two schools are looking to sponsor the home post-competition. Intel and Bosch are big corporate sponsors, and alumni have been incredibly supportive through donations and networking. We always thought that the idea of students building a net-zero home would interest the community, but we never expected this much feedback and energy. We can’t wait to see what happens once we finally break ground on campus in March! (more…)

Startups that Make a College Student’s Life Easier

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

“Baby, you can drive my car….” P2P car-sharing company Wheelz launched at Stanford last fall.

Kevin Hsu is a sophomore at Stanford studying electrical engineering. An avid tech enthusiast, he regularly reads technology blogs because they inspire him to think about how current technology can be applied in new ways.  Kevin writes for TheDishDaily.

Visiting home this Thanksgiving break has reminded me how grateful I am for my family and friends. Being a college student in an increasingly technology-driven world, I would also like to extend my appreciation to the following companies, for delivering on the promise of technology in making our lives easier:

1)     Spotify: I still remember the days when I manually managed my music libraries. The music-streaming program Spotify has made that a thing of the past. With Spotify, I am able to listen to almost any song I want for free, and the emphasis on playlists makes organization easy. I maintain different playlists for different moods I am in, like studying and relaxing. The ability to share and receive songs with friends, and discover new songs makes this the only music program I need. Because I usually have my laptop with me on a Wifi-blanketed campus, I am currently not paying for Spotify Premium. Over the summer when I was interning in the Bay area, I did subscribe for offline music during my commute.

2)     Amazon: Living on a college campus, I turn to Amazon for most of my shopping needs. I used to dread online shopping because of the long shipping times, but free two-day shipping has all but erased that. What started out as a student trial of Amazon Prime turned into a subscription, and I don’t regret it at all. I am able to quickly receive items without ever having to step foot off campus. The ability to create recurring shipments for my frequently used items is especially useful. I have snacks, tissues, and toothpaste automatically arrive once every few months; that’s one less thing I have to worry about.

3)     Wheelz: I don’t keep a car on campus, but for the times when I want to go off campus, I use Wheelz. This car sharing service enables me to rent a car and grab a bite or go on spontaneous adventures with friends at any time. My favorite thing about Wheelz is the variety of cars it offers. Sometimes, I like renting a Toyota Rav4 because I used to drive one, and it brings back nostalgic memories of outings back home. Other times, I try out a car I have never driven, or rent a larger car if I want to take more people. Good customer service, a well-designed mobile app with remote unlocking, and low prices make Wheelz my primary car-rental service.

4)     Lastly, I appreciate the companies working to bring futuristic technologies into today’s society. As technology becomes increasingly advanced, I believe that the future lies in unobtrusively integrated devices that make our lives easier. Google’s Project Glass and driverless cars, and a new wave of wearable sensor and home automation products from companies such as FitBit and Electric Imp, are doing just that, and they have me excited for what the future of technology holds. Maybe one day, we will be able to seamlessly interact with the vast amount of information on the Internet, or self-driving cars will completely eliminate traffic– now there’s a dream.

iStanford launches for iPad this Thanksgiving Break

Monday, November 12th, 2012
Home screen

Page one of the home screen upon opening the app

If you’re lucky enough have an iPad, you just got a bit luckier. I’d like to introduce to you iStanford for iPad, the one way stop for all things Cardinal. If you’ve used the iPhone app, you already have an idea how iStanford provides a sleek, convenient mobile experience. The iPad version, however, has been completely rebuilt and redesigned for an ever smoother U/I experience, cool new features, and has integrated some of the most popular web services on the Farm. By combining features from Axess, ExploreCourses, Classowl, and others, iStanford demystifies the mobile side of the college experience.

iStanford was originally released in 2008 as a iPhone tool for students to access campus maps, course catalogs, email professors, and get news and information about Stanford sports teams. Since its first iteration, the app has undergone several face-lifts and added features, and now features real-time information about the campus shuttle service, the Marguerite, as well as campus trivia and class analytics.

“Students regard their mobile devices as indispensible to the way they learn, work and live,” said Thomas Black, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and University Registrar at Stanford University, whose team spearheaded the effort. “Providing them with the native tools they need to more intuitively navigate campus life in a way that feels normal and natural to them has been our primary focus throughout the iStanford initiative.”

