Help measure residential internet speeds in your community

This post is adapted from the DPI Broadband Speed Test Tookit prepared by IFLS Library System.

DPI is committed to improving digital equity in the state of Wisconsin. This year, they’re collecting data about internet speeds across the state. They need your help!

What they’re doing

DPI is collaborating with Measurement Lab (M-Lab) to collect data on internet connection speeds across Wisconsin. DPI will use M-Lab’s internet speed test data to create detailed reports and to provide maps of internet speeds across the state.

Why they’re doing it

The data will give the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access (and other broadband task groups) the information they need to target improvements where internet speeds and performance are poor. 

Your input is critical

In order to get an accurate picture of the state, we need a lot of accurate data. That’s where you come in. The more data M-Lab can collect, the better we can model internet connection speeds across the state.

How you can help

  • Include a link to the M-Lab Speed Test on your library websites, Facebook pages, and any other communication platforms your library uses. The URL to link to the speed test is https://speed.measurementlab.net/#/.

  • Encourage community members to test their internet connection speeds at home, several times if possible! Include this in e-mails and newsletters, tuck into pick-up bags, encourage your trustees and volunteers to participate and share.

  • Share the URLs of pages where you have posted the link, so DPI can get an idea of how the speed test is being promoted around the state. (They’re looking for your social media posts as well as your website.)

Suggested language

Facebook-cover-for-dpi-testing-1280x487

Toolkit

Kudos to IFLS Library System for sharing a toolkit with graphics to use for websites, social media posts, Facebook headers, newsletters, and bag-stuffers.

Cameras for virtual programing

Canon M50 III think virtual programs are going to be part of everyday life in libraries going forward, at least in some small part. So, I thought I would share with you some research I’ve been doing on tech gear you might want to use for your programs. I was going to write one complete post about all the gear I’ve come across over the last several months, but that would make for a long and boring post. Instead, I thought I would start with a short and boring post about cameras.

You’ve probably already been doing some form of virtual programming with a webcam or your phone which has probably worked alright for you so far. But, if you want to make your programs look better, you could upgrade to a digital camera designed with vlogging in mind.

When purchasing a camera to record programs or for live streams, I have 5 criteria to consider:

  • Articulating screen; so you can flip it around and see if you are in the frame
  • External mic jack; so you can connect a shotgun or lavaliere mic to the camera
  • Full HD recording; If the camera says HD 720 P, it’s not full HD
  • Good auto-focusing and tracking; this means the camera can quickly and quietly focus on a subject while moving around
  • HDMI output; for live streaming

If you find a camera that meets the first 4 criteria, you are well on your way to making your virtual programming better quality and easier on yourself.

Two cameras that came out in 2020 that I’m excited about are the Sony ZV-1 which was released in April and the Canon M50 mark II released in October. Both cameras meet all 5 criteria listed above and both go beyond by also offering 4K video. The biggest difference between these two cameras is the Sony ZV-1 is a Point and Shoot, meaning it has a fixed lens. The Canon camera is mirrorless which accommodates interchangeable lenses.

I struggled to find anything negative about either of these cameras. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that they both have a short battery life when recording video. Both cameras can overcome that, though. The Sony camera comes with a USB cable you can connect to a USB power source to keep the camera powered up while recording, and you can purchase a dummy battery with a power cable for the Canon camera.

These cameras cost anywhere between $700.00 - $800.00. If you would like to spend a little less and you’re not too concerned about the quality of live streaming the original Canon M50 can still be picked up new for around $650.00. If that’s still out of your price range you might be able to find a used Canon Rebel T5i or T6i that would give you the first 4 criteria and a USB port out for even less.

My intention here isn’t to go into great detail about either camera, you can find quite a lot of information online about both cameras, I just wanted to let you know these are available.
In a future post, I’ll write about microphones, lighting equipment, and stands.

Check out these videos for more information about each camera.

 

Spotting a dark pattern on the web

A few days ago I was present for an excellent discussion that was briefly side-tracked by confusion about the pricing of a newsletter service which is widely used by libraries. Here's roughly what the fly on the wall (me) heard:

Librarian A: "We have 20,000 subscribers, so we're paying over $1000 for Service X."

Librarian B: "What?! Service X says they only charge $15/month for 100,000 subscribers!"

