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ScienceI am a robotics researcher (AMA)!

Jul 24th 2017 by zmahoor • 82 Questions • 99 Points

My short bio: (to replace the third party one) I've worked at a number of places. I've been a pizza chef, a rock climbing instructor, a white water raft guide on the Arkansas River, and even a Slovakian rock star with a top ten hit in the Czech Rep. I was always into computers so when I came back to the states and finished my degree in info science, I got a job at NASA about three years later, I started as a "web programmer" and left last year (2016) as a "Senior Applications Developer". I graduated in 2007 from CNU (with Randall Munroe, the xkcd guy...) Now I teach Web Fundamentals and run the Washington D.C. branch of Coding Dojo.

http://www.codingdojo.com/washington-dc https://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov/ https://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/researchernews/rn_makercamp.html https://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov/oyw/meet-the-team-dan-oostra/

My Proof: http://imgur.com/a/SGnz5

Q:

How can you enter the robotics field? Also, how do you find interesting work in that field?

A:

As someone who has never been there, I am genuinely curious as to how your political views align with those of the voters in your district. I can't help but think that a great many folks in a district that went 62 - 31 for Trump may not necessarily agree with many of your more progressive social stances. What is your plan to carry the vote while also appealing to voters with more traditional, socially conservative views?


Q:

Who do you think was the most credible witness in the trial?

A:

Hi Tom! I think it's really cool that you are walking all around the world. What's the coolest piece of nature you've seen, and what's the coolest human-made structure you've seen so far? Do you have any plans related to this walk once you are done with it? Thanks!


Q:

What are the most interesting insights you've uncovered by tracking our government official's browsing activities?

A:

Hi! Thanks for doing this. Here are my questions:

  • What do you think is the mistake people make the most learning web development?

  • Do you prefer (teaching) front end or back end development or both, and why?

  • Favorite Editor/IDE?


Q:

At the high school level, you can start a FIRST robotics competition project. At university level, you can take robotics, programming, or computer hardware classes. Outside of academia, you can follow other people's robotics projects or start your own!

A:

You're right, the President won my district pretty handily. I think that is evidence of the fact that people are sick and tired of carrier politicians who put the desires of the party establishment and corporate donors ahead of the needs of everyday people. My campaign is about being a representative voice for AR-3 because people are more important than party. I think that message appeals to a lot of folks, regardless of their party affiliation or who they voted for in 2016.


Q:

Philip Vannatter.

A:

Hey Debater3301!

The Paramo in Colombia between La Plata Huila and Popayan was gob-smacking. I felt like I was walking through the spirit realm for three days.

Then a few weeks later I came to Las Lajas Sanctuary which is like something out of LOTR. A river-spanning church which they light up at night. Just insane.

No plans just yet. Hopes sure, but trying to see this walk through first!


Q:

Right now we are focused on testing the technical aspects of our tool and data management pipeline. We are trying to hit the sweet spot of a few different targets before we release it to the public: 1. The tracking code installation needs to be as simple as possible. We want to keep it to a piece of javascript code you can drop in to your frontend, with no server-side dev.

  1. It needs to be robust enough that it can't easily be disabled. This actually conflicts with our client-side only goals, because the more we allow for server-side implementation, the more it can circumvent methods to disable it.

  2. It needs to leave as minimal a privacy footprint as possible. We want to avoid sucking in any non-government data, and that means putting a lot of code in the tool that makes it bulkier and more vulnerable to disabling.

A:

A mistake that I've seen, and this goes for web dev or for programming in general, is that people get too focused on some resource rather than just coding. The only way you can learn to do web dev is to learn about it and do it. Trying to find the best program or best book, that will just waste time. Find some coding projects you can contribute to and like... then go for it.

I really like teaching and doing backend stuff, really because I love the magic in it.

My favorite editor is vi, but for web stuff, I'm using atom lately.


Q:

Are you working in a certain region to avoid for dialectic differences? (Like how across the street can be kitty corner or catty corner, etc).

A:

Thank you for your response, Mr. Ryerse.

As someone who genuinely believes that it is more important now than ever for people of different political threads to come together, if not for common causes than for common civility, it's refreshing to know someone like you is entering the fray, even if your views don't necessarily align completely with mine.

Good luck to you, sir.


Q:

Given your experience, what are your thoughts about television cameras in courtrooms? Do they help or hurt the justice system?

A:

Hey Tom been following for almost two years now, since you got savannah, really enjoyed your story so far. Will you come to the city of Nuremberg, bavaria, when in Germany? If so hit me up 😊 save travels!


Q:

Man these are fascinating problems to account for in designing your solution. Thanks much for your time in answering my questions.

The last big hurdle I can imagine you needing to overcome, which I think you've touched on a little, is how to deal with pairing down everyone's data into just the population your seeking to collect on. I imagine first you'll need to gather all data for everyone, which sounds scary if exploitable

A:

Where do you see NASA going? By this, I mean, better funding and better missions, or cuts to funding for certain sectors, and not as many missions? What are your thoughts on future missions, such as the Mars mission/s, and/or the unmanned missions to both Jupiter and Uranus?


Q:

We are not taking dialectic differences into account at this time. We are trying to keep this simple and we welcome all commands in English regardless of dialect, region, or country.

A:

Thanks for your kind words. We don't all have to agree. But we do need to get along!


Q:

I think cameras in the court room are a mistake. I think they have a way of reducing a serious somber proceeding to a reality TV show and a mockery of what a trial ought to be.

A:

I don't think I'm going to make it to Germany unfortunately. I will absolutely get there one day though!

And thanks for following so long! Glad you're enjoying it!


Q:

Yeah we are basically parsing the data through a series of filters(which I won't go into too much detail on in specifics) but they basically go like this:

  1. Only federal ips(will link to them in a sec)

  2. Some low-tech solutions that we found to easily filter out non-gov data

  3. Some slightly-higher-tech solutions that identify data that definitely belongs to Congress/FCC/White House Administration

  4. Some classifiers that will be able to further segment the data the more we receive.

A:

I see NASA a bit differently, especially from the funding and mission side of things. For me, the goal of NASA has always been to create explorers and to make people want to learn about discovery. I personally am an "ah-ha-aholic." It's even better to give an ah-ha moment to someone else. But, at the end of the day, I believe NASA's mission is, and always will be to support people to become more curious--and to provide them with the inspiration to move the ball forward.


Q:

Are you worried the inevitable trolling might corrupt your research?

A:

I live in the district, I'd say good his views are pretty consistent with the local mix of well-meaning, conservative, southern Christians and very liberal, free-thinker types.

edit: autocorrect


Q:

What actor has been your favorite portrayal of yourself on television?

A:

How did Savannah fare in the desert? What was the greatest overall difficulty of the desert for you?


Q:

Have you encountered any suspicious activity in their browsing history?

A:

What do you think of the over saturated developer bootcamp environment with Dev Bootcamp and The Iron Yard both shutting down in the last couple weeks?


Q:

trolling

That was my biggest fear when I began working on this project. So far we have not had any problems. Twitch has an auto moderator that filters bad language. We also tell our users that the NSF funds this study and they usually take it seriously.

A:

I think so too.


Q:

I haven’t watched, but everyone says Sterling K. Brown is a better me than me.

A:

Savannah did well in the desert. In north Peru it actually wasn't too hot, then in Lima I had her hair trimmed so she wasn't holding in too much heat.

The greatest difficulty of the desert was probably the solitude. There were times where I felt like I was going insane. My mind was as blank as the landscape. It seemed I thought every thought.

But at other times the solitude was magical. Like throwing my tarp under the stars at night and everything being perfectly quiet. Those were nice nights.


Q:

I'm not really in a position to talk about the data we've collected so far, we're actually treading carefully around what/how we release the data we collect (1/?)

A:

I'll first mention that I've met folks that worked for both those boot camps and I think the instructors and staff I've been able to interact with are incredible people who are invested in their students. I think that as this young industry continues to grow, we all have to be careful not to grow too fast and to stay focused on making people successful.


Q:

Awesome, sounds like an interesting project I'll have to check out. Just in my minds eye I'm picturing it turning into the anti semetic Twitter bot.

A:

As a southern Christian can you explain the current disconnect of the republican party to the actual teachings of Jesus? How can so many evangelicals support the republican party as it is today without appearing to endorse sin and evil deeds? How can you align with a party that seems to do the opposite of what Jesus taught?


Q:

Thoughts on Faye Resnick?

A:

For Europe, do you intend to go through every country/how long do you expect this leg to take?

Been following along on Instagram!


Q:

Have you encountered any suspicious activity in their browsing history?

A:

Hey there, thanks for doing an AMA. This is my first question in an AMA ever! and it's because I'm an aspiring web developer :)

Could you share your "AHA" moments that significantly improved your understanding and/or changed your perspective on web development? Ideally a moment for each of the basic languages, HTML, CSS, Javascript :)

My learning progress has been up and down because I'm constantly doubting myself. Whatever code I write, I know it could be written better -- and then I don't get anything done because I keep revising the same code. Also, everyone seems to have a different view on "best practices" in terms of code structure, organization, and functional vs imperative -- and I can't find my own comfort zone. I think I just need something, or some concepts to "click" in, so I can discover that comfort zone.


Q:

These robots are nothing like TayTweets from Microsoft :) They do not learn to speak; they merely attempt to understand the commands you give, like training your pet to come here.

A:

We all have a tendency to stray from our core beliefs over time. So much of life is about finding and returning to what is most important to us. I can’t speak for all southern Christians just like I can’t speak for all Republicans, but I know in my life the teachings and the example of Jesus have become more and more important. I hate that my party is often known for policies and programs that seem to be in opposition to my understanding of what Jesus taught and the example he set.


Q:

LOL. LOL. Laughing my ass off.

A:

I actually still not 100% certain on my route through Europe yet. Right now it looks like the UK, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. I think that should be a little under a year. Unless I find a quiet beach town to stay at for a few months...


Q:
  1. The more data we release earlier, obviously, the more Congress will be able to react to those releases and mitigate their exposure. Similar to how investigate journalists frequently operate-- if they find a potentially interesting story, they don't publish immediately. They'll keep pulling threads while staying low key to try to get as complete a picture as possible.

If we find an interesting trend in the data, and then release it immediately, we could be tipping our hand to Congress, early, and they can react and change their browsing patterns accordingly. So we're erring on the side of keeping our info quiet for the time being to try to gather as much unfiltered behavior as possible.

A:

Hello GiantQtipZ: Thank you. I appreciate the thoughtful remarks.

I can really only echo what protect-the-zebras has posted before me. That advice is solid as it gets. One of the biggest AHA moments was that I could do web dev for a living. That was a while ago of course.

