Highlights from the First Ever Stanford Code Poetry Slam

I was lucky enough to be living in Chicago when Marc Smith's Poetry Slam movement became a thing. What fun it was to hit the Green Mill on Sunday nights to hear such innovators as Lisa Buscani or Patricia Smith tearing into their latest entries in front of packed-to-capacity crowds. Those early slam poets inspired a lot of other wordsmiths to brave the mic, a glorious revolution whose gleam was inevitably tarnished for me once it caught on for real.

I remember thinking something like, "If I never hear another poem about someone's relationship troubles, it'll be too soon."

To further illustrate my waning enthusiasm, here's the above thought, rendered in Standard Spoken Word Venacular:


I never heeeear  

Another Po

Em About Someone's 


Troubles, it'll be



Some two-and-a-half decades further along, Leslie Wu, a doctoral student in Computer Science at Stanford University, has been crowned the winner of the inaugural Code Poetry Slam, and I'm mourning the loss of those long-ago relationship troubles.

To create her winning entry, "Say 23," Wu donned a Google Glass headset, as she recited and typed 16 lines of computer code, which were projected onto a screen. When Wu ran the script, three different computerized voices took over performance duties, sampling the 23rd Psalm along with an uncredited snippet of In the Hall of the Mountain King.

I may be too hot-blooded to appreciate the artistry here.

Melissa Kagen, who organized the competition with fellow graduate student Kurt James Werner, stated on the university's website that in order "to really get into the intricacies you really need to know that language."

I guess that goes double for the competitors. According to Werner, Wu's poem wove together a number of different concepts, tools, and languages, including Japanese, English, and Ruby. Philistine that I am, I had always thought of the latter as an uncapitalized gemstone and nothing more.

Not that I'm aligning myself with those curmudgeons whose typical reaction to a Rothko or a Jackson Pollack is, "My two-year-old could do better." For one thing, I've got teenagers, and given their druthers, they'd eat their way through the contents of Werner Herzog's shoe closet before agreeing to learn so much as a single line of code.

What a wonderful world in which so many of us are free to pursue our individual passions to the point of poetry!

If you're the type to whom code poetry speaks---nay, sings---you should consider putting something together for the fast approaching second slam. Have a look at the work of the eight finalists, if you're in need of inspiration. Entries are being accepted through Feb. 12.

Find 74 free courses from Stanford in our collection: 825 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky, an award-winning, handwritten zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Developing iOS 7 Apps for iPhone and iPad: A Free Online Course by Stanford


FYI: Apple officially released iOS7,  the latest operating system for the iPhone and iPad, on September 18. Almost simultaneously, Stanford began offering a course teaching students how to design apps in the new environment. Although the course is still in progress, the initial video lectures are now available online, you guessed it, on iTunesU.

This course, along with other top-flight coding courses, appears in the Computer Science section of our big collection of 775 Free Online Courses, where you'll also find courses on PhilosophyHistoryPhysics and other topics.

Looking for tutorials on building apps in Android? Find them here.

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Leonard Susskind Teaches You “The Theoretical Minimum” for Understanding Modern Physics

susskind-g For the past decade, Leonard Susskind, one of America's pre-eminent physicists, has taught a series of six courses in Stanford's Continuing Studies program.  The series “explores the essential theoretical foundations of modern physics," helping lifelong learners (like you) attain the “theoretical minimum” for thinking intelligently about modern physics. Over the years, the Continuing Studies program (where, in full disclosure, I serve as the director) has taped the lectures and made them available to a global audience on YouTube and iTunes. We've even burned the lectures onto CDs and shipped them to remote locations in Afghanistan and Nepal where connectivity is still lacking. This week, Susskind's popular lectures found a new home of sorts with the launch of The Theoretical Minimum, a new web site that presents the six courses in a way that's neat, clean and easy to navigate. The site also offers a short text summary of each lecture, plus related reference materials. You can jump into the courses and get started on your own intellectual journey via this list:

Note: Susskind's courses, and many others, also appear in our collection of Free Online Physics Courses, part of our collection of 875 Free Online Courses.

