A guide to arranging your own art exhibition and opening

Monday, 8 March, 2010

Art show opening

Ask anyone what they like the best about going to an art show and most people will tell you it’s the opening night party.

And who can blame them, after all what better way is there to spend an evening, than enjoying some brand new art while partying?

So while from a show-goer’s point of view the opening night party seems like a straightforward process – placing a collection of artworks in a gallery and then laying on refreshments and live music – there’s a lot more to staging an exhibition, even a smaller show, than meets the eye.

Months, possibly years, of planning and organising go into some shows and their opening night party, so in the interests of imbuing the curious with an appreciation of the process, here it is, a step by step guide to planning and staging an exhibition.

Planning

You might be surprised at the amount of planning an exhibition requires. Factors such as venues, budgets, funding, sponsorship, advertising and promotion, catering, and possibly insurance, all need careful consideration.

Lead times can vary greatly as a result, with some shows taking a year or more to set up, while others can be arranged within a couple of months.

Budgets, sponsorship, and funding

Staging an exhibition can be expensive, and you will need to ensure you have sufficient funding, whether private, or through sponsorships, to cover the cost of things like catering, promotion, printing, and gallery space.

While established artists may be able to find sponsors to cover costs, as their larger following ensures a reasonable degree of exposure for their backers, new or emerging artists may not be so fortunate, and will have to rely on savings, or help from family or friends.

Check around though. It may be possible to obtain funding through arts grants, and sometimes municipal councils or community groups may offer some assistance staging a show, whether it be providing a venue, or publicity.

Artists at some exhibitions I have been to sometimes ask a for small (gold coin) contribution to help cover costs, a portion of which they usually donate to charity.

Finding a gallery

Gallery space is competitive, and can be hard to secure, especially if you want to exhibit at an established, well known, venue.

You will also need to weigh-up the amount, nature, and size, of work to be exhibited, against the availability of suitable galleries.

Other things to consider are whether the gallery operates on a commission basis, taking a percentage on works sold, or charges a fixed fee for holding a show.

Also, depending on your location, since regulations vary from place to place, are insurance matters, both public liability, and cover for items on show.

Look out also for alternative venues, such as cafes or bookshops for instance, which may offer wall space, and would surely be happy to collect a commission on any works sold.

Given the potential for publicity and custom, cafe and bookshop owners may possibly be prepared to provide other forms of support for your show as well.

A theme and a name for the exhibition

Your show will need a name and a theme. It’s worth taking some time to think this over.

Pricing your artworks

This is one of the more difficult steps in the process of planning an art show.

The amount you can ask for an artwork will depend on a number of factors including your reputation or standing as an artist. Obviously the more regarded your work, the more you can ask.

Another is the arrangement you have with the gallery exhibiting your work. Most galleries take a commission on works sold during an exhibition. While this cut varies, sometimes greatly, rates of about 25 to 30 percent are reasonably common.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate on the commission either. If you believe you will sell a lot of your work, you may be able to haggle a slightly lower rate.

To set a price you will need to work out much you would like to receive, against how much you think someone will pay, less the commission asked for by the exhibiting gallery.

Printing

Once you have funding, a venue, and a theme worked out, you can start arranging the printing of promotional flyers and brochures, title cards, and a list or catalogue of the items you will be exhibiting.

If money is tight though you may be able to reduce some printing costs by doing some of the work yourself.

Great looking catalogues and title cards can be produced with a word-processor, the use of good fonts, some careful page layout, and a reasonable quality printer.

If you know someone with calligraphy skills see if they can help out, perhaps by making the title cards.

Promote and advertise

There’s quite a few options when it comes to promoting exhibitions, many of which are low-cost, or free.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, make it easy for members to create pages for events, such as an exhibition opening, and issue invitations to their contacts.

There’s also art focused discussion forums, and you could even consider approaching arts bloggers to see if they will help the spread the word. Be careful not to wear out your welcome, or take anything for granted here though.

Setting up a page on a photo-sharing site, such as Flickr, and posting photos of your work is also a good way to generate some ongoing profile.

If your budget permits, consider printing flyers to post on community notice boards. Local shops may also be happy to display these for you. Also think about writing a press release to send to local and community magazines and newspapers.

I’ve received a number of invitations to exhibition openings through the mail, so if time and money allows, have some invitations printed and then gather up a list of people to post them to.

