One of the things that comes up in conversation when ever getting more students, especially women, interested in computer science comes up is that we need a TV show that would show the field in a good light. People mention how CSI has gotten students interested in forensics for example. The closest thing we have in computer science is NUMB3RS and the star there is really a mathematician. I’ve been giving a TV show about computer scientists or programmers or related some thought lately on some longish drives. I see a couple of possibilities.
One is a reality show. Think The Apprentice or Top Chef and the like. What would it look like? I see two teams of hotshot programmers who are assigned a coding project each “week.” Perhaps a casual game. Or a phone application for a specific business problem. Or maybe a scientific data analysis project. Something that a small team can do in a reasonable time. Not easy because it has to be non trivial but yet still handle able. Each team would work with a customer and at the end of the projects they would be evaluated for things like ease of use, meeting the customer’s needs, reliability, etc. The losing team would have to pick two people who would be evaluated with one of them being dropped. Teams would vote people off based on poor coding practices, lack of teamwork or communication, and other issues.
What would you show? Brainstorming and designing sessions, pairs working at computers (team programming seems like it would work in this environment), progress meetings, user interface mock-ups , customer discussions, demos and the like. We need a mix of people – men, women, personalities, races, etc. It has to show all sorts of people.
Another is a scripted show. Comedy is fine but let’s not have too many characters like those on the “Big Bang Theory” please! And of course the women should be smart and no one should be ugly. Well maybe one guy but most shows use good looking people and there sure are a lot of them in the computer industry. No really! Drama would also be cool. Tight deadlines, customers changing specifications, differing development philosophies, are all fair game. But can we show people having real lives as well? I know people who ski, snowboard, do wood work (even some serious carpenters), musicians (lots of those) and other people who engage in all sorts of activities that are not associated with geeks and nerds.
What other ideas do you have? Who would you see cast in these sorts of show? Would they make a difference in attracting young people to the field?