At the beginning of March, 2021, the second part of our two-part interview on Carey Parker’s Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons podcast aired. In part 1, we introduced listeners to Tech Learning Collective with an overview of our mission and methods. This episode takes things a step further, describing how we structure learning opportunities through workshops and courses, as well as focusing on some of the more cybersecurity-related content available in our curriculum.
Once again, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank Carey Parker for inviting us onto his podcast. He’s curated an incredible collection of privacy tips, tricks, and best practices over his four years producing the show, and many hours of fascinating interviews with industry leaders and cybersecurity subject matter experts. If you enjoyed our episodes, we encourage you to check out more at FirewallsDontStopDragons.com.
Carey Parker: Hello, everybody, welcome back to Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons. I am your host, as always, Carey Parker, and this is episode 209, which is March 1, 2021. Man, I cannot believe it’s March already. Today, we’re gonna have part two of our interview with the Tech Learning Collective.
And yes, if you’ve been paying attention, I have not mentioned the guests name. And yes, that’s on purpose, I have meant to call that out actually, last week, and I will make a big deal out of it. But basically, that’s just kind of the way these guys roll. I don’t know the name of the person that I interviewed. They, you know, identity them is important and prior, maybe best to say privacy of them is important and names are not. So anyway, I wanted to call that out specifically, because I, I’m guessing that you noticed that I didn’t use the name.
Now today we’re gonna keep talking about, we kind of set up last week, the little cliffhanger. The tease that I left you on last week was to talk about their curriculum, and we’re going to go through and they’re going to give us kind of a high level view of the kind of classes they teach. And, but not just you know what they are, but you know, why they teach and how they teach it’s, it’s really, it’s very different, it’s different than anything you’ve probably ever seen run across before looking at technical training, even when you’re looking at things like Coursera, or LinkedIn Learning, or Udemy, or some of those online courses. This is this is a different take.
And, you know, today we’re going to talk about, we’re going to bring up some, you know, thorny issues like the notion of ethical hacking, and when that when ethical hacking can even become immoral. Things done in the name of ethical hacking are, are not always good. And, again, just an interesting perspective on on this sort of stuff. We’ll talk about why this really is about self defense. And like any good self defense course, you need to know how to attack in order to learn how to defend. And that’s one of the things that they make sure that you know, you know, by the time you come out of these courses, you’re going to know how to perform some of these, you know, basic hacking attacks, and computer attacks, so that you know how to defend against them, and why you have to defend against them. And we’re going to talk about how computer knowledge and lack of computer knowledge can create a huge power imbalance between, you know, regular people, and maybe authorities or people who wish to do harm, and how these classes can help to balance those scales.
I know that sounds maybe a little dramatic, but it’s true. And And so anyway, we’re gonna get into all that stuff today. So if you haven’t listened to part one, definitely go back and check that out first. And just a minute, we’ll get to part two.
Now I want to talk really quickly about one particular news story, we’re gonna have a huge, huge podcast next week, because there’s so many things to catch up on. None of them are are super urgent, except maybe this one might seem urgent, so I wanted to talk about it. And that is this new Mac malware that has been going around in the news. It’s called Silver Sparrow, I don’t know where they get these names. Actually, I think red Canary was the name of the company that found it. So I guess they get the name. And of course, if you’re if the name of your company is Red Canary, you’re probably going to pick some sort of a bird name for these things. So anyway, it’s very interesting. I can’t remember if we talked about it last week, but I’ll just go over it quickly. Now.
It’s, it’s a Mac malware. And they found that on roughly 30,000 Macs, and the funny thing is on all these stories that you know what I’ve seen on video, these stories, I Oh, my gosh, 30,000 Macs, and like, Okay, well, there’s 100 million or more, I don’t know how many, there’s a lot of Macs out there. So it’s actually quite a small percentage. It was interesting in the fact that it I think they found in 153 different countries. So it is widespread, though I think it is focused on the US, or the preponderance of, of infected Mac’s are in the US.
