Real-Time Earthquakes and Technosocial Singularities

Geoloqi: 5.8 earthquake near Virginia on 8/23 1:51pm EDT. Depth: 6km

A Sudden Jolt

Currently I’m in Malmo, Sweden for a media evolution conference. I was asking some questions on Twitter when suddenly my “All Friends” timeline in Tweetdeck just exploded with tweets all about an earthquake in Virginia that was felt in New York. Earthquakes are one of the most fascinating things to watch on real-time networks. The speed at which the news tumbled in was breathtaking.

Real-Time Location-Based Notification Systems

One of the layers in the Geoloqi app is an Earthquake layer that will send out a message when an earthquake happens in your area that is 3.1 or above. Aaron and I checked the Geoloqi logs for evidence of the earthquake and found that a few messages had just been sent out to Geoloqi users in New York and Virginia. The Earthquake layer is an example of a location-based content subscription system.

Topic Compression on the Real-Time Web

I currently follow around 4,000 people on Twitter and am used to getting news in giant real-time chunks. During an earthquake or the death of a celebrity, social networks generally collapse into a single topic and tweet about it for a period of time after the event. Technically, it is a micro-singularity.

Event Singularities

We’ve had singularities before. Earthquakes in China, Haiti and Japan, the World Cup and Michael Jackson’s death. Every large newsworthy event presents a potential singularity now that many are linked in real-time. Twitter users who follow users in New York and Virginia just experienced a technosocial micro-singularity around news of the earthquake.

As the time and space it takes to send and receive information decreases, these kinds of micro-singularities will become increasingly common.

Want to start a mobile/tech company in Portland? Apply to PIE!

Great News!

PIE is seeking eight to ten brand-collaborative startups to join our space for 2011 and work with Wieden+Kennedy, Target, Coca-Cola, Nike, PIE alumni, and other startup mentors. We’re really hoping that’s you and your team.


PIE’s first class will officially kick off September 1. And applications are due August 1st! If you want to apply, act quickly! We promise that it will be worth your time.

What is PIE?

Simply put, PIE helps accelerate companies. How? Well, in its first year, PIE helped host, accelerate, and mentor a number of successful startups. You might think of PIE as the epicenter of the Portland tech ecosystem. PIE location, connections and people make it easier to succeed as a startup. But don’t just take my word for it. During the first 18 months of PIE, three of our companies were funded, two of our companies were acquired, and one company published a book on launching startups. Below is a list of companies that PIE has helped.

BankSimple (funded)
COLOURlovers (funded)
Geoloqi (funded)
PHP Fog (funded)
Urban Airship (funded)
Bac’n (acquired)
Bass Masta (acquired)
Here File, File
Paleo Plan
Refresh Media
Silicon Florist
Subscription Tools
Uncorked Studios

What will you get with your PIE?

Startups selected for PIE will receive $6,000 per founder, up to three (3) founders (maximum of $18,000). In exchange for the your participation in the next version of PIE–including the seed funding, advice, mentorship, connections and other benefits–PIE 2.0 will receive a 6% common stock (i.e., “founders stock”) equity stake in your new company. This will place PIE 2.0 on par with you with respect to risk. And, we ask for no board seats or other types of control.

Applications close August 1st!

Sound good? Ready to go? Excited to succeed? What are you waiting for? Apply to PIE Now! We can’t wait to work with you! (Geoloqi will be a peer mentor for the September 2011 class).

The Digital Storage of Analog Memories

Frictional Objects

Do you have a bunch of physical items stuck in storage? Objects you’ve kept over time that you can’t get rid of because you have a set of memories attached to them? Objects are keystones of memory, but pictures of those objects are still adequate keystones. Your brain is more than capable of filling in the missing details that were lost when the object turned from the 3rd dimension into the 2nd one. It is a rare moment when one can open the bins of stored objects and browse through them.

Bruce Sterling has often talked about the difficulty of owning and getting rid of excess objects out of one’s environment.

“Take its picture first”, said Sterling at the Reboot ’11 Conference in Copenhagen, “Catalogue everything about it. You might want to write down a story, the way it made you feel. It’s all right. You can get another one. Plenty of junk on eBay. It’s just going to sit there, you can click it, you can have it, it’s not hard”.

Last year I went home to see my parents and attempted to clean out the garage of old objects I’d hoarded since childhood. Every few years I go through the boxes and can’t get rid of a thing because I can’t stand erasing the memories. There are only so many items I can hold in my head, and these physical objects were anchors to memories I would not be able to access otherwise.

