09 Week Whatever

posted Aug 21, 2014, 9:41 AM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Aug 21, 2014, 9:46 AM ]

Well, we've been very hard at work for a long while on our three projects.  In fact, this past two weeks we presented to our happy clients! 
Our first presentation was to the executive team of the Girls Club of Greenfield, who were very happy with our conversion of their flat HTML site at left ( to a Wordpress site (below right,, but will migrate soon.).

Project manager Carolyn Caron says: "It was very empowering to present to our clients.  It validated all the hard work we've been doing. It showed that we were not only working for ourselves, but actually doing something for someone else who will use it and like it." 

(Carolyn made it here on her bike, through a driving rain, and is now wearing a tablecloth as a sari while her clothes dry.  Yay, Carolyn!).

Our second presentation was to the executive team of Franklin Hampshire Youth.  The current site is (left) and our development site is, though we'll have it migrated in a week.

Project manager Tara Williams was not available for comment today (more rain-averse) but logo & graphic designer Josh Gould (who got a lift in) had this to say: "It was fun because although I make logos for myself,  doing it for someone else and tailoring it for their needs was a lot different.   It opened my eyes to what doing professional design would be like.  I saw that I could transition my hobby into serious work other people would value, by meeting their needs rather than following my own tastes."

At right is the redesign of FH Youth's site. Josh is hard at work rebuilding the Recover Project's Wordpress Site, which had been sabotaged by hackers.

Rather than get quotes from Matthew Spring (who is creating a launch plan for FHYouth), I will let his second blog post (attached below, for the Recovery Learning Community newsletter) speak for itself.

The next blog post you'll read is about Greenfield Digital, the start-up which is arising from this summer of success, and our plans for continuing the program in September with a new crop of eager young entrepreneurs.


08 Week 3

posted Jul 29, 2014, 5:53 PM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Jul 29, 2014, 5:55 PM ]

Week 3 has come and gone. We've lost a few scouts who realized the time commitment did not match their availability or interest level, but still have a solid team of 8 full/timers and 2 part/timers.

Project managers are hard at work itemizing,assigning, and attending to deliverables, with four weeks left. Site review meetings are being scheduled for the third week in August.   Students are initiating planning emails and organizing meetups outside regular hours, using IRC with fluency.  It is heartening to watch!

And plans are being made for a student-run web design company to take on paying clients come September.  Our first confirmed paid client will be Federal Street Books - look for a new site in October or thereabouts! (We need to finish our nonprofit sites first).  

Last week we talked about using Google Groups for project communications. Check it out on our Videocasts page:

There's a "YouthSpeak" (see image top left, and attached file) on Wednesday, 8/13 at the FHCC, 178 Industrial Drive in Northampton. I'm not sure what it's about ... but they'll be mentioning Tech Scouts and we ARE doing their youth council website so I reckon we should send someone.


07 Week 2

posted Jul 19, 2014, 8:08 AM by Bram Moreinis
This is our "Sales Funnel" (Lead=>Prospect=>Client) and "Discovery Process" (What are the website goals, What needs done, What are we going propose to do and how?):
  1. A "lead" expresses interest and becomes a "prospect"
  2. A "prospect" completes our "Pre-Consult" form.
  3. We schedule a consult with the prospect.
  4. We meet before the consult to analyze the site and develop questions about the pre-consult form, as well as to discuss possible strategies to approach the work.
  5. The consult is conducted. Everyone tries to get clear on the scope of work.
  6. A project lead (among the students) is identified, as well as key team members.
  7. The project lead drafts a scope of work document to send to the prospect. 
The final process is "Contracting". 
  1. Back-and-forth about the scope of work.
  2. Prospect and Tech Scouts (via Bram) sign off on the contract, prospect becomes client
  3. Work starts.
We have one more prospect to meet with:
  1. Boys to Men New England
Additionally, a few scouts are going after paid work with a commercial prospect (not named here).  Payment would be contingent upon delivery of an acceptable website, with the understanding that support from Tech Scouts Staff will be minimal.

This is all exciting news and everyone is juiced!  We lost two scouts, and now number 11, which is still a healthy-sized team.

In addition to this, tech scout Matthew Spring finalized his Blog Post / Article, first published in Western Mass Business News newsletter, Incommn.   Matt plans to circulate this to other places.  Also, Carolyn (our team videographer from GCTV) has attracted the interest of some other video journalists, and we'll be visited next week.

