I’m very happy to announce that The LibraryBox Project has been named among the 2015 NT100 – Nominet Trust’s annual celebration of 100 inspiring ‘tech for good’ ventures from around the world. Among this year’s companies selected for inclusion are Google X’s Project Loon and Open Street Maps…I’m gobsmacked that LibraryBox can be included in a list with those amazing projects.
The included projects all use digital technology to tackle the world’s social problems from lifesaving health tech to knowledge sharing via SMS text messaging.
Following a global call for nominations earlier this year The LibraryBox Project was selected by ten judging partners from the tech and charity world in recognition of our work. The judges included such companies as Comic Relief, Creative England, Facebook, Latimer, Nominet, Oxfam, O2 Telefonica, Salesforce and Society Guardian.
Thank you to everyone involved in The LibraryBox Project, especially Matthias Strubel, without whom it wouldn’t be as amazing as it is. Thanks also to the Kickstarter backers that made the v2.0 possible, and to the Knight Foundation Prototype Grant for enabling the development of the v2.1. If you’d like to learn more about The LibraryBox Project, a good place to start is the talk I did at Harvard Law School for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society earlier this year.
Learn more and and explore the 2015 NT100 here: socialtech.org.uk/nominet-trust-100/2015
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Tim Spalding of LibraryThing, asking if I was serious about the twitter conversation we had:
He wanted some form of independent analysis of recommendations coming from LibraryThing and from Bookish in Bibliocommons catalogs. After exchanging a few emails, we came to the following agreement:
- I would solicit and select 4 testers for the recommendation systems
- The reviewers wouldn’t be told who had arranged for the review, nor who was paying them (reviewers were offered $200 for the effort) until after they had turned in the reviews and they were posted here
- The reviewers would examine 7 different Bibliocommons catalogs and write up their thoughts, but there was no suggesting of the books they were to search for or anything like that…they had free reign to use the catalogs in questions to look for any books they wished.
- Tim wouldn’t know who they were during the review, and not afterwards until the reviews were collected and this post went live
- There would be no editing on his part of the reviews…what they said, they said. No picking and choosing to rose color anything.
- I would collect and edit the reviews only in as much as needed to anonymize them.
- Tim would get the names of the reviewers after this is posted in order to pay them, but he would have no way of knowing who wrote what among the reviews.
This was as good a protocol as I could put together quickly for a blinded analysis of the two systems. I can promise that as I write this, Tim has no idea who the reviewers were, nor has he edited the reviews below in any way. They are as independent a look at the two systems as I could arrange.
So what is posted below are 4 comparisons, in the voices of the reviewers, between the recommendations provided by LibraryThing and Bookish.
This was done as a consulting job, so in the interest of full disclosure I am also receiving a small payment for my work in doing this.
Now that these are public, I will be sharing the identities in both directions of this endeavor. Who wrote which review will remain anonymous, but both sides will be alerted in order to settle the accounts in question.
Or, actually, any librarian that feels comfortable doing evaluation of a couple of recommendation engines. I have an opportunity for four librarians that want to do a few hours worth of work examining book recommendation engines, take notes and write up their findings in a couple of pages, and get paid for the work. The general idea is to see which of two engines provide “better” recommendations based on your expectations and professional knowledge.
I’ve been asked to organize the review so that the process is blinded as well as I can manage: you won’t know who asked for the review, and they won’t know who is doing the review until the process is over (and you need to be paid). I will collect and anonymize the reviews, so that the company paying you for your time won’t know who said what about the products in question. There is no expectation of positive reviews for either product, and I won’t do more than give you some neutral writing prompts to follow so as to keep the process as unbiased as possible.
If you have a few hours to throw at doing some free-form analysis of a couple of recommendation engines, email me at email@example.com, use the subject “Recommendation Evaluation”, and include your name, current employer, and any information that would make you particularly good at this, and I’ll be in touch with more information.
