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.

Search Engine Optimization, the important questions

I thought you might like to know some of the reasons why you are not getting enough organic traffic to your website. I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself, that first sentence comes straight out of the playbook of an SEO sales person, a spamming sales person at that. But the offer is very compelling, “If you’re willing to overlook that we’ve made contact with you in an unsolicited and shady manner” we are here to solve your traffic problems and we’ll do it through the magic of search engine optimization (SEO).

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving the content and structure of your website in order to improve its placement in search engine results. You don’t need to look too far to find persons ready to sign you up for SEO services, in fact you may have been victim to SEO spam messages like the one below (note the bad formatting and grammar):

I thought you might like to know some of the reasons why you are not getting enough organic traffic &amp; mo=st often you stick to Ad words to get more traffic which is quite expensive an=d the chances is high of getting a spam traffic as well ...<snip>.. This email just tells you the fraction of things we do, [blah, blah, blah] many other technical factors which can be sen=t to you on your request. If you would like to know more about our services then please write us back else you can give us a call us in our number ...

The message plays on the idea that you’re doing something wrong and if you just let us, we’ll help you fix it and thus “drive more traffic to your website”, which is what you need, right?

Not so fast. When trying to determine your real need and the real value of an SEO professional, a small dose of SEO skepticism is healthy. Starting with the wrong goals and measuring the wrong things will bring little value to your business. At minimum you should be asking the following questions.

  • How will you drive the right kind of traffic to my site?
  • How will I be able to measure the improvements?

Making the assumption that all new traffic is good traffic is simply a bad idea. A restaurant that ONLY sells beef burgers would see little benefit in being overrun by vegan visitors (unless they had just launched veggie-burgers). Our fictional restaurant might be more interested in getting persons who frequent a nearby chicken place. They might also want a methodology for measuring how changes in their communication affect the numbers of burgers sold.
Measuring the effectiveness of SEO strategies is part of what we will be covering in the upcoming session called “The Technology Behind Online Marketing” this Thursday. You can learn more about this free session at the Tutorate website.
Another useful practice is to put yourself in the place of the search engine providers, in other words pretend to be Google and think about how they bring value to their visitors. Think of Google as a person who is trying hard to distinguish a quality site from an impostor. The goal is to deliver useful search results to their visitors, since this is what makes them valuable to their users. If you were Google, what would you do if you started to notice that more “spammy” content was making in the top three search results? That’s what was happening around 2009/2010 so Google made changes to fix the problem. Most famously in 2011 they released Panda which had a major effect on the SEO industry as some popular SEO practices were now red flagged causing certain sites to plummet in the rankings.

As a web site then, your goal is to stay relevant. Don't try to "trick" Google by overusing words just to win at the SEO game. The guys who do that tend to drop in the listings when Google updates their algorithms. My final question. If you started with the assumption that your visitors actually wanted to know more about you and your offerings, how would this change the way you present information on your site? Your answer might be the key to improving your search engine rankings.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tutorial: Watch your youtube videos at Double Speed

I sometimes watch videos at double speed in order to save time. If you'd like to do the same, here's how I do it for Youtube videos.

Step 1 - Switch Youtube to “HTML5 Mode”

Visit and click “join the HTML5 trial”. I haven't found any negative side effects to using the HTML5 mode. Just be sure you're using a modern browser. Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera or IE version 9 or better are known to work.

Joining the HTML5 trial also means that you can watch videos without flash enabled.

There is no step 2.  You can now go a youtube video of your choice and watch it at double speed.
Look for the settings menu in the toolbar of the video (see the screenshot below).

Look for the little gear at the bottom of your video, you may need to pass your mouse over the video before it appears.

This works with most youtube videos. You will need to do this on every browser that you want this to work with. Don't expect to just walk up to a new computer and expect it to be in HTML5 trial mode.

I was going to create a video to show how to do this, but thought better of the idea. If you're like me, for something like this, you prefer a short checklist of instructions and some screenshots. Our websites on a budget video is great at double speed!

Technology Coaching from Tutorate

Just like in sports, there are times when a business could benefit from a coach. We’re already doing this for clients, but now we have a name :).

Think of it as helping you to get your technology technique right, while you keep executing on your business.

