Keeping a finger on the pulse of the community is easy to do if you're only looking for daily or weekly sentiment. But as you expand your time horizon, people and projects come and go over the years. Sentiments change with each new obstacle. Milestones are reached and new pathways are opened up.
Candidly, it's very difficult to remain circumspect in the midst of a deluge of instant news. With that in mind, let's make a concerted effort to take a step back, chat with a long-time IOTA community member/organizer, and get a feel for where we've been. Studying the past might give us a hint into where we're going in the future. There's no better person to have this conversation with than Gabriela Jara.
Long-time IOTA enthusiasts will already know Gabriela Jara, and that’s especially true for those in the hispanic community. We'll delve into her background with the first question, so in lieu of a lengthy introduction here, let's jump straight in!
Before we get into the IOTA topics, let’s learn about YOU! The location that you list in your Twitter profile is San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Bariloche is a beautiful town set on a picturesque glacial lake in the Andes Mountains. Are you originally from there? Where did you grow up? Bariloche is famous for its outdoor activities (hiking and skiing) - do you do anything like that for fun? What were some of your early interests, and what was your early education like?
I am originally from a city by the sea, even further south in Argentina called Caleta Olivia. I studied in public schools, and had many extracurricular activities such as piano, dance school, and English (this was the most important tool to reach the crypto world). My parents impressed upon me a love for reading, for music, and the desire to discover and learn things from a very young age. I think that the whole combination made me get into this world later on. As an adult, I reached an age where I could not find answers to the demands or needs I had on a personal and professional level in my hometown and decided to make a drastic change. I came to the conclusion that I had to go and live somewhere else and two months after having that thought I found myself quitting my job to settle down in Bariloche. It will be 11 years since then, in January 2021.
I consider myself really lucky to live here, it is a quiet place full of nature and dazzling landscapes near the Andes Mountains. I went from the sea to the mountains. In Bariloche there is a great variety of cultures and interests, it is a fertile place to develop, and that is an advantage for what I am doing now. Besides that, some of the most important technological centers in the country and in the world are located here, such as INVAP (in which several satellites have been built and are now in space), the CNA, and the Balseiro Institute which is a seedbed of great brains. As for my outdoor activities, I like to hike up the mountains or walk along the lake's shore, and of course finish the day with a good homemade beer while looking at the lake and the mountains.
What were you doing when you first stumbled upon the idea of cryptocurrencies? Was your work/education related to technology at the time? Was Bitcoin the first crypto you came across?
The first time I heard about cryptocurrencies was through an acquaintance who was living in Mexico. It was the end of 2016 and I wanted to find a way to invest money I had saved, because I did not have much trust in the traditional systems that Argentina offers. Our national currency is devalued a lot and there is not much confidence in the peso. This acquaintance told me to look for information about Bitcoin or Ethereum - I don't think she knew about it yet either - but it was good that it awoke in me that desire to discover new things.
My job was not at all related to technology since at that time I had a small online business and was studying Pharmacy. My interests at that time were not even close to the subject. So I had to start looking for information on my own. From then on, I looked for forums in Argentina where the topic was discussed, and to my surprise there were several people who already knew in depth about Bitcoin. I began to read everything that was available and recommended to me, and I began to understand and become passionate about the subject. It was in the middle of 2017 that I was encouraged to buy my first Satoshis.
And then you were obviously in IOTA very early. Do you remember the moment when you came across it? In those early days, it was difficult to find, so you must have done some digging to get here. Why did IOTA resonate so well with you as compared to other cryptos like Bitcoin or Ethereum? Do any early interactions with others in the community stand out?
Well, shortly before I considered that I was ready to embark into the crypto world and buy for the first time, I started reading some posts about IOTA in that Facebook forum about Bitcoin (Bitcoin Argentina). A few days later I joined the Facebook group IOTA Argentina. We were few members at the beginning, but little by little it was growing.
