Algorithms 101

Algorithms are a way for code to tell stories. Programmers write code and instruct it to give us an experience. And algorithms can make technology into a beautiful experience.

Code is written language, instructions that you’re programming, to automate tasks. You can instruct an algorithm to perform basic tasks, such as Big O algos that simply speed up the code. Or use AI algorithms to independently construct a new reality.

People are often vehemently against what they don’t understand. So, let’s all learn a little more about algorithms.

First, a little about my background. Besides studying information science for my master’s, after graduating, I went to front end dev bootcamp, where I learned HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery MySQL, etc. Then I took 3 courses with Women Who Code at Stanford continuing ed: Algorithms 1 & 2 and Recommender Algorithms.

For MyLibrarian, we’ve created a Librarian Recommender algorithm that supports our app and other tech, including the Librarian Brain. Algorithms are a very useful part of our service and the backbone of most modern tech.

Algos are like little stories we each write in the user journey, where based on user actions, you’ll get more of one outcome or another. Sorting algos, collaborative filtering and natural language processing are some of the most commonly used.

In mainstream tech, user permissions choices have largely been missing from the journey, for the most part. Attention to this detail could make all the difference in revolutionizing tech products toward success.

If technologists want people to use their products, the way we build things has to change. Traditionally, outcomes are in the hands of the programmer, and they should give the user choices, to put decisions about algorithms back in your hands.

Metadata, as we know, is data about data. Metadata is not copyrighted. As long as algos are run on metadata that is non copyrighted or attached to users who allow certain permissions they will be honest algorithms, as long as devs use them in a good and honest way.

Have you heard of the new computer protocol called Nostr? It’s an acronym for Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays. Lots of the proposed use cases for algorithms on Nostr clients put the power to turn on and off algos in the user’s hands. Completely giving users their choice of algorithms is a freedom most will enjoy, so they’ll stay.

How could I write about algorithms as woman without mentioning Ada Lovelace? You can read more about how Ada has influenced MyLibrarian here.—Michelle