Entry 29, a Possible Location for Polycademy

Rory Ford and a group of other entrepreneurs in Canberra have been negotiating with the Australian National University, to take the abandoned space between the Street Theatre and Kingsley Place and turn into Canberra's first coworking place called Entry 29.

What's coworking? Well coworking is essentially a shared working space. It is mainly used by urban freelancers or entrepreneurs who are seeking an office space away from home without having to pay for the entire space or the entire time. These places are also good for meet ups and collaboration between different entrepreneurs. This reduces the typical isolation of professionals who work alone.

It's not just a space but a community. A freelancing/entrepreneurial culture is required for these coworking spaces to succeed.

I've been meeting up with Rory to discuss if and how Polycademy could use the space as its launchpad. A couple weeks ago, I attended a brief open house and was able to check out the premises. It requires a lot of refurbishment as some people have broken into it while it was abandoned and created some interesting artwork. The doors to this establishment is scheduled to be opened in 2013, that's the same time as Polycademy is starting classes.

Rory is currently taking in applications of interest for the renting of the coworking space. If you're an entrepreneur and looking for a place outside home, free of distractions but also good for networking, then you should contact Rory on LinkedIn. Check out his profile at our homepage.

A coworking place would be an ideal location for Polycademy, students would be able to mingle and see other entrepreneurs at work with their projects.

Here are some photos that I took (as you can see there's a lot of work to be done):

The location for Polycademy isn't confirmed, but this looks nice. Wait till you see it refurbished with a new bucket of paint!

Check it out on Google Maps here. Don't bother searching for it, it doesn't exist yet. Also you won't see it unless you zoom close enough to get the plane captured 45 degree angle shot.

Posted by CMCDragonkai on 2012-11-15 23:23:30 Tags: business notices Want to Comment?

Should everyone learn to code?

Raghu Betina is a recent graduate from the 11 week program at Starter League (formerly Code Academy), a similar software academy in Chicago, USA. In a TEDx presentation, he relates the invention of the printing press to widespread literacy to the education revolution where everybody could read and write. He argues that a similar revolution is taking place in the computer technology field, where tools and code literacy will usher in a digital revolution, where the majority of humanity will become digital creators rather than just consumers. The is a matter of power, voice and creativity.

In Ancient China and other civilisations, the population that could read or write were the rich, powerful and educated. They were the minority and through the power of reading and writing, they alone had the ability to direct the future of their civilisation and incidentally as we read history books, we realise all history is written by the literate elite. In the case of China, no written history comes directly from women. Unfortunately we have no idea what the female perspective of Ancient China was. When we lack perspective, we get a distorted view of history, as if whole pages were torn out of the book of history.

Literacy World Map

When the majority of humanity became literate, there was an explosion of new ideas, perspectives and histories that were recorded and written down. The written word became integrated into every aspect of people's lives. People who were once illiterate now had a voice. When the majority of humanity gains the ability to code, then computer technology will become integrated into every aspect of our lives. There will be an explosion of creativity and collaboration between the fields external to computer science. Innovation happens at the cross roads and cross pollination of different ideas and experiences.

When you give experts of other fields the ability to code, they become dangerous.

Now what's the difference between being able to program and other skills? Couldn't the same argument be made for possibly learning how to play music? Or learning how to fly? I think the main difference is simply the ubiquity of computer technology. One can survive in this world without being able to fly a plane, but one won't be able to if one isn't able to read or write. Now we haven't reached the point where being able to program is a necessity for daily life. But that point is approaching. This brings up an interesting point about how certain skills become so important that everybody has to be able to do them. Raghu missed a crucial step between having a printing press and widespread literacy.

That step was economic. The turning point was the industrial revolution. When there was an economic pain point, people were motivated to upskill and demand better education. The industrial revolution made paper and books affordable to everybody. This in turn standardised and formalised widespread education.