Finally, invite as many people as you can, however you can, to the opening. Not only will they appreciate a drink and snack, they’ll also add some atmosphere, and make your attendance numbers look good. Nothing says success more than a well attended show opening.

Food, beverages, and catering

A big part of the opening night of any exhibition is the food, drink and party atmosphere, but you don’t need to go overboard here though.

Offering your guests a choice between a red and white wine, and water (and juice or soft drinks, if you really want to push the boat out) is quite acceptable.

If have a generous sponsor, or even just a catering sponsor, you may also be able to lay on beer and some finger food.

Other entertainment

Many of the openings I’ve been to have some sort of live music, and given the atmosphere a DJ, or even a band, can add to proceedings, this is something well worth thinking about.

Obviously if money, or floor space, dictates otherwise the only option may be background stereo music.

Whatever you do, choose music that is light and upbeat, and generates a good vibe.

Opening times

Most of the shows I go to usually open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. Thursday seems to be the most common day, it’s not too early in the week, and not too close to the weekend.

Avoid openings over weekends, or earlier in the week, times that people usually have other plans.

An early evening opening of around 6pm is probably a good all round time. Most your guests will be on the way home form work by then, yet it is still early enough for them to fit your show in around other plans they have for later in the evening.

Photos

You will definitely want a photographic record of the opening, so try and arrange for someone to take photos through out the evening.

Post the photos to your Flickr or Facebook pages, and also use them when you write about about the opening on your blog later.

And enjoy

The opening night, and exhibition itself, will probably be over in what feels like no time, especially when compared to the months of prior planning and preparation, so be sure to take a little time out to enjoy your own exhibition.

Good luck with it.

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What might have happened if the internet was not invented?

Monday, 1 March, 2010

The other week, an article written in 1995 by Clifford Stoll who – in short – could see no future for the internet, resurfaced.

While events obviously took a different course, Stoll’s words started me wondering about a world without an internet, and what our lives in 2010 might be like in the absence of this “most trendy and oversold community”, as Stoll put it.

And faster than Marty McFly and Doc Brown can conjure up an alternative timeline, here we are, a day in my life, in an unwired, web-less, 2010.

The day begins like this, as always…

I go down to my letter box. There are three letters, a bill, two magazines, and the daily newspaper. A prominently placed front-page article boasts of a circulation increase of 0.1%, according to the latest readership audit.

Over breakfast I continue scanning the paper. The music industry is on the war path. Again. They can’t seem to shut down the groups who are bootlegging albums, by burning them onto DVDs and then selling them for – quite literally – a song on the street.

Before settling into the day’s work I quickly reply to the letters I’ve received, this is a breeze since nowadays people mostly only write letters that are a paragraph or two long. And given they now only cost five cents to send, literally millions are exchanged daily in Australia.

Getting down to work, I need to do some research

I work from home as a freelance writer. I work for a number of what are called street magazines, which are independently produced publications.

Sometimes several people operate them, sometimes they are the work of one person, an editor, who also relies on contributions from freelance writers.

But more on street magazines later.

I work using a computerised pad like device about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. The top section has a screen, while the lower part has a keypad.

I can send output to either a printer, via fax (the Victorian age technology has really stood the test of time), or save it as a text file to a floppy disc, which I can courier to whomever I’m writing for.

I have two article deadlines in two days time, and will need to spend a couple of hours at the local library doing some research for them.

Some of those street magazines are quality rags

Some of the more popular publications do really well, and thanks to their numerous sponsors, turn out top-shelf editions each week.

People like Jason Kottke, Karen Cheng, John Gruber, and Duncan Macleod who runs a zine called “The Inspiration Room”, are considered some of the big names in street magazine publishing.

What makes one street magazine more popular than another? I have no idea really. Quality content for sure, but I think luck has a lot to do with it also. That hasn’t stopped a large number of hopefuls from publishing street magazines on how to publish street magazines though.

Clearly these sorts of publications don’t bother the established newspapers though, who are after all, boasting of increases in their readership.

Producing your own street magazine is also easy

Self publishing really caught on with the advent of photo-copy print machines, and because they are so cheap and easy to operate, they can be found in most corner stores, newsagents, and supermarkets.

