I was very pleased to be the guest of Steve Thomas on his podcast series Circulating Ideas this past week. There’s a whole host of great episodes of the podcast, and I highly recommend diving into the back catalog. My conversation with Steve ranged from which sci-fi technology I’d most like to have to how and why I built LibraryBox, and many points in between. There are way worse ways to spend an hour.
For those that missed it, I was the host of the first episode of American Libraries Live, a new monthly show from American Libraries. I had the best panel ever to work with backing me up, Marshall Breeding, Nina McHale, and Rebecca K. Miller. They could not have been more awesome to work with, and I can’t wait to do more with both the show, and these awesome librarians.
Take a look, and I’d love to hear suggestions for how to make it better in the future!
Really great write up of the internals of the tech team for the Obama campaign over at The Atlantic. Librarians and educators should read it as an argument for why it’s important to have technologists on your team directly, and not just rented out.
But the secondary impact of their success or failure would be to prove that campaigns could effectively hire and deploy top-level programming talent. If they failed, it would be evidence that this stuff might be best left to outside political technology consultants, by whom the arena had long been handled. If Reed’s team succeeded, engineers might become as enshrined in the mechanics of campaigns as social-media teams already are.
While this blog has been quiet, I’ve been working away at a redesign of the LibraryBox website. Said redesign is now live, all new content, and most importantly, instructions for how to build a v1.5 LibraryBox. These instructions are far, far easier than the v1 instructions, and I took at lot of time listening to feedback about the Project, trying to find the right tone for the site. What I wanted to do was try and tell the story of why I think LibraryBox is potentially an important project. I think I managed that.
Go take a look, let me know what you think!
This morning I was privileged to give a keynote address to the Homewood Public Library in Homewood, IL for their Staff Development day. It was the first time I gave this particular talk, and it was a distillation of an essay that I’ve been trying to write for some time. The thrust of both is that the technological changes coming over the next 5-10 years are likely to be so transformative that we (libraries and librarians) need to be thinking now, hard, about how we prepare for them. How do libraries continue to measure our value when our historical measurements become useless? How can we use open hardware to prepare ourselves for these newly-needed measurements? How will the continued and unavoidable drop in price, increase in processing, and lessening of power consumption of hardware be useful for libraries?
I don’t have lots of answers. But I think these are the beginnings of some interesting questions.
So here’s my slide deck from the presentation. I hope to have the essay/post/whatever it ends up being done soon. I really want to start talking about this with other librarians.
I’ve been re-reading a number of posts the last few days, and a few of them just truly stand out as things that have changed or are changing my thinking about tech and libraries…just really, really great things. If you haven’t read these yet, go do so:
- Living our Values by Meredith Farkas – Meredith has been someone in libraries that I’ve looked up to for a long time, and is one of those people that seem to grok librarianship in a way that I’m still stumbling towards. There are others in this group (Jessamyn West, Michael Stephens, Michael Porter, Karen Schneider, and so many more) that I am indebted to for inspiring me to start writing this blog in the first place. If you haven’t obsessively read Meredith’s blog from beginning to end, you’re missing a great resource on how to be a librarian in the 21st century.
- Walking Away from the American Chemical Society by Jenica Rogers – When searching for words to describe Jenica, I find that the same words describe her writing: Brave, amazing, inspiring, fierce, and honest. To find all of that in a person AND to have that person be in a leadership role AND be public about said role? I’m not sure it’s ever been done this way in libraries. She’s doing leadership right.
- Hardware is Dead by Jay Goldberg & How Low (Power) Can You Go? by Charlie Stross – I’ve been spending many, many processing cycles thinking about hardware, and the Maker movement, the future of technology and libraries. These two essays sparked whole new pathways, and helped me light new areas to explore. I’ve got a lot to say about this stuff, which I’ll hopefully be doing over the next year or so.
