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Isabell's idea: Proving green girl geeks are cool

Rory Cellan-Jones | 15:13 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

A 16-year-old who turned up at a hacking event a couple of months ago may just have achieved two great things. If Isabell Long's idea works, it could make a major contribution to getting Whitehall to cut its energy use.

Isabell Long

Isabell Long at Young Rewired State, 2010

What's more, she could convince others that messing about with software and data is not a sad activity undertaken only by teenage boys who need to get out more, but is in fact really rather cool.

Let me explain. The prime minister has today challenged government departments to make big savings in the energy they use over the month of October.

Big deal, you might say, we've heard that kind of green tokenism before and it never amounts to much.

But the difference this time is that the energy savings made by each department will be highly visible, recorded each day on an online table. And that's largely down to the efforts of Isabell.

She turned up at an event called Young Rewired State, where 15-to-18-year-old software developers - and yes, there are plenty of them - get the chance to work with government data to create something useful.

Ideas came teeming out of the teenagers: from a social network for people taking books out of libraries to something called Better Off in Bed, which would examine jobs and work out whether you were better off working or on benefits.

But Isabell's idea reflected her green interests. She had spotted that various government departments were now publishing data about their own energy use, but it was spread over a number of different websites.

She decided to gather it all together in one place and create a Whitehall energy league table so that the public could see who really was making an effort.

Isabell told me:

"I started coding last year; I really love it and the whole community around it. I think there needs to be far more awareness in schools - they should teach coding at GCSE. It's not just for geeks and I hope to be a developer later on."

Somehow 10 Downing Street, which was looking for an eye-catching way to promote an energy-saving competition, got to hear about Isabell's idea.

After a few weeks of toing and froing and general Whitehall head-scratching, it has now been put at the centre of David Cameron's energy challenge. You can see her idea, GovSpark, right here.

Emma Mulqueeny, who runs Young Rewired State, and is a passionate advocate of the benefits of opening up government data, is naturally over the moon about all of this.

"We're especially proud," she says, "that as one of only three girls attending Young Rewired State, Isabell's work on GovSpark has been recognised in this way. We started this to coax the coders out of their bedrooms and bring them together to work with government data."

But here's the irony about an idea which could contribute to saving government money. Young Rewired State has tried and so far failed to get government departments to sponsor next year's event. At a time when they're waiting to hear about the effect of the cuts, it isn't surprising that they're being cautious with their cash.

But will another Isabell turn up next year to prove that girl - and boy - geeks can help save public money? Only if someone scrapes together enough funding to make it happen.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    An interesting objective, but one which actually tells us very little. Patterns of use change in buildings from month to month, and a better comparison would be with October last year. We also dont know if these figures are for the HQ building for the department, for all buildings run by the department or what.

    A better ranking than actual energy use would be a benchmark per square metre of floor space - the usual way of comparing different buildings, as a large old building will use a different amount of energy to a new one. Heating level especially will vary. This is simply not the way to compare buildings, or run an energy reduction competition.

    I'm afraid because of that, its difficult to take this anything other than a bit of political spin, however well intentioned was the original coding.

    I'm an energy manager, and this sort of thing is what I do day-in day-out, or rather dont do, as I say. I do things fairly.

  • Comment number 2.

    Tee-hee. Brilliant work Isabell. But the problem with such a transparent system is that it leaves precious little (or zero) wriggle room for politicians intent on spinning the figures.

    I'm actually pretty surprised at just how committed the major parties are to green issues. In fact, the new Labour Leader will have to come up with some good creative ideas on environment and energy just to keep pace with Huhne in England and Alex Salmond in Scotland.

    Apparently Scotland's target for energy from renewables is now an eye-watering 80% of total by 2020. This, perhaps incredibly, was welcomed by Scottish energy bigwig Ian Marchant - who said that the previous target was a 'slam dunk' - ie fish in a barrel, ie an easy target, a foregone conclusion.

    All of which leads me to what my initial though on reading this blog (apart from how bright Isabell Long must be...) - could this idea be used in conjunction with each government department's
    smart meter so we can get a better idea of whether the government's put its green money is where its green mouth is?

  • Comment number 3.