The whole process is incredibly simple. You write content using your computer’s word-processor, and then, when finished, export the file to a floppy disc. Then it’s away to the nearest photo-copy print machine.

You simply insert the floppy disc in the yellow slot, select from a number of print-out (or publishing) options, insert some money, and a few minutes later you are a published author, proudly holding your paperback – which is usually A5 size by the way – in your hands.

Sites that offer photo-copy printing services also allow you to place your publications in vending shelves, for a small fee. Your readers can then come along and pick up your latest work.

Cafes, bars, cinemas, and even public transport services, also have distribution facilities, so publishers with good advertising revenue can afford to widely circulate their magazines.

Instead of Facebook and social networks

The way you meet people in this world is truly weird.

Case in point. I was just over at the supermarket when a girl smiled and waved at me. This puzzled me as she didn’t look familiar, so I asked if I knew her from somewhere. She looked perplexed. “I was just wondering if you wanted to be friends,” she said.

Maybe it was the way I was looking at her, as if she had stepped out of a flying saucer or some such.

“Well, what do you expect me to do? Send you a photo, a bio, and a list of my friends to you, or something? Come on, what sort of world do you think we live in? The Star Trek universe?”

We ended up shrugging at each other and went our separate ways.

Coffee meetings and face to face networking

Today is the day the weekly writers coffee group meets. We get together every week to chat, network, and compare notes.

One guy there today was in a very excitable mood though, “you know, this is far more than people sitting in a cafe chatting, exchanging information and tips, it’s a… I don’t know, er, community network, a like, social network, you know?”

A social network? That sounds kind of cool. We all nodded meaningfully, and resumed our random chatter.

Instead of Twitter, micro-blogging, and text messaging

On returning home from the coffee group, there are a stack of “slips” in my letter box.

Slips are a micro revolution in what I call – for want of a better term – instant communication. Basically people can send 150 character messages to each other via the postal service.

In Australia for example you pay $100 a month and can send up to 500 slips. To send one you call the Post Office service centre, where a communications consultant transcribes your message, and then faxes it to the post office nearest to where the recipient lives.

Slips are delivered through out the day, though not so often in rural areas, by people who drive around in very distinct red and blue striped vans.

The big advantage of slips is in their brevity. People can’t often can’t be bothered making a phone call or writing a letter, especially if they only want to tell their friends what they had for lunch or where they were at a certain time, so slips really took off.

Designed to be recycled, and printed on fax paper with a special ink that fades after a few days, they have also proved a boon for postal services worldwide as a result of their popularity.

Advertising is also carried on the back of slips, making the concept a veritable gold mine.

The future of the future is still televised

I watch as someone called Steve Jobs walks onto a stage at a trade show with a pad like device very similar to what I use. Except it has what Jobs’ refers to as a dongle attached to it.

The “dongle”, which is about the size of a packet of chewing gum, is a wireless transmitting device that allow computers to talk to each other, and also share information and files. It will change the very essence of our lives, Jobs says.

We’ll be able to buy music and movie files through the dongle somehow, publish street magazines “online”, and even meet people the same way. Right.

Quite a few people in the audience are clearly excited by what he is saying. But not me. Such a thing will never catch on.

I flick the TV off, and as I take delivery of the day’s last batch of slips, prepare to spend the rest of the evening reading through the growing pile of street magazines that I subscribe to.

An “online” world?

I couldn’t possibly imagine living in such a place. If you disagree though, please send me a slip or letter.

Good night.

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Classical recital etiquette, protocols? Thought you’d never ask

Monday, 22 February, 2010

Classical, or chamber, music recitals were not events I went along to a whole lot until I was introduced to the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) last year.

Going to see a band, either in concert or at the local pub, seems – to me – like something that requires no thought it’s so natural, but what about a classical music performance, isn’t that, you know, different?

Aren’t there dress codes (top hat and tails?) and other protocols to be observed? Or, you’ve been asked to go along to a show with the company’s CEO, have no idea what happens, and are keen not to distinguish yourself for the wrong reasons?

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person to have ever wondered about such things, so here we go, a guide and some tips to the etiquette and protocols of attending classical music recitals.

What’s the dress code, what should I wear?

This seems to be the main concern of many first time recital-goers, and I’m pleased to report that top hat and tails are generally not necessary.