Some of the folks that I work with have kinda thought I'm a jackass because I'll sometimes send out something to the other instructors about grit. But I've seen some people succeed with pure determination and time on station. Were they the best programmers I've ever met? 6X or whatever? Definitely. They did it long and hard enough until they were great--then they took a break.

Those AHA moments will come--but only if you keep working at it. My AHA moments might be your laughable ones. Don't compare yourself to other people's "best practices"--you can't code exactly like anyone other than yourself. We all have totally different backgrounds and experiences. Coding is writing, and expressing yourself. Your first projects are going to suck. But, if you're humble and you're willing to learn from your mistakes. You're golden. Good luck my friend.


Q:

Does a computer engineering Bachelors lead to robotics? Also, I'd like to do research/design robotic prosthesis and other types of robotics and I've considered getting a masters in biomedical engineering after the CE degree to be able to work in both. Would this sort of degree path be good for robotics?

A:

For federally backed student loans, (a) would you support forgiving all student loan interest, (b) eliminating compounding interest for student loans, and (c) instituting a 3% simple interest rate?


Q:

How did Johnny Cochrane change the tone of the trial from murder to racism so effectively?

A:

Just a heads up, look like the Algeria-Morocco border is closed: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algeria%E2%80%93Morocco_relations


Q:

Have you encountered any suspicious activity in their browsing history?

A:

I'm a college dropout who way after the fact fell in love with Data and became an analyst. To what extent can a boot camp lend credibility to a resume with 'some college'?


Q:

I think getting a master in biomedical engineering would help you with the direction you wish to go--designing prosthetic limbs. Robotics is a huge field; some people are focused on the hardware side while some other researchers are interested in programming/software side. For my Ph.D., I used a humanoid for my research, but we did not build it.

A:

I'm not ready to endorse specifics today, but these all seem like reasonable ideas that should be on the table.


Q:

Cochran used the media to change the conversation as effectively as Donald Trump does.

A:

Thanks for the heads up! I had a friend tell me the same a few months back. The plan is ferry to Spain then ferry to the other country.


Q:

"3." The issue with having raw data, and with releasing raw data, is that one we hit a critical mass, it gets frighteningly easy to "de-anonymize" the data. That is-- use it in conjunction with public domain info to start to build browsing profile, and attach those profiles to public figures.

Jessica Su, a computer scientist at Stanford actually did this with some sample data, and showed how easy it is to do-- http://randomwalker.info/publications/browsing-history-deanonymization.pdf

We don't want to release this data and then have the internet collectively weaponize this data against our representatives. So we need to be really careful with how we use it.

A:

I believe that programming boot camps are the trade schools of today--they are designed to give you skills that you can apply immediately. I don't think that any degree or credential is worth much if you can't actually do the work that you're being paid to do. I worked with quite a few people at NASA in the data center with no college but had a lot of skills and experience. A boot camp credential proves you can work hard, learn new things, and that you are invested in yourself.


Q:

First, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for running. We need people on both sides of the aisle who are willing to reject corporate donations and do their best work for the American people. I'm a Democrat and while I may not agree with you on everything, I certainly respect you more than just about every corporate Democrat in office.

Environmental issues greatly affect people across the country, both in rural areas and urban ones. Having clean water and air are basic requirements for a safe and prosperous life. What is your view on climate change, and what do you believe needs to be done about it? Also, what would you do about corporations that pollute the environment and affect public safety?

Thanks for your time.

A:

Is it true that OJ could come out publicly now and say "yes, I did it. I killed them both" and nothing could be done about it?


Q:

Greetings Tom!

Would you be so kind as to elaborate about the time a man woke you up with a machete in Honduras?

A:

What kind of porn are they watching?


Q:

/u/JavierLoustaunau

He might seem as well-intended, but make no mistake, he's trying to attract you to buy his bootcamp. Almost all of the AMA's are to promote something.

No sensible company would ever consider hiring you with only these "bootcamps" and they're usually seen as waste of time ['cause they are].

These are the people who didn't make it in the industry and are back at teaching and they might be good, but understand he's doing this AMA to promote his bootcamp.

He will say that "no, I wanna help", but get real.

What you need to do is get some fucking books, follow the codex and start doing stuff right away, then optimize, ask for opinions & code review and move on from there.

Actually, fuck the books, just follow any tutorial and then search for specific stuff.

Publish your work under a portfolio and if you're skilled enough, sky's the limit.

Please don't get involved with any bootcamps or so called "zero to hero" programs.

Treehouse is a great resource, honestly, if you wanna get up-to-date information and be part of a big, active community.

I haven't used it myself, but I did teach myself html/css/js*jquery in the span of 2 weeks, where I was able to write my tiny own bootstrap, optimize CSS for heavy cpu renders and other arcane things. It's all in putting in the hours, nothing else.

It took me a lot to understand the floats and how everything flows in a row, so, you'll have lots of WHAT-THE-FUCK-WHY moments, after which you'll still be confused, but don't worry, in time, it starts to make sense.

A:

Climate change is a reality that has clearly been impacted by human beings. I think we need to focus on investing in a green energy economy that will be good for the environment and the job market. We also need to make sure that while we're rolling back unnecessary and burdensome regulations on small businesses, we don't lose the needed protections we have in place for the environment.

For me, the environment is an issue that is deeply informed by my faith. In my faith tradition, the story begins with God placing people on this planet to enjoy and steward it, not to rape and pillage it or consume and destroy it. It bothers me that so many other Christians seem to forget this.


Q:

Yes, that is true. He has been found innocent, and to prosecute him again in state court would constitute double jeopardy and would be precluded by law. Did I say innocent? I meant not guilty.

A:

Yeah haha

So I was only in Honduras for five days. Every night but the last I slept in a hotel room. The last night there was nothing around, but I found this two story watchtower-type structure and decided that would be a good place to hide.

I hid my cart then climbed to the second story. All was well and the view of the valley below was incredible. As I started dozing off lights of a truck turned onto the watchtower. Then there were voices and someone coming up the ladder.

I stood. A second later there was a silhouette across from me of a man with a machete. A moment of quiet felt like a very long time, then the silhouette laughed and yelled down to his friend, "It's just a gringo!"

He stepped forward and I saw it was an older man. After rattling off the fastest Spanish I've ever spoken, he said I was fine, but that someone had stolen some cows the night before so he was on high alert. He unfurled this hidden bed and said he was going to stay the night.

I offered him oreos and went to bed figuring have a guy with a machete on my side meant I was safe for the night.


Q:

While the types of porn our representatives are watching is definitely entertaining, the real value from getting our plugin on porn sites(and we have it currently tracking on a few) is seeing if Congress or the White House is accessing porn while on the job at all.

Also, our goal isn't to "out" anyone for their sexual preferences-- however it would be interesting to see if their are distinct trends between Congress vs. The White House vs. FCC vs. the public at large, the last comparison of which is something really only the sites that are currently using our plugin can answer.

A:

Yep, I am trying to attract you to a boot camp if it's right for you...

"Boot camps" have been used by everything from losing weight to becoming a good person.

But don't put words in my mouth sir. These are your opinions.


Q:

What historical figure do you style yourself after?

A:

What was the reaction of your family and friends after they learned you had taken the case?


Q:

Do you walk in silence or listen to music/podcasts/books on tape/etc?

A:

Isn't this mostly just tracking what underpaid interns are doing while they're supposed to be running to Starbucks?


Q:

What do you think about flat earthers and how they believe NASA is in on the whole conspiracy to make people think the earth isn't flat, and have NASA guards posted at the ice wall that circles the edge of the earth, and magnetic waves that erase your memory if you somehow make it past the guards?

A:

Not sure I'd say I style myself after him, but I am always moved by the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German theologian and pastor who was one of the very few church leaders to speak out against the Nazis. He was arrested for being a part of a plot to assassinate Hitler and died in a concentration camp just a few days before it was liberated. A true hero.


Q:

I didn’t really have any friends outside the DA’s office. And a lot of those friends were supportive while others, even though they were prosecutors, went about the business of stabbing me in the back every chance they got. But that is the nature of lawyers — to consume their own.

A:

I walk in silence a lot. I like walking in silence for about an hour in the morning. By then I've usually woken up even for music or a podcast. Then I'll probably listen to something for a few hours and stop when the sound gets annoying.


Q:

Also, just because interns exist doesn't mean reps are immune from tracking. The irony here is that the ISP privacy law was based on the legal argument that ISPs are not utilities, and so are exempt from regulations that apply to utility companies.

If that's so, then congress should be able to work around having to use the internet (and being tracked on it) in the same way they expect us to, and not have it impact their job.

If they can't, then it's a pretty clear indication that ISPs are providing a public utility, and should have to safeguard our data in the same way utilities do.

A:

Well... I usually tell them to buy a go-pro and a zero-pressure balloon. You can fly the go pro up on the balloon to about 100K feet, and then you'll be able to see the curvature of the earth... Go empirical on them... plus you probably could do this experiment for under 500 bucks... Make sure you get some radar reflectors on your balloon though, and I think you need to check with the FAA.


Q:

If a bill comes up that is not constitutionally sound but not voting for it may go against one of your personal principles as a Christian what will you do?

Edit to be specific:

Let's say x is legal per the Supreme Court. X is also seen by many Christians as a sin. Someone puts in a bill to block x, likely knowing it will be overturned through appeals but getting to look like they are doing something. Do you vote to block because of your religion or vote against because it's against the Constitution?

A:

If you were walking down the street and saw OJ or he approached you, how would you feel? What would you say?


Q:

Do your feet hurt?

A:

I was an underpaid intern on the hill, can you please delete by browser history.

Interns need some help, they are the ones opening up the Hustler magazine every month.


Q:

What are NASA's coding standards like? I've seen some of their electronic hardware standards and they're pretty extreme. Was it difficult to accomplish projects? what about debugging? Does NASA have any open source projects that the public can contribute to?

A:

The role of a Congressperson is to represent the people of their district, not impose their personal beliefs or morality on everyone else. I'm committed to being the independent voice the people of AR-3 need.


Q:

I wouldn't feel anything one way or the other. I sure as hell wouldn't be afraid of him. I'd probably tell him to get the fuck off my sidewalk and take his ass across the street.

A:

In the wrong shoes...so much.


Q:

Yes, we actually created a tool for just this purpose. email me at [email protected] and I can get rid of all your tracked data for you.

In a broader sense, this kind of participation from non-reps in Washington is incredibly helpful. One of the easiest way to improve the accuracy of our data is just to opt out all the interns that work there. If you are intern, hit me up at [email protected]com and we can auto-filter out any of your browsing history.

