Category Archives: Digital Culture

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OpenArchive

Sitting in the Internet Archive Great Room (see photo above for reference…yes, it’s in an old church….) I’m reminded that I never pushed out the link to the amazing new app that was created in part by my friend Nathan, available now for Android and coming soon for iOS that allows you to use the Internet Archive like your own personal Instagram:

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and because Nathan and his group are awesome, the app is also open source:

Github repo for OpenArchive

and finally, direct link to the Google Play store for the app.

I’ve not seen an easier way to add photos to the Internet Archive directly than this app, and it’s got some really fantastic side benefits..the primary one being that it works transparently over Orbot if you’d like, so that uploads and connections can be driven over the Tor network without any extra effort on the user’s part.

UPDATE

The Guardian Project just posted their own announcement for the app. Their take on it is also timely since I’m spending this week at the Decentralized Web Summit:

We see this as a first step towards a more distributed, decentralized way of managing and sharing your personal media, and publishing it and synchronizing it to different places and people, in different ways.

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Estonian E-Residency


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On August 26th, 2015, I applied to be a digital citizen of the country of Estonia. On November 18th, 2015, I took the train from Boston to New York City, walked to the Consulate General of Estonia, and I officially became an Estonian E-resident.

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What does that even mean, and why would I do it?

Estonia is one of the very first countries to implement a robust electronic identity card system for their citizens. The ID card is a smart card that has a chip embedded in it that enables a robust public-key encryption implementation that allows the owner of said card to legally sign documents electronically. Estonia has been building out their infrastructure for electronic signatures and digital identity for over a decade, and Estonian citizens can do a vast amount of interaction with their government through this system, including things like the DMV, registering for governmental programs, and even voting in elections. The system is being overseen by Taavi Kotka, the CIO of Estonia and founder of Skype.

The E-Residency program is an extension of this system to non-Estonian citizens. In its current state, the card allows me to open and run a business in Estonia if I would like (completely remotely), to set up a bank account (not completely remotely, but the banks are promising that soon), and to interact with a handful of companies that recognize the card as a legal identity document. While I don’t currently need to do any of these things, I am intrigued by the potential for robust digital identities to conduct business and interact with agencies in the real world, and right now Estonian E-Residency is the only way to do that as an American citizen.

According to the Estonian dashboard that tracks these things, I am one of 443 applicants from the US, but only 239 of us have actually picked up our cards. So somewhere in the US there’s 238 other people that are interested in playing around with this technology.

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Becoming an E-Resident involves applying, paying a 50 Euro processing fee, and if accepted, picking up your E-Residency kit at an Estonian Consulate. The kit comes with your smart card, as well as a USB card reader and instructions for using the two together to interact with online portals securely.

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Once you have these in your possession, you can log in to the Estonia E-Residency portal, use your card for authentication, and access the currently-available services through your browser.

I’m doing this partially because I am very curious about the future of the program, and hope that this might enable some interesting things over the next few years. If I’m honest with myself, it’s also because I read far too much cyberpunk literature as an impressionable youth, and the concept of digital citizens of a physical nation-state thrills the hell out of me.

The other aspect of this program that I find interesting is that they are opening the platform for developers to use their cards as an authentication method. Obviously there isn’t enough uptake for that to be useful yet, but systems like this one may well become standards over the next decade and knowing how to use them now will only be an advantage.

As I find interesting uses for my E-Residency, I’ll post about it here. For now, I’m just happy to be one of the first in the US to have the opportunity to test this authentication and identity platform.

Anonymous Communication on the Web

I wasn’t sure how my previous post would go over, but after some back-and-forth emailing with the reporter on the piece, WTVC asked me to come in for an interview on anonymity and the “deep web”. So I did!

We talked for almost an hour, and for some stupid reason I didn’t think to record the interview myself (will not make that mistake again). They did a fine job representing my views, although clearly edited the piece for a specific audience. I’ll admit that I probably got too heavy into the weeds of the details of Tor. They were particularly touchy about my correcting the use of “Deep Web” and “Dark Web” as useful categories. I just kept using anonymity, security, privacy and tried very hard not to fall into using their very fuzzy language to describe something with lots of complexity.