But nevertheless, here’s the weird part, it doesn’t do anything. Basically, it’s kind of a shim or kind of getting your foot in the door or a beachhead. It’s it’s there. It’s a framework that, you know, could have done something bad, but hasn’t hasn’t done anything. It’s obvious that it’s meant to be there to eventually download what we put what we would call a payload, you know, some sort of other malware that would eventually do something. So it’s kind of a framework for getting up to bad things, but it hasn’t done anything yet. So luckily, we caught it before it did. And Apple has already taken steps to mitigate if not prevent this from certainly prevent it from being installed again. And it has taken other mitigations point a point of the matter is we’ll talk about a little bit more next week. But the point of matter is don’t worry about it. It’s fine. It hasn’t been shown to do anything yet and and it’s already basically been hobbled. They got a lot of attention in the press and again, oftentimes the press overhyped these things. I think this is one of those cases so far, at least this hasn’t, hasn’t actually done anything and was stopped actually relatively quickly. So that’s, that’s good.
Okay, I’ve got a lot of other stuff to talk to you about. I’m finally ready to make some very specific Patreon announcements. You’re gonna really want to hear about that. I got some really cool stuff there. So I’ll do that though after the interview. So one quick thing before we get in, I do have another swear word warning, I suppose I could bleed these things out. I’ve never done that. But it’s it doesn’t happen that often. And honestly, I think in context, it makes sense. So anyway, there’s a minor swear word in this in this portion of the podcast. And with that warning label, let’s get to part two of our interview with the Tech Learning Collective.
For the audience’s sake, walk through like a high level your curriculum and and talk about the different levels that that it addresses because I know that you’ve got different levels of courses, and there are definitely courses in there for the people that might be curious about things that are more high level and not the nitty gritty parts.
Tech Learning Collective: Yeah, so I’m gonna try and do this from memory. Because there’s a lot of workshops, like 38 separate workshops now that we offer, for what it’s worth, we do also, we also offer courses and workshops. And these are these are not the same. So we have sort of two tracks where you could be a student with us
The easier one, the sort of the, the more ad hoc are a-la-cart one is just to take workshops, these are public events that you can come to, they are sometimes free, sometimes, often low cost, by which I mean like $25 ish, at that sliding scale, price range. And they cover the entire curriculum that the courses do. So the material is the same, but it’s presented in two different formats.
The courses are intended to be intensives. And they really are intensive. So like, we hope that, you know, the people who come to them are going to commit for the entire period, it’s usually a month or two, usually about one class per week. And it’s a long class, it’s like four to six hours per class. So that’s a lot that’s like, that’s a real, that’s a real commitment, we don’t run those super often, because we want to have enough people to make it A) worthwhile, but B) so that you have other peers in your class, right? Like, it’s a little bit awkward to just be with a single other person, you know, who knows a lot more than you.
The whole point is to create a mutual self education environment, which is how Tech Learning Collective started, actually, back in back in 2015, it was it was basically just a bunch of us who were trying to figure all this stuff out together, some of us had more experience than others. But the point was, was to do so as a community. And that’s really, really important for the goal, right, which is not just to know this, but then to make use of this in a community setting to make it meaningful in your life in the day to day. And that’s also not, you know, just out of some principle. That’s because if it’s not useful in your day to day, you won’t remember it.
It’s like going to another country, right? And not having spoken the language, if you’re there in the country, and it’s suddenly very important that you know, how to say things like, Where’s the bathroom? And how much is this apple, right cost, you will learn very quickly and very well, and it will stick with you because you’ll have those memories. So that’s what we’re trying to do in in the courses.
Now, again, that’s a lot of commitment. And we don’t expect everyone to be able to do that in order to be able to afford that necessarily. And it’s also, of course, a lot more of a strain on our team. So we also offer workshops, which are a-la-a cart, you bet they’re built as an hour and a half, but they almost always run longer.