A:

Check out https://www.nasa.gov/offices/oce/functions/software/index.html the office of the Chief Engineer deals with all software releases. Now like I've mentioned before... there's a loophole for websites and databases.


Q:

Do you side with the republican party out of principle or political necessity? Please explain.

A:

What is the greatest public misunderstanding about the work of a prosecutor?


Q:

What are the best shoes you've found so far?

A:

Will we track what interns are doing on their way to Starbucks? Yes, we will probably catch some of that. We have filters and can analyze the data to parse some of that out.


Q:

My dream goal is to make it as a software engineering intern at JPL. I have no degree in it but I'm currently gathering experience at a decent firm and learning on my own. Any ideas/tips you can throw my way would be GREAT. :)

A:

I am a lifelong Republican who decided that I would stay in my party and fight for needed change. Joe Scarborough recently made news for leaving the GOP. I totally understand his decision. But I want to work for progress within a party that's been co-opted. There are more independent-minded Republicans than we all realize. We can make a difference.


Q:

I think it has more to do with prosecutors in general. I think it is a mistake to assume that because someone is a prosecutor, that he or she is somehow more honest or has more integrity just because they are a prosecutor. Most of the prosecutors I know are good people who are committed to protecting us from those who would prey on us. But these days, I sometimes run into prosecutors who just don't seem to have the character we used to have 20-30 years ago. People need to understand that prosecutors are lawyers, and like my grandmama once told me, a law degree is a license to lie.

A:

Still Brooks Cascadia. They have a new Goretex version too which fit just the same.


Q:

step 1: you send a request to a web page that has one of these tracking scripts on it

Step 2: the server responds, and your browser then downloads the web page you are trying to view (including the plugin)

Step 3: the script then runs on your machine (within your web browser), and sends data about your browser (and cookies, and some other info) to another server that stores that info

A:

Don't forget that JPL is essentially owned and operated by Caltech. Check out contractors like Raytheon and SSAI. Also, every year in San Fran during the second week in December there is AGU, one of the largest science conferences in the world. If you can make it there, you'll meet hundreds of interns and NASA employees, contractors you name it. You'll definitely meet folks from JPL.


Q:

What convinced you to move to Arkansas?

A:

How do you feel on the whole 'if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit' saying? Do you think they could have made a better rhyme?


Q:

Do you aim to grow a Forrest Gump beard?

A:

Will we track what interns are doing on their way to Starbucks? Yes, we will probably catch some of that. We have filters and can analyze the data to parse some of that out.


Q:

Except for 2017 and 2018 AGU is moving because of construction at SF's convention center. This year the conference is in New Orleans. Otherwise, yep, SF in December has many many NASA and JPL people in town.

A:

We moved to Arkansas 12 years ago to start Vintage Fellowship. We came here because we wanted to be near a university and in a growing part of the country. What we've found is home. Northwest Arkansas is simply the best kept secret in America. It is so optimistic and innovative. We're never leaving.


Q:

Well, quite honestly, I did not appreciate at the time the impact that little ditty had on the jurors. I thought it was a kids rhyme for idiots, to be honest, but it was effective.

A:

I wish. My beard gets so patchy.


Q:

In the same vein, our tracking tool has the ability to utilize unique info about each persons user-agent(among other techniques) to help weed out the interns from the administration

Beyond that, there are a suite of data analysis techniques that can further narrow the scope of who we are looking at.

A:

Thanks... it's been a two years since I've been:http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2017/welcome/


Q:

What are the top 3 things you want to change in Washington right now, whether possible or not?

A:

Did Sterling K. Brown contact you or attempt to meet you before his portrayal in the most recent tv series?


Q:

Tom! I'm an avid follower on Facebook, and you've inspired me to do some long-distance walking myself - I want to walk across each of the 50 states before I turn 50 years old (my latest being Connecticut).

Have there been times during The World Walk where you've felt stuck uncertain, or in trouble? How did you cope?

A:

Ah, maybe my question was unclear. I don't doubt that you can see that e.g. 1000 different people are behind one IP address, but how can you tell which are interns and which are members of Congress? Google analytics doesn't really know the answer to that either.

Cookies and browser fingerprinting can help you tie two different web requests to the same browser, but they don't tell you who is using the browser, right?


Q:

NASA always has the best booth at AGU. It's fantastic.

A:
  1. Let's fix the healthcare crisis once and for all with Medicare For All.

  2. Let's get money out of politics so that our elected officials will actually serve the people who elect them rather than the corporate donors and lobbyists who own them.

  3. Let's make sure that all people, regardless of race, country of origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, background, wealth, etc. has equal access to liberty and opportunity.


Q:

He called me at 3am Pacific Time to tell me he had gotten the role. I chewed his ass out.

A:

Dude. That's an amazing journey! Mad respect. I'm 100% certain you'll reach you'll goal far earlier than 50.

The worst of my doubt came in South Peru and Chile. The desert was really wearing on me and I missed the hell out of my family. Every conversation I had with the locals just felt so pointless. There was never any thought of giving in though. I knew with enough time my mood would turn for the better, just a rough patch.


Q:

Yes-- which brings me to point 2:

  1. In aggregate, members of Congress are going to have different patterns of internet use than interns. As our data grows, this disparity should become more clear.

There are numerous techniques to be able to capture this trend, but I'll mention a few here, as well as some links to good descriptions of them

K-means clustering:

Decision trees: these would work insofar as we choose some function of the data(or metadata ) that correlates well with whether or not the user is a representative, and minimizing the entropy of that function. The tricky part is figuring out a function that would be an effective differentiator.

These are both techniques that can operate using only unlabeled data, meaning that we don't have any browsing history that we know comes from either an intern or a congressperson. Which segues into part 3

  1. If a representative (unlikely) or an intern(more likely) is willing to let us tag their history, we can use that data to greatly inform how we differentiate between interns and reps.

Ultimately, there is no surefire way to completely eliminate intern data. However there are a number of techniques we can is to narrow the scope of our data and ensure that our analytics are as targeted as possible.

A:

That's one thing I miss a great deal... meeting with the public at AGU every year and hanging with my friends from JPL and other places. Make sure you guys goto AGU and get your famous calendars... I think one year we gave away 20000 calendars.


Q:

Hey Robb. What's the biggest challenge you're facing as an independent Republican running with BNC in this race? What do you think is the best way to get over that challenge?

A:

Hi Christopher - had you been a criminal defense attorney at the time, would you have had a problem defending O.J.?


Q:

Would like to do something similar, but I'm still young (16) How much has it cost you so far?

Also, do you miss home

Edit: Cheers for the reply, I guess I could do a smaller version, Thanks for your time talking about this, It has inspired me :D

A:

You're designing your code to be portable so that other groups can also use it to increase transparency in regards their governments.

Have you had any conversations in regards how non-American implementations might differ? I'd imagine Germans, French, let alone Turkish, Chinese or Saudi Arabian implementations of this would provide different – uhh – insights.

Is what you're doing portable enough to work in more repressive nations? Not that the US is all that now (sadly), but I'd imagine Turkey would present very different challenges.

Are you planning on having some kind of starter pack for non-profits in foreign locales, both to run the analytics and also basics on how to reach out to their local journalists so news can get out for their findings?

PM me if you'd like some suggested articles on how journalists might protect themselves when they're in a hostile environment while they're doing their important work. The EFF, Privacy International and the Freedom of the Press Foundation are excellent sites with many resources, FWIW.


Q:

I have almost zero programming experience, but enjoyed my short experience with Python. I am interested in learning more, so my question is: How much Kerbal Space Program do you play at NASA programming bootcamp?

A:

Hey Sarah! Everyone should check out https://brandnewcongress.org/Candidates/sarah-smith. She's will make a great representative of the people of Washington state.

The biggest challenge for me is fundraising in the face of a well-supported incumbent. Congressman Womack is bought and paid for by his corporate donors. Our campaign is people-powered, as yours is. We're not accepting special interest or corporate money, which means we've got to rely on the support of everyday of Americans.

That's the challenge - but the benefit is so important - when we're elected, we'll be beholden to serve the people who supported us, not corporate lobbyists. And that will make all the difference!

Vote Sarah Smith in Washington 9!


A:

You have time. :) I'd guess minus the Antarctica trip I've spent 12-14k a year. Sometimes I miss home, but when I get into wifi a good conversation is only a skype call away.


Q:

Really, really cool question.

The code would be super easy to implement for any world government, and one of our hopes when we make it open source is that people can take it and modify it to those ends.

The key in our case(and govtrack's, and CongressEdit's) is that the WHOIS records of the IPs that belong to the House, Senate, FCC, and White House are in the public domain. I'm not sure if the same is true for other countries.

A:

I'm a big fan of KSP and I played it way more when I was at NASA than now. :-( At the bootcamp we want you coding not playing games...


Q:

Are you willing to seize the means of production and lead an revolutionary movement to remove the bourgeoisie?

A:

Thank you so much for doing this Ama!

My question is, you mentioned you were the prosecutor in the OJ Simpson case but that you now work as criminal defense attorney.

What pushed that shift from prosecutor to defense attorney?

Also, after OJ was found not guilty how did that effect your career moving forward?

Thanks again!


Q:

I've been following you for the last year, very inspiring!!! What's the biggest challenge in having Savannah with you? Also, what's HER biggest challenge? Thanks for doing this AMA! :)

A:

Are these people on "interesting" (cutting edge, hip, avant garde, risqué) sites a lot or are they checking AOL or CNN/FOX/MSNBC.

Are any of them (what ~%) researching policy positions in a meaningful way?


Q:

How did you land up a job in NASA and what were the requirements? (University, Experience etc) Also, this is my first time asking a question so forgive me if I did anything wrong.

A:

I'm more of a "love your enemies" kind of guy.


Q:

I became a defense attorney after the district attorney’s office terminated my employment.

A:

There aren't very many. Paperwork for crossing borders just takes a little consideration. And every once and a while it'll be hard to find a hotel to accept her, but in South and Central America I was always able to convince someone to let her in.

Her biggest challenge was Honduras I think. It was super hot and her paws cracked. I put antibiotics in the cracks and kept her paws in the booties for a few days. Since then though her paws have been like stones.


Q:

Getting our tool on major news sites is a long process that we are currently working through.

However, govtrack.us has some very informative policy and bill information, and publicly releases(some) of the real time data of what Congress is visiting on their site. Very cool way to see what bills congress is interested in on a given day--

Https://govtrack.us

A:

Well, aside from always wanting to work at NASA I got my chance through networking. A friend of someone who worked there found out I was looking for opportunities and put me in touch. When I interviewed they were looking for someone who knew how to work with sql databases. I knew a little and I got hired! It was a lot of luck and timing.


