Alan Harnum

Multimodal Design Patterns for Inclusion & Accessibility

Update: A transcript of my talk is now available. Below are my slides from a talk delivered at the 2017 Guelph Accessibility Conference. Much of the talk was a reflection on things we’ve learned working on various projects recently at Inclusive Design Research Centre and as part of the Fluid Project. I am grateful to my colleagues who helped me refine and sharpen my thoughts on this topic. Read more...

Netsweeper - Response from Toronto Public Library, Possible Alternatives

Two small updates here to yesterday’s post on Netsweeper usage by public libraries in the GTA… First, I received a reply to my inquiry to Toronto Public Library from Alex Hocevar (Director, Digital Services & Emerging Technologies). With permission, I quote it below as the library’s official response to the concerns I raised (the substance was the same as what was in yesterday’s post): Thanks for your email and for the link to the Citizen Lab research. Read more...

Who Uses Netsweeper? - A Non-Comprehensive Survey of GTA Public Libraries

I have been meaning for some months to write an update to my previous posts on the use of the Netsweeper filtering software by public libraries: Netsweeper at Toronto Public Library - Waiting on An Answer Netsweeper and the Ethics of Library Technology Use For refreshers on the Netsweeper story in general: Tender Confirmed, Rights At Risk: Verifying Netsweeper in Bahrain Canadian tech company Netsweeper helped Bahrain censor websites, says report (CBC) The Canadian Government Has Funded a Notorious Censorship Company for a Decade (Motherboard) Ontario firm Netsweeper helping Bahrain censor websites, researchers find (Toronto Star) Summarizing, Netsweeper is a Waterloo-based company that makes internet filtering software. Read more...

For World Poetry Day

For UNESCO’s World Poetry Day 2017, three poems from an ongoing project of mine to compose found poetry by listening to the live stream of Toronto Public Library searches. Each poem is the product of a single listening session and the order of the search terms has not been rearranged, though not all search terms from a listening session are included - the composition process is a selective choice of search terms as they are heard, followed by restructuring of the text through punctuation. Read more...

Netsweeper and the Ethics of Library Technology Use

A number of questions arise per my previous post on the Netsweeper issue at Toronto Public Library and generally, some of them specific to the Netsweeper issue, and some of them more general. I’ll lay out some of them below — they’re not the only issues, but they’re the ones on my mind at this time. Is Netsweeper Usage Congruent with Library Values? Overseas conduct of tech companies in countries with differing levels of legal and practical support for freedom of speech can be a complicated issue; I would not advocate that libraries should cease to do business with a company simply because it operates overseas in countries where active repression of free speech occurs and follows the laws of the jurisdictions where it operates, as this strikes me as both extreme and impractical. Read more...

Netsweeper at Toronto Public Library - Waiting on An Answer

Proposed thought experiment (forgive me if this is too trolley problem): let us suppose a company's product is portable paper incinerators. — Alan Harnum (@waharnum) September 23, 2016 Update On September 29th I received an official reply from Toronto Public Library with the following: Netsweeper is used for filtering on children’s public access computers (“pornography” and “criminal information” categories). Netsweeper is also used for blocking access to all sites aside from the library web page on computers designated as public access catalogues Netsweeper has been used at the library for around 10 years Introduction Last week stories began to circulate in the media (here’s one from the Toronto Star) based on a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab that Canadian tech company Netsweeper’s filtering solution was being used in Bahrain to censor websites, “including content relating to human rights, oppositional political websites, Shiite websites, local and regional news sources, and content critical of religion”. Read more...

Unsolicited Technical Advice for Toronto Public Library From Someone Who Used to Work There

Introductory Remarks Bianca Wylie published a recent article on Torontoist about the problems with procurement practices in government technology. I had this to say when I retweeted the article: I saw all of the issues here up close during the 6 years I worked in tech for Toronto Public Library. https://t.co/RZKNqMJz6X — Alan Harnum (@waharnum) September 3, 2016 It goes without saying that my perceptions of the strengths and deficiencies of how libraries deploy and manage technology was shaped most specifically by the ten years I worked at Toronto Public Library, six of them with the library’s web services group. Read more...

Library Voices - A Mashup of TPL's Live Search Feed with Voice Synthesis

A recent fun hack project of mine is Library Voices, which streams the live search feed that powers Toronto Public Library’s search dashboard to a random available speech synthesis voice from the Web Speech API. When I posted the project on Facebook, a library friend of mine asked about potential privacy issues of library’s the feed and whether I had any thoughts about that. I figured I’d post my response here more publicly: Read more...

Joseph Bloorg Gets a Publication Credit

I’m pleased to report that another poetic collaboration between myself and semi-famed Twitter bot / poet Joseph Bloorg has garnered a publication credit from Unlost, a journal for found poetry. It is reproduced below, but if you have any interest in found poetry I recommend checking out Unlost, which publishes a lot of interesting poems in the genre. As Boys and Girls Settled Down With Armouries 1. Waiting for the Races “Kill as you go” former street chess wizard Read more...

My Site Now Includes User Interface Options

A quick note to say that I have implemented User Interface Options as part of this site, one of the projects we work on at the Inclusive Design Research Centre. It can be accessed through the “Show Display Preferences” tab in the upper right. The framework of the research community I am part of is best articulated by the Three Dimensions of Inclusive Design. To quote a part of that that I think particularly applies to UI Options: Read more...