Upon opening the app, the user is met with a series of tiles, each of which correspond to a Stanford-related feature. “My Academics” gives you quick access to your grades, GPA, and contact information. My personal favorite, “Classes” is a sleek, intuitive, take on explore courses. You can visually navigate through each department’s offered classes and easily access course descriptions, as well as see how different lecture or section times fit into your schedule. Neat stuff. Some of the more basic features include Stanfordwho, our campus directory, as well as Treevia, a quirky trivia game testing your knowledge on a wide array of Stanford facts.

My favorite feature: interactive course navigation

What makes iStanford for iPad really cool, though, is its integration of various Stanford-related features such as Classowl, OrgSync, and a few others. With Classowl, you can plan your school and social life in one convenient swoop, and Orgsync makes planning your club or student group’s meeting insanely easy. Along with Pathbrite, a feature offering next-gen e-portfolios, iStanford for iPad is really a one-stop shop. More info for Classowl, OrgSync, and Pathbrite is available on their respective websites.

So here’s a short to do list: First, find an iPad. Secondly, download iStanford when the app launches this Thanksgiving. I guarantee your Cardinal experience will get a whole lot easier. Visit the Facebook and Twitter pages for more info!

Breaking the Fall: 2012 Autumn Course Guide

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Ah, summer. One minute you’re shotgunning a beer celebrating with friends after your last final, the next, you’re waking up and rolling over to find that two months of beaching, traveling, summer-schooling, tanning, grilling, working, and/or your resume-building b****work meaningful internship experience have flown by and it’s already August. Which means it’s time to maybe, possibly, conceivably consider what you’ll be studying in the fall. Even at Stanford, summer doesn’t last forever, and eventually we’ve got to come to grips with  all of our first-world problems – namely, enrolling in classes at the happiest place university on earth. But, fear not – I have spent the last fortnight scouring every course in every department this school has to offer (upon reading this line, my proofreader claims that I “need to get laid a life”), with the hope of delivering the BEST list of classes to get you STOKED to come back to campus. It combines all the things I love most in life: cool classes that don’t physically drive me to tears (yes, I’m talking to YOU, “Inventing Classics“), excessive linkage, personality stereotypes, semi-snarky commentary, giant over-generalizations and massive assumptions, and most importantly: THE MUPPETS.  In any case, I hope the article piques your interest in something you might have otherwise overlooked, missed, or been to lazy to go look up.  And if not, all I can say is that I hope it makes you laugh (if only in pity). Other than that, here’s to the remaining MONTH of summer (suck it, Cal) and the boredom and restlessness that will inevitably accompany it. Cheers.

 

Autumn 2012 classes for…

the wise-guy

Old Guys Rule.

AMSTUD 140: Stand Up Comedy and the “Great American Joke” Since 1945

I took this class last fall. Actual (read: more or less deeply paraphrased) quote from the prof: “Hey, Hennessey – I’ve got an idea for a class. It will involve abundant sexism, racism, elitism, lewd and scatalogical references, innappropriate behvaior, excessive profanity, and – above all – some of the most brilliant and observative writers, performers, and anthropologists of our time.  What’s this class called, you ask? Well, it’s Stand Up Comedy and the Great American Joke”. Take this class. It’s awesome.

MUSIC 36N: Humor in Music

My visions of this class involve Steel Panther, Weird Al, and Parry Gripp.

Thank God I’m not teaching it.

 

the romantic

Living up to his name like an absolute champ

HISTORY 33A: Blood and Roses: The Age of the Tudors
Mystery, murder, sex, and scheming? And you thought your family was dramatic.

ATHLETIC 39: Fencing: Beginning
So you can do THIS.

ENGLISH 154: Mapping the Romantic Imagination
The map of MY romantic imagination involves horseback trips through the Florin countryside with Wesley, a sunset on the bow of the (intact) Titanic with Jack, the California coastline in Benjamin Bradford’s convertible, getting stuck on an island in the Caribbean with Cap’n Jack Sparrow, Patrick Verona’s paintball park, and wherever Ryan Gosling is currently located (though, preferably here). To my great disappointment, however, I believe this class refers a bit more to the English romantic poets and novelists and the sublime countrysides they envisioned. Then again, is anything quite as lovely and romanticized as curling up with a little Keats and Byron?

