Thursday, August 13, 2015

Article: Artist outraged at ‘plagiarism’ of his sculpture in China

Oh dear... 
Reports in China, including one from state-run media People’s Daily, say a ‘‘stainless steel sculpture in the shape of an oil bubble’’ will be unveiled later this month in Karamay, a city in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang known for its rich oil fields. Work on the sculpture began in 2013, at the site of the city’s first oil well.
Cloud Gate, SLA2012
Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor
If you follow the link above, you will see that this looks remarkably like "Cloud Gate" which is a sculpture in Chicago create by Anish Kapoor (right). Copying copyrighted works has been something that China has tolerated, but it is sad to see it done on this level.Kapoor is threatening to sue and I hope that he does.

The death of high fidelity?

I remember years ago when Sprint advertised its clarity for phone calls being so incredibly clear that you could hear a pin drop over the phone line (and that was a land line).  The idea was that high fidelity was important and we all wanted phone calls where we could hear everything.  This was also in an era, where people - who could afford to do so - invested in expensive stereo systems for their fidelity. Again, we wanted to hear everything.

The advent of the cell phone led us into an era of lower fidelity, where what we hear is governed by the quality of our phone (and the other person's phone), the telephone network, and the cell tower that the phone is using. The cell tower not only impacted the call quality, but also the features that the phone had available. Didn't get that voice mail message right away? It could have been the fault of the cell tower.

Over the years, our phones have gotten better and they do more including the ability to watch videos and listen to music. We can also stream that content onto our computers. Those streaming services have replaced our dependence on stereos and gotten us used to sound and videos that aren't high fidelity. In "Sorry, Neil Young, but you're wrong about streaming music", the author wrote:
Spotify and Apple Music aren't noticeably amazing when it comes to sound quality, but then again, not noticeably bad. And they're so far above the respectability threshold for music listeners that nobody really thinks twice about it. It's pretty much OK for almost everyone.
And from Jay-Z and Neil Young Won’t Make Streaming Music Better:
Numerous tech sites have tested the player, and have concluded that the average listener really can’t tell the difference between the Pono and other digital listening devices. Essentially, unless you have the right headphones, or stereo system, you’re paying $400 for a digital music player that’ll look weird in your pocket.
Yup...acceptable. We've proven that we don't need or want high fidelity, or at least don't want it all the time. We're comfortable watching a low quality video on our phones and when the content warrants we'll watch a movie in IMAX. (Hint, most people don't go to IMAX, so lower quality is generally fine.)

In 2007, the report Shifting Gears: Gearing Up to Get Into the Flow was released, which contained a recommendation about digitizing for access, which meant not being as selective about quality. Sometimes lower quality is good enough. Our use of photographic and video media since then has demonstrated that low quality can indeed be acceptable.

Is the death of high fidelity coming?  Nope. We do value high quality video, audio and photography...but not all the time. We do have times when that high quality is exactly what we want because we want the finer details. This is just like going to hear a band live, because we want to hear everything. So those people producing high fidelity audio, video and photography need to know that their market isn't totally going away. However, they do need to recognize that the market has shifted. 

Sorry, Neil.

Monday, August 03, 2015

It - Whatever It Is - Must Speak for Itself

San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco City Hall
I was speaking to a colleague last week about construction and maintenance that is occurring at Syracuse University. He noted that many people visit the campus when no one is around, and so the campus itself - the buildings and grounds - must be able to "speak" and tell a story. The more I've thought about that conversation, the more I realize that this is true for our digitization programs, our web sites, our fact, everything.

Between 1998-2000, I worked on a small demonstration project, where we digitized material related to a group of suffragists in the Rochester, NY area. However, we did not include material from suffragists who had lived in Seneca Falls, NY, even though it was seemingly in the region. Why? Because the project sponsor (a consortium) did not have Seneca Falls in its region. We decided to (1) not directly address the absence of material from Seneca Falls and to (2) provide a description of the project's geographic location in a way that wasn't as informative as it could have been (especially to people outside of the U.S.). In essence, we created a web site that didn't say what people wanted to know and thus didn't truly speak for itself. It was a powerful lesson learned.