So far I was reading about other cryptos, and, although some were trying to solve the problem of block size, speed of confirmation and fee, all were based on Blockchain and IOTA had nothing to do with this at first sight. For me Bitcoin was completely disruptive but I remember thinking that IOTA could be even more so. I started reading and getting more and more into the new terms like Tangle, Tip Selection, Random Walks etc. My head was exploding, every day I got more and more excited about IOTA and its features. At that time I also met Carpincho with whom I would later work on projects together related to IOTA. He was the one who patiently answered my questions. Remember that I did not have a technical background at all, and many concepts were difficult to understand.
Since discovering IOTA, you’ve done an incredible amount of work to spread the word about this project. You became the content coordinator at IOTA Hispano, which is a Spanish language IOTA news website, you started your own project called Tangle Patagonia, and have been heavily involved in the IEN. We’d love to hear about your experiences with each of these engagements! You’re the ultimate IOTA evangelist, making presentations all over your region, organizing meetups, giving workshops, etc. It must come naturally since you’re so good at this - what motivates you to be so prolific?
The work at IOTA Hispano began with a call from Carpincho, asking for volunteers to translate IOTA articles from English to Spanish and I decided to apply. Soon after IOTA Hispano began to grow, we added our own content and the long-awaited exclusive interviews and I became the Content Coordinator. I really enjoyed that work because it allowed me to meet people within the community, have the experience of working at the head of a great team and keep up to date on IOTA updates.
Almost at the same time as I was working at IOTA Hispano, I applied to IEN. I was very excited to be part of a great network of professional and innovative people from different parts of the world, which has become a critical mass that promotes the adoption of IOTA through different actions. From that time until today, there have been many changes within the IOTA Evangelist Network, some structures have moved, but the essence is the same. This is a good opportunity to announce that since a couple of weeks I have also become the new Head of Admissions of the IOTA Evangelist Network.
Last but not least is my project Tangle Patagonia. As I said before, this disruptive technology has become such an exciting topic that I thought the good news deserved to be shared with others. Therefore, Tangle Patagonia has become a means to share with others what I have learned (and am still learning), to easily advise those who think that the IOTA era and new protocols for its use are still far from being a reality. There are really amazing things happening around IOTA, implementations in the field of Health, Identity, Smart Cities, Data Privacy and most people still think that this is all part of science fiction movies when in fact this is the time where a whole new adaptation is happening and I wouldn't want anyone to miss it. With TP we give talks, workshops, training to people and companies. We also organize events where we gather great crypto speakers, with attendees who could be possible users and maybe possible IOTA developers.
I must say that of all the jobs I've had, this is the one I'm most passionate about, that must be why I like to stay active and do things. Being part of the IOTA world has allowed me to travel, to be part of incredible work groups, to meet really interesting people. I think that working on what you love is really a privilege.
You’re in the unique position to have seen the IOTA community grow over the years. Do you have any observations on how that growth has occurred, the ebbs and flows of enthusiasm surrounding the IOTA project, and maybe how receptive others have been to your evangelizing efforts over time? How well attended are meetups this year compared to years past? Is engagement higher now than it was before? Also, you’re an expert on the hispanic portion of our community - how do you see interest in that segment right now? We’d love any other insights you might have with regard to the community as well!
The IOTA community is very particular. It is one of the youngest communities in which the great majority actively participates either by developing IOTA-based PoCs, participating in the testing of the protocols that are implemented with each advance, or by organizing talks, meetings, workshops and others by being great enthusiasts and willing to learn more and more. I must say that one of the things I would like to see more of is women taking an active role in the community. That said, I’m taking a moment here to express how grateful I am to have been able to grow within this community that has always supported me, as well as grateful to have found extraordinary people who have encouraged me to continue in the projects I carry out or simply entrusted me with tasks to carry out.
