25 Feb 2014

Turn to page 9 and start coding

Author: will | Filed under: book, CoderDojo, overheard, programming, Writing

If the book gets made, I think it might get a quick run through at at least one Coder Dojo. All the better for the second draft.?

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A coding textbook for Irish secondary schools could be written in one day
The attempt is under way today at Facebook’s European HQ in Dublin as part of International Open Data Day.

The Kahn Academy has been talking about doing a full Computer Science course for a while. While they have a nice introduction to Python, its only now that things are flying with its JavaScript course.

The sections are divided up well and there are examples with interactive code-and-play areas side by side so you can see the efects you cause in near-realtime.


I think the course needs a bit more instruction. Still its only launch day, and things will flesh out more soon.

And yes I'm going to be playing there, and +Code Academy and +CoderDojo and the Kickstarter and +Git projects I'm watching. I'm just hoping that a time machine is built for me to catch up with everything soon.

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Redefining the Introduction to Computer Science
I’m incredibly excited to take this opportunity to announce a new project that I’ve been leading here at Khan Academy: Khan Academy Computer Science.

We’re releasing a completely new platform that targets people with no programming knowledge and gives them an engaging and fun environment to learn in.
Over everything else we wanted to emphasize creativity and exploration and make it approachable for people of all ages, including young kids.
Sal K…

Today is Yesterday was (this post got stuck in draft) the day that the Leaving Certificate English paper 2 didn’t happen. The cause, this is really for my non-Irish reader (waves at Aunt Mary); a steward running the exam on Wednesday opened and put out paper 2 instead of paper 1 by accident in a school in County Louth.

This error has effected 51,800 students, and cost the steward his job. Admittedly, no one died. Only study plans are disrupted.

The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time such an error has happened. But this year the consequences are that the second paper is being sat on Saturday with a back-up English exam.

What occurred is a perfect storm of events…

Firstly, the timetable of exams changed. Until recently English papers 1 and 2 were sat on the same day (morning and afternoon). Since both exams are, well, tough and require a lot of writing it was felt that spreading the exam over two days would be easier on the students hands, if not on the students themselves.

If the error had occurred in the past, only the 15 students who received the wrong paper would have been effected.  True they could have informed fellow students that the paper featured “macbeth, deception, bishop, keats, walcot, larkin …” to quote the tweet, but most (lets face it, there is going to be a little comfort cramming between exams at least) of the study would have been completed long before the exam. Having a full day between exams meant that the important information could get out there and get spread widely.

Secondly there is the nature of the exam itself. Paper two of the Leaving Certificate is regarded as one of the toughest tests in the pre-university examination system. In out system exam marks mean points, and points mean University places. The English syllabus means that the students have to study eight poets and guess as to which two or three would be on the paper.

Had this been the Mathematics exam, then the information would be harder to spread. After all knowing the type of maths question does not limit the study as much as dropping 6 out of 8 poets. Equally has this not been one of the “big three” exams of English, Irish and Maths, the reason to spread the information would have decreased.

So you have a high pressure exam, which most if not all the leaving certificate students will be sitting, where the important details of which can be summed up in three or four words; the names of the poets. Words which quiet easily fit in the space of a single SMS message. Or a tweet. So a small amount of information can cause a huge amount of damage.

The third part of this is the fact that social media played a part. And yes I’m counting the leaving certificate discussion section of Boards.ie as social media. In fact it appears that the public dissemination began on Boards.

The timing is interesting here. Boards only started seeing this information close to 4pm. This implies that the information only started leaking around then. What is likely is that those 15 students started passing the information as soon as the afternoon exam (home economics as it happens) was over. Given that the steward reported the loss of confidentially around 4pm, when parents of the children informed him, this sound about right. Even if the steward had reported the breach immediately (and maybe kept his job over it) the spreading of the information would have followed the exact same time line.

Or to put it another way, the Department of Education found out the same time that everyone else did. Posibbly a short while earlier.

At least one, mostly likely two or three of the children waited until they got home, and got internet access to talk to each other. This spread the word. Needless to say, it spread very quickly amongst a number of interested students. Then wider.

Now a lot of students cut back on social computer use (e.g games) during the exams. After all its only two to three very important weeks for which they have worked two years for. Discussion was rife.

And the department of education picked it up very quickly.

There is a backup exam in case of leaks. Normally what would happen is that effected schools would get the backup paper. For a single school a delay is tolerable as the second exam of the day could be delayed by the same amount. In this case, because of social media and the internet, every school in the country (and beyond, the leaving certificate is not only limited to Irish schools, but I can’t think of any places that use it) was effected. The issue changed from containing the problem to distributing the exams to all the test centres.

So the exam was rescheduled. Not everyone was in the loop. I’ve heard stories of students studying for the English paper after it had been rescheduled. Which probably means that they had shut down all connections for study reasons.