For me though, someone who only wears a suit once in a Blue Moon, dressing up is part of the fun of going along to a recital. I don’t usually bother with a tie though, I only wear those once every couple of Blue Moons, but at the very least think “smart casual” if wondering what to wear.

Be punctual, there’s nothing worse than being shut out

The best idea is to plan to arrive early.

There’s an important difference between going to a movie and being late, and a recital and being late, the recital is a live performance.

Unlike their counterparts on the big screen, live performers find it a lot harder to ignore the distraction of latecomers trying to find their seat, which is invariably at the front of the house.

Then there’s the matter of trampling on the toes of audience members sharing your row, and blocking the view of others behind.

In all likelihood though, if you are late, you’ll be barred from entering the auditorium, until there is a significant break in the music, or at intermission.

So, arrive early, have a drink at the bar, and acquaint yourself with the show program, while you wait for curtain up.

Applause, when do I clap?

While pauses during a song or composition are common to all musical genres, classical music is replete with silences and breaks. This can often confuse those unfamiliar with the music being performed, who often think it is complete, and start clapping.

You don’t want to be that person. Unless you are well acquainted with the music, wait until everyone else is applauding before you join in.

Also watch the performers for end-of-play cues, members of the ACO for example usually raise their violin or cello bows above their heads at the conclusion of a piece.

Photos, recording, and mobile phones

Taking photos and video recording during a recital are generally a big no no. A few snaps of the concert hall, and empty stage, before the performance may be ok though, but the check show program, or ask someone, before you pull your camera out.

Needless to say mobile phones should be switched off or set to silent mode.

Take some time out at intermission

Most recitals have an intermission break after about 45 minutes, which tend to last for about 20 minutes. If you need to go to the bathroom, or return an urgent call from the boss, intermission is the time.

It’s also a good idea to get up and stretch your legs, the show will be a little more enjoyable if you don’t feel restless.

How long does the show usually last?

While it depends on the pieces being performed, recitals tend to run for about 90 minutes with a 20 minute intermission about half way through, so all up, about two hours. The show program should have the exact times of the performances.

Read the show program

I’ve mentioned the show program a few times, and trust me, it’s a good idea to read through it, especially if you are not a regular recital goer. They usually include details of recital and intermission times, and of course information about the music being played.

There’s nothing like looking as if you know what you are doing.

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How does the Oscar nomination and voting process work?

Tuesday, 16 February, 2010

While the movie buff in me takes an avid interest in who wins what in the Academy Awards each year, I’ve never given much thought to how a film reaches the winning list, aside from the fact it must be good – or reasonably good – and was favoured by members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), who preside over the venerable award.

And as it turns out, after doing a little research into the process, garnering an AMPAS member’s favour is the very first thing a film must do, if it is to set itself along the Oscar winning pathway.

Favour, choices, AMPAS branches, and nominations

The nomination process commences when each of the 5,777 members of AMPAS, or the Academy, are asked to select their favourite eligible 1 films – usually five – from the preceding year.

The Academy is split into 15 branches, which represent the various aspects of the film production process, and include actors, directors, writers, producers, and visual effects branches, to name a few.

Branch members are only able to nominate “in-house” however. For instance members of the Writers Branch can only nominate film writers for an award, they cannot, for example, choose actors or directors.

Member numbers can vary across branches, and the Academy as a whole, from year to year, and this can have an effect on the overall process, but more on that shortly.

Preferential voting and magic numbers

The choices made by branch members, which are ranked preferentially from one to five, are sent to accounting and auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), who then count the selections – manually – and after much sifting of paper, eventually determine the top five choices – or nominations – in each Oscar category.

To be in the running a film must receive at least one number one ranking from a member, or it is eliminated from the count. PwC go through all the votes, or selections, short-listing the top five number one ranked films in each category.

Taking the Animated Feature Film category as an example, here’s how the nomination selection process might work. This year the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch of the AMPAS has 340 members.

PwC divides this number by 6 2, which equals about 56. To make the grade therefore, a film must secure at least 56 number one votes from members of this branch.

For example 63 members might have selected “Coraline” as their first choice. Another 62 might have chosen “Fantastic Mr. Fox” as their first choice, another 61 “The Princess and the Frog”, 60 “The Secret of Kells”, and finally 57 “Up” 3.

