LibraryBox at Computers in Libraries 2015

LibraryBox AnimatedWay back in March of 2012, I debuted the very first proof-of-concept for the LibraryBox Project at Computers in Libraries in Washington DC. It was the first time a LibraryBox was tested in public, and the reactions and feedback were integral to moving the project forward to where it is today. The first one was actually embedded in a real book (I liked the irony of the presentation).

Where it is today is amazing! We are polishing the v2.1 release of the open source code that lets anyone in the world build their own offline digital file sharing device, which includes a really improved interface, better performance, built-in text translation of the interface into 8 different languages (with an easy framework for adding more), and support for even more hardware.

Back in 2012 at Computers in Libraries, I couldn’t have begun to predict the success that the Project has had. LibraryBoxen are sharing files to those without reliable Internet connectivity all over the world at this point:

View LibraryBox Around the World in a larger map

On April 26, at Computers in Libraries 2015, I will be giving a half-day workshop on the LibraryBox Project and how it can be used by you and your library for outreach, serving the underserved, and more. I will walk you through commonly-requested customizations (how to customize the look and feel of the interface, add your own logo, etc), walk through an installation so that you can see just how quickly you can build one yourself, and demonstrate all of the more advanced tricks you can do with these hyperlocal networks (from using one as a bridge for controlling presentations to using LibraryBox as a LAN for sharing files privately between computers).

One lucky participant will walk away with their very own prebuilt LibraryBox…I’m going to give away the one we build and work with during the workshop to one of the workshop participants. :-)

Register now!

If you are anywhere in the DC area and just want to learn about LibraryBox, it is possible to register just for the preconference, full attendance at CiL isn’t necessary.

Come and join me! After this workshop, you’ll be a card-carrying LibraryBox expert.

EDIT

Thanks to a fantastic suggestion from Nate Hoffelder, if you wish to attend the workshop and build your own LibraryBox to tinker on, we’ll do a “build your own” at the very beginning of the session. Here’s a quick list of the things you’ll need in order to do so:

  • TP-Link MR3040 router
  • A USB drive to use in the LibraryBox. I recommend the SanDisk Cruzer Fit line, and the sweet spot for price/GB looks to be 32GB right now. This is the Boxen’s hard drive, so the larger capacity means more things can be shared.
  • A laptop with Ethernet capability, for flashing the router, and the ability to SSH, in order to connect to the LibraryBox you build if you want to further customize it.
Apple Watch

Apple Watch Predictions

Tomorrow is March 9th, and that means that we will get the formal Apple announcement of the Apple Watch. As always, I’ll be live tweeting the announcement, but I wanted to make a couple of predictions here about pricing, mostly because I think they are going to surprise everyone.

All that Apple has said thus far about pricing is the quote from the initial announcement of the product that “Apple Watch will start at $350″. There are three tiers of the watch, each made of different materials: Apple Watch Sport, which is aluminum and glass; Apple Watch, which is stainless steel and sapphire; and Apple Watch Edition, which is 18K Gold and sapphire. The assumption from pretty much everyone is that the Sport edition is the entry level, due to the less expensive material construction.

And I think that’s probably right, that the Sport will be the lowest priced model. But I don’t think that the lowest price will be $350.

My guess, which I admit is a huge stretch and will probably end with me making a massive retraction after the announcement, is that the Apple Watch, the stainless construction one, will start at $350, because that’s exactly what Tim Cook said. They don’t accidentally say things at Apple. I’m guessing that the stainless version will start at $350, with upsell on the various types of bands. I’m betting that the Milanese loop will be an extra $100, and the metal clasp band will be at least $150.

As a result, I think that the Sport will be cheaper, maybe in the $250 range. Cheaper materials, rubber (excuse me, elastopolymer) bands, and I think they could get away with a $200-250 price and still be making their legendary profits.

I’m probably wrong. They are probably going to have the stainless versions starting at $499. But they’ve done this sort of thing before. With the launch of the iPad, there were rumors of a $1000 price point, and then they announced a starting price of $499 at launch. But if Cook stands on the stage tomorrow and says “You know, I told you that the Apple Watch started at $349, and it does, but the Sport is going to be only $249″ I will not be surprised in the least.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch Edition, with it’s 18K solid gold (even if Apple did find a way to make gold with less gold), is gonna be thousands. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it was $10K.

So am I gonna buy one? I’m probably 75% in the “yes” column, but a lot hinges on the pricing. If I do, I don’t want the Sport edition, I definitely want the stainless…I mean, it’s gorgeous. I am sort of in love with the stainless with Milanese loop.
Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 4.38.32 PM

 

But I also can’t really see paying the prices that some bloggers have guessed for that combination. I suppose we will find out tomorrow.

Support Circulating Ideas

So my buddy Steve Thomas just launched a Kickstarter in order to have transcriptions made of his awesome podcast Circulating Ideas.  I shouldn’t have to explain why transcriptions are a fantastic idea for a podcast, but I will anyway:

  • It will make the content available to people with hearing difficulty
  • It will enable full-text searching of the podcast episodes
  • Transcripts will allow people to text-mine the content in interesting ways
  • There will be a book (A BOOK) of the podcast made

All of these are awesome reasons to back the Kickstarter, but I’m going to back it because I think that the work Steve is doing on Circulating Ideas is interesting and serves as an amazing time capsule of our profession. You should back it as well…supporting interesting library work is how, after all, we get more interesting library work into the world.