Q:

What is your stance on abortion? Are you pro-life and antiabortion?

A:

Is Fred Goldman's mustache as intimidating in real life as it is on TV?


Q:

You're in Dublin? Fancy a pint?

A:

I have a lot of questions but I'll limit myself to two lol

What advice do you have for an aspiring data scientist? And what projects would provide proof to an employer that I can do the job? Thanks


Q:

As a computer science student, my dream is to be working for companies like NASA or SpaceX. Is there anything else I can be doing now that will set me up for a career in the aerospace industry?

A:

I am prolife, but I think the best way to reduce the number of abortions is through access to healthcare and education. I think the focus of the prolife movement ought to be more focused on these things that have actually worked at reducing abortions rather than overturning Roe.


Q:

Fred's mustache is created by God as the eighth wonder of the world, and there's something about Fred, that when he talks, you want to listen. He is a straight-shooter. He never minces words. And he is as good a man as his mustache looks on television.

A:

Always


Q:

What advice do you have for an aspiring data scientist?

Most of the other data scientists I know are self-directed one way or another.

The first thing I did was get familiar enough with python that I wasn't tripping over my own code when I wanted to start working with data. I went through code academy's python course, then did some hackerrank data structures problems with python.

After that I went through and read about a lot of the basic DS implementations and did a version of my own. I started with probability and statistics, then went on and wrote a basic python implementation of nearest neighbor, multiple(and polynomial) regression, decision trees, a basic feed-forward neural net, k-means and hierarchical clustering and a few others

After that, I definitely recommend kaggle. I don't do a lot of competitive coding, but kaggle has a ton of open data sets so you can dive into a project about whatever data interests you. I did a couple projects on beer types and brewing distros, and now I'm working through the 2016 election data.

My biggest piece of advice would be not to sweat a lot of the more hyped stuff(neural nets, SVM, etc.) because 90% of the time you're going to be able to do really, really cool stuff really easily with way simpler DS solutions.

A:

At NASA Langley they have a number of internships available. LARS is one of the more popular ones. I agree with some of the comments below though... networking. There are many ways to get involved. Also, get involved in some of NASA's mentorship programs.


Q:

What's it like being the father of a two year old, and a college student, and running for office -- all simultaneously?

A:

Do you feel OJ really put forth his best effort when trying on the glove? To me, it has always appeared that he bent his hand just enough to prevent the glove from sliding on.

PS - Loved how honest you were after the parole hearing the other day!


Q:

How much of a language barrier have you faced while traveling? Has that ever caused much difficulty for you?

A:

I have a lot of questions but I'll limit myself to two lol

What advice do you have for an aspiring data scientist? And what projects would provide proof to an employer that I can do the job? Thanks


Q:

So is it possible to get ahold of some of this jerky?

A:

Plus, I co-pastor our church and work a full-time job.

Honestly? I don't watch nearly as much Netflix as I used to. That, and I'm tired a lot. But I can't imagine doing anything else right now.


Q:

Thank you. And no, he played around with it and tried to avoid making it fit. I hoped the jury would recognize that, but they couldn’t see it, because they didn’t want to see it.

A:

In Central America it was a little difficult. I was never completely useless in Spanish, but it was isolating not being able to connect on a deeper level with people. It'll be interesting in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia where I won't have the time in each country to pick up much of the language.


Q:

I will continue to answer this question, but need to refresh the page real quick and make sure I'm answering other q's as well :)

A:

I make it mostly in the fall and winter... maybe when I retire I'll try my hand at trying to sell some of it. My base marinade/cure is 50%soy sauce and then 50% Worcestershire sauce, after that I find the hottest hot sauces and then add as much as I think I can handle.


Q:

Hello Mr. Ryerse, What legislation would you support in regard to campaign finance reform? Would you like to see federal disclosure legislation, new Supreme Court decisions, or a Constitutional Amendment? Also, would you support legislation at the State level in regard to this issue?

A:

What was your relationship with Johnnie Cochran like after the OJ verdict?

Edit: Spelling


Q:

What is the most stunning photo you've captured so far?

A:

Do you accept the GI Bill?


Q:

We need to get the corrupting influence of money out of politics. So many other issues will never be able to be addressed until this one is because of the power of corporate donors.

I'm not taking PAC money or corporate donations. I think that's the way it ought to be so that our elected officials end up serving the people rather than their corporate donors.

Yes, I would support states addressing this issue, but I also think it will require a federal solution - probably coming from the courts since our legislators are bought and paid for by their corporate donors.

A:

When I began my solo practice as a criminal defense attorney, one of my first clients was a man referred to me by Johnnie Cochran.


Q:

Matter of opinion I suppose. For me it's a photo of an overturned humpback in Antarctica. It was grazing against our zodiac. I could have reached down and touched it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSQ5ZGdD3LC/?taken-by=theworldwalk

A:

Of our locations, only the Seattle (HQ) dojo accepts the G.I. Bill. We are still working to get all of our centers approved to do the same.


Q:

How does your wife feel about you running for Congress? How did you two meet?

A:

If you could not be an attorney, what other career would you consider?


Q:

Wow. This is incredible! Do you have a smart phone or are you using maps?

A:

Seems to be the trend. You want more business, I would recommend getting this done as there are tons of vets that would love to have more options.


Q:

We met in college in PA. Our 21st anniversary is right around the corner. She's my whole life.

And ... all of this was her idea. She first learned of Brand New Congress and introduced me to it. If she weren't 100% in, I wouldn't be doing this.

A:

Politics. I'd run for President of the United States. Except I might lose because I'm over-qualified.


Q:

Smart phone baby. And thankfully GPS works even without cell service.

A:

Being a vet myself I was excited to hear about this. In the military we did boot camp style learning cycles when we had to cross-train into different roles. You can also use the GI bill to pay for commercial pilot licenses.


Q:

Where do you get your news?

How will u resist blindly falling for the often unverified claims of the establishment (Iraq has WMDs and the like)?

Do you support getting rid of voting machines?

What do you think of Ranked Choice Voting?

A:

Hello Mr. Darden. Thanks for doing the AMA!

My question is in regards to the suitcase that was in OJ's custody on the day he arrived from Chicago; later, Rob Kardashian walked away with it. I'm not asking for speculation on what was in it, but rather curious how big of a focal point it was for the prosecution team to obtain it? Do you think the state could have gotten the contents of the suitcase? And finally, how do you personally feel about about potential evidence walking out the front door for the "Trial of the Century"?

Thanks.


Q:

Hey Tom! I absolutely love all of the amazing photos you've posted on your Instagram as you've gone on your journey! That being said, which photo do you think is the best one you've taken so far, and why?

A:

No offense to OP, but please don't use your GI Bill benefits on something like a coding bootcamp. Please use it to get a real education.


Q:

I think one of the biggest problems in our current system is that so many people stay within their own echo chamber. So, I intentionally read Drudge, FoxNews, HuffPost, and CNN everyday. I also get a lot of my news on Twitter.

Since my campaign is about People>Party, my loyalty will be to my voters not the establishment. Not to mention ... I'm a naturally skeptical person.

Not sure on the voting machines. I get that we're worried about hacking and interference, but I tend to be someone who wants to see us moving forward with innovation and technology.

I think Ranked Choice Voting is a really interesting idea that needs to be studied. I'm not opposed to it.

A:

Every time I see video of Simpson handing the Louis Vuitton bag to Kardashian, it makes me sick. We never learned the contents of the bag. I brought Kardashian to the Grand Jury and asked him about the bag under oath. There's nothing more I could say about that.


Q:

Oh man, that's a tough one. There are a ton of photos in Peru that didn't receive a ton of likes because they aren't classically Instagram beautiful, but which I just love because they capture the rawness and feeling of Peru.

A:

No offense taken. But a coding bootcamp is like a welding class in some ways (no offense to welders). It's just the beginning of the journey, not the end.


Q:

Not sure on the voting machines. I get that we're worried about hacking and interference, but I tend to be someone who wants to see us moving forward with innovation and technology.

I recommend watching the HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy"

A:

As a professor, would your students try and make references to the OJ case in their papers? Would it get them extra credit or would you flunk them? =P


Q:

Has doing the walk impacted any of your relationships in any serious way at all? Can't imagine it'd be easy sometimes, being away from everyone for so long.

Love your page, cheers :)

A:

Tabs or spaces?


Q:

I'll check it out. Thanks.

A:

My students made references to the trial in my Trial Advocacy class. It's a great teaching example and I was fine with students referring to the trial, so long as they didn't say "the glove did not fit."


Q:

The Walk has been almost nothing but positive. I'm walking and turning over thoughts all day. I have a lot of time to appreciate everything my family and friends have done for me. Also, being away from everyone for two years made me appreciate them that much more.

And thanks! Cheers :)

A:

Tabs of course.


Q:

Loved your quote (paraphrasing) "OJ may have been a model prisoner but he's far from a model citizen." Priceless !

Moving forward, what advice would you give to other prosecutors trying similar high profile cases against celebrities? How can we preserve objectivity without making a mockery of the legal system?

A:

Hey Tom, been a fan since your last one of these!

Anyway, how well do you think you get to know a country and its people and culture by walking through it? Is it more in ways you wouldn't have expected? Less in any way than what you expect?

Thanks!


Q:

What schooling did you have and what IT jobs did you work before you landed at NASA?

A:

I think that it’s important to have available to those prosecutors a mental health professional and someone to manage the media and social media. I think that will help a prosecutor stay grounded and focused. If it’s going to be a long trial – 8 moths, a year — I think it’s important to have a nutritionist available. By the time the Simpson case was over, I’d lost more than 20 pounds and 2 teeth, had 4 root canals, and God knows what else.


Q:

Glad to have you following!

I'd say much more than flying into a place then going to more touristy destinations. I'm forced to pass through all tiny one-horse towns. I eat at the typical restaurants all the other locals are eating at. In that way I think I get to know a country very well.

At the same time I don't think I get to know a country as well as if I were staying with a family. There is a lot to be learned from wikipedia, but I thinking having a local as a guide explaining the details would be ideal.

A:

I studied information and computer science. I did a lot of freelance work and I also worked as a systems administrator for a few years after I got out of school.


Q:

What are your thoughts about him recently making parole?

A:

What place has the best bathrooms?


Q:

Hi there! I am a Computer Science student in his 4th out of 5 years of study. Although I find my major interesting and enjoyable (at times), I find that I truly struggle with programming. I am at a level where they expect too-tier coding skills from me and each semester, my lack of experience is causing me to struggle more and more. For someone who is in as deep as myself and who does not wish to leave my study, what advice do you have to get me back on track and more proficient into coding? Thanks for any response!