Any other animated features that may have been voted as a top choice by members of the branch are now eliminated, as they did not receive enough votes to make the top five in the category.

It gets complicated – sometimes very complicated – however if five movies do not reach the minimum vote threshold, and this is where the preferential voting system comes into play.

They [the PwC team] then look at the piles still left on the table and get rid of the one with the smallest amount of votes, redistributing them to other piles ranked on the 2nd favourite film on the ballots. If the number 2 choice has already been eliminated then they go to the 3rd choice and so on. Once that’s taken place they count again, if a film hits the magic number it’s taken off the table and is a nominee.

Changes to the number of Best Picture nominations

This year, for the first time since 1943, there are ten movies competing for the Best Picture gong, rather than the usual five, meaning the PwC team would have short-listed the top ten, rather than top five, number one voted films for this category.

The Visual Effects and Make Up categories are the only other exceptions to the five nominations per category rule this year, each sporting three contenders.

Voting and electing the winners

The final voting process is relatively similar to the nomination process.

Once nominations have been finalised, Academy members are sent ballot papers, and again using a preferential voting system, make their selections.

At this stage though, just two people at PwC are involved in counting the votes, and they remain the only ones to know the final results, until the winners are announced on Oscars night.

Controversy in Best Picture decisions

For all its mathematical precision, there is still no guarantee that the best film will be accorded the Best Picture award. 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, a superbly made movie in my opinion, could be considered a case in point.

Despite winning a slew of other film awards, and five Oscar nominations, it nevertheless missed the Best Picture award. It was suggested the Academy shunned the movie in the final round of voting as members were uncomfortable with a gay love story.

After “Brokeback Mountain” won an unprecedented number of precursor awards for best picture – 26 – it entered the Oscars with the most nominations and was considered a shoo-in to win best picture. That is, until the majority of its members – straight, ole, self-absorbed, guy geezers, as legend has it – refused to embrace the gay movie and so they gave their top prize to “Crash.”

That said, “Crash” was still a very good film.

And, to date, no science fiction or animated films, have received a Best Picture award, suggesting the Academy prefers only certain film genres.

Other factors influencing Oscar nominations

While nominations ultimately boil down to the individual tastes of the Academy’s 5,777 members, certain factors may sway their decision.

For example in 2008 sociologists from Harvard University, and the University of California, found female actors appearing in dramas, rather than comedies, were more likely than their contemporaries to score an Oscar nomination.

Academy Award nominations tend to go to performers in dramas, who are female, who have been nominated in the past and who command a high rank in the movie-credit pecking order.

And finally if I were a member of the Academy…

My ten choices – for Best Picture – this year would be:

  • An Education
  • Up
  • The Road
  • Up in the Air
  • Watchmen
  • Star Trek (a long shot, but…)
  • Looking For Eric
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • Beautiful Kate
  • Is Anybody There?

These are not, unfortunately, ranked preferentially (though “An Education” would still be very near the top), plus I’m not 100 per-cent sure that all titles are eligible for this year’s awards.

And just so you know, this year’s Oscar awards take place on Sunday, 7 March, 2010, or Monday afternoon, 8 March, as it will be in this part of the world.

(Sources: Wikipedia, Radio 1 Movies Blog, Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Live Science, Gold Derby.)

  • 1. To qualify for an Oscar nomination, a film must open in the previous calendar year, from midnight of 1 January to midnight at the end of 31 December, in Los Angeles County, California.
  • 2. Dividing the total branch membership by six ensures there will be at least five nominees. If it were divided by five the qualifying vote threshold, or “magic number” may be too high, which could result in only four films making the grade.
  • 3. The numbers I have used here are of course fictitious.

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Smartphones versus work/life balance versus being cool

Friday, 12 February, 2010

I must be one of the few people I know not to own a smartphone of some sort, whether it be an iPhone, Blackberry, or an Android.

The phone I’m using at the moment won’t last forever though – increasingly erratic battery performance is just one indication it’s on the way out – and I’ve been wondering what course to take, in terms of replacing it, over recent weeks.

I keep thinking I’d like to be one of the cool kids with an iPhone (or something). I’m also thinking how convenient it would be to whip out such a device – in digital nomad fashion – while on say the bus, or at a cafe, and check email, or send photos to Twitter.

