Sunday, April 19, 2015

Startup founders should learn to code

I recently read an article by Steve Blank called “Why Founders should know how to code”, he tells a story about a phone call he receives, while driving home, from a startup owner named Dave. As the phone call progresses it really sounds like Dave has been making all the right moves except for one critical area. Dave's contracted developers “[took]... weeks to make even a simple change.” Upon hearing this Steve Blank is startled, in fact he writes that he almost “rear-ended” another vehicle. Just to be sure that he's actually hearing correctly he says to the founder, “Help me understand.. neither you nor your cofounder can code...?” Whoah!!!

Learning to code opens your eyes to the process

What I didn’t know about how much I didn’t know.
It isn't just about being able to write code yourself. Steve concludes the article by strongly nudging Dave, he says that “[for the sake] of his startup and the rest of career he put his startup on hold and invest his time in attending a coding bootcamp”. It seems he took the advice and as a result gained much needed appreciation for managing web development projects, recognizing good developers, and finding a technical co-founder. Steve goes further to share how Dave sent him a note which stated “Boy, what I didn’t know about how much I didn’t know. Thanks!”

We at Tutorate agree with the sentiments in the article. A startup that revolves around an app should really have app building skills. When this is not the case problems begin to compound. 

Iterations become slower and more expensive when prototyping

Prototyping an application requires the ability to be able to make timely changes to the app based on real feedback. If you can't pull that off it will make your product development process slower and generally more expensive. While every adjustment to an app must be justified against the time and development costs involved, having to deal with outsourced development costs can give you greater pause each time there's a need for a change.

Not able to judge quality or expertise

There's also the issue of not being able to determine whether your developers have delivered a quality product, if they cut corners you don't know and the next developer you hand the project to will have to spend additional time unravelling the mess. We know there are exceptions but, in general, if you have no knowledge of the coding domain space it will be much harder to manage a team of engineers and guide them towards what you want to achieve.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Learn to Code in 230 hours, Climb with Tutorate

Kingston, Jamaica get ready for Tutorate's comprehensive web development training series.
With our guidance and your hard work, we'll help you become a serious web programmer. Expect to invest as many as 230 hours in this over a 5 to 7-month period. Read on to learn how we do this.

1 - Basic Knowledge (30 hours)

We expect you to have a good understanding of the internet, the web and related concepts. Consider this to be the non-negotiable checklist of what you should know BEFORE starting our series.
At this stage we expect you to do this on your own. It helps us to validate that you can work independently and are motivated enough to do this.
Here's what we expect you to know along with links to help you learn them: 

Internet and Web Concepts (here is the link to a video playlist we put together:
Basic Python Coding Experience - ( (2 to 3 hours to complete)
Javascript Fundamentals - ( (Give yourself 2 weeks, spend an hour a day)

2 - Web Foundations Series (60 hours)

Once you are comfortable with the basic concepts we can take you to the next stage. Over a little more than two months we'll work with you to give you a strong foundation in web related technologies. These are offered as evening courses, roughly two evenings per week with supporting homework.

The modules in this series are:

Web Technologies and Programming Basics5 weeks (30 contact hours half lab/half teaching)
Learn Basic Web Technologies and the technologies that support it, including Git, Unix, Javascript and Basic Programming Concepts.

Python Basics 5 weeks (30 contact hours half lab/half teaching)

3 - Web Full Stack Series (120 hours)

By the time you enter our Web Full Stack Series you'll be confident and ready to take on 120 contact hours of web development. Over a 15-week period (2 evenings a week plus 6 Saturday Boot camps) you'll be equipped with all the experience required to take on serious web programming projects. The modules in this  series include:
Web Dev I  - Django, REST, APIs and Protocols
Web Dev II - Django and Frontend Dev
Web Dev III - Django making it production ready

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Social Media Styleguide - The ABCs of Social Media

A while back we created a social media style guide for TutorateLocal. It’s an adaptation of a style guide from The Chicago School. While we aren't the most prolific tweeters out there, we gained a lot in the process of developing a style guide.

