Archive for the 'General Thoughts' Category

Podcast: Listen to This!

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

You’ve seen the pictures, read the information, now get ready to listen: a KadmusArts podcast!

The next post contains Ana Maria’s interview with Brian Pulver, who has one of the coolest ideas for connecting a festival’s audience to the community. How cool is it? Well, listen and then you may just do what Ana Maria has done — she’s on her way to New Orleans.

- Bill Reichblum

Preparing to Spring

Monday, March 20th, 2006

When we began the beta testing process in December, we knew that this process would stretch over the winter with an “opening” in the spring. The beta period established a test on three levels: online, offline, and in the studio.

The online level is, obviously, the one you have been looking at for the past three months. The user pool has grown from only our most intimate friends to casual acquaintances to I-know-I-haven’t-been-in-touch-for-last-seven-years-but-look-at-this! to festival and artist colleagues to thousands in countries all around the world. From each category, we have received feedback, advice, ideas for the site. Most important, festivals and artists have started to add to the site.

Offline, we have been developing the infrastructure of the site. These are the kinds of things that make it look the way it does, work the way it does, and provide platforms for new possibilities. (For example, soon you’ll see our new photo slideshow available on festival pages.)

The third level has been testing how well we all work through this process here in the studio. In some ways, this has been the most fun — coming together to work through easy and those more challenging issues. Sure, it wasn’t a great day when one colleague put me into the same category as one of the twentieth century’s most grotesque tyrants. (Coincidentally, my son was studying the tyrant’s life that week in school so he was able to provide his class with a modern day equivalent. Imagine my pride.) Or, when a huge storm was making the studio building shake so hard we took a vote on whether to keep working or evacuate immediately. (Worker bees won. Building survived. Although I did notice that Ann has pretty much kept her coat on since - ready for a quick exit.) With each challenge, we have learned how to collaborate and work towards the center: the web site you experience.

We know the site will continue to develop, continue to adapt, continue to transform. From each level of the beta testing we are getting ready and looking forward to continuing this process of creation.

So when will the beta testing end?

Our studio is in the southwest corner of the state of Vermont - a state known for its beautiful mountains (yes, they are green in the summer), rural lifestyle, multicolored leaves in the fall, maple syrup — and really long winters!

- Bill Reichblum

On the Road

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

I’ve been on the road… if only like Kerouac. The New York Times Travel Show was an international gathering of national tourist bureaus, travel companies, travel agents, and tourist service organizations, or as they headline: “25,000 travel enthusiasts; 5,000 travel professionals; 500 top exhibitors.” (Obviously, they were lucky that each category happened to end at a multiple of 5.)

On the first morning, the Show offered panels on issues facing the travel industry. There were a number of really interesting points of view presented on travel and web integration; cultural destination promotion; and partnership models for web-based and on-the-ground services. (Of course, each of these areas is directly relevant to what we are trying to accomplish here at KadmusArts.)

If that’s all a bit too inside-info for you, here’s something: a session on airport security was moderated by the Associate Dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality at New York University. (Did you even know there was a graduate school for hospitality?) Listening to the panel review the approaches and practices for screening of passengers at airports, the Dean said, “In my experience, you can see more body parts at the security checkpoints than you can in porno films.”

Kind of makes you wonder what airports she has been to. Or, what films she has seen. Or, if the students get to go on field trips.

The floor of the travel show was filled with booths offering booklets, foods, and little logo saturated trinkets such as pens, plastic bags, and magnets. Given that none of these items is what draws one to travel to a place, it raises the question: what makes you travel?

Don’t you think traveling is about “meeting” (in the best Gurdjieffian sense) or someone new? Isn’t it about opening one’s self to a new experience; an experience different from one’s day to day life? Isn’t it about discovery? Isn’t it about no longer being in one’s routine, being on one’s firm ground? Isn’t it about being unbalanced?

In other words, traveling is the exact same state of being as being confronted with good art: a meeting, a new experience, a discovery, a different ground, an unbalancing.

At a festival, these kinds of experiences happen at every step, every day, every night, every trip.

