Category Archives: Technology

Knight Foundation News Challenge Semi-Finalist

I found out this morning that my Knight Foundation News Challenge entry (Make the Things that Measure the Future: Libraries & Open Hardware) was chosen as a semi-finalist! Out of 680 initial proposals there are now 41 proposals left in the “Refinement” stage. We have a week to answer a new series of questions, along with responding to any comments or questions that were generated by our initial proposal.

The Knight questions are:

  • Who are the users of your project, and what have you learned from them so far?
  • What are the obstacles to implementing your idea, and how will you address them?
  • How much do you think your project will cost, and what are the major expenses?
  • How will you spread the word about your project?

I have good answers to all of these, I think, and will spend the next week making absolutely sure that the answers are as clear and precise as I can make them. What I don’t have just yet is a lot of comments to respond to from the public. This is where you, Internet people, come in. What feedback do you have about my proposal that needs comment, or questions that need answered? Please comment on the Knight proposal page, and I will take those comments and questions and use them to hopefully move my proposal forward into the next round!

Adobe Digital Editions and infoleaks

Eliminate DRMThe online library world exploded today over the revelation that Adobe Digital Editions, software that is required for many library-focused eBook services, evidently leaks like a sieve when it comes to our user’s information. The TL:DR version of the story is that ADE appears to be sending in plain text to Adobe’s servers information such as: the book you are reading, title, publisher, which pages you have read and which page you are currently on. Much longer discussions about the leak and potential fallout here:

Andromeda and Galen then both went on to touch on some of the core problems with this leak, focusing on the conflict between Adobe’s action and the ethics of librarianship, and the possible role that ALA may have in bridging the gaps in libraries’ knowledge of these actions.

There are a few things I wanted to emphasize about this situation. The first is that several of the reports have noted that earlier versions of Adobe Digital Editions didn’t seem to “spy on its users” in the way that the most recent version (version 4) does, and recommend using earlier versions. The truth of the matter is that of course the earlier versions are spying on users…they just aren’t doing it in as transparent a manner as the current version. We need to decide whether we are angry at Adobe for failing technically (for not encrypting the information or otherwise anonymizing the data) or for failing ethically (for the collection of data about what someone is reading). It’s possible to be angry at both, but here’s a horrible truth: If they had gotten the former right and encrypted the information appropriately, we’d have no idea about the latter at all.

I think that Andromeda has it right, that we need to insist that the providers of our digital information act in a way that upholds the ethical beliefs of our profession. It is possible, technically, to provide these services (digital downloads to multiple devices with reading position syncing) without sacrificing the privacy of the reader. For example (and this is just off the top of my head) you could architect the sync engine to key off of a locally-hashed UserID + BookID that never left the device, and only transmit the hash and the location information in a standardized format. This would give you anonymous page syncing between devices without having to even worry about encryption of the traffic, as long as you used an appropriate hash function. I would prefer this approach, because (as mentioned above), if the entire communications stack is encrypted, it’s a black box for anyone attempting to see inside and verify what the vendor is actually collecting. There are answers to this as well (encryption keys that the vendor never sees at all, for example, and are totally local to the user’s device a la Apple’s latest security enhancements).

There are technical solutions that satisfy our ethical concerns. We need to insist that our vendors care enough about our ethics that the technical answers become a market differentiator. We need to insist that this is important and then we need to make them listen.

CES 2014 and American Libraries

Once again I will be venturing forth in the first week of the new year in order to try and wrap my head around the largest consumer electronics convention in the world: CES 2104. Last year I tried a sort of crowd-funded coverage model, but this year I was approached by American Libraries to cover it for them! That means this year you’ll be getting my take on the newest tech over at the American Libraries Scoop blog, as well as here on Pattern Recognition. For anything that I think is of interest to libraries, I’ll be doing some video, photos, and write ups over on The Scoop, and then general tech stuff will be folded in here at PatRec. I’ll do some cross-linking so that people don’t miss anything, though. If you’d like to see the sort of coverage I’ve done in the past, you can take a look at the archives.

Here’s the bit where you can help! If you have any particular tech you’d like me to take a special look at, or company that you’d like some more info about…really, anything you’d like to know more about, let me know! You can leave a comment here on the post, or follow me on Twitter (@griffey) and let me know there. I’ll be tweeting pretty aggressively from CES, so it’ll be easy to follow along with what I’m seeing.