Why a Style Guide?

We wanted to address the scenario of a team that manages a social account. The style guide gives us the tool we need to present a consistent voice, no matter who's tweeting. Below is an abridged version of what we came up with.

The ABCs

Be Accessible, on Brand and Conversational.
Accessible - you need to respond to your audience.
on Brand - you must have a good understanding of the organization you're representing.
Conversational - start original discussions, not just pictures and links from other sources.

Twitter is a conversation. When you represent a business it must be a professional conversation, stay friendly and engaging but please be professional. Here are a few more practices we encourage.

Include relevant images

Pictures tend to increase engagement and using appropriate images will help to reinforce the brand.


Use context words or phrases with links

When posting links, we also try to use "context" words or phrases which help to frame what we are saying. For example, words and phrases such as "Video, News, From our Blog" can be helpful to give followers an idea of what a related link may be about.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Full Stack Web Development Series for Kingston, Jamaica starts in May 2015

We're running a Full Stack Web Development Course starting this May, right here in Kingston, Jamaica and you'll want to know how to attend. The Tutorate May 2015 Web Development Series is designed to launch the next crop of Jamaican startup entrepreneurs and we'll be teaching Python-based web application development.

update: Based on recent feedback, we've reworked the programme to be a bit more modular, you can read more about the "Tutorate Climb" this here. We've also worked in 3 times as many contact hours for the same price.

Tutorate Web Development Series

We're partnering with the folks at to bring you comprehensive material. Expect a deep dive into Python-based web application development where you'll learn Flask, Django and more. This nine-week-long face-to-face series will be supported between classes by assignments and associated video content. Full stack means you'll also learn Javascript, including a primer on AngularJS.

Apply Now

So if you think you should be a part of this then we're encouraging you to apply now.

Part Scholarships

If you're burning to do this series but can't afford it, we are putting together some partial scholarships, so apply and indicate your interest in our part scholarships.

All face-to-face

It's really hard to beat the value of an over-the-shoulder face-to-face experience. For this reason we're focusing all our attention on making this a great experience. We're not against offering remote training, but it isn't going to be the primary delivery format for this time around.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hello 1999, we now do quick data collection with Google Forms and Apps Script

Hello 1999, I'm writing this from the future.

It is now October 2014 and we've found better ways to process our data. If you're reading this in the past, say some time before 2004 then I can safely tell you that the future of data collection is bright. I know there was once a time that ad-hoc data collection problems required a team of 5 engineers or a suite of expensive desktop software. I can safely declare that this is no longer needed.

Of course there are still many managing their quick 2 question surveys by printing many sheets of paper and collecting responses using pen and paper rather than tablets and cloud connected laptops. For my more light-weight data collection problems (less than 20 fields in a form) I now use Google Forms and it's great. I'm talking about problems like:
  • Event registration
  • Short surveys
  • Online Quizes
  • Accepting Student Submissions

It wasn't always this way.

As you probably know, many, many, many, many...... years ago, in the dark ages, forms were processed manually in large rooms where persons counted and tabulated the results, they were filled out using pens and papers. This manual approach introduced issues like having to figure out someone's handwriting or recounting if an error was made (yeah I know, some persons are still doing it that way). Nowadays big data collection problems are managed electronically. For big data collection there is big "enterprisey" software and for smaller problems we have tools like Google Forms.

But we wanted to make Forms do more.

After managing a few little form projects, we wanted more automation. Luckily, Google Forms was up to the task. We've started to integrate Apps Script into our processes and it's made us more efficient. From simple mail merges to more complex operations, Apps Script has opened up a new world to us.