You don't need another four-day seminar that will take you out of the office, you need a technology coach.
Our core support includes Web, Cloud and Content Strategies.
  • Conversations - First we come in and have conversations with your key team members
  • Charting - Then we create a plan that matches your real business goals (the things that affect your revenue goals, overheads and performance)
  • Coaching - We schedule short sessions with your key leaders and teams to help you with the implementation of your strategy. 

Just in Time Improvements

We’ve discovered that many businesses want to improve but don’t want to take their eyes off the core business. Our approach makes it possible to improve on your execution even with the tools you already have. More importantly, a coach sees your blind spots and can prescribe how to improve on those. As part of all of this,  we’ll introduce you to new tools and techniques that will make your day more efficient. 

Project Oriented

If you’re ready to try us out we recommend that you identify a discrete project within your organization. We’ll talk with you about your business goals, timelines and objectives.

Our coach then comes beside your team during the set-up, planning and execution of the project with the aim of helping your team to be more effective. We’ll make recommendations about skills that you can ramp up and help you get there quickly.

Sessions in September: Websites on a Budget, Business Model Primer

Here’s an overview of our upcoming sessions for September.

Tuesday - Website on a Budget

I do web development and a few years ago I started to notice the a rise of web based platforms that allow you to “do it yourself” without needing to know programming. The first mature versions of these platforms emerged in the late 2000s. For some reason web developers have tended to turn their nose up at these systems preferring the more “powerful” tools.

I've taught students and worked with clients and discovered that the “power tools” sometimes add too much overhead to basic project. This session explores a recipe I came up with to build a starter website on a tight budget using one of the new site builders. You may discover, like many others who have tried it, that you can get a couple years of value out of a starter site before you're ready for the bigger things.

It isn’t too late to sign up by visiting

Thursday - Business Model Creation Primer

If you have more business ideas than you can manage then you may find this session valuable. It focuses on a process that streamlines the tasks of taking a business idea and developing it into a working business model. I’m on the learning curve with business development myself but have found this approach so useful it's worth sharing. Learn more about this session on Business model creation.

The rest of September

Here’s the September timetable.

Tuesday, September 10
 Websites on a Budget
Thursday, September 12
 The Business Model Creation Primer
Tuesday, September 17
 Drupal Getting Started
Thursday, September 19
 Design for Developers
Thursday, September 26
 The Tech Behind Online Marketing

Monday, September 2, 2013

Business Idea-itis

I come up with business ideas all the time, probably three to four times a week. It would be impossible for me to execute every idea I have. A lot of them are probably impractical, but how do you know when something is going to work?

I was clueless

Some time close to the summer of 2012 I started to make use of more Lean Startup style methodologies. Looking back at a few business ideas that I actually started to develop made me realize just how much my approach has changed over the years. Nowadays my biggest goal for a business idea is to identify how to make it into a working business model. Nine years ago when we (we, being my brother and I) were starting, I certainly wasn't trying to figure out a business model. I was basically charging a fee for doing what I enjoyed. I used to say “I get paid to play with computers”. I literally spent two years writing a business plan, mostly so that I could demonstrate to persons that I was serious about this thing. All this time I was more or less clueless about what a business model was and how it affected anything. I suppose, somewhere embedded in my plan was a business model but it wasn't really front and center of my motivations.

The upcoming session on Business Models aims to share some of the process behind the Tutorate project and generally share what I'm learning about Business Model development. These are the things that I wish I knew about roughly nine years ago. 

Now I have a clue

In my words, determining whether a business is practical depends on refining the business model by performing a series of experiments. My first pass at any business model is always a hypothesis which must be tested to help me determine if my initial guesses were right. Tutorate is one of those experiments (should I say that out loud?). Tutorate’s core value statement is roughly something like “Rich learning experiences for the impatient”. That value statement is a summary of our initial guess. Our target audience is smart persons who don’t have a lot of time but need to become savvy with an important new concept that they can, hopefully, make use of almost immediately.

Learn more about Business Model Creation in our upcoming session.

