SXSW 2016

I attended my first SXSW conference this past week, and have been struggling about how to describe it. On one hand, I was able to find interesting things and have a great time. On the other, the conference felt so very desperate, like a marketing team and a brogrammer had a kid. It was a non-stop barrage of things that were really-well-known being well-known (Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot) and things that weren’t well-known trying desperately to be so.

Libraries and librarians were, as always, the saving grace in the midst of the chaos. I spent time with the Library IdeaDrop house this year, and all I can say is that they run a tight ship, full of interesting people and awesome events. I would be a part of it again in a heartbeat.

I wrote up my experiences for American Libraries, here’s the three-part story:

And here are all the interviews that I did with IdeaDrop this year:

SESSION 6 from Idea Drop & ER&L on Vimeo.

Jason Griffey @ #IdeaDrop from Idea Drop & ER&L on Vimeo.

Knight News Challenge from Idea Drop & ER&L on Vimeo.

SESSION 8 from Idea Drop & ER&L on Vimeo.

Copyright and Creators: 2026 @ #IdeaDrop from Idea Drop & ER&L on Vimeo.

Digital Content and the Legality of Web Scraping from Idea Drop & ER&L on Vimeo.

LibraryBox GSoC logo banner

LibraryBox & Google Summer of Code

I am thrilled to be able to announce that The LibraryBox Project has been invited to be one of the projects included in the Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Google Summer of Code.

If you aren’t familiar with the Google Summer of Code, it is a program that gets undergraduates connected to open source projects via mentor organizations. The goal is to give the students experience working on useful open code, while projects benefit from their skills to set and meet development goals. Google pays the students a stipend, and the whole open source community wins.

The LibraryBox Project has a few different goals in mind for the summer, and is looking for awesome students who want to make a difference in the world. If you’re a student that is interested in working on an international open source project that is being used in more than 40 countries and on all 7 continents, one that makes a difference in education in developing nations and acts as a tool for activism and social change in repressive countries, come join us.

Applications open March 14th, and close March 25th.

If you know anyone that’s applying, send them our way.

Apple, the FBI, and Libraries

I’m sure most people who might read this blog are at least familiar that there is currently a battle occurring between Apple and the FBI over access to information on a phone that had been used by the San Bernardino terrorist. The details of that case are fascinating and nuanced, and can be summarized very roughly as:

The FBI has obtained a court order that compels Apple to create a new version of iOS that is different from the existing version that lives on the phone in question in three ways: one, that the new version will bypass the time-delay between password attempts that is standard for iOS; two, that the new version will be able to enter password attempts in a programmatic fashion instead of through finger presses on the screen; and three, that the new version of iOS will disable the security setting that may be active that erases the phone unrecoverably if 10 password attempts are incorrect. The reason that the FBI needs this to access the information that is stored on the phone is that iOS uses encryption to secure the information on the phone when it is, in the parlance of computer security types, “at rest.” The FBI could make a bit-for-bit copy of the software that is on the phone, and examine it until the heat death of the universe, and not be able to decrypt the information into a readable form.

While the court order and the responses on both sides are not directly about encryption, the reason that this is a question at all is encryption…if the FBI could dump the contents and read them, there would be no need for them to access the phone at all. Indeed, the information from the phone that they do have, given to them by Apple, is from a 6-week-old iCloud backup of the device that isn’t encrypted (currently, iCloud backups are NOT encrypted, or rather, they are encrypted but with a key that Apple has).

Why is this relevant to libraries? I think it’s past time that we start paying very close attention to the details of our data in ways that we have, at best, hand-waved as a vendor responsibility in the past. There have been amazing strides lately in libraryland in regards to the security of our data connections via SSL (LetsEncrypt) as well as a resurgence in anonymization and privacy tools for our patrons (Tor and the like, thank you very much Library Freedom Project).

Data about our patrons and their interactions that isn’t encrypted at rest in either the local database or the vendor database hosted on their servers (and our electronic resource access, and our proxy logins, and, and, and…) is data that is subject to subpoena and could be accessed in ways that we would not want. It is the job of the librarian to protect the data about the information seeking process of their patrons. And while it’s been talked about before in library circles (Peter Murray’s 2011 article is a good example of past discussions) this court case brings into focus the lengths that some aspects of the law enforcement community will go to in order to have the power to collect data about individuals.

For a great article on the insanity associated with the government’s position on this, please take a moment and read James Allworth’s The US has gone F&*%ing Mad. Also take a look at the wonderful article by Barbara Fister from Inside Higher Ed, wherein she boils the case down and does some deft analysis of the situation (sidenote: I’m a massive fan of Barbara’s writing, if you do not regularly read her stuff, fix that).

It’s fairly clear, I think, that the FBI is using this case to seek to set a precedent that would allow for future access to information on iOS devices. The case was chosen specifically to have the right public relations spin for them, it’s a thing that is technically possible (unlike a request to “break the encryption” which may actually not be technically possible), and they have asked for a tool to be created that is easy generalizable to other iOS devices. I back Apple on this, and believe that strong security measures (including but not limited to strong encryption) make us safer.

