Categories
Personal

New Site, New Look, New Host

After a wonderful decade or more happily paying Blake Carver to host my sites at LISHost, he decided last year to pull the plug on that service. I certainly took long enough, but I’ve finally moved things over to Linode and have everything seemingly running. There’s still tons of broken images, and I’m double checking a few things here and there, but mostly things are all back up and running. Not everything is exactly the same as before, and for my own memory I’ll probably write up a post about exactly what I did so I don’t look back in a year and think “What the hell was that guy thinking?”

But until I get that post up, at least the thing is still humming. Not bad for a site I started in 2003.

I’m also hoping to do a bit more active writing here, in these our times of quarantine and COVID-19. Let’s see if I can manage that.

Categories
Personal

NISO Plus

Since July 1, I’ve been working steadily as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the National Information Standards Organization, and while there’s a ton of work that I can’t talk about just yet, there is one thing that I’m ready to share. On February 23-25th, 2020, a new conference will emerge into the information landscape: NISO Plus.

NISO Plus logo

This conference is being put together in a very different way than some other information conferences. We’re hoping to get vendors, publishers, librarians, archivists, and anyone else involved in the information ecosystem together to tackle common issues and opportunities. The conference is being organized around the idea of conversations…we’ve identified vital topics, and we’re building in time not only for experts and ideas to be presented. I’ve helped put together a schedule that builds in time after each session for conversation and discussion…attendees will have the opportunity to dig in and share common problems and solutions with each other.

All of that, plus Ask the Experts Afternoon, Lightning Talks, Standards updates, popular sessions being repeated to make scheduling easier, a few Introduction to NISO sessions for those that aren’t familiar with the standards work behind so much of modern information, two amazing keynotes, the continuation of the Miles Conrad award from the NFAIS annual conference, a practical Artificial Intelligence preconference…this is going to be a new and different sort of thing.

Come help us inaugurate the NISO Plus conference. February 23-25th in Baltimore, Maryland. All the information you could need can be found at https://niso.plus. If you have any questions, just ask…and if you want to be involved as a speaker, or see an area that you know someone could just knock out of the park, let me know.

Categories
Personal

Layers

When Eliza decided 4 years ago that she wanted to spend her life on stage, I had no idea that what would end up happening is I would come to love theater as well. While she’s performed onstage in productions of Lion King, Seussical, Oliver, Annie, Sweeney Todd and even Cabaret, I’ve been busy off-stage designing and running sound for a number of those same shows, building props, running lights, and generally being an overly-involved theater dad.

One of our local theaters, the Murfreesboro Little Theater, was just condemned by the City of Murfreesboro. The original core of the building was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1939 as a log cabin for local Boy Scouts. While it’s been added on over the years, you could still see the original hand-hewn logs in the main room of the theater.

This is the theater where Eliza performed as Little Alison in the musical Fun Home earlier in the year. I don’t think I can adequately explain how important the role was to her, and how much she grew as an actor by being in it. I loved every single second of seeing her in it, wondering at how strong and capable she was, playing a part that was so emotionally and physically difficult. I think I saw it a half-dozen times, and I cried every single night.

Because of Eliza, I’ve learned a lot that I never knew about theatre the art, and theater the buildings necessary for doing the art. One of my favorite things about theaters is the transformation, the ability of a place to become somewhere else time and time and time again. To achieve this takes work, and skill, and artistry.

Today as I walked across the floor of the MLT for what was likely the very last time, I looked down, and saw this.

Painted theater floor

This is the floor of the theater, but it’s so much more than that. The floor of most theaters is painted for every show, years and years and years of places and people and performances layering themselves under foot. The above image shows what’s likely to be the last two shows ever performed on this particular stage, the green patterned formality of Little Foxes, over the blood-rich red from Fun Home. Under Fun Home are more layers and layers, The Pillowman and Cabaret and Sylvia, just this season. Dozens and dozens of stories hiding underfoot, hidden except for the memories of the people that were there.

I’m thrilled that Eliza was able to be a part of one of the layers. I know that she (and I) will carry the memory of the place with us long after it is gone.

