Release_Candidate Uncategorized


This is _brilliant_. So many possibilities, esp since we know that voice assistants can be controlled via subsonics and other audio trickery. Middle-manning them in this way is an amazing technical feat, but will be easier and easier over time.

Alias is a teachable “parasite” that is designed to give users more control over their smart assistants, both when it comes to customisation and privacy. Through a simple app the user can train Alias to react on a custom wake-word/sound, and once trained, Alias can take control over your home assistant by activating it for you.

Source: Bjørn Karmann › project_alias

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.

Internet of Things Release_Candidate

Hacking e-scooters

…with hundreds of these scooters abandoned and rotting in impound lots, likely never to be recovered, maybe now is a good time to invest in a $30 scooter “conversion kit”, which ships direct from China, and plugs-and-plays to convert one of these scooters to a “personal scooter,” with all recovery and payment components permanently disabled.

Source: $30 plug-and-play kit converts a Bird scooter into a “personal scooter” / Boing Boing


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

Release_Candidate Uncategorized

Magic Leap One: Creator Edition

After years of hype, the Magic Leap One is finally available for purchase…at least, for those developers lucky enough to live in certain parts of the US. They are limiting purchasing for now to certain geographic areas (you have to enter your ZIP to see if you are in a lucky area). The headsets start at $2295, so they aren’t cheap, but given the promise of AR and the hype behind Magic Leap, I think they are worth looking at for libraries that are getting into AR.

Check their “experiences” page to get a better idea of the sort of craziness that is coming with AR.

Source: Magic Leap One: Creator Edition | Magic Leap

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!

AR/VR Release_Candidate

Lightform Projection Mapping

About three years ago I was talking with a Very Large Library about their desire to put in a video wall as an art piece, and given the shape and size of the space I tried very hard to talk them into projection mapping instead. They didn’t get it, but this might make it easy enough for libraries to use as a display option for some spaces….if i were running a library, I’d want one of these to play with as far as displays and signage.


FutureTech Machine Learning/AI Release_Candidate

Deep Video Portraits – SIGGRAPH 2018

Yep. This is terrifying. Amazing, nearly unbelievably good…and terrifying. Just watch it.

Machine Learning/AI Release_Candidate

Google Assistant making a phone call

How about those voice assistants now? This is very, very impressive. Apple and Amazon both have some catching up to do here….


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.