Frustratingly, the company's own pricing page was the source of the confusion because it's an example of a dark pattern: "a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying overpriced insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills" (Wikipedia).

Because recognizing dark patterns is key to avoiding their tricks, let's take a quick look at what that pricing page says about their Standard Plan, near the top of the page:

Screenshot 2020-10-16 170927Did you notice that small-print "Starting at $14.99" language? I didn't, at first, but it matters in a big way. (If you click the big "Select" button, you're asked to sign up for an account, gradually making you more invested in the service without being entirely clear about the price you'll pay—and you have to actively check a box to OPT OUT of receiving their marketing spam.) When we scroll further on the pricing page and interact with the price chart, by choosing the specific range of contacts, THEN we see that 20,000 subscribers is, indeed, a great deal more than $15/month!

Screenshot 2020-10-16 171930

Irksome, isn't it? They haven't tricked us into doing anything (yet), but they're chipping away at our resistance to signing up by featuring a price that seems like a better value than it really is. That's a dark pattern!

Next time you're shopping online or signing up for a new service, keep a lookout for anything misleading or deceptive about the process—you may be interacting with a dark pattern. (And if you, like me, need to see some dark patterns analyzed and cataloged, there is website and a hashtag to shame the offenders and air our collective grievance.)

Critter problems in the garden

I think I have a critter problem in my garden...

(link to video)

T-rex

 

Pretty nifty, huh? When you search Google, you can now view some search results in 3D and augmented reality

I searched a T-rex and chose to view in 3D and then view it in my (garden) space.

I'm not sure if this has a practical library application (is there a way to work it into programming? fun video for the library's Facebook page?), but I'm sure we'll be seeing more and more of this sort of VR/AR available.

To embed the video in the post on the TechBits blog, I uploaded it to my Google Drive account, shared it, and used select bits of this webpage to find the embed code.

 

Twitch and Discord

Twitch-3372590_1280What do you think of when you see those two words? Did you think of public libraries and programming? I didn't! I recently attended the ALA Virtual Conference and as I was browsing through the program options, I came across this one: Twitch & Discord in Public Libraries: New Opportunities for Adult Services.

Until I read the description of the program, I didn't know that Twitch is a streaming platform and that Discord is an online platform for communication and collaboration. The speakers, Lorin Flores and Michael Dunbar-Rodney, are from San Antonio Public Library and shared how they and other libraries are using Twitch and Discord in their libraries for adult programming including online workshops, book clubs, gaming, and more. Their presentation included some emerging best practices as this is a really new space for libraries.

You can find out more about Twitch and Discord in libraries by visiting the Libguide that Lorin and Michael created and are continuing to update. In addition to their presentation slides, there is a large list of references for you to visit. American Libraries blog posted an article recapping their presentation, too.

Have you used Twitch or Discord in your libraries? We'd love to hear about your experiences. Please share in the comments.

*Image from Pixabay

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 sorts 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!

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.

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!"

Keeping an eye on trends

LibraryTrendsWhile doing a little research for an upcoming TechBits post, I was introduced to the "Center for the Future of Libraries." This organization works to:

  • Identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve.
  • Promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future.
  • Build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues.

They put out a newsletter, "Read for Later," which provides a weekly wrap-up of news and articles that indicate possible trends and changes that could affect libraries and the communities we serve. You can sign up and have the newsletter delivered via email or view past issues in a browser or with an RSS feed reader.

They also maintain a webpage of trends relevant to libraries and librarianship. From their webpage:

"This collection is available to help libraries and librarians understand how trends are developing and why they matter. Each trend is updated as new reports and articles are made available. New trends will be added as they are developed."

Best of CES 2020: Emerging Technology for Libraries

If you have an hour to spare and an interest in how emerging new technologies might be used in libraries, I'd highly recommend this recorded webinar from Florida Library Webinars:

https://floridalibrarywebinars.org/best-of-ces-2020-emerging-technology-for-libraries/

In the recorded webinar, librarian Diana Silveira reviews the newest trends, devices and innovations with a focus on which technologies can benefit libraries today and tomorrow, and what users may be asking about in the upcoming year.

Holograms, interactive screens, vein authentication, AR, VR, foldable and bendable screens, robots, drones, smart translators, and so much more!