Category Archives: international

Further Stanford* classes to be run in January

According to a series of posts on the ml-class forum, a series of apparently-free Stanford-inspired* distance-learning ten-week classes are currently expected to start in January/February 2012. Note that as before, the courses are not credit-bearing – take them for what they are.

Looks like neither AI-class nor DB-class will be rerun, at least not yet; if you fancied the AI-class, take Machine Learning instead. Ng is a great teacher. Because the course involves extensive amounts of practical coding, it is actually both fun and fulfilling, which I’m afraid I cannot say of the AI-class  – which has been informative, and at times challenging, but for me there is less satisfaction in a set of quiz grades than there is in building something and watching it work.

Technical courses

Machine Learning (Andrew Ng) – will be rerun in more or less its current form
Probabilistic Graphical Models
(Daphne Koller)- a logical successor for ml-class survivors
Natural Language Processing (Chris Manning and Dan Jurafsky)
Cryptography (Dan Boneh)
Game Theory (Matthew O. Jackson and Yoav Shoham)
Human-Computer Interaction (Scott Klemmer)
Design and Analysis of Algorithms I (Tim Roughgarden)
Computer Science 101 (Nick Parlante)  – The beginner’s guide to these strange things they call ‘computers’ and ‘code’
Software Engineering for Software as a Service (Armando Fox and David Patterson)
Computer security (Dan Boneh, John Mitchell and Dawn Song) – How to ‘design secure systems and write secure code’

Electrical Engineering
Information Theory (Tsachy Weissman) – ‘the science of operations on data such as compression, storage and communication’. Begins in March 2012.

Complex Systems
Model Thinking (Scott E. Page) – building models of complex systems.

Technology Entrepreneurship (Chuck Easley) – ‘understand the formation and growth of high-impact start-ups in areas such as information, green/clean, medical and consumer technologies.’
The Lean Launchpad (Steve Blank) –  Business models, customer development, and starting up your startup.

Civil Engineering
Making Green Buildings (Martin Fischer) – how to manage sustainable building projects.

Anatomy (Sakti Srivastava) – knee bone connected to the hip bone, etc.

Caveat emptor
As these courses are free online, I suppose that really ought to read caveat lector or caveat auditor or something, but you know what I mean. Here’s the warning: each of these courses are supposed to take over ten hours a week. Follow the Stanford AI-Class Decision Diagram with care and attention when deciding whether to enrol.

If you’re not a computer science or mathematics graduate, you will probably need to work on your maths for many of these courses. The Khan academy have very useful course material for areas like basic probability, Bayes and linear algebra/matrices.

If anybody wonders what an unspecified number of thousands of dedicated students attempting to finish a midterm exam before the deadline can do to a server, wonder no more:

Having seen it repeatedly whilst trying to fill in the midterm forms, today I see this message every time I close my eyes…

* As it happens, not all these classes are run by Stanford. Software Engineering for Software as a Service is a Berkeley course (although one of the instructors, Armando Fox, was previously employed at Stanford), Computer Security is a joint effort, and Model Thinking is taught by Scott Page of the University of Michigan.

AI-Class with tablet devices

Quote from Sebastian Thrun

@SebastianThrun: Who’s up for a $2000 Stanford degree?

You might have seen the intense publicity received by Stanford’s current experiment: Ai-Class, not to mention the sibling efforts ML-Class and DB-Class. These were described to the public as beta-releases of a new kind of education, and have been made available for free, possibly a once-in-a-lifetime offer, possibly never to be repeated. Class began in mid-October, and it’s not clear whether these will run again in their current form.

I joined two classes; AI-Class (artificial intelligence, taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig) and ML-Class (machine learning, taught by Andrew Ng). Given that the midterm exam happens next week, I won’t be sharing my grades, but I would like to write a little about accessing these courses on various platforms.