A:

I fully expected that he would make parole. It was kind of nice seeing him in handcuffs and knowing he was in prison all those years, but I understand the Nevada parole board’s decision.


Q:

Machu Picchu. At least they did. I overheard a guide talking about the bathrooms and holy cow did those things have a view.

A:

First of all you have to be honest with yourself about how much time you're putting in. If you're doing just the minimum then that's not enough. Learning to code comes from putting in time. I sometimes have to do things at least 3x to figure it out for real. Don't beat yourself up--Don't compare yourself to others--Keep solving problems and challenging yourself.


Q:

Knowing what you know now and looking back on the case, would you have done anything different?

A:

This AMA is the first I've heard of you, but I'll be following your journey now:)

Do you believe that what you're doing would be safe for a female? Have you ever encountered a situation that has made you fearful?


Q:

What do you think about the rise in data science a separate degree and field of study?

A:

I would have done lots of things differently. First thing I would have done differently was to not announce beforehand that I intended to arrest O.J. By signaling to him that he was going to be arrested, it allowed him to get into his Bronco and take us on that slow speed Bronco chase.


Q:

I've been asked this a few times and really I'm not sure. I think being a female is a very different experience than being a male. I know women have walked around the world before though. Polly Letofsky would be the one to ask!

https://www.pollyletofsky.com/

I've had a few scary encounters, but less than you'd imagine. Most people are good.

A:

It makes sense that the more data we collect the more that we are going to want to figure out what to do with it. In terms of that field of study, I think that it’s the new gold rush. There is so much “raw” data out there that we can’t even imagine what to do with it. Data Scientists are people that can prepare data in a way that can help people understand problems. In relation to problem-solving, data science is key and I believe the field will continue to grow and gain popularity. “A story is just data with a soul.”


Q:

arguably one of the strangest things ive ever seen on live tv. the whole thing was a goddamn circus from start to finish. how glad we're you when the trial was over? did you take a long vacation to decompress from it all?

A:

Hey Tom,

Has your adventure given you any perspective or clarity as to what you would like to do once you move onto the next step of your life?


Q:

Why does this feel like an ad?

A:

I tried to take a year off and decompress, but during that time, they fired me. And that was one hell of a vacation.


Q:

In a certain way yes. I know I want traveling to be a part of my life. But I'm still not certain where I'll wind up after all this. I enjoy photography, I think it comes somewhat naturally to me. But I also enjoy writing, and I don't think it comes naturally to me at all so I really enjoy the challenge.

A:

Well, I don't get paid any extra for answering questions, and I was really thinking with all the news about dev-boot camp and the Ironyard. If anything I just wanted to get in front of people and answer questions if they have any. So, ad? Maybe, from some people's perspective--but it's just where I work.


Q:

Do you think OJ will commit more crimes once he's released?

A:

I see in your infographic that there was an attempted robbery in Panama. Where exactly was it and how did it happen? I currently live in Panama City and if you make your way back let me know so that I can walk with you for a bit. Definitely fascinated by your story!


Q:

Regardless of a college degree, coding camp, or self taught, what valuable advice will you give to those trying to break into the Web dev/tech industry?

A:

You mean like crimes against nature? I don’t know. I hope not.


Q:

Yeah, it was on my last day in Central America and I was just six miles from an AirBnb I had booked. I was on the outskirts of the city, probably a mile or two from the Bridge of the Americas. I knew for a while I was in a pretty sketchy area. I was hungry and tired though, and once I thought I was through the worst of it I stopped in a store to buy some breakfast. As I sat outside eating it I felt something cold on my neck. I glanced up to see a nasty, red-eyed guy holding a shiv. I jumped up. He came towards me and I backed into the shop. Savannah was tied to the cart. My backpack had my knife and mace and I'd taken it off, it was by my cart. I got backed against the wall. I was yelling at him, he was yelling "shutup!" in English at me. I remember looking for something to defend myself with and seeing nothing but bread around me. "There's nothing but bread!" I thought. Then suddenly the guy took off. I followed and there was a crowd outside. They pointed down an alley. The cops were throwing another guy against a wall and my backpack was laying on the ground (with my passport and Savannah's paperwork in it). The cops must have been there immediately because the whole incident only lasted a minute or so. Big props to those cops saving my butt.

A:

Be passionate about it, prove it by building some things that you really love--do things well, and focus on making a contribution. You'll get noticed.


Q:

Do you feel the Rodney King beating/LA Riots and elevated racial tensions had an impact on the Simpson verdict?

A:

What is the most beautiful place you've been?

Also, your Instagram is the most amazing page on the internet.


Q:

What does Dan feel that CodingDojo has that other cheaper/free courses do not have?

What was Dan's favorite/most memorable day at NASA?

A:

Absolutely. It made the jury more willing to accept the ridiculous idea that LAPD officers framed Simpson.


Q:

Yeesh. There are a lot of beautiful places. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is breathtaking. The paramos in the Andes are surreal. The deserts of Perú and Chile were powerful and harsh. Antarctica was like being on another planet. Each has their own aspects of beauty.

A:

I think the main benefit for attending Coding Dojo or any other paid boot camp is that you have other people trying to achieve the same goal as you are. At Coding Dojo our goal is for you to become a self-sufficient developer. One thing about programming is that you have to code to get good at it, there are no shortcuts. We create a space for you to code as much as you can, provide you with projects and problems to solve, and people to help you learn. We don't steal learning opportunities.

As for my favorite day while at NASA, it was probably when I was able to goto Alaska and work with the Yupik tribes, the project was to bring NASA data into their schools. On that trip, I got to spend a day exploring glaciers near Whittier, AK--that was amazing.


Q:

What actor would you have liked to portray you on the television?

A:

What do your meals consist of? Do you keep a cooler of any sort on your cart? Did you ever have any problems in certain countries getting dog food for Savannah?


Q:

But that's what every boot camp claims.

How do prep your students for tech interviews?

A:

I don't know. I think that Sterling K. Brown is now me for the ages. I wrote the best book for that trial. My book was on the New York Times best seller list at #1 for weeks. However, no one in Hollywood discovered just how good it is. I think that 20 years ago, Denzel Washington would have made a good Chris Darden. I think that Tyrese Gibson would make a good Chris Darden if the series focused more on my personal life than my legal life. But I do hope one day somebody does do a movie about me and my life, perhaps just to enrich my children, if nothing else. But so far, people just steal my words and my images and don't even fucking bother to buy me a two-piece chicken snack at Popeyes.


Q:

If I don't come across any restaurants or small stores, a typical day would be a pbj or some sort of bar for breakfast, lots of nuts and snacks during the day, then two pbjs for dinner. I had my stove stolen in Guatemala and didn't get another until Argentina. In Argentina I started making a good amount of soup and pasta.

I don't have any cooler. And dog food has been incredibly easy to get a hold of. Even in the most remote towns there are dogs and dog food. Sometimes it was just a guy with a massive bag of dog food selling it in smaller bags.

A:

Our career services staff have our students do mock interviews, they give suggestions on their presence online and on paper. We also try to give them confidence and build them up--to that end we do algorithms every morning on whiteboards, with the focus on being able to solve problems in front of people and communicate those solutions clearly.


Q:

I remember reading that your kids did not know you were famous. What do they think of this now that they know?

A:

I would like to hear about Savannah - specifically how would you describe your relationship with your canine friend after spending every hour of every day together? Is there some type of deep understanding or bond formed, do you communicate well? When Trek is over will you keep him/her?


Q:

One thing about programming is that you have to code to get good at it, there are no shortcuts

I believe this to be true. Coding Dojo claims 20 hours for 20 weeks is adequate to become a self-sufficient developer. How many of the 400 hours is spent learning a classroom environment vs hands-on programming?

A:

They don’t like it at all. They see and they read the social media and the comments that people make and they’re hurt by it.


Q:

Sav and I are totally synched up. She listens to my slightest command. She is exactly the dog she needs to be. When we're walking she is a trooper and sees each day through without complaint. When I rest, she rests. When I stand, she stands. At night she doesn't like sleeping in the tent (unless it's raining). She patrols the ground immediately surrounding me and barks if she sees something. When I wake up she's there to greet me outside the tent shaking with excitement. I'm protective of her, but also trust her. She could do all the walking without a leash, she'd stay right beside me if off it. I like to have her on the leash in case something startles her though. I'll have Savannah forever. Couldn't imagine it otherwise.

A:

You're thinking about the online program. The expectation is different for the onsite camp. There students spend up to 12 hours a day coding with demos and short lectures all through the day. Some days more than others. It depends on what the cohort is struggling with.


Q:

You're probably sick of dealing with the OJ case after all these years, so I'll ask something different.

What your favorite TV show?

A:

Are you going to walk the Camino de Santiago? If you do I suggest walking the Camino del Norte along the northern coast - absolutely breathtaking views!


Q:

I'm currently in the last year of my physics Master and looking to get into a simulation/visualization-based field (for example game engine development). Can you recommend what I should focus on getting experience in or maybe a path for someone "fresh on the market"? Based in Germany if that's relevant.

A:

Gunsmoke. The episodes get better after you've seen them 60 or 70 times.


Q:

Thanks for the tip! The plan now is to follow the Eurovelos. This would mean walking along the south coast of Spain so I'd likely miss the Camino de Santiago.

A:

Get into OOP. Check it out.


Q:

Hi Christopher - There seem to be a ton of docudrama TV shows about the trial and OJ in general, especially lately. Do you ever watch any of them? If so, what do you think of them?

A:

Among all the questions mentioned here, there's one that needs to be known by all: is Savannah a good girl? Do help me tell her that she's a good girl. 🐶


Q:

How often are you attacked for having a part in "covering up the flat earth"? You must be very strong if you are able to battle gravity as well as carry the weight of such a vast conspiracy on your shoulders.

For the record the earth is not flat its clearly a cube and thats why they think its flat.

A:

I have never watched any of them.


Q:

Who's a good girl?!

A:

Hilarious... I got to meet Neil Degrasse Tyson one time at an ASP conference.... check out what he says: https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/887467861119205376 I've been attacked more because people believe that contrails are evil.


Q:

How did they not think of the fact that leather shrinks in the trial?

A:

How do you cross the seas?


Q:

As someone in the industry and has works with Code School graduates, do you believe they are as qualified as their associates who pursued and obtained a 2-4 year degree?

Do you believe that some Code Schools (or trade schools as you called them in an above post) are much better than others?

A:

I take responsibility for the glove issues, so if there is any blame or fault to be assessed, it fell on me. And it should be assessed to me because I'm the only one strong enough to carry that burden.