My talking points revolved around how anonymity is a requirement for the freedom of speech in a free society, and that fear-based reports like their last one are actually damaging to how people should react to the world (my example, that they didn’t use, was that instead of worrying about the incredibly rare possibility of child-abduction due to predators on Tor, perhaps parents should be more worried about driving their child to school in the morning, since it was orders of magnitude more dangerous). I suppose we’ll see if there’s any feedback that comes from this as a positive concept.

I’m glad they gave me the chance to come in and talk, and I do hope it’s useful for someone out there in Chattanooga to see that wanting anonymity and privacy online isn’t just something to abet criminal activity. Privacy issues online are something that increasingly everyone should be aware of, because the risks are going to be omnipresent as we continue to move our lives into the digital space.

Deep Dark Web

A local Chattanooga news station, WTVC, ran a story about the Deep Dark Web this week. It is so, so badly done that I felt it necessary to write the producers of the work a letter about it, and decided that I would include both the above link to their story and my response here.

My letter to WTVC

Dear Producers of “Chattanooga Police Explain Dangers Of The Deep And Dark Web”:

I have so very many problems with your Deep/Dark web story from earlier this week, that it may be difficult for me to hit all of the points that I found wrong at best, and massively misleading at worst.

You failed to appropriately delineate any aspects of the technology in the piece, conflating web browsers with protocols, and generally confusing how anonymous communication works on the Internet. You mention Tor (https://www.torproject.org), the network protocol for anonymous routing of communications, but only in the service of the Tor Browser, a web interface that runs on top of said network.

More worrisome, you presented the very worst sort of fear journalism by not only presenting an “expert” in “hacktivism” that came off as little more than a stereotype talking about secret murder games without any sort of proof or questioning. The police officer was almost worse, suggesting that parents might worry if their teenagers had something to hide on their devices….of course teens have things to hide. They are teenagers. It is practically their job to find things which they do not want their parents knowing. Conflating child abduction (an incredibly rare occurrence, as I’m sure you know) with kids use of Snapchat or WhatsApp is just terrible, terrible reporting. It’s fear mongering and false from nearly every angle.

The fact that your “expert” couldn’t think of any reasons that people might want to communicate anonymously with each other is a sign of massive social privilege. Nearly any member of any minority group in the US might have reason to communicate anonymously with others, usually because of a fear of retribution from their immediate family or social circle. Imagine an LGBTQ teen struggling with self-identity in a very conservative area, and how anonymous communication might be important. Imagine how repressive regimes throughout the world make open communication between groups literally a life and death issue.

Or maybe just think about how anonymity of speech is a necessary component of the freedom of speech in the US. You are supposed to be journalists, and defending the anonymity of sources is a primary function of your job. You should know about SecureDrop (https://securedrop.org) and other tools that leverage these technologies to ensure that open communication is a thing that is maintained here in this country.

You are supposed to be better than fear mongering and misunderstanding.

Jason Griffey
Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Harvard University
http://jasongriffey.net

CES 2015 Planning

For the 6th year in a row, I will be attending CES in Las Vegas during the first week of January. For the uninitiated, CES is the largest consumer electronics trade show in the world, and where the world comes together to see what’s on tap for technology for the upcoming year. They reported that 2014 was the largest attendance yet for CES, at 160, 498 attendees…this is like a mid-sized city worth of technology to look at over the course of about 4 days.

This year, they have finally seriously outgrown the Las Vegas Convention Center, and have spread all around town to include exhibits at the Venetian and Wynn conference centers as well. I’m still planning a method of attack, but I expect that I’m going to be spending a lot of time looking at 3D printing again (the technology is changing so fast, I want to see what the newest printers can do). I’m also betting that this year is a huge explosion of connected household/Internet of Things systems, so that will be interesting to see what’s likely to be important in that area. And, of course, I’m expecting to see smartwatches hanging on every booth.

My coverage this go round is likely to be mostly video based, and my goal is going to be to get a video out every day of the show with summaries of what I’ve seen and what I think is important. I’ll be posting those videos on my YouTube channel, here on Pattern Recognition, and they are also going to be showing up over on the ALA TechSource blog. Any writing that I manage to do will be here as well, and I’ll be tweeting from the show like crazy if you want the blow-by-blow sort of take on CES. If you want to follow what I’m writing here, you can just save this search.

The biggest change in my coverage this year is in my funding model. In the past, I have done a variety of things in order to try and cover my costs for attending CES. For my first and second visit, my employer funded the trip. For the third, I was funded partially by my work writing for American Libraries and the Perpetual Beta blog. In 2013, I tried yet another method, actually crowdfunding the coverage by asking for donations and providing a central repository for all the material (video, photos, tweets, etc). For the record, that attempt went very poorly.