First, a confession: despite the fact that the AI-class draws extensively on material from Russell & Norvig’s ‘Artificial Intelligence: a modern approach’, and the fact that I would’ve liked to use this to check out some ebook reader platforms, I haven’t been able to do so. There are various reasons for that, but the most compelling is :

Content Unavailable in the United Kingdom

Oh well.

There were other problems, anyway; the price of Norvig’s other books suggest that I would not have been happy to pay the price for a Kindle copy. Keep in mind that the office wouldn’t be paying; this is something I’m doing in what I laughably refer to as ‘spare time’. Norvig’s cheapest available Kindle download, Case Studies in Common Lisp, costs £41.89. If AI:AMA cost anything like that, I’d have ended up checking out the second-hand market anyway – you can pick up a second-hand copy for between a fiver and a tenner. Even if I’d bought a paper copy new it may have been cheaper; e-books attract VAT.
This got the Kindle out of the running very quickly. The primary use it can be put to during the course is revision of notes from the ML-class, which conveniently includes revision slides/PDFs.

That left the Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom, which could not only view the PDFs, but also access the videos offered by each site. In the case of ML-Class, a download link was even provided for each video – perfect, I thought, I’ll download them and watch the videos in transit. One difficulty: the iPad seems to disapprove of the concept of downloading files. Safari will consent to send pdfs to iBooks, but as for storing videos for later review, the obvious solutions involve a laptop and iTunes. If you are not always online, the need for advance planning – the faff factor, if you like – increases rapidly. The determined can mitigate the problem via applications for the iPad such as the MyMedia download manager, but the app-centric viewpoint is frustrating. Stanford could solve this through iTunes U – but how many channels must a provider support?

The Xoom did not go to the same finishing school as the iPad, if it went to one at all. Unaware that saving files from the browser and displaying them in anything available is an uncouth habit, it simply does it. It also seems to have passed through its formative years without learning that arbitrary soft-resetting is rude, so it occasionally does that as well.

ML-Class makes extensive use of Octave, a free and fairly Matlab-compatible language and interpreter, giving weekly assignments. The idea of Octave on a mobile device is not as far-fetched as it sounds – Nokia N800/810 owners were able to use both Octave and Gnuplot. Similar software packages, such as Addi and Mathmatiz, are available for Android. In general these are works in progress. iPad owners with a desktop copy of Matlab can try connecting to it remotely via Matlab Mobile, a function that is available through unofficial apps on Android. The interface is not, however, optimised for the iPad, and as with the problem of watching videos in transit, those with limited network connectivity will find this an imperfect solution. Why no Octave clone on iOs? The App Store, the GPL, and extensible interpreters apparently don’t mix, although since Apple changed the language in their SDK, some of the issues mentioned have been resolved.

To conclude: the iPad is polished, but I found myself reaching for the (heavier, clunkier) Android device instead. The Xoom is indeed something of a brick, but the iPad seems to be designed for a world with uniformly excellent 3G coverage, in which nobody ever spends much time offline.

Social media sites in China


When we talk about social media sites, we tend to focus on a number of well-known examples – Facebook, YouTube, and so forth. Yet there are many international social media sites of all kinds. This post is written by Jenny Luo, who is studying Electrical Power Engineering at Bath and works part-time at UKOLN. In it, she looks at some examples of social media sites in China, compares them to other popular sites, and collects together information about the sites’ APIs.

— Emma


Social network sites (similar to Facebook)

1. renren

Renren means “people and people”. Renren is very similar to Facebook, not only in terms of function but also in terms of interface. You need to register on this website first ,then you can add somebody else as your  friends. You can upload some photos, write diaries, share videos, add some comments or delete some comments.There are also some online games. Anyway, it’s almost the same as Facebook. But, in my opinion British tend to share more pictures than the Chinese do.

