Pocket Democracy: “Beyond the Valley” Book Talk with Ramesh Srinivasan

“Pocket Democracy” is a 2 day conference between Berlin and Seattle investigating digital technologies as a means for political solutions.

Goethe Pop Up Seattle and Thomas Mann House Los Angeles, in collaboration with STATE Berlin, World Affairs Council, and UW Center for West European Studies and European Union Center, welcome Ramesh Srinivasan for a talk about his new book Beyond the Valley.

In his new, provocative book, Ramesh Srinivasan describes the internet as both an enabler of frictionless efficiency and a dirty tangle of politics, economics, and other inefficient, inharmonious human activities. Focusing on the disconnect between designers and users, producers and consumers, Srinivasan takes the reader across the world, visiting the “design labs” of rural, low-income, and indigenous people in hope to find a more democratic internet.

The Cloud Room Bar is a 21+ establishment.

Light refreshments to follow the talk.

This is an evening event of a conference taking place over two days. All guests are invited to participate in the workshop earlier in the day and Pocket Democracy’s public conference at Central Library Seattle the following day, October 25th.

For a detailed schedule of “Pocket Democracy” and registration information for each event, please visit www.vatmh.org/

Pocket Democracy: Conference with Keynote Speaker Opal Tometi (Cofounder Black Lives Matter)

“Pocket Democracy” is a 2 day conference between Berlin and Seattle investigating digital technologies as a means for political solutions.

How can digital democracy be recognized and used?

Join Goethe Pop Up Seattle and Thomas Mann House Los Angeles, in collaboration with STATE Berlin, World Affairs Council Seattle, and UW Center for West European Studies and European Union Center, for a conference on digital democracy. The event will be broadcast live to Berlin and features a host of renowned international speakers, including a keynote at 9:00 from Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

All participants are also invited to the day-long workshop on October 24th and Ramesh Srinivasan’s book talk on Thursday evening, October 24th.

For a detailed schedule of the conference and registration information for each event, please visit www.vatmh.org/

Seattle internet access study: Nearly universal access but more should be paying less

Cable Guy and Can Guy

With reporting by SCC Insight

A new report published by the City of Seattle shows that home internet access has become nearly universal, though some disparities remain.

The study, which is the fifth in a longitudinal series for the city, is actually a model for how to do this kind of survey work. Nearly 50,000 invitations to complete a survey were sent out, with specific outreach to low-income households, Seattle Public Schools parents, and even “tiny house village” residents. 4,315 responses were received, which were then tallied and re-weighted to match the overall demographic and geographic distribution of the city.

So what are the big take-aways?

  • Overall, access to the Internet is nearly universal in Seattle. That has important implications for making essential city services available over the Internet. It’s particularly good and important news for Seattle’s kids. However, the “digital divide” hasn’t gone away entirely; it’s just become shades of grey instead of a black-and-white question of whether someone does or does not have access. Continue reading

SAL Journalism Series–Kara Swisher

A tech icon and “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist” (New York Magazine), Kara Swisher is known for her insightful reporting and straight-shooting style. She is the executive editor of Recode, and the host of the Recode Decode podcast. Swisher is also the co-executive producer of the annual Code Conference, which brings together a global community of the biggest names in the business for in-depth conversations about the impact of digital technology.

‘Chatbot lawyer’ could get you out of your next Capitol Hill parking ticket

(Image: City of Seattle)

(Image: City of Seattle)

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The whole thing about parking on Capitol Hill being impossible is dumb. Paid parking zones have made open spaces mostly guaranteed during pay to park hours. Overnight parking and the insatiable human urge to not pay for parking that leads drivers to explore Capitol Hill’s more ticket-risky parking strategies — those problems are real.

City living (and city news reporting!) with a motor vehicle pretty much guarantees parking tickets. It is the cost of doing business.

But here is some good news for the Capitol Hill parking ticket-plagued. A young genius has found a way to put the artificial intelligence of chatbots to work for something more than customer service or tricking people on dating sites. And the new “chatbot lawyer” is coming to Seattle — as soon as the system’s inventor takes on some small issues like “flight delay compensation, as well as helping the HIV positive understand their rights and acting as a guide for refugees navigating foreign legal systems” — The Guardian reports:

Dubbed as “the world’s first robot lawyer” by its 19-year-old creator, London-born second-year Stanford University student Joshua Browder, DoNotPay helps users contest parking tickets in an easy to use chat-like interface. The program first works out whether an appeal is possible through a series of simple questions, such as were there clearly visible parking signs, and then guides users through the appeals process. The results speak for themselves. In the 21 months since the free service was launched in London and now New York, Browder says DoNotPay has taken on 250,000 cases and won 160,000, giving it a success rate of 64% appealing over $4m of parking tickets.

