Bookmarks for October 28, 2014

Today I found the following resources and bookmarked them on <a href=

  • ZenHub.io
    ZenHub provides a project management solution to GitHub with customizable task boards, peer feedback, file uploads, and more.
  • Thingful
    Thingful® is a search engine for the Internet of Things, providing a unique geographical index of connected objects around the world, including energy, radiation, weather, and air quality devices as well as seismographs, iBeacons, ships, aircraft and even animal trackers. Thingful’s powerful search capabilities enable people to find devices, datasets and realtime data sources by geolocation across many popular Internet of Things networks
  • Zanran Numerical Data Search
    Zanran helps you to find ‘semi-structured’ data on the web. This is the numerical data that people have presented as graphs and tables and charts. For example, the data could be a graph in a PDF report, or a table in an Excel spreadsheet, or a barchart shown as an image in an HTML page. This huge amount of information can be difficult to find using conventional search engines, which are focused primarily on finding text rather than graphs, tables and bar charts.
  • Gwittr
    Gwittr is a Twitter API based search website. It allows you to better search any Twitter account for older tweets, linked web pages and pictures.
  • ThingLink
    Easily create interactive images and videos for your websites, infographics, photo galleries, presentations and more!

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IL2014: Driving Our Own Destinies

Internet Librarian

Brendan Howley opened up the Internet Librarian conference this year. Brian designs stories that insight people to “do something”. He’s here to talk to us about the world of media and desired outcomes – specifically the desired outcomes for our libraries. Brendan collected stories from local library constituents to find out what libraries needed to do to get to the next step. He found (among other things) that libraries should be hubs for culture and should connect community media.

Three things internet librarians need to know:

  1. why stories world and what really matters
  2. why networks form (power of the weak not the strong)
  3. why culture eats strategy for lunch (Peter Drucker)

“The internet means that libraries are busting out of their bricks and mortars”

Brendan shared with us how Stories are not about dumping data, they’re about sharing data and teachable moments.

How storytelling effects the brain

Data is a type of story and where data and stories meet is where change found. If you want to speak to your community you need to keep in mind that we’re in a society of “post-everything” – there is only one appetite left in terms of storytelling – “meaning”. People need to find it relevant and find meaning in the story. The most remarkable thing about librarians is that we give “meaning” away every day.

People want to know what we stand for and why – values are the key piece to stories. People want to understand why libraries still exist. People under the age of 35 want to know how to find the truth out there – the reliable sources – they don’t care about digital literacy. It’s those who are scared of being left behind – those over 35 (in general) who care about digital literacy.

The recipe for a successful story is: share the why of the how of what you do.

The sharing of stories creates networks. Networks lead to the opportunity to create value – and when that happens you’ve proved your worth as a civic institution. Networks are the means by which those values spread. They are key to the future of libraries.

A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander is a must read by anyone designing systems/networks.

You need to understand that it’s the weak ties that matter. Strong ties are really quite rare – this sounds a lot like the long tail to me.

Libraries are in the business of giving away context – that means that where stories live, breathe, gather and cause people to do things is in the context. We’re in a position where we can give this context away. Libraries need to understand that we’re cultural entrepreneurs. Influencers fuel culture – and that’s the job description for librarians.

IL2014: More Library Mashups Signing/Talk

I’m headed to Monterey for Internet Librarian this weekend. Don’t miss my talk on Monday afternoon followed by the book signing for More Library Mashups.

From Information Today Inc:

This October, Information Today, Inc.’s most popular authors will be at Internet Librarian 2014. For attendees, it’s the place to meet the industry’s top authors and purchase signed copies of their books at a special 40% discount.

The following authors will be signing at the Information Today, Inc., on Monday, October 27 from 5:00 to 6:00 P.M. during the Grand Opening Reception

Book Signing

Bookmarks for October 24, 2014

Today I found the following resources and bookmarked them on <a href=

  • Klavaro
    Klavaro is just another free touch typing tutor program. We felt like to do it because we became frustrated with the other options, which relied mostly on some few specific keyboards. Klavaro intends to be keyboard and language independent, saving memory and time (and money).

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ATO2014: Lessons from Open Source Schoolhouse

Charlie Reisinger from the Penn Manor School District talked to us next about open source at his school. This was an expanded version of his lightning talk from the other night.