And I would feel lots, lots better about the state of data in libraries if I knew we were using strong encryption that protects our data. I would love to see an architecture for a truly secure (from a data standpoint) ILS, because I’m pretty certain that none of the ones in use right now are even close. In the same way that I’m certain that Apple is working on producing a version of iOS that they cannot access at all….we need to architect and insist on the implementation of data storage that even we can’t get directly into. If patrons want us to keep their lending history (and we have some evidence that opting in to such a system is something that patrons do want), then let’s insist that our ILS treat that data like toxic waste: behind closed and locked vaults that neither we nor the vendor can access.

Presentations from ALA Midwinter 2016

Back in January, I did a few presentations at the ALA Midwinter conference. Two of them were recorded and I’ve finally tracked down the recordings and got them ready to post here. I only have slides for one, but hopefully someone finds the recordings useful.


ALA Master Series
Jason Griffey & Measuring the Future


LITA Top Technology Trends – ALA Midwinter 2016


The two trends that I talk about are the Blockchain and it’s potential for decentralization of the web, and the confluence of AI/Machine Learning and autonomous agents as interface for data.

The video below is a great presentation about Blockchain and its potential, by one of my compatriots at the Berkman Center, Primavera De Filippi.

OLA SuperConference 2016

I was thrilled to spend the last few days at the Ontario Library Association SuperConference 2016, the largest library conference in Canada. I was invited to be the Spotlight Speaker for the Ontario Public Library Association, and gave a talk I ambitiously titled “Incubating Ourselves: Internal Iteration and the Quest for Better Libraries.”

The presentation itself was design as a series of stories, with an introduction dealing with innovation itself, and how libraries might consider what and how to approach innovation in their own operations and activities. The core of the talk was two stories about me, the first illustrating why libraries offering innovative technology to their patrons can help change their patron’s lives, and the second about how the same technology can also help to improve libraries themselves. I closed with a look at near-future tech that I think will impact society, as a suggestion about what libraries and librarians should be looking at as next-stage technology for themselves and their patrons. Throw in a bit about LibraryBox and Measure the Future, and that’s a lot to get into an hour, but I think it came together really well.

While the presentation doesn’t hold up remarkably well without the audio bits, if you’d like to take a look, here are the slides from the talk:

Two things stood out to me as a result of this talk. The first is that it was the first of my talks to have a Graphic Recorder/Graphic Facilitator assigned to it, and I’m over the moon with how amazingly cool the resulting poster turned out. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of Graphic Facilitation, here’s a video on the process:

So here’s my talk in graphic form, with details of different parts pulled out:

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The other thing that I was really thankful for was that people seemed to appreciate the effort I make in trying to not only present good ideas, but to do so with some style:

Canadians really ARE the most polite and friendliest people around. 🙂

Thanks again for having me, OLA! It was fantastic, and I hope to be back someday keynoting for you.

State of the Union 2016 Tag Cloud

Every year since 2007, I’ve done a weighted word cloud as a visualization of the State of the Union address by the President of the United States. Here’s the 2016 version, with all of the previous versions linked for comparison. Hard to believe I’ve been doing this for a decade at this point!

State of the Union 2016
State of the Union 2016

 

Libraries in the Exponential Age

In late summer of 2015, I was invited to take part in a gathering at the Aspen Institute for a discussion that revolved around the general theme of how libraries can be more innovative and can drive innovation in their communities. It was one of the best groups and conversations that I have ever had around the general topic of the future of libraries, and I’m thrilled that the work we did is coming out in the form of some great writing and tools.

First up, on the Knight Foundation blog, is the post that explores the work that I was a part of, including a video I did talking about one of the things I’m most concerned about for the future of libraries.

From this and other gatherings, the Aspen Institute has built out a website and an action guide that:

…leads you through a variety of strategic activities and provides worksheets that evaluate the current level of support for your library and the resources needed to plan and convene your own community dialogue.

I’d recommend that libraries and librarians take a good look at these resources. The reports coming out of this work are among the best that I’ve read about the future of libraries, and I’d highly recommend that you take the time to look at both Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries and Libraries in the Exponential Age. The latter is the one I was a part of, and I have almost no complaints about the way it approaches the future of libraries.

ALA Midwinter 2016

Next week brings with it the ALA Midwinter 2016 meeting, which means I’m bundling myself up and heading back to Boston for a few days to revel in more library than anyone can take. This is my first ALA conference in almost a decade in which I don’t have overwhelming amounts of LITA commitments (the last ten years looked like: Created an interest group > Chaired said Interest Group > Chaired committee > Elected as Director-at-Large to Board > Appointed as committee chair and Parliamentarian of board). So what did I do with all of my newfound freedom and time?

Over-scheduled myself like mad, of course.

Here’s a quick rundown of things I’m getting myself into at ALA Midwinter! If you’d like to meet with me about anything, I would love to talk to you. Drop me an email and let’s find some time to meet up!