You see where this is going? This site has the opportunity to combine both of these activities for you: traveling and art.

Of course, one can use the site to travel vicariously. You can still discover and experience art through the site. In fact, not too far down the road, we’ll be bringing more opportunities to hear and see the art taking place all around the world.

We are starting to get more stories about the festivals (in the forum and on festival pages). Check them out, and then add your own.

As I began with Kerouac, his friend Ken Kesey gets the last word: “To hell with facts. We need stories!”

- Bill Reichblum

Photo Generation

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

As we enlarge the circle of those discovering our site, we have benefitted from thorough feedback, ideas and participation. (One of the changes in this ongoing process of beta testing is evident on our home page for this week. Take a look.)

The submission of photographs from festivals has been an exciting - and fun - aspect of our growth, and recognition. Every morning we review what has come in; pass it around; and perform acts of joy at what we see. Each photo - and those in a series - gives a genuine flavor of the event, place, artists, and audiences. We have set up a system for the photos on the home page to rotate through different kinds of performances from different places each week. (Maybe in the future we’ll run another “kontest” to choose the best one of each season? Wait until you see some of the ones coming up in the next weeks!)

No festival pays to have their photos highlighted on the home page. In fact — and it is a very important point for us — no festival pays for any of our information and materials on this site. This is also true of artists and artistic companies who submit information and materials.

One of the ways we can be a comprehensive site for the performing arts festivals around the world is to give all festivals and artists an open platform for promoting, informing and educating audiences and cultural tourists about their performance work. This kind of level playing field also extends to the types of festivals. If you have been diving into the site you will find high art, low art, wild art, calm art, loud art, soft art… you get the idea.

What each festival shares is the creation of a community. No matter how large or how small the event, people come together to share in the delight, exploration and discovery of another citizen’s expression. Pretty cool, when you think about it. Mix in different cultures, languages (linguistic and artistic), and points of view, and it’s even cooler.

This idea of “creation of a community” is exactly what we are trying to do here on the site. Think about this: as you are reading this, there is a good chance that someone in Argentina, Estonia, Kenya, Lebanon, New Zealand, Spain and United States is also here at this moment. (And that’s just a random sample.)

As we continue our process of beta-testing — and letting more and more know about the site — we hope the community forum will be a place to engage in the “conversation”. For one example, if you are with a festival, you can “talk” about your festival, your work, or ask questions to the field.

If you haven’t registered for the forum, go ahead — it, too, is free (!), private, no hassle, and you’ll get that little tingle to know that you belong to a new community. (Just like a child’s first day at a new school when they exhale and feel so much better knowing that they have found a friend. Remember?)

In this phase of beta testing, we are beginning to introduce everyone we know to the site. You can help us by doing the same: share the site with any and all. We thrive on the feedback; we delight in the submission of materials; and, we are grateful for sites adding us as a link.

- Bill Reichblum

Alpha Contest; Beta Home

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

The newest iteration of our home page is now live on the site. If you have been following our progress during this beta testing period, you know that each week we have been refining the site based on user experience, and adding to the site with contributions from our team, festivals, artists and other users.

Throughout this process, the site is positioned as a weekly destination point. For those real fans of ours (those that check the site at least once every seven hours!), you know that each day we add or adjust site content, such as new announced dates for a festival, or new background links, or new festivals. At the beginning of each week, new information is highlighted on our home page. The weekly schedule also lets us plan new roll-outs of options, tools and possibilities.

The new home page has developed a process of transformation. Last week, there was a transition page from the earlier design to the current one. There are now four areas from which you are able to begin: Spotlight on what’s happening right now in the world; Experiment with different ways of searching through the site and capturing all the different kinds of content we have; Create your own voice on the site through the forum or this blog; and Contribute information, festival stories, photographs or other content.

As always, please do not hesitate to give us feedback on the design, usability, and any Palazzo Ducale oversight - by intention or not. (Ok, that was a pretty obscure reference. But, it’s a game we often play: replace a common phrase or proper name with a cultural/artistic/fun reference.)