 

the hipster

This muppet is actually called Harry the Hipster. You've probably never heard of him.

ENGLISH 121A: Tattoos, Scars, Marks and American Cultures of Inscription

I feel bad for the poor sucker of a TA who has to read 60+ papers on “Why the dolphin/butterfly/Chinese symbol for “peace”/shooting star/infinity sign/angel wings/song lyrics/Bible verse on my ankle/lower back/shoulder blade/neck/wrist/sideboob/part of my hip that totally gets gets covered by a bikini is a unique artistic expression of my inner self”.

ARTSTUDI 131: Sound Art I 
Because taking just “music” was too mainstream.

FILMSTUD 301: Fundamentals of Cinematic Analysis 
Take this class so that the next time you’re giving your pretentious opinion about the latest film showing at INSERT NAME OF UNKNOWN THEATER HERE, you’ll be able to reference a little-known technique/genre/style/paradigm/buzzword that your professor mentioned once in class.

COMM 182: Virtual Communities and Social Media
This should prepare you well for your vague “job” in the vague cross section between “media” and “social networking” at that start-up no one has ever heard of.

 

the history buff

I want that blazer.

HISTORY 95C: Modern Japanese History: From Samurai to Pokemon
Samurai…. Pokemon. SAMURAI… POKEMON. I’m not quite  sure what’s between these two poles (the history of sushi?!?!) but it’s guaranteed to be awesome.

COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
I don’t know enough about journalism or, frankly, television to confidently explain why “The Newsroom” sucks and “The Wire” is the bestest thing ever since Ike’s Menais a Trois. Admittedly, I should probably take this class and many others on this list. In any case, if you believe the slow death of the newspaper is a genuine travesty or that Cronkite and Murrow could give Colbert and Stewart a run for their money, then this might be the class for you.

HISTORY 103F: Introduction to Military History
It’s like the Military Channel… sans couch.

HISTORY 243G: Tobacco and Health in World History
Not to get all Nick Naylor on you guys, but I’m genuinely curious how one-sided this class is.

HISTORY 59S: The Digital Historian’s Toolkit: Studying the West in an Age of Big Data
From my quick read of the course-description,  it seems like this class involves old documents, scanners, and many a rubber glove. That said, if you like seeing history immortalized and like to wonder “what did they think back then?” and “how did that really happen?” then this is the class for you.

EDUC 116N: Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History’ and the Quest for Historical Truth
If you’re reading this section, theres a decent chance that you identify yourself as a history buff. Howard Zinn was the guru/godfather/mack-daddy of all American history buffs. Student, meet the ultimate teacher.

HISTORY 308D: Pre-Modern Warfare
I’m not exactly sure at what point/what contraptions fall under the heading of “Modern Warfare”, but if you’re telling me that I get to take a class on how to use the history of ninja stars, crossbows, catapults, and broadswords, then SIGN. ME. UP.

CLASSGEN 103: The Greek Invention of Mathematics
My sole incentive for taking this class would be figuring out exactly which Greek mathematician to fantasize about brutally torturing  whilst in the middle of my Math 52 midterm.

 

the patriot

Coming Soon: Muppets take 'Merica.

CSRE 51K: Election 2012

I should really, REALLY take this class. Seriously, because – besides Obama – I’m not really sure who’s actually still in the race.

COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media, and Elections 
See above comment.

COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America 
I’d like to think that, to the individuals who plan to lead my country and allegedly have my best interest at heart, I am more than just a number and that my opinions and behaviors are more than just statistics.

ECON 18: The Washington Debate About American Competitiveness
If I take this class, will I get a job?

PUBLPOL 170: Political Corruption
It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

PUBLPOL 154: Politics and Policy in California
Let’s hope that by the time this class is over, Michael Tubbs will have a place in its curriculum.

ECON 25N: Public Policy and Personal Finance
Something about tax-brackets… maybe. I expect to see a lot of pitchforks and raised fists.

HUMBIO 120: Health Care in America: An Introduction to U.S. Health Policy
Obamacare. And other stuff. Probably.