Description: This is an open platform based on OpenSocial

2. douban

Douban means “watercress”. On this website you will feel free to comment on any  books, films, and music. You can find others’ recommendations about books, films and music. Everything shown on your douban webpage can be chosen by yourself. For example, if you are a mother the website will recommend you some recipes. Unlike Renren, which is mainly used by college students, this website focuses on all kinds of people, they will help you find friends from what you like, then you can find more things you like from them. It has more than 5,000,0000 users now.

Description: The weblink given above is the instruction of API utilisation. The Douban API follows the Atom and GData principles. When addition or deletion operations are used, OAuth certification would be required. Then, there are also lots of instructions about how to use the API to acquire different information.

3. kaixin001

The website’s name means ‘having fun’. It was set up in 2008. Till now, it has about 110 million registered users. This website mainly focuses on the urban white collar. This website has 3 main functions, such as ‘basic tools’, ‘social games’, and ‘other applications’. For example, in ‘other applications’ you can get a weather forecast, a service for buying tickets online, and many other practical applications.

Description: The link given above is the instruction of  kaixinoo1 API. This API support java, PHP, NET and a variety of kinds of programming language. Kaixin API uses a REST connection. All the Kaixin open platforms are achieved by using HTTP POST to send requests to The following instructions are about Users API, Friends API, actions API and so on.

Blogging (similar to Blogger)

1. Sina Webblog

‘Sina’ is not a a Chinese word, I asked baidu about why it got this name, and it says that it means China in Latin. Sina Webblog is the most popular and also mainstream blogging service in China. It includes amusement celebrities’ blogs, intellectual celebrities’ blogs, sensibility blogs, and common people blogs.

Description: The link above is found in a message board. It seems that till now sina blog haven’t provided public access to their API. The Chinese character in the link above means user name.

2. SoHu Webblog

‘So’ means ‘ searching’  ‘Hu’ means ‘ ‘fox’. So the name means ‘search a fox’. It’s similar to the sina’s but not as popular as the one above.

Description: Sohu open widget(SOW) is proposed by sohu company, which is based on the UWA (Universal Widget API) principle, applied on many platform’s Widget standards. A brief introduction about SOW follows. Firstly, it’s based on a standard Widget principle — the UWA principle. Secondly, everyone can use this to develop their own Widget, and share it to multiple net friends, adding to their sohu blog for utilisation. Then there are loads of information about how to apply.

Microblogging services (similar to Twitter)

1. Sina Microblogging

Sina Microblogging is very similar to twitter.You can also call it ‘one sentence’ blogging. Users can send messages from mobile phones’ SMS messaging functions, WAP, Internet, or MMS.You can send what you hear, see, and think immediately. Your friends can also see what you sent immediately and add some comments. It has the most users of all Chinese microblogging services, and public celebrity is its character.Sina microblogging invite stars and celebrities to be users and will authenticate them. After authentication,a ‘character “V”‘ will be added after their names to distinguish them from common users.

Description: The link above is a introduction to the sina microblog API. This documentation contains detailed information about the reading and writing of Microblog, users, comments, relationships, accounts, topics, searching, registration, and so on. Some of them are signed by a red Chinese character, which means this is high class permission, and can only be used by making an application.

2. SoHu microblogging.

It’s very similar to the one above, but not as popular as the above.

Description: This link above is instructions for how to use the sohu API. They give some English labels.

Instant Messaging (similar to MSN)

1. QQ

This name means cute because its symbol is a little penguin.This software support online chatting, video chatting, sending documents, sharing documents, qq email, Netdisk. You can also join some groups which are built by the qq users. For instance,if you like yoga, you can join a yoga group, and you can chat with the people in this group. It’s the most widely used chatting software in China.