Categories
NISO

Director of Strategic Initiatives

TL;DR – Starting July 1, I will be joining the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) as their new Director of Strategic Initiatives. I am super excited about this.

I am very pleased to announce that starting July 1, I will be joining the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) as their Director of Strategic Initiatives. As anyone who follows me online knows, I’ve been looking around for the right next-step position for myself. I don’t regret my last 5 years running my own company, and it’s given me some of the most meaningful interactions and opportunities of my life. I have, however, realized that while I have loved the work I’ve done over the last 5 years….I hate just about every other aspect of being in business for myself. I’m a builder, a maker, a researcher, a writer, and more, but I’m not someone who enjoys business qua business. I didn’t like that most of my energy had to be devoted to selling myself, to searching for the next gig, or to advertising what I could do.

In my new position, I’ll be both managing a few existing projects for NISO and be in charge of finding, developing, and incubating projects in areas where it looks like NISO could be a force for positive action. I will still be focusing on libraries and library values, but will be taking those beliefs out into a broader stage to publishers and technology companies . I will also still have the opportunity to research, write, and speak about new technologies as they begin to impact the information ecosystem, just as I have for the last decade plus. This combination of project-based work, technology, and working on new initiatives is super exciting to me, and I’m really looking forward to digging in.

I’ll also be working primarily from home here in Tennessee. There will be travel, of course, both to NISO headquarters in Baltimore and to the various conferences and meetings that will need my attention. So don’t think y’all will be getting rid of me in ALA and the like…I will still be active and working to be a part of the community. I will still be writing and publishing and speaking about technology and libraries at every opportunity.

I’m so excited to get started on this next stage of my career. I spoke with a lot of different companies and non-profits in my job search, and the description I kept using was that I was looking for a bigger lever to move the world with. I can only do so much by myself, but with a good team and some effort, it’s possible to move much larger things. I’m very grateful to NISO and especially Todd Carpenter for being willing to give me that bigger lever.

Let’s see what we can move.

Categories
Library Issues Technology

Using TagTeam

When starting the design work on the Blockchain & Decentralization course, I knew that I would have many many more resources that students might find useful than I could possibly assign to them. I wanted to find a way to make those resources easily findable by the students that wanted to dive deeper on any particular piece of the admittedly very complex subject.

Enter TagTeam.

A tool designed originally for the Harvard Open Access Project, and written and supported by a superb group of developers, TagTeam is a librarian’s dream of a web resource collection tool. It allows for, as the documentation so pithily says “folksonomy in, ontology out.” With the ability to add a website to the Hub, allow folksonomy-style tagging when adding…but then, on the backend of the tool, to turn those arbitrary tags into a controlled vocabulary. You can even set up automatic replacements for unwanted tags.

One of my favorite built-in functions is the ability to craft URLs that will drill down to any level of the set of resources you might want: tagger, tag, both, set of tags, in any combination. You can subscribe to RSS feeds that will automatically feed your Hub, and TagTeam also provides the ability to extract resources via RSS or JSON, and to remix feeds while doing so.

There are a few things I’d love to see added to TagTeam. The biggest would be that it would be fantastic to be able to integrate the tagging of a resource with the ability to cache it in some way. The ability to combine TagTeam with a tool like Amber or ArchiveBox would be a fantastic way to ensure the continued availability of webpages, especially for educational use. It would also make TagTeam an amazing curricular tool for Academic Libraries to offer for their campuses (hint, hint).

Overall, I’ve been thrilled with using TagTeam in my course, and can see so many uses for academic libraries to provide an instance for their campuses. If you haven’t seen TagTeam, explore some of the public hubs, and see if it fits in your (or your library’s) toolchain. And if you want to see what sort of resource can be put together using it, take a look at the Hub for the Blockchain course.

Categories
Blockchain Library Issues Technology

Blockchain & Decentralization for the Information Industries

Announcing the launch of the first Massive Open Online Course on Blockchain & Decentralization specifically focused around libraries, museums, archives, publishers, and the rest of the information ecosystem! Registration is now open and the course itself begins March 11th and runs for 6 weeks. Did I mention that the course is free?