Apps Script makes it possible for us to automate some of the tasks which can become tedious and repetitive. Of course Apps Script isn't for everyone (we're looking forward to having ready-made add-ons that do just what we need). If you're willing to dig into a bit of code then you're all good and the benefits are huge. For people who want to learn more about Apps Script we've even created a knowledge session for that.

Learn more about our Tutorate Apps Script session and then go back and enlighten others.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lack of Linux Knowledge is a barrier to innovation

People come to me all the time with challenges related to computer projects that they’re working on. Many of these projects assume Linux knowledge as a base, which further compounds the problem. Apart from knowledge specific to the project, they must also be able to apply this in the context of an unfamiliar Linux system.

In case you missed it, in the world of programming, networking and systems it is to your benefit to “speak” more than just Windows. The truth is that there's a whole other world beyond Microsoft. Some persons choose to work around their limitations by outsourcing their Linux problems or waiting to adopt technologies later on, after those who “speak” Linux have built the tools to allow a wider audience to make use of these innovations. But in many cases, if you don't know Linux you are left to wait on those who do and your lack of knowledge effectively becomes a barrier, locking you out from early adoption and, by extension, certain types of innovation.

Breaking the Barrier

On October 26 we are going to be giving Jamaican techies the opportunity to step up their Linux game with our hands-on “Essential Linux Super Powers” session. This goes beyond the standard knowledge session, and is a full blown, bring your own device (BYOD), hands-on session.

Where is this Innovation?

If you doubt me, here's a short list of industries where Linux is the primary platform for innovation.


Projects like Asterisk and Freeswitch lead the pack for developing PBX phone solutions and they are both developed primarily on Linux first.

Super computers

When it comes to building super computers, Linux is a driving force in the growth of super computers.

Tiny computers

Linux is right there when it comes to small computers as well, from the $35 RaspberryPI to powering small systems like the Chromecast and most smartphones.

Want to get started?

So if you're ready to get started then sign up for the “Essential Linux Super Powers” session today!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Being savvy about your technological limitations

It's okay to not know. I meet some persons who wear it like a badge. They will proudly state that they are clueless about smart phones or Gmail or insert some other technological thing. Declaring your hand is okay, in fact having an accurate assessment of your capabilities is extremely valuable when working in teams as it frees you to draw on the strengths of other team members.

Start By Admitting It

Being savvy about your limitations starts with admitting them. If you are in a pivotal management position it is even more vital to those who you manage that you are honest about where you stand in this area. Once you have gotten beyond any form of denial, here are two simple practices that will make your team three times more efficient.

Communicate Intent

If you are working with colleagues who are more technically inclined than you, always consider the possibility that there is a better solution than the one in your head.  Since you may be blind to the solution, you really want to give them space to execute more efficiently by sharing intent instead of specifics. For example if you need a co-worker to communicate with one of your partners, instead of saying “send them a fax” emphasize your intention, which is to get a message to the partner. By communicating intent it gives those around you the ability to recommend the best solution.

 Most team members stand ready to support the goals of the team once clearly articulated.
The idea of communicating intent seems obvious,  yet I continue to observe wrong outcomes that well-intentioned managers have imposed on their organizations. Individuals end up spending two to three times more effort on tasks because a manager insisted on an outdated approach rather than communicating the end goal. One concrete example is how contact information is managed across an organization. It is still far too common to find organizations that are managing contact information, inventory or other critical data in an Excel spreadsheet. While this is certainly more efficient than pen and paper, there are better approaches. Many of them are cloud-based and may even be familiar to some of the employees of those organizations.

Improve Your Game

There really is no reason to stay where you are now. Look for opportunities to be exposed to new developments. Have conversations with your more technologically adept acquaintances to keep a pulse of how new developments may impact your field or organization. Listen to both sides of a technology argument for example Apple vs Microsoft or Cloud vs on-premises. And finally, of course, (shameless plug), do a knowledge session with Tutorate. In the end, your roadmap to being tech savvy begins with being savvy about your technological limitations.