Uploading Memories

When I went through the boxes last year I had a small camera with me and I began to take pictures of everything. My camera’s EyeFi Card automatically uploaded everything to my Flickr account and stored each picture as private. In this way, I could have the best of both worlds – my memory artifacts suddenly took up no space, I was able to search for them, see them all at once from any web browser instead of going home and opening a box, and I was able to attach descriptions and stories to them for later use.

This is a set of images showing what I used to carry around in my pocket. A keypad from my old cell phone, a Blastoise eraser, plastic model cement, rapidograph ink, a keychain bubble level and tobacco papers.


In all, I took around 700 pictures of around 400 objects. Then I donated or threw them out. Once I had done this, I felt that a great weight had been lifted from my brain and life. Not only were these objects preserved, but they were stored in a way that could be easily accessed. I plan to do this for other objects when I go back home again.

The Fragility of Digital Data

Though this method of uploading images is fast and results in a convenient way of retrieving memories, it annihilates the original objects. If Flickr’s servers were to go down, or my account were to be deleted, my memories would go with it. Web companies are frothy and file formats change often. What is the best way to store data like this? The best way may be to own a few copies of it. One on your own server and one on an external 3rd party server and set up synching and backup between the two. We discussed data storage and ownership at IndieWebCamp last month, and how 3rd party data isn’t really your own. Additionally, as Stewart Brand has explained in his essay Escaping the Digital Dark Age:

“Digital storage is easy; digital preservation is not. Preservation means keeping the stored information cataloged, accessible, and usable on current media, which requires constant effort and expense. Furthermore, while contemporary information has economic value and pays its way, there is no business case for archives, so the creators or original collectors of digital information rarely have the incentive– or skills, or continuity-to preserve their material”.

Objects I physically own could be destroyed in a flood, or their digital forms could be destroyed by the burst of a tech bubble. If I had left these objects as digital forms I might have never taken the objects out of the box in the garage again. Do they really matter at all?

And for some objects, photos can’t replace touch or feel or the smell of the original items. “Lego doesn’t feel the same in photo”, says @chanmaster. But if photos are taken of objects that will rarely be touched again, is it worth it just to have the memories of those objects closer?

DML – Demographic Markup Language

The Current State of Demographic Advertising

Are you sick of all of the irrelevant advertising you get on various websites like Facebook, YouTube, Hulu and blogs? On Hulu I’ve set my gender to Male and birthdate to 1973 in order to get advertising that I actually like. This is because I like ads for technology and ads with funny jokes in them. I’ve begun to do this on many other websites so I can get ads that aren’t as obnoxious. The issue is that my interests don’t match what I am on paper. I’d like to be able to define them myself, and I’m sure many would agree.

DML – Demographic Markup Language

There needs to be a markup language so that you can define your own demographic. No more irrelevant online ads. Did these one-size-fits-all-thinking people get an online marketing degree? Brian Ledger, brought this concept up today. It made me happy to know that other people are experiencing this annoyance.

If you change your demographic, your entire user experience could change for the better. Content would be more relevant and interesting, and the content you received would not be based on very small data points such as age or sex. Those two data points often skew people into groups that don’t mean anything at all.

What there needs to be is standard for defining demographics. There needs to be a demographic markup language and then a query language on top of it. For the user, this would be an extra set of metadata one could attach to their profile that would inform ad engines of the type of ads you’d like to see.

Brian pointed out another concept that might be interesting. “What if you log into your own demographic and say “this isn’t me” or change it? One one could keep their own demographic file and preview the type of ads you might receive because of it, tweaking it until it was relevant”.

What Next?

I’ll be writing more on this later and hopefully working with Brian Ledger on how this might look. What do you think? Would you use something like this if it meant you could curate your ad experience to something more relevant? What we need is a textbook that defines a certain vocabulary to use and map that into a subset of XML.


It might make sense to have DML be a part of as a sort of demoformats. Reasons for this is because microformats are already known and used, and demoformats would simply be another extension or option set within microformats. Another curious thing to look at is

What’s a YottaByte? Discussing the Future of Education in the Information Society

What’s a YottaByte?

It’s something I first asked myself when I stumbled upon Portland’s YottaByte Group. I’d heard of Gigabytes, and even PetaBytes, but not YottaBytes. Fortunately, CEO Derek Brandow was kind enough to answer that question for me, as well as many more, and you’ll see below.

A brief vocabulary lesson . . .

• A bit is the smallest unit of storage for information, the space a computer needs to store a “0” or a “1”.

• A byte is about the size it takes to store a letter of the alphabet.

• A kilobyte is a unit of storage you would need for a HS term paper.

• A popular song would take up about 2 megabytes of storage.

• As of this writing the smallest iPod holds 1 gigabyte and the largest holds
160 gigabytes in text, music and video.

• You could store about 200 DVDs on a 1 terabyte hard disk drive.

• Currently eBay has about 2 petabytes of data.