    Ironically; one of the 'Laggards' of this month according to GovSpark is:
    Department for Energy & Climate Change with a 5.4% increase this month

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm pretty sure that the article is more about the fact that not all people who attend these kinds of things are male than whatever the government wants to push.

  • Comment number 5.

    Rory wrote:

    young programmers "...get the chance to work with government data to create something useful."

    Suggestion: a funeral pyre for Prince 2 (Prince 2 is the development methodology that let no-one take responsibility for anything in Government software creation and management.)

    I like the ruse of getting young programmers to do the work as the Government never ever listened to software development professionals as they always told the govenrment that what the Government were trying to achieve would not work in the way they were trying to do it - and the processionals were right. But the amateur politicians and administrative grade classicist mandarins just ignored all advice, best practice and experience.

    Now they want to con kinds into doing things on the cheap or for free!

  • Comment number 6.

    It seems a bit unfair to describe "Young Rewired State" as a hacking event, when I first started reading the article I was expecting it to be an event organized by some shadowy group of hackers but instead it apears to be a legitimate organization (work doesn't let me connect to their website) who are even seeking Government Sponsorship

  • Comment number 7.

    The term "hacking" has only really come to mean what you think it means in the last 10-15 years - before then the term "hacker" meant exactly what it is used to in this article: people who enjoy and are very good at programming, often people who find ingenious and non-obvious solutions to problems, or are otherwise very skillful in what they do. I was actually quite happy to see the term "hacker" used in correctly this story, there has been quite an effort over the last few years to try to reclaim the word for what it originally meant, and not what the mainstream media use it for these days (for which the preferred term is "crackers").
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_hacking#Most_popular_conflicting_definitions gives quite a good background into this.

  • Comment number 8.

    it is a hacking event in the original and reclaimed positive sense of the word, hacking about with interesting stuff in intelligent and playful ways to come up with something new and awesome, just like Isabell did! I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend the presentation evening of the Rewired State and it was indeed an excellent showcase of what can be done with open data and the opportunity and talent and a bit of time to invent ways of using it. Events like Rewired State should get more support from government and industry, they inspire young people to do great things. I do think they need to work on the numbers of young women who get involved in programming competitions and events though. The article may say there were three young women taking part, but in the list of participants and on the night I counted a ratio of 27 nice young chaps to one Isabell. This means that the event was missing out on about 26 talented young people full of ideas who could have been there, but were just missing.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's not just 15-18 year olds that some up with amazing insights on how to manipulate data beneficially - I do that every day. Only last year, when data.gov.uk launched, I excitedly thought of numerous ways the data could be used! However, I couldn't do anything because all the data was in different formats! I wrote to Tim Berners-Lee, and posted on the site forum about this, but nothing was done. With open data publicly available in a common format, perhaps we can collectively make some real progress. Then it would 'simply' be a matter of getting the politicians to listen. Now there's a brainstorming exercise!

  • Comment number 10.

    Woo! Go Issy!

    And thank you BBC for using "hacker" correctly!


    @Alan:
    Perl and Python are very good at parsing.

  • Comment number 11.

    @Alan quite agree, at the presentations a common theme was participants saying how much further they could have got with their idea if they hadn't spent so much time cleaning and formatting the data.

  • Comment number 12.

    I actually very much disagree with the praise being given here. If you (the article author and commenter's) did your research you would find the following written on the website:

    > The Home Page of this site carries Isabell's original work.

    So, in actual fact the home page of the site is her work, the rest of the site was built by paid developers:

    > TSO offered to fund some of the development of GovSpark which is what you can see in the other pages behind Isabell's, including the competition itself.

    > Enormous thanks are due to Glyn Wintle, who created the detail page and worked with Issy during the YRS week, and Carbon Culture, who swept us out of the depths of data despair with their warrior API: for making this happen and this site live in the face of some pretty hefty data and time challenges. And to the front end design team who stormed us to the finish line: Josh Hart, Ryan Dean-Corke and Nick Booth.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    So as you can see, she didn't develop this at all, did she? The core site functionality was outsourced to people who actually know how to do this stuff, she either can't (which makes the article entirely worthless) or she didn't want to, which again makes the article entirely worthless.

