Category Archives: Digital Culture

The power of in-house technologists

Really great write up of the internals of the tech team for the Obama campaign over at The Atlantic. Librarians and educators should read it as an argument for why it’s important to have technologists on your team directly, and not just rented out.

But the secondary impact of their success or failure would be to prove that campaigns could effectively hire and deploy top-level programming talent. If they failed, it would be evidence that this stuff might be best left to outside political technology consultants, by whom the arena had long been handled. If Reed’s team succeeded, engineers might become as enshrined in the mechanics of campaigns as social-media teams already are.

The IRL Fetish

Truly great essay about the mistake in believing that “real life” is somehow divorced from “online”, and that somehow AFK is a better, more true existence. I couldn’t agree more.

In great part, the reason is that we have been taught to mistakenly view online as meaning not offline. The notion of the offline as real and authentic is a recent invention, corresponding with the rise of the online. If we can fix this false separation and view the digital and physical as enmeshed, we will understand that what we do while connected is inseparable from what we do when disconnected. That is, disconnection from the smartphone and social media isn’t really disconnection at all: The logic of social media follows us long after we log out. There was and is no offline; it is a lusted-after fetish object that some claim special ability to attain, and it has always been a phantom.


But this idea that we are trading the offline for the online, though it dominates how we think of the digital and the physical, is myopic. It fails to capture the plain fact that our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline. That is,we live in an augmented realitythat exists at the intersection of materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the off and the online.

And my favorite quote from the whole thing:

The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability.

Read the whole thing, it’s well worth the time.

via The IRL Fetish – The New Inquiry.

InFocus Mondopad from CES 2012

Some more video from CES 2012, this time a new presentation/smartboard from InFocus with some interesting features, the best of which didn’t make the video. I was told after I stopped filming that the software that drives it can use the Windows web tools/IIS to make the display publicly available to the web…so with just an IP address, you could share everything that was happening on the board to the world. That’s pretty cool!

CES 2012

On Sunday, I leave for CES 2012 in Las Vegas and will be reporting from the show as I go. My current plan is to use a combination of Ustream and YouTube for video content, SoundCloud for audio-only content, and everything important will end up here on my blog. If you want to try and catch any live broadcasts, I’m going to have the channel embedded right here for you to watch, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ll get a message the second I go live with anything.

What am I likely to see at CES that would be interesting to libraries? I would argue that nearly everything I see should be interesting at some level, but I’m betting on a lot of Android and Windows tablets (hopefully a Windows 8 tablet will make an appearance), a lot of cheap video cameras, and ridiculously nice 4K displays among the thousands and thousands of gadgets on the show floor. I’m looking forward to meeting with Barnes & Noble as well as hopefully getting a chance to talk with the Makerbot guys, and I’m probably too excited about seeing the first demo of the OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet.

Lots, lots more once I hit Vegas. Stay tuned!

The Future is Already Here

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting to the librarians at Western Kentucky University during their 2011 kickoff event. When discussing a topic with the Dean, I was told that they were interested in the future of the academic library, technology, and how to manage the changes that are coming. That’s definitely in the sweet spot of my library interests, so I gave it a shot. Below you’ll find a slideshow with accompanying audio of my presentation, along with the Q/A session at the end. The whole thing is about 1.5 hours, but my presentation is just the first hour or so. I’d love to hear what you think, especially if you disagree with any of my points.

Keynote about the future of libraries, change management, and technology over the next 5 years given to Western Kentucky University Libraries, August 24, 2011 by Jason Griffey

Writing, ownership, and blogging

I don’t remember the last time that I went an entire month without writing something here. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that my blogging here at Pattern Recognition has suffered as a results of many things. Some of those reasons are simple;: I’ve got other platforms that I’m using now, including other social networks (Twitter, Google+, Friendfeed, Tumblr) and other blogs (ALA Techsource and American Libraries’ Perpetual Beta). I use some of these because they are easy, some because I like the conversations/community, and some because they pay me.

What I don’t like is that my writing, thoughts, interests…the comprehensive set of my online self, really…are distributed and scattered. I was ok with it for a long time, and I’m becoming very much not ok with it anymore. In the past, I’ve dabbled with pulling things from those other networks back here, but that doesn’t actually bring any of the reasons I use them here….it just brings the content. Which isn’t always what it’s about.

When I started writing here at PatRec back in 2003, none of those other networks even existed. It’s possible that if I were to start writing online these days, I wouldn’t even think of hosting my own blog, and one of the possibilities is that it’s time to let PatRec die a natural death. It may be that a distributed presence is the future of personhood on the ‘net….except I don’t think that’s true. I believe strongly, more than ever, that it’s important to own and control your own words, both in presentation and in regards to copyright/legal control. So I’m confronted with this tension: I like the tools that I don’t own, but I want to own the stuff I make with those tools.

I’ve been thinking a LOT about this. And I’m going to start experimenting with some ways to change things, starting with a post that I’m working on now about iCloud and Lion and the future of the filesystem. I would love to start a conversation about this, and see how others are dealing with this tension. Because I think I’m going to start reeling things in, reducing my contributions to other channels, and try to re-center my online presence.

Smart discussion on Kindle/Overdrive announcement

There’s been a ton of discussion around the web about the Kindle/Overdrive library deal over the last week, but this thread over at Librarything is full of some real gems. If you haven’t read it, go there and take a look.

