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 www.YBKidz.com

• 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.

Location-based Apps with Amber Case and Aaron Parecki

Geoloqi GPS Logs - Portland, ORAaron Parecki and I have been working with a number of local and remote collaborators on an open source location sharing platform called Geoloqi. While we’ve spoken at a lot of conferences about it, most of them have been closed or specific events such as WhereCamp, eComm, or Intel.

If you’re interested in learning what Geoloqi is, we’d love to see you at Kells on November 10, 2010. If you’d like to come along, simply click on the registration button below. We’ll be there to answer any questions, and you’re free to ask questions on this post. If you’d like to sign up to beta test Geoloqi, or use the app when it is ready, you can do so at Geoloqi.com. See you there!

Location-based Apps with Amber Case and Aaron Parecki

Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010 – 5:30-8:30pm

Registration required: http://sao.site-ym.com/events/event_details.asp?id=118229

1849 Salmon St
Portland, OR United States

Description

Amber Case and her partner Aaron Parecki are the founders of Geoloqi. Geoloqi is a private, real-time mobile and web platform for secure location data, with features such as Geonotes, proximal notification, and sharing real-time GPS maps with friends. Geoloqi has been covered by CNN, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Willamette Week and Oregon Business. It has been presented at eComm, Open Source Bridge, Show and Tell PDX and Research Club under the alias Non-Visual Augmented Reality with SMS and GPS.

What will you learn:

  • Why developers of apps should look at what users want to do now, as well as what users want to do in their future.
  • Why social apps should try to mirror real–world relationships
  • Why sharing should be about who you share with as well as how long you want the information to be available.
  • Why developers should think about making apps “ambient” and require less user interaction.

You Should Follow @Geoloqi on Twitter!

O’Reilly Webcast on Cyborg Anthropology

On August 5, 2010 I gave an hour-long webcast called Cyborg Anthropology: A Short Introduction. The event was free and had roughly 500 signups. It was a really fun way to quickly share a lot of the concepts I’ve been thinking about for the past few years. A lot of it was condensing down a lot of what I’ve begun to explore on CyborgAnthropology.com. I’ll be giving a 20 minute version of this speech at a TED conference in December. You can also watch the webcast at O’Reilly.com. The webcast is 60 minutes long. Start 5 minutes in for best results (the first part is an audio check).

Webcast Summary

Cyborg Anthropology is a way of understanding how we live as technosocially connected citizens in the modern era. Our cell phones, cars and laptops have turned us into cyborgs. What does it mean to extend the body into hyperspace? What are the implications to privacy, information and the formation of identity? Now that we have a second self, how do we protect it? This presentation will cover aspects of time and space compression, communication in the mobile era, evaporating interfaces and how to approach a rapidly changing information spaces.

A Short History of Cyborg Anthropology

Haraway proposed what she termed a “cyborg anthropology” to study the relation between the machine and the human, and she adds that it should proceed by “provocatively” reconceiving “the border relations among specific humans, other organisms, and machines”

Based on this essay, and many other instances of needing a methodology to understand and describe rapidly changing sociocultural systems affected by technology, the idea of a “Cyborg Anthropology” was proposed at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 1993.

What is a Cyborg Anthropologist?

A cyborg anthropologist looks at how humans and non human objects interact with each other, and how that changes culture. So, for instance, we have these objects in our pockets that cry, and we have to pick them up and soothe them back to sleep, and then we have to feed them every night by plugging them into the wall. At no other time in history have we had these really strange non human devices that we take care of as if they are real, and we’re very dependent upon them. That’s one of the aspects that I’m studying; the idea of mobile technology and its effect on one’s relationships. Another aspect of cyborg anthropology is the idea of individuals extending themselves into a second self in the online space, through a Facebook page, avatar or profile. Studying how people interact with each other through these little technosocial interactions, versus just the analog interactions, is another aspect of cyborg anthropology.

Cyborg Anthropology vs. Traditional Anthropology

What happens in traditional, analog anthropology is this: You go to another culture, and you look at all the people.  You see how they interact with each other, how knowledge is created and so on. You see kinship, you see rituals, you see all these different pastimes and hobbies. You see what people eat. And often the anthropologist goes over to another country and says, “Oh, look how fascinating these people are. They’re so strange. Look at all their weird customs. Look at how different they are from us!” There is this definite aspect of the other, of going out and studying something else. But the problem is that many people are not studying world that they live in right now, their own culture. There are a few anthropologists who have begun to really study the effects of technology on everyday life. It is the study of this everyday life that offers the most insight.