CP: I can attest to that.
TLC: Yeah. Because you know, it’s fun for us to do and a lot of people have good questions. I personally love teaching, I was a teacher for a long time. So you know, I am often doing those out of enjoyment. You know, it’s just it’s a, it’s a good time to talk about the stuff that I think is super interesting, and also to do so people who want to be there. So, you know, I often I often run long, especially as you could attest to Sorry about that. But the idea is that right?
So like it’s it’s basically a public event where you come at whatever time the class is on, there’s a calendar on the Tech Learning Collective website is TechLearningCollective.com/events/calendar, I think. But there’s a link on the homepage, and you sign up sort of one at a time. And the workshops cover the entire curriculum. So so a single workshop might not be, you know, it’s not going to cover the 16 plus hours in the course. But it’s going to be a part of a course. So for example, the clearing where the clouds workshop is a piece of the net 101 course that we offer.
And so you asked about what the ranges are there, right. So there’s not so much tracks as it are our subject matters, which is to say, the four courses we offer our system administration, networking, security, and web development. And the way we sort of break this down is we’re trying to give you as approachable a syllabus as we can. So that you know people who are used to seeing a school feel like they have a class calendar to look at. But we’re also trying intentionally to be slightly different than a quote unquote, you know, regular school, in that what you’re going to be learning these things are often overlapping. So if you come to for example, the SYS101 courses, system administration course you’re going to get a lot of security and networking content, you’re going to get a lot of system administration stuff, if you go to the networking course, you’re gonna get mostly networking, but you’re gonna see a lot of other stuff too. And the reason for that is because again, it’s all driven through these practical examples. There’s no slides, there’s no videos that we show, it’s all like, whatever we talk about, we’re going to do, right live at the course, or at the at the workshop. And it’s, you know, over in COVID times, it’s all webinars and video stuff.
So it starts really, at the beginning, I mean, in the very, very, if you wanted to take things linearly through the material, and again, we actually advise against that, because A, there’s too much, and B, most people are not interested in the beginning stuff, right? Most people are interested for a given reason. And whatever that reason is, we probably have a workshop related to it. And we want you to start there, even if it’s like, you know, advanced hacking or whatever, like, start there, because that’s going to get you excited. And it’s important that you’re excited if you want to continue, if you are bored in the first five minutes, right, because you decided to start as at the beginning, because you know, you’re a completionist, in that in that respect, you’re probably not going to get very far. And that’s going to be a shame, because you could have gone so much farther, if you just did the thing that’s exciting for you. So we hope that people find their own pathways through the workshops that we offer.
But for what it’s worth, if you really really, really did want to start like I don’t know where I want to go, I don’t have a pre existing interest, I’m just kind of curious and want to check it out, then the place to start is the system administration 101 course. And if you’re starting in a workshop, it would be the Taming Daemons: Basics of System Administration workshop. And the reason that’s the place to start is because at that workshop, we actually begin the conversation by talking about what a computer does, not from a bits and bytes. angle, like a lot of electrical engineering classes, but about what a computer actually what the purpose of it is, like, why do we have them? What are they supposed to do for us? Right? Why Why are we using them today? Why has Why has so much of the world gone in this direction?
And there’s an answer to that there’s a very clear reason for it not in and, you know, many, there are many answers, I should say not one answer, like, it’s certainly true, like from a capitalistic perspective, right? That it increases efficiency and makes profits easier to to, to accrue and all that stuff. That’s all true. But there’s also a lot of other reasons. And in that class, specifically, we focus on a lot of those other reasons. Like for example, the fact that it is basically just an electronic writing device. And we mean that literally.