So listen below to Steve tell you about the Kickstarter in his own words, then click the link and go give him a few bucks. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Go support Recirculated! 


BONUS: for those of you that read this far, here’s the two episodes of Circulating Ideas that I was lucky enough to be a part of:


Episode 19


Special Episode on the LibraryBox Kickstarter

Daniel Boone National Forest

Poverty, Libraries, Jobs, Me

A bit earlier today I saw a handful of librarians on Twitter posting a link to a Library Director’s job with what appeared to be an appalling salary of $7.25 an hour.

Each of these tweets have been re-tweeted a dozen or so times as I’m writing this, so people are sharing it. Heck, I clicked through when I saw the salary, curious what sort of place thought they could get someone for that price, and where you could possibly live on that salary.

The answer? Just down the road from where I grew up, that’s where.

Elliot county

So the marker there is the library in question, and the little town north of it that’s circled, that’s my home town of Olive Hill, KY. The library is in the county seat of Elliott County, KY, in a town of just about 600 people called Sandy Hook. Here’s a larger map to give you some additional context about just exactly where this is located.

Elliott County large

 

This part of the world is where I spent the first 22 years of my life, as a kid and teenager in Olive Hill and then as an undergrad at Morehead State University just down the road. If you check the Google Street View of where the Library in question sits,  it is right next to an elementary school where I played basketball as a boy.

So when I say this, I say it with the conviction of someone who knows: there is very, very little likelihood that anyone posting about this on Twitter has ever seen poverty of the sort that they have in Elliott County, KY. Hell, the entire concept of the “War on Poverty” started just down the road from Elliott County, an hour southeast in Inez, KY, where LBJ launched his famous efforts to eliminate poverty in the US.  Elliott County is the 49th Poorest County by Median Household Income in the entire United States of America. For some more reference, the median household income for Sandy Hook in 2010 was $14,313.

If there is anywhere in this country where kids need a library to help them dream, this is that place.

I was curious after seeing this tweet…

…so I decided to take a look. And if this news report is to be believed, it’s true…the poorest postal code in Canada (B1W, the Cape Breton – Eskasoni First Nation) has a median household income of $19,392 Canadian, or $15,401 US. So there is literally not a single place in Canada that is poorer than Sandy Hook, KY.

With that said: should a library director be paid $7.25/hr? No, of course not. But in this part of Kentucky, believe it or not, that is a decent salary. Not because it is objectively an amount of money that someone deserves for doing their job, but only because the area around it has been forgotten. This part of the world has been given up on by the former industries that sustained it, by the clay and the tobacco and the lumber that were the only reasons money ever flowed into the economy of the area in the first place.

This is a place that I love, this Eastern Kentucky. Even now, decades after I left, I can close my eyes and see the soft clay streaking the soil. I can feel the limestone bones that make up the gentle foothills of the Appalachians. I can smell the warmth of a tobacco barn on a Fall evening.

These are people that need help. I hope they find someone for that job that can not only show the children of Elliott County that there is a wider world, but that just maybe one of those kids will find a way to help save my Eastern Kentucky.

LibraryThing vs Bookish

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.

Measure the Future

Measure the Future logo

I am beyond thrilled to announce that my project Make the Things that Measure the Future: Open Hardware & Libraries has been awarded one of the eight John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight News Challenge grants. The winners of these grants seek to answer the question “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgable communities?”

What are we going to be doing? Here’s a quick video that explains the project:

As a result of this, I give you the Measure the Future Project.  That’s the website where we will be reporting on our progress, linking out to the code and hardware that we make, and generally being as transparent as possible as we move towards making the things that measure the future. It also links out to our social media accounts and other places of interest where we’ll be talking about what we’re doing.

This means that I will be working for the next 18 months on a project that I first imagined over 2 years ago, a project that I think has the potential to have incredible impact on how libraries view data about their buildings and what happens inside them. As we move through the next decade, I feel strongly that libraries of all types are going to need to measure and report new and different metrics in order to demonstrate to their funders that they are still vibrant parts of their communities. I’m hoping that I can help define those metrics by producing the hardware and software that collects, measures, and reports them.

I’m honored and privileged to have this opportunity to work to make libraries everywhere better. I would like to thank everyone that helped Measure the Future to this point, but especially my team members Jenica Rogers, Gretchen Caserotti, and Jeff Branson, all of whom were willing to agree to help support this crazy idea I had even before it was fully formed.

At 1pm today there will be an announcement at the ALA Midwinter conference in Chicago, where the winners will have a chance to celebrate a little and explain to the world what they will be doing to make libraries better and communities more engaged. If want to see some of the most interesting work that will be done in libraries over the next few years, I recommend coming by and seeing what the other groups are up to.

Congratulations to all of the winners. Let’s go make libraries amazing. Let’s go make our communities amazing.

If you want to help us Measure the Future, let me know.

Calling all collection development librarians

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 griffey@gmail.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.

State of the Union 2015 Tag Cloud

State of the Union 2015 Tag Cloud

This is the ninth in my yearly posting of a word cloud for the President’s State of the Union address to the nation. Every year, the words shift slightly, the rhetoric being used changes subtly. But the last couple of years have been far more hopeful than when I started doing this, when the words were “terrorists” and “fighting” and “security”. I’m much happier with a State of the Union that includes “families” and “jobs”.

Here are links to the previous 8 years worth of tag clouds, if you want to see the changes yourself.