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Wikis, TEVALs, and mobos

After our FIBR meeting yesterday, I walked back to Rathbone Hall with my friend and colleague Sanjoy Das from EECE, and we talked a bit about writing textbooks and online references on Bayesian networks. I am definitely going to start a MediaWiki-based GMWiki with his help, though as zengeneral notes, this should really belong to Wikipedia itself.

The problem is, if you look at Memory Alpha (Star Trek), Wookieepedia (Star Wars), and Supermanica (Superman), they have higher quality in a lot of areas because of the concentration. People write and edit articles to a higher standard of quality when it's a focused group instead of everyone and his or her1 brother is coming in to edit.

We also talked about undergrad teaching and evaluations.

Our teaching evaluations (TEVALs) are Scantron-based with blanks for writing comments. They matter a bit more in EECE than in CIS, and in fact, I think full professors campus-wide are not required to have them, though I for one intend to always have them. I've had the occasional "best professor I've ever had" or "best course I've had this year" comments that produce that warm fuzzy feeling, but for the most part, my comments are "the workload is too high" (something I don't usually agree with), "material coverage is too dense" (something I've already compensated for several years running), or "we want homeworks graded sooner" (something I've resolved to work on).

One thing about TEVALs that I've decided to tell all of my students about is that there is really only one score that "counts": overall teaching effectiveness. That, in turn, is a function of the student-rated effectiveness and the change in the interest level before and after the course! In other words, if you're not very interested in algorithms (3 on a 1-5 scale) before taking CIS 570 and Dr. Stoughton gets you enthusiastic about automata theory (4 on a 1-5 scale), the delta counts in his favor. If you're excited about AI before taking CIS 730 and are discouraged by the difficulty of the material as I present it, a change from 4 to 3 will count against me. I disclose this to students because I think that it's a baseless handicap for elective courses, where people typically come in with 4s and 5s and leave with 3s and 4s. Conversely, there is a bonus for instructors of large required classes such as CIS 200 and CIS 300, where the trend in interest level is usually reversed. If you look at the "instructor's FAQ list" for TEVALs, it says (paraphrased):

Q: Doesn't this favor required courses over elective courses?
A: Yeah, kind of. Maybe it should.

As I tell students, they are encouraged to put down whatever they really feel, but I think they are entitled to the facts.

And now for something completely different: What kind of motherboard and processors should I get for my Ubercomputer? I'm thinking dual-core 64-bit, but I have no personal preference. My overall budget for the system, not including monitors, is $4000. Please comment, and I will make a poll later in the week.

1 taiji_jian, gondhir, and I had a debate this afternoon about the appropriateness of "he"/"his" as neuter pronouns. I agree with taiji_jian that "he" is acceptable in colloquial speech, but I also agree with gondhir that regardless of intent, or even perception, "he" is inherently sexist. I also agree with Strunk and White that "they" is not grammatical. After a long discussion, we concurred that most of the time, the problem can be solved by rewriting the sentence with better structure.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2006 06:24 am (UTC)
Neuter pronouns
There's a rising tendency in many publishing houses to switch back and forth between he and she, either by chapter, or section.

That said, I'm in agreement that in most cases, you can restructure the sentence to avoid the grammatical seesaw that is almost every other solution.

Processors...I got nothing. :)

Jan. 12th, 2006 06:29 am (UTC)
Re: Neuter pronouns
The seesawing is a little annoying. Cooper and Clancy's approach of using "she" seems a little contrived, though the RPG convention that is gaining acceptance is to use "she" for GMs and "he" for players unless they are named as female.

No problem about the processors; I'm bugging my students about it.

Jan. 12th, 2006 06:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Neuter pronouns
Actually that linguistic convention makes pretty good sense...because it seems representational of the actual reality. :) Most gamers are male. Granted, there are exceptions, like myself and lots of my friends, but as a rule, the demographics of most games will weigh heavily towards testosterone.

Of people I know who have worked as live customer service for big online games, the majority have been female. That may only reflect my experience however, and not reflect the overall reality of the genre. But the convention of "he" for the gamers and "she" for the GM seems grammatically comfortable to me. (Of course, I'm not Noem Chompsky, what do I know for linguistic structure. Hee.)
Jan. 12th, 2006 06:40 am (UTC)
Oh, gods, don't start trying to use "shi" and "hir" like some people I've seen online have. I prefer to use "them" "they" and "their" after rewording to use plurals.
Jan. 12th, 2006 09:01 am (UTC)
"shi" and "hir" are illiterate
Heck no.

As for rewording to use plurals, please give me an example.
I avoid "they" even when it's made grammatical, because it usually uses the deprecated "respectively":
The children filed in and took their respective seats.

The children filed in and each one took his or her seat.

Jan. 12th, 2006 07:26 am (UTC)
Motherboard and Processor Suggestions
I've always felt that the hardware suggestions at ArsTechnica.com were very insightful.

I'd suggest checking out this link and see if there are any suggestions that sound good to you:


Travis Bradshaw
Jan. 12th, 2006 09:02 am (UTC)
Ars Technica
Thanks for the suggestion, Travis.

BTW, do you know of a way to post via OpenID?

Jan. 13th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Ars Technica
At one point my blog was running Drupal which supported the OpenID protocol(?), however after moving to WordPress I haven't looked at the feature since.

Perhaps I should look into it so that I can participate on LJ a little easier.

Travis Bradshaw
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 14th, 2006 10:05 pm (UTC)
He and She
Now I don't pretend to be a linguist, but I do personally like how the Italian, French and Spanish languages have evolved. Well, all I know for sure is Spanish, but I'd imagine they're similar. In Spanish, the 'o' is gender neutral, but and is used for either a group of males or a a mixed-gender group. Appending an 'a' at the end of a word explicitly designates a group of females. So, while "La" is feminine, "El" is gender neutral, and there is no outcry from the male population for any change.

Just FYI.

Tim Weninger

Women have been suffering for years! End women's suffrage!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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