Category Archives: Digital Culture

Beware Library Cobras…

This post is a short excerpt from my upcoming Library Technology Report on Smart Buildings. I’m just returning from attending LITA Forum 2017, and had a fantastic experience. My one disappointment was in the lack of problematization of data collection, retention, and analysis…especially as it relates to the “Internet of Things” and the coming flood of data from IoT.

This excerpt contains no solutions, only questions, concerns, and possible directions. If anyone has thoughts or would like to start a dialogue about these issues, I’d love to talk. The full Library Technology Report on Smart Libraries will be published by ALA TechSource in the next few months.


The end-game of the Internet of Things is that computing power and connectivity is so cheap that it is literally in every object manufactured. Literally everything will have the ability to be “smart”; Every chair, every table, every book, every pencil, every piece of clothing, every disposable coffee cup. Eventually the expectation will be that objects in the world know where they are and are trackable and/or addressable in some way. The way we interact with objects will likely change as a result, and our understanding of things in our spaces will become far more nuanced and details than now.

For example, once the marginal cost of sensors drops below the average cost for human-powered shelf-reading, it becomes an easy decision to sprinkle magic connectivity sensors over our books, making each of them a sensor and an agent of data collecting. Imagine, at any time, being able to query your entire collection for mis-shelved objects. Each book will be able to communicate with each book around it, with the wifi basestations in the building, with the shelves, and be able to know when they are out of place. Even more radical, maybe the entire concept of place falls away, because the book (or other object) will be able to tell the patron where it is, no matter where it happens to be shelved in the building. Ask for a book, and it will be able to not only tell you where it is, it can mesh with all the other books to lead you to it. No more “lost books” for patrons, since they will be able to look on a map and see where the book is in their house, and have it reveal itself via an augmented reality overlay for their phone.

The world of data that will be available to us in 10-20 years will be as large as we wish it to be. In fact, it may be too large for us to directly make sense of it all. My guess is that we will need to use machine learning systems to sort through the enormous mounds of data and help us understand the patterns and links between different points of data. The advantage is that if we can sort and analyze it appropriately, the data will be able to answer many, many questions about our spaces that we’ve not even dreamed of yet, hopefully allowing the designing of better, more effective and useful spaces for our patrons.

At the same time, we need to be wary of falling into measurements becoming targets. I opened the larger Report with Goodhart’s Law, credited to economist Charles Goodhart and phrased by Mary Strathern, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” We can see this over and over, not just in libraries, but in any organization. An organization will optimize around the measures that it is rewarded by, often to negative effects in other areas. This is captured in the idea of perverse incentives, where an organization rewards the achievement of an assessment, only to realize that the achievement undermines the original goal. The classic example of this is known colloquially as the “Cobra effect”, named after the probably-apocryphal story of the British colonizers in India rewarding citizens for bringing in dead cobras in an attempt to control their deadly numbers in cities. Of course, the clever people of India were then incentivized to breed cobras in secret, in order to maximize their profits….

Libraries should be wary of the data they gather, especially as we move into the next decade or two of technological development. The combination of data being toxic to the privacy of our patrons and the risks of perverse incentives affecting decisions because of measure’s becoming targets is actively dangerous to libraries. Libraries that wish to implement a data-heavy decision making or planning process need to be extraordinarily aware of these risks, both acute and chronic. I believe strongly in the power of data analysis to build a better future for libraries and our patrons. But used poorly or unthoughtfully, and the data we choose to collect could be secretly breeding own set of cobras.

About FaceID

I’ve seen the hottest of terrible hot-takes over the last couple of days about Apple’s announcement this past Tuesday (although leaked a few days before) that their new flagship iPhone, the iPhone X, will use a biometric system involving facial identification as the secure authentication mechanism for the phone. No more TouchID, which uses your fingerprint as your “key” to unlock the phone, we are now in the world of FaceID.

Let’s get this out of the way early in this essay: biometrics are for convenience, passcodes are for security. This doesn’t mean that biometrics aren’t secure, but they are secure in a different way, against different threats, for different reasons. The swap of FaceID for TouchID does nothing to lessen the security of your device, nor does it somehow given law enforcement or government actors increased magical access to the information on your phone.

You’d have thought, from the crazed reactions I’ve seen on Twitter and in the media, that Apple had somehow neglected to think of all of the most obvious ways this can be cheated.