Experiments. Why my company is a 9 year old startup

I was once told by a fellow tech entrepreneur that I had no business acumen. Of course I didn't take him very seriously but looking back a few years he was probably right. I can trace this back to the motivations for getting into business. The gist of it is as follows: a few years ago I looked around and could not find the company that best matched my interests I knew I enjoyed teaching (I taught at a high school for almost three years and also at a technology training company), but I also loved to program and tinker with computers. I once told a potential employer that I needed to be always learning new things. Since I was unable to find that single place that allowed me to combine my passions I created that place. So far I've learnt a lot running a company, and perhaps my biggest and most recent lesson is that we are a nine-year-old startup.

I'm personally quite pleased that I discovered these ideas in 2011 which are now categorized as part of the Lean Startup Movement. One of our recent Tutorate participants observed that they don't teach the lean approach to business model creation in his MBA programme. The sad truth is, even though the methodologies, though not fully codified at the time, have been around in some form since 2005, they aren’t covered by the programmes of traditional business schools (I know that Stanford is an exception).  The good news is that we're approaching a tipping point, the concepts have now been featured on CNN and BBC and most notably in an article from the May 13, 2013 edition of the Harvard Business Review.

In a nutshell, if you don't have a sustainable business model then you're a startup. Startups should stop pretending that they have a stable business and instead spend their time actively searching for a business model. In contrast to a startup, an established business spends their time executing on their business model. The concepts can be applied to departments within an organization and new initiatives within established businesses. When I call my company a nine-year-old startup it means we’re still working out aspects of our business model and we’re using a systematic methodology to get us there. This is what we will be covering in Tutorate’s upcoming session this September called the Business Model Creation Primer.

(the photo in this post came from

Monday, August 26, 2013

Websites on a Budget coming in September

If you need to just get a website going and prefer to skip all the background knowledge then Websites on a Budget is the session for you. Websites on a Budget presents a recipe to help small businesses build their own website. Here's feedback from the last  session.
I have no techiness in my body. If I can do it.... anyone can do it
People don't realize that they can get all this in such a compact time. They tend to assume that ... a number of weeks or days .... [you can] build a fully functioning website

The Websites on a Budget session walks you through all the steps to getting a website live on the internet. We'll also talk about what to do next after getting your website up.

This works well with the Technology behind online marketing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Upcoming Sessions: HTML5, Business Model Creation and the Tech of Marketing

Some of our upcoming sessions will touch on less techie topics (for the hard-core developers out there, don't worry only a few) but not before we get the HTML5 session out the door. Look out for The Technology Behind Online Marketing and the Business Model Creation Primer this September.

HTML5 Essentials is next
Most of our own learning about Tutorate has come through conversations with our participants. As we learn more about their interests we begin to figure out what will work. In fact, the majority of our knowledge sessions have been developed through these kinds of conversations.

The majority of our knowledge sessions have been developed through ... conversations.

Knowledge Sessions on Tools for Marketing and Business Model Creation

Our most recent conversations have led to two new sessions, the Technology Behind Online Marketing and the Business Model Creation Primer. In a conversation last week I was sharing about the methodologies I'm using to "experiment" with business ideas, we discussed ideas about business model creation from Alex Osterwalder and Customer Development from Steve Blank. In fact I've been encouraged to do a session on the topic. 

Since I'm not the expert on Business Model Innovation it will take the form of sharing the principles of the approach, what I've been doing and how it can help others. The process has been hugely useful to us and based on recent conversations, there are others who will find our experience valuable. So we're going to do this. 

September 12, 2013 will be our first ever "Business of Tech" session where we look at an approach to Business Model Creation

The Technology Behind Online Marketing came from a different space. There's a lot of mythology floating around the internet about technology and how it magically makes all marketing better. This session doesn't claim to teach marketing, instead it's an exploration of the tools that we think should be part of a digital marketer's "toolbelt". We also strive to help you with your understanding so you don't get bamboozled by the next magic peddler.

Stay tuned. There will be more from Tutorate.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Primer on Google App Engine Python, Filling the GAPP

Was that title corny? Anyway.... continuing our focus on Tutorate Local our next session will be on Google App Engine. GAPP stands for Google App Engine Python Primer.

This one is aimed squarely at developers. Among the attendees will be fellows from the Code for the Caribbean project. As usual we're looking forward to the session and the tweets from the participants speak for themselves:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Right Name, Setting Expectations

Let’s get to the point. There’s a lot in a name. Workshops are out, Sessions are in.