Let me know what you’d like to hear about, and I’ll do my best to find some information and share it.

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.

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.

Lego Mindstorms EV3 at CES2013

One last video for today, just a short example of the new Lego Mindstorms EV3. They had a really great setup that showed off the sorts of detailed interactions you can set up with these things, and the power of having them talk to your smartphone is really interesting. Again, for any library that uses Lego as an activity for kids/youth groups, this seems like a no-brainer to keep an eye on.

ATOMS interactive bricks at CES2013

I had the really wonderful opportunity to meet with Michael Rosenblatt of Atoms Express, just after their successful Kickstarter campaign. This gave me the chance to see the demo units of Atoms in person, test them, and get some idea of the really wonderful interactions that are going to be possible when these are available later in the Spring.

Atoms is Lego compatible, and I believe will be a really, really interesting addition to the building/making activities in libraries, and great way to teach basic engineering and programming logic. It’s also a great example of what happens when sensors and motors get really cheap and modular…for example, using just a couple of these bricks, you could easily build a bluetooth reporting gate-counter. Or a shelf-count measurement device that keeps track of how often books are moved on a particular shelf. The potential is, as they say, endless.

Take a look at the interview, and see if you can see past the “toy” and to the tool.

Mark Shuttleworth demos Ubuntu Phone at #2013CES

Awesome demo from the CEO of Canonical himself, Mark Shuttleworth. He not only shows off the flashy bits, but talks about the philosophy underneath why Ubuntu is moving this direction. The fact that Canonical believes that they can get a single code base running from a mobile device all the way up to cloud-server architectures is just…well, impressive would be one way to put it.

Packing, Technology, and Covering CES2013

This is my 4th trip to the International CES, and as I packed for the trip, I was amazed at the difference in the technology that I’m taking with me. Each year I’ve tried to bring along any technology that I thought I might need to report something that happened at the conference, whether it be creating text, photos, videos, or some combination of the above. In my estimation, I’m now able to do better content creation with about ¼ of the equipment as 4 years ago.

4 years ago, if I wanted to capture decent photos and videos, I had to have a camera and a video camera. There were cameras that did well at both, but they were largely SLR or other extremely expensive and hard to use pieces of equipment. They were also well and out of my budget. So at that point, I traveled with a Canon point and shoot for still shots, and a Flip camera for video. To edit what both of these captured, I needed to carry a laptop, and at the time I had a 13 inch Apple Macbook. I also carried a Zoom h2 audio recorder, because neither of those were any good for pure audio capture, and my cell phone at that time (the iPhone 3G) didn’t have the best audio either.

Now? My iPhone 4S can capture HD quality video, is an amazing still camera, and is a great audio recorder. I am carrying my laptop, but at this point it’s a 13 inch Apple Macbook Air, at half the weight of my old Macbook. If it really mattered to me, I could edit the audio, video, and photos exclusively on my iPhone and leave the Air at home…or compromise, and trade the Air for my iPad just for the screen size. The “stuff I need to carry to cover an event” is now totally capable of fitting in my pocket, even if I decide to bring along a better microphone for the phone. It’s a bit easier with other gadgets in the workflow, but it’s an amazing change in just the last 4 years.

CES 2013 and Experimenting with Crowdfunding

Time for an experiment! I’m heading to the International CES 2013 in Las Vegas tomorrow, the largest consumer technology show in the world. I’ll be tweeting, photographing, videoing, and otherwise throwing content at Libraryland from CES for the next 5 days. I set up a website and 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.

I’ll provide tweets, videos, photos, and hopefully some insight into the technology trends for the next 12-18 months. If you think that’s valuable, donate some money to the cause. As a bonus, I’ll be doing a Google Hangout on January 16th at 2pm Eastern time where you can listen to me talk about the trends I saw, cool new products, and things to keep in mind if you are doing technology planning for your library. I’ll also be upping the interactive component, and will be pulling people who are interested into the Hangout with me, where we can talk, you can ask questions, etc.

I think all the info you need is at the Griffey @ CES2013 website, but if not, there is a contact form over there you can use to let me know what I’m missing.

Obviously, I’d love to know what everyone thinks of this…it’s a huge experiment, so any feedback is awesome.