So for CES2015, I decided to try yet another way of covering the costs of attendance…selling ads in my reports. I approached four library vendors and gave them an opportunity to buy a variety of different ads, ranging from logo-only visuals to the reading of an ad in one of my video packages. Two of those vendors came back with a very quick “no”…one because it wasn’t the sort of thing they do, and another because I don’t think they understood what I was doing. 🙂

A third vendor countered, and asked if they could simply be the only sponsor for the coverage, covering the costs of my attendance while I included some very small mentions of them in the videos that I will be producing from Las Vegas. That sounded like a fantastic idea to me, and so my CES2015 coverage is going to be sponsored by Springshare.

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I will be mentioning Springshare and thanking them in the videos I produce, but it isn’t going to be like the Texaco Star Theater, I promise. Unless you really, really wanna see me sing and dance (protip: you do not).

I look forward to seeing what is coming in the next year in technology and reporting it out to all the librarians that I can. If you have questions, things you think I should pay special attention to, feedback from previous year’s coverage, or really anything else: please leave a comment or drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

Here are some blasts from CES past to whet your appetite:

CES 2010

CES 2012

CES 2013

CES 2014

Apple’s September 9th 2014 Announcement Predictions

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Over the years, I’ve become known as a fan of Apple’s hardware and software solutions…and it’s true, I am overly fond of the way they do things. This isn’t to say that I’m not critical of them, as I do think they make mistakes (iPod HiFi anyone?). But I’ve been following them for many, many years and have a good understanding of their predilections.

On September 9th, Apple will be holding a press event that is promising to be one of the most interesting in many years. September is always their biggest press event of the year, as it’s when they introduce the newest model of iPhone, by far Apple’s most important and popular product. There have been lots of rumors and discussion around the Internet that seem to point to this year being particularly revolutionary. We don’t have the whole story yet (no one holds their cards closer than Apple does) but here are a few of the things that seem like good bets, and that might be interesting to Libraries and Librarians.

The first is the new iPhones. Yep, that’s plural, since it appears that Apple will be launching two new phones, for the first time in two different screen sizes. All of the rumors point to Apple releasing a 4.7 inch version and a 5.5 inch version of the iPhone this time around, marking only the second (and third!) time they’ve changed screen sizes with their phone. The original iPhone through the iPhone 4S were all 3.5 inch screens, the iPhone 5, 5C and 5S are all 4 inch…and now it looks like we’ll get 2 phones that are larger than that. This isn’t a huge surprise, as the overall cell phone market has been growing their phones for years now…the newest Samsung Galaxy 4 has a 5.7 inch screen, for instance. For Apple, growing screen sizes is harder, because the iPhone human interface guidelines insist on appropriately sized touch targets for the interface, and increasing the screen size while also increasing the pixel density can be hell on developers trying to make apps that work for every device. The best guesses yet for the resolution of these new phones comes from Apple blogger/journalist John Gruber, who puts the 4.7 inch screen at 1334×750, or 326ppi, with the 5.5 at 2208×1242, which works out to an incredible 461ppi, more dense than a printed magazine page.

The new phones will also undoubtedly be thinner and faster, most likely running a new A8 chipset that was designed by Apple. The A7 that debuted in the iPhone 5S is a remarkable processor, giving an insane amount of processing power at efficiencies that are hard for other devices to match. If they’ve improved on that, the A8 is likely to be a breakthough, giving desktop-level processing power in a mobile package.

It also appears that there is something happening with the new iPhone and a payment system for the real world. Bloomberg and others have reported that Apple has reached some type of deal with all of the major credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard, et al) and the rumor that they will finally be including some type of NFC technology in the new phones (my money is on a new, software-based system that allows for on-the-fly programming of the NFC communications protocol) that would allow for tap-to-pay interactions at all of the vendors that support such.

Add all that (new sizes, payment system, new processors) on top of the announcements that they made back at WWDC regarding iOS 8 and the massive changes that it will bring to the platform…it’s gonna be a big day for the iPhone. iOS 8 brings the most radical changes to the platform since the introduction of the App Store, including the introduction of true inter- and intra-app communication abilities (to the extent that apps can even have functionality that extends INTO another app, for instance one photo app “loaning” a filter to another totally unrelated app for use). It’s not exaggerating to say that iOS8 will change how the iPhone can be used by people, adding huge amounts of additional functionality. I’m perhaps most looking forward to custom keyboards (one of the aspects of Android that I most miss on the iOS platform), but I’m excited to see what developers come up with, because Apple is handing them a whole new suite of toys to play with.