    This is more harmful to the "young developers" that do exist than no article at all, because it shows that as long as you can market yourself correctly what you actually do means nothing, as long as you can pretend to have made something and get some meagre press attention you'll be lauded as a hero, you don't actually have to produce anything of value. Do we really want to be showing people her age who can actually DO something that "hey, don't bother, just learn to sell yourself!".

    And to pre-empt the inevitable "what have you done at 16??" comments, I was actually developing this sort of thing and not just paying someone else to do it and take credit for it.

  • Comment number 13.

    @citricsquid
    Rewired State was a short intense workshop to produce an idea and prototype quality proof of concept based on government data sources. I saw the presentation Isabell did and the site as it was after a few days of work, it looked very much like the site launched today, just with fewer logos on it. It was a *working* prototype. Do you seriously think Issy has been uninvolved in the development from prototype to production quality deployment? Of course there have been other people involved, both as part of the mentoring process of Rewired State and in building a production site. It isn't that she can't, or didn't want to do it all herself, Issy is in full time education.
    You know, I really DO think we should be showing people her age that if they have an idea they really should act on it, get a prototype together, show the right people, collaborate with others to make it a reality and yes, retain the credit which is richly deserved.

  • Comment number 14.

    Alan,

    If you're correct and it was built as a working prototype - I'm assuming this means it was an operational website that presented the data it was designed to present - then why does the about page state the complete opposite?

    If she had indeed built a working prototype why was the site completely rebuilt, as per the about page (that I am unable to link, but I'm sure you can find it):

    "Enormous thanks are due to Glyn Wintle, who created the detail page"

    "And to the front end design team who stormed us to the finish line: Josh Hart, Ryan Dean-Corke and Nick Booth."

    "The Home Page of this site carries Isabell's original work."

    "Additional thanks must be given to Ben Griffiths and Chris Thorpe who were instrumental in the initial development of this site from prototype."

    Now please do explain what these quotes mean, because to me they give the following impression: Issy had the idea, Issy made a "prototype" (where is this, can I see it?) then it was well liked, so they (TSO) paid for it to be developed properly, with both frontend and backend developers.

    "I saw the presentation Isabell did and the site as it was after a few days of work, it looked very much like the site launched today, just with fewer logos on it."

    I'd love to see this as it's pretty contradictory to what the site says. I assume there is no problem with her releasing her original "prototype" as after all, according to her website she's very much for open source!

    I understand that it might be impressive to "old people" that a teenager (especially a girl) is doing something vaguely productive, but it's disheartening to those doing real things to see this sort of thing. Why does her age matter at all? The internet does not discriminate against anyone, if you want to learn you can, her age is entirely irrelevant.

    The infatuation with young people doing good things is really boring, focus on the actual product and not the fact that she's young, it just goes to show what someone does make means nothing, it's who and what you are.

    So, as I was saying, when do we get to see this prototype that is oh so much like the site that was paid for by TSO that Isabel developed? I'd love to see it, just to prove that I'm wrong. The first thing anyone does when learning PHP is the predefined functions, often this includes learning to display the date. Someone who built this website (that interacts with external APIs) would not be "proudly" displaying their novice PHP ability with "oh look todays date!" on their website, as Isabel does.

    My problem is not with Isabel as a person, I'm sure she's delightful, my problem with the attitude surrounding what she has done and what people similar to her have done. Make something mediocre, get some people to mention it to the press and include your age, then get instant "fame" and "glory" because "whoa, a teenager DOING SOMETHING!!".

  • Comment number 15.

    I kind of doubt the prototype would have stood up to being linked to by No 10 and the BBC :)
    The reason age is of relevance is because this came from the *Young* Rewired State event, simple as that.

  • Comment number 16.

    @citricsquid - I agree with so much that you say.

    We've got over the idea that young people can be virtuosic pianists or violinists, but somehow we flap a little when they can program. I can't help you with that one, I'm baffled by it myself.

    I do think however, that articles like this do much more good than harm - programming is still seen as an odd activity for kids to be engaged in compared to, say, playing in orchestras. There may well be kids and their parents out there who are encouraged by stories like this. I'd hope so.

    Anyway, let me declare an interest: I worked with Issy at Rewired State and did some of the initial work to move this from being a prototype.

