Thursday Threads: Advertising and Privacy, Giving Away Linux, A View of the Future

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In just a few weeks there will be a gathering of 25,000 librarians in the streets of San Francisco for the American Library Association annual meeting. The topics on my mind as the meeting draws closer? How patrons intersect with advertising and privacy when using our services. What one person can do to level the information access divide using free software. Where is technology in our society going to take us next. Heady topics for heady times.

NOTE! On a personal note: funding for my current position at LYRASIS runs out at the end of June, so I am looking for my next challenge. Check out my resume/c.v. and please let me know of job opportunities in library technology, open source, and/or community engagement.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my Pinboard bookmarks (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Items posted to are also sent out as tweets; you can follow me on Twitter. Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Internet Users Don’t Care For Ads and Do Care About Privacy

In advertising, an old adage holds, half the money spent is wasted; the problem is that no one knows which half. This should be less of a problem in online advertising, since readers’ tastes and habits can be tracked, and ads tailored accordingly. But consumers are increasingly using software that blocks advertising on the websites they visit. If current trends continue, the saying in the industry may well become that half the ads aimed at consumers never reach their screens. This puts at risk online publishing’s dominant business model, in which consumers get content and services free in return for granting advertisers access to their eyeballs.

A new report into U.S. consumers’ attitude to the collection of personal data has highlighted the disconnect between commercial claims that web users are happy to trade privacy in exchange for ‘benefits’ like discounts. On the contrary, it asserts that a large majority of web users are not at all happy, but rather feel powerless to stop their data being harvested and used by marketers.

The Online Privacy Lie Is Unraveling, by Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch, 6-Jun-2015

This week The Economist printed a story about how users are starting to use software in their desktop and mobile browsers to block advertisements, and what the reaction may be from websites that rely on advertising to fund their activities. I found it interesting that “younger consumers seem especially intolerant of intrusive ads” and as they get older, of course, more of the population would be using ad-blocking software. Reactions range from gentle prodding to support the website in other ways, lawsuits against the makers of ad-blocking software, and mixing advertising with editorial content.

Also this week the news outlet TechCrunch reported on a study by the Annenberg School for Communication on how “a majority of Americans are resigned to giving up their data” when they “[believe] an undesirable outcome is inevitable and [feel] powerless to stop it.” This sort of thing is coming up in the NISO Patron Privacy working group discussions that have occurred over the past couple weeks and will culminate in a day-and-a-half working meeting at ALA. It is also something that I have been blogging about recently as well.

Welcome to America: Here’s your Linux computer

So, the following Monday I delivered a lovely Core2Duo desktop computer system with Linux Mint 17.1 XFCE installed. This computer was recently surplussed from the public library where I work. Installed on the computer was:

  • LibreOffice, for writing and documenting
  • Klavaro, a touch-typing tutor
  • TuxPaint, a painting program for kids
  • Scratch, to learn computer programming
  • TeamViewer, so I can volunteer to remotely support this computer

In 10 years time, these kids and their mom may well remember that first Linux computer the family received. Tux was there, as I see it, waiting to welcome these youth to their new country. Without Linux, that surplussed computer might have gotten trashed. Now that computer will get two, four, or maybe even six more years use from students who really value what it has to offer them.

This is a heartwarming story of making something out of nearly nothing: a surplus computer, free software, and a little effort. This is a great example of how one person can make a significant difference for a needy family.

What Silicon Valley Can Learn From Seoul

“When I was in S.F., we called it the mobile capital of the world,” [Mike Kim] said. “But I was blown away because Korea is three or four years ahead.” Back home, Kim said, people celebrate when a public park gets Wi-Fi. But in Seoul, even subway straphangers can stream movies on their phones, deep beneath the ground. “When I go back to the U.S., it feels like the Dark Ages,” he said. “It’s just not there yet.”

What Silicon Valley Can Learn From Seoul, by Jenna Wortham, New York Times Magazine, 2-Jun-2015

What is moving the pace of technology faster than Silicon Valley? South Korea. Might that country’s citizens be divining the path that the rest of us will follow?

