I was recently asked by my youth group to provide resources for high school students considering college. Here’s what I came up with…
People usually go to college for a combination of a few reasons:
Colleges and universities have incredible value.
Learning, research, exploration. That sounds awesome. It is.
Unfortunately, college comes with painful trade-offs.
College is expensive. Really expensive.
There’s no one reason for this. There are several:
Picking a College is Hard. You’re 17 or 18 and making choices that will affect your future for decades.
There are 2 brilliant sources of data that look at the cost of college vs. the payoff: Payscale and Priceonomics.
STAY THE HELL AWAY!
Well, the future of learning is all about choice.
Debt is one of the most subtly evil and destructive forces around. If you owe lots of money, you can end up in a painful cycle of always struggling to make payments and never getting free.
The average student graduates with $29,400 in debt. With normal interest rates, that is $225 a month for 20 years, for a total of $53,900.
Student debt is particularly nasty because it’s so hard to get rid of. You can’t get rid of it by declaring bankruptcy. Lenders can garnish your wages. And if anything happens to you, your parents and future spouse can end up with the debt.
This blog post presents a biased view; it emphasizes the financial aspects of higher education (cost to attend, ROI of a degree) far more than their value to society, the intrinsic value of a college experience to a young adult, and so forth.
That’s the point. Students already hear enough about the importance of going to college that I want to provide a counterpoint.
In addition, I haven’t looked at higher education in other countries, vocational schools, service learning, or apprenticeships. There are many, many options available to young people, but they require research and curiosity to find.
I expect smart young students to face different perspectives and narratives, analyze the merits of each, and come to their own conclusions.Permalink
One of the most profound ideas in the last 20 years is PageRank, the original algorithm of Google’s search engine.
PageRank starts with a simple and clever idea: the importance of a page is determined by how many pages link to it, and how important they are. It’s a link-analysis algorithm, and it ranks pages by how important they are to the entire collection.
In other words, when a source page (like this blog) links to another, target page (like a Wikipedia article), some of the source’s importance should transfer over to the target.
The only things you need are pages and their links. It’s a graph structure.
A graph can be stored in SQL using 2 tables, Nodes and Edges
Imagine a node is an object like a web page. An edge is a pointer from a source node to a target node, like a hyperlink pointing from one web page to another.
We are preventing a few things. We ignore edges where a node points back to itself. And a node is allowed to point to another node only once.
Imagine the Internet has just 4 web pages: pages 1, 2, 3 and 4. These pages have links between them:
We can store this in SQL
Initially, we give all nodes the same weight, 0.25. All nodes start out equal.
We need to know how many edges each node has pointing away from it. Imagine counting the number of links a web page has going somewhere else. Let’s calculate that and store it in our Nodes table.
Let’s look at the most important part: calculating how we transfer weight from source nodes to targets.
You can see there’s a damping factor, which is the percentage of a node’s weight that gets transferred via its edge to another node.
We also include a margin of error, which is a small number that represents an acceptable amount of precision.
Now we’re ready to run PageRank.
This example takes 5 iterations to complete. It turns out computing PageRank for the entire world wide web takes only 100 iterations.
I’d recommend you try this out yourself. My code is available on GitHub.