back to article YouTuber charged loads of fans $199 for shoddy machine-learning course that copy-pasted other people's GitHub code

The AI hysteria has led to a rash of budding engineers hoping to land a cushy job somewhere in Silicon Valley. So it's no wonder that thousands flocked to an online course titled Make Money with Machine Learning fronted by Siraj Raval, a self-proclaimed AI educator, rapper, and entertainer with nearly 700,000 subscribers on …

  1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Why is the above post not open for votes ? How does that work, and, if this is not a mistake, why do we see the vote choices ?

      1. truetalk

        First time I've ever seen a post that's not open to votes. What the hell is that all about?

      2. AIBailey Silver badge
        Terminator

        Proof that the Reg "moderators" are actually AI bots, and concluded that boltar knows too much.

      3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I don't like this one bit.

        Boltar, please re-post.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: " a self-proclaimed AI educator, rapper ..."

      Try to upvote it, your little red status box says "sorry, this post is not open to votes".

      It's also MIGHTY suspicious that such common sense has no votes whatsoever (up or down), don't you think?

      1. MiguelC Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: " a self-proclaimed AI educator, rapper ..."

        Now the post has been deleted by a Moderator. I wonder what might have justified it, as the post was neither insulting nor indecent or offensive in any possible way. Just something you might agree or disagree with and critique or comment on. And yes, I do know that moderators have discretion over what stays, but it seems weird at times (I also had a comment moderated once, and to this day I can not fathom the reason why...in all fairness I never asked, but the guidelines also state moderators seldom discuss their reasons)

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          "I wonder what might have justified it"

          I didn't remove the comment though I can guess why - any posts along the lines of "yawn" or "didn't bother reading" or "this isn't news" tend to get binned. It's just noise and lowers the SNR of the comment thread.

          We wanna foster discussion about story subjects, not get into meta-discussion of stories themselves.

          C.

  2. holmegm Bronze badge

    On the one hand, yeah - if everything is as stated here, what a jerk.

    At the same time - you shelled out for course without a refund policy, then later you wanted a refund? And he gave you one (albeit reluctantly)?

    1. xanda

      Indeed.

      It certainly doesn't bode well that all those technically, and perhaps scientifically, intelligent students have such an affinity for daftness. Or perhaps they feel the principle of due diligence is not of value for AI?

  3. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    I take it he got this idea from Trump University?

  4. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    "Some people really like him, and other people really hate him. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and try for myself to form my own opinion of him. My opinion of him now is that he's a fake and dishonest crook."

    Nicely put

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      I'd be more generous and say that he's fallen into the greatest cognitive trap of the crowdfunding era -- the idea that money comes first, then everything else falls into place.

      Kickstarter was so swapped with this sort of thinking (for example all the non-engineers who said "give me some money and I'll hire an engineer to create my technologically impossible and/or financially infeasible games console) that they insisted on prototypes first (and now they all head to Indiegogo instead).

      The notion of building a course around freely-available information is so much the mainstream that the notion on its own is valueless (how many of your uni lecturers invented and/or discovered the stuff they taught you) -- it's the execution that matters.

      What I note as missing from the article is any discussion of quality assurance. If you're delivering a course to that many people, there should be several layers of oversight, and ideally also a fairly rigorous testing process involving teaching beginners... I doubt there was any of that.

      It's the thing that bugged me most about Coursera and Udacity when they first came out -- 1000s of people taking courses that had never been run before, and many of which (on Coursera and EdX, anyway) were only ever run once. No beta testing, no refinement or improvement... all people ever saw was the first draft. In that situation, at least these courses were based heavily on tried and tested university modules, but even then, the change of medium really called for a lot more in terms of adaptation and testing.

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      2. computerguy001

        why do people go for online tutorials?

        From what I have seen, courses are successful when they act as a convenient training program which helps users get started with a technology/domain with minimum effort. There are already a lot of information available and easily accessible, in the form of books and papers (many important papers have an archived version, but not all of them have one- thus, some of them are completely free). But the number of people who will directly benefit from such sources are very less.

        The small group of people who benefit from these primary sources will have to make the material even more accessible, to reach a larger audience who finds it hard, or cannot learn directly from research works. This goes on, as new groups of people work towards simplifying the material even further. And finally this reaches the majority who rarely benefit from reading papers or reference books. Tutorials target the lowest level and are supposed to be as easy as possible, enabling practitioners in the field to easily adapt to the new way of doing things.

        Thus, as long as the instructors break down the material quite well and explain everything step by step without having the users do a lot of work, the course should become a success. Yes, I do agree that there must be some level of beta testing. But there are users who would volunteer to pay and sign up for new courses that are marked as "beta", as long as it covers everything they need and they are given a trial period to evaluate if the course will really benefit them.

        But the course mentioned in the above article is quite suspicious, if whatever that was said was true.

        1. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: why do people go for online tutorials?

          All very much true.

