CSC290 Communication Skills for Computer Scientists

Fall 2018

Blog Posts
Critical Reviews
Group Presentation

Blog Posts

You are expected to maintain a blog throughout this course. This is both so that you write frequently, and to build an online presence and portfolio that could be useful later on.

The blog posts count for 10% of your overall course grade. The critical review articles should also be publishable as blog posts, however they are graded separately.

You are encouraged to post your blog URL to the discussion board on Quercus, follow other students' blogs, and interact with other students in this course. For blog posts that you are especially proud of, you should consider sharing it more widely to your network and with the internet.


Blog posts are due weekly by 8:59pm on Sundays. Submit your blog post by posting your blog post on your blog, then submitting a text file named "link.txt" containing the URL of your blog post. Both must steps be completed by the deadline.

Topics and Deadlines

1Sep 23, 8:59pm


Introduce yourself to readers. What is something interesting and unique about you? What are your interests? What are your goals? How can other people help you, and what kind of help can you offer to other people? You should discuss one goal you have related to CSC290.

You should be careful about revealing personal information publicly on the internet, and can opt to write about yourself anonymously. However, having an online presence can help you "be known" both amongst other students and the community. Being "known" can be immensely helpful for your career!

For this week only, the deadline is Sept 23rd (not Sept 16th) to accomodate students who may be entering the course late.


Disagree with an article

Since week 1 blog post is due Sept 23rd, this is a blog post that does not need to be submitted. However, it is good to get into the habit of writing weekly!

Find an article or blog post on the internet that you disagree with. What does the article claim? Why do you disagree? Is the article using data or visualizations in a misleading way? You should not assume that your reader has read your article.

Here are some articles that you might disagree with. You do not have to restrict yourself to this list.

4Oct 14, 8:59pm

Your best project

Describe your best project, the project you are most proud of. You can write about this project in one of two ways:

Using business analysis and project management terminologies: Describe the scope of the project. Were there any stakeholders? Were they satisfied? Describe the timeline of the project, including any milestones and deliverables. What was challenging about the project? What about the project makes you proud?

Using plain English: Describe your project. What did you do? Who did you work with? What was challenging? What made the project worthwhile? What impact did it have on other people? What did you learn? Why are you proud of the project?

The first strategy will give you more practice using business terminology. The second strategy will still give you practice explaining your project in a clear and concise manner.

You don't have to answer all prompt questions. An in-depth answer of a few questions makes a better blog post than enumerating answers.

5Oct 21, 8:59pm

Working with others

A theme in this course is to strive to "be someone that other people want to work with". What does this mean to you? How would you describe the way you work with others? Are you easy to work with? Why or why not? How will you make sure that other people find it easy to work with you in the future?

You don't have to answer all prompt questions. An in-depth answer of a few questions makes a better blog post than enumerating answers.

7Nov 4, 8:59pm

Your Favourite Speaker

Who is your favourite public speaker? What is your favourite talk by that speaker? What do you like about their presentations? What about their presentation structure, delivery, or style that you enjoy? The speaker does not have to be a computer scientist.

Avoid answering the prompt questions one by one. Instead, think about the message of your blog post and structure your blog post depending on what you want to get across.

8Nov 11, 8:59pm

Describing a Technical Concept

This week's blog post will be a technical blog post. There are a few topics that you can choose from:

  • Describe one of the design patterns that you are learning in CSC207
  • Describe how to resolve merge conflicts in git
  • Describe what recursion is and how to write recursive functions

Use a monospace font for code samples and function names, to differentiate them from English words. Remember to keep the audience in mind. In this case, your readers are computer science students and enthusiasts. Also, don't forget the other technical writing guidelines that we discussed in lecture. Here are some example technical blog posts:

10Nov 25, 8:59pm

Email to a Potential Mentor

This week's "blog post" isn't a blog post at all. Instead, you will put what we learned about emails to good use, and write an email to a potential mentor. You should not publish this email on your blog.

First, think about how someone with more experience could help you right now. Is there a company you are looking to join? Are you looking for a summer internship? Identify ways that other people can help you.

Next, look on the internet (for example on LinkedIn) for someone who could help you achieve what you are looking for. This could be someone who currently works at a company, a startup founder that might give you an internship, or a graduate student working with a professor whom you would like to do research with.

Finally, write an email to this person. You could ask them for advice over coffee, for possible job openings, or anything else appropriate for your current situation.

You are not required to actually send this email, however you would be doing the hard work of drafting it.

For this week only, submit a PDF file on MarkUs containing (1) information about the recipient of your email and why you chose him or her, (2) the email subject and body.

Grading will be out of 4. With:

  • 1 point for completion.
  • 1 point for structure and grammar.
  • 2 point for content, including following the guidelines we described in class.

Blogging Platform

You can use blogger (, WordPress, or medium as a blogging platform. You are not expected to have to pay for your blog hosting.

Keep in mind that blogs are public (readable by your peers and the entire web) and you should not, nor are you obliged to, provide your identify, or any personal or private information in the blog. However, your blog URL will be shared with the CSC290 course so that you can engage with each other and see what other classmates are thinking about the course topics.

If you wish to upkeep a blog that is only available to me and your classmates in this course, please speak to me.


The audience for your blog are other Computer Science students, and other people interested in Computer Science, including your TAs and instructor.

Blog posts need not use highly formal language but you are expected to use proper spelling, grammar, mechanics and avoid use of slang and colloquial writing (eg. lol, emoticons, etc).

You are not graded on the length of the blog posts. They should usually be 300-600 words long. Blog posts must adequately respond to the given topic/question of the week in order to be deemed complete.

Blog posts must be fully completed in the week that they are due. You are not expected to, nor should you, edit or re-write your blog posts at a later date to change or to improve them.

Penalty for Late Work

As stated in the course syllabus, Each student will receive six grace tokens; each grace token can be used for a 8-hour extension for an assignment. Grace tokens are tracked automatically using MarkUs. When you submit a late blog post, you do not need to explicitly say you are using a grace token; just submit your work within the grace token periods.

No other late work will be accepted.

Blog posts submitted electronically will be timestamped based on the MarkUs server time, not the student's local/PC time.


Each blog post will be graded on:

  • Does your post show depth of thought about the topic?
  • Did you repeat opinions or information already posted in previous blog posts?
  • Have you used a descriptive title for your blog post?
  • Does your post use proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and mechanics?
  • Have you followed good online etiquette rules like “Do not YELL”?

The grading rubric is as follows:

  • 1 Mark For making a submission that significantly addresses the week's topic.
  • 1 Mark For readability, grammatical, sentence, or styling issues that affect ease of readability and skimmability.
  • 2 Mark For quality of content, critical thinking, and insight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do we have to keep a blog? Why do we have to post on a weekly basis?

A: There are psychological benefits to writing regularly -- see this blog post particularly the Writing and Learning section. Programmer and blogger, Steve Yegge, also writes about why you should blog.

Q: Can we post more often than the once a week requirement?

A: Absolutely!

Q: Can we comment on other student’s blogs?

A: Yes! Interaction between students that enhance reflection and learning of the course topics is highly encouraged. Keep in mind that other students may have differing views and opinions. Your blog posts and any responses to each other must be respectful. We will not tolerate abusive or inappropriate blog posts or comments.