When you are opening up Notepad or TextEdit, right, you’re writing on screen, and you’re seeing, you know, text appear. And so in that sense, it’s a writing instrument, but it’s also a writing instrument, in that when you press a certain key, you know, q A, whatever on your keyboard, then what you’re doing is you’re actually with electricity, right, inserting a charge, an electrical charge at a specific physical transistors somewhere deep inside your machine. And in that sense, you’re literally writing, not with ink, in this case with electricity on a medium, which is usually these days flash memory, although it wasn’t always right, it used to be spinning disk, it used to be tape, etc, etc. But at some point you’re writing, you’re changing the physical world in some respect to make a mark to make your mark. That is what it’s for. That’s what the computer is for.
So if you treat a computer like a writing instrument, literally like an electronic typewriter, which is where they came from, again, notice the historical tie up there, then you can understand why you should care about continuing to learn how to use them well. And then if you understand enough about what it’s able to do for you, you begin to see or maybe I should say, like the fog of war kind of clears a little bit, right, and you begin to understand all the other powers that writing gives you.
And I mean that again, quite literally, the ability to write down to write your thoughts down is arguably the most magical ability that humans have, it’s arguably the thing, that humans can do that makes it possible for us to do everything else. To share knowledge across generation across individuals, right? Create language. That’s what a computer is for. That’s what a computer lets you supercharge in a very literal way. And so at that point, right, that’s that’s the start of why Why? What we talked about, and the way that we talk about the power of this right comes down to extremely concrete and extremely basic principles. Like literally space and time.
How much can you write? How fast? How much space? Do you need to write it in? Right? These are the questions that system administrators at their core are always dealing with, how much RAM do I have? Do I have enough disk space, right? Do I have enough compute power to handle this workload? Right? And so when you start at that point, and you don’t skip that point and go straight to like, let’s make a web service with rails or whatever, right? Now you’re able to really set the groundwork, or set the stage for all the other things that you could do with a computer that don’t necessarily fit into what you are told a computer should be right?
Most people experience the computer, especially today, either as a social media manipulation tool, or as a work appliance, right? I mean, look at the folders and the icons of paper and stuff on your computer, right? These are not folders, there’s no desktop on a machine. And yet we call them desktops. And there’s a reason for that there’s a history for that, right? So understanding that is both important and good. But also only through understanding that that’s where we kind of came from, can we make a conscious choice about what other metaphor other than desks and paper files and manila folders and stuff that relate to Office jobs that often feel like relatively coercive employment scenarios for a lot of our students? Right, what else can the computer be and do. And that’s what’s so beautiful about starting from such basic foundations, because you really get to create your own world. And, you know, in your own world, you can be quite powerful. And then translating that power into something that you want to see in the real world is the practice of politics. So that’s the connection.
So that’s where we start. And then of course, we end up doing all as you saw at, for example, HOPE, where we, you know, at the end of the day, if you have a deep understanding what that is at that level, then talking about how to hack websites, turns from some magical, you know, superpower ability into just like, Oh, yeah, right, this other line here, and you’re done. Right, like, it becomes much less magical, much less missed, mystifying. And yet, somehow, simultaneously, ever more empowering.
CP: So I really like the analogy you made, in fact, I was gonna bring it up myself that because I had the exact same thought, and that’s, again, one of the qualitative differences between your approach to then, you know, maybe other certainly regular college courses and things is, it’s, you need to know this stuff for a purpose, like, this is not gonna be your career, you’re not going to be doing this for someone else for making a paycheck, you could, you could, and a lot of people do, including myself. But in, you’re much more focused on, this is something you need, these are skills or understanding you need for something very practical for something you need yourself. And it’s like, it’s a difference between taking a crash course and conversational Spanish, because you’re traveling, they’re going to spend, you know, you’re going to do a summer abroad or whatever, versus taking Spanish as a language more from you know, grammar and history. And, you know, while that has its place, it’s not what it’s not what you need, that’s doesn’t fit your, your particular use case.