I am the course designer and instructor for this MOOC, which is my first time designing a learning experience like this. Myself along with 4 very talented San Jose State University i.School students who will be acting as TAs for the course, will be monitoring the course and participating in the discussion boards to make sure that everyone progresses through the following outcomes.

  • Describe and explain the early uses of distributed ledger technology and the design of current blockchain systems.
  • Recognize the differences and similarities among various decentralized systems, and determine the most appropriate blockchain applications.
  • Compare and evaluate the advantages/disadvantages of using blockchain or other types of technologies for different applications.
  • Identify the ways blockchain can be applied in the information industries.

This course is the penultimate outcome of an IMLS grant given to San Jose State for the Blockchain National Forum, which was held in 2018. The final outcome will be a book which will be published this year, with chapters written by attendees and experts, summarizing and expanding on the lessons from the Forum (full disclosure: I wrote one of the chapters for the book as well).

The course is designed without any expectation that participants know anything about blockchain or decentralized technologies before beginning the course. It will walk you through details and introductions to the technology, all the way through existing services and systems and finally to what a decentralized future might look like. The full course breakdown looks like this:

  • Week 1 – March 11-17
    • Overview and History of Blockchain
  • Week 2 – March 18-24
    • Issues, Considerations, Problems
  • Week 3 – March 25-31
    • Decentralization
  • Week 4 – April 1-7
    • Systems & Services
  • Week 5 – April 8-14
    • Use Cases – Public Libraries, Academic Libraries, Museums, Archives
  • Week 6 – April 15-21
    • Future Directions & Next Steps

The course is a combination of mini-lectures that set up each week’s content, a selection of content relating to the topic (including readings, video, and audio), and then a discussion board where people can ask questions and talk about each week’s topic. At the end of each week there is a short quiz, and successful complete of the quiz will earn badges for each week, as well as a cumulative course badge and certificate at the end.

Please share this announcement widely! I’d like everyone who is even remotely interested in learning about Blockchain and decentralized tech to sign up and work through the course.

I’ll see you March 11th in the course!

Categories
ALA Personal Technology

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Libraries

Cover image of Library Technology Report

Now available is a publication I’m particularly proud of, “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Libraries” from ALA Techsource. I edited the volume, as well as authoring two of the chapters. The real stars are the three other librarians who contributed: Bohyun Kim, Andromeda Yelton, and Craig Boman. Bohyun wrote up her experience at the University of Rhode Island in setting up the first library-based multidisciplinary Artificial Intelligence lab, Andromeda talked about the development and possible future of AI-based library search as illustrated by her fantastic service HAMLET, and finally Craig talked about his experience in attempting AI-driven subject assignment to materials.

I wrote the Introduction, where I try to give a summary of the current state of AI and Machine Learning systems, and show some examples of how they work and are structured in practice. I also am particularly proud of drawing a line from Mary Shelley to the Google Assistant…you’ll have to read it to get the full effect, but here’s a different section to whet your appetite for more AI talk:

What changes in our world when these nonhuman intelligences are no longer unique, or special, or even particularly rare? …. AI and machine learning are becoming so much a part of modern technological experience that often people don’t realize what they are experiencing is a machine learning system. Everyone who owns a smartphone, which in 2018 is 77 percent of the US population, has an AI system in their pocket, because both Google and Apple use AI and machine learning extensively in their mobile devices. AI is used in everything from giving driving directions to identifying objects and scenery in photographs, not to mention the systems behind each company’s artificial agent systems (Google Assistant and Siri, respectively). While we are admittedly still far from strong AI, the ubiquity of weak AI, machine learning, and other new human-like decision-making systems is both deeply concerning and wonderful.