The term “Workshop” (or “Microworkshop”) was setting wrong expectations in the minds of some.

From this week's Twitter Bootstrap Workshop Session

Here’s the feedback from recent presentations. From the recent Twitter Bootstrap workshop:
I ... expected it to be more hands on ... actually coding along and having something to show at the end of the workshop.
and from the Doclayout workshop:
I would have liked to have more time to practise.
Ideas about what is involved in a workshop seem to be pretty set in the minds of many, and we think that's reasonable. Our conclusion, either make them more workshop-like or stop describing them as workshops. Interestingly we didn't get that kind of feedback from the “Websites on a Budget” workshop, perhaps because those who came knew that it had been promoted as a build a website “recipe”.


Moving forward the working title is now “Sessions”. The fact is that where the expectations align with our intent we’re getting reviews like this:
Awesome session today man! I feel alive!
Funny how they called our “workshop” a “session” there. We’re pretty convinced that keeping the format and naming them more appropriately is the right move.

Stay tuned to hear about future workshops sessions.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Free Local Workshop on Responsive Web Design with Twitter Bootstrap for Website Layout

On Tuesday July 30, 2013, Tutorate Local will be bringing a free workshop on Twitter Bootstrap to Kingston, Jamaica. The idea for the workshop started with a conversation about Responsive Web Design. The more we spoke the more it became apparent that there was a need for a full workshop on the topic. We've decided to make the July 30, 2013 run of the workshop free. We're super excited and based on the number of registrants, we're almost full, it's resonating with others.

Participants in a Tutorate Local workshop held earlier this year in Barbados

The new workshop aims to follow the pattern of previous workshops, it's much less about the slides, after all you could download them and view them on your own time. It's about showing you why this technology is cool (uhm useful) and how you can use it to solve real problems. If you only walk away understanding how it works we haven't done our job, the real goal is to point you in the right direction so that you can start to think about how it fits into your web design or development workflow.

Like other Tutorate Local workshops we limit the space so that it feels more intimate, there's a place for large, lecture style presentations, but that's not what we're aiming for.

BYOD Workshop

We try to design these workshops so that you can follow along and encourage you to bring your own device (BYOD). Generally you'll be able to connect your laptop or tablet to the internet and try some of the examples.

At the time of this writing there was space for about 3 more participants. Register now for the Twitter Bootstrap workshop if you need to fast track your knowledge of Responsive Web Design.

Stay Tuned more web design and development workshops are coming.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Document Layout and Formatting Workshop was a Success

Tutorate Local is the “label” we give to workshops that are offered as small face to face offerings. This is to distinguish from our online offerings. Doclayout is the first one that we’ve offered under the new banner. The next workshop will be Websites on a Budget. A lot of the feedback can be summarized as “I should have known this on my last project”.  To this we say, “you’re” welcome and we hope the knowledge will make your next project 10 times easier".

While the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, we are keen to “decode” the comments that point towards problems. Here’s one example:
“I liked the fact that there weren’t too many participants at the workshop I would have liked to have more time to practise”

What we understand from this comment is that they wanted to be able to try out what they were learning.  Our goal is to provide as much useful information around a topic, so that you can immediately start using it. Towards this end our workshops are loaded with practical examples, if you are quick enough you can follow along and try out the examples. This becomes a balancing act, since we don't want you to spend 40 minutes practicing and as a result lose out on the additional information. We're aware of this challenge and will certainly take it into account with future workshops.

We look forward to future learning experiences.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tutorate Meetup in Grenada

From David's personal blog:
I'm in Grenada as part of a project that is developing a Caribbean Digital Media exam. The aim is to expose our students to some of these skills at an earlier age, so our caribbean digital craftsmen will be more business savvy. Being in Grenada I had to take the opportunity to coordinate a developer meetup.

Read more about the Grenada meetup...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Local micro-workshops in Kingston, Jamaica this July

We're looking to do a series of Local micro-workshops this July. Here are the topics we intend to cover. Stay tuned.