Call phones have become so ubiquitous that they no cause one to think about them. One does not think about having a cell phone or not having one – one’s time is spent choosing which external prosthetic device they are going to be using next.  Facebook has become very normal. Twitter has become quite normal. Cell phones have become very normal. So my job as an anthropologist is of someone that comes in and says, “Oh my God, how fascinating. Look at all these strange things people do. They’re posting on each other’s Walls. They’re editing each other’s external online selves. Their identity is increasingly made up of text and points and technosocial interactions.” What I do as a Cyborg Anthropologist is take the traditional anthropological toolset and apply those tools and methodologies to the digital space. I’m always trying to take both the embodied and thousand foot view, because it allows me to ask questions such as “What is really going on?”, “What’s next in technological development?”, and “Has anything actually changed with the onset of technology, or are people just bringing offline behaviors to the online space?

More on Cyborgs and Anthropology

Cyborg Anthropology Wiki
If you liked this webcast and want to learn more about cyborgs and Cyborg Anthropology, you might want to look at CyborgAnthropology.com, a site still very much in development as I stitch my research together from the past 7 years of study.

CyborgCamp Portland


If you happen to live in Portland (or need an excuse to visit) and like cyborgs, you should come to CyborgCamp Portland on Oct. 2nd, 2010. It’s a hybrid unconference on the future of humans and machines. We’ll be talking about cyborgs, interface design, government, transportation, science, anthropology and humanity from 9Am-6Pm. Tickets are exceedingly cheap ($10) and you can get one now if you’d like.

50th Anniversary of the term “Cyborg”

Also, September 2010 is the 50th Anniversary of the coining of the term ‘cyborg’. Over the next month, the site 50 Cyborgs, Curated by Tim Maly of Quiet Babylon (another site on Cyborgs that’s worth a good long look), will update 50 times with links to material celebrating 50 years of one of the 20th Century’s more enduring concepts. Then it’ll go dark. I highly suggest reading it before it disappears. But if you miss it, you can always check it out on Archive.org.

—-

About

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and UX Designer from Portland, Oregon. You can read more about her here, and you can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

An Open Response to the Portland Development Commission State of the Software Market

PDC recently  released the next instantiation of their State of the Software Market survey. It’s designed to dive deeper into their conversation with the software community.

For purposes of transparency, I thought it might be interesting to post my responses as an open response to the survey. Below are all of the questions and my responses. I don’t have the right ones – no one does. However, I hope that my responses might start a discussion that leads to something that might be considered a good response. It’s all very much a work in progress.

Portland Development Software Survey

We’ve all had different experiences in this community. My favorite experiences have been at WhereCamp, Open Source Bridge and CubeSpace. Filling out this survey is a chance to create more of those experiences and get support for them. If this sounds good to you, respond to the PDC software survey.

This is PDC’s second interview in the process of identifying the tools needed to develop a thriving software cluster in the Portland region.

Their first survey in April had 280 respondents, and this survey seeks to validate some of the ideas that were shared. Software is one of only four clusters that the Portland Development Commission is focusing on, so our input on this topic will have a large impact on the PDC’s work.

—-

Survey Questions and Responses

Portland’s many User Groups run independently. Managing logistics, promotions and funding takes a significant amount of time for their volunteer leadership. An idea that came from our first survey is to compile an inventory of available meeting spaces, a “best practices” document and identify interested sponsors.

Do you think this idea would help align the software cluster and allow it to be more successful?

Yes – this is a great idea!

Why do you think this idea has merit?

Because a lot of us, whether we work full-time or not, need a place where we can all meet up. When we went to CubeSpace, it was like coming home. No matter what happened during the day, we knew we could find at least a few events going on at night. The space does not need to be open during the day – the majority of events that happened at CubeSpace were events happening between 5-9Pm.

It was open and welcoming, and a place to meet friends and collaborators, old or new. In a place where a lot of people work by themselves, and a lot of people do not work at offices during the day, regular community interaction becomes very important.

Another idea we heard was the possibility of identifying flexible meet-up spaces for folks to gather and share ideas. This could augment existing co-working spaces in the city and provide a place for small groups to gather and explore new ideas together.

Do you think this concept of identifying flexible meet-up spaces would be a good idea to support our software community?

Yes

Why do you feel that this concept of flexible meet-up spaces is a good idea?

For the same reasons I stated before. There needs to be a space for people to meet, where meetings can be scheduled. A watering hole, so to speak, for ideas, collaboration and exchange.

Having a sponsored meeting spot open from 5-9Pm would not compete with any of the other daytime coworking spaces, as it would be an event space.

Another idea that came to the surface was to encourage the integration of these User Groups into the other parts of our community such as non-software corporations, government and schools. (example: a school technology lab could tap the expertise of a User Group for best practices in changing operating systems, etc.)Do you think such integration efforts would strengthen our software community?

Great idea!

Why do you think this type of integration is a good idea?

It’s an interesting idea, although I’m not clear on the details enough to have an opinion on this right now.

By the way, are you personally involved with a User Group?

Yes

What User Groups are you a part of?

