Every movie could star Nicolas Cage

Have you heard about deepfakes?  Deepfakes (a combination of the “deep learning” and “fakes”) are "realistic photo, audio, video, and other forgeries generated with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies." You may have seen the PSA Jordan Peele made with BuzzFeed using this technology which appears to be Barack Obama weighing in on a variety of topics and saying things he never said (but which Jordan Peele did say):

Jordan Peele / Obama video:

The technology to create these sorts of videos is becoming cheaper and more mainstream, giving us treats (nightmares?) like these where users have put Nicolas Cage into all sort of movies and situations:

Nic Cage deepfakes mini compilation:

Don't get fooled by deepfakes

The Nic Cage deepfakes above are clearly done with fun in mind, but the technology can also be used for more nefarious purposes. If you see a video of someone doing something shocking or completely out of character, how can you tell if it's true or it's a deepfake?

This BuzzFeed article by Craig Silverman includes some basic tips you can follow to ensure you don’t get fooled easily by deepfakes (read the article for explanations of each item):

  1. Don't jump to conclusions
  2. Consider the source
  3. Check where else it is (and isn't) online
  4. Inspect the mouth
  5. Slow it down

Can you spot the deepfakes?

CNN's page about deepfakes includes a 4-question quiz: https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/01/business/pentagons-race-against-deepfakes/

The MIT Media Lab has an extensive quiz which will let you know after each response if you got it right, and after 10 responses will let you how you rank against other users:  https://detectfakes.media.mit.edu/ 

More than just deepfakes

Misleading videos include more than just AI-generated deepfakes. The Washington Post's "The Fact Checker's guide to manipulated video" spells out many of the ways video can be manipulated to be false or misleading. Good information to know!

Screenshot tips for Windows 10 Snip & Sketch

Awhile back, Andrew introduced some features of the Windows 10 Snip & Sketch tool. Working remotely these days, I've found many occasions to share screenshots with colleagues and staff at libraries. Here are a few more tricks I've discovered:

Windows key + Shift + S: In addition to finding Snip & Sketch in the Start menu, hitting Windows key + Shift + S activates it. Anytime I can save stress on my wrists by typing a key command instead of moving the mouse, I will use it!

Open file: Save a screenshot (or a series of screenshots), and later, use Open File to come back and add annotations to the original file.

Laptop trackpad writing: I've been hesitant to write on screenshots because my writing with a mouse is pretty awful. Using a laptop trackpad with a finger or stylus gives me a slightly less atrocious option to add arrows, highlighting, numbering, etc.

Screenshot pointing out the location of the Open File command

COVID-19 INFODEMIC - Tools for Myth Busters!

As a data specialist (and someone with family members at high risk for COVID-19), I have been following researchers and collecting a personal library of COVID-19 data visualizations, datasets, and scholarly articles. With so much information generated daily, it is hard to keep up and sift through sources to find credible information.

This week, I watched a UW Now Livestream featuring Professor Ajay Sethi on "Confronting Covid-19 Misinformation". In his talk, Professor Sethi shows how our scientific understanding of COVID-19 is improving with time.“The problem, however, is that running in parallel with this expansion of knowledge about COVID-19, is the spread of vast amounts of misinformation and disinformation (misinformation spread deliberately), called the COVID-19 INFODEMIC.” 

Professor Sethi also explores why it may be easy to believe COVID-19 misinformation and offers approaches to confront misinformation in our society. I was intrigued by his example of a fact checking organization, the Corona Virus Facts Alliance, fighting this INFODEMIC. On their website, they have a visualization showing categories of hoaxes with each fact check represented by a circle that you can hover over for details on the falsehood.


The term “COVID-19 INFODEMIC” is new to me, so I wanted to learn more. Here are additional resources I found:

Lastly, check out “Dear Pandemic” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They are a diverse group of public health researchers providing the public with evidence-based answers about COVID-19. 


Your face as big data

Facial_recognitionI wrote this back in early March, just before the world went all topsy-turvy. I'm curious whether anyone feels differently now about facial recognition use by governments than they might have before the pandemic and recent protests.

How would you feel if...

Welcome to the wonderful world of facial recognition. Hello convenience... goodbye privacy!

The New York Times ran an article back in March about a company in the facial recognition software business, and after reading more about this technology I am both fascinated and terrified by the possibilities for its use! This is one of those topics that can't be easily summarized in a short TechBits post but absolutely should be something on public libraries' (and private citizens') radar. If you have a couple of minutes, this Center for the Future of Libraries webpage about facial recognition is a nice overview.  