If that were all that Apple was announcing and showing off, it would be a huge deal. But it seems like they may have finally chosen this as the time to announce their Wearable computing platform. Exactly what that means, only Apple really knows, but all of the rumors seem to point to some sort of wristwatch-like object that does…something. It’s really a mystery, but one Apple reporter quipped that the so-called iWatch is going to be a watch in the same ways that the iPhone is a phone. Whatever it is that they announce, it’s almost guaranteed to be interesting.

The other thing that’s pointing towards this being a big day for Apple is the choice of venue. Apple is using the Flint Center for this announcement, which they have only used 3 times in their history. Once was for the original announcement of the Macintosh in 1984, and once was for the return of Steve Jobs and the original iMac. To be fair, the third was for the iMac SE, which was a much smaller deal, but the two others are among the biggest announcements ever from Apple, ranking with the launch of the original iPhone in how important they were to the history of the company. It appears that Apple has built an entirely new building just for the announcement of their new products at the location of the Flint Center, and this is shaping up to be quite the September for Apple.

iOS8, two new iPhone models, a wearable device of unknown purpose and type, something that requires an entire building to show off….this Tuesday is gonna be really interesting. Join me at 12pm Central on Twitter @griffey for the annual live-tweeting of my thoughts. See you then for all the excitement!

Addendum

One of the refrains I often get in the library community when I do posts like this that focus on gadgets, especially specific gadgets, and even more especially Apple’s specific gadgets is “But how does this relate to libraries?”. As if libraries didn’t, oh…help patrons navigate their gadgets every single day or have dozens of electronic resources that need to interoperate with these devices. Perhaps there are even a few librarians that use these devices to help patrons in the real world. I don’t really have a single answer as to why librarians should be interested in the most popular hardware that runs the second most popular operating system used to access the Internet. Perhaps not all librarians need to be completely aware of this stuff, but someone certainly does, hopefully someone in your library or library system.

SparkFun @ ALA Annual 2014 – Hardware and Coding!

ALA Annual 2014 in Las Vegas is going to be a fantastic conference for a ton of reasons, but at least one of those reasons is that there is a new exhibitor that anyone interested in technology, coding, and general hardware hackery should get to know: SparkFun Electronics.

SparkFun is a company that not only makes awesome hardware and hardware kits, they have an amazing educational wing that works with schools and libraries to teach Maker skills to people across the country. I had the opportunity back in February to visit and learn from Sparkfun along with a handful of other Chattanooga librarians you may have heard of. Their educational materials are top-notch, and they are happy to work with libraries who want to teach Arduino, coding, soft circuits, and a few dozen other projects.

At ALA Annual they will be in the exhibit hall, Booth 1870, and will have a ton of interesting stuff to look at and play with. Sparkfun’s Jeff Branson along with Nate Hill from the Chattanooga Public Library will also be taking part in the LITA Library Code Year Interest Group Technology Speed Dating event on Saturday, June 28, in the Las Vegas Convention Center Room N119. That looks like an incredible lineup of presenters, and will be a great program.

In addition to all of that, they will be hosting a number of short classes in the Networking Uncommons if you want to get a quick 1/2 hour introduction to Arduino, AruBlock, Scratch, or Processing…or if you want to stick around for the whole shebang and have a 2 hour block of technology awesomeness. They will be doing two classes of each:

Saturday, June 28 – Networking Uncommons
3-3:30 Ardublock
3:30-4:00 Arduino
4:00-4:30 Scratch
4:30-5:00 Processing

Monday, June 30 – Networking Uncommons
10-10:30 Ardublock
10:30-11:00 Arduino
11:00-11:30-Scratch
11:30-12:00- Processing

If you have any interest at all in Maker technologies, I recommend showing up for one of these…Jeff from Sparkfun is a great instructor, and I guarantee it’ll be a good time. I hope to see you all there!

