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Austin Coding Academy is back in full force; what really happened?

(TECH NEWS) When Austin Coding Academy went dark, no one knew why. The lights are back on, but what does this mean for coding schools across the nation?

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Austin Coding Academy, meet regulations

In response to increasing demands from tech employers, coding schools are popping up all over the nation at an accelerated pace, especially in tech centers like Austin.

One such school is the popular Austin Coding Academy (ACA), which made headlines over the weekend for facing “increased scrutiny from Texas Workforce Commission.”

TWC requires all schools in Texas to hold a license through them, and check in on the programs annually. ACA co-founder, Luke Filipos characterizes TWC’s initial reaching out this spring as non-threatening, and the two worked together to get the school’s first draft of their license application completed, then their second, then this fall, everything changed. In September, the Department of Education sanctioned ITT Tech which closed all of their campuses. In the midst of all of that, TWC’s tone changed.

Then, the tone changed

We asked Filipos if the timing was related, he said he didn’t know. The tone changed from TWC being easy to work with to one of force, immediately requiring ACA to take down their website and social media accounts until they approved the license, despite being so close to the process being over.

Today, ACA is back in full force with the Texas Workforce Commission having granted their license on Friday.

For one of the only independent schools in town that charges less than most competitors, it was “tough,” said Filipos. The small team doesn’t have deep pockets or big legal teams like some of the chains in town, and were unaware they weren’t in compliance, but took immediate action to work with TWC to rectify the licensing once they learned of the requirement.

In short, Austin Coding Academy was missing a license from the Texas Workforce Commission, they worked together to get it resolved, but during the process, the regulatory agency forced them to shut down every public presence.

Classes continued during ACA’s blackout, and Filipos was actually quite understanding of TWC’s goals. “I get the pressure they’re under,” he noted, with so many new programs in Texas alone. Although ACA couldn’t take applicants during the period, people continued expressing interest (through our Austin Digital Jobs group, for example).

What will happen to the coding school industry?

We suspect that as a result of ACA’s quiet period then resurrection, a new look will be given at the relationship between regulatory agencies and the exploding coding school movement, as many of the laws were written decades ago.

Further, state representatives and perhaps national politicians will soon be hearing from the sector as they organize.

Lastly, we anticipate that as major universities start their own coding schools (that don’t require you to be a full time student), they’ll be threatened by independents.

The same could potentially be said for national chains like the New York Code + Design Academy, owned by Strayer Education or The Iron Yard chain, who closed a major investment from the University of Phoenix last year. Watch for independent coding programs to organize and unify in 2017 to compete with the major chains.

ACA won’t be the first or last coding school in Austin or elsewhere that gets halted by regulations. But they are the highest profile case in Austin that has shed light squarely on the burgeoning coding school industry.

#CodingSchoolRegulations

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Disclosures: New York Code + Design Academy sponsored The American Genius’ networking event, Big Ass Social Happy Hour in September. The Iron Yard is our event host for a developer event in December. And lastly, I spoke (unpaid) at an Austin Coding Academy member event in 2015.

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Loss of internet access is used as punishment for those who abuse it

(TECH NEWS) Internet access is becoming more of a human right especially in light of recent events –so why is revoking it being used as a punishment?

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Internet access

When one hears the word “punishment”, several things likely come to mind—firing, fees, jail time, and even death for the dramatic among us—but most people probably don’t envision having their access to utilities restricted as a legal repercussion.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening across the country—if you consider Internet access a utility.

In the past, you’ve probably heard stories about people awaiting trial or experiencing probation limitations being told that they are not to use the Internet or certain types of communication. While this may seem unjust, the circumstances usually provide some context for the extreme nature of such a punishment; for example, it seems reasonable to ask that a person accused of downloading child pornography keep off the internet.

More recently–and perhaps more controversially—a young man accused of using social media to incite violent behavior during country-wide protests was ordered to stay offline while awaiting trial. This order came after the individual purportedly encouraged people to “[tip] police cars”, vandalize property, and generally exhibit other “riot”-oriented behaviors.

Whether or not one reads this post as a specific call to create violence—something that is, in fact, illegal—the fact remains that the “punishment” for this crime in lieu of a current conviction involves cutting off the person involved from all internet access until a verdict is achieved.

The person involved in this story may be less than sympathetic depending on your stance, but they aren’t alone. The response of cutting off the Internet in this case complements other stories we’ve seen, such as one regarding Cox and a client in Florida. Allegedly, the client in question paid for unlimited data—a potential issue in and of itself—and then exceeded eight terabytes of monthly use on multiple occasions.

Did Cox correct their plan, allocate more data, throttle this user, or reach out to explain their concerns, you may ask?