Or to update my website. Or to write articles. Or to do something else work related. And there’s the rub. I’m already plugged into my laptop anywhere from nine to twelve hours a day, why do I want to give myself another excuse to keep working? (Or at least look like I am.)

In a way the difficulty of trying to do certain things with my current phone has proved to be an unforeseen bonus.

I can surf the net or read and write email, but it’s not especially straightforward. The small screen means no end of scrolling is required to view pages online, and the compact, not always easy to use keypad makes writing message of over ten words tricky.

It’s great if I need web access urgently, but there’s no way I could run the office with it. A smartphone on the other hand would give me the “office anywhere” capability that I’m not sure I really want.

So, decisions, decisions. Be cool, or be disconnected. I just hope that phone battery holds up for a little while longer.

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On the road again, a guide to being a digital nomad

Monday, 8 February, 2010

While I may not be a digital nomad in the strict sense of the term, I still like to dream as I move between bases in Sydney, the NSW Central Coast, and wherever else I may go.

And sometimes it seems that my laptop (together with a wireless internet connection), and a mobile phone – probably the most basic requisites of digital nomadism – are the only constants in my sometimes wondering life.

But they are just about all I need – aside from (preferably) a roof over my head, and a power supply – to maintain my productivity.

What on Earth is a digital nomad though?

Here’s how Richard Vader, who calls himself “an active Digital Nomad”, decribes it:

A Digital Nomad is a person who works from wherever he/she wants, be it an airport, hotel, plane, restaurant, coffee shop or even while traveling. Digital Nomads use digital camera’s, laptops, notebooks, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s), and smart phones in combination with the many web-based services through Internet access points (like WiFi hot spots) to make money while traveling.

British digital nomad Dan Lawrence offers the following definition:

A Digital Nomad, like traditional/conventional Nomads, relies upon an infrastructure of interconnected resource points, communication tools and transport solutions for survival and maintenance of lifestyle.

How does a digital nomad work while on the move?

Tech writer Mike Elgan’s description of a recent holiday that in-fact was not a holiday offers a pretty good insight:

In August I took a monthlong vacation to Central America, backpacking from one Mayan ruin to the next, and I never officially took time off. I submitted my columns, provided reports and other input, participated in conference calls and interacted via e-mail. I used hotel Wi-Fi connections and local cybercafes to communicate and Skype to make business calls. Nobody knew I was sunburned, drinking from a coconut and listening to howler monkeys as I replied to their e-mails.

How does one become a digital nomad then?

Setting yourself up as a digital nomad is relatively easy says Elgan, who outlines five essential steps :

  • Replace your desktop PC with a notebook.
  • Buy a phone that does everything, think Android, iPhone, and the like.
  • Accessorise your phone so that it can be used as a computer (fold-up keyboards, extra memory, etc).
  • Think “business continuity”, as a CIO would. Ensure your data is backed up and your computer, etc, are secure.
  • Embrace VoIP applications such as Skype.

Connectivity, and how good is Wi-Fi?

While I’m sure Wi-Fi services in most places are ok, I don’t think it’s wise to depend on them 100 per-cent, particularly if you have work to do.

Jeffrey Zeldman, who works while travelling on the train, offers some sage advice: buy a dongle.

For the $60/month I pay Verizon, I can connect my laptop to the internet from any train, bus, boat, lounge, lobby, conference room, coffee shop, or just about any other environment to which modern business takes me.

I have several dongles, or USB modems, each with a different telecommunications carrier. Provided I am in a coverage area, and the wireless services are working, I’m ready to go at anytime.

As an added bonus I can work where I want, rather than at someone else’s place. I’m not always at my most productive in crowded and noisy cafes, especially when the staff may be encouraging me to move on.

If however your wireless providers are down, then perhaps you can think about finding a Wi-Fi connection.

Some extra tips and advice

  • Carry spare phone, camera, and computer batteries, which are always fully charged.
  • Set up accounts with a couple of wireless broadband suppliers if possible.
  • Establish a regular backup routine. Try to have two copies of backed up files, and keep them in separate locations if possible.
  • Be aware of the location of local Wi-Fi hotspots should your own wireless internet connections not be working.

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There are 22 definitions of pad, so why the fixation with just one?

Tuesday, 2 February, 2010

I know we’re sick to death of the hype and non-stop chatter surrounding new Apple iPad, so I’ll try and be brief, but the furore over the name quite frankly has me puzzled.