Q:

Fly

A:

My opinion on this is that they have different goals. Colleges have been more aligned with giving people the big picture and giving you some exposure to the skill you're learning. As for being as qualified, I've met CS college grads who didn't code much at all as a student in a 4year--and couldn't solve FizzBuzz if you asked them... but they know a lot about the history of programming and computers. But, then I've met bootcamp students who don't know anything about Alan Turing or Moore's Law, and they are really talented coders. They are fundamentally different IMO. I believe that like everything else, some schools and bootcamps are better than others... of course they are. But I also believe that you get what you put into both of them. It's more important for you to focus on you and what works for you best and your conditions.


Q:

How far, if at all, do you think the conversation about race/racism has evolved since the verdict?

A:

Hey Tom. I've been traveling vicariously through you for years. Love your photography.

Just saw the infographic, awesome. You have so many insane sounding moments - "woken by machete", "stop robbery", "knife to the neck". Any chance of a book when you're done? And any chance you'd elaborate on one of those here?


Q:
  • How do you feel about the current craziness in the Javascript library wars?
  • Do you ever feel that most of programming is simply: Identify Data, Get Data, Store Data, Process Data, Present Data and that if you can grasp those concepts, then programming is pretty much trivial (aka semantics)?
  • Do you feel if the US does not seriously start teaching more tech/math/science in schools then we as a country are doomed?
  • Do you ever worry about security in your projects and if so, how much does that influence hamper your creativity?
A:

It took a few years after the verdict to calm folks down so that we could have a conversation about race, and we did that. And I think things got better when we elected Barack Obama. But now, I feel like it’s 1964 again.


Q:

I'd love to do a book when I'm finished. Frankly I've been through so much I don't know how I'd fit it into a single book.

The "stop robbery" is in quotation marks for a reason. I asked a guy in Nicaragua if I could sleep at his brick foundry (basically he had a big outdoor oven and bricks lined up drying in the sun). He said yes. So I laid my tarp there and fell asleep. Around 4a.m. I was woken by a locked being banged around. I sat up and saw three men with a flashlight working on the storage shed lock. After some consideration, I decided I had to do something. The owner was nice enough to let me sleep there, I couldn't stand by while he got robbed. So stood, stuck forward a bit, then lit the three guys with my headlamp beam. My Spanish wasn't that great and they were far away so I couldn't understand them. Savannah kept by my side. I stood in silence, staring at them, knowing my poor Spanish wouldn't give me away as a gringo. They approached slowly and soon we could make out each other. We got talking and they said they were workers (coming to turn the bricks? I can't remember exactly). But a minute later I watched the lock open as a guy finally found the correct key. They thanked me for attempting to stop their "robbery" then I went back to sleep.

A:

A colleague gave me a book that taught me a lot about design patterns. So when it gets crazy, I just try to remind myself that it's the concepts that matter. There are more than one type of burger places out there... and there are more than one JS lib... the best one is the best for the job you're tasked with.

In a lot of ways yes. Problems that people want to be solved can sometimes get mundane and follow the pattern you're describing. If programming something can make someone's experience better I'll do it. Even if it's a little boring. Even though I might get lost in the code, it's still cool to see someone benefit from a clever program.

I don't think that we are doomed just because of one thing. As far as teaching and the specific subjects go, let's start treating our teachers and scientists like rock stars. When our culture swings a bit more towards the value that is created in our professors, teachers, instructors and mentors. I think we'll be fine. Think about it this way, remote sensing has been around for what... like 70 years? We are at the very beginning of the Einsteinian era in relation to science. I think there is way more ahead.

Of course, I worry about security. In fact, my co-worker was freaking out when he saw my "proof" for this AMA. He's the one that made me take a pic of my NASA award with my user name. I've studied photography as well... I thought it was like science and art mixed together and I loved that. I sat through a lot of brutal critiques from my peers for a while. Being creative is being courageous. No one likes it at first.


Q:

Thanks for doing this! Have you talked to Mark Furman since the trial and if so what was the interaction?

A:

Hi Tom! You're very inspiring. I love following you and Savannah and seeing all of your wonderful pictures. What kind of camera do you use to take your shots? Stay safe out there :)


Q:

I have very basic coding experience from my time in high school. Now I am a middle aged man who is interested in taking it up again and possibly switching careers. What has been your experience in teaching older students? Any success stories?

A:

I have not talked or spoken to Mark Furhman since the trial. For obvious reasons.


Q:

Thanks! Doing my best.

I use my Pixel when I'm lazy, and my Nikon D610 when I'm not.

A:

Okay, first of all we have quite a few students that are in your shoes. I'll say that for some folks it's harder than others... Overall though older students have way more skin in the game, and they work hard. That's been my experience. If you look me up on LinkedIn and PM me there, I can point out a couple of folks that have done well... but I'd say they were probably superstars before they came to us. If you think that programming is something you'll love doing then I think you should go for it.


Q:

Hi Christopher! Which do you think was more harmful to the prosecution's case: having O.J. try on the gloves (which ended up not fitting), or the fact that Mark Furhman was exposed as a racist cop who very likely planted evidence?

A:

Been following you for years now! Journey looks incredible! Thanks for sharing it.

Question: what's been your worst or craziest encounter with wildlife while on your World Walk?


Q:

Are there any new, growing Web technologies you would suggest getting familiar with for someone already in the field?

A:

Furhman. I'm sure as hell not going to say it was the glove. Duh.


Q:

Thanks for following!

I haven't had any encounters too insane. The most memorable was probably in Costa Rica. I woke in my tent in a palm forest and when I sat up there was a tarantula on the other side of my bug net, literally an inch from my eye. In an instant I punched that thing as hard as I could and it went flying out of sight.

A:

Look at how much snapchat charges for a filter... I think companies like facebook are all over that. You should check out some of the facial recognition tools that are out there and running great in the browser.


Q:

what first got you interested in law?

please ask the assistant who set up the lighting rig in your bedroom to also make your bed!

A:

Hi Tom,

I am originally from Cherry Hill, NJ and have really enjoyed following your amazing journey! I love your photography and would like to know how to purchase some shots. Please let me know if there is anyway I could to do so in person in the South Jersey area. Safe travels!!


Q:

What advice you give to someone who is a professional developer (1 year into my first job) with a BS in physics who wants to work for NASA one day (in development or engineering)?

A:

I grew up at a time when there were a number of public trials involving civil rights leaders and what were referred to as "black militants." So there were a number of political trials and I knew how important the law was to the black community, and I admired those lawyers who took those cases, and I wanted to be one of them.


Q:

Hey Kev!

I have some prints for sale here: https://society6.com/theworldwalk

A:

Network! Get out to some science related conferences where you know NASA will be at: AGU (American Geophysical Union), ASP (astronomical society of the pacific)-- start with the big orgs!


Q:

What do the think of the theory that OJs son killed Nicole and Ron? Did your office explore this before the trial?

A:

Hey Tom, incredible story and your walk truly is inspiring!

Honest question though: why walking? I mean, you could do a similar trip by biking or driving and seemingly achieve similiar goals of living life to the fullest, so what made you choose walking?


Q:

Why do you feel like anyone can program? The vast majority of those who graduate from boot camp can't think critically, and programming requires many years of practice to master fully. Do you think you are giving people false hopes?

A:

I think the theory that OJ's son was involved in the murders is defamatory and untrue.


Q:

Initially it was actually just because I was in high school and had no money. I was looking for cheap ways to travel. Then the idea stuck in my head and I rationalized it, I suppose. I think it's a brilliant way to see the world though. You really get to know yourself and the places you pass through.

A:

I don't really feel like anyone can program, and I do my best to make sure that people know that programming isn't the career for everyone. I don't like how bootcamps do advertise salaries and stuff like that... If it's any consolation, I try my best to help people decide if they are really right for a bootcamp style learning experience. That starts with finding out if they are doing it for the right reasons. Money is great and we all need security. Check out what James Gosling says about it... he created Java: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r19P3y1VBiw


Q:

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

A:

hey, i'm 18 and just failed at this in europe after 3 weeks. Although i met cool people and learnt a lot, not eating and sleeping rough in cities destroyed me. How the hell did you eat and sleep well enough?


Q:

At what point in a career would you recommend attending a programming boot camp? Is is enough to understand what variables, functions, classes etc are and how they work or should participants go in with a lof of hands-on experience already to really get the most of it?

Bonus question: How many times did you have to clarify that you're not an astronaut when you told people you work for NASA?

A:

My mama and daddy grew up in the south in East Texas, and my favorite ice cream is black walnut.


Q:

Yeah it isn't easy. After two years I'm pretty well trained. Just a matter of finding a good hiding spot and never sleeping in cities unless it's in a room.

A:

Lot's of our students don't necessarily understand variables, functions etc... I think when you decide that it's something you really want to do, then go for it. Figure out it programming is right for you. Don't think about salaries or anything. I know that's generic advice but I don't suggest our program to anyone who hasn't spent some time deciding they love to work with computers. As for the bonus... haha--many many times... They especially got confounded when I told them I was in an Earth Science part of NASA. I got the alien question a lot as well.


Q:
  1. What was the most boring section of the walk so far? The most captivating?

  2. What advice or wisdom would you give to someone who wants to do something similar?

  3. Can you sign my comment?

A:

What are the coding languages that you know? How did you learn them and how are some of the ways to practice them? Where do you think is a good place to start learning code(i.e. "beginner languages)?


Q:
  1. South Peru. So much desert. It was still incredible, just tough. And the paramos in Colombia. I was walking through there in perpetual awe.
  2. You can't walk around the world in a day. You can't plan a walk around the world in a day. It took me nearly twice as long to start this trip as the trip itself will take.
  3. Tom "the tall gringo with a dog pushing the baby carriage" Turcich
A:

I started with C++ but that was only because the college I went to taught that as our first language. It's object oriented and like zeinoth is saying it's more important to understand the concepts and knowing how to apply the language you know to solve a problem. Also, if you want to develop games then you need a language like c++. Once you learn one, it's way easier to do things in others. I play codewars when I have time just to keep sharp and solving new problems.

A lot of programmers believe that python is a good starting language because of its syntax and widespread use. We start with that in the dojo.

Right now I'm into a bunch of languages, and I've forgotten more than I probably know now.


Q:

Hey man, Can you tell us more about your ayahuasca trip? Stuff like what the was setting like? what lead up to it? How did you go into it and what did you find at the end of your trip. Any great revaluations? Not many people have walked around the entire world, I can imagine it must have been an intense sprituital experience

A:

My friend currently is working as an intern developing some wikis for NASA! He says there are some hidden neat Easter eggs that some developers leave on some of the pages. Can you attest to that?