So, let’s begin the first KadmusArts Kontest: if you write me (via the blog comments) the meaning of the reference, you win a free drink the next time I am traveling through your neighborhood.

Assuming that you are an honest person — a good position to have when meeting someone — you can’t play the game if you click on this link which will tell you about the connection between our design feedback and what’s notable about Duke Federico de Montefeltro’s design.

Don’t forget to keep checking the site and letting us know what you think, and what you dream for the site.

- Bill Reichblum

Four Days, Forty-five Hundred People, and We Go Forth

Monday, January 30th, 2006

This past week we were at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters convention in New York city. If you’ve ever wondered how programming at your local performance center is created, this convention provides some of the answers. There are three main activities at the convention: selling, meeting and showcasing.

For the selling, agents, artists and a few national organizations have booths covering three floors of convention space at the Hilton Hotel that highlight their artistic works ready to tour: chamber music groups, dance companies, soloists, theatre ensembles, magicians and other speciality acts. The noise, multitude of opportunities, and occasional glimpses of desperation can all be quite daunting. Still, it is amazing to see so many possibilities for programming and so many determined to make it happen.

Meetings were organized around topics — Buzz Marketing, Digital Marketplace, Focus on Research, Global Perspectives, for example. At the ones we attended, the divide of the selling (this one’s offering, that one’s buying) was broken down for easy panel presentations and honest questions. One lesson was clear: both the makers and presenters of work can feel very much alone in their endeavors; they need to share knowledge, experience, and points of view.

The showcasing took place all over New York — from concert halls to small theatres to hotel meeting rooms. Here, agents would hustle and artists would perform (sometimes whole pieces, sometimes just a sample) to any and all willing to enter. Always the best selling point is the work itself. You have to tip your hat to performers trying to make their mark in a windowless room better designed for faceless bureaucrats sitting at a table with water, mints and hotel notepads.

For us, the best part was the opportunity to speak with current and future users of this site. From these conversations it was made clear to us how much this site can be of service to each constituency of the convention: artists, presenters, and national organizations.

For those centers that host festivals, they can input all their updated programming, ticketing, resources and practical information directly via the email link on their page on our site. (And email us to add their festival if we don’t have it already!)

For the artists, they can send us links to their work: reviews, profiles, samples of music, and photographs. When they appear at a festival this information will be used to create links from that festival’s page on our site.

As we round the track on our first half of beta testing, these kinds of additions move us from a site solely produced by us to one that is mutually produced with the field — and that field includes the audiences.

More to come on additions, designs and tools.

- Bill Reichblum

Welcome Home Party

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

From the most recent feedback, during this second phase of testing, we have been re-thinking the home page.

Originally, we thought of the home page as an equivalent to a newspaper’s front page: Here are the lead stories of the week; here’s the context for what you will find on the site; here’s what’s inside; here’s how to get there. Sounds like a lot, right?

Instead of a review of web-use home page research, practice and theory, think about the issue in terms of a party for someone coming home from a trip.

After traveling to far and bizarre lands for months and months, you come home to your house where your family and friends (maybe a few enemies just to make it a better party) have been waiting to hear all about your long trip. How do you start?

One way:
“Well, on the first day, I got off the train and…On my second day, I woke-up to find…On the third day, as the sun began to rise…”

Another way:
“Here’s the map showing everywhere I traveled. What do you want to know about first?”

It’s easy to fall into using the first way. You’ve been on your own for so long, you want to talk! You are so excited to be able to finally share! You want them to know that every day was full of revelations. The problem is, though, your audience might feel overwhelmed: telling them about each and every tree before you’ve described the forest. If you haven’t ruined your party, you certainly have slowed it down.

The second way begins with the forest: the map. It invites your audience to guide the event. Stories are shared. There are jumps from one story to another — from the expected to the startling, from the pedestrian to the mystical, from the sublime to the ridiculous. A better party, don’t you think?

So, we are now working on the home page to create a better party for you.

Soon you will see the movement from our “front page” to more of a “cover page”: linked headlines and markers for what’s on the site — click and go there.

And don’t forget that as you click your way down through the site at each and any stop you are invited to add information.