Makes you wonder what other repetitive, mundane tasks could be taken on by a chatbot, no?

In the meantime, there are other parking problems — and opportunities — on Capitol Hill to solve.

Hat tip to @sleepylemur for sharing the news.

Seattle Digital Equity Initiative bringing wi-fi to Capitol Hill community center

Fat pipe at Miller

Fat pipe at Miller

Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center will soon be an even more useful neighborhood asset for meetings and events. All 26 of the Seattle Parks community centers are about to get tricked out with wireless internet as part of the new Digital Equity Initiative:

In tandem with Mayor Ed Murray’s Digital Equity Initiative, Google is working to bridge Seattle’s digital divide with $344,000 in grants that will bring free WiFi to Seattle community centers and affordable housing projects.  At least 15 percent of Seattle residents have no Internet service at home. Among Seattle’s lowest income residents and immigrant communities the numbers are even higher, according to the City of Seattle’s Technology Access & Adoption study.

“Too many Seattle residents have no regular access to the Internet, and find themselves disconnected from the wealth of educational and community resources the Internet offers,” said Darcy Nothnagle, head of external affairs for the NW at Google. “These grants aim to help bring access to those who need it most.”

Through the grant, Seattle Housing Authority will provide internet to 800 very low income K-12 students and their families who live in SHA housing. The residents served by the project are among those whose studies show are the most technology disadvantaged and disconnected. The project will focus on providing connectivity to students in grades K-12 in the NewHolly, High Point, Rainier Vista, Lake City Court and Yesler Terrace communities.

Google is also providing funding for WiFi at all 26 Seattle Parks and Recreation Community Centers, enabling access for public meetings and events, classes, and digital civic engagement and learning programs. The funding will also go towards the replacement of 31 outdated and obsolete computers at five RecTech Community Technology Labs – located in the Delridge, Rainier, Rainier Beach, South Park and Yesler Terrace community centers – which are used for digital literacy training and youth programs.

As part of the initiative, Comcast has dropped its prices for internet service for residents in public housing, KUOW reports. One element that won’t be part of the initiative’s thrust is municipal broadband. A 2015 touted by the mayor’s office concluded that the service was too expensive for Seattle to build without a private partner.

You can read more about the Digital Equity Initiative here via seattle.gov.

Hack the CD hopes to help shape the ‘New Economy’ for Seattle’s Africatown

34de56e0-6153-4875-9785-c36ef0b7c342A “Cultural Innovation Conference” focused on Seattle’s Central District and Africatown returns to 17th Ave S’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute this weekend.

Hack the CD invites entrepreneurs and creators new and established to come together to collaborate on ideas, projects… and a party:

The 2015 Hack the CD Cultural Innovation Conference is a three day, all ages event held in Seattle’s Africatown – Central District, that convenes the brightest minds to participate in the New Economy through design, entrepreneurship, and technology.

Do you own your own business or thought about starting one? We’re calling all all artists, authors, chefs, developers, designers, hustlers, and tastemakers to an entrepreneurial jam session!

In one weekend, learn marketing and branding secrets from the pros, tips for new technology tools, and automation of your workflow to free up your time. Come with a new startup business idea or an existing venture.

  • 7pm – Friday, July 24th Network, Pitch Ideas, Form Teams, Begin Work

  • 10am – Saturday, July 25th Continue Work, Meet Coaches, Attend Workshops

  • 9am – Sunday, July 26th Finish Work, Present, After Party

Geekwire covered the first Hack the CD event held last fall.

For more information on attending, sharing experiences from your established Central District-area business, or volunteering, check out hackthecd.org.

Report says municipal broadband too expensive for Seattle to build alone

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Residential survey results

For Seattle to build a municipal broadband service, more than 40% of households would need to sign up to pay $75 a month for the service — a higher rate of penetration than any other municipal network in the country, according to a consultant’s report released by the City of Seattle Tuesday — or we’re going to need help.

