Oxford Inspires my Saturday

Written by Waseem Ahmad. Posted in Blog, Computer Science, Studying Abroad

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress

This Saturday morning I woke up to my alarm at 7:00 AM after it rang for almost a minute. With 4 hours of sleep, I turned it off and closed my eyes. Yet I didn’t go back to sleep, despite thinking to myself, “I have absolutely no reason to get up on a Saturday morning in this freezing weather and goto a conference in a city I’ve never been to with people I don’t know!” But it’s my subconscious that kept me from going back to sleep. I got up and took a shower as I really tried to justify to myself why I wanted to attend this conference. I really didn’t have an answer but I followed my instincts.

I had literally found out the night before around 11:00 PM that I had won a ticket to an entrepreneurship event called ‘Oxford Inspires’ by Oxford’s Saïd Business School. I won it by being one of the first people to reply to UCL Enterprise Society’s email. Who knew it pays to be attentive to your email? I had signed up for UCL Enterprise Society’s mailing list among many other clubs in an effort to become more extracurricularly involved within UCL. Earlier in the week I had gone on a cinema outing with the UCL Book Club to watch Cloud Atlas which recently came out in UK. So I’ve definitely been making progress in this effort. The UCLE officers were catching the 8:50 AM train to Oxford to attend the conference and offered to let me travel with them. I happily agreed to join them, but as you can tell, I was having serious doubts in the morning.

The Joy of Writing Software

Written by Waseem Ahmad. Posted in Blog, Computer Science

OwlectionIt’s 06:45 AM in Houston. I nervously go over the logs and make sure that no errors were reported. I type in a few queries in the datastore to make sure that its state is consistent. I go over the quota and make sure the website will be able to handle the traffic influx. I look over analytics data to see the visitor flow and statistics. Its almost like being part of a startup. Entrepreneurs are anxious that their product will engage users and win the confidence of their investors. I’m anxious that my elections app will run smoothly and successfully work for the first real election that opens in 15 minutes.

About a year ago, there was a really close round of election at Brown, my residential college within Rice University. There were some inconsistencies in the number of people who voted and the number of ballots cast. Because the votes were so close between the candidates the ballots were declared spoilt and a runoff election had to be held. It highlighted some issues with the paper based system and the tediousness of manually counting ballots that were supposed to be anonymous but still fair. Phil Tarpley, who was the elections committee chair that year was the first to mention the idea of having online elections for Brown during cabinet. Last semester, Julian Cooper, the new elections committee chair approached me about making this happen. The idea was to have elections online that were simple, secure, and anonymous. A list of NetIDs would be entered in the application to restrict voting to a subset of people within Rice. At first, I was a bit reluctant to work on such an application. I wondered if all of the work would be worth the effort.