Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Being Social with Forbes' Tweeter, Brittany Binowski (GSAS '11)

We always love the chance to see what our recent alumni are up to.

Last week, we came across a candidly-written Forbes article (which you might have seen posted to our FB and Twitter pages) written by Brittany Binowski (GSAS '11), who just graduated last December. She talks about a Twitter experiment she conducted to determine "what the watch you wear to work says about you."

After reading the article and checking out Brittany's graduate thesis webpage on Twitter best practices, we invited Brittany out for a cup of coffee to talk more about her thesis research and her work at Forbes. We had some interesting conversations about the future of social media in organizations and balancing personal content with professional content on social media accounts. Click here to read our Q&A.

Brittany is currently an Audience Development Associate at Forbes and manages the ForbesLife Twitter account. As an alumna of the Journalism Institute's Studio 20 Program, Brittany also has fantastic things to say about her experience at NYU. Be sure to check out the interview via the link above.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Talking with Evan Korth: the NYC "Tech Guy"

On campus, Evan Korth is known as the "startup guy" and the "computers and societies guy." But in the broader scope of the NYC tech community, Evan is an educator, an innovator, a leader, and a coder since the age of eleven.

He is co-founder of HackNY, which has worked with Foursquare, Etsy, NYCPlatform (the City of New York's data site), tumblr, and the New York Times (to name a few). Evan sits on the Board of Directors for the NY Tech Meetup, and he is the Chairman of the Board of Advisors at the Academy for Software Engineering (opening this fall). At NYU, Evan is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Courant Institute, a Faculty Liaison for Technology and Entrepreneurship, the Coach of the NYU International Collegiate Programming Contest Team, Faculty Advisor to the NYU chapter of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Faculty Advisor to tech@NYU, and the co-author of Musicomputation.

Last week, we sat down with Evan in his office to chat about his time at NYU, his involvement in the NYC tech scene, and the future of technology and society.

NYU Arts & Science Alumni Relations: First could you introduce yourself and talk a little bit about your background?

Evan Korth: Sure, my name is Evan Korth. I have two titles here at NYU: Clinical Associate Professor and Faculty Liaison for Technology and Entrepreneurship. I received a Master’s Degree here in 2000, and prior to my full time position I had been an adjunct from ’99 to 2002. I was hired as a Clinical Assistant Professor in 2003. Prior to working at NYU, I was a programmer for a startup called afternic, which was sold to Register.com in 2000. Prior to that, like most computer science professors, I was an agent for women’s basketball players.

Alumni Relations: What first made you interested in computer science?

Evan: Oh, I’ve been programming since I was eleven. I lied about my age when I was eleven to get a paper route so I could afford a TRS 80 Model 3.

Alumni Relations: What is that?

Evan: Radio Shack used to be in the business of making computers. It was a Radio Shack computer. The machine was a desktop machine with a built-in screen and keyboard. It had 16k of RAM and no hard drive. It had a cassette tape drive.

Alumni Relations: What part has NYU played in your career path?

Evan: Gosh, without the education, I certainly wouldn’t have the job that I have now. I did well in graduate school so in 1999 when there was an opening to teach our Pre-101 class, Intro to Computers and Programming, I applied for the gig and was given my first opportunity to teach. I actually just wanted the opportunity to get in front of students so I could get over my fear of public speaking.

As soon as I started, I realized that I am passionate about teaching and mentoring young people. So, NYU has been absolutely instrumental in my career, both in giving me the education and giving me my first opportunity to talk regularly in front of a class. When I was an undergrad, I did tutor students. But this was the first time I taught in a classroom setting. Again, I didn’t do it because I thought I wanted to be a professor. I did it because I wanted to get over my fear of public speaking. So I like to say that I accidently found the job that perfectly suits my soul.

Alumni Relations: HackNY says that its mission is: “to federate the next generation of hackers for the New York innovation community.” For those of us that are unfamiliar, can you explain what HackNY is and what exactly it means to be a “hacker?”

Evan: First of all, the term “hacker” pre-dates the 80’s when the press decided it was someone that breaks into computers. In the 60’s, for example, there were hackers at MIT, and what they would do is they would take apart computers and move the wires around to make it do the things that they wanted it to do. So to me the word “hacker” represents a person who comes up with clever solutions to technical problems.

By “federate the next generation of hackers,” what we mean is we want to create a network of hackers building cool things in NYC. Both Chris Wiggins [did his post-doc at NYU], my partner from Columbia University, and I are motivated to expose our students to all the opportunities that they might not have known about. Specifically opportunities at startups in NYC.