Penn Manor has 9 IT team members – which is a very lean staff for 4500 devices. They also do a lot of their technology in house.

Before we talk about open source we took a tangent in to the nature of education today. School districts are so stuck on the model they’re using and have used for centuries. But today kids can learn anything they would like with a simple connection to the Internet. You can be connected to the most brilliant minds that you’d like. Teachers are no longer the fountains of all knowledge. The classroom hasn’t been transformed by technology – if you walked in to a classroom 60 years ago it would look pretty much like a classroom today.

In schools that do allow students to have laptops they lock them down. This is a terrible model for student inquiry. The reason most of us are here today is because we had a system growing up that we could get in to and try to break/fix/hack.

CharlieSo what is Penn Manor doing differently? First off they’re doing everything with open source. They use Koha, Moodle, Linux, WordPress, Ubuntu, OwnCloud, SIPfoundry and VirtualBox.

This came to them partially out of fiscal necessity. When Apple discontinued the white macbook the school was stuck in a situation where they needed to replace these laptops with some sort of affordable device. Using data they collected from the students laptops they found that students spent most of their time on their laptops in the browser or in a word processor so they decided to install Linux on laptops. Ubuntu was the choice because the state level testing would work on that operating systems.

This worked in elementary, but they needed to scale it up to the high schools which was much harder because each course needed different/specific software. They needed to decide if they could provide a laptop for every student.

The real guiding force in decided to provide one laptop per student was the English department. They said that they needed the best writing device that could be given to them. This knocked out the possibility of giving tablets to all students – instead a laptop allows for this need. Not only did they give all students laptops with Linux installed – they gave them all root access. This required trust! They created policies and told the students they trusted them to use the laptops as responsible learners. How’s that working out? Charlie has had 0 discipline issues associated with that. Now, if they get in to a jam where they screwed up the computer – maybe this isn’t such a bad thing because now they have to learn to fix their mistake.

Open SoftwareThey started this as a pilot program for 90 of their online students before deploying to all 1700 students. These computers include not just productivity software, but Steam! That got the kids attention. When they deployed to everyone though, Steam came off the computers, but the kids knew it was possible so it forced them to figure out how to install it on Linux which is not always self explanatory. This prodded the kids in to learning.

Charlie mentioned that he probably couldn’t have done this 5 years ago because the apps that are available today are so dense and so rich.

There was also the issue of training the staff on the change in software, but also in having all the kids with laptops. This included some training of the parents as well.

Along with the program they created a help desk program as a 4 credit honors level course as independent study for the high school students. They spent the whole time supporting the one to one program (one laptop per student). These students helped with the unpacking, inventorying, and the imaging (github.com/pennmanor/FLDT built by one of the students) of the laptops over 2 days. The key to the program is that the students were treated as equals. This program was was picked up and talked about on Linux.com.

Charlie’s favorite moment of the whole program was watching his students train their peers on how to use these laptops.

ATO2014: Open sourcing the public library

Phil Shapiro one of my fellow opensource.com moderators talked to us next about open source and libraries.

Too many people ask what is the future of libraries and not what “should the future be”. A book that we must read is “Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World“. If we don’t expect more of libraries we’re not going to see libraries change. We have to change the frame of mind that libraries belong the directors – they actually belong to the people and they should be serving the people.

Phil asks how we get some community participate in managing libraries. Start looking at your library’s collection and see if there is at least 1% of the collection in the STEM arena. Should that percent be more? 5%, 10%, more? There is no real answer here, but maybe we need to make a suggestion to our libraries. Maybe instead our funds should go to empower the community more in the technology arena. Maybe we should have co-working space in our library – this can be fee based even – could be something like $30/mo. That would be a way for libraries to help the unemployed and the community as a whole.

Libraries are about so much more than books. People head to the library because they’re wondering about something – so having people who have practical skills on your staff is invaluable. Instead of pointing people to the books on the topic, having someone for them to talk to is a value added service. What are our competitors going to be doing while we’re waiting for the transition from analog to digital to happen in libraries. We need to set some milestones for all libraries. Right now it’s only the wealthy libraries that seem to be moving in this way.