It seems Apple has shown very poor judgement in including the word “pad” in the name of their new product, but I can’t figure out why.

Since when has the use of the word pad become unacceptable? For example I don’t know of any instances of stationery sellers being ostracised for selling writing and note pads, nor have I have heard of any retribution against the users of such products either.

Such controversy concerns me personally though, given the tag-line for this very website is “notepad two point zero”. Yet, aside from a couple of tongue-in-cheek emails regarding the “two point zero” part, nary a word has otherwise been said.

So what’s with the brouhaha being directed at Apple?

A look at Dictionary.com only adds to the mystery, where no fewer than 22 definitions of pad turn up. Let me throw a few at you:

  • a soft, stuffed cushion used as a saddle; a padded leather saddle without a tree.
  • any fleshy mass of tissue that cushions a weight-bearing part of the body, as on the underside of a paw.
  • one’s living quarters, as an apartment or room.
  • money paid as a bribe to and shared among police officers, as for ignoring law violations.
  • a small deposit of weld metal, as for building up a worn surface.

But did you notice anything missing? For my part, I didn’t see a single mention of sanitary items, which is especially surprising considering Dictionary.com draws its references from a wide range of sources.

So what’s going on, and what are we supposed to do next? Purge the language of every ambiguously defined word least someone take offence? Is that what it takes?

In short the world is going to pieces over the use of the word pad. Is this for real? If this is a nightmare, someone please wake me right now.

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The new Australian INfront arrives, but what it’s all about?

Tuesday, 12 January, 2010

Australian INfront blue logo

The long awaited new look Australian INfront arrived, as promised, on Sunday 10 January.

And in addition to a much needed visual overhaul, a number of other changes – which are detailed here – have also taken place:

  • The core, or admin, team (previously referred to as “founders”) now consists of just three people.
  • While the original founder Justin Fox remains, long time member Damien Aistrope has taken up the bulk of the workload. In fact it seems the project survived solely as a result of Damien’s enthusiasm and passion for the concept.
  • Zann St Pierre rounds out the core team and was largely responsible for creating INfront’s new backend.
  • A “news” team providing regular updates, and a “talk” team, who supply feature articles, have also been created.

Other changes and features unveiled so far include:

  • Membership registration. While not required to access the site and most of its content, it is necessary to use many of the new features including the directory, job postings, commenting on posts and articles, and participation in the (yet to be launched) new forum.
  • Australian Design Directory: a directory of Australian web professionals and design studios.
  • A pay-to-post jobs board.
  • Last, and no means least, INfront comes in from the cold with a RSS feed and a Twitter account.

All up this is a promising new start, and it is very clear the crew are determined to restore INfront to its previous standing in the Australian design community.

The only drawback I see at the moment is the website’s lack of definition, and to an extent, identity.

There is very little information telling anyone – especially those arriving for the first time – what INfront is about. This even includes the site’s name, which only appears in the web browser’s title bar, something not everyone may spot.

To learn anything more new arrivals have to click a none-to-obvious “about INfront” link at the foot of the main page.

Obviously this isn’t a problem for those who have been along for the ride for years, or since the beginning, but it is something that needs to be addressed if INfront is to become the major Australian design resource and commumity it is aiming to be.

A more obvious site title and a brief outline – even simply a short summary sentence – at a prominent location on the main page, would remedy this.

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ACO Great Romantics tour, Sydney Opera House, 21 June 2009

Tuesday, 23 June, 2009

Richard Tognetti

Last Sunday the Australian Concert Orchestra (ACO) kindly invited me to a performances from their Great Romantics programme – which is currently touring Australia – at the Sydney Opera House.

The show featured three string sextet pieces, the world premiere of “Black is the Night”, a tribute written by composer Ian Munro to celebrate Richard Tognetti, the ACO’s artistic director, 20th anniversary with the orchestra, “Transfigured Night” by Arnold Schoenberg, and “String Sextet No.2 in G” by Johannes Brahms.

The ACO sextet was made up of six musicians, two each playing violin, viola, and cello. Having not previously seen a sextet play I was amazed by the great ranges of tones and sounds that were produced. At times it seemed as if there was a horn and percussion section also playing in accompaniment.