Below are some interviews from Matt's Post.  If you visit the post, which is in Google Doc form, you can comment in the margins.  The comment will be anonymous, so please sign your name (and add your email) when you comment, else it may be deleted!


Matt: What do you think the most valuable thing you will learn from tech scouts will be?

Rob:Working within a team that will hold you accountable.

Matt: What was it like to join Tech Scouts?

Gabriel: I joined a little later than the other tech scouts. I have an interest in coding, so when I learned that I would be learning HTML and CSS from codecademy I knew the program would be good for me. I was also happy to receive a free laptop.

Matt: What if I have trouble learning?
Carolyn: Well, I have depression and I learned from this blog that Matt has ADHD and Bram says a lot of us are having confidence issues, so I think we can all work through this together.

Matt: I’m not very social and I don’t like the idea of working with people, is Tech Scouts for me?

Tara: While learning to work with others is probably vital to your success in the field - even if someone else deals with the clients you’ll still need  a team - it is entirely possible to ease into the interactions. In fact, you could potentially do all of your Tech Scouts work from your bed and completely remove the face-to-face interactions, if you really wanted to.

Matt: What are you learning at Tech Scouts beside technical things?

Joshua: I'm learning how to interact with clients, good ways to organize and work with a group, and I think most importantly for me, how to get motivated without a looming deadline. I am expected to be motivated and I don't want to disappoint anyone. I'm very much out of my element without hard deadlines and specific instructions, but it's something I definitely need to learn.


Matt: Is this like a college course?

Bram: No, because it covers all aspects of the web design business, not just one topic (like HTML Coding or Accounts Management)

Matt: What would you tell students to help them with this?
Evan:  I agree with Carolyn.  I think we all have our obstacles to overcome, I battle with depression as well.  I already feel like we’re a team though and have each other’s back as we learn together.  I really dig the laid back yet productive environment - it’s what I thrive in.

Matt:  How do you think the program is going?
Currie:  I am excited to see a lot of young adults coming together not just a team but a community to support each other. It is really reassuring to hear from others that you are not alone in your concerns and fears.

06 First Week Back

posted Jul 9, 2014, 6:33 PM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:41 PM ]

I (Bram) returned from a week-long seminar followed by a tandem ride up the east coast of Vermont, to see what the Tech Scouts had been up to and get us started on our projects. 

Goals for this first week:
  1. Get focused: Make sure everyone is on track with their Personal Plans.
  2. Close enrollment: Shepherd some new recruits (we are stopping at 12).
  3. Assess our tech: Make sure everyone has a working laptop and can do Daily Procedures.
  4. Establish our process (lead => prospect (Pre-Consult Form, Strategy Session, Consult) => Client (Scoping Document, Work Breakdown System).
  5. Choose our clients (,, for starters).
  6. Record a video class:  #1 HTML=>Wordpress Conversion.
  7. Check in: see how the first week went for everyone (Friday emails, phone calls as needed).

Some scouts have already done some serious work:

In Tuesday's class, I introduced some starter material that was then referenced by the video class:

  1. What a LAMP server is (Linux / Apache / MySQL / PHP) and that Wordpress is a LAMP app. 
  2. How CSS separates out Design from Content (see the amazing
  3. How PHP/MySQL separates user-developed content (into a database) from page templates and functionality (PHP files).

The HTML=> Wordpress video class has been recorded, and is being rendered and processed now.  It will be viewable from our Class Videocasts section, which will include a link to a Google Presentation (slideshow) and Camtasia Screencast (which includes live video of a talking head superimposed on the screen, positioned as needed).

If some of the above links do not work, it's because these are internal documents for Tech Scouts eyes only ... but many of them WILL work for the public.


05 Second Meetup

posted Jun 21, 2014, 6:37 AM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:42 PM ]

Codecademy has a "Q&A Forum" now, at the bottom of any lesson's instruction panel, where learners can ask questions as they follow the tutorials and get stuck. Great feature!

Of 14 students who expressed interest in Tech Scouts, nine have taken the "Scout Pledge" to enter the program and qualify for a laptop (if they need one). 

Students who received laptops are in the process of composing emails to thank their donors, and everyone is writing their Personal Plans (due Sunday night) for how they'll spend their time over the next two weeks.

At least three students are in love with Codecademy and learning HTML / CSS.  We have three clients so far: the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, Justice For Donald, and the Recover Project, with likely addition Girls Club of Greenfield.