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The Smartphone Expectation

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

A few days ago, the iPhone turned 5 years old. Since it first hit shelves, Apple has released just as many versions of the phone as years it’s been sold. Even though it’s an inanimate object, many news outlets across the country decided to acknowledge this turning point for the device. The iPhone, of all the smartphones, has probably led the charge in making these devices seem like a cool, sleek, vital part of any modern person’s life. It’s helped create the illusion that not only should everyone want a smartphone, but that everyone needs one.

It's ironic how the iPhone 5 will actually be the 6th version of the phone released. (credit: MacRumours.com)

I think this has created a smartphone expectation. This idea that even though this is not the case right now, the connectivity features and access to app stores found in some phones will eventually be the norm for all devices. From your mp3 players to phones to tablets, everything will be connected to the Internet and life will be amazing. Considering so many students’ reactions to the Three Books choices – it appears that we understand that smartphone ownership isn’t a requirement to be a full participant in academia or life in general. (If you haven’t read it, I think there was a fair explanation from Dean Julie about UAR’s choice published about a week later.) But some may say that Stanford’s campus is the poster child for owning a connected device. With wifi seemingly floating through the open air, our campus encourages people to stay connected wherever they are. Although we understand the divisive problems this may cause when students initially come to campus, owning a smartphone eventually seems like the norm.

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Resonance: More Than Just Background Noise?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Stanford's next Pandora?

Chances are if you’ve been listening to music online lately your browser has been stuck on Resonance. Created by current Stanford seniors Chris Seewald, Zach Weiner, Matthew Crowley, and Michael White, Resonance is as if Pandora and Youtube had an child that was raised by Spotify. Originally intended to reduce the time that it takes to find good music, Resonance allows users, focused around geographical areas, to add music to an online queue. Listeners can then rate the music their peers have uploaded and are provided with a stream of continuous songs that play alongside their respective YouTube video.

Co-Founder Chris Seewald claims that since their recent inception at Stanford they’ve had “several thousand visits from a couple thousand users.” More impressive however, is how much those users have taken to the site, as “users have added more than one thousand of their favorite songs.” In response to the positive feedback they’ve received from the Stanford campus they’ve decided to expand geographically, moving into Austin and Boulder due to the large student populations there and personal connections. While for the time being they’ll staying on college campuses, in the future they plan to expand into cities as well, with San Francisco and New York in their sights. Seewald is also excited for the potential of different playlists throughout the nation and thinks that there’ll  be “unique music taste differences across different regions,” which is a pretty cool concept when thinking about how say, Kansas City might compare to Seattle.

I will say that for my particular tastes the Stanford Resonance channel seems a bit too random at times, jumping from Bob Dylan to Skrillex. Also, a friend of mine who originally introduced me to the site said she liked the recommended songs more before Resonance started gaining popularity, claiming that the site took much more of a “dance-party” type of feel as more people started contributing. That being said, while listening to the site while typing this article I didn’t skip the majority of songs that came up.

There’s no doubt that Resonance is entering an extremely crowded market, but given this all-star team of co-founders (with full-time offers (correction: Chris’ offer from BCG is for a summer internship) from Apple, Square, and BCG) and their already growing base of users, they might just be on to something here. What do you guys think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

BASES 150K Challenge End of Year Finale Tomorrow

Monday, May 21st, 2012

The Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students, known as BASES, will be holding its end of year exhibition and finale tomorrow (Tuesday, May 22nd) at the Arrillaga Alumni Center. This event marks the culmination of the 150K challenge, a funding competition for entrepreneurs and product inventors where 150,000 equity free dollars will be handed out . The finale promises to be interesting and will have a diverse mix of entrepreneurs, investors, students, and others from Silicon Valley. BASES was even just recently featured on TechCrunch for this event, which is a pretty big deal.

Doors open at 1PM and inventors will be showcasing their products to finale attendees. Ex Zappos COO and current venture capitalist Alfred Lin will give the keynote address at 4:30PM with all 150k challenge prize winners to be announced shortly thereafter. Check it out tomorrow and tell us your thoughts!

Update: RSVP for the event here.

