Category Archives: Personal

Radio Silence != Downtime

There have been very, very few months in the 10+ year history of this blog where I didn’t post at all during a month, but July 2013 turned out to be one of those months. August nearly so, as it’s almost September now. There are lots of reasons, but it’s mostly because I’ve been doing huge amounts of Doing Things That Aren’t Writing, and even when I was writing I wasn’t writing for this site.  The rest of the Fall may be similarly sparse. Let’s rewind and catch up to everything that’s happened since last I posted:

  • The Kickstarter campaign for LibraryBox v2.0 raised 1100% of it’s funding goal, which is the best sort of problem to have. But even so, it’s still a series of increasingly complex problems that require serious time commitment.
  • As a result of suddenly being responsible for fulfillment of said popular Kickstarter, I started a company: Evenly Distributed LLC. You’ll hear more about that as the months go by.
  • I wrote a chapter for a book! In the grand tradition of print material, it will be approximately 2384734 years before anyone sees it, and it will be out of date already, but there you go. My chapter is about why Makerspaces in Libraries are more important for libraries than they are for patrons.
  • Over the next 4 months, I’ll be presenting at the Kentucky Library Association Conference, the State Library of New South Wales eResources meeting, doing a talk for the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Outreach Working Group of the Library of Congress, manning a table at the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire, presenting at LITA Forum, and then taking a vacation.
  • And somewhere in all this, I will set up a workshop and crank out 180 or so LibraryBoxen to ship to Backers all around the world.

This is a weird life, this professional thing I’ve carved out for myself. But I love everything about it, which makes all the difference.

LibraryBox v2.0 & the Kickstarter Campaign

ledge wide

Way back in February and March of 2012, I had an idea that was to basically try and take the “pirate” out of the PirateBox project, and make it more friendly to use by libraries. I called this fork LibraryBox, and I rushed during those two months to finish it in time to take it with me to Computers in Libraries 2012 to test it.

That initial 1.0 version was very rough, absolutely a bespoke build and wasn’t something that was easily replicated. It was a proof of concept, though, that was interesting enough that some began to use it, experiment with it, and find it valuable enough to stick with despite its difficulties. But it was clear that making the installation process easier and less error-prone was the primary goal for moving forward.

So I plugged away as I could, and in October 2012 I was able to release v1.5 of LibraryBox, and a complete redesign of the accompanying Web site. The v1.5 was faster, easier to install, and a huge improvement, but only a small step towards what the project could be. The community that sprang up around the v1.5 has also been more robust, and as it grew the list of enhancements grew alongside it. These included the need for anonymous usage statistics, even easier installation, alternative energy sources such as solar, and more direct editing of the pages that LibraryBox serves.

The project has grown from an idea to something that is being used in 14 countries on 5 different continents, by educators, librarians, and technologists trying to distribute digital information in places off the grid. There is a huge list of things that should be done with LibraryBox, and it’s gotten to the point where I simply can’t do them…for both technical proficency and simple logistical reasons. But the project is something I believe in, something that I want to see succeed and be used in even more places. The only way forward that I could see was to find money that could be traded for the expertise and time of someone other than myself.

Thus it is with great excitement that I announce the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to support LibraryBox v2.0. It is a meager amount of money that I am asking for ($3000) and I could easily use 3-5x that amount in various ways…but I wanted to ensure that the project stays true to its open source roots. If you think that LibraryBox is worth supporting, back it for some amount…but more importantly, spread the word. LibraryBox is much larger than just libraries, and the more eyeballs that see the campaign page the more likely it is that it could gather some attention outside of the LibraryLand that we all know and love.

I’m incredibly excited about the project. I’m terrified of seeing how it does on Kickstarter, and if people can grok the potential in the way that the LibraryBox community has. And I’m really looking forward to continuing to work on the project.

Help make LibraryBox great along with me.

Mississippi Roadtrip

Starting Monday, May 13th, I’ll be starting one of the more unusual speaking gigs of my library career: a roadtrip through the state of Mississippi. I’ll be traveling with a couple of members of the Mississippi State Library Commission, doing training sessions in 4 different cities in 4 different parts of the state in 5 days. Starting in northern MS, I’ll be going from Booneville to Greenville to Flowood to Bay St. Louis, north to south for the distance of the state.