The other thing, and I must say, from reading your, you know, look at the website and get this vibe, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it also feels to me like taking a personal self defense course, as opposed to just learning karate, I mean, you know, you could have for years, and you’re getting out, and you want to get like belts and whatever, that’s, you know, that’s fine. But if you are in a bad neighborhood, if you are feeling, particularly if you if you’re being stalked if you’re if you’re you know, in a marginalized group, and you feel the need for physical protection, you, you need to know how to protect yourself in any way, you know, without getting into the history of the martial art, or, you know, or I don’t need a belt, I don’t need, you know, I don’t need a color. You know, if I’m in a situation, I need to protect myself, so I definitely get that vibe.
And if I’m not too far off, I’m curious to know, do you must have stories to tell, obviously, without naming names, but there must have been situations where you’ve actually made significant, you know, true real life security impacts on people’s lives.
TLC: Yeah, I don’t want to talk too much about the details of that. But But you’re right, the, the analogy to self defense classes is actually really apt. Because like, you know, look, if you have to fight dirty to survive, we want you to fight dirty to survive, right? Like the cold, the goal is not to follow the rules, the goal is to get shit done and be okay. And if you, you know, need the kinds of things that need to know, the kinds of things that we’re we’re teaching, for reasons of security, you know, you probably have some some shit going down. So I don’t know if I can say that on this podcast, but you know, there’s stuff that you need to, you know, you need to be mindful of that beauty to be careful about right.
And so this also speaks to the history of the group. I mean, again, it started as a political project, the core of us who started this back in 2015, and 2016, as I was saying, this grew out of a number of far Left activists who were involved in Occupy Wall Street and in some, you know, in political projects that were that were that were of the time, I should say. And so, you know, you can imagine that that means that, you know, we have some personal experience with the need for this kind of self defense online.
It’s become much more commonplace that someone might need such defense than it was in for example, you know, the early 2000s, or the 2010s, when when some of us began being political actors in our lives and in our communities, right? So so that’s part of it is that there’s a recognition there that this is this, what matters here is not that, you know, facts are can pass tests or can get licenses or can prove to an employee or you on a resume that you know, your shit, right, right matters, that you’re okay. And at the end of the day that you have what you need to get done, whatever it is you need to get done, and to do so safely. So that that is absolutely the focus.
I also like the analogy to self defense class, because unlike a lot of what I mean, I don’t get to Well, what I’m debating saying is like, like, there is a, you know, there’s a phrase in the infosec sort of hacker world, right, you’ve probably heard it’s called ethical hacking, without getting too ranty about the politics of that, right. It’s, it’s one, it’s a good example of something that has a name, that when you are in a situation that is truly impacting your life in the way that we’ve just described, like potentially your literal livelihood, the notion of, you know, ethical hacking, the way it’s defined in the hacker community becomes a little, how shall I say? Super? superficial, right? what people mean, when they say ethical hacking, as an industry term is legal hacking, is hacking legally. Right is, is is breaking down security boundaries, intentionally breaking security boundaries, usually, of other people’s or other companies devices, in such a way where the breaking of that boundary is within the scope of a contract that they’ve already pre agreed to.
That’s, you know, I mean, it’s a business, it’s a it’s what happens in the world, like, you know, I don’t I don’t have any problems with that, per se. But ethical hacking within the, under that terminology, right, also includes a ton of really unethical stuff, like some really shady not great stuff, that happens totally legally. But I would very much challenge anyone to think that it’s ethical. Cellebrite being a great example, just recently, right? a company that’s that’s sweeping up selling, the ability to vacuum up users phone data, during, you know, relatively specious border checks. Is that ethical, very hard to make that case. Right.
So and yet, right, that is that is absolutely something like Cellebrite employees are ethical hackers in a number of different ways. They’re doing pen tests on Apple devices, they’re, you know, they’re, they have your pen test divisions, this kind of stuff, penetration, test, divisions, and so on.