According to a Pew Research Center study, a majority of Americans (56%) trust law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition technologies responsibly and (59%) think it is acceptable for them to use these tools to assess security threats in public spaces. However, Americans have much less confidence in technology companies or advertisers to use the technology responsibly. Currently, laws governing how this new technology is used are all over the map. A couple of the big concerns with facial recognition are privacy (can a user "opt out"?) and accuracy (facial recognition has been less accurate for anyone not male or white).

Some additional library-focused articles about facial recognition:

What questions do you have about facial recognition software and libraries?
The ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee’s has formed a Facial Recognition Working Group and is compiling a Q&A on the use of facial recognition software in libraries. It should be interesting to read more about this topic when their best practices and guidelines are published.


* shaming you for, say, wearing your pajamas outside ----  or, on the more sinister side, blocking your ability to travel or putting you in a reeducation camp.

Tools for working remotely

I get more work done at home than in the office_I swearHow did you cope with the “Safer at Home” order? Have you been able to work from home? If so, what did your home office setup look like and what are some tools you used to collaborate with other staff and how have you been staying in touch? I’ve mostly been using my dining room table as a desk; my laptop, smartphone, and headset for my primary equipment; and a pen and paper to jot down items for my “To-Do Lists”. This morning I started a “To Don’t List”, so far the only things on it are don’t put a cup of coffee on my “To-Do List” and my cup of coffee.

Our office is fortunate that we are able to work remotely. While doing so we’ve been using a combination of products to keep in touch with each other. For collaboration we use Slack and Google Docs. We also video conference for weekly meetings using Slack, BlueJeans, GoTo Meeting, and Zoom. These tools help keep us in contact with each other and make working from a distance much easier. Google just release Meet, which is now free for all users. I haven't tested it out yet, but it's supposed to be very similar to the other platforms I just mentioned. I'll write a follow-up post about it once I've had a chance to use it.

I would like to add that at this time Bluejeans is the only meeting platform we use that has a toll-free option for calling into meetings.

To keep track of who is using a particular video conferencing account and when it’s in use, we set each one up with a Google calendar so that we can see which account is available for use during a meeting. I color-coded all of the meeting platforms in my calendar with a different shade of green so that I know right away anything in green is a virtual meeting.

In addition to having good collaboration and communication tools, I discovered how important it is to have reliable internet service and to have a back-up plan in place in case I experience any disruption in service (which I did for a week). I have two back-up plans, my first plan is to tether to my cell phone for minor needs and my second back-up plan is to drive to the library and use the wifi from the parking lot for a more reliable signal.

How likely do you think you are going to be allowed to work remotely in the future? Are you preparing for another situation similar to this, if so what are steps you are taking? If you are receiving Techbits through your email click on the title to leave a comment.

Using a stylus to reduce touch screen “touches”

In the previous post, we mentioned that SCLS was looking into testing using a stylus on touch screens. Providing styluses at self checkout machines or other touch screens would give patrons a way to use touch screens without needing to be concerned about cleaning the screen between each patron. You could then just clean the styluses. It would also let the stylus take the wear and tear of cleaning/disinfecting instead of your touch screens.

We ordered a pack and tested them on the selfcheck in our office. The main criteria in choosing the ones we did for the test was that they were in stock and as inexpensive as possible. We then tested the stylus on the selfcheck in the office.

The stylus worked well and did not require a lot of pressure to use. The ones we chose were not fine point models so they were not the best if you were trying to use them on small print but they should work well on anything designed for people to use their fingers.

One thing I don't know what will happen to the styluses over the long term if you use disinfectant or isopropyl alcohol to clean them. I have a feeling that won't be very nice on the finish.  It's also possible repeated exposure to isopropyl alcohol at least will dry out the rubber tip which may cause it to either not work as well or crack and break. I would not recommend soaking the pens either as that might let the tip or the pen itself fill with liquid.

Sanitizing Staff and Patron Electronic Devices

General Guidelines

Operating-system-1995434_1280SCLS recommends these general guidelines regarding sanitizing electronic devices in between staff and patron use:

  • Work with local public health officials and follow their guidelines, especially to establish frequency of cleaning, etc.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instruction for cleaning and disinfecting (see section below).

SCLS Tips (incorporates guidelines from CDC)

  • Wash or sanitize hands before sanitizing equipment.
  • Unplug the devices (mice, keyboard, touch screen monitors, etc.) from the PC. It is not necessary to unplug the power or turn off the PC.
  • If no guidance from manufacturer, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% isopropyl alcohol.
  • Do not spray directly onto the device. Always spray onto a cloth. Do not use paper towels. Microfiber or white/light cotton cloths (including old dish towels or t-shirts) are preferred.
  • Make sure wipes are damp, but not dripping. Dry surface thoroughly.
  • Do not get moisture into any openings, gaps, ports, keyboards, etc.
  • There is a concern that repeated and frequent cleaning of any electronic devices of a long period of time may cause problems. We do not know what the effect will be. These tips are based on manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Wash or sanitize hands after sanitizing equipment.