I assume you are using the phrase ‘User Groups’ as a way of describing groups of people with interests related to certain types of technology, methods, or ideas.

In that case, these are the groups I’m involved in (or have been in the past).

  • Geoloqi User Group (co-founder)
  • Portland Data Viz Meetup (founder)
  • CyborgCamp (founder)
  • WhereCamp (volunteer, speaker)
  • Refresh Portland (attendee)
  • Wiki Wednesday (attendee)
  • NTEN Nonprofit Technology Meetup (attendee)
  • Webvisions (board member)
  • Web Analytics Wednesday (attendee)
  • Demolicious (attendee)
  • CHIFOO (member)
  • IxDA (steering committee)

I used to go to 2-3 group meetings a night, until CubeSpace closed.

How valuable are you finding this involvement in User Groups?

Very valuable

Why have you found User Groups valuable?

Knowledge is brought to life by people, and people are often difficult to find. User groups allow information to pollinate and multiply. It drastically speeds up the ability for one to get things done. When one tries something alone, it’s often easy to get stuck. When one is surrounded by users who are familiar with a system, help is never far away.

Do you have any other ideas about User Groups before we ask your opinion about the next topic of “Regional Resourcing”?

No.

A number of people provided feedback about how we could take the resources we already have and become smarter about understanding and making use of them. For example, many wished they had a place to search for every local software company’s products or services. Some also wished they had a database of every gifted programmer in the region. For the purposes of the survey, we’ll call this “Regional Resourcing”.

In terms of its value, how would you rate this idea of a “Regional Resourcing” directory?

Very valuable

Why would such a “Regional Resourcing” directory be valuable?

It’s been attempted before, especially with sites like PRTLND.

An easy to use directory with community tagging capabilities would be useful, especially if it imported Twitter data and allowed one or others to fill into profile information, recommendations, etc., wiki-style.

Linkedin does this, but it’s not locally oriented.

In our last online conversation, 75% of those who did not have a mentoring relationship said that they would like to have one.

How valuable would it be to have a system that matches mentors with mentees to help with business issues? (for example: formation, planning, development, etc.)

Not very valuable

Why wouldn’t “mentorship matching” be valuable?

Well, if you think about it – having a community in place, with a place to have events, takes care of the mentorship idea. A community naturally has mentors and newbies. Those who contribute to a community get community support in the form of funding, reviews, and collaboration. Having a structured and stringent program might not be as effective as simply allowing it to happen and providing a space for it.

In our discussions, we have heard several concerns about the challenges associated with financing software companies. Depending on their experience, some have focused on a need for more VCs in Portland, others on the need for more Mezzanine funding sources and still others on unmet needs in Early Stage funding.

How important do you feel it is for our community to better address the financial needs of its software companies?

Very important

Why do you feel that we should better address the financial needs of software companies?

I don’t know if it’s simply the idea of bringing VC’s into Portland that would address the financial needs of software companies.

I think the key is to provide actual learning experiences or good managers for companies. A lot of great developers out there are very good at coding, but are quite inept at design or bringing products to market. The idea of the product lifecycle, or the need to market a product, is sometimes misunderstood.

Learning about business – and this means business planning, legal issues, taxes, business plans, and simplicity, are all things that are needed. VC’s that provide this would be nice, but startups also need to understand how to run startups on little to know funding at all. If they can turn a profit without having to go to VC’s, it’s all the more impressive.

Have you been a part of an effort to raise money for a company in the Portland region?

Yes

I raised money for GreenIt!, a renewable energy company I started with two colleages of mine during college. We raised two rounds of seed funding.

In your experience, what is the most difficult financing stage for a Portland-based software company?

Angel funding (less than $500k)

Please describe the challenges you faced in obtaining Angel Funding:

The amount of time it takes to obtain funding

Some have mentioned that we need to do a better job connecting start-up companies with “seed funders” (very early stage investors under $500k) in order to decrease the time that start-ups devote to raising necessary capital.

Do you feel that we need to develop better ways to connect start-ups with seed funders?

Yes

What are some ways the we might be able to build these networks of funding relationships?

  • Building a matching database
  • Streamlining the review process
  • Having “speed dating” events

Before early-stage entrepreneurs can go to market, they must literally “prove the concepts” of their innovations. The work may entail developing a research technology further, perhaps to a working prototype, and/or studying markets to see if the business concept will fly.Developing a local “Proof of Concept Center” has been suggested as a way to provide this support through seed funding and expert assistance to help entrepreneurs prepare for the strongest market entry possible.

How valuable do you feel a Proof of Concept Center would be in the region?

Not very valuable

Why do you feel that a “Proof of Concept Center” might not be a good idea?

While a center like this could provide User testing, QA testing and focus groups that would not be available to an otherwise unconnected entrepreneur, this is something that naturally emerges from a community. Providing the place for community should still be the highest priority. A startup can have a meeting within that space that can act as a ‘Proof of Concept Center’.