And if you think classical music is “old fashion”, slow, or boring, you need to see the ACO in action. According to the program for instance, “Transfigured Night” was 32 minutes in duration, yet it felt more like ten so engrossing was the performance.

While I’ve listened to a few recorded classical, or chamber music pieces in the past, this was probably only the second or third time I’ve gone along to a live recital. It was also intriguing to observe some of the conventions associated with such a performance.

For instance you need to be certain a movement has concluded before clapping. A pause, or silence, in play doesn’t necessarily indicate this. I followed the crowd in this regard, though the best cue that a piece has concluded is when the musicians completely lower their instruments.

And even after the musicians had left the stage at the end of the recital the audience continued applauding, prompting the sextet to return to the stage to take an additional two bows. An encore, I imagine, in another musical context.

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Night Jack, anonymous blogging, credibility and authority

Monday, 22 June, 2009

The recent naming of award winning blogger Night Jack, a British police detective, has thrown the spotlight onto the topic of anonymous blogging in the last few weeks.

And while there are numerous – valid – reasons why some bloggers wish to conceal their identity, the question arises has to how such writers can hope to establish credibility and authority when, for all we know, their activities may be a charade.

After all it’s not difficult to set up a fake online persona and begin posting misinformation, gossip, and lies as mood dictates.

And besides what’s up with keeping it all hush-hush anyway? What if you wrote well and developed a large following? Wouldn’t you ultimately be doing yourself a disservice by keeping your identity under wraps?

So, why do people blog anonymously?

As I’ve said some bloggers have genuine reasons to hide their identity. They may be:

  • Personal bloggers, people wishing to vent feelings about personal or family issues, or those who do not want their bosses or parents knowing the ins and outs of their social or love lives.
  • Whistle blowers, or those trying to expose dubious corporate, government, etc, conduct of some sort, whose livelihoods could be threatened if their identities were to become known.
  • Political activists living in places where freedom of speech is restricted or non-existent.

Abby Lee, author of “Girl with a One-Track Mind”, herself an anonymous blogger until being “outed” a few years ago, is especially mindful of the plight of this last group of bloggers:

With the current situation in Iran, we are reminded of the need for online anonymity for those people who are, quite literally, risking their lives to get their messages out, so this landmark ruling in the British courts is extremely worrying and a threat to all of our rights to privacy.

How do anonymous bloggers build credibility?

As I see it the personal bloggers, who rarely use real names or divulge information that could be directly traced back to the people or situations they are writing about, do not need to be as concerned about their credentials as other anonymous bloggers do.

These bloggers are usually writing for their own reasons and chances are their readers find their blogs entertaining or otherwise worthwhile. This audience is more likely to take what they read at face value without being too concerned as to its actual authenticity.

Otherwise what can bloggers, wishing to conceal their identity, do to be taken seriously? This is a good question.

  • Write observations that can be corroborated against the posts of other independent bloggers, or media reports on the topic?
  • Where possible make use of photos, videos, or link to other evidence that backups their claims?
  • Garner the support and goodwill of a small group of people who are either thought leaders, or expert in the blogger’s subject matter, who are prepared to vouch for them?

Whistle blower or… disgruntled employee?

This scenario on the Technical Guide to Anonymous Blogging page caught my eye:

Sarah works in a government office as an accountant. She becomes aware that her boss, the deputy minister, is stealing large amounts of money from the government. She wants to let the world know that a crime is taking place but is worried about losing her job.

Sarah’s revelations might lead to an investigation of the deputy minister’s expenses, but what if her allegations turned out to be a fabrication, because she had a grudge against her boss?

While the deputy minister may eventually be cleared of wrong doing, his or her reputation may have been damaged in the interim.

Of course anyone, anonymous or not, can go online and say whatever they want, but it is obviously far easier to hold someone writing in their own name accountable for their words.

Are anonymous bloggers’ identities protected by law?

This depends on the laws of the jurisdiction that the blogger resides within, though if the Night Jack case is anything to go by, it looks like this is no longer a given.

It is the opinion of the British High Court that blogging is a public undertaking, and therefore bloggers writing anonymously, such as Night Jack, cannot necessarily rely on the courts to preserve their anonymity:

Refusing to grant Det Con Horton anonymity at the High Court yesterday, Justice Eady said that “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity”.

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