Thinking like an Artist in the Digital Age
This week is one of those weeks where I remember silly things, such as “you don’t have to have only one thing to write about to submit a blogpost.”
Here I am, an Artist. I have a day job as a therapist where I get to unite the scientific with the the spiritual, mystical, and the artistry of authentic living, and I get to do it in one of the most exciting eras: the Digital Age. I run into these strange moments of utter paralysis, where I am twitching whilst my fingers hang over the keyboard. “Too many things to write about! Where do I start?” my mind screams. I start here. If you have any idea to march upon that is in the least bit artistic, you will encounter at least one person close to you that doesn’t like it and will let you know you or your idea – or both – “suckz ballz”. I’ll hazard a guess that this indicator is as good as any to let you know you might be onto something.
On the short end of things, I’ll cut to the chase. In the span of four weeks, I managed to:
* get engaged to be married
* travel to Maui and ride in a support van for triathletes
* attend my first swimming lesson. Ever.
* commit to training for my first sprint triathlon [woot!]
* fill my work calendar to 90% capacity
* come up with two more eBook ideas
* be selected to receive a pair of Google Glass in the #ProjectGlass contest
* be filmed in a TV commercial for pay [check is in the mail]
* entertain a performance-oriented collaboration with a fellow artist
* complete a reverse-order, mostly indoor triathlon without cracking my head open during the swim [I did bump into a swimmer sharing a lane]
Other than eating, sleeping, and working, the “everything else” list is all the stuff I wish to attend to more, but after the other three things are taken care of adequately. But if you noticed, my “everything else” list is quite long! I should be absolutely and unequivocally BONKERS right now. Stark raving mad. Looney Tunes and ready to eat my kittehs for breakfast out of sleep deprivation and over-exhaustion. Read on to find out how I’m managing to have a life, do art, and make my world a better place!
Macworld iWorld 2013 Review
For the third year in a row, I’ve shared my thoughts about the best and the worst of Macworld iWorld. I admit in the two previous years, writing a “worst of” review wasn’t too hard. Expos tend to have a few things in common that run the gamut of silly or tasteless, such as booth babes and “Crapple” (Apple device accessories or software that are ugly, don’t work or work poorly, or seem rather pointless). This year, it took me a bit longer to compose my thoughts about the worst of Macworld because there was actually very little of it. And for that, the organizers of Macworld should be commended. You’re awesome! So, here’s to Macworld 2013, and here’s my rundown of the worst of it.
1. Why are you here? Both Man-Geek and I experienced a simultaneous “why are you here?” moment with a booth selling massage chairs and massage devices. I understand aches and pains that come from long-term, repetitive computer use. Why this Chinese company bought vending space on the Macworld floor — and was allowed to be there — is beyond me. We gave it a test try and sat down in front of the rep of the booth.
Man-Geek: why are you here at Macworld?
Vendor: Everyone has pain.
Man-Geek: I am not in pain.
Vendor: This is not for you.
We failed to see how a Chinese massage chair or devices met the specific needs of Apple consumers. #FAIL.
2. Starfish. Going into the weekend, we had no idea what a stir the Starfish booth was going to make, and if you’re a fan of wearable tech, you’ve probably already read the scathing reviews about the failed Starfish booth that boasted a smart watch claiming to mirror your iDevice. Lex Friedman’s review pretty much says it all, so I’m not going to bother to throw more words at a botched Macworld product launch.
The only things at the booth we ever