I also wrote the Conclusion and suggested some further reading if people are really interested in diving deeper into the world of AI and ML. In the conclusion, I try to talk about some of the likely near-future aspects of AI, and the impact it is likely to have on the information professions, from individualized AI assistants to intelligent search. From the conclusion:

As with much of the modern world, automating the interaction between humans is often the most difficult challenge, while the interactions between humans and systems are less difficult and are the first to be automated away. In areas where human judgment is needed, we will instead be moving into a world where machine learning systems will abstract human judgment from a training set of many such judgments and learn how to apply a generalized rubric across any new decision point. This change will not require new systems short term, but in the longer term a move to entirely new types of search and discovery that have yet to be invented is very likely.

I hope this work is useful for librarians, libraries, library students, and any other information professional who is trying to wrap their heads around the possibilities and potential for Artificial Intelligence and the world of information creation, consumption, organization, and use.

If your organization would like to talk to me about AI or Machine Learning and how it might make a difference to your business or operations, please get in touch. I’d love to work with you.

Categories
Personal

Future Direction

TL;DR – I am on the job market and actively looking for a full time remote position where I can make a broad difference in democratizing information access.


I am officially on the market for a more traditional job. I enjoy the work I have done for the last few years in consulting and elsewhere, and am incredibly appreciative of the learning and growth that have come with it. Over the last year, I have come to realize that teams are a force multiplier for effort, and I think the most effective place for me right now would be as a part of an organization where I can take advantage of that multiplier to make a difference in the world.

I have a rich background in technology and libraries, and could be successful in a number of roles: product management for technology work, managing a technology team, directing a research unit, acting as an evangelist for technology, and writing/reporting in a more journalistic way. I have managed technology teams both in organizations and independently, have international experience in both academic and public library operations, am regularly invited to consult on emerging technology strategy and planning around the world, and am a respected author and researcher. I created two different open source software/hardware projects, both of which have an active international audience and user base.  My CV is available online, and there are examples of my research, thinking, speaking, software projects, and writing available all over the web. If it involves understanding, communicating about, explaining, creating, or forecasting technology and/or libraries, I’m your person.

So what am I looking for? I would love to be library-focused or library-adjacent, mostly because it’s an area where I have extensive existing connections and knowledge, and can have the most impact to the world. I’m also super interested in socially-responsible technology work, where I can work towards providing increased access to information and have a net-positive effect on society.

I am geographically limited, and am looking for remote work that allows me to work primarily from middle Tennessee. I’m happy to travel occasionally (that’s my situation now), and traveling for work would be great.

If you have a position that you think might be a good fit, or if you just want to reach out to see if there’s anything that might work out to get me on your team, drop me an email or fill out the form below. I’d love to talk.


Contact Me

Categories
Library Issues Maker Personal Technology

Joining MetaLAB

I am beyond thrilled to announce I’ll be working with the outstanding group of scholars and artists at Harvard’s MetaLab this upcoming academic year as an affiliate, working mainly on their Library Test Kitchen project. I’m joining a team with some of my favorite makers and doers, people like Matthew Battles, Sarah Newman, and Jessica Yurkofsky, and many more that I am looking forward to meeting. I’ll still be in TN, working with them remotely and joining the team in Cambridge whenever possible.

I’ve been inspired by their work for years now, especially projects like Electric Campfire, which are right in my sweet spot of making with a goal of increased social connectivity. If you’ve not taken a look at the stuff that LTK has done, browse through and see what might inspire you.

Personally, I’m super excited to stretch my own knowledge of design and making through working with MetaLab. I’ve been consciously paying more attention to the design and making side of my brain recently, and while my instincts are not always to the artistic (I tend toward the more functional) I do have some aesthetic opinions that I like to embed in the work I do. I’m looking forward to expanding this bit of my brain.

Thank you to the gang for inviting me onboard. I’m excited to see what we can do together!

And lastly: MetaLab and Library Test Kitchen will be making an appearance at the 2018 LITA Forum in Minneapolis in November, so watch for more information about that very soon!

Categories
Personal

Libraries as the Last Private Public Space

TL;DR: With the rise of surveillance technologies, and the ever-growing Internet of Things, there is a distinct possibility that in the near future, the library may be the only private public place left in modern society.

