Being ok with asking

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After my own attempt at ask-economics for CES in January, the TED talk by Amanda Palmer entitled The Art of Asking rang in my head after watching it. So many interesting things to draw from that, but the one I’m holding on to for the moment is Trust. Trust your audience, and keep asking when you need. So I will, when I need.


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.


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.


Makerbot CES 2013 Announcements

Bre Pettis with Makerbot Replicator 2XSome great news from Makerbot Industries today at CES 2013. Everyone’s favorite 3D printing company had three big announcements earlier today,and I was lucky enough to get to speak with Bre Pettis again (video on the way).

First up was the new hardware, the Makerbot Replicator 2X. An updated version of the Makerbot Replicator 2 that was announced late in 2012, now optimized for ABS plastic printing with an enclosed build area, heated build plate, dual extrusion, and a newly-redesigned build plate that Makerbot promises is thicker, flatter, and easier to maintain than ever. The original Replicator 2 was optimized for PLA plastic, a much more forgiving and easier to work with material. But serious hobbyists were really disappointed in the lack of ABS support, and it looks like the 2X is Makerbot’s answer. It’s coming out of the gate at $2799, available to order now.

The second announcement was an update to their new printing software, Makerware. The update will include support for dual extrusion in the layout process, enabling users to place multiple objects on the virtual build plate and choose the color for each on the fly.

The third announcement is one of the most interesting for libraries, I think. Makerbot’s online resource for printable objects, Thingiverse, has been updated to include an API. The Thingiverse API comes complete with a demo app, the Makerbot Customizer, a webapp that allows for easy, on the fly, in the browser altering of existing 3D objects. Very exciting stuff can be done with this moving forward, and I’m really interested to see how it might be used.


How CES works

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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.


Trend #1 – Sensors everywhere

I have talked before about the lowering cost and ubiquitous appearance of small sensors…accelerometers, compasses, and more. These are exploding right now in the form of health and fitness monitors, but are starting to expand into toys (Little Bits and ATOMS) and other lower price point devices. Combine these with 3D visual sensors like the Leap and the Kinect (always keep in mind that anything that acts as a controller can also act as a sensor) and you’ve got the potential for measuring more and more things about the world and people in your libraries.

One of the recurring themes that I’ve seen thusfar at CES2013 is just that _everything_ now has robust digital sensors that measure movement, tilt, direction, and even heat and pressure. These are showing up everywhere, and the fact that they can be sold in a toy for about $10 should show that their ubiquity is likely to keep growing.

I’ve talked about my idea for building a “watch the shelves” system from a Kinect and a small server, and remain convinced that there is something about to happen regarding the ability to generate and analyze new and interesting pieces of data about the physical spaces in libraries. With more and more ways to easily and cheaply measure movement and interaction within our spaces, there is the potential for better and better use of the spaces in question. Of course, the flip side of that is that we may discover that some of our sacred cows aren’t nearly as valuable as we imagine them to be.

If you COULD measure movement of people inside your library, what would you measure? Movement through stacks seems the most obvious, but what other uses could we put cheap people counters to? What other information should we be collecting?


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.

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.