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A Crash Course on Creativity and Other Stanford MOOCs to Launch in April: Enroll Today

Tina Seelig serves as the Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, a center that teaches students entrepreneurial skills needed to solve major world problems. She is also the author of the 2012 book, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, that operates on the assumption that we're not born being creative and knowing how to solve difficult problems. It's something that we can cultivate and learn (as John Cleese has also told us before). If you're intrigued by this idea, and if you want to rev up your own "Innovation Engine," you can take Seelig's new course, also called A Crash Course on Creativity, starting on April 22. It's one of five Stanford MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that will launch in April on the Venture Lab platform. Other courses now open for enrollment include:

Most Venture Lab courses grant a "Statement of Accomplishment" signed by instructors to any student who successfully completes a course.

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Sleight of Hand: Stanford Student Solves Rubik’s Cube While Juggling!

If you're applying to Stanford, this is what you're up against. Undergrads like Ravi Fernando (Class of 2014) who can solve a Rubik's Cube ... while juggling. You might want to have a safety school! 

via @palafo

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Start Your Startup with Free Stanford Courses and Lectures

Last spring, Ken Auletta wrote a profile of Stanford University in the pages of The New Yorker, which started with the question: "There are no walls between Stanford and Silicon Valley. Should there be?" It's perhaps an unavoidable question when you consider a startling fact cited by the article. According the university itself, five thousand companies “trace their origins to Stanford ideas or to Stanford faculty and students.” The list includes tech giants like Google, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Netflix, Electronic Arts, Intuit, Silicon Graphics, LinkedIn, and E*Trade. And stay tuned, there's more to come.

Stanford is one of America's leading incubators, and the rearing of young entrepreneurs doesn't take place by mere osmosis. No, Stanford students can take courses focused on entrepreneurship, which give them access to seasoned entrepreneurs and financiers. If you head over to eCorner, short for Entrepreneurship Corner (Web - iTunes - YouTube), you can watch "2000 free videos and podcasts featuring entrepreneurship and innovation thought leaders" who have paid visits to Stanford. Perhaps you'll recognize a few of the names: Mark ZuckerbergLarry PageMarissa Mayer? Reid Hoffman (above)?

Or, if you go to YouTube and iTunes, you'll gain access to entire courses dedicated to teaching students the modern art of starting startups. Two courses (both housed in our collection of 650 Free Online Courses and our collection of 150 Free Online Business Courses) warrant your attention. First, Chuck Eesley's course, Technology Entrepreneurship (YouTube - iTunes Video) introduces students to “the process used by technology entrepreneurs to start companies. It involves taking a technology idea and finding a high-potential commercial opportunity, gathering resources such as talent and capital, figuring out how to sell and market the idea, and managing rapid growth." The course features 28 video lectures in total.

Once you have a broad overview, you can dial into an important part of getting a new venture going -- raising capital. Hence the course Entrepreneurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital (iTunes Video - YouTube), a course currently taking place at Stanford that "explores how successful startups navigate funding, managing, and scaling their new enterprise." It features guest speakers from the VC world that fuels Silicon Valley.

It goes without saying that Stanford offers many world-class courses across other disciplines, from philosophy and physics to history and literature. You can find 68 courses from Stanford in our ever-growing collection of Free Courses Online.

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Learn to Build iPhone & iPad Apps with Stanford’s Free Course, Coding Together

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 1.01.26 PMJust a quick fyi. In the past week, Stanford has launched the latest version of Coding Together, the popular course that teaches Stanford students -- and now students worldwide -- how to build apps for the iPhone and iPad. Taught by Paul Hegarty, the latest version of the free course focuses on how to build apps in iOS 6, and the lectures will be gradually rolled onto iTunes from January 22 through March 28. Find the first lectures here.

This course, along with other top-flight coding courses, appears in the Computer Science section of our big collection of 650 Free Online Courses, where you'll also find courses on Philosophy, History, Physics and other topics.

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