What does this mean for the Department of Education.

1) All leaks are now national leaks. Unless the leak is a mistiming (exam starts and ends early) then assume all the information is out there. Students can only be quarantined in special circumstances, for example the Jewish students who cannot sit the exam on the Saturday for religious reasons.

2) Different colour coding for papers. All the morning exams have a different colour cover from all the evening exams. When both papers were on the same day, there wasn’t an issue, the colours were different. When the exam because consecutive mornings, then it became an issue again. Using more colours, maybe 4 colours with alternating colours for different mornings and evenings. A quicker, cheaper fix might be have the second paper being on the following afternoon. Or the following week. One would make mistakes unlikely, the other would give more recovery time.

3) Sign-off. The steward needed to get two students to sign-off the opening of the paper. Firstly these students are not disinterested parties, assuming malice, they would want this information. Secondly, these student have no training on the proper procedure. If the head of your exam asks you to sign something so the paper can be passed out, you’ll sign it. I know I signed off an exam (only 2 of us sat the paper) so I didn’t realise that I was signing a procedural document at the time.

In short, the current “the procedures have been followed” process have absolutely no purpose. Insisting that a teacher or someone equally fire-able by the Department sign off would at least make the checks viable.

So is this going to happen again?

Yes. You see, human error is likely. The consequences differ widely every time, in this case a lot of inconvenience for all the students this year. Next year, it could be something small.

Annoying, yes, but stuff happens all the time. Next ear we will all year about the steps taken to avoid this from happening again. Or at least, the steps to make if less likely.

And the odd on winning the lotto are?

take care,
Will Knott

Michael O’Brien, former councillor and Mayor of Wexford(correction May 27) Clonmel attended the RTÉ programme Questions and Answers on 25 May 2009 and, after Minister Noel Dempsey, the sponsoring minister of the Ryan Commission report in to Child Abuse allegations spoke, Mr O’Brien spoke to the minister and to the panel.

I’ve done the transcript of the video clip below mainly because audio indexing does not work that well for video clips. And video clips have a habit of disappearing off the web.
The other reason is that this clip seems to be the turning point for a lot of discussions. And possibly some action.

—Start of transcript

Mr. Chairman, I’m surprised at the minister there now.

First of all Mr Minister (directed at  Minister Noel Dempsey) you made a bags of it in the beginning by changing the judges. You made a complete bags of it at that time, because I went to the La Foy commission and ye had seven barristers there, questioning me and telling that I was telling lies, when I told them that I got raped of a Saturday, got a merciful beating after it, and then stuffed…

… he came along the following morning and put holy communion in my mouth.

You don’t know what happened there. You haven’t the foggiest, you’re talking through your hat there. And you’re talking to a Fianna Fáil man, a former councilor and former mayor you’re talking to, that worked tooth and nail or you, for the party that you’re talking about now. Ye didn’t do it right, ye got it wrong.

Admit it.

And apologize for doing that. Because you don’t know what I feel inside me. You don’t know the hurt I am.

You said it was non-adversarial.

My God.

Seven barristers.

Throwing questions at us.


I tri.. attempted to commit suicide, there’s the woman who saved me from committing suicide,  on me way down from Dublin, after spending five days at the commission. Five days I spent at the commission. They brought a man over from Rome, ninety odd years of age, to tell me I was telling lies.

That I wasn’t beaten for an hour, non-stop by two of them.

By two of them.

Non-stop from head to toe without a shred of cloth on my body.

My God minister.

And could I speak to you (comment directed to Leo Varadkar, Fianna Gael), and ask your leader, would you stop making a political football of this.

You hurt this when you do that.

You tear the shreds from inside our body.

For God’s sake, try and give us some peace.

Try to give us some peace and not to continue hurting us.

That woman will tell you how many times I jump out of the bed at night with the sweat pumping out of me. Because I see these fellas at the end of the bed with their fingers doing that (gestures) to me. And pulling me in to the room, to rape me, to bugger me and bate the shite out of me. That’s the way it is.

And you know what?

You know what, sometimes I listen to the leader of Fianna Fáil. I even listened to the apology. T’was mealy mouthed, but at least t’was an apology.

At least t’was an apology.

The Rosminians said in the report, they said they were easy on us. The first day I went to them. The first day to Rosminians in my home which is Ferryhouse in Clonmel, ’cause its the only home I know. He said “you’re in it for the money”.

We didn’t want money.

We didn’t want money. We wanted the pr…  someone to stand up and say “yes, these fellas were buggered, these people were ra…”

Little girls. My daughter, oh sorry, my sister. A month old when she was put in to an institution. Eight of us from the one family, dragged by the ISPCC cruelty man. Put in to two cars, brought to the court in Clonmel. Left standing there without food or anything, and the fella in the long black frock and the white collar came along and he put us in to a van.