StartX Summer 2012

Monday, April 2nd, 2012


Image Credit: My Apple iPhone 4 (apologies for the image quality)

I previously wrote about StartX, a startup accelerator program that was created by some fellow Stanford students. It turns out they are now accepting applications for their upcoming class this Summer. If you’re an entrepreneur and attend Stanford or one of your teammates attend Stanford, check them out. They had many applicants for their Spring session and are now opening their Summer session to all those who wish to apply.

Application Details

Application Deadline: April 12th, 2012
Information Session: April 3rd at 7:00pm in Nitery 209
Application Link: http://startx.stanford.edu/apply

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Is Tech Entrepreneurship in a Rut?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Another tech bubble waiting to pop?

I recently read an interesting article in Business Week Online entitled, “It’s Always Sunny in Silicon Valley.”  This article analyzed the many ways in which Silicon Valley, like Stanford, often finds itself in a bubble, an “alternate reality.”  Essentially, author Stone suggests that given the localized prosperity that Silicon Valley enjoys, the region “may lose touch with the rest of the world” and the global financial crisis.

I’d argue that Stone got it right – sort of.  The article seems to underestimate the ability and nature of the tech gurus of Silicon Valley to barrage themselves with news and information from around the world using a variety of media sources.  It isn’t a lack of awareness that puts Silicon Valley in a bubble, but the difference in actionable priorities.  The modern tech bubble (as The Economist has deemed it) seems heavily oriented towards the consumer desires of the upper class and tends to choose redundancy over the risks of innovation.

“It’s like Pandora… for cats”

Look out, they're breeding!

We see it on campus as much as we see it in the modern tech climate.  iPhone and Android app classes are among the most sought-after on campus, and yet only those able to afford iPhones and Androids are able to benefit from their apps.  Luxury products and their markets grow out of convenience, rather than necessity or innovation (see examples here and here).  Some companies hiring on campus (both student-started and external) spend more time clarifying how their products are different from existing products than explaining how they work or why they’re relevant.

A recent Flipside article, “Friend’s Idea for Start-Up Just Google Docs” was funny mostly due to its frightening resemblance to reality.  Viral video “Sh*t Silicon Valley Says” likewise satirized the redundancy trend.  ”How is this different from Facebook?”  ”Think of it like an Instagram for hamburgers.”  ”Think of it as a Netflix for YouTube.”  Phrases like these generate nervous laughter and amusement because the start up du jour often uses similar catchphrases.  The problems addressed by these redundant apps are invariably something more likely to surface in a “First World Problems” meme than on the UN Millennium Goals task list.  Some sources suggest that, “even though technology is more pervasive in our daily lives than ever, it’s stagnating.”

Does modern product redundancy have innovation in a rut? (more…)

Spring into Spring with the 2012 Course Guide

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Think you know all the ins and outs of spring’s awesome courses?

Story. Of. My. Life.

Ha. Think again. Here, for your pleasure, I have painstakingly compiled a list of the hands-down most awesome, useful, compelling, frightening, GER-fulfilling, enjoyable classes you could ever imagine. Remember  before Chem 31, Math 51, and IHUM… back when you applied to Stanford? Remember how you raved about how excited you were for the “engaging classes”? After reading this article, you’re going to realize you weren’t just saying that. Stanford is killing it next quarter in terms of super-interesting classes, and you have the opportunity to get in on the action. I know Camp Stanford is tempting, but after reading this article, you might actually want to bulk up your course load with some of these. And, speaking of Camp Stanford, the categories are…

Camp Stanford: Whether you’re trying to recover from the carnage of your winter course load or just getting a jump-start on summer laziness/craziness, here are the best classes to keep the thoughts of warm breezes and fun-in-the-sun swirling in your head until June…

  • EARTHSYS 180B: Principles and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture: A course that lets “The Farm” live up to its name. Get outside and onto Stanford’s community farm and others in the area. Enjoy the sun on your neck and a little dirt on your nose. (3-4 units, multiple times)
  • ATHLETIC 80: Lifeguard Training: Didn’t snag the Google internship you wanted? No sweat. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that lifeguarding is a solid career choice for those  looking to dip their toes in the real world. Make decent cash, get the tan of your life (and hopefully not melanoma… sunblock, guys!) and know that you can save a life if need be.  (2 units, T/Th 12-2, fee)

    Once upon a time...