If you would like to have your site considered as a client, please complete the Pre-Consult Form at the lower left of the site.  We will get back to you when we resume work July 8th.

04 First Meetup

posted Jun 19, 2014, 11:48 AM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:42 PM ]

Tech Scouts Josh (new!) and Shaggy met Bram and Evan at Greenfield Coffee today.  Above, Shaggy is documenting how he and Josh helped us translate the Recovery Learning Community's Defining Principles into four easy bullet points for our new Tech Scout Pledge.

Once you take the pledge, you qualify for a Linux laptop.  Josh had his own, but Shaggy took home a lovely Toshiba, pre-loaded with Linux Mint, courtesy of Josh Finkel of Tech Foundry in Springfield.

We were joined by Donna DuSell of the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board.  She can help students find jobs, and connect us to other agencies (maybe even help with grant funded partners!).  But what was most exciting of all was that she is a new customer!

Her website,, which she maintains, was once a Dreamweaver site (with templating) but she has been updating pages directly through her CPanel file manager. The task is to convert this to Wordpress and add an appropriate customized theme.

There is no shortage of inline markup cruft to remove by our HTML coders:
<p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size: small;">
<span style="font-size: medium;"><em><span style="color: #4a3bad;">
Click on the picture to learn more
<span style="color: #4a3bad;"><span style="font-size: x-large;">
<span style="font-size: large;">
<br /></span></span></span></strong></span></p>
And as we apply the design principles from the Basics of Web Design MOOC (see "Important Links" at left, which we explored a little today) we can see a lot of potential to make this site much more meaningful and attractive.  Woo-hoo!

Our next pow-wow is Friday, 1:00pm, also at Greenfield Coffee. 


03 IT Workforce Shortage

posted Jun 16, 2014, 3:54 PM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:42 PM ]

List of IT Job Categories

The Computer Workforce in Western Mass: A Critical Shortage

Robert LePage, vice president of workforce training at Springfield Technical Community College, said that between his institution and Holyoke Community College there are only about 544 students majoring in IT subjects. The two schools graduate a total of about 70 students in IT fields each year.

"That's not enough," LePage said. "The lack of an IT workforce is a limiting factor for growth. The need is in health care, education, manufacturing."

Jackie Fallon, president of FIT Solutions in Springfield, does IT recruitment for industries all over the region including manufacturers like Crane Paper in Dalton. Fallon networks at computer-user groups and hackathon  programming get-togethers looking for IT talent.

"The young people want to do games, the cool stuff," Fallon said. "But as far as being a head-down application developer, it can be hard."

02 Fixing Old Laptops

posted Jun 15, 2014, 6:55 PM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:42 PM ]

Two Dells available from Santa Stan if we can drive to Barre, VT!

Dead CMOS Battery?
Tip From Jim Ussailis:

Save money replacing the BIOS battery: I get the cells (Cr2025 or 2032) from Digikey for under $2. The other cost is some small shrink tubing and some solder. The normal cost for these batteries is $15 to 20. Of course you should never solder directly to those cells. Fortunately Digikey has many flavors with welded on leads. The only issue is to find the version that fits your laptop.

Bad Memory?

If you have the right configuration (which you can get from the model's specifications page online), old-style memory is fairly inexpensive and easy to get.  If you are going to be opening up an old machine, max out the RAM while you're there!

Noisy Fan?

Fans get covered in dust (as do Motherboards).  If you open the machine up, use an aerosol dust spray (OUTSIDE AND AWAY FROM PEOPLE) all over particularly on the fan.  You might be able to plug it in and see if it works quietly without putting the entire case back together (but don't touch while it's plugged in!)

Bad Hard Drive?

Depending on the operating system, there are various ways to check a hard disk for corrupt sectors.  If you reformat the drive, check the disk, and the errors are still there, it's a problem....and new hard drives are not worth it for old machines.  Better to cannibalize (move hard drives and RAM and other best parts) two machines.

What other tips do you have?  Email them to and I'll include them below!

01 Civic Hackathon

posted Jun 15, 2014, 6:20 PM by Bram Moreinis   [ updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:42 PM ]

At Hackathon in Holyoke from June 7th to June 8th, I participated in a "Civic Hackathon" called Hackathon for Western Mass: (Twitter: @HackforWestMA  #HFCWesternMA.)

I joined the food finder challenge. Tech Scouts can learn a lot from the expert culture-setting Code of Conduct and Resource organizing of this project.  Other resources to help with that:


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