Not a van, a scut truck, I don’t know what you call it now. And landed us below with two hundred other boys. Two night later I was raped.

How can anyone…

You’re talking about constitution. These people would gladly say “yes” to a constitution to freeze the funds of the religous orders.

This state, this country of ours, would say “yes” to that constitition if you have to change it.

Don’t say you can’t change it.

You’re the governement of this state. You run this state. So for God’s sake stop mealy mouthing. ‘Cause I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of it.

You’re turning me away from voting Fianna Fáil which I have done from the first day that I could vote. Because. And you know me. You know me Mister Minister. You’ve met me on a number of ocassions. So you know what I’m like.

— End of transcript

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21 May 2009

The shameful 800

Author: will | Filed under: 2009, crime, Ireland, Irish, memory, news, politics, regret, religion, resolution, social media

The words “Counselling services available” (closely followed by counseling services swamped, contact telephone numbers below) barely cover the horror of the “endemic” abuse suffered by children in Irish Catholic institutions over 60 years. The report details 800 abusers (both men and women) who were given approval by Irish society in their abuse. This is not the complete figure. A separate report about abuse in the Dublin region only is also due.

The full report, all five volumes of it, took nine years nine years to compile and while covering a period of six decades and finding thousands of boys and girls that were terrorized by priests and nuns, it dosen’t show the full picture. Public opinion at the time refused to believe the victims. The victims were vilified while the abusers took their lauded place in society. The victims left, be it through suicide, or through emigration.

The 800 figure is also wrong. Many others knew, and turned a blind eye. Refused to believe that those given the task to watch their morality could be the depraved ones.

John Kelly of the Survivors of Child Abuse (SO...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

To cap off the offense, the victims and the families were not allowed in to the press conference, which gave very little detail in the prepared speech, and permitted no questions.

It took a long time for the stories to emerge, and while the church is still respected by some, others find its protection if the abusers unforgivable (including those to “admire the bravery of the abusers“). I suspect that its the truth coming out behind these tales which have helped the numbers of regular church goers to dwindle.

Its also a national, and international news story now.

RTÉ News – Sexual abuse was ‘endemic’ in institutions

Irish Times – Audio analysis and summary of abuse report

Irish Times – Children exposed to ‘daily terror’ in institutions – Includes audio of Patsy McGarry outlining the report’s main findings

Irish Times – Anger over exclusion from briefing

Irish Times – Systematic abuse in State institutions laid bare

Channel 4 – UK – As a damning report is published into “endemic” abuse suffered by children in Irish Catholic institutions over 60 years, Carl Dinnen accompanies a former resident as he returns to a” reformatory school”. (Includes video embedded above)

Channel 4 – UK – Jon Snow talks to Colm O’Gorman, the Executive Director of Amnesty International in Ireland, who was a victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by a Catholic priest as a teenager. Includes video embedded here. Some RSS readers may need to click through to see the video.

Twenty Major – So what happens now?

Twenty Major – Institutional Abuse report

Granddad – Suffer little children

A growing list of other takes on the subject from Irish Blogs

BBC News – UK – Irish abused ‘cheated of justice – Victims of child abuse at Catholic institutions in the Irish Republic have expressed anger that a damning report will not bring about prosecutions.
Includes video of Victims spokesman John Kelly giving his reaction to the report

BBC News – UK – In quotes: Irish media have been giving their first reactions to the damning inquiry into child abuse at Catholic institutions in Ireland.

The full Comission Report

Volume three includes the witness statements, and chapter 14, about lay teacher abusing and being defended by the Department of Education,  got extensive reviews on today’s Morning Ireland.

Shocked but sadly not surprised,

The HSE offers a free National Counselling Service for anyone who has suffered childhood abuse on 1800 235 234.

The related Connect service, for out of hours contact, is on1800 235 235 from the Republic of Ireland (freephone)  00800 235 235 55 from Britain and Northern Ireland (free from landlines).

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre operates a 24-hour helpline on 1800 77 88 88.

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Update: 1pm May 21 2009
Irish Times Opinion piece  – Mr Justice Ryan’s report does not suggest that this abuse was as bad as most of us suspected. It shows that it was worse. It may indeed have been even worse than the report actually finds – there are indications that “the level of sexual abuse in boys’ institutions was much higher than was revealed by the records or could be discovered by this investigation”.

The Catholic League reaction – The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower.

1 Jan 2009

On the 6th day

Author: will | Filed under: 2009, Barcamp, conference, Cork, data, Dublin, Ireland, personal information

Well I’m going to be running silent for a few days (I could automate a few posts, but I’d rather be honest).