The modern world is largely driven by what has been termed “surveillance capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff. Surveillance capitalism is, defined roughly, the monetization of data that is gathered through the observation of individual or group behavior. This data can be gathered voluntarily (by asking users for it), involuntarily (one company gathering information about an individual by taking it from another data source), or via some combination of the two (data that was given freely by the individual, but is later leaked or stolen from the recipient). Almost the entirety of the modern web is predicated on surveillance capitalism, with targeted advertising being the driving force behind many of the largest companies in the world. Nearly every social network (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and the like) are in this category, as are the largest web retailers like Amazon. Google is, famously, not really a search company, nor is it driven by a desire to organize the worlds information. It is an advertising company, with 90% of its revenue coming from some form of advertising that is based on the things it knows about you.

Consider, just as an exercise, how much Google can know about you. If you use the Google search engine, it knows everything you’ve searched for, every result, and every link you’ve clicked to get information. If you use the Chrome browser, then Google has the capacity to know nearly everything. In theory, they can know everything you’ve typed into the address bar, everything you’ve typed into a non-secure form, and more. If you use Gmail, Google scans your email (sent and received) to better target you. Use Google Drive or Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, and those are scanned as well.

The last few months have brought to light the cost to society of surveillance capitalism, in the form of Facebook and the potential influencing of the US elections through automated targeted advertising. There is beginning to be a backlash against this type of data collection, and it’s possible that the near-future may see the rise of regulation and policy to prevent this sort of data from being used in advertising. This isn’t out of the realm of possibility, as the US has a history of federally regulating types of advertising allowed, from type (subliminal advertising) to content (cigarette ads, alcohol ads).

This is likely to be necessary as future hardware developments allow for near-zero-cost low power data collection systems to be implemented ubiquitously throughout our world. Consider the development of a camera module that powers itself, because the sensor is also a solar cell that produces the power necessary to run itself. Due to Moore’s Law and Koomey’s Law, we will soon have the capacity to spread cameras and microphones with cellular and wifi radios attached to them across our environment at incredibly low costs. It is very easy to imagine a future where companies like Google give away packages of these “ubiquity sensors” and use them to harvest data about movement and behavior in the same kind of way that they “give away” Google Maps by harvesting movement information from Android phones.

Once we head further down this road, it is highly possible that we are approaching the end of public spaces being anonymous or private spaces where one can be reasonably certain they aren’t being surveilled. Right now, this is already more or less the case in many cities like London, and we have seen omnipresent surveillance spread across entire counties in the case of somewhere like China.

I say all of this because I believe that not only is privacy and security fundamental to the operation of libraries in the United States, but because I can envision this near-future where libraries may be the last public space that doesn’t surveil you for the purposes of increasing the bottom line of a corporation. This is a space and effort that libraries should embrace, advertise, and focus on…privacy and freedom from surveillance is necessary for a functional democracy, in the same way that the ALA’s Democracy Statement says:

“Democracies need libraries. An informed public constitutes the very foundation of a democracy; after all, democracies are about discourse—discourse among the people. If a free society is to survive, it must ensure the preservation of its records and provide free and open access to this information to all its citizens.”

The power and strength of the library to protect and enable democracy and equity goes farther than the preservation and access to information. Libraries have a duty to the privacy of their patrons, but moreover they have a duty to defend the foundations of democracy itself. In this future world of ubiquitous surveillance, the library has a duty to say no….to provide access to spaces that are not collecting information about what patrons are doing. Libraries are spaces where people should be safe, as safety is a prerequisite for information seeking and understanding. Ubiquitous surveillance is fundamentally unsafe for vulnerable populations of patrons, and libraries have a duty to those patrons to resist the collection and retention of data about individuals.

As a result, the next 5-10 years are going to be incredibly dangerous. Libraries can step up at every level to protect the privacy and security of their community. In order to protect and support the fundamental tenets of our democratic society, libraries must double-down on privacy now by protecting their patron’s data and information seeking, but also be ready to protect their communities by resisting the rise of ubiquitous surveillance in the world.