Today I find that we all still - intentionally or not - limit what our creations can say or explain on their own. We still do not fully describe what is or isn't available on a web site. We don't tell me how to contact us if they have  question. We put bad signage on our buildings and in our libraries. We figure that people will ask, but forget that people use our materials, sites and buildings (or campuses) when we're not available. (And what if they ask someone who doesn't know?) The inability for it - whatever it is - to provide information on its own could cause people to consider it not worthwhile, and to never come back. Informative descriptions and signage empowers people, and people like feeling empowered so they are more likely to come back.

Consider your project, your web site, your building, your neighborhood - whatever it is - and think about whether it conveys information that people need, even when there is no one around to answer a question. If it doesn't, then you have some work to do.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Respecting trademarks

Trademark - Do Not Erase (Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.)
Trademark: Do not erase
In the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publication Basic Facts About Trademarks, defines a trademark or service mark as:
  • A trademark is generally a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. 
  • A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Throughout this booklet, the terms “trademark” and “mark” refer to both trademarks and service marks.
Trademarks and service marks are all around us, no matter where we are or what we do. Go ahead...look at your computing device, can of soda, pen or something else and look for a ® or ™.

In the June 1, 2015 Advertising Age magazine, Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. placed an advertisement asking that people respect its registered trademark on Kleenex® Brand Tissue. In the annals of trademark protection, there are stories about those marks which have not been well protected and which people use freely. A popular trademark for a brand of tissues falls into that category (i.e., Kleenex® Brand Tissue). Are all tissues called a ______? Most people do not realize that using the trademarked name for all tissues is disrespectful of Kimberly-Clark and their intellectual property.

Reclaiming a trademark, once people are used to abusing it, is a difficult task.  However, I'll note that this ad was in an industry publication.  Kimberly-Clark wants advertisers and other companies to respect their trademark, and they may be able to win that battle. I hope the company realizes that it will take more than one ad and that the topic will need to be addressed through several channels. I hope they also realize that this will need to be an ongoing concern for the company.

The image above was taken from the Kimberly-Clark advertisement. It is not the entire image, since I've tried to use as little as possible while still conveying the message.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Learning through failure

IngenuityI like noticing people's language and the words that they use, and I especially like to notice if those words are positive or negative. We tend to say "don't" rather than "do", and warn people away from possible failures. However, every successful inventor, project manager, entrepreneur, executive and business owner has failed at least once (if not multiple times). We remember people for their successes and forgot about all the failures which occurred first. We learn much more through our failures than through our success.

In his daily Intensely Positive email, Kelvin Ringold said:
Children don't know about failing; children just know about doing! Trying! Having fun! They don't know failure until we teach it to them. Well, actually they DO know failure, but they don't call it that when they're kids. They call it learning... playing... exploring...trying... experimenting... seeing what happens... being curious... wondering "what if?"
Notice the photo above. This was a failure - a child who got tired of biking - that was turned into a lesson and a success. These three generations learned a lot more through the failure than they would have through an initial success. Would you have used your belts this way?

As a digitization project manager, I learned much from the bumps that occurred in the projects. I learned more about the technology, the metadata, the budget, and all of the various processes. Every step backwards - or sideways - led to regrouping, learning and eventually a solid step forward. A wonderful saying is, "Retreat will move you forward" and I've found it to be very true.

Projects often teach you about your team, too. Does the team have the skills that it needs? Does the team have trust in each other? Are people willing to show initiative? Trust and initiative were topics which BJ Armstrong spoke on at the SLA Annual Conference. Trust/loyalty and initiative must be balanced with/against each other for it to work well. While we hope that people join the team with the correct skills, sometimes we need to stop and train people so that they have the skills for the job. In some instances, we may need to take people off the team and replace them with someone else, especially if there is no time to do the training. While those that leave the team may see it as a failure, I hope they see it as a call to continue to learn and a call to continue to invest in their own development.

Finally, failures teach each us about our own fortitude. Can we move on? Can we turn the failure into a future success? Rather than giving up, can we experiment, explore, try something different, and be curious? If yes, then we've already turned that failure into something positive.