Eireprenure and Will King above it all

Things are changing in my life. Firstly I have a contract in Dublin. Great stuff you say. Yes it starts tomorrow. And secondly, on Monday I have exams for a module in my Masters. In Cork.

Slight geography problem.

Given my job hunt has been going for a little while (and my new employers don’t mind loosing me for the exam day) I’m afraid to say that the opportunity of paid employment wins this particular day.

This means that I have to have a little conversation with the couse head to talk about the possibilities of dropping out, putting things in limbo, transferring to another college or seeing what can be done remotely.

In the meantime, I have a few days of intensive study (I’m not cramming, I’m refining) ahead of me. So silent running until Tuesday 6th of January.

In the meantime, I’ll direct you to a forthcoming event.

Teencamp Ireland is due to take place on January in Filmbase in Dublin. TeenCamp Ireland is a gathering of the techies/bloggers/fanboys age 13+ in Ireland to give talks, meet others, share ideas and have a laugh. TeenCamps are organised/planned/run by teens for other teens. So I’m probably a little too old to go (I might show up and embarrass a few faces).

4 days to my exams and 16 days until Teemcamp.

Good luck one and all,

Will Knott

5 Jun 2008

Red, Green and munch

Author: will | Filed under: Barcamp, bloggers dinner, conference, food, Uncategorized

I might stick out like a tomato here, but I’d like a food camp.

red and green

And I do mean a FoodCamp, not a big food based party, but hands on classes followed by a bloggers dinner, cooked by bloggers. The germ of this idea seems to be Laurent Haug. He proposed the idea of getting Grandmas to cook a dinner for bloggers. The Grandma who loves to cook gets to take over a restaurant, kitchens and all, and cook up dinner for a hoard of hunger bloggers. I found out about this due to CBC’s Spark podcast, who are trying out the first Canadian Grandma Dinner on June 9 in Toronto.

So I asked certain food blogger, Ms. Grannymar who pointed out the obvious; she didn’t think she would be able to cook for a clutch of toyboys let alone a hoard of bloggers.

So I have a slightly different position… a FoodCamp (I’m sure that a CampBar for wine, and cocktails is possible). This is there food bloggers get together, and offer to teach the making of a single dish to a group within an hour plus clean-up (baking and roasting which take longer could be timed so that another session could take over the kitchen in the meantime). So a lot of people who love food, get to learn how to make their own good food.

It sounds odd, but try pasteurising eggs without scrambling them by working from a book.

So at the end of the day, there is a lot of food. So let’s have a bloggers dinner to get everyone around, alternatively arrange the food to be delivered to a charity (or invite a few reps from the charity in question to present and pick what they want).

The first solution to be found, is to get an idea if there is any interest?

Is it a wining idea?

And the next thing is, should this take place in a restaurant kitchen (which tend to be small) or a school or college with better catering facilities? And would or could you suggest a location?

take care,
Will Knott

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15 May 2008

That’s not a man bag, its a school bag

Author: will | Filed under: change, fas, programmer, software, travel

The Crabling Otter that is Darren confessed that he carries a man bag. Needless to say Granddad is disgusted (so no surprise there). However I have a bag with me now. Its a backpack (no single strap stylish bags for me) filled with bits and pieces of my pack rat existence, and its a school bag again. I also have a Hermès Kelly bag, but more about that at the end of the post.

A selection of programming language textbooks on a shelf. Levels and colors adjusted in the GIMP.Image via Wikipedia

The bag is filled with the usual important bits and pieces. USB Memory stick, the non tech part of a MMC memory card, cables, book, screwdriver, multi-tool and pliers, cables, headphone bits, cables, book, pen and paper and of course cables. And books. And bits and pieces for my class.

One of the guys in my class asked my why I didn’t blog about, well, the class (yes I’ve gotten new readers, and I’ll link to them when I get them blogging) and I couldn’t see why not. I’m studying Software Development in Fás. And yes, I’ve been programming for years, but given that my background was in mathematics, and most of my working life was making databases do things that they shouldn’t do, I’ve not studied computer languages properly. Yes I’ve inhaled manuals due to a particular project requiring it, or simply because I wanted to, but not formally. I think my pfd collection shows that.

And yes I will blog if I get any formal certification along the way. And no I’m not referring to a diploma from Miskatonic University (got to love Lovecraft), which in also in my PDF collection along with my e-text books and paper models.

Which brings me to Hermès and the Hermès website which thanks to a link on the Paper Forest site I found out is offering a downloadable set of paper model Hermès Kelly handbags. The real one is a very expensive hand bag named after Grace Kelly (hence the name). These paper bags are an official release from the Hermès web site and comes in eight versions including a plain blank one for customisation.

I wonder if I can write code on it?

take care against paper cuts,
Will Knott