Glassholes

Earlier today, I tweeted:

 

Which seemed to me to be a pretty non-radical point to make. But given the responses I’ve garnered, it looks like a brief expansion of the thought might be worth it on my part. So here’s my take on it:

I find the term dismissive, and moreover, deliberately insulting. “Glasshole” seems to be used as a hand-waving way of not actually discussing the technology behind Glass and instead relying on ad hominem in its place. Full disclosure: I’m fascinated by the possibilities, and given a pair, I’d happily wear Glass around and see where it was useful, how it could enhance or detract from my interactions with information and technology. But I simply do not grok the casual dismissal of them for their appearance or even for the privacy concerns that many have regarding them. It looks to me like the obvious next-step of the ever-more-personal technologies of the last 2 decades, just like it seems pretty obvious that wearable computing is a natural result of Moore’s law when combined with ubiquitous networking.

I am a technological determinist when it comes to the progress of hardware, I fully admit. Technology will continue to get faster, smaller, cheaper, and it will continue to use less and less power to do these things. This results in strange and unusual things, some of which will be wearable things that communicate with us and the world around us in ways that may seem foreign to us here and now. But so did walking down the street talking on the phone at one point in our near-past technological history.

Clay Shirky said in Here Comes Everybody that “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.” Right now, Glass is technologically interesting. Yes, it will have social implications, but the really interesting bits (the bits that I think are worth talking about) are emergent after the technology is already in place. We didn’t get the Arab Spring without a bit of a perfect storm of technologies that had become commonplace…the cellular phone, SMS, Twitter. Glass is one tiny, tiny step towards truly immersive connectivity. What will that do to society, to interactions, to information? Will we end up with Strange Days or with Rainbows End? Or with the corporatized information future that William Gibson warned us about? I just don’t know. But I’m incredibly uncomfortable seeing a term used that denigrates the user of a technology, especially a brand new technology, when we’ve got no idea how it’s going to turn out to be useful, or not. I’m never going to be ok with insulting another human being as a part of a discussion.

Joi Ito’s Nine Rules of Engagement for the Future

In a recent article on Wired, Joi Ito (director of the MIT Media Lab) outlined 9 rules for businesses dealing with the future that technology is bringing to us all. I think these apply to organizations of all sorts, and aren’t a bad starting place for understanding how a modern organization should behave.

  1. Resilience instead of strength, which means you want to yield and allow failure and you bounce back instead of trying to resist failure.
  2. You pull instead of push. That means you pull the resources from the network as you need them, as opposed to centrally stocking them and controlling them.
  3. You want to take risk instead of focusing on safety.
  4. You want to focus on the system instead of objects.
  5. You want to have good compasses not maps.
  6. You want to work on practice instead of theory. Because sometimes you don’t know why it works, but what is important is that it is working, not that you have some theory around it.
  7. It disobedience instead of compliance. You don’t get a Nobel Prize for doing what you are told. Too much of school is about obedience, we should really be celebrating disobedience.
  8. It’s the crowd instead of experts.
  9. It’s a focus on learning instead of education.

I think there’s a lot of potential here for libraries to learn from, but #2 and #4 seem to speak directly to us. My personal favorite is #7, but that’s probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me.

Makerbot CES 2013 Announcements

Bre Pettis with Makerbot Replicator 2XSome great news from Makerbot Industries today at CES 2013. Everyone’s favorite 3D printing company had three big announcements earlier today,and I was lucky enough to get to speak with Bre Pettis again (video on the way).

First up was the new hardware, the Makerbot Replicator 2X. An updated version of the Makerbot Replicator 2 that was announced late in 2012, now optimized for ABS plastic printing with an enclosed build area, heated build plate, dual extrusion, and a newly-redesigned build plate that Makerbot promises is thicker, flatter, and easier to maintain than ever. The original Replicator 2 was optimized for PLA plastic, a much more forgiving and easier to work with material. But serious hobbyists were really disappointed in the lack of ABS support, and it looks like the 2X is Makerbot’s answer. It’s coming out of the gate at $2799, available to order now.

The second announcement was an update to their new printing software, Makerware. The update will include support for dual extrusion in the layout process, enabling users to place multiple objects on the virtual build plate and choose the color for each on the fly.

The third announcement is one of the most interesting for libraries, I think. Makerbot’s online resource for printable objects, Thingiverse, has been updated to include an API. The Thingiverse API comes complete with a demo app, the Makerbot Customizer, a webapp that allows for easy, on the fly, in the browser altering of existing 3D objects. Very exciting stuff can be done with this moving forward, and I’m really interested to see how it might be used.