I’ve done plenty of workshops and trainings and presentations before, but this is the first time I’ll be doing the same training this many times this quickly. I’ve also never really been through Mississippi before, and I’m excited to see the state from my car, and have the ability to stop and look around if I’d like.

So: if anyone out there is in MS and wants to say “hey”, come be a part of the training in question. Or give me a yell and maybe we can have a drink one of the nights I’m driving through your area. It’s gonna be interesting.

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.

My Recommendations for the ALA Elections 2013

Because this post is going to be about people for whom I think you should vote, I will begin with a disclaimer: The opinions below are mine, and mine alone, and I am not speaking in any role other than as an ALA Member with thoughts about the best choices for office.

Now that that little prelude is out of the way, here’s my take on the upcoming elections. These are the people that I think could make a difference in ALA, will make good decisions and guide the organization well, and are the most likely to leave the thing better than when they started. I also think that they represent the best parts of libraries and librarians, and would be positive role models for this, the professional service aspect of our job.

I don’t have opinions on every election outcome, because boy-o there’s a lot of them. But the few that I do care about, here’s who I will be voting for, and who I recommend you vote for as well.

ALA President

Always a big decision, but not always such an exciting set of candidates. This time around, I am thrilled beyond telling that Courtney Young is among the candidates. Courtney is smart as a whip, understands the issues, and will bring a new perspective to the office that gets me excited to see what she will do. I think Courtney would make an great ALA President. I hope that I get the chance to see her as such.

ALA Council

The list here is long, as always, but I think that the following are a great set of librarians who I want to empower to help run our organization: Lauren Pressley, Erica Findley, John Jackson, Kate Kosturski, Chris Kyauk, Coral Sheldon-Hess, and Patrick Sweeney. There are probably more that I’m forgetting, but I’ll add them as I find them on my ballot. :-)

EDIT: Additional Council candidates that I would recommend: Loida Garcia-Febo, Kevin Reynolds, Edward Sanchez.

LITA Board of Directors

Oh, this is tough. The LITA board slate (Andromeda Yelton, Jason Battles, Brett Bonfield, and Jennifer Reiswig) is an amazing group of people. There are, truly, no bad choices in that field, and I think that’s great for LITA. You can’t go wrong. Me? I’m going to be voting for Andromeda and Brett, for a ton of reasons, but mainly because I think the two of them bring interesting perspectives to LITA that could broaden its horizons in ways that are needed.

So there’s my thoughts on the ALA elections. Democracy in action, people! Make sure you vote!

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013This past Saturday, I and Bo Baker represented the UTC Library by taking part in the 2013 Chattanooga Maker Day. Held on the 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, this event was the first in what I hope to be many examples of the awesome tech potential and talent found in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013The theme of the day was a “3D Throwdown”, with Makers bringing their 3D printers and printed objects, setting up demos of 3D design, local businesses that were related to 3D technology doing demos and answering questions…it was like a mini-Maker Faire just for 3D printing. And the turnout of people was incredible. From 11am until 4pm when we closed up, it was a non-stop parade of people, kids and parents and grandparents, all who came out to ask questions and see how this tech works.

I will say, from my perspective, the most amazing moments at the event were the kids who were just wide-eyed at the objects these printers could create. The printers themselves whirring and beeping and generally sounding like droids from Star Wars made the kids aware of a part of their future they didn’t know existed, and it was incredible to see their mind light up with the possibilities.

As far as MPOW, we had dozens of UTC students come through, all of them with the same two exclamations on their lips. First was “You guys are from _the Library_?” and second “The Library is gonna have _this_ for us to use? NO WAY!”. It was a great way to show off the direction that the library is taking, moving into the creative spaces that are so ripe and ready to bloom. We’re still 9 months from opening the new building, but I’m so excited about what that space is going to enable us to do with and for our patrons.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013But Maker Day was about more than just our patrons. It was about showing people the potential of Chattanooga in this new manufacturing space. It was about showing them the building blocks for the future of the community. Chattanooga has The Gig, it has incredibly talented people, and it has a chance to be one of the great technology hubs of the United States. We just have to put all the pieces together the right way, and the groups that put on Maker Day (the Public Library, Co.Lab, and many others) are printing those pieces of our future.