          However, the good course designer starts with a particular demographic in mind as his/her target audience, and builds the course around them. A good teacher will adapt the course on the fly if students are finding it too hard or too easy.

          Modern digital courseware wants to sell to as wide an audience as possible, which means all notions of prerequisite learning go out the window. Then there's the tendency for everything to be live coding instead of lectures, which means everything's paced by lines of code rather than complexity of concepts.

          I've been watching a LinkedIn Learning course on Vue.js today. and it's exclusively live coding. The presenter keeps going off on tangents just in case you don't know particular features of JavaScript as and when they pop up in a line of code he's writing.

        2. gpredett

          Re: why do people go for online tutorials?

          The right question would be: is anyone going to be actually hired and kept in the job for more than two months because of all these trivial courses?

  5. Rich 11 Silver badge

    This chap sounds ideally suited for Silicon Valley.

    1. C_D

      That must be a typo. It's "Silly Con Valley"

  6. Mr Dogshit

    Artificial Intelligence?

    Artificial Stupidity

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Artificial Intelligence?

      Artificial Stupidity

      Nope; this stupidity is utterly real and naturally occurring.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ouch

    In my days a person that did stuff like this was called a scammer. I guess things change. Now anything goes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ouch

      I think they call them 'influencers' today...

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: ouch

        Efluencers?

        1. MNB

          Re: ouch

          Effluencers!

          Thank you. You owe me the beer I just spat out in mirth! :)

  8. steviebuk Silver badge

    Sounds a lot like...

    ..Eli The Computer Guy. Originally thought he seemed OK with his free courses on YouTube. Then noticed that most of his "Courses" consisted of one or two videos on the subject, then he'd move on to something else. Got the impression he was just taking the first two chapters of a book and blurting them out in the hope to get viewers and subs (unfortunately has worked). I gave up on him when I watched his backups video. The amount of disinformation in that was clear he has never implemented a proper backup solution before.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds a lot like...

      I like some of Eli's videos and he has a lot of interesting informations.

      But I'd never pay for learning vids and the thought of being a "YouTube celeb" seems kinda weird to me.

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Sounds a lot like...

        Yeah although i can understand why they want to be. They then feel like they are working for themselves and not some faceless corp. I find it hard to explain as you'll get some that want to do it for that reason and will shit on anyone that gets in the way or misunderstand the approach. Such as the guy that started up a video podcast for Star Wars Republic as it was being released. Was doing it from his house. Which was all fine. But then he thought to be bigger he needs to go and rent an office space with big TVs in the background. Long story short, didn't last long after the move and "hiring staff". That's where a lot of them go wrong.

        We all want to work for ourselves and YouTube used to be a way to do it. But I think getting lucky with it so you get the numbers that you can now do it as your day job but ignore the bullshit "YouTube celebrity" side of it is just fine. Its why I like the likes of LGR. He's done it as a hobby for years and now finally made it a success & was able to quit his job a while ago. But he doesn't get involved in the "celebrity" side of it. He's even admitted in an old video he wouldn't do meet ups with viewers he doesn't know. As its really uncomfortable meeting strangers as it is. Strangers that think they know you just cause they watch you all the time must be even weirder.

  9. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Make money from machine learning? Well he wasn't lying about that was he. He just didn't mention it would only be him making it.

    1. Blank Reg

      Much like the "make money in real estate" seminars.

      1. Robert Moore
        Happy

        I am going to start a seminar on making money on the exciting business of seminars.

        Bound to be a winner.

  10. John McCallum
    Trollface

    Vote here

    a self-proclaimed AI educator, rapper ..."

    .And I stopped reading at that point. No more info about this guy needed.

    Millennials - if you want to learn something save yourself a dumb online fee and instead try reading up on it (even - gasp - a book or 2) then putting what you've learnt into practice. Its worked for millenia (ironically).

    As this comment is not accepting votes. vote here

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    1. NLCSGRV

      Self-proclaimed? At last some truth from Ilya the Russian AI bot.

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  13. katrinab Silver badge
    Trollface

    I think I see the problem

    In order to "make money with machine learning", the tool you need to know how to use is Powerpoint, and you need to use it to persuade people who have money to part with that money.

    For example, Andrea Rossi managed to persuade Woodford Capital to part with £32m for his cold fusion "invention", and there is very little evidence that it actually works.

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  14. AdityaKaushik0609

    He's a rank fraud and nothing else.

    He claimed to have authored a best-seller on his website. That book on Amazon has a paltry 3 star rating from 17 ratings and multiple reviewers have shared their suspicion of manipulated 5 star reviews.

    See:

    https://www.amazon.com/Decentralized-Applications-Harnessing-Blockchain-Technology/dp/1491924543

    Besides this, he removed all references to Udacity from his LinkedIn profile, which is extremely suspicious given his deep involvement in their deep learning nanodegree programs for at least 2 years now.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/sirajraval/

  15. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    I know of at least one "ad" for the course in question

    Someone I know who has been thinking about getting into AI pointed me at it. I noted right off the top that there were not one but three typos in the ad, and that the reference article was written by the person giving the course. Both red flags in my book.

