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Erik Trautman

Technical entrepreneurship, business strategy and product development

Startup Advice from Michael Hartl

Friday at App Academy we had a surprise visit from Michael Hartl, author of the now-famous Ruby on Rails Tutorial. Interestingly, the conversation tracked a wide range of topics that leaned more to the entrepreneurial than the development side of things. Michael himself admitted that he's probably not the right person to ask many beginner questions to, since he has very little personal experience being a beginner or dealing directly with their issues.

Instead, we tried to get a better sense of the steps that led to the tutorial's creation and his advice for the day when we might put our newfound skills to use in startups of our own. Michael, after a narrow miss with a lifetime in academia, got into programming and landed in Y Combinator working on an open-source social network called Insoshi. As he put it, they just kind of pulled it together at the last minute to get something ready for Demo Day and it was surprisingly well received before the financial world ground to a halt in fall of 2008 and they couldn't secure funding to continue.

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How Harvard's CS50 Renewed My Hope for Online Education

This fall I took CS50: Intro to Computer Science at Harvard and it was refreshingly, thankfully good. I didn't take the course *at* Harvard per se, but rather via the edX online platform, which is a collaboration between MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and other major universities to put their courseware online. It's one of the primary vehicles through which top tier institutions are at last surging into the online education space in a kind of academic land grab like we've never seen before.

edX, Coursera, VentureLab, Khan Academy and a veritable cornucopia of other platforms have popped up over just the last few years to try and solve the need for high quality distance education. That need was previously underserved by a combination of insufficient technologies and the unwillingness of top tier institutions to wade into a space that was otherwise dominated by shady, low-quality offerings like the University of Phoenix.

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