Thursday Threads: History of the Future, Kuali change-of-focus, 2018 Mindset List

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This weeks threads are a mixture of the future, the present and the past. Starting things off is A History of the Future in 100 Objects, a revealing look at what technology and society has in store for us. Parts of this resource are available freely on the website with the rest available as a $5 e-book. Next, in the present, is the decision by the Kuali Foundation to shift to a for-profit model and what it means for open source in the academic domain. And finally, a look at the past with the mindset list for the class of 2018 from Beloit College.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my Pinboard bookmarks (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Items posted to are also sent out as tweets; you can follow me on Twitter. Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

A History of the Future in 100 Objects

What are the 100 objects that future historians will pick to define our 21st century? A javelin thrown by an ‘enhanced’ Paralympian, far further than any normal human? Virtual reality interrogation equipment used by police forces? The world’s most expensive glass of water, mined from the moons of Mars? Or desire modification drugs that fuel a brand new religion?
A History of the Future in 100 Objects describes a hundred slices of the future of everything, spanning politics, technology, art, religion, and entertainment. Some of the objects are described by future historians; others through found materials, short stories, or dialogues. All come from a very real future.

I was turned on to this book-slash-website-slash-resource by a tweet from Herbert Von de Sompel:

— Herbert (@hvdsomp) August 21, 2014

The name is intriguing, right? I mean, A History of the Future in 100 Objects? What does it mean to have a “History of the Future”?

The answer is an intriguing book that places the reader in the year 2082 looking back at the previous 68 years. (Yes, if you are doing the math, the book starts with objects from 2014.) Whether it is high-tech gizmos or the impact of world events, the author makes a projection of what might happen by telling the brief story of an artifact. For those in the library arena, you want to read about the reading rooms of 2030, but I really suggest starting at the beginning and working your way through the vignettes from the book that the author has published on the website. There is a link in the header of each pages that points to e-book purchasing options.

Kuali Reboots Itself into a Commercial Entity

Despite the positioning that this change is about innovating into the next decade, there is much more to this change than might be apparent on the surface. The creation of a for-profit entity to “lead the development and ongoing support” and to enable “an additional path for investment to accelerate existing and create new Kuali products fundamentally moves Kuali away from the community source model. Member institutions will no longer have voting rights for Kuali projects but will instead be able to “sit on customer councils and will give feedback about design and priority”. Given such a transformative change to the underlying model, there are some big questions to address.

As Phil noted in yesterday’s post, Kuali is moving to a for-profit model, and it looks like it is motivated more by sustainability pressures than by some grand affirmative vision for the organization. There has been a long-term debate in higher education about the value of “community source,” which is a particular governance and funding model for open source projects. This debate is arguably one of the reasons why Indiana University left the Sakai Foundation (as I will get into later in this post). At the moment, Kuali is easily the most high-profile and well-funded project that still identifies itself as Community Source. The fact that this project, led by the single most vocal proponent for the Community Source model, is moving to a different model strongly suggests that Community Source has failed.
It’s worth taking some time to talk about why it has failed, because the story has implications for a wide range of open-licensed educational projects. For example, it is very relevant to my recent post on business models for Open Educational Resources (OER).

I touched on the cosmic shift in the direction of Kuali on DLTJ last week, but these two pieces from Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein on the e-Literate blog. I have certainly been a proponent of the open source method of building software and the need for sustainable open source software to develop a community around that software. But I can’t help but think there is more to this story than meets the eye: that there is something about a lack of faith by senior university administrators in having their own staff own the needs and issues of their institutions. Or maybe it has something to do with the high levels of fiscal commitment to elaborate “community source” governance structures. In thinking about what happened with Kuali, I can’t help but compare it to the reality of Project Hydra, where libraries participate with in-kind donations of staff time, travel expenses and good will to a self-governing organization that has only as much structure as it needs.

The 2018 Mindset List

Students heading into their first year of college this year were generally born in 1996.

Among those who have never been alive in their lifetime are Tupac Shakur, JonBenet Ramsey, Carl Sagan, and Tiny Tim.

On Parents’ Weekend, they may want to watch out in case Madonna shows up to see daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon or Sylvester Stallone comes to see daughter Sophia.

For students entering college this fall in the Class of 2018…

2018 List, by Tom McBride and Ron Nief, Beloit College Mindset List

So begins the annual “mindset list” — a tool originally developed to help the Beloit College instructors use cultural references that were relevant to the students entering their classrooms. I didn’t see as much buzz about it this year in my social circles, so I wanted to call it out (if for no other reason than to make you feel just a little older…).