Just like the party: make sure it’s not a monologue. Add to the tale. Make it a great party.

- Bill Reichblum

Beta II, On the Verge

Monday, January 9th, 2006

We are now preparing for Phase II of the beta test. (In case you are curious, we have planned three phases of beta.) Now that we know the structure of the site works, this next phase will be focused on user experience — from different points of view.

The comments, suggestions, and the occasional yelp (of pleasure, we presume) from the first phase have been incredibly helpful. In the next version, you will see these ideas, along with our own planned roll-outs, incorporated into the site: emphasis on the map; tabs to get you to the top of a page; headlines of festival and content news; fluidity of movement between festival page and other pages.

When we began, all of the information — on festivals, about artists, and with background context — was gathered by our own research. We have now begun to add information provided by you - our stakeholders.

If you work with a festival, you can update any segment of information directly from your festival page by going to the bottom of the page and clicking on comments@kadmusarts.com.

If you are an artist and you and/or your company is going to perform at a festival, you can update any information, including links to your own site, previous reviews, feature stories, photographs, and future plans through comments@kadmusarts.com.

If you are not connected to a festival or artistic company, but have valuable information to add, please do let us know through comments@kadmusarts.com.

Ana Maria has started a great chain in the community forum {http://kadmusarts.com/forum/index.php?topic=4.0} on “Festivals I dream about going to.” Her thoughts are completely captivating and poetic.

Maybe it is not as captivating and poetic, but we will be going to the convention of the Association of Arts Presenters {http://www.artspresenters.org/} in New York. [Another kind of beta-test: my first convention since I stopped smoking.] A good opportunity for more face-to-face feedback from artists and presenters.

Be sure to try your own “yelp” with the next roll-out of the site and let us know how it sounds.

- Bill Reichblum

Only Just Begun

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

We have now completed our first phase of beta testing. The focus of this phase was to test the structural integrity of the site, and elicit our first round of feedback.

It is nice to know that our integrity is intact! (No small accomplishment - at least in some fields.)

On the home page, under “This Week in Content,” you will find festivals with our comprehensive information. These are examples of where the site is headed. In addition to basic festival information, we provide stories about the festivals, links to articles and reviews, and other resources to enhance the understanding and enjoyment of events at the festival. As in all areas of the site, this is not static but will continue to expand and transform with input from our community: festivals, artists, and site users.

The home page is currently designed to best facilitate indexing by search engines. Once this process is complete you will see a slightly different layout of the home page.

Also on the home page, soon there will be a little “help guide” for using the global map. (If you haven’t yet played with the map, stop here and go to it.)

We have only just begun (yes, I know the song) but already users have come from Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, France, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Thailand, and United States.

The next phase of beta testing is about a broader range of user experience on the site. Through the community forum, comments@kadmusarts.com, and our individual emails, we welcome your ideas and participation in the conversation about the site’s development — and possibilities.

- Bill Reichblum

The Doors are Open

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

The last week has been similar to opening the rehearsal hall to an invite-only group of friends and colleagues to see parts of a production-in-process. The difference is that once the doors are open here, they do not close.

The site is now up and ready for anyone to “drop in” and to let us know what they think. New features and approaches will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

The “rehearsals” have gone well enough that - to keep the metaphor going - I am looking forward to the time when we move into the theatre. This means having access to all the possibilities - and space - of the site.

In the meantime, we have been talking about how well the tools on the site are working. Our main focus has been to ensure that the site is easy to read, and easy to navigate.

The site has not yet been fully indexed by the major search engines. However, our home page is starting to appear as a destination, so we know the full indexing is in process.

For searching within the site, Ruben has installed mnoGoSearch. [Mnogo means “many” in Russian.] This means that now you can search for a specific festival, country, time, or any combination.

Next part of the production-in-process: festival information that has been contextualized with background stories, articles and links to our affiliates.

We had a number of meetings this week to get face-face feedback on the site. Some of the comments will, I am sure, be echoed in the forum. One comment that won’t be in the forum: “Dad, this is cool.”

- Bill Reichblum