So the point that I’m trying to get to you is, it’s one thing to use a term like that, right? But it’s another thing to do the thing that the words mean. And for us, what’s important is that when you’re able to do something on a computer, like for example, going to a class of introduction to exploiting web applications, right? The reason that we had that class was not to help you do unethical things, under the protection of a legal contract, i.e., “ethical hacking,” right? The reason that we teach that class, and the focus of that class is, here is how your website could be attacked. And here’s what you need to know to protect it. Because if you can’t see a punch coming, there’s no way you’re gonna know having taken a self defense class or not, what to do to defend against it, you can’t Block a Punch, and you don’t if you don’t know what a punch is.
So the other sort of political angle of this, of this approach to teaching is, when we talk about security stuff, we don’t just do so from the reactive standpoint, right? We don’t just do so to say, Well, here’s how you raise a shield, we say, right, here’s what an attack looks like. And here’s how to do it. Because if you can do it, then you have a much better understanding of what to do to defend against it. And this is actually more important in the digital realm than it is in the physical realm. I know your prior guests. I talked about this a lot. I know Bruce Schneier talks about this a lot, right? Where he mentions how much more advantaged an attacker and an offensive security posture is in the digital world. Right. And that’s because for all the reasons that he described, I won’t get into all that as well. But But the idea is that it is very, very, very, very difficult to create a defensive security posture without having constant awareness of what attacks you are vulnerable to, and the only way to have that awareness is to actually know how to do those attacks.
TLC: So and it turns out again, as we said earlier, right, those are not as hard as you think they are, which is what freaks the hell out of government agencies right. The fact that any individual can do that. is scary and should be scary. If you all already have a lot of power, right that you want to maintain. Right? So it makes total sense that there that that, you know, companies and and and governments are worried about it, it also makes total sense why the function of a security industry is to retain that knowledge within the minds of a set number of people who may have pre vetted, right?
Now, I don’t have a problem with trying to do what you can to prevent dangerous people from doing dangerous things. But my point is that in the doing of that a lot of people who could benefit from that knowledge, like who could have used a SANS security course who could have used right, like, an OCSP certification, not to get a job, but to be okay in their daily livelihood, because they are actually under attacks, don’t end up able to get that knowledge because of barriers and jargon barriers and culture barriers in the amount of money it takes to learn these things, right. I mean, like, those courses are 1000s and 1000s. of dollars. And it’s just incredibly difficult to sort of break into that, and they already assume a ton of knowledge. And so we’re trying to do is we’re trying to move that sort of security training, right, from the last thing that you do, too, the first thing that you do, without necessarily dumbing it down without without making it seem like we’re making the entire concept or the entire subject matter. childlike, right?
We’re not going to, we’re going to do the same things that those SANS courses and those, you know, offensive security professionals do. But we’re just going to do it, whilst explaining every step of the way. And admittedly, that’s a lot of stuff to explain. But for those of you, you know, listeners who for whom that is the kind of approach that seems exciting or interesting, right? That means that you get access to a piece of knowledge that is otherwise incredibly guarded, both legally and socially, and culturally and financially in all these other avenues. And that, that I think, part of what makes this so unique and so important to do, specifically in the context of having a political student.
CP: Well, I’m glad we got to that point, because I really wanted to drive home, how important the work is that you guys are doing, and, and so obviously, you know, we kind of started off talking about, you know, just interested in knowledge and learning how computers work. And while that’s all interesting, and obviously, anybody in the audience who has that, you know, that level of interest should definitely check out your courses. I also wanted to establish how important the work is that you guys are doing. And so, obviously, taking courses cost money, not a lot, but some and that that is one way to support you. I know you take direct cash donations as well. But before we wrap up here, I’m just curious, are there other ways of if we’ve gotten across the audience that what you’re doing is important work? Whether or not they are interested in your course or not? How else might they help you out or contribute to your cause?
TLC: Well, I mean, I think the the, you know, the most direct thing is even if you’re not, even if you don’t fancy yourself, someone who is somehow capable enough with computers, I think you should give a workshop or two, which I try write workshops, as I said, you know, sometimes we offer free, just through weekend events, more often than not, it’s it’s usually about $25, to pay for instructors time to come to a workshop, the calendar is posted on the website. And they’re about, you know, two hours or so on, on usually in the week, on a weekend or later in the afternoon, US time. So that’s like a very direct way to do it.