 

and my personal favorite

The Wired article above, by Jake Laperuque, includes the breathless passage:

And this could in theory make Apple an irresistible target for a new type of mass surveillance order. The government could issue an order to Apple with a set of targets and instructions to scan iPhones, iPads, and Macs to search for specific targets based on FaceID, and then provide the government with those targets’ location based on the GPS data of devices’ that receive a match.

If we’re throwing out possibilities…any smartphone could do that right now based on photo libraries. If there was a legal order to do so. And IF the technology company in question (either Google or Apple, if we’re sticking to mobile phones as the vector) did indeed build that functionality (which would take a long, long time) and then did employ it on their millions and millions of phones (also: long time), it would involve an enormous amount of engineering resources. Coordination of the “real” target vs family members who just happened to have photos on their phones of Target X should be fairly easy to do via behavioral profiling and secondary image analysis.

But that, like the FaceID supposition above, is bonkers to believe. If anything, FaceID is more secure in every way than the equivalent attack via standard photo libraries. If a nation-state with the power to compel Apple or Google into doing something this complicated and strange really wanted to know where you were…they wouldn’t need Apple or Google’s help to do so.

The truth of the matter is that FaceID is no less secure than the systems we have now on Apple devices (here I am not including Android devices as there are simply too many hardware makers to be certain of the security). TouchID, the fingerprint authentication process that is available for use on every current iPhone (and the new iPhone 8 and 8 plus), every current iPad, and multiple models of MacBook, uses your fingerprint as the “key” to a hash that is stored on a hardware chip known as the Secure Enclave on the phone. When you place your finger on the TouchID sensor, it isn’t taking a picture of your print, or storing your print in any way. The information that is stored in the Secure Enclave isn’t retrievable by anything except your phone. Your fingerprints aren’t being stored at Apple Headquarters on some server. There is no “master database” of the fingerprints of all iPhone users. The authentication is entirely local, as witnessed by the fact that you have to enroll your print on every iOs device separately.

FaceID appears to be exactly the same setup, with exactly the same security oversight as TouchID. It’s entirely local to the phone, and all of the information (a “hash” of information about your face…it’s really not fair to call it a “picture”) is stored on the Secure Enclave within the iPhone. We haven’t seen the full security report on FaceID and iOS 11 yet, but I am certain it will be available soon (iOS 10 and TouchID is available here). Given the other well-considered aspects of security on iOS 11 that we have seen, such as requiring a passcode before trusting an untrusted computer, I am confident that iOS 11 and FaceID will be at least as secure as their previous iterations.

Is it possible that Apple, the most valuable technology company in the world in large part due to their ability to develop hardware and software in concert with each other, completely missed something in making FaceID? Of course it’s possible. But all of the ways that technology of this sort has failed from other companies (racial bias, poor security models, data leakage) have not yet been true for TouchID. I do not believe they will be true for FaceID either.

Even setting aside the purely technical aspects, legally there is no difference in the risks of using FaceID over using TouchID. In the tweet above about police holding your phone up to your face to unlock it, it would be important to note that they can compel a fingerprint now. It is entirely legal (with a lot of “if”s and “but”s) for a police officer to force your finger onto your phone to unlock it. No warrant is necessary for that to happen. FaceID is exactly the same, as far as legal allowances and burden of proof and such, as TouchID is now. In the case of preventing law enforcement access to your phone, the only answer is a strong password and your refusal to give it to someone.

It isn’t clear to me if FaceID is going to be a good user experience…without devices in user’s hands, we have no idea. But the knee-jerk response that somehow Apple is building a massive catalog of faces is neither true, nor possible given the architectures of their hardware and software.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some real danger somewhere:

I think Zeynep has this (as most things) exactly right. This technical implementation is really quite good. The normalization of the technology in our culture may well not be…but this is why I am so vehement about defending this positive implementation as positive. Let Apple’s method of doing this be the baseline, the absolute minimum amount of care and thought that we will accept for a system that watches us. They are doing it well and thoughtfully, so let’s understand that and not let anyone else do it poorly. And for goodness sake don’t cry wolf when technologies understand their risks and are built securely. Because just like the story, when the real wolves show up, it will be that much harder for those of us paying attention to raise the alarm.

EDIT: After writing this entire thing, I found Troy Hunt’s excellent analysis, which says many of these same things in a much better way than I. Go read that if you want further explication of my take on this, as I agree with his essay entirely.

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:

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 12.03.22 PMOpenArchive

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.

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.

esotnia numbers

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.