Q:

Sure. I have a friend who's been training to be a shaman and was living with shipibo indians working with ayahuasca traditionally for two years. I had a lot of faith that he'd do things in the purest fashion and when I arrived in Lima I was fortunate enough to find out he could get me in with a group who'd be dieting with the Noya Rau tree for a week. So I booked a cheap flight to Iquitos and met him there.

The meloka and our rooms were well out in the jungle. The entire experience felt very authentic and assured. I threw up too quickly the first two times to get much out of the ayahuasca. My body really rejected it. But the third time I held it down for an hour and a half or so. I saw myself from the outside a lot and in that way it was humbling. But mostly it was as though every thought was turned hyper visual. Every thought was like a movie. I didn't have any revelations. After walking for so long I'd already gone over all my memories hundreds of times.

The next morning though I felt a sense of awareness that I didn't realize I was missing. As though I'd been looking at the world with a sort of tunnel vision, automatically excluding a great amount. But that morning following the ceremony things were wide open, everything seemed possible.

A:

Hmmm... I've not heard that one... I'm geeky enough sometimes to do stuff like that but I never did.


Q:

How has the gear you're carrying with you changed over time? Anything you really needed but then realised you can do without?

A:

What is the point of a bootcamp? Why not just use a free online tutorial?


Q:

I had two goal zero solar panels for all of North America. They worked great because I was walking with the sun in front of me. Once I was in the southern hemisphere and walking south the sun was at my back so my shadow blocked the sunlight from the solar panels. I wound up giving the panels to a Colombian family then realizing I never really needed them, I could charge my battery when I stopped at restaurants or a hotel.

A:

I'd say that it's a place where you go and work out with other people and to leverage other people's knowledge. I don't think there is any magic or anything special that we do other than try to coach you and motivate you. Bootcamps aren't for everyone, and people quit. I think of it like a long training camp where you set some goals and go and work out until you are strong. If you can learn by online free stuff, it's out there and can totally work. Other people just like the environment.


Q:

I've been following you and Savannah since one of your first AMA's. How do you think this experience so far has molded or changed you for better or worse? I think this European leg has got to be an exciting one for you. Be safe and have fun!

A:

In your opinion, where is the best place to start? I have been doing IT for years so am familiar with technology but I want to get into coding. How do I get going?


Q:

I'm far more understanding of people in tough situations. Not everyone has had it easy, not everyone has it easy. There are a lot of tough situations to be born into. But irregardless of what a person has or doesn't have, irregardless of how they look, I start with the utmost respect for them.

I'm far less understanding of greed and corruption. One of the most profound lessons I've learned has been from crossing borders on foot. The only things that changes with a few steps is the government, but man how things can change with those few steps. There are so many good people in this world, it sucks seeing some of them without running water or working bathrooms.

A:

If you're like me, then when I was doing IT and was a big shot "systems admin", I felt more like a slightly higher paid computer tech. I was always fixing something or tinkering around with some hardware, like new UPS or whatever.

Coding is definitely a change. You should start from the very beginning and forget what you think you know about programming and programmers. Find some habits like playing codewars or solving code based algorithms.... I'll get back to this...


Q:

How many pairs of foot wear do you expect to go through?

A:

I'm a high school senior, and I wanted to know if a computer science degree or an aerospace engineering degree is preferred to be a developer at NASA?


Q:

Ooo baby. 60 pairs of shoes maybe?

A:

I worked with a woman at langley who has a degree in Math, and I have to say she's probably one of the smartest and best programmers I know. I also know a geology major that's a front end dev... so while it will help get your foot in the door... If you can do the job people will give you a shot if you can get in front of them. Generally speaking though, employers could use more math people... at NASA and everywhere else.


Q:

How do you decide what route to take through a country? Are there particular cities you're trying to hit? What country are you most looking forward to?

A:

Has anyone asked about aliens yet?


Q:

It generally involves looking at Google Earth first then asking locals what's best. I wanted to hit Lima because of a friend there, but generally I don't care much for cities. I prefer the small towns to the cities. Right now I'm most looking forward to Croatia.

A:

Only about 100 times... but it's still valid... I dunno.


Q:

Hey Tom, friend from HT. Excitied to see what Europe brings! Outside of places you have been and visiting friends or family which place are you most looking forward to seeing for the first time?

A:

Do you ever worry about reaching a tipping point where teaching people to code ends up more driving down wages than getting people into well-paying jobs?


Q:

Hey HT!

Spain seems like an incredible place; the tapas, the architecture, the lifestyle. Everyone I've spoken to who's been there has absolutely loved it.

A:

I've never thought of it because I think that the number of people retiring soon is going to cause a greater demand in programs those folks were working on. I read a quora question the other day that got answered with something like COBOL still being used all over the place and that there are tons of people leaving COBOL based jobs. We can look at a lot of job figures but I think that there is solid demand for coders for at least a good while.


Q:

How are you going to go from England to France, ferry or channel tunnel?

What's your favorite and least favourite local delicacy you have tried so far?

Have a great trip :)

A:

Is 41 too old to land a Jr dev job if you completed a bootcamp? Would a bigger company or a smaller company/start up be more likely to hire someone my age? And last.. what are the best US cities for someone like me? Thanks!


Q:

Ferry. The ferry accepts dogs so it should work well enough.

Most favorite: Papusas. Bar none. 25 cents and delicious.

Least: A particular Cuy I bought from an indigenous woman in Ecuador. Staring at that guinea pig's face messed with me for bit.

A:

Nahh... 41 is the new 21. If you have some skills and are willing to get paid a bit less at first--people want people who can do what they say they are going to do... but you know that. I think that any cities that we don't hear about like Cincinnati or Tulsa, or Grand Rapids, but have great economies and people are going to be where I'm putting my money soon.


Q:

What places that you haven't visited yet are you most excited to see? And which places have so far been able to take your breath away?

A:

Why does the NASA certificate look like it was made by a 10 year old in Word?


Q:

Croatia is top of the list right now. I have lots of family there and have heard it's a spectacular place.

When I first saw Lake Atitilan in Guatemala I literally screamed and whooped. Guards from a national park entrance came out and laughed at me.

A:

LOL, probably was.


Q:

Of the many places you have walked to. Which town or city outside the US could you see yourself living out the rest of your life and why?????

A:

Yo. How much experience do you need before going into a boot camp? Thanks!


Q:

I could easily move back to Colombia. Such wonderful people. Such beautiful landscapes. There's a sort of magic about the entire country which I would love to live in for a little while.

A:

We require that you have looked into programming, know that you will enjoy it and are passionate about learning. a little background information is suggested but not required. we believe we can teach anyone how to program and start from the basics


Q:

Whats the most beautiful thing you have witnessed?

A:

Are aliens real?


Q:

So many stars at once they felt like a weight on my chest.

A:

Aliens are absolutely real and I know one named Dave.


Q:

Tom, this is fantastic and I wish you all the best. I walked the coast of California in 1995 (in a pair of Timberland sandals) and found, for lack of a better word, 'magic' happening after about my second week of walking. I'm extremely curious if you have had any meaningful experiences that just bear no explanation other than that "magical"?

I know, probably a subjective term, but an example: as I was approaching Big Sur I came across a book lying on the side of the road, wrapped in a plastic bag: a biography of Mildred Norman Ryder (Peace Pilgrim). If you've never heard of her, she walked the later years of her life in the name of peace. I still have that book today and the encounter was one of several on my walk which opened my eyes to the mere fact that there is indeed much more to this world than meets the eye.

Best to you, and keep on treading!

A:

Whom would you recommend programming boot camps to?


Q:

By far the most magical thing that's happened on my walk was in Perú. I was mentally destroyed after being in the desert so long. I come to this middle of the nowhere restaurant and find on the wall an article of my hero, Karl Bushby. Then I get brought to the back by the owner and shown and note from Bushby nearly twenty years old. Our paths had crossed twenty years apart at this little nowhere restaurant. That certainly gave me the motivation I needed.

A:

I guess I don't do that very often, especially considering my current line of work. But there are a ton of people that put all boot camps into the Devry/ITT boat without considering that some people actually do have integrity-- I'll get on with the answer:

I almost never know who is going to be successful. We as an org have tried to figure it out and, I've reached out to people like Angela Duckworth, a Stanford professor working with UPENN has been trying to figure this out. This is a cool talk if you have 6min: https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance

So, if I had to go out on a limb--and put my reputation and integrity on the line. I probably would only recommend a boot camp style path to those who I could objectively identify the presence of grit in their character... and this would be super hard to do in an interview, right. And, so I guess I wouldn't recommend it to many. My job though isn't necessarily to pick people, I'm just a coach and a mentor. I can guide people, I am a good leader.

In many ways, I work with people that would have been successful with or without me or my boot camp. I would recommend that if you really really really want to code, you don't need a boot camp. We just assist you in that journey.


Q:

Hi Tom! I have been following your journey for a while now and find it very inspirational and motivating and I'm always looking forward to read tour post and see you pictures. I wanted to ask you whatnhas been the most difficult situation you have both encounter so far and also since I'm from Colombia Can you name two things you liked about my country? Thanks

A:

Thanks for this AMA! Hopefully this question isn't too late for you to notice, it'd really mean a lot to me if you could answer.

In the fall I'll be a senior in high school. I'm currently the president of my school's FRC team, and have done the majority of the programming for the past few years. I'm really interested in getting into software engineering, the specifics of which I'm not certain. To best ensure success in the coding industry, what types and levels of education and skills should I acquire now and in college to keep myself viable and marketable?

Again, thank you so much for this opportunity!


Q:

The most difficult situation must have been Costa Rica. The heat and humidity were so insane we couldn't walk beyond 10a.m. I really worried about Savannah there. I knew how much I was struggling and so couldn't imagine how much she was struggling in her coat.

Colombia - The passion for dancing and the Tejo

A:

nuclearwombat--so when you get into school, make sure you check out ACM- it's the association for computing machinery. They have chapters in quite a few universities and colleges. That will get you around people like you.

Aside from that, just keep your chin up--have fun with it and take your time. You've got your whole life and career ahead of you. Make good relationships with your classmates. They will be your co-workers and friends forever.

Your best skill is to remember you're always going to have to learn something new. Don't get bored with that don't become a C-teamer just because everyone else is doing it.

Last but not least, do what you really enjoy doing--don't ever let the haters get to you.


Q:

Been following you for about a year now. Your pictures from South America and Antarctica were beautiful. Just one question:

Did you have to get a certain visa for walking in Europe? I know you can only spend 90 days in the EU within a 180-day span, so I'm curious if you found a work-around to that. Thanks!