    The code that was written in the Rewired State week can be seen here: http://github.com/techbelly/govspark That's been open all along. I don't know whether there are plans to release the code that serves today's site - if there aren't, that's just an oversight, I'm sure.

    It was originally served from Issy's own linux server. The site launched today has now been moved to TSO's hosting.

    Alan's somewhat right about the scale issues, and much of the work we knew we had to do was just normalising the different data formats coming out of the government departments; and making sure the site complied with various standards and so on.

    In many cases this meant chasing them and their contractors, emails and phone calls and so on and so forth. Dealing with reliability issues and so on. Not very glamourous work, I assure you.

    There's no big conspiracy here. A young girl made a prototype which inspired some government bods to commission it as a project. Issy was involved all the way through.

  • Comment number 17.

    Rory Cellan-Jones.

    "But Isabell's idea reflected her green interests. She had spotted that various government departments were now publishing data about their own energy use, but it was spread over a number of different websites.
    She decided to gather it all together in one place and create a Whitehall energy league table so that the public could see who really was making an effort."

    good thinking, one can but hope that this energy league table, like 'regular' league tables, inspires a competitive spirit amongst the civil servants tasked with implementing the various energy savings programmes.

  • Comment number 18.

    @techbelly

    Maybe I'm missing something, the small amount of actual programming (data analysis) seems to not have been contributed by Isabel, but by you and "glynwintle".

    Why exactly is all the code committed by Isabel basic CSS changes, whereas the commits by you and "glynwintle" are the actual code, if she built it?

    Also I've been and compared, these sites are nothing alike, the major example is the fact that the live website actually follows basic standards, the repository version lacks a doctype, has inline css and a variety of other things.

    Why are they so different if the released site (as per Alan) is only a few logo changes from the prototype? I don't think it's a big conspiracy, I just think it's a poor attempt at garnering attention for very little work, if she really built this then I'm sorry for being "rude" but really, everything here (repository, the about page) all point to this article being nothing more than your average tabloid toss.

    Why can't we base merit on the product, not the perceived inability of the average person? I get that the idea is pretty good and should be talked about, it's the focus on her age and emphasis on how she's "breaking the norms" that disappoint me.

    Strip out everything related to her age here and the fact that she developed it (unless I'm missing info) and what do you have? An empty article that tells nothing. I just want to see praise for products, not meaningless personal attributes.

    I left high school with 3 GCSEs, want to see articles written about a mediocre site I made because it's "surprising"? No, you don't.

  • Comment number 19.

    @citricsquid

    I think you're being unfair here.

    I read the story above and see the main points as:

    * Isabell had an idea for a website that was novel and socially useful
    * The idea was useful to our government - she 'beat them' at coming up with a solution to a problem that they had
    * The existence and efforts of Young Rewired State meant that her idea could be prototyped, noticed and taken on and developed further.
    * Isabell should be praised for the idea
    * Young Rewired State should be praised for encouraging and nurturing future talent
    * the newly launched website, developing her idea, is going to help we, the voters, keep tabs on civil service energy use.

    Isn't the above a reasonable story?

    Should we make a fuss that Isabell is 16 and female? Well, maybe you know more teenage coders than I do, but from what I know and understand, computing isn't taught that well in schools, and the computing profession is still exceptionally male-dominated. Role-models matter to young people, so yes, I think making a bit of fuss of Isabell is A Good Thing. As is making a fuss of the website itself.

  • Comment number 20.

    Isabell said "they should teach coding at GCSE." When I was doing O Level computer studies back in the 1980s they did teach computer languages and programming as part of the course and to pass the exam you had a project which was to flowchart then write a program of your own design, demonstrate it running, print off and annotate it and also write a user manual, in the actual exam you were ask to write lines of code and draw logic tables. From what my 15 year old son tells me these days GCSE ITC is how to work Microsoft products. I totally agree with Isabell, programming, flowcharting and logic should be taught at school in IT, using Word and Excel is office studies not computer studies!

  • Comment number 21.

    #20 Noddy T - you just beat me to it.