Today, we have the tools. There are many open source and free applications that allow you to get started building your application. The resources are free, you can find thousands of tutorials on Google. We also have a growing economic pain point. Take a look at 3D printers. Imagine what would happen if 3D printers could self-replicate. Oh look they can! Imagine then if we scaled that up. What could we be printing in the future? Skyscrapers? The point is, manual labour is going to be automated away, even complex labour like construction. Controlling machines and computers is the domain of software. Software is disrupting every part of our economy (web software is even disrupting software itself). Even the thin layer of separation between what is real and what is cyberspace is getting thinner as we speak. Just take a look at augmented reality.

If you you want to catch the next revolution and ride the wave, then you should learn to code.

What we lack is widespread education of coding, and in some parts of the world, we even lack the resources to access the internet. It's called the digital divide, and it exists in both developed and developing countries. It's not enough to have CS courses in University. They don't actually teach programming as a trade anyway. The technology in highschools and primary schools are completely outdated and of course some schools don't teach it. Closing this digital divide is the next step before Raghu's envisioned revolution, and Polycademy will be doing its bit in making that future closer to today.

The world is changing, software is making that happen. If you you want to catch the next revolution and ride the wave, then you should learn to code. Start today. You can do tutorials, you can learn from books, or you can even join Polycademy. Codecademy is a great place to start if you're a complete beginner. It won't be easy, but it's not impossible. Even the Mayor of NYC is doing it!

Advocating code literacy is not about displacing professional developers. Even though most of humanity can read and write, there still exists professional writers and novelists. In fact without people being able to read and write, those writers would be out of a job! Code literacy != everybody should go become a web developer. Similarly, writing and reading literacy != everybody go become a writer. Code literacy means empowerment. It gives people the ability to create, express and share ideas through cyberspace. It gives people a voice that can influence the future direction of human technology. Take a look at this TED presentation where programmers have actually built a better form of democracy that lawyers and politicians could never come up with.

Now if politicians and lawmakers did come up with it, then maybe we'd all be living in a better digital democracy. This is just a small fragment of what is to come. There could be innumerable innovations if coding was integrated into other fields, and there in lies the growth of development jobs and the growth of humanity. Should you learn to code? My answer is pretty obvious: Yes you should!

Posted by CMCDragonkai on 2012-11-14 04:47:43 Tags: notices coding thoughts Want to Comment?

The Launch of Polycademy & Code for Australia

Hi my name is Roger, I started Polycademy & Code for Australia. Let me tell you a short story:

In our modern day era, some people have claimed that learning to code is just as important as learning to read or write. With the pervasiveness of digital technologies, if it isn't equivalent, it's damn near close.

According to the McKinsey Institute, the internet accounted for 21% of GDP growth among developed countries. Among G20 economies the internet will bloom to $4.2 trillion US dollars. But what does all these statistics mean to the average person?

For me at Polycademy, it means two things: Jobs and Empowerment.

Coders and programmers are in high demand nowadays. Startups and big companies participate in a talent war for good developers. Traditional universities just don't teach the practical side of things. In the programming world, paper certificates are meaningless, it's the code and projects that you have brought to life that matters.

But the really important factor is not jobs, it is empowerment. In closing the digital divide, more people become content creators rather than just content consumers. Learning to code is about empowering people to allow them to unleash their creativity in the digital era. No other skill allows you to reach and be heard from hundreds, thousands, if not millions of people in such a short time. Coding gives aspiring entrepreneurs an ability to turn their ideas into reality.

Polycademy was setup to help entrepreneurs and reskilling people achieve their dreams. It isn't an online based codecademy, and it isn't your standard brick and mortar school. Polycademy will take small groups of highly committed individuals from different fields and stages of life and turn them into web developers. Not by teaching computer science, nor handing out paper based qualifications, but by helping them bit by bit, week by week flesh out their idea into reality. Beginners and noobs are welcome! Many people are turned off by certain segments of the programming elite's snobbery. But there won't be any snobbery in Polycademy, everybody will be a world class beginner. Along the way our students will learn teamwork in high octane epic 11/21 week deadline environment. Entrepreneurial skills are a must, so students will get embedded with the entrepreneurial community in Canberra.