A:

What did you enjoy the most in your job ? And what did you least like ?


Q:

To the best of my knowledge there's a visa for mainland Europe, then separate ones for Ireland, the UK, and some other countries. I should be able to pass through France, Switzerland, and Italy fairly quickly. Then I'll have to walk from Spain to Croatia on what I have left of the 90 days. The countries are small, but I'll be cutting in close. Once I get to Croatia I'll receive a different visa.

A:

I enjoyed the freedom to greate almost anything I wanted within the scope of Earth Schience and Data Viz. I got to hang out with some great people and travel all over the place. I've been to every state besides Hawaii, and 23 different countries. What I didn't like is the paperwork... lots of that. Oh, and meetings.


Q:

You're my hero now. Where can I join?

A:

USAjobs.gov for NASA jobs, there are tons of great ways to get involved with comp sci and developing... pick one.


Q:

Applying as a developer for NASA, do they put you through a hardcore code challenge?

Were there positions the focused on a specific discipline, for example front end web dev? Looking though some openings at JPL I only see fullstack positions.

A:

During my first interview, I sat with a senior dev and she quizzed me on sql queries and how much I knew about postgres. They had already checked my references and I had a bunch of work online back then. I didn't get any code challenge at all. They were more interested in my team mentality and how coachable I was. There are definitely positions that are advertised as hard-core but unless you're working with flight or some hard core engineering group you'll probably have a lot of freedom to do things the way you want. At JPL they have a science education outreach team there--get it touch with them. There's a guy named Peter Falcon that is on the SMAP team and he will know a lot of places to find some jobs. These guys do science reporting work as well so they are the front facing guys in the org.


Q:

Great! Thank you for the info, lots of good advice I'm seeing here. Thank you for taking the time out to speak about your experience.

A:

You're welcome. I'd post Pete's email here but you can find it online if you google SMAP + his name. Good luck! Remember that a lot of times the job requirements are written to conform with a contractual agreement rather than by the actual daily duties you'll be doing. And that the person that makes the hiring decision is rarely the person who's writing the job advert. In the interview, the main thing is to be confident and don't oversell. If you don't know something, say, "I don't know." and move on. I asked a candidate just last week to define a: "associative dangling pointer", just to see if I could get them to say it.


Q:

Is there an ancient alien civilization on Mars?

No for real tho

A:

Yes, there are probably Martians. Ancient? Obviously.


Q:

What's your favorite part of working as a developer? I'm currently a student and intern at a software company learning and I'm loving it so far! Thanks!

A:

My favorite part is the problem solving part. And doing something that is of actual value to someone else.


Q:

Do you really use Chrome Ultron?

A:

No.


Q:

I'm an engineer and I lost my job, and I'm sort of in a rut. I have a biomedical engineering degree and I have worked in mechanical and manufacturing.

Any advice or info on how to switch my trajectory towards NASA?

A:

Sorry to hear about that. Make sure you start looking at the jobs on USAJobs.gov--You could also look at other groups like USGS and NOAA as they work a lot with NASA. I know it sounds a little desperate, but post some NASA stuff up on your social media and let everyone you know that you want a job working for NASA because it's your passion and dream job. You never know who people know. I got my start through this path...


Q:

Thanks for the advice. This is legitimately helpful. I appreciate it. Hope I didnt come off as dower, I'm hopeful and I have some back up plans. I will put your advice to action.

A:

I didn't think you were a downer at all. I remember feeling pretty down on myself between jobs in the past. It happens to us all, in that we all find ourselves unemployed from time to time. I think you're doing the right thing and deciding now that you have the opportunity to make the most of it and start vectoring in the direction that you want to make a change for something that you've always wanted. Don't sell yourself short now that you're out of work, or at the very least hold off as long as you can until you've really decided what it is that you want to do.


Q:

You didn't work there when McKinnon did his thing?

Idk just found the mckinnon story neato and wondered about hacking nasa.

Thanks your hard work no real ? Here

A:

Nope, that was a bit before my time. I did have a site that I was managing get hacked though. It was because I opened an account for her and it was a weak password that she was supposed to change. She didn't and it got dictionary attacked. Luckily the hackers didn't do anything very nasty, just a post on the homepage, and they didn't get past the firewall. We caught it though seconds after it happened.


Q:

What is the most inane standard you had to meet/implement?

A:

Every time someone would try to hack one of my sites--this would usually be on a friday afternoon, weekend or holiday--I would get a huge 100 page report of literally dozens of "vulnerabilities". We could start there but it would take forever. They were usually security related... but there was one time that I spent more than a week working with a scientist who couldn't decide what color blue was the best...


Q:

[Serious] What are the potential effects of a zero-gravity environment on natural breast enlargement, and what efforts are currently going toward researching this cause?

Thanks, huge fan.

A:

So, what you're asking is really does skin get looser or stretch less in a zero-g environ? There has to be a bunch of research out there considering the amount of money spent in this area. I, however, don't know of any studies currently in progress on this interesting topic.


Q:

How did you come to be a web developer for NASA and did it require more qualifications beyond web development knowledge and experience? -Current CS student

A:

Well... first I let people in my network know what I wanted to do. I talked about NASA and eventually I got my shot. Luck and communications... goto places where you'll meet NASA employees. Every year they do some outreach things like NASA's Day of Education--And most centers have an open house annually.


Q:

Thank you for this AMA!

My family is going to the Kennedy Space Center next month. Is there a hidden feature of that place that you most highly recommend families to check out, that few people know about?

A:

Hmmm... I'm not aware of anything... "secret" necessarily... but make a whole day of it. I would say though that don't miss the VAB and the bus tour... the rocket garden is awesome... I dunno... if you know someone with a CAC card they can get you on.


Q:

My question might be none of your concerns but there it is : I will enter a french engineer school in IT in September, and we have to go like 6 months in any enterprise for our final year, so do I have any chance to be accepted at Langley NASA center ?

A:

Sure! you should talk with some of the ESA folks and the CALIPSO project... CALIPSO is a joint mission and I'm sure there are ESA folks involved. Get some guys to send you some recs.


Q:

If you had the ability to do so: would you mandate that schools offer Java or some programming language to count as a foreign language credit? I'm talking jr high/high school.

A:

Yes. I think that we need more computer science and programming in our schools. the kids love it and are totally in position to be the best programmers we've ever seen. Plus, they are smart, have time and energy to solve the really hard problems.


Q:

Do you have to be an American Citizen to work for NASA in Computer Science? (my country doesn't have a huge space industry, although with RocketLabs its getting there)

A:

You don't, there are plenty of foreign nationals that are working at NASA. Again... check out USAjobs.gov and also look at people who are winning technology contracts. Each NASA center has it's own subset of contractors.


Q:

Nasa has great snaps. Who's takes all snaps?

A:

Those images are processed by the guys/gals at NASA EO. Great folks.


Q:

Any thoughts on Iron Yard announcing they're closing yesterday? They are/were a pretty big outfit in the southeast.

A:

Yeah--it's sad... one of their DC recruiters contacted me right when they went public with this--to divest some of their students to us and GA. She didn't tell me why, but just that it was out of their control


Q:

Are you a spacex fan?

A:

Yeah I'm a big fan of SpaceX and Blue Origin--I'm amazed by their innovations.


Q:

Are you the reason NASA's website is the only government website that doesn't look like the CSS was written in under 5 minutes? (Supposed to be compliment)

A:

That's funny because I was one of the first devs to try to use drupal. They hated me for that. I hated myself for that as well on some days.


Q:

If one wanted to create a new and international TMRC around amateur space telerobotics, where would one go for help?

A:

There is a guy named Nick Skytland that is a tech evangelist--his group runs the Space Apps Challenge. He'd be a good guy to get in touch with.


Q:

Also, what kind of drone(s) do you fly?

A:

Right now I have a couple, but the best one is the DJI phantom 3 pro. I am primarily flying that... I did break the gimble on it though so it's going to be a pricey fix.


Q:

Do coding bootcamps really exist with guaranteed jobs at the end? I never finished my degree and I'm in a really bad situation financially.

A:

I do believe that there are some camps out there that promise some kind of job. I wouldn't work for one that did though. They usually have a bunch of strings attached. It's about you... if you love programming and you are willing to code and learn, then maybe you have a good chance... but lots of times people who are great technically fail because of other things... like they can't work well with others or whatever. Soft skills are super important as well.


Q:

Question, got a nephew who expressed interest in learning code, is there a resource you would suggest for a 14 year old kid to learn?

A:

Totally, start here https://scratch.mit.edu/


Q:

I'm actually trying to start a local tech/programming club. Any suggestions?

A:

Just fire up a meetup! I'm sure you'll find others in your area.


Q:

Why does such an advanced space program use such an irritating font?

A:

Probably because of budget cuts... ;-)


Q:

Why does your bio talk about you in the third person?

A:

Yeah, cause I'm a redditor noob... I'll fix it. [edit:] I fixed it and re-wrote it.


Q:

How do you make friends?

A:

2cups of flour, 1 T of sugar, Water, 5 eggs, and beer. Mix and bake.


Q:

Do you use google ultron?

A:

Nope--but i do have a soft place in my heart for comodo icedragon


Q:

So this camp, does it boot from drive, USB or CD?

A:

It's a network boot so via network card.


Q:

Is it difficult to program and teach in zero G?

A:

Nope. It's super easy.


Q:

I have been interested in getting into a coding bootcamp, but it seems like there is an overwhelming concensus on the web that these things are a scam and you're better off with book learning.

Are there any good ones out there that you can rep in addition to your own? What do you have to say to these naysayers of coding bootcamps?

A:

All I can say is these boot camps are things that you get what you put into it. In other words... Boot camps are definitely not the panacea for learning. Everyone is different and there are plenty of people who join up on these types of things that absolutely shouldn't.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and when I first found out about the coding boot camp model I wasn't sold. When I went to train, I learned some things when I went through our boot camp, just so I could experience what people go through. That was an eye opener. The other thing that got me wasn't the curriculum or the facilities... it was the students. These guys are experts in all these other things coming in to learn. They were invested not in me, or the school, but in themselves.

What would I say to the naysayers? Sure: Are there bad schools, bad people and bad whatever out there? Of course, there are. Someone told me one time though, that I can always find bad stuff about something if I look hard enough for it. It was at a point when I was totally skeptical about religion... I wanted to throw it under the bus and I did in a lot of ways... but even though I had bad feelings about it, there were good things that come from it. My advice would be to do what you think is right for you, go out and meet the people that are working in the bootcamp you're looking at. If they suck--move on.