• It would take about 10 exabytes to store all the telephone calls
in the U.S. this year.

• In 2010 there will be about 1 zettabyte of data that can be
accessed by a computer.

By the time today’s 5th grade students have graduated from college, such as UoP, they
will live in a yottabyte world…a world in which nearly all human knowledge is captured in digital form and instantly available through something as small as a hand-held device.

Where did the idea for The YottaByte Group come from?

While I was teaching fourth grade in West Harlem, NYC, Tom and I stayed in contact with each other and discussed the idea of creating a fourth grade curriculum for the kids of executives who moved around the globe with their families for work (think Exxon people relocating to remote locations of Central America). The need was having a top notch learning experience for kids who did not have access because of geography. That was the start, YottaByte evolved from those conversations.

What does YottaByte do?

The YB Group imagines, designs, creates, and manages educational opportunities for students who will, much too quickly, enter an adult world in which information is completely digital, freely accessible, and measured in YottaBytes. The current model for both public and private schools in “developed” countries has not changed significantly in the last 100 years. The longevity of that “industrial” model is a testament to the greatness of its early 20th century design. However, this model is beginning to crumble worldwide.

What successes and failures has YottaByte experienced in the last year?

We failed to establish The YB Group as a business (so we are trying to start it as a non-profit). We did do some initial work with kids that was quite encouraging. We learned a few things.

1. We must create a system that will allow student to follow their passion. This includes developing a path that they can follow to become a part of existing professional communities.

2. This includes letting them (with the help of teachers and parents), to make decisions about what they will learn. (Instead of having the State and Federal governments do so)

3. As a small group, kids are self-organizing to a great extent.

4. Kids know a lot about using technology to get a date, but very little about using technology to make a future…unless your date ends up marrying you:)

Tell me a little bit about COO Jason Gallic and CIO Tom Layton.

Jason worked for years as the sales and marketing director for Extreme Arts & Sciences, a Eugene-based consultation firm specializing in media messaging, effective use of advancing technologies and strategic planning. While working with Microsoft, and a series of large financial institutions, Jason developed a love of collaborative environments and technology-based innovation.

After many long talks with me and Tom, Jason also discovered an unknown passion for education. It is the blend of that passion, plus first-hand experience with personal learning networks and a flattening world, that landed Jason with us.

Tom pioneered the use of technology to empower learning.

In 1984 he was selected as Electronic Learning Magazine’s Educator of the Year. The following year, his students created the first high school yearbook on a CD and the year after that those same students founded SouthTECH, a student run multimedia production company. In 1994 he founded CyberSchool, the first Internet-based public high school distance learning program. Tom’s students now work for companies like Pixar, Apple, and Intel. Currently, Tom is working with Irkutsk State Linguistic University to create online courses in Russian taught by Russian as a Second Language experts living in Siberia.

He is also developing teacher training courses in Second Life for the Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE) at the University of Oregon. Jason and I affectionately refer to Tom as ‘Doc Brown’, the character from Back to the Future. Yottabyte is like his ‘flex capacitor’…and they guy remains to stay ahead of the pack in terms of what he sees as future trends.

What is the hope of YottaByte in the future?

Our ultimate hope is to create an education platform for the 21st century.

Short term, The YB Group is looking to test and prove the educational platform we have been working on.

Currently we have:

• A group of kids to work with

• A space to meet on a weekly basis for some face to face time with kids

• A 10-12 week YB concurrent learning opportunity

• A formula for assessment

• A Google work space at

• A growing cache of professional willing and able to share their expertise and experience with YB Kids

• An application process to allow kids to qualify themselves for this opportunity
Our hope is that we will receive whatever it takes to equip a handful of high school students with a Mac Book lap top, iPod Touch, and a Flip video camera, so we can prove and refine our learning platform.

What can the Portland tech community do to help YottaByte? What can the nation do to help YottaByte?

It is a great social responsibility to recognize problems we are faced with as a country, and now as a global community. However, to ‘recognize’ is only the first step…and more HAS to happen in order for big problems to find resolution.

The loudest proponents of education are shouting, “Give education MORE money!”, “MORE standards!”, “Incorporate a MORE rigorous curriculum!” We are hearing to the wrong voices. We don’t need MORE, We need DIFFERENT!

What can the nation and the Portland tech community do to help YottaByte?

1. Recognize this monumental problem facing us all, AND make whatever commitment possible to help make this change we desperately need. Obama did it by receiving $5 from millions of believers.

2. Support The YB Group, or other companies like it who have what it takes to create attainable and sustainable solutions.

A great big thanks to Derek Brandow for sharing his thoughts with us. If you’re interested in supporting the YottaByte group, check out the YottaByte Group website.