I probably don’t need to convince you that working at tech companies is really attractive. You can work with startups on meteoric rises and world-famous tech giants, all while surrounded by ping-pong tables and unlimited snacks. You can build apps that your friends use and products that make the world a better place.
There’s just one problem: how do you get a tech internship in the first place?
Note: this post is aimed mostly at Harvard students.
So you took Harvard’s introductory computer science class, CS50. (Maybe you were a regular at my section or met me at office hours.) You learned a lot, you enjoyed it, and you want to continue exploring computer science. Maybe you want to concentrate in CS, get a minor, get an internship at a tech company, or better understand how computers are going to take over the world.
But CS is a huge field, and with just one course under your belt, it’s difficult to really break into it.
This summer, I left the friendly confines of Cambridge and journeyed out West to strike it rich intern as a software engineer at Khan Academy. And that’s not quite doing it justice: it was a totally transformative experience.
I grew a ton as a software engineer by working with my mentor on such cool projects as:
– Creating SEO’d landing pages for our videos
– Building a feature to send users notification emails whenever their questions on our videos get answered, working closely with a designer
– Tracking down and fixing bugs in our new video player
Most ecosystems such as app stores are either open or curated. But why can’t we have both? Well, we can — all you need is three verbs: publish, find, and like. That goes for technology and anything else.
Usually there are two options when you want to publish an app: publish it to something like the iOS App Store (where people will find your app, but Apple reviewers can deny your submission) or just put it on your website (where it’s easy to publish, but there’s no guarantee anyone will see it.) Not the greatest set of options.
Isn’t there a way to combine the strengths of both of these to make for the best possible experience for both publishers and consumers? I think there is. It’s called an open and curated ecosystem. Let’s take a look at:
What open and curated ecosystems are
Examples of open and curated ecosystems
What you need to make an open and curated ecosystem
Examples of these ecosystems beyond just technology
and see if we can discover something about the power of crowdsourcing, innovation, and the three verbs publish, find, and like.
Curated vs. open ecosystems
The iOS App Store and open internet, among others, are app ecosystems — places where apps can be published and found. And I think the big factors that differentiate one ecosystem from another are whether the ecosystem is open, where anyone can publish apps and whether it is curated, where the best apps rise to the top and users are assured quality apps. That’s the major difference between the iOS store and the internet at large, which I mentioned earlier.
Let’s look at examples of curated and open ecosystems and what differentiates them.
These new apps need to run on all platforms (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS), sync seamlessly between them, and help me keep my data organized. They have to be versatile, robust, and easy-to-use. And they have to be free.
With that in mind, here are the five apps that I’ve relied on most at Harvard and that I recommend to anyone in college or anywhere else in life. They’re ranked in order of usefulness.
The internet should help you express yourself easily and ensure you have control over the content and quality of your writings. But is that possible?
The internet has always been called the great platform for self-expression. The claim goes that you no longer need to be talented and lucky enough to get your work into a book or newspaper or magazine; anyone can publish anything to the internet, and if it’s good enough, it can get found.
It’s definitely true that the cost of self-expression has gone down with the internet, so people are much more likely and able to use it to publish their ideas. (The idea of economic cost, or amount of effort it takes to do something, is a very powerful one, by the way. When it gets easier to do something, that thing explodes in popularity. It’s pretty self-evident, but it’s a powerful way of looking at things like the rise of self-expression with the internet.)
There are two main ways of publishing content online:
Publishing independently (making your own platform)
Using someone else’s platform (hosted publishing)
Both of these fall short of the goal of allowing for easy self-publishing. I think, though, that there’s room for a hybrid that would bring the best of both.
How social media is designed to help you build relationships with acquaintances, and why Snapchat (yes, that Snapchat) is the most effective social media platform
It was late enough that I’d stopped thinking for the night, so I proudly proclaimed to my nearby friends that I was getting a Snapchat account. It had always struck me as a bit vapid and narcissistic – you’re swapping carefully-chosen selfies with others to try and win favor – but I figured I’d give it a go.
But I quickly learned that Snapchat, like any other social media platform, gives rise to a number of use cases that the creators probably never intended. (For instance, Twitter probably never foresaw that it would contribute to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.) What I saw was this: Snapchat and other social media platforms are surprisingly effective ways to grow and maintain your network of weak ties (acquaintances) by reducing the costs of communication and increasing the number of “hooks,” or chances to strike up conversation, you have. All social media can do this, but Snapchat, by its very nature, is the king of this.