But also, you know, the other thing to do is just tell your friends, like, you know, give it a shot, we also have a blog that you can follow there, you know, we talk a lot more about the politics and the approach and the, you know, the things that are happening in the world, we think we just posted about the whole deplatforming conversation and how that affects and how that should be how we think people should be thinking about it in terms of, you know, a movement strategy. And so you could also just, you know, follow that and sort of, you know, we don’t have any social media ourselves. But if you post links on social media about us, that’s also helpful, basically, just letting people know that there is an alternative, right to how to learn about this stuff that isn’t just, you know, oh, my God, I have to now search through the black hole of YouTube on my own. Right. But also isn’t I have to deal with like, recruiters or, you know, code, boot camps, our, you know, sort of like a job centric approach. Again, not that there’s necessarily a problem with that, if you wanted to go the job route, you could also come to workshops, like, you know, we don’t don’t discriminate in that, in that sense, right. But the goal really is right to to make it possible for people who, who already, you know, have the thing they want to do in their life, and who just want to know what to do with the computers in their life to help them do that thing. Right. And so, from that perspective, it’s everyone else, not the people who are looking to get technology jobs that we’re hoping to attract. And and, you know, the biggest challenge for us in that capacity is just letting them know that there is an option that we are option for that, that we think were a good one that we hope will give us a shot.
And oh, and I should also mention, right, like, there’s a, there’s a free sort of do it yourself 24/7/365 available command line basics workshop that is always on the website. If you go to a website, and you click on foundations, I think on the left hand side, our so called foundation courses are a, you know, they’re not really as good as a live instruction scenario, because you can’t ask questions. And you know, there’s not a human on either side of it. But it is a way to, you know, see what we’re about. Try the very first, the very first module of that, of that have that self paced foundations course it’s called, I think, in Enchantment in the Command Line, and it talks literally about a magic ritual that you can that you can try.
CP: Yes. I took that myself.
CP: Very interesting, yeah.
TLC: So that gives you the flavor, right, that gets it gets you this is like, what is the difference here? Like? I don’t I want people to understand that there’s like two primary sort of exist currently existing branches of the “How do I learn about technology” tree, right, there’s the like, the job stuff, and the code boot camps, and the recruiters and the, and the college courses and so on. And there’s also like this, this sort of branch of community education that’s happening amongst primarily policy and political discussions, right, where, where you’re going to like a library, you’re, you’re you’re having a discussion with people, we’re trying to be a third option, which is that far more kinetic far more experience based, live at the keyboard, right, workshop. But that isn’t then simultaneously encouraging you to make a LinkedIn resume. Right?
CP: So what about things like, what about donating time? Or what about donating books or old computers and things like that? And I know you’re located in New York City? Do you have branches in other cities? And I know, we’re talking about the After Times when, whatever, you know, whatever this you know, pandemic goes down, but I mean, when it comes to things like that, could you are there other ways that we could we could help out?
TLC: You know, we talked about that a lot internally. And so it’s in it’s, uh, you know, we don’t, we don’t want to say no, because anyone who wants to help is appreciated, right? Like, that’s, it’s, it’s nice, it’s nice to get that kind of support. However, being computer people, there isn’t a lot of stuff to do. Right, like, we’ve already automated the entire process. So when you sign up for a workshop, it’s not like a human is answering your email and sending you a ticket. Like, that’s all done. I mean, when we schedule a new course, it’s not like we have a lot of administrative work to then, you know, do data entry. Like, a teacher simply says, I’m available at this time. And from their calendar, there is an event created on one of several platforms that we use to host webinars. And that’s just the press of a button.