- How to See the Future by Warren Ellis – I’m just going to quote a section of this, because it’s so good I can’t even use my own paltry words in talking about it:
Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it’s good. It’s a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as present in the room. I want you to understand, before you start the day here, that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in future time, not in the years behind us.
Go read these. I’ve got nothing to say that even comes close right now.
It has been far too long since I posted here, but it’s been a very busy month. I’ve been busy working on an update of LibraryBox, making it fast, more stable, and most importantly, far easier to install. The code for LibraryBox v1.5 is on Github, and the installation instructions are forthcoming. One of the reasons that I’ve not published the current set of installation instructions is that I am working on a feature for Make Magazine on LibraryBox, and I want to ensure that they are as thorough as possible before they go to them, and up on the LibraryBox site.
I’ve also been playing around a bit with a MakerBot Replicator that we purchased at MPOW, figuring out its idiosyncrasies. Part of that process has been finding the easiest way to do simple object creation, so in that attempt, I designed a box to hold your LibraryBox:
You can edit one for yourself, or download and print. It’s also in place over at Thingiverse, if you want to download or comment on it there.
So the silence here isn’t to be taken for inactivity. A new version of LibraryBox, an article for Make, and my first object on Thingiverse counts as a pretty good month.
Yesterday I was privileged to be a guest on the Nebraska Library Commission weekly online show NCompass Live. The topic was LibraryBox, and it turned into a pretty solid hour of really good discussion about what LibraryBox is, how it came to be, and where I hope it might be going. If you’re interested at all in the project, but don’t quite grok it, this is a great place to start.
Really great analysis about why, come October, we’re likely to see a smaller-form factor iPad from Apple. The current betting pool looks like it will be a 7.8 inch screen, and given this chart, you can be sure it’s going to fill in that lower-end range for Apple.
My guess? They will probably have an 8GB version that starts at $199, and extends to the $350 or so range at a range of storage sizes. I’m curious what that means for the iPod Touch, long-term…but for now, I think they will likely just maintain the line. If anything, it might put a bit of downward pressure on the Touch price. I can see Apple dropping the lowest spec Touch down to $99, and the going up from there.
Apple is very, very good at taking the oxygen out of a market.
The LibraryBox project is slowly getting noticed around the ‘net! In the last month or so, there has been two really great writeups of the project.
Griffey says the LibraryBox will “take the ‘pirate’ out of PirateBox.” That doesn’t mean exorcising the spirit of the larger PirateBox project, which its creator Darts says was “inspired by the free culture and pirate radio movements” and serves as a “playful remixing of the title of the world’s most resilient bittorrent site, The Pirate Bay.” Rather, replacing “pirate” with “library” makes it more apparent, in Griffey’s case, that this is about open access to information and to books. As he describes some of the inquiries he’s received about the LibraryBox, it’s clear that this device could have enormous potential for boosting literacy and education and for opening access to digital educational materials.
PirateBox alone is a great idea. LibraryBox, says Griffey, is customized to be friendly to library needs. At first I raised an eyebrow at that. What library needs merit a fork? Then I thought of several:
- A primary mission of libraries is to increase access to information. LibraryBox could provide access to information resources in conditions where political oppression is preventing it.
- Sometimes technology is used to block access to information, either through aggressive monitoring, IP blocking, or filtering. LibraryBox is technology that reverses this blocking.
- One of my current interests is the aggregation of distributed data fragments into a whole, especially as the web grows bigger and more complex. Like libraries, LibraryBox is designed to deliver data in highly localized contexts. It is an instant intranet, a domain of knowledge. Lots to think about here.
Go read both stories, and comment if you’re interested in the project.
In other LibraryBox news, I started a Google Groups listserv for the project, in hopes of getting people who are interested talking to one another about it, and generating ideas about use, as well as sharing implementation issues and challenges. Come help define where the project heads next!
I'm Jason Griffey, a librarian, technologist, writer and speaker. This is my personal/professional blog, but I also write Release Candidate (focusing on future tech) and for the ALA TechSource blog. Visit my homepage for more.