Previously, if you wanted to work in a startup, it was kind of hard to do so using the available resources because big companies tend to be the ones who recruit on campus. Smaller companies don’t typically have the budget to recruit at twenty different campuses.

During the Internet bubble, NYC built some serious companies. Double Click ended up being sold to Google for 3 billion dollars. There was a lot of activity. When the bubble popped, all of that activity dissipated. Many of the hackers either went to the banks, big companies or they went west. It’s our hope that when we have the inevitable fluctuations of the economy this time around that they’ll stay here because there is a network of them. “To federate the next generation of hackers” means to create a federation, a network of people that like to build things—that stay in New York and continue building.

Alumni Relations: Do you have any favorite start-ups that have come out of HackNY?

Evan: Ok, so HackNY has two main programs. We have the once-per-semester Hackathon—we’ve done five of them so far – and the summer fellowship program. At the Hackathon, students build on the API’s of NYC startups. Typically, we have about fifteen startups, and at our last Hackathon we had 300 students from about fifty different schools come to NYU to build on top of the API’s of local startups for 24 hours. At the end we give away prizes including the opportunity to demo their projects in front of 850 people at the monthly NYTech Meetup held right here at Skirball.

So that’s one thing, and it serves a bunch of purposes. First, students who have never built on top of an API are exposed to that possibility. API means Application Programming Interface. For example, Foursquare doesn’t need to build all their functionality the way we had to at afternic. Nowadays, you provide an interface so that external developers can add applications and features on top of your data and functionality.

If you think of any of the games that you play on Facebook, like Farmville and Mafia Wars and that stuff, Facebook didn’t have to build those. They exposed their API to programmers and the programmers build those games on their own.

Our new students are exposed to the possibility of programming on an API. It is also a low-pressure way for students to learn about the NYC startup ecosystem. We have mentors from around the community come in to work with the students -- it’s quite nice. The more experienced students get to show off their skills and compete for glory.

Then there’s the summer fellowship program. The summer fellowship program pairs students from around the country with NYC startups and includes ten weeks of NYU housing. During the day they intern at their startup. At night we do a pedagogical series where they meet with all sorts of people from the startup community. Last night we had Jonah Peretti from Buzzfeed speak to the fellows. Later this summer, Fred Wilson, who is on the NYU Board of Trustees, will speak to them. This summer's cohort includes 32 of the top technological students from 20 different universities in the US and Canada.

Alumni Relations: Can you talk about the other ways that you’re involved with the New York tech community?

Evan: Sure. I sit on the board of the NY Tech Meetup. I’m also a founding board member of an organization called, “Girls who Code.” Starting this summer we will teach junior high school girls from underserved communities how to code.
I currently Chair the Advisory Board for the Academy for Software Engineering. It will be the first NYC public school dedicated to teaching software engineering. It will open this September at Washington Irving High School, right here in the Village.

Alumni Relations: What motivates you to stay so involved in the tech community?

Evan: Well, I really believe that this country is at risk if we don’t teach STEM education to more people. I mean, obviously it’s my passion to teach college students. And, again, I want them to have the opportunities that I had including those in smaller companies. I was able to use NYU resources in 1999 to find my way to a startup through a course called Information Technology Projects in the graduate school. I took that course in ’99 and managed to be hired by the startup that hosted our project. And that has been a very rewarding career for me so I’d like to see more of our students have those opportunities.

As far as CS education goes, I really believe that this country needs to focus on technology education. And I believe that we need to, I’m going to use CS terminology here, push the education as far down the stack as possible. What I mean by that is start exposing students to computational thinking as early as kindergarten. So the high school is hopefully the start of many programs where we will push Computer Science education further down into K-12 education.

Alumni Relations: In 2006, you brought back the course, “Computers and Society,” which had not been taught since the 1980’s. How has the relationship between humans and technology changed since 2006, and in your opinion, what do current technological trends imply for the future?

Evan: Ok, so first of all, I’d like to think that here at NYU we’re inspiring students to change the world. And in the computer science program, specifically through technology. So I think the computers and society course is very important because, well, a lot of people ask me, “you’re the computers and society guy but you’re the startup guy?”—these seem like two separate worlds. To me they’re the same thing. On the one hand, the startups inspire students to build the technologies that are going to change the world. And on the other side, how are we changing the world? And is it a good thing or a bad thing that we’re changing the world? So it’s a way of exposing technology students to the bigger picture. You know, let’s talk about what it means to put all our personal information online. Let’s talk about alternative ways artists can get paid for their work now that we have websites where we can share music. Let’s talk about all these issues.