And, you know, I don’t say that to discourage people from offering help. I mean, you can certainly, you know, email us at email@example.com. And, and ask and see if there’s anything that we need. We’re for what it’s worth, we’re currently sort of trying to make more regular sort of writing crew within the core groups, and we have more outreach. So like, you know, send us tips and that kind of stuff. Like that’s, that’s, that’s certainly welcome. But the reason I do bring it up is because it’s an example of what can be possible, right? Like, we’re not a lot of people. But we, you know, and we don’t have a ton of, you know, everyone has, most people, I should say, not everyone, but everyone who was involved in like, you know, has something else going on, if it’s not a day job, it’s another, you know, another project or a political goal or something. And yet, the school is mostly relatively easy to operate, because the processes are already sort of worked out. And they’re written out in code.
So that, I hope serves as an example, right, of what could be the case for other people as well, and what we’re trying to help people do, because that’s the point of having the computers, right, I don’t want to sit here making calendar events, you know, for an hour. So I don’t need to because I just have my program, do it for me. Yeah. And, and that that could be possible, with many, many, many other small organizations or community projects, right? If only people had more dexterity, like I talked about earlier, with manipulating digital things. And so that’s the goal, get them to that. And so in that sense, we don’t really have need for volunteers or, you know, there is no physical infrastructure that we are lacking. A lot of our internal infrastructure runs on Raspberry Pi’s, which are super cheap, $35 computers.
CP: Yeah, I love those things.
TLC: Yeah, primarily, they are behind Onion services. So that’s just for the internal group. Public stuff is all on, you know, cloud hosted services that are low cost or free. And so, you know, I guess the most direct thing on that front is like, if you see a typo, fix it on GitHub. If you can, or send us an email, let us know there’s something like a broken link or something. But we don’t really have a lot of need for, for volunteers in that logistical capacity because again, so much is digitized.
Oh, and we have a newsletter that you can join. It’s just an email newsletter that sometimes gives you occasional discounts, mostly highlights from our blog, and an event list for what’s happening in the upcoming week. And you can subscribe by clicking the click here to subscribe button on our homepage.
CP: Well, thank you so much for doing what you’re doing. Thanks for coming on the show and talk to us all about this is really very interesting stuff. And I’m glad you guys are out there doing it. Because there’s I’ve run into all the other educational things you mentioned in this and yours was unique.
TLC: Well, thank you so much for having us, I really appreciate getting the chance to be featured on your podcast.
CP: Thanks again to these guys for coming on. I really enjoyed the class I took with them. And I’m sure you would, too, they do such a good job. And again, they they are it’s not for technical people it’s for it’s for regular everyday people, if you’ve got some sort of a community project that you’re involved in, it doesn’t have to be political. But it can be and if if there’s something that you’re doing as a group, and you kind of need to be the IT person for the group or somebody does, it can be you. And these classes are actually quite interesting to you. And even just beyond the technical level, just getting some of the history behind how things work and why things do what they do today really gives you a different perspective on these things.
So great classes, I highly recommend you check them out if you want to support these guys because they are doing some important work take some classes that puts money directly in their pockets in it and it helps them you know keep going tell other people about it as well. Maybe you share this on social media sign up for their newsletter I signed up but doesn’t come out that often. So it’s not gonna really fill up your your mailbox. And of course they do take money so you want to throw some money, I’m sure they would much appreciate that.
All right, there you go. There you have it. The vaccines keep coming, folks get out there, make sure you get in line get your vaccine, we will get through this. We’re almost there. Just a few more months. Don’t give up. Don’t trip at the one yard line. We’ve got to get this ball over the goal. Sorry to use these sports analogies. But really, we’ve—this is not the time to let down your guard. Just keep it up a little while longer. Wear those masks, do the social distancing. Get your shot as soon as it’s available to you help other people to get their shots.
This stuff is really very effective. And if we’re going to get back to any sense of normalcy, we’ve got to get almost everybody vaccinated. So there you have it. Stay safe, everybody and until next week. As always, don’t get caught with your drawbridge down.