The report completed by Maryland-based Columbia Telecommunications says that it would cost Seattle between $480 to $665 million to build out the system that municipal broadband advocates believe would level the playing field with entrenched providers like Comcast and provide better service to the city.

You can read the full City of Seattle Fiber-to-the-Premises Feasibility Study here.

“Broadband internet service is a necessity in the 21st century but many Seattle residents don’t have equal access,” Michael Mattmiller, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Seattle, said in a statement. “This report builds on past studies and take a comprehensive look at whether the City could provide universal broadband service in today’s landscape that is affordable, competitive and equally accessible to everyone.”

Recommendations for the project identified small businesses as particularly eager customers for a better broadband solution. The study recommends that the any municipal service in the city should be designed to serve households and small businesses:

Three key responses from the business surveys seem to support our recommendations for
providing niche service to residential and small business customers:
 It seems reliability of connection is the most important factor for business survey respondents, with speed and price of service close behind.
 Most business respondents answered that they pay somewhere between $50 and $199 for their current connection.
 Less than a quarter of respondents to the business survey claim that their Internet connection speed is fast enough for their business needs.

In the statement on the release of the report, the city said that if a municipal effort in Seattle failed to reach 40% penetration or was priced below $75 per month, the network would be a financial failure. “With a smaller customer base or prices below a $75 monthly charge, financials deteriorate quickly and the City is exposed to significant potential losses,” the statement concludes. “With a proposed service price increase of just $10, raising it to $85 per month, the study found customer interest fell significantly, also exposing the city to substantial risk.”

The study also considered a tax-funded solution but the analysts found that it, too, would be too risky for the city to take on.

The consultants found that the most feasible approach for Seattle to create a municipal broadband utility would be through a joint venture, “where the City would work with a partner to create a service that allows the City to maintain its status as a technology leader and provide equity to the public.”

IO House is The Real World: Capitol Hill. For nerds.

jCWzM1OBCapitol Hill’s proximity to the silicon alleys of South Lake Union causes a great deal of concern regarding the Hill’s changing character. But tech entrepreneur Andy Rebele saw the intermeshing of the two neighborhoods as the perfect opportunity to fill an off-beat niche in Seattle’s tech community in a form that has been thriving for years in San Francisco.

Last year Rebele and his business partner Andy Sack began renting a home in north Capitol Hill to open the IO House — a coliving, coworking space focused on fostering collaboration among tech entrepreneurs. Think guesthouse for creative, working people. Or, Real World Capitol Hill. For nerds.

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Ace Teams, a mobile gaming company, only has one guest at the house but uses the space once a week for code-a-thons. (Photo: Alex Garland)

“It struck me that Seattle really needed to have this to provide a startup eco-system,” Rebele said, who runs his own startup electric boat company. “Capitol Hill is exactly where I wanted it to be. The theme is that it’s at the intersection of South Lake Union and Capitol Hill.”

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Barefoot Ted’s laptop vehicle revolution starts on Capitol Hill

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(Image: Jacob Olson for CHS)

It is an electric-powered vehicle that is compact and innocuous enough to be allowed as a commercial flight carry-on, like a laptop. It is “green” and it is suitable and legal to ride on pedestrian walkways. You may have seen one spinning around Capitol Hill.

“The Segway was supposed to be what this is,” says Capitol Hill’s Ted McDonald — better known as Barefoot Ted — of his sweet ride.

Much of his life’s work and play has been particularly marked by themes of back-to-basics, human-powered transportation, but McDonald is now pushing things in a slightly different direction.

The early enthusiast of barefoot running was featured in the 2011 book “Born to Run” and is owner of 19th and Prospect-headquartered Luna Sandals. He founded the company in 2010 and is listed as “Spokesmonkey” on its website. In his newest venture, rather than stripping away more recent advancements in athletic footwear, McDonald is helping promote some current reinventions of the wheel, positioning himself as one of the world’s leading spokespeople for a recently-developed iteration of personal transportation technology. McDonald says he thinks the emergent class of vehicles could significantly reduce many Seattleites’ reliance on cars, buses and bicycles, while also improving the quality of their commute, changing the equation and concerns in the city. Moreover, McDonald thinks the technology, like major advancements of the past, could bring major changes to life across much of the world.

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