Booth 2232

For the first time, the Measure the Future Project will have a booth in the ALA Midwinter Exhibit Hall! We will be showing off examples of what we’re building, including hardware and software, and will be taking signups for libraries and librarians interested in the project. I’ll be at the booth any time I’m not speaking at one of the below, so if you’re looking for me, it’s a good bet that’s where I’ll be. We’ll have cool giveaways, a LibraryBox sharing information about the project, and we’re sharing a booth with the Library Freedom Project (who are basically made of cool and awesome and you know you want to come hang out).

Thursday

7-10pm
EMW Drink Salon on Tech & Ethics: Libraries
EMW Bookstore, 934 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA
https://emwdrinksalon-libraries.splashthat.com/

This is going to be an amazing time. Trust me. Take a look at the website, register, come have some drinks and talk tech and ethics with a bunch of awesome people.

Saturday

Knight News Challenge on Libraries 2016
9-10am, Convention Center Room 206A/B
Myself and a few other of the winners of the previous Knight News Challenge for Libraries will be on a panel with Knight Foundation staff to discuss how you (YES YOU) can apply for a News Challenge grant. Open to individuals as well as organizations, this is IMNSHO the very best funding available for library projects. If you have any ideas that you’ve been kicking around, now is the time to pick them up and dust them off and polish them up. Another News Challenge is coming this year, and if you want to know how to apply from previous grantees….this is the way to do it.

Master Series: Measuring the Future
12:30pm-1:30pm, Convention Center Room 206A/B
One of the most valuable assets a library has is the physical building itself, but aside from gate count we have remarkably little information about how it’s used. What if you could have a Google Analytics style dashboard and understanding of what happened in your library yesterday? Over time, longitudinal data about activity in your library can do amazing things: allow you to plan staffing predictively, let you A/B test displays or furniture arrangements, check what rooms are most popular during different parts of the day or year, and much more. Why just collect statistics when you can use them to actively make your library better for both staff and patrons? Come have a discussion with us about these issues and let us know what you’d like to see from the Measure the Future project!

Sunday

LITA Top Technology Trends
10:30-11:30am, Convention Center Room 253A
I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this august panel a handful of times in the past, and I’m thrilled to be included again. This time around I will be talking about Blockchain and its potential to revolutionize library systems, with a detour over into the Rise of the Machines (AI, computer vision, semantic analysis, ubiquitous computing, mesh networks, Internet of Things) and how that is going to make the future stranger than we can imagine. This is a do-not-miss panel (not because of me, but…trust me).

LITA Happy Hour
6:00-8:00pm, MIJA Cantina & Tequila Bar, Quincy Market, 1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace
The best gathering of library technologists anywhere, LITA Happy Hour is an amazing time full of awesome people. This is the best place to meet tons of techie librarians, and is where I will be happily sipping a drink amongst friends. Come introduce yourself and say hello if you make it!


 

This doesn’t count the half-dozen other non-public meetings I’m attending, or seeing friends and such. It’s gonna be fun, and exhausting, and great. Come see me at the booth! I look forward to meeting all the librarians I don’t know yet, and can’t wait to see old friends.

LibraryBox Stickers Group

LibraryBox v2.1

After a much-too-long development timeline, I am beyond thrilled to finally announce that LibraryBox v2.1 is officially available!

Updates

This release brings with it some long-needed upgrades, including:

  • Multi-language support for the user interface and a dozen languages built-in
  • New CSS-styled file directory listings, including responsive design for tablets and smartphones
  • Even more hardware is now supported, including our least-expensive hardware ever, the GL-iNet router that lets you build a LibraryBox for less than $25.
  • DLNA support for playing media from your LibraryBox on your TV or other DLNA compatible device
  • An improved upgrade process for future code releases that means no more need to SSH into your LibraryBox to upgrade it
  • General stability and speed improvements that make using LibraryBox even better for everyone

Sales

One other change for the Project is that we are moving our “standard hardware” from the TP-Link MR3020 to the MR3040, and from this point forward if you choose to purchase a Librarybox directly from the Project rather than building your own (and we do suggest you build your own!) you will receive from us an MR3040 + 32GB USB drive instead of the older MR3020 +16GB package. Better hardware and more storage for the same price!

Thanks

None of this is possible without the fantastic people that are a part of the LibraryBox Project, but without a doubt it isn’t possible without the patience and skill of Matthias Strubel. Nearly everything good about the v2.1 is because of his amazing talents, and I would like to thank him for being a partner and friend on this project.

The LibraryBox Project couldn’t have gotten this release out the door without support from the community and users. The v2.1 release of LibraryBox was partially funded by a Prototype Grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and couldn’t have been done without them. We would also like the thank the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University for their support and resources during the last few months of the v2.1 development.

The LibraryBox Project is also supported by purchases of the product, and we’d like to thank those that have chosen to buy a LibraryBox from us directly. If you would like to support the LibraryBox Project in its future development, please contact us.

 

NT 100 WINNER 2015 BLUE - RGB

LibraryBox recognized in the 2015 Nominet Trust 100

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