    I have had a number of conversations with the IT teachers at my daughters' school about why they don't teach programming. There is a terrible and worsening skills shortage in this area. Trying to find someone, anyone that can write working C on a processor that does not have Windows or Linux is like hunting for rocking horse poo. When I retire in about 20 years there will be a whole generation of supposedly computer literate (at least according to their paper qualifications) who have absolutely no idea how computers work, or how to make new products based on them.

  • Comment number 22.

    How about these young developers setting up a micro finance site so that the public can fund their conference next year? Government and Big Business will be cash strapped but if only some of the benefits of this come through to the people it is worth some money

    Where do I send my £5 contribution to the event?

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    #21. Jovian_Moon wrote:

    "rocking horse poo" [referring to the poverty of UK IT education]

    I have a decade or so on you - I started my professional computing before the first microprocessors, when to get a machine the size of a modern day 'American' fridge (and it took 24 hours to get the five foot diameter 5 Mega byte disk up to speed ready for use) to start-up you have to ensure that the right paper tape was in the reader and then operate the front panel switches to program in hexadecimal the boot strap program. However that is all thankfully long gone and good riddance too.

    The one continuous and continuing important feature of programming is the need to comprehend how a problem can be solved - the logical steps that analytical process is the same no matter what programming language or form of rapid development system is used - most of the rest is syntax and language. (I have to confess to having written and worked on the design of a number of programming methodologies and languages, and I still play with them today.)

    I would love to see assembler taught in schools again (as a way of making certain kids knew what the microprocessor does), but we have to face reality that most work today requires the knowledge of abstractions and higher level languages, development methodologies and syntaxes. I don't really share your definition of being computer literate, but I am continually appalled at the lack of actual computing knowledge in computing teaching in schools - least face it the even still get the name wrong! Calling it ICT (rather than the term used in the World of work IT)!

  • Comment number 25.

    @Scott

    I definitely think the idea is a good one and it's great that she had the idea, it definitely has value. My issue is that the article stated she developed it, I pointed out that actually it appears she didn't but is being given a free pass to claim credit because she's only 16, then techbelly and Alan came along and said "she did develop it!" and then it turns out she didn't.

    I think she should be praised for the idea, but I disagree with her being praised for developing it when she didn't and the defence that techbelly and Alan put forward is completely incorrect.

    @Jovian_Moon & John_From_Hendon

    I don't think teaching this sort of thing in schools will work any more. I left high school a few years ago and my experience with IT lessons leaves no faith in this ever working. I had an absolutely brilliant IT teacher, the guy was extremely well versed in computing (and programming) but unfortunately nobody in the class was interested, so he wasted his time talking about it when he did. Also, another issue is how the curriculum now is focused on getting kids GCSEs, not actually teaching them anything.

    Maybe if we move from "you're in school to get qualifications" to "you're in school to learn" teaching programming might have value, but right now if someone is interested in programming they have nothing stopping them, I was never taught programming in high school but I had access to the internet, it's a resource that doesn't discriminate against age, race or gender, ANYONE can learn to program. This might not have been the case 30 years ago, but it sure is today.

  • Comment number 26.

    citricsquid has a point here. If you look at the commit history of the git repo referred to above, you can see who added what, and it doesn't look like Isabell was responsible for all that much.

    A agree with the general principle that it's good to trumpet the claimed achievements, but there does seem to be something of a discrepancy between the claims and what the history actually shows, even for the early prototype. There may be a perfectly good explanation for this, but we'd need to hear it.

  • Comment number 27.

    I wasn't going to respond. Don't feed the trolls and all that. But...

    @citricsquid, @_Ewan_: It's fun to play detective. But, you're more like bumbling policemen than like Sherlock Holmes's. And, cynical bumbling policemen at that.

    Look closer, there's nothing sinister here, and you're inferring far too much from too little information.

    Young Rewired State ran from the 2nd to the 6th of August. The commit made on the 13th August is probably closest to the product presented on the 6th.

    The repository was created on the 5th, and at that first check-in, the code is already almost complete. There's no way to tell who worked on what before then.

    I checked in the first commit, but that's pretty meaningless. I was there and I'm telling you that Issy was completely involved in this.

    It's pretty clear that by the final stage, Issy was working on polishing up the look of the site. That's what you'd expect at the very end of the project. Nothing to see there.