Do you have any skills or resources that you would like to volunteer to help in the development of a community “Proof of Concept Center”?

Yes

Helping entrepreneurs to simplify their ideas and get their products to market.

Do you have any other ideas about how we can improve our investment climate for the software industry?

Have a clear guide to regulations, legalities, and process.

Starting a company is difficult. I had a lot of help starting a C corp because my team was part of a college. There was no business program, so the college president and his business development team helped us in securing funding, connecting us with attorneys and conferences. Without them, no progress could have been made.

Also, a focus on success stories here in Portland is essential. Patterns of development and best practices can be easily found if one interviews successful entrepreneurs here. Take, for example, Andy Baio, developer of Yahoo!’s Upcoming.org. There are many more of these stories. If a community has good role models and examples, they’ll be more likely to succeed.

Would you be interested in receiving the results of this survey and being invited to attend a discussion of the issues impacting our regions’ software industry?

Yes, definitely

Please let us know your contact information.

First name: Amber
Last name: Case
E-mail: caseorganic at gmail dot com

How would you describe the regional footprint of the company which provides your primary source of employment?

6-25 Employees

In addition to this company, are you involved with a side-project or projects?

Yes – I have several side projects

What is keeping you from building a side project into a full-time endeavor?

  • Technology development
  • More customers
  • Investment capital
  • Business strategy development
  • Not interested in making this more than a side project

Other: It’s a tremendous liability to move to developing a company full time. Often it’s not the most intelligent choice, especially in a place like Portland. It’s far safer to keep it as a side-project while remaining fully employed. There aren’t a ton of customers in Portland either. One has to be able to connect nationally and internationally in order to make a blip outside of the Portland sphere. That’s not especially easy to do, no matter where one is.

Does the company that provides your primary source of employment develop software or provide services (legal, accounting, recruiting, etc.) to the software industry?

  • Developing software
  • Providing services

(Note: There was no way to choose both. Vertigo provides both types of services).

What type of services are you providing for the software industry?

  • User Interface/Artistic Design

What position do you hold in the company?

  • Technical/developer

(Note: They didn’t provide designer).

What was your company’s revenue last year? (if you have multiple side projects, please select your primary one)

I’d rather not say.

—-

Conclusions

There’s still a lot to be done, and I need your help. Do you like the idea of a 5-9 meeting space as well? Let me know on Twitter, or in the comments below.

—-

About

Amber Case, (@caseorganic) is a Cyborg Anthropologist and a happy member of the Portland Tech Community. She is happiest when surrounded by wonderful people sharing ideas.

WhereCamp PDX | September 25th, 2010 | An Unconference on all things Geographical

WhereCamp Portland 2010

WhereCampPDX is a free unconference focusing on all things geographical. This informal meeting of minds welcomes all geo-locative enthusiasts, anyone who asks “where am I” or feels the need to “know their place”.

WhereCamp is my #1 favorite Portland conference besides Open Source Bridge. In 2008, it was where I came up with an idea that would later become Geoloqi. Little did I know that Aaron Parecki was working on the exact same thing at the exact same time.

WhereCamp Portland Reid Beels

The great thing about WhereCamp is that is brings together a bunch of really intelligent people interested in GPS and geolocation. There’s so much data to absorb that the conference feels like an adrenaline rush to the brain.

What’s an Unconference?

An unconference is a conference planned by the participants, we all convene together, plan sessions, and have break-outs into sessions. This gives everybody an opportunity to bring to the table the things that interest them the most and lets us talk about new topics that are still new and exploratory. Part of what is important to hearing new voices and getting new ideas is lowering barriers to participation – this event is free and it is driven by the participants.

Schedule:

  • Friday, September 24th: Evening kickoff party, location TBA
  • Saturday, September 25th: Unconference from 10AM-6PM at Metro, followed by dinner and hacking, location TBA.
  • Sunday, September 26th: Games and other fun activities, around downtown/Old Town, details TBA.

Where:

Metro
600 NE Grand
Portland, OR 97232
(Map)

RSVP on Eventbrite

Wherecamp is free, but we need to know that you’re planning to come! Please sign up on Eventbrite and put it on your calendar. This year’s event is going to be excellent.

WhereCamp Portland Sessions

Session Ideas?

We’re welcoming all session ideas. The best place to put them is on the WhereCamp wiki!

Sound Good?

Hope to see you there! If you’re interested in WhereCamp, you might want to also check out CyborgCamp, which will happen only a few weeks later on October 2nd at Webtrends.

—-

About

Amber Case, (@caseorganic) is a Cyborg Anthropologist studying the interaction between humans and computers and how our relationship with information is changing the way we think, act, and understand the world around us. She’s obsessed with compressing the space and time it takes to get data from one place to another, especially when the final destination is the mind.