Document Layout and Management Best Practices - Jul 9

Websites on a Budget I - Jul 11

Building your Organization in the Cloud - Jul 16

Information Security Practices for Non-profits - Jul 18

Visual Design for Developers - Jul 2

Tutorate: "unofficial" meetup in Trinidad & upcoming Grenada Meetup

I (David) recently visited Trinidad and took the opportunity to do a meetup with some Trinidadian developers. It would be stretching it a bit to call it a Tutorate Meetup. To respect the "unofficial-ness" of the whole thing I blogged about it on my other blog instead.

An opportunity to visit the island of Grenada has come up and I'm arranging a meetup when I get there. So this one will be an "official" meetup. I'm hoping the link up will help to make people more aware of what's happening in Grenada and maybe encourage more interaction between them and the other Caribbean geeks developers.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Local workshop - Teaching Jamaican's how to build starter sites

We're going to be having a local workshop in Jamaica next Wednesday. We'll be teaching newbies how to build a starter site. We've run these workshops before and at the price of USD$60 we think it's a pretty big deal.

For more information check out

Friday, February 1, 2013

Local Workshops in Barbados - For Devs and Small Businesses

Tutorate hit Bridgetown, Barbados this week and, among other things, delivered a workshop to local developers.

The primary goal was to establish links in Barbados, the approach was to mix free meetups with paid workshops. Many many thanks to +Shannon Clarke and +Jason Hynds for helping to make things happen on the ground. We started with an informal meetup on Monday at the Courtyard Marriot. The other events were held at the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries.

The paid workshop went well and I received overwhelmingly positive feedback, confirming the value that the Tutorate project is already offering to "knowledge-loving"  individuals (practical knowledge at that).

Shannon served as an excellent moderator for all the events, keeping us on schedule and interviewing around the table with questions like "What was your scariest project?". It has got me thinking that there's room for a moderator role for future local events. The workshop was generally conversational with some really smart persons around the table including +Thomas Clarke a veteran developer and director at CyberSea Inc. Thomas' repertoire ranges from Cobol in his early days all the way through to Scala and Flask and JQuery now.

Our schedule was as follows:
  • Monday Jan 28, 2013 - A meetup at the Courtyard Marriot with some of the up and coming software development talent in Barbados. 
  • Tueday Jan 29, 2013 - A dev-evening at BCSI where developers shared what they were working on including an enlightening  tutorial from +Jason Als on AngularJS and NodeJS.
  • Wednesday Jan 30, 2013 - A Tutorate - App Development Fundamentals workshop that gave a tour of DustJS, JQuery, Dotcloud and supporting technologies.
Due to scheduling issues the Websites on a Budget workshop was cancelled. Looking forward to running that one soon, appropriately this trip ended up being for the technological pioneers. I'm hoping that the next trip to Barbados will allow a chance to provide tutorials to the small business sector.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Local first approach - Workshop for local entrepreneurs

"Websites on a budget" is our latest product from Tutorate. It is firstly a local workshop and then an online course. We've decided to target a non-developer audience with this one. The video elaborates on what we're about with this one.

Our ideal participant has a small business, wants to put up a website and is savvy enough to be able to upload digital images to twitter and facebook.  It's not a "website from scratch" type workshop. Basically we're introducing our audience to a recipe to get a simple but professional website up and running. It's just what you need to understand to judge the value of someone who may be doing it for your or what you need to know to get the task done. Our goal is to reduce the guess work and get them going really quickly at a modest cost.

If you're lucky enough to be local (we're in Jamaica) then you should really think about attending the in person workshop. If you're not we're aiming at getting an online workshop up soon.
Learn more about our website on a tight budget workshop

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Still in learning mode

We need to increase our level of interaction with our potential community. The fact is we don't have a significant community yet and in the absence of a cohesive community it is hard to get a grasp of what our customers will look like.

Our goal at this time in our life cycle is to build a community. We're adjusting our efforts to match that goal. So far our web presence has been to give visitors an idea of where we're heading and the ideas we've been exploring. The page encourages persons to sign  up for more information.

The next move we make will be towards community.

We have two actions in mind.
  1. Go micro-local, so we're going to have a workshop or two to connect with persons in our area
  2. Offer a free online workshop to a more experienced and savvy crowd
Watch this space. The originally scheduled Plone workshop will be reinvented and delivered in a different way.