As for the spirit of the IOTA community over the years, it has been changing - that is true. Many things have happened that have moved the hornet's nest many times, but the great majority of the first IOTA followers are still part of the community. This last year we were able to see many achievements from the IF, and as community we are very satisfied with that. Every goal that the IOTA Foundation has set in its Road Map has been fulfilled. Of course, there were and still are those who consider that one project is more important than another because of its market value. Not that it is a sin to pay attention to the price, I say that a project should be measured by its reliability, by its utility, characteristics and by whether it is functional to what it promises and not by how much it is worth at CMC. There are many projects out there that have no utility whose price is nonsense, but how much is solid behind that? I'd better not go on talking.
Moving on to your question, I particularly believe that the context of pandemics has forced many people to embrace technology and accelerate processes that otherwise would have taken many more years. We were all forced to switch from face-to-face activities to online activities, and this in some way also encouraged things like meetups and talks to be well-attended.
Speaking of the IOTA community in Latin America, this year many users have joined the IOTA LATAM Facebook group. Although the community is growing, there is a need for more Spanish language resources to inform Spanish speakers more about the community, since most of the information about IOTA is in English. Sometimes I try to translate articles or the most important announces in my Medium account, but it is difficult to keep up with the constant news flow.
And now for your view on the future of IOTA and its surrounding community. Where do you see the IOTA project going in the future? Have your experiences suggested that the business and wider communities are interested in a final working implementation of IOTA? What’s holding back adoption according to those who you closely interact with? What are your personal plans going forward, and are there ways that you think we can better engage with the community to drive adoption?
This topic is something that I am very excited about, as I mentioned very briefly in the previous question, the progress that IOTA has made is incredible. Particularly for the common user, I think that the implementation of Chrysalis has had a great impact. People who did not open their Trinity wallets long ago are amazed at how quickly the transactions are confirmed. Streams also represents a major milestone, as well as the Alpha release of IOTA Smart Contracts.
If I go through them all, for me they are all relevant, I could not think that one is more significant or necessary than another. The important thing here is that all these implementations that IF is doing are the ones that are required to happen in order for Coo to be removed. That will really set a milestone: a "before" and "after". I think it's very wise that IOTA is now focused on working to make IOTA a production-ready protocol that is more focused on the current state of technology in general. I am talking about leaving the ternary approach aside for the time being and concentrating on the binary. And also more focused on delivering a production-ready product to companies.
Seeing IOTA being part of large companies' products finally implemented is going to be a big milestone. I think it will move the floor of many industries and show the general public major adoption is possible. Over the years I have noticed that the common IOTA user is not so much attracted by the technical part or how IOTA transactions work, but by the actual use cases where IOTA or Tangle can be implemented. I see it as trying to explain to people how the Google algorithms work every time we ask them to search for something. Most of the users of this search engine are not interested in knowing the codes or what happens behind the scenes, they just want to type into the Google search engine and see it give them an answer. They are interested in the final product and the use they can make of it. I think the same thing will happen with IOTA. People will just use it on some product and that's it. That's why I believe that the adoption will be first by the companies/industries, and then by the users.
If we think that the interconnected devices are estimated to reach 100 billion by 2025, (it's only 4 years from now!) and IOTA becomes the protocol for the IoT, all these people and machines will use the Tangle in one way or another, either using tokens to pay for some service or simply to exchange messages or data without any cost. I think about it and I can't believe it, that automated future I used to see in movies when I was little is already being installed. It is incredible.
Even though I have several projects to work on, I'm not just a geek (I also teach Sign Language and I'm now studying too). I wish I could get involved with some IOTA related project that would get my attention. I really like to interact with people, organize talks, meetups. I am quite restless.
I think that if we want to promote adoption we must actively participate in something, get involved. As I told you before, there are a lot of people who might not be interested in how IOTA works in the technical part, but instead in how we can make use of it. I have noticed that people think IOTA is just an IDEA that there are no things happening now. They think all these PoCs are just in someone's head, and I think it's important to let them know that this whole era of Distributed Ledger Technology and IoT is already with us. That IOTA can be used here and now.