State of the Union 2013 Tag Cloud

State of the Union 2013 Tag Cloud

Above is the weighted tag cloud of the text of President Obama’s State of the Union 2013 address. This is part of a series that I’ve done over the last 7 years, starting way back in 2007, as part of a visualization of what is on the minds of Americans. It’s fascinating to see what changes over the years, and what stays steady. Check out  200720082009,  2010, 2011, and 2012 linked for your convenience. The issues are stark as you look across the years…from security and terrorism to jobs and the economy over the last 7 years.

My CES2013 Hangout

As a sort of wrap-up for my CES2013 coverage, I decided to advertise and present a live, interactive online webinar driven by Google Hangouts. That happened today, and this is the resultant video presentation. The first 57 minutes and 30 seconds or so is me talking through a slideshow on trends and the effect said trends may have on libraries, while the last half-hour is me taking questions from the chat room, twitter, and from the brave souls who took time out of their day to join me in the Hangout and ask questions.

As I said in my initial plan for attending and covering CES2013, “…for the very first time decided to experiment with crowdfunding something I’m doing and ask for donations. Or, to put it a different way, I’m becoming a busker for the trip.” This trip had no sponsors, and while I haven’t gotten the full stats on how many people watched the Hangout, watched my video reports, read my blog entries, or just laughed at some of my pictures, at this point many dozens-to-hundreds of people have seen my work. Of those, exactly 4 have decided that what I was doing was worth paying for.

This isn’t me complaining about that! This was and is an experiment, and if I don’t let people know the results, then it’s not really an experiment that others can learn from. I promised transparency, so here it is: I received 4 donations from 4 individuals: $10, $20, $20, and one incredibly kind soul for $50, bringing my grand total for donations to $95.30 after Paypal fees. I find this a fascinating response, given that it is routine for educational opportunities exactly of this sort (literally, I have given them) to cost many hundreds of dollars. This was free, available for anyone…and yet. And yet.

Lots to think about! But in the meantime, I’m going to continue to produce content and write and speak and read and think about technology and libraries. If you think what I’ve done here is worth paying for, I’m going to leave the donation option open for a bit longer, just to see if people finding this after the fact decide to chip in. I will, of course, continue to report on the experiment. Thanks to everyone who watched, commented, joined in, or hopefully learned something about the tech of CES2013.

How CES works

I don’t think I’ve ever written about how CES works. It’s primarily a “business” show…it isn’t open to the public, and to register to have to show that you are somehow affiliated with the consumer electronics industry. There are a range of registration “types” but the two that I know librarians have used to get in have been to register as Press (which I have done for my trips) or as a “Industry Affiliate” (of which I am unsure of the requirements). The other registration types are more business oriented, such as exhibitors or buyers, and are unlikely to be used by libraries or librarians.

The best way to think of the show itself is as if one were visiting an unknown but interesting city. There are neighborhoods organized roughly by product type on the exhibit floor (Carville, Audiolandia, and Mobiletown, for example). There are also a ton of peripheral events, somewhat like suburbs, that spring up and feed off the sheer mass of CES proper (events like Digital Experience and Showstoppers, both large Press events that are not officially affiliated with CES). I don’t believe it is truly possible to see everything at CES, even with a large team of people covering the show…and individual can, at best, see just the very tip of a very large iceberg hidden beneath the waves.

Since I’ve attended as Press, I’ve got that attendance experience to draw from. Most of the big Press events are invite only, so unless you’re on The List you aren’t getting in to either the press conference or the parties, but there are dozens and dozens of events that are both open and easier to get into. On the other hand, Press have a few benefits that are really useful, like having access to the Press room, free wifi, wired connections when needed, and help with all sorts of navigational issues.

My first couple of days here at CES 2013 have been all about Press events, trying to gather info in smaller meetings and events. The last 2 days will be all about the Big Halls, roaming the exhibits looking for trends and new exciting things that might be overlooked. I’ve already got a huge backlog of content, mainly video, to edit and push out…but need better bandwidth and more processing power to do so quickly. I will get that out as quickly as I can, everyone.