    So, what's your point?

    Government has just launched an interesting and useful project, in a very short time. The project wouldn't have existed without Isabell Long and without Young Rewired State. What did you do?



  • Comment number 28.

    According to my son. ITC is the most boring subject on the planet, and he's an A student in the subject. He couldn't believe it when I showed him how to right a program using simple BASIC interpreter. The ITC subject is all about Microsoft Products - point & click.

  • Comment number 29.

    hear hear @techbelly. Issy clearly worked on the project, those who were there to witness it have attested to it and we've no reason the doubt their legitimacy or motives.

    That being said, is good things are happening as a result. Good things that wouldn't have happened without Issy's input. This kind of bickering does nothing to encourage people to get involved and continue making changes for good, so unless you're going to help make the world a better place why don't you just leave well enough alone?

  • Comment number 30.

    Girl developer here. Well, possibly. Depends how old you have to be before you stop being 'Amazing! A girl programmer!' and become a relatively unphotogenic woman who just happens to code for a living.

    The title of this article is just incredibly depressing, so much so that I've signed up purely in order to comment. There are several reasons why I don't go to 'hacking events' and all of them are very visible right here in this article.

    The first one is that you don't appear to be amazed at the quality of Isabell's ideas or code because Isabell's ideas and code are fantastically unique. No offence intended to Isabell or her ideas here, which I have no problem with, but you're treating her like a kitten who has learned to recite Shakespeare. The amazing thing for you is not an extraordinary grasp of rhythm, metre and scansion, or the versatility of Laurence Olivier - the amazing thing for you is that a wee kitty can read Shakespeare at all. Kawaii desu ne!

    This peculiar habit of worshipping youths for being able to do what adults take for granted is astonishingly twee and unhelpful. They will soon be adults. Why does it surprise you that they don't go from tabula rasa to technicians overnight? Patronising her serves only to diminish the poor girl's actual achievement, because rational individuals such as citricsquid are not tempted to join the twee-worship bandwagon and will unemotionally explore available evidence. You might think that's unsporting - fair enough, but geeks are not noted for their senses of social delicacy. When you're writing press releases, you might want to stop long enough to consider what sort of scrutiny you're getting your chosen Young Achiever into.

    That brings me to the second reason why I avoid these events. Low expectations from the organisers, and a tendency for the event dynamic to revolve around hero-worship of the alpha geeks and/or cutest geeks in the room. Then of course there are the Internet White Knights looking to score points with the damsels who are surely bound to be in distress, because we're girls.

    The third reason is the weirdly political nature of these events. This project is green - great, that'll look awesome on our press release. A bit similar to carbonculture.net, linked on Isabell's blog as the source of some of the data? Bah humbug. Because these events are generally publicity-generators for sponsors, someone acts as a zampolit. Appropriate ideas must come with a political/media payload, and therefore must use vocabulary such as 'green', 'carbon-neutral', 'social', 'iPod/iPhone/iPad' and '2.0'. This tends to reduce the whole thing to some sort of fashion show for the zeitgeist-aware. Over the years it all gets a bit tiring.

    Regarding Scott's mention of role models, we have plenty of those, thanks; Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Barbara Liskov, and Wang Xiaoyun to name but four. If the BBC wants to publicise female CS role models, it should focus attention on women like Wang, who do incredibly significant work that has totally escaped the BBC's attention (crypto lacks the cuteness angle?) On another note, yes, teaching on STEM subjects should be better, including both coding and subjects such as maths and physics, it is unacceptable that one in four secondary schools in England no longer has a specialist physics teacher, and to my knowledge secondary schools have never taught coding effectively, MS Word being seen as more important and easier for computer-illiterates to teach. Most young programmers teach themselves.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to the upcoming columns, 'Sixteen-year-old girl fixes motorbike with only limited assistance from three mechanical engineers' and '16-year-old ethnic minority teenage boy shows competent ability at ballet, who'd'a thunk it?'

  • Comment number 31.

    Git commits don't tell you who drew the flow charts and wrote the pseudocode! Proper design takes much more time, though, and effort than being a code-monkey.

  • Comment number 32.

    #25. citricsquid wrote:

    "ANYONE can learn to program"

    Sadly, I've seen a too many professional programmers that can't!