  16. Daedalus Silver badge

    Karma

    So he's pissed off over a thousand wannabe programmers at least a few of whom will be smart enough to cobble something together to make him regret his sins.

  17. jackr

    emm

    Sounds like every programming course I have ever heard of.

  18. jackr

    emm

    Sounds like every programming course I have ever come across.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. NLCSGRV

        Re: emm

        It is touching how dedicated you are to brightening up dull stories with your whacky conspiracy theories!

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  19. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Raval's Bolero

    AI Rap

  20. HmYiss

    Shocking..

    A yootoobuh that is a Musk-backed attention-whoring fraud?

    You don't say..

  21. BuckingWild

    Why aren't you writing these articles slamming universities?

    I am currently a software engineer in a data science team producing software that yields millions of dollars in revenue for our company. I did my undergraduate in physics and my professors encouraged us to view MIT Open Courseware lectures alongside their subpar teaching. I learned more from those online lectures than I ever could in those expensive classes. I paid tens of thousands of dollars for that education. I decided that it was better bang for my buck to learn data science than in would every be to continue on in the weak education system we have globally. I paid 30 dollars month, for a year, to pick up the skills to get into data science. I landed a great job, paying a great salary because I took advantage of these types of opportunities. If you hate on this guy for collecting code that is open to the public and creating huge value from it, then you can go get your masters degree for $50-100k and work for someone who took advantage of these types of offerings. Anyone who hates on this is part of an old school, suppressive system that will continue to hold talented people down. Buck the system and keep learning!

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Why aren't you writing these articles slamming universities?

      Your comment starts off reasonable. We have all seen subpar teaching in established universities, and we all know there are very good online teaching materials. I'll gladly agree to that.

      And you then turn around and say that, because this is the case, all the material online is better than a university. That's just wrong. The course referred to in this article, for example, started off pretty badly in that it didn't teach the concepts people need to learn. And this guy doesn't get credit for useful code someone else wrote either; I'm fine if he chooses to teach from it, but he should properly credit the original authors and choosing useful Github projects does not a good course make. The internet has a bunch of information, and for every very helpful resource out there, there are at least ten pages with something outdated, incorrect, biased, or useless. Your all-or-nothing stance is misguided.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Why aren't you writing these articles slamming universities?

        He created an account just for posting his nonsense. Totally not a shill.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Why aren't you writing these articles slamming universities?

          "Anyone who hates on this"

          ...didn't even need to check post history to recognise that style.

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        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why aren't you writing these articles slamming universities?

          From the text of the post, I can imagine him being emotionally motivated enough to create an account.

          https://xkcd.com/386/

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    2. Aussie Doc
      Coat

      Re: Why aren't you writing these articles slamming universities?

      You're Siraj Raval and I claim my $5. Put it in my pocket--->

  22. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Are IlyaG's posts generated by a Markov chain?

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  23. aj69

    Praised by Elon Musk

    That should have been the tell.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Praised by Elon Musk

        "Autopilot"???

        Machine learned image processing systems that detect stationary objects???

        May be you are right after all

  24. Lewis R

    No surprise, and definitely will not be the last example we see

    As a Novell-certified engineer, I remember well the number of "paper CNEs" who entered the field in the 1990's. These folks had no idea which side of the floppy disk to stick in the drive, but they studied the book and passed the exams. No doubt many of these went on to "teach" their newfound "skills" to others for a fee. My mother held a doctorate in Education, so I learned at a rather young age just what was involved in "educating" students, and it was/is far more than as presented in this article. Still, people are attracted by a low price for learning (no shame in that, but as has already been said, buy a book or two: it's even cheaper).

    Also, since when does the number of github-hosted repositories denote someone's technical abilities beyond the ability to click the "fork" button repeatedly?

    All of this aside, caveat emptor. If you're going to hand over $200 to someone you don't know, read the fine print. Look for the satisfaction assurance, and if missing, ask before purchasing. Heck, I don't even sign up for forum access without reading the privacy policy and ToS (no, not Star Trek, gang!). I know I'm in the minority concerning my level of retentiveness, but due diligence is mine to perform alone. If I fail, I have only myself to blame.

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  25. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    First red flag should have been the absent refunds policy.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  26. jayViant
    Devil

    100% CPU in Browser on Siraj Raval's Web Site

    When I visited this "AI Experts" Web Site I was surprised to find it almost impossible to even scroll down the page, I am not currently running an AdBlocker and am sure if I was then I would not have encountered this 100% CPU in my Browser.

    It appear's he's running Browser CPU Cryptocurrency Mining on his Web Site?

  27. gpredett

    "Ray Phan, a senior computer-vision and deep-learning engineer ..." why on earth someone "senior" in deep lesrning wants to pay for a youyube tutorial in machine kesrning?!?!

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