Thursday Threads: Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards

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As the last DLTJ Thursday Threads of the year, the stories in this post look back to what we saw in 2011 and look forward to what we may see in 2012. Looking backwards is a list of five things we learned about publishing from O’Reilly Media and Google’s 3-minute Zeitgeist video. Looking forward are a list of predictions from Fast Company and from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts in the UK. At this high point when 2011 is slowing and we start down the hill of 2012, I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Five things we learned about publishing in 2011

  1. Amazon is, indeed, a disruptive publishing competitor
  2. Publishers aren’t necessary to publishing
  3. Readers sure do like ebooks
  4. HTML5 is an important publishing technology
  5. DRM is full of unintended consequences

I think we can add a sixth thing: The relationship between libraries and publishers is no longer a passive one. Although libraries and publishers were always intertwined, this year we saw more stories where they came head-to-head (HarperCollins/OverDrive and Authors Guild versus HathiTrust) and side-by-side (Douglas County’s Ebook Lending). I expect we will see this trend continue in 2012.

Google’s Year in Review

Within the frame of Google’s newly launched Google+ project, this three minute video provides a perspective on the top news stories of the year.

10 Bold Tech Predictions For 2012

  1. Social business will take off in 2012, but companies will struggle to adopt.
  2. A significant failure in a popular cloud service will set the cloud movement back.
  3. Mobile IT will grow slowly in the enterprise.
  4. Organizations will increase IT infrastructure investments.
  5. An iPad tablet alternative will emerge out of the fragmented Android market.
  6. Android vs. iOS 2012.
  7. eBooks will dominate.
  8. Information overload will get much worse.
  9. Consolidation in the social business/enterprise collaboration market.
  10. A significant new player will emerge in the social networking space.

A couple things for libraries to watch in this list. I don’t know if eBooks will dominate, but they will certainly become more prevalent. The first quarter 2012 sales for ebooks will be interesting because many people are expecting a bump in sales that corresponds with e-reader gifts. (Helped, no doubt, by the introduction of the new Kindle models late in the year.) Look for libraries to publish statistics of lending as well, although one wonders how much “head room” is left in the lendable collections after the last surge of e-reader sales. Given that budgets in libraries — and the cities/states/universities over them — tend to lag the business world, I’m not sure that IT spending in libraries will increase although there is some infrastructure that really needs to be updated. And personally I think libraries should punt on the whole Android versus iOS debate and design for a mobile, HTML5-based world.

12 predictions for 2012

  1. Innovation for frugality: This year innovators will become thriftier
  2. Raspberry Pi and the rise of the cheap computer: We’ll see a return to home programming
  3. Massively connected: The Internet of Things will come of age
  4. Healthy appetite for tech: Our approach to health will become more like a running club
  5. The rise of the new reporter: Data journalism will defy the decline of the printed press
  6. Your mobile wallet: Technology enabling our phones to act as mobile wallets will finally break through
  7. Seeing the impact in impact investing: The impact investment industry will step up a gear
  8. The death and life of great public servants: A growing movement of leaders will challenge the separation of public and private sectors
  9. 3D printing: The next Industrial Revolution will continue to pick up steam
  10. Educated gamers: Next Christmas the games will be much more serious
  11. The year of the crowdfunder: 2012 will prove an important year for the evolution of business funding
  12. Outside the Box: Next year we’ll see a seismic shift in how we understand, view and make television
12 predictions for 2012, National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (UK)

This list comes from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts in the U.K., so I think some of the predictions are specific to that country (the mobile wallet prediction, in particular), but I believe most of these are pretty general for the U.S. as well.

Charleston, SC Visitor’s Center A/V Display

First, sorry about this getting posted prematurely through the DLTJ blog. I was trying the post-from-Flickr function, and it was telling me that the posting wasn’t working. So, it got posted here twice. And it got posted before I was ready; I was hoping it would land in the draft queue so I could edit it with further commentary. Oh, well; live and learn.

Charleston, SC Visitor's Center A/V Display

I’m visiting Charleston, South Carolina, and was struck — from a technical perspective — on the welcome display at the entrance to the visitor’s center. If you click through to the picture on Flickr, you can see the notes associated with the various parts of the display. But, basically, it consists of a data projector back-lighting a floating screen in front of a pedestal. Mounted on the pedestal is a trackball and button that control the interactive system displaying graphics on the data projector. Mounted above the pedestal is a sound dome directing the audio to just the people below the pedestal. There are four of these at the corners of a map of historic Charleston embedded in below the surface of the floor. The result is a very airy feeling with a high degree of technical usability without the technology getting in the way.

From Joshua Kim, Ideas for Working with Vendors

Joshua Kim, senior learning technologist and an adjunct in sociology at Dartmouth College, recently had a series of posts about working with software vendors. Although Joshua’s focus is with learning technologies (course management systems, lecture capture systems, etc.), these are general enough to be useful in a variety of library environments as well. His posts, hosted by Inside Higher Ed, were:

Here are descriptions or excerpts from each of the posts.
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