No. Cox alerted the user in question that they would terminate his account if his use continued to be abnormally high, and in the meantime, they throttled the user’s ENTIRE neighborhood. This kind of behavior would be unacceptable when applied to any other utility (imagine having your air conditioning access “throttled” during the summer), so why is it okay for Cox?

The overarching issue in most cases stems from Internet provider availability; in many areas, clients have one realistic option for an Internet provider, thus allowing that provider to set prices, throttle data, and impose restrictions on users free of reproach.

Anyone who has used Comcast, Cox, or Cable One knows how finicky these services can be regardless of time of use, and running a simple Google speed test is usually enough to confirm that the speeds you pay for and the speeds you receive are rarely even close.

In the COVID era in which we find ourselves, it is imperative that Internet access be considered more than just a commodity: It is a right, one that cannot be revoked simply due to a case of overuse here, or a flaw in a data plan there.

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How to personalize your site for every visitor without learning code

(TECH NEWS) This awesome tool from Proof lets you personalize your website for visitors without coding. Experiences utilizes your users to create the perfect view for them.

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What if you could personalize every step of the sales funnel? The team over at Proof believes this is the next best step for businesses looking to drive leads online. Their tool, Experiences, is a marketer-friendly software that lets you personalize your website for every visitor without coding.

Using Experiences your team can create a targeted experience for the different types of visitors coming to your website. The personalization is thought to drive leads more efficiently because it offers visitors exactly the information they want. Experiences can also be used to A/B test different strategies for your website. This could be a game changer for companies that target multiple specific audiences.

Experiences is a drag-and-drop style tool, which means nearly anyone on your team can learn to use it. The UX is meant to be intuitive and simple, so you don’t need a web developer to guide you through the process. In order to build out audiences for your website, Experiences pulls data from your CRM, such as SalesForce and Hubspot, or you can utilize a Clearbit integration which pull third-party information.

Before you go rushing to purchase a new tool for your team, there are a few things to keep in mind. According to Proof, personalization is best suited for companies with at least 15,000 plus visitors per month. This volume of visitors is necessary for Experiences to gather the data it needs to make predictions. The tool is also recommended for B2B businesses since company data is public.

The Proof team is a success story of the Y Combinator demo day. They pitched their idea for a personalized web experience and quickly found themselves funded. Now, they’ve built out their software and have seen success with their initial clients. Over the past 18 months, their early-access clients, which included brands like Profitwell and Shipbob, have seen an increase in leads, proposals, and downloads.

Perhaps the best part of Proof is that they don’t just sell you a product and walk away. Their website offers helpful resources for customers called Playbooks where you can learn how to best use the tool to achieve your company’s goals be it converting leads or engaging with your audience. If this sounds like exactly the tool your team needs, you can request a demo on their website.

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3 cool ways bug-sized robots are changing the world

(TECH NEWS) Robots are at the forefront of tech advancements. But why should we care? Here are some noticeable ways robots are changing the world.

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Bits of robots and microchips changing the world.

When we envision the robots that will (and already are) transforming our world, we’re most likely thinking of something human- or dog-sized. So why are scientists hyper-focusing on developing bug-sized (or even smaller!) robots?

Medical advances

Tiny robots could assist in better drug delivery, as well as conduct minor internal surgeries that wouldn’t otherwise require incisions.

Rescue operations

We’ve all heard about the robot dogs that can rescue people who’ve been buried beneath rubble or sheets of snow. However, in some circumstances these machines are too bulky to do the job safely. Bug-sized robots are a less invasive savior in high-intensity environments, such as mine fields, that larger robots would not be able to navigate without causing disruption.

Exploration

Much like the insects after which these robots were designed, they can be programmed to work together (think: ants building a bridge using their own bodies). This could be key in exploring surfaces like Mars, which are not safe for humans to explore freely. Additionally, tiny robots that can be set to construct and then deconstruct themselves could help astronauts in landings and other endeavors in space.

Why insects?

Well, perhaps the most important reason is that insects have “nature’s optimized design”. They can jump vast distances (fleas), hold items ten times the weight of their own bodies (ants) and perform tasks with the highest efficiency (bees) – all qualities that, if utilized correctly, would be extremely beneficial to humans. Furthermore, a bug-sized bot is economical. If one short-circuits or gets lost, it won’t totally break the bank.

What’s next?

Something scientists have yet to replicate in robotics is the material elements that make insects so unique and powerful, such as tiny claws or sticky pads. What if a robot could produce excrement that could build something, the way bees do in their hives, or spiders do with their webs? While replicating these materials is often difficult and costly, it is undoubtedly the next frontier in bug-inspired robotics – and it will likely open doors for humans that we never imaged possible.

This is all to say that in the pursuit of creating strong, powerful robots, they need not always be big in stature – sometimes, the tiniest robots are just the best for the task.

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