Description: The link above has these contents. 1, a brief introduction to qq zone OAuth 2.0. 2,The procedures involved in using qq zone OAuth2.0. Step1: How to acquire access-token, qqzone. OAuth 2.0 provide different log-in checking and authorization procedures for website, mobile application and desktop. Now they provide 2 ways to acquire an access token. 1.server-side mode. 2. client side-mode. The two modes  only have differences in acquiring an access-token, but work similarly in the following steps of acquiring an  openid and invoking the API. Step 2: Using access-token to get the corresponding openid. Step 3 : using openAPI to get resources. You can also get specific information about API  from the following link given

2. MSN

No more introduction, but not as popular as qq in China


Video Sharing (for example, YouTube)


This name means ‘you are so cool’. A very popular video sharing website in China, founded in 2006. In 2007, it launched an activity called ‘LOMO is everywhere’, and turned out to be very successful. It’s also a website which gathers lots and lots of people who like to share their videos.

Description: The weblink describes the basic functions of youku’s open API. They are: uploading videos, getting users’ related data, broadcasting which includes designing your own player’s appearance. Their characteristics are XML or JSON format data, and using Javascript client-side to directly insert youku videos without having to add anything on the server-side. Youku API is only open to partners, so a partner ID must be applied for first.

2. Tudou

Its name means ‘potato’. You can upload, download, and share videos through this website.

Description: The link given is a tudou open platform document. Every developer can use a tudou account to login to the open platform and apply for a APP. Every APP has a limited amount of interface requirements. The interface includes functions that require user authorization, and others for which user authorization is not needed.

Photo sites (similar to Flicker)

1. babidou

‘Babidou’ I don’t know its meaning actually. But I think this name sounds good in Chinese and may mean ‘some interesting beans’.  Babidou internet photo album Internet Save centre was founded in 2005. Babidou specially serves Internet business. Almost all its photos are from taobao, yiqu, paipai, some large Internet shopping Websites. It has a strong documents management system, and a humanistic operator interface. Very easy and convenient to use and totally free.

Description: N/A.

2. bababian

‘bababian’ means ‘change’. This website imitates flicker.It has two subsites, one is for Internet shops, the other is for individual photo albums.

Description: This is the open platform link of bababian, but a bababian account is needed to see more detailed information.

Social bookmarking services (for example Addthis, or Delicious)

1. jia This
‘jia’ means add in Chinese. Its function is as same as its name. It provides these functions: website link collection, website sharing, and website link sending as well. Users can share everything they want to share to many popular social website by using this tool.
Description:The link gives a standard jiathis API interface, which make the implementation easier.This link,$siteUrl&title=$siteTitle&uid=$uid is the standard form, share ID can be gleaned by a ID list. $siteUrl means the weblink that you want to share, $siteTitle means the shared website title which can also be defined by yourself. $uid(非必须) is used for data statistics. Four examples are also given.


bshare is also a social sharing web2.0 button tool.

Description: The link above gives detailed information about the API. It’s an open platform.

3. Baidu share

This is almost as same as the tools above.

Description: The link given above is the website of baidu open platform where you can find the APIs of different baidu applications, such as baidu share, baidu map, baidu encyclopedia. This link is the specific code of baidu share, and also the instructions for use. You can copy and paste the code given and put it in any position within the webpage between <body> and </body>.

Online Trade (for example, ebay)

1. taobao

‘Taobao’ means ‘finding treasure’ in Chinese. Taobao is the biggest online retailer in Asia Pacific.It was funded by alibaba enterprise in 2003.Its business include c2c( person to person) and B2C( Business to person). By 2008, its registed member is more than 98million and represented about 80% of China on line trade, and its turnover reached 41.3billion yuan.

Description:The link given above is an API list of taobao.It has API of users , products, businesses and so on.You can click on what  you need to get more detailed information.

Deal of the day (for example: Groupon)

1. meituan

Meituan means ‘Shopping happily in group’. This group shopping website is funded by the same company that funded Renren. Meituan reccomends you a qualified life service everyday. Its recommendation must be of excellent quality and reasonable value.

Description:The weblink given is meituan API. You can get cities API,and also the daily deals API.

A general overview of lots of Chinese social media sites, including many not covered here, can be found at: English speakers might prefer to read it through Google Translate (Click here for a translation).

CC image by Dainis Matisons