If all else fails, encourage patrons and staff to wash hands before and after use. Cleaning-service-3591146_1920

Ways to Reduce “Touch” on Touch Screens

  • Provide a stylus per patron that can be cleaned in between use (SCLS is researching these)
  • Reconfigure settings for self-check settings to reduce touch (for example, disable PIN)

Manufacturer’s Instructions

The following are known manufacturer’s instructions:

Encourage Washing Hands Hands-311366_1280

Based on access to cleaning supplies, it may not be feasible to perform frequent, if any, regular cleanings. Encouraging staff and
patrons to wash hands may be your only option. You may post signs regarding proper hand hygiene before and after using the computers to minimize disease transmission. 

Duck Town, Quaranzine, and Stories from a Distance

Last month, Kerri highlighted projects around the state that are documenting COVID-19. Since then, I've come across three project from SCLS libraries to add into the mix.

Ducktown art_editedThe Lodi Woman's Club Public Library received a WiLS Ideas to Action grant in 2019 and created Duck Town. Duck Town is a podcast "that would publish the student work and any oral history recordings we made." During the emergency closure, the project has expanded to include library staff being interviewed about their experiences. As the recordings can be done over the phone, this is a great project to do while working from home.

Madison Public Library recently launched a new collection, Stories from a Distance, as part of their Madison Living History Project. There are 27 stories (so far) about peoples' experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, while learning about this collection, I found out about a podcast called Inside Stories, which is a podcast of Madison stories produced by Jen Rubin and Takeyla Benton. Inside Stories is also featuring stories about COVID-19 and these stories are being archived in Stories from a Distance.

The Monona Public Library is accepting submissions to Quaranzine, a small online publication of local art and writing by the Monona community. When completed, it'll be distributed through the library's website.

Is your library collecting stories during the pandemic? Let us know in the comments.

Relax and Color

File0001265772805With all the stress going on in the world today I thought it might be nice to talk about something that is relaxing and possibly therapeutic. This is something that you may have done as a child. I'm talking about coloring. Yes, the act of taking a coloring utensil and filling in a design outline. It's not just for children anymore. Adults are trying it and loving it, saying that it helps them relax and reduces their stress. This is why over the last decade or so adult coloring books have surged in popularity. When I searched Amazon.com I found that they had over 40,000 of them for sale. For those of you who don't want to wait for an Amazon shipment can search online and find lots of sites that offer free downloads of coloring sheets. One of the best sites I've found is called Just Color. So remember the next time you get stressed out about the Coronavirus just print off a coloring sheet and "Keep Calm and Just Color!"

Archival newspapers and COVID-19

I've posted cool search tips I've read about on the SearchResearch blog before ("Drag and drop for Google Image Search", "Searching with emojis", and "Some Google Image search tips"), but it's been a while and I'd like to give the blog a shout-out again. Daniel Russell, a senior research scientist at Google and author of The joy of search :a Google insider's guide to going beyond the basics, writes the SearchResearch blog and covers helpful search strategies. The usual format is first a post with a search puzzle which you can try to solve. Blog readers will comment on the challenge post with what they think the answer is and how they found it. Then Daniel writes a post about how one might find the information to solve the challenge.

It was fascinating to read some of the articles in local papers -- here's an example from the Portage Daily Register, Oct 25 1918

Recently, he posted this search challenge:

SearchResearch Challenge (4/22/20): The Future Through the Past - Using archival news to see what's next in COVID

which included this question:

  1. Can you find articles from the news archives of 1918 and 1919 that will show us what happened back then, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, give us a clue about what might happen in the months and years ahead?

He also noted, "You'll also have to figure out what questions you might like to see answered about the future course of COVID. Here are some thoughts:

  1. How did your nation recover from the economic downturn caused by the Spanish Flu? What articles can you find that tell us what to look for?
  2. How well did the protests against mask measures work out? Were the protesters successful? What happened to the number of flu cases after people stopped wearing masks?
  3. Was the course of the Spanish Flu pretty simple, or was it (as some have predicted about COVID), fairly up-and-down for quite a while after the initial outbreak?
  4. Why did the Spanish Flu finally go away? (Or did it?) Did someone develop a vaccine for it, or why did it stop being a pandemic?"

You can find the answer to the challenge and additional commentary in these follow-up posts:

They contain some helpful tips for searching archival newspapers, and his research notes for this challenge are a fascinating read. I'd highly recommend the blog challenges if you want to practice your search skills and learn new tricks.