Amazon to Launch Library Lending for Kindle Books

Amazon Cloud Drive & Cloud Player

On March 29th, Amazon launched two major new services, both of which seem to speak directly to my post guessing at an Amazon Tablet…as well as being shots across the bow of both Apple and the music industry. The two services are connected, but distinct in capabilities and effects, so let’s look at them separately:

Amazon Cloud Drive

The first is Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon’s answer to other consumer-facing cloud storage similar to Dropbox or Windows SkyDrive. Amazon is giving everyone 5GB of space for free, with the ability to purchase additional storage for $1 per Gigabyte in chunks: 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, or 1000 GB levels are all available. While 5GB free is more than Dropbox’s 2GB, and way less than SkyDrive’s 25Gb, for raw storage in the cloud I still think Dropbox has everything else beat in usability. For Cloud Drive, you have to do all file interactions (uploading/downloading) within your browser, which isn’t as convenient on traditional computers as a locally-mounted drive. There’s no reason that Amazon couldn’t move this direction, however, and release a program that would allow more direct access.

The real killer here isn’t Cloud Drive by itself…it’s the associated Cloud Player and the model that Amazon is using for the connection between the two. Cloud Player is a web-based media player that has access to the files uploaded to your Cloud Drive. That is, if you use your Cloud Drive to hold MP3 or AAC encoded music files, those will be automatically available to Cloud Player, and can be streamed to nearly any browser. Cloud Player has the basic controls that you would expect from a music player, allowing you to view your collections by album, artist, or genre. It also allows you to build or import playlists, shuffle, and repeat songs in the same way that pretty much every music player does.

This means that with Cloud Storage + Cloud Player, I can take my own music, upload it to Amazon, and then listen to it anywhere I have a browser…or on the updated Amazon MP3 for Android app on any Android based phone or tablet. In a brilliant marketing move, Amazon is also letting you automatically cross-load any MP3 that you buy from the Amazon MP3 Store directly to your Cloud Drive…and anything that you buy from them doesn’t count against your storage limits. They are also offering a free upgrade to their 20GB storage level if you just buy any MP3 album from Amazon through the end of 2011. So you can purchase any amount of music from Amazon, and it will all be available for streaming to any computer or directly to your phone if you have an Android handset. For free.

Let’s not forget, this sort of service is exactly what got in hot water with the music labels a decade ago (with, admittedly, technical differences). Indeed, Sony has commented to Ars Technica that while they were hopeful they could work with Amazon on a licensing deal that they were “keeping their legal options open.” So it’s almost certain that Amazon will see some form of lawsuit about the service…but my money is on Amazon for this one. They have the pockets that didn’t, and have a great case for moving the industry forward if they can pull of a court victory.

This is a huge move by Amazon, and will put the pressure on Apple to respond. There have been rumors about a similar digital-locker server from Apple for years now, and their North Carolina Data Center has been rumored to be a part of Apple gearing up for a cloud-based service since it was announced. Google is also rumored to be getting into this market, with their Google Music service that is reported to be in internal testing now. It’s going to be an interesting year for these services, but Amazon has a compelling vision for Cloud Drive + Cloud Player. I’m excited by it, and really want to get my hands on an Android device so that I can play with the mobile access.

Harper Collins and some numbers

Day 364 - kindle!So after the Harper Collins Incident of the last couple of weeks, I thought it would be interesting to see, based on my library, what the numbers looked like for books that have circulated more than 26 times. Here are all the caveats, in hopes of derailing some of the questions that I’m sure this data will raise:

  • This is, roughly, 10 years worth of circulation data. The last major ILS migration happened 10 years or so ago, and the data from the decades prior to that is non-trivial to access or non-existent.
  • UTC has about 10K FTE students
  • Our circulation is, based on peer-institutions, ridiculously low. We are working on fixing part of the problem.

Now, the numbers: removing AV materials (DVD/VHS, audiobooks, CDs), reserve items, and things that don’t circ (journals, etc), we have 409,213 things in our catalog that qualify, mostly, as “books” and that are available circulation. That includes Reference, which only circulate to Faculty, but seemed worth including. Of those 409,213 items, the total number of them that have circulated more than 26 times in 10 years is:


Yep, that’s right. 126 books, or just about .03079% of our collection. Looking at the titles, that’s even including multiple copies of the same work (we have three copies of A rhetoric and composition handbook that are all on the list of >26, for example).

If you add the total number of times these books circulated, and divide each by 26 to determine how many additional books the library would have had to purchase IF they had all been eBooks under the Harper Collins rules, my library would have had to purchase an additional 148 books in order to meet the demand. That’s under 15 titles a year, on average. I don’t have average costs of Harper Collins ebooks handy, but if they followed the Amazon pricing model for eBooks, they would be between $9.99 and $14.99 each. Let’s split the difference and call the average price $12.99…that means my library would have to find an extra $194.85 a year to keep up.

I understand that eBook have the potential to circulate more often than print…the decrease in access time alone should push them to be more popular choices, if what we’ve seen happen to our print journals is any indication. I also know that one small academic library is the equivalent of anecdata in the grand scheme of libraries. But if we don’t look at numbers, and only look at rhetoric, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

I still disagree with Harper Collins new eBook rules, but for a lot of reasons that don’t necessarily come down to “it’s horrible for my library”. It is, I think, a bad idea to change the rules of the game midstream, at least without a lot of input from all the concerned parties (and no, I don’t actually think that a lot of libraries were consulted about this change). But it’s also a bad idea, as I’ve said a few times now, to just assume that the digital needs to act like the physical. We need to find new ways of dealing with these things, and I hope that situations like #hcod are just growing pains.