Borrowing fame

How the new Whitney Museum helps us figure out what a museum means

I've always loved being in museums. Back in college, I thought I'd like to work in them. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to intern in a few before I left graduate school. For the advertising business. Also a mistake, but I've never regretted leaving the museum world behind. 

Museums are inextricably linked with commerce in art. Curators compete to acquire major works from private collectors who may donate or share the works they've acquired. The job performance of curators is often judged not by the quality of the shows but by their ability to cultivate a strong relationship with independent collectors. 

Tq150510wmArt critic Jerry Saltz is concerned about the relationship between museums, art dealers and artists. He sees museums dabbling not only in the art market, but also in the marketing of art, in the creation of a demand for an artist's work. I agree with him that museums cross the line when they help an artist and dealer increase the value of the artwork or performance. In effect, they are driving up their own expenses. 

He sees the new Whitney sidestepping the temptation by focusing on how art evolves instead of trying to capture highly valued pieces of the art world. Our museums don't have to own major masterpieces to show us what art means. 

Vulture / New York: The New New Museum, 2015-Apr-19 by Jerry Saltz

De Salvo said, “The Whitney is not a building. It’s an idea.” The idea is actually a question, and the question is “What is American art?”


New way to see news

The homepage of BuzzFeed is a real turn-off for me, but this article by Ben Thompson has me sticking with it. It's not dignified or 'nice,' but it's very real and very hard-working. I think that's what I can respect. The writers and editors at BuzzFeed are working very, very hard to communicate all the news that we want to have online. It's a good way to understand mainstream interests, and it's not ephemeral (although the interests are).
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Stratechery: Why BuzzFeed is the Most Important News Organization in the World, 2015-Mar-3 by Ben Thompson

In short, by not making money from display ads, and by extension deprioritizing page views, BuzzFeed incentivizes its writers to fully embrace Internet assumptions, and just as importantly disincentivizes pure sensationalism. There is no self-editing or consideration of whether or not a particular post will make money, or if it will play well on the home page, or dishonestly writing a headline just to drive clicks. The only goal is to create – or find – something that resonates.


Tips for networking online with people you haven't met

Tq131001sdUsing Twitter and Facebook to create strong relationships with people you've never met is much more challenging than people realize. (LinkedIn is easier because it stays on professional topic 90% of the time.) I once offended someone I really admire by trying to be funny on Twitter. Two years later, I still wince when I think about it, and she offered me no opportunity to apologize... just decided I was a troll. Fortunately, she didn't share her opinion with anyone else (that I can tell). 

Mark Suster has published an excellent list of tips on Inc., linked below, although I don't agree about trying to be funny on Twitter anymore. 

On thing that he doesn't mention is the importance of sharing the good stuff you see. Someone who's working hard to increase their influence deeply appreciates it when you share their work, especially if you add a compliment. 

Inc.: How to Build Online Relationships Into Meaningful Networks, 2015-Jan-26 by Mark Suster

Figuring out how to engage is tricky. You want to be respectful. You want to say something informed. You want to toe the line between friendly public comment and being smothering.


Improving our social media habits with ThinkUp: it works!

Over the holidays I was pleased to see a profile of the ThinkUp service in the New York Times, and I hope the company gets many new subscribers. My chief error in Twitter has been focusing on myself and not sharing enough about the people I admire. Most helpfully, your errors can be reported to you every week or every day until you correct those bad social media habits. I highly recommend the service, and you can track yourself in both Facebook and Twitter for $5/mo. Tq130603dh

NY Times: ThinkUp Helps the Social Network User See the Online Self, 2014-Dec-31 by Farhad Manjoo

[Anil] Dash has been thinking about his behavior on social media for a while. Together with Gina Trapani, the former editor of the blog Lifehacker, he is a co-founder of ThinkUp, a year-old subscription service that analyzes how people comport themselves on Twitter and Facebook, with the goal of helping them become more thoughtful, less reflexive, more empathetic and more professional — over all, better behaved.

In addition to a list of people’s most-used words and other straightforward stats like follower counts, ThinkUp shows subscribers more unusual information such as how often they thank and congratulate people, how frequently they swear, whose voices they tend to amplify and which posts get the biggest reaction and from whom.


Consider the wages of nice

If you're very clever, being nice is a chore. However, when you need to influence people--it's a requirement. I think Penelope has the right approach in the article below: tap into your own good intentions and generosity. It's hard work but it's not less important work. Tq140513sd

Penelope Trunk Careers: 5 Ways to Make People Think You're Nice, 2014-Apr-28 by Penelope Trunk

it turns out that creativity is to McDonalds salad as kindness is to the Big Mac: people always tell market researcher they want a salad at Mc Donald’s, but once they are at the counter and actually ordering food, they order a Big Mac.

Which is to say that I am figuring out new ways to make people think I’m nice, since creative by itself isn’t cutting it.


Ideas ≠ business as the Daily Candy demise heartbreakingly demonstrates

Daily Candy was the email newsletter that opened my eyes to the medium. I read it nearly every day from the moment it was discovered, even though it gradually become less joyous. The idea that reading an email could be a lovely adventure blew my mind open, and the original Daily Candy is still the standard to which I compare my own work. 

NBCUniversal is shutting down the newsletter, moth-balling the web site, and discharging the staff (although they are welcome to apply to other positions in the company). The official reason is that, as a business, Daily Candy was not performing well enough to satisfy the corporation's profit and growth goals... not that it was losing money, not that it wasn't still a tremendous source of inspiration, not that it didn't have the loyalty of employees and readers. Just that it wasn't a good investment. It was dragging down the stock price. 

I'm very ambivalent about the news because I never spent that much money with the publication. I did occasionally buy small items, but I've never bought the fashionable clothing and decor which drove the editors. I would have paid a subscription, but was never asked. When the original drawings by Sujean Rim were retired, the newsletter stopped being as important to me. Here's an example of Sujean's work for Daily Candy:

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The most important thing I want to remember was that Daily Candy was a glorious idea. If it had stayed in private hands, it would probably continue because it wasn't a money-losing concept. On the other hand, I can appreciate the creators desire to cash out and establish their personal financial independence. I just hope they will go on to create many more glorious ideas. 


How the Cloud Pulse May Become "Proof of Life"

In an article on Mashable, Adario Strange introduced me to the word "cloud pulse." (He may have invented it.) Updating your activities in social media is not just a method for connecting or promoting yourself. In a strange way, it's a way of demonstrating that you are alive... as in, 'I have a cloud pulse.' Tq140131cd

Mashable: Why 'Her' Is the Best Movie Ever Made About the Singularity, 2014-Jan-15 by Adario Strange

If you are reading this, then you are probably already a part of the cloud pulse, the invisible real-time fabric of people-powered data facilitated by social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Through these networks, the habit of continuous partial attention has been transformed from a rude vice to a badge of cultural aptitude that tells the world you are connected, informed and alive.

...most are expected swim upstream and evolve to accept that the cloud pulse is a new muscle broadening our awareness and not the intimacy-hindering nuisance some believe it to be.