Why Canberra some would ask? Well here's where it gets really interesting and awesome. Early this year, I found out this awesome non-profit organisation in America called "Code for America". They call themselves the peace corp for geeks. For non-US people, that means they get professional programmers to volunteer their time to build applications that solve civic or community issues. This has met widespread success, with many city governments paying almost $160,000 for Code for America's services. But wait I just said non-profit and "volunteering"! Where's all that money going? Well it's going to the programmers. Volunteering isn't cheap, and Code for America has stocked the program will all sorts of activities and guests lectures from the influential in the technology sector. It's simply a great place to get started in life, or to reach another tipping point in life for many of their developer fellows. I was inspired by them, and while I was inspired I realised there was a synergy here between a school that intensively teaches web application development, and development for the public good.

That's when I came up with Code for Australia. Now Code for Australia will be a social enterprise program at Polycademy. The url is http://codeforaustralia.com.au/ However it hasn't been setup yet, but definitely bookmark it. Code for Australia will be slightly different from Code for America. Instead of getting professional developers to volunteer their time, Code for Australia will be sponsorship based. Students who get accepted into the program get free or seriously discounted tuition, but they have to develop an application dealing with open government or community issues. These applications can range from disaster alert and prevention software and environmental geo-mapping to data visualisation of where your tax is going. A great example is Google's global arms imports/exports visualisation. (Only works on advanced browsers!) These kinds of projects allow Government to engage its citizens in a more accessible way, and allow citizens to interact with the Government in a more dynamic way. In the digital era, open government is the cornerstone of democracy. In Australia, we'll be using the Open Gov Data set provided by http://data.gov.au/.

2013 is when the journey begins for Polycademy and Code for Australia. Our first classes are in early February, and I have been negotiating with open government officials, entrepreneurs and investors. Everybody I've talked to has been supportive of the idea. Code for Australia cannot start without Polycademy, but without Polycademy there can be no Code for Australia. So the first step is to get Polycademy running. If you think you have an idea for an application that will change the world, then signup to the courses. For early applications there's a $1000 discount! Polycademy will be hiring 2 extra teachers before the start of class specialising in design and development, I personally don't have all the answers to the world of web development. Code for Australia will require some time before it is fully ready to be launched, but if you're interested in helping, why not talk to your Government official and ask them about it?

The future of Polycademy and Code for Australia will be interesting. I want to focus on making Polycademy the premier destination for developing tech startups in Canberra and Australia. I want Code for Australia to take off in its own way, bringing the power of computer technology to help disaster zones and regions of poverty. No matter what, Polycademy will stay lean, practical and on top of emerging technologies.

About the mentors, these three people, Rory, Craig and Lachlan have given me quite awesome advice regarding this startup. They are experienced in different fields as you may have read from their bios at the home page.

Credit should be given where credit is due, although my inspiration of Polycademy came from similar startups in America (Dev Bootcamp, Starter League), the original formulation of the idea was independent. (Trust me!) The logo for Polycademy was designed from a designer in India at DesignCrowd, and the background for the hex icons came from a designer in the UK. Most of the icons used at the homepage came from the theNounProject.

A little bit about me: I am currently a student at the Australian National University who (should) be graduating by the end of 2012. I've been building websites/applications since I was 12 years old, and have dabbled in leadership activities for a while (President of AIESEC ANU 2012 - 2013). In university I study Bachelor of Arts (International Relations). Within this degree, I have broadened my study area as much as possible including economics, environmental science, complexity and military history. I also dabbled in piloting. I flew a Piper PA28 Warrior for 5 hours in Bankstown, Sydney. I also enjoy extreme sports like skydiving and geek sports like real time strategy games. I was originally from NZ, but have been in Australia for 5+ years. You can find me at Linkedin.

Check out Polycademy @ Facebook, Polycademy @ Twitter, Code for Australia @ Facebook, and Code for Australia @ Twitter.

Posted by CMCDragonkai on 2012-11-05 21:42:16 Tags: notices Want to Comment?