A lot of the suggestions Phil had I’ve seen some of the bigger libraries in the US doing like hosting TED Talks, offering digital issues lectures, etc. You could also invite kids in there to talk about what they know/have learned.

Phil’s quote: “The library fulfills its promise when people of different ages, races, and cultures come together to pool their talents in creating new creative content.” One thing to think about is whether this change from analog to digital can happen in libraries without changing their names. Instead we could call them the digital commons [I'm not sure this is necessary - I see Phil's point - but I think we need to just rebrand libraries and market them properly and keep their name.]

Some awesome libraries include Chattanooga Public Library which has their 4th floor makerspace. In Colorado there are the Anythink Libraries. The Delaware Department of Libraries is creating a new makerspace.

Books are just one of the tools toward helping libraries enhance human dignity – there are so many other ways we can do this.

Phil showed us a video of his:



You can bend the universe by asking questions – so call your library and ask questions about open source or about new technologies so that we plant the seeds of change.

Further reading from Phil: http://sites.google.com/site/librarywritings.

ATO2014: How ‘Open’ Changes Products

Next up at All Things Open was Karen Borchert talking about How ‘Open’ Changes Products.

We started by talking about the open product conundrum. There is a thing that happens when we think about creating products in an open world. In order to understand this we must first understand what a product is. A product is a good, idea, method, information or service that we want to distribute. In open source we think differently about this. We think more about tools and toolkits instead of packages products because these things are more conducive to contribution and extension. With ‘open’ products work a bit more like Ikea – you have all the right pieces and instructions but you have to make something out of it – a table or chair or whatever. Ikea products are toolkits to make things. When we’re talking about software most buyers are thinking what they get out of the box so a toolkit is not a product to our consumers.

A table is not a bikeOpen Atrium is a product that Phase2 produces and people say a lot about it like “It’s an intranet in a box” – but in reality it’s a toolkit. People use it a lot of different ways – some do what you’d expect them to do, others make it completely different. This is the great thing about open source – this causes a problem for us though in open source – because in Karen’s example a table != a bike. “The very thing that makes open source awesome is what makes our product hard to define.”

Defining a product in the open arena is simple – “Making an open source product is about doing what’s needed to start solving a customer problem on day 1.” Why are we even going down this road? Why are we creating products? Making something that is useable out of the box is what people are demanding. They also provide a different opportunity for revenue and profit.

This comes down to three things:

  • Understanding the value
  • Understanding the market
  • Understanding your business model

Adding value to open source is having something that someone who knows better than me put together. If you have an apple you have all you need to grow your own apples, but you’re not going to both to do that. You’d rather (or most people would rather) leave that to the expert – the farmer. Just because anyone can take the toolkit and build whatever they want with it that they will.

Two marketsMarkets are hard for us in open source because we have two markets – one that gives the product credibility and one that makes money – and often these aren’t the same market. Most of the time the community isn’t paying you for the product – they are usually other developers or people using it to sell to their clients. You need this market because you do benefit from it even if it’s not financially. You also need to work about the people who will pay you for the product and services. You have to invest in both markets to help your product succeed.

Business modelBusiness models include the ability to have two licenses – two versions of the product. There is a model around paid plugins or themes to enhance a product. And sometimes you see services built around the product. These are not all of the business models, but they are a few of the options. People buy many things in open products: themes, hosting, training, content, etc.

What about services? Services can be really important in any business model. You don’t have to deliver a completely custom set of services every time you deliver. It’s not less of a product because it’s centered around services.

Questions people ask?

Is it going to be expensive to deal with an open source product? Not necessarily but it’s not going to be free. We need to plan and budget properly and invest properly.

Am I going to make money on my product this year?
Maybe – but you shouldn’t count on it. Don’t bet the farm on your product business until you’ve tested the market.

Everyone charges $10/mo for this so I’m just going to charge that – is that cool? Nope! You need to charge what the product is worth and what people will pay for it and what you can afford to sell it for. Think about your ROI.

I’m not sure we want to be a products company. It’s very hard to be a product company without buy in. A lot of service companies ask this. Consider instead a pilot program and set a budget to test out this new model. Write a business plan.

ATO2014: Women in Open Source Panel

Over lunch today we had a panel of 6 women in open source talk to us.