  • ATHLETIC 51: Beginning Golf: If you were able to make it into this class, I commend you with my highest honors. (1 unit, multiple times, fee)
  • ATHLETIC 320: Backpacking: You might have given up Stanford Sierra Camp to work for a start-up, but maybe this class can scratch your outdoorsy itch before you sell your soul for equity. (1 unit, M 7-9:30) (more…)

Watch Out for the Fuzz… Why Stanford’s Arts and Humanities Aren’t as Forgotten as You Think

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Odds are, you probably came to Stanford because you’d rather slip on a hoodie than sidle into a sportcoat, prefer sunshine and band-run to wintry-mix and finals clubs, and would rather cheer for Andrew Luck than say, the Winklevii. And, odds are, if you’re even remotely techie, you chose Stanford for its knockout science and engineering curriculum… and rankings. It’s no secret that the Farm is both a Mecca and breeding ground for calculation gurus, technical whizzes, biological demigods, and everyone else who is still slightly pissed that they couldn’t take C++ to fulfill their foreign language requirement.

But not everyone destined for Stanford emerged from the womb taking integrals.For those of you who didn’t know that we have an entire quad for engineering, who mourn the death of IHum, who  spend more time in Roble Gym than in the ACSR, who actually stop at Braun on Saturday nights rather than going straight to the Row, and who otherwise prefer the scent of leather-bound books and rich mahogany to motherboards and formaldehyde – your moment has arrived.

We know who you are – even if you are in an oft forgotten niche here at Stanford. The concert halls, high-ceilinged archive and manuscript libraries, and sun-drenched studios of ivies and liberal arts colleges pulled at your heartstrings when you were in the heat of college applications. You fantasized about wearing tweed (with elbow-patches) and swirling cognac whilst ruminating over the flaws in deontological theory and debating Descartes, salon-style. You are a connoisseur of human culture, and you came here, to Stanford, hoping that just maybe you could find that same level of pained fascination with the human condition and method of expression under a red-tile roof as you might have under the buttresses of collegiate-gothic cathedral.

Oh, you knew the sacrifices you’d make. You worried that your love of Chopin, appreciation of Klimt, and obsession with Marquez would all be misunderstood, met with raised eyebrows and blank stares peering over sheaves of graph paper and physics tomes. You would be ever the outsider during O-Chem rants and the communal groans over CME. Your choice to major in English, Religious Studies, or Studio Art would be met with polite smiles and the silent judgment that you weren’t intense enough to study something technical and have no solid, foreseeable career path. Your daring choice to pursue a creative, innovative, reflective, and interpretive field is constantly challenged by those who insist your interests provide no real-world application or insurance. Others will ask you why you chose to pursue a path in arts or humanities at Stanford which, while having what are generally assumed to be “good” programs in these departments, seems to place a much greater emphasis on technologically-driven fields. With our home and history in Silicon Valley, seemingly endless scientific resources, and army of high-profile techie alums, people will probably ask you why you didn’t go to say, Harvard, to study all that “fuzzy” stuff.

To those people, you can now proudly reply that Stanford upholds the honor of having the top arts and humanities program in the world. And that we actually knocked Harvard off of its crimson pedestal to snag it. According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Stanford upstaged Harvard, UChicago, The Australian National University, and Princeton for the coveted top spot among university arts and humanities programs. The leap in the rankings has been largely credited to the outstanding number of MacArthur fellows and Pulitzer winners zipping across the quad and pioneering our liberal-arts research and curriculum, in addition to our broad range of arts/humanities offerings and extensive resources.

By comparison, (according to the U.S. News and World Report) Stanford Engineering clocked in at only #2, taking a backseat to M.I.T.. Admittedly, M.I.T. isn’t exactly a mortifying rival, and obviously second place is nothing to be ashamed of,  but the fact that one of the disciplines we pay the greatest lip-service to here on the Farm isn’t comparatively the best on campus does resonate a bit ironically.

That said, I could go on at length about the fallacy of rankings and the inconsistency of the methods, variables, and formulae (as well as frequent subjectivity and manipulation) that produce them. Rankings are not all-determining and should not be the primary mechanism through which we garner our self-esteem or evaluate ourselves as a school. But they do stand as a considerable litmus test that can testify to the strength of a program and should be reflective of the attention and respect that those departments should receive from students, faculty, administration, and, of course, the general public.