    It is rather like common-sense not very common and many do not recognise the sense!

    The development of algorithms that do something useful efficiently can be very complex indeed and requires both logical thinking and a deep knowledge of previously developed art. I think your idea of what programming is - is very very limited indeed!

    The statement that anyone can write an haiku or a sonnet or a play or a novel or translate poetry from ancient Sumerian makes about as much sense as your statement about programming. Or perhaps anyone can design a bridge - but would you want to trust your life to just anybody!!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    #25. citricsquid continued

    Sadly I have to agree with the poverty of scholastic Education. It is no longer forms the basis for understanding, or even an introduction to a subject as it was when I did A-levels.

  • Comment number 34.

    There is in fact a new GCSE in Computing available to secondary schools this year yet teacher training in Computing is most likely non-existent, those teachers of Computing either have come into teaching with industry experience, are self-taught hobbyists or a lesser number with an academic background in Computer Science. More needs to be done to develop training in Computing, either on PGCE programmes or as part of in-service CPD.

    As regards this student's efforts and deeds, they can only be applauded as a potential green solution and a good use of her creative time.

    I hope some IT, Computing or educational-related group manages to give them some very useful creative space in the future. Our youth are our future after all.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ _Ewan_ citricsquid

    Fine, if we are going to be pedantic about this - where in Rory's article does it state "she developed it", or she created it from start to finish on her own? Quote me the lines. I can't see them. You seem to be tackling an issue that is not there.

    Isabell helped with the development - I don't know exactly what, but neither does github - as others have noted, it doesn't show whether several folk edited files before one checked them in, it doesn't show the discussions about architecture, data management or structure that went on before the coding happened, it doesn't show the "hey, how do you reckon we fix this?" conversations in front of one laptop.


    @ adnauseam

    I disagree that we have enough good female role models - as, apparently, do the people participating in Ada Lovelace Day, which was set up by a woman specifically to address the lack of female role models. (And thanks for letting me know about Barbara Liskov and Wang Xiaoyun - I'd never heard of either of them, and they both seem to be interesting people.)

    Isabell may be no Grace Hopper (yet, at least, and maybe never), but she is young and doing something that is within the reach of other young people - and I hope many more are inspired by this to try.

  • Comment number 36.

    Govspark is wonderful on so many levels, including show what young people can do when given the right support and opportunities. As someone involved in writing & testing software I wish some of our developers showed as mush creativity as Isobel. I hope she carries on and is not put of by our over examined education system which seems designed to squeeze all creativity out of young people.

  • Comment number 37.

    John_from_Hendon @ 5: "Suggestion: a funeral pyre for Prince 2 (Prince 2 is the development methodology that let no-one take responsibility for anything in Government software creation and management.)"

    Thank you for cheering me up; a kindred spirit I suspect. However, I might suggest deleting all after "Government" and putting the full stop there. :)

  • Comment number 38.

    This really is an excellent idea. It's going straight into my bookmark page, and I'm going to try to check it as often as I can manage. I think that in a climate of cuts in every sector, it will be very interesting to be able to check directly how much government departments are tightening their own belts. After all, cutting energy usage equates directly to a financial saving as well as an environmental saving.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm not sure why so many of the comments have degenerated into a forensic analysis of who wrote which bits of code.

    The article says three things:

    - A young person came up with a good idea
    - That good idea got put into practice
    - The young person in question thinks that coding should be taught at school

    No-one has a problem with statements like "Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com" - his job was to raise the funding and then MAKE IT HAPPEN.

    Likewise, everyone is OK to describe Martha Lane Fox as the founder of lastminute.com. It's not clear how her degree in Modern History fitted her for API integration... Again, she MADE IT HAPPEN.


    The idea is good. The website happened. As an IT Consultant and serial entrepreneur I regularly put together basic mockups, draw some diagrams of architecture, and then hand the lot over to someone who is turned on by the fact that the PHP setcookie() command doesn't work if there's whitespace on the page in front of it.

    Programming isn't everything - the fact that Isabell is interested in learning to code as well as coming up with good ideas is a plus...


    ... oh, and of course Girl Geeks are cool - I've been married to one for the last 15 years :-)

 

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