We’ve had dozens of awesome guests over the years including Lawrence Lessig, who created Creative Commons, Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora, and John Perry Barlow. He’s a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, but he also started the EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is an organization that fights for rights on the Internet. So I think it’s important to expose students to this kind of thinking as well.

As for the future of technology, I mean, we’ll see what happens. This iPhone here probably has more computing power than planet Earth had in 1950. And that’s just 62 years ago. The reason we have this is something called Moore’s Law, which says that computing power and the number of transistors that we have on a chip doubles every year-and-a-half. So, computing power grows exponentially. We can see Moore’s Law is being applied to lots of other areas. It’s happening now. For example, the Human Genome Project, the first genome that we mapped cost over a billion dollars. Now you could do it for about a thousand dollars. Ten years from now it’ll be ten dollars. We’re going to see Moore’s Law applied to many other technologies. The next ten years is going to be a wild ride.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5th Annual NYU at the Bronx Zoo

We had a blast on Sunday at our 5th Annual NYU at the Bronx Zoo event. It was wonderful to see so many Arts & Science alumni at the barbecue among friends and family. We also loved running into NYU alumni while we perused the different exhibits at the zoo. We can't wait for next year! Here are some of our favorite photos from the day! Please show us your favorite pics by posting them on our Facebook wall - we'd love to see them!


Be sure to check out more photos from the zoo on our Facebook page and by following our Instagram account (@NYUArtsandScience).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Post by One of "The Best 300 Professors" in the United States

In April this year, Princeton Review partnered with RateMyProfessor and published a list of "The Best 300 Professors." From approximately 1.8 million post-secondary teachers in the country, NYU Liberal Studies Professor Kathleen (Kathy) Bishop was among the 0.02% included on the list. On RateMyProfessor, students have spoken highly of Professor Bishop:
bishop_2012.jpg"I have come to adore her open minded teaching style and she has always helped her students. She is a MUST."
"Professor Bishop is like the female version of Woody Allen. She's so cool and knows how to engage a class."
"Like everyone always says, super great teacher."
We had the pleasure of speaking with Kathy, but instead of the usual interview, we will let her tell you the story of how she came to become such a passionate educator and an influential member of the NYU community.  

From Professor Kathy Bishop:

When I was recently chosen by the Princeton Review to be included in their new publication, "The Best 300 Professors," it got me to thinking about how this could have happened -- I immediately thought of my mentor and friend, the late Robert R. Raymo, former dean of GSAS and my many times professor and dissertation advisor in the NYU English Department. To excel at anything in life, a young person needs someone to show her how it’s done; for me that meant figuring out how to be a good teacher and scholar. In the end I now realize that what he really provided me with was a roadmap on how to live a happy, fulfilling life. In the beginning, when I first took up the daunting task of teaching, I thought about Prof. Raymo and how he did it so effortlessly and so incredibly well. As with a novice in any field, in my case I thought the best thing would be to model myself after the best teacher I knew. The problem was that he was an older man (or so it seemed to me at the time), who tended towards elegant suits, and I was a young jeans and tee shirt kind of gal. He also had an impossible to duplicate manner that combined utter sophistication and worldliness with razor sharp wit, warmth, kindness, generosity, and all out brilliance. In class students hung on his every word. When you met with him during office hours, he made you feel like you were his only student, and he had all day to discuss the “Miller’s Tale” with you. Just how was I going to match any of this?

What I gradually came to see, through trial and error, was that being good at anything is of course about finding your own way of doing things, but most importantly it’s about finding the reason why you’re here in this life. What I know for sure is that Prof. Raymo loved what he was doing with every fiber of his being, and if you can find that in your own life, well then you are the luckiest person in the world.

In Liberal Studies, where I now teach at NYU, I’ve come to see that probably the most important thing I can pass on to my students is this lesson that I learned years ago through my teacher. In any given class we may be studying an Indian epic, or an Elizabethan drama, or Middle Eastern art. These are all important and beautiful things that will add to these students’ lives immeasurably, but I also hope I am able to pass on to them the lesson that I learned from Prof. Raymo of finding your own individual path. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be standing in front of that classroom, and each one of them is off on their own epic journey to find themselves.

 (Above: Kathy Bishop with Robert Raymo)