So the next time you find yourself smugly worrying about the future of your friend who’s an Art History major, try to catch yourself. The arts and humanities have not been extinguished in the wake of technology and scientific advancement. Their champions claim just as meaningful a place in our culture and society as do the engineers, programmers, researchers, and inventors.  And the work produced by the left-brained talent of the world might not thrive to the extent that it does without the help of the designers, writers, artists, performers, historians, anthologists, etc. who use the context of the human condition and sensibility to establish a place for those technologies in our lives.  I applaud Stanford for acknowledging the importance of bolstering such broad fields of study, and for taking such impressive strides to strengthen its departments and cultivate extensive opportunities for intellectual exploration and discovery. Thank you, Stanford, for yet again proving that your students really can have the best of all worlds.

Stanford in NYC Scrapped – Genuine Reasons or Well Played Game Play by the New York City authorities

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Manhattan skyline at nightJust last week I was all set to write about the very probable construction of a Stanford campus in the Big Apple. Stanford has been the long time frontrunner and the anticipated winner for this 2 billion dollar technical campus in New York City followed closely by Cornell University. Good thing that procrastination and finals week kept me busy enough to prevent me from posting about what is now a possibility that has faded into the oblivion, because it allows me to shed light on the recent development, or should I say back draw. It is true that slow and steady wins the race but sometimes it gets difficult to understand why the rabbit extremely close to finish line, not preoccupied with the illusions of overconfidence, failed to win.

The striking part about this issue was the fact that Cornell announced a $350 million gift shortly after Stanford decided to drop out of the race. This leads to the speculation that part of the reason for this sudden change of plans may be due to financial reasons. But was it so? I am skeptical about this reason since Stanford was poised to start a large-scale fundraising campaign, one of its kind, to meet the financial requirements of this project. Would the amount of the Cornell gift be a sufficient cause of concern?

Another reason for backing out of this contest was the attempted renegotiation of the terms of the project by the City’s authorities. This prompts one to think whether these attempts were made deliberately to force Stanford to withdraw out of frustration. With the huge gift, Cornell would potentially need lesser money from the city itself for the completion of the project while the Stanford proposal may have asked for more. Thus, in an effort to save this additional expense, the City might have pushed for new terms.

Whatever the reasons, this withdrawal ensures that the spirit engendered by Stanford in Silicon Valley will stay only in California, at least for the time being. Furthermore, it is yet to be observed whether Silicon Valley can in fact be duplicated in a State much different from California.

Facebook Friends for Life

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Friendship made easy.

The other day a friend who I haven’t seen in over two years wrote on my wall.

She asked how I’ve been, how classes are going, what I was planning on doing that summer, and so on and so forth. As I wrote an enthusiastic response on her wall, it really struck me how incredibly easy Facebook made it to remain close to people you otherwise would have naturally drifted away from. Friends from other countries that you met traveling abroad, friends from short little events that lasted only a weekend, and even friends from elementary school are literally all just a click away. It kind of blows my mind how I can see the status updates of, for example, my classmate from second grade whose last name I only vaguely remembered before finding him on Facebook through a mutual friend.

In fact, staying connected with people was the main reason I got a Facebook in the first place. I had resisted the social pressure for years, wanting to be one of those cool people in high school who wouldn’t conform to mass trends out of principle. I succeeded for quite a while, studiously ignoring my friends’ nagging about how I was completely out of the loop for 50% of my school’s social life because I wasn’t on Facebook. Then, the summer before my senior year, I went on my first study abroad program. It was one of those programs in England where a bunch of American students get to live for a month in the country, take some classes, and generally enjoy life. I made some of the best and closest friends over those few weeks, and knowing that the easiest (and pretty much only) way of staying connected to these awesome people was caving in and, finally, getting my own Facebook. So I got off my pedestal and signed up. Sure enough, that’s how I still talk to them today. It’s funny because I honestly feel that if I didn’t have Facebook, I really wouldn’t. I would simply forget to, or lose their numbers when I got a new phone, or be too busy to sit down and write them letters, old school style. Facebook has made it so incredibly easy to not only keep in touch with far-away people, but also just to have a daily newsfeed reminder that they exist.

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