The first question was about their earlier days – what made them interested in open source or computer science or all of it.

Intros

Megan started in humanities and then just stumbled in to computer programming. Once she got in to it she really enjoyed it though. Elizabeth got involved with Linux through a boyfriend early on. She really fell in love with Linux because she was able to do anything she wanted with it. She joined the local Linux users group and they were really supportive and never really made a big deal about the fact that she was a woman. Her first task in the open source world was writing documentation (which was really hard) but from there her career grew. Erica has been involved in technology all her life (which she blames her brother for). When she went to school, she wanted to be creative and study arts, but her father gave her the real life speech and she realized that computer programming let her be creative and practical at the same time. Estelle started by studying architecture which was more sexist than her computer science program – toward the end of her college career she found that she was teaching people to use their computers. Karen was always the geekiest person she knew growing up – and her father really encouraged her. She went to engineering school and it wasn’t until she set up her Unix account at the college computer center. She got passionate in open source because of the pacemaker she needs to live – she realized that the entire system is completely proprietary and started thinking about the implications of that.

The career path

Estelle has noticed in the open source world that the men she knows on her level work for big corporations where as the women are working for themselves. This was because there aren’t as many options to move up the ladder. Now as for why she picked the career she picked it was because her parents were sexist and she wanted to piss them off! Elizabeth noticed that a lot of women get involved in open source because they’re recruited in to a volunteer organization. She also notices that more women are being paid to work on open source whereas men are doing it for fun more. Megan had never been interviewed by or worked for a woman until she joined academia. Erica noticed that the career path of women she has met is more convoluted than that of the men she has met. The men take computer science classes and then go in to the field, women however didn’t always know that these opportunities were available to them originally. Karen sees that women who are junior have to work a lot harder – they have to justify their work more often [this is something I totally had to deal with in the past]. Women in these fields get so tired because it’s so much work – so they move on to do something else. Erica says this is partially why she has gone to work for herself because she gets to push forward her own ideas. Megan says that there are a lot of factors that are involved in this problem – it’s not just one thing.

Is diversity important in technology?

Erica feels that if you’re building software for people you need ‘people’ not just one type of person working on the project. Megan says that a variety perspectives is necessary. Estelle says that because women often follow a different path to technology it adds even more diversity than just gender [I for example got in to the field because of my literature degree and the fact that I could write content for the website]. It’s also important to note that diversity isn’t just about gender – but so much more. Karen pointed out that even at 20 months old we’re teaching girls and boys differently – we start teaching boys math and problem solving earlier and we help the girls for longer. This reinforces the gender roles we see today. Elizabeth feels that diversity is needed to engage more talent in general.

What can we do to change the tide?

Megan likes to provide a variety in the types of problems she provides in her classes, with a variety of approaches so that it hits a variety of students instead of alienating those who don’t learn the way she’s teaching. Karen wants us to help women from being overlooked. When a woman make a suggestion acknowledge it – also stop people from interrupting women (because we are interrupted more). Don’t just repeat what the woman says but amplify it. Estelle brings up an example from SurveyMonkey – they have a mentorship program and also offer you to take off when you need to (very good for parents). Erica tries to get to youth before the preconceptions form that technology is for boys. One of the things she noticed was that language matters as well – telling girls you’re going to teach them to code turns them off, but saying we’re going to create apps gets them excited. Elizabeth echoed the language issue – a lot of the job ads are geared toward men as well. Editing your job ads will actually attract more women.

What have you done in your career that you’re most proud of?

Estelle’s example is not related to technology – it was an organization called POWER that was meant to help students who were very likely to have a child before graduation – graduate without before becoming a parent. It didn’t matter what what field they went in to – just that the finished high school. Erica is proud that she has a background that lets her mentor so many people. Elizabeth wrote a book! It was on her bucket list and now she has a second book in the works. It was something she never thought she could do and she did. She also said that it feels great to be a mentor to other women. Megan is just super proud of her students and watching them grow up and get jobs and be successful. Karen is mostly proud of the fact that she was able to turn something that was so scary (her heart condition) in to a way to articulate that free software is so important. She loves hearing others tell her story to other people to explain why freedom in software is so important.