Here we are in the last gasps of 2014, and I feel like doing both a bit of retrospection and a look forward and what’s coming in the new year for me. Partially because I’m excited about the things I’m doing, and partially because I am looking forward to meeting awesome new librarians and attending some new conferences.
Looking back at 2014, it’s the year where my professional life changed completely. After nearly a decade at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I left my position as a tenured Associate Professor and struck out on my own as a consultant, speaker, writer, and maker. I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to be able to do this, just the ability to take that risk is a privilege that I am aware of every day. I am thankful for the fact that it is going very well. In the last 6 months I have:
- Completed my first major grant project (the LibraryBox v2.1 Knight Foundation Prototype grant)
- Published a library technology report with ALA TechSource entitled 3D Printers for Libraries
- Spoken at Warren County Public Library in Bowling Green, KY for their annual Staff Day
- Attended an unconference for Code4Lib DC where I led an open hardware workshop teaching intro to arduino for librarians
- Went to 3 separate Maker Faires (Nashville, Atlanta, and Chattanooga) where I talked to several thousand people about LibraryBox
- Attended DLF Forum for the first time, speaking on a panel about Makerspaces in academic libraries
- Won a consulting bid to help build a brand new public library, acting as the technology consultant for the project
- Managed to make it way out west for LITA Forum 2014 in Albuquerque, NM and delivered a workshop on customizing and hacking LibraryBox
- Presented a webinar for Infopeople on LibraryBox, focusing on the new code release
- Completed a complicated analysis of possible areas of technology-driven collaboration for two academic libraries
- Spoken at the Hoover Public Library Staff Day in Hoover, AL (a spectacular library and bunch of librarians, btw)
Even with all that, 2015 is shaping up to be even busier. Here’s what I’ve got on tap for just the first 3 months:
- Once again attending and reporting from CES in Las Vegas from Jan 4-9! I’ll be posting soon about this, as I’m doing something slightly different this year…news on that in the next week or so.
- On January 13th, I’ll be doing a webinar on privacy and information security and libraries…again, more news on that ASAP
- I’ll be attending the ALA Midwinter conference in Chicago, and I can’t wait to see everyone there
- I’m also attending my very first Code4Lib conference! This one I am particular excited about, as I’ve been involved with the community on and off over the years, and just never made it to a conference. This should be amazing.
- Finally, rounding out the conferences for the first quarter of 2015 is The Collective, a brand-spanking new library conference being held just up the road from me in Knoxville, TN. I’m excited about what the organizers are trying to do, and am very happy to be supporting it.
And on top of that, I’ve going to be keynoting the New Jersey Library Association conference in April, doing a preconference at Computers in Libraries that same month, traveling to Idaho for the first time in May to help with a library-driven Maker Faire, and heading to Missouri in early June to keynote for the MOBIUS Consortium conference.
If you are attending one or more of the things I’ll be attending in 2015, drop me a line, I would love to meet up and talk about librarying with you. And even with all of that above, if you are interested in talking to me about helping your library or conference in any way, please let me know. I am excited that I have some small part in trying to make libraries better everywhere.
Today marks the one month anniversary of leaving my position at the University of TN at Chattanooga, walking away from a tenured professorship, and trying to build a business on my reputation and skills.
So how’s it going?
Right now, it’s mostly proposal limbo. I have something like 8 different consulting proposals that I’ve either put together or been attached to over the course of the month. Of those 8, 2 are definite no-gos, 2 need revisions and resubmittal, and 4 are still floating in the ether of uncertainty. I’ve got a handful of speaking engagements (but am always happy to come and speak with librarians about technology) and over the next few months will be:
Those are all in roughly the next 12 weeks!
Which is a lot of words to basically say: Things are uncertain, but good, and I’m keeping busy. 🙂
I’d love to hear from anyone who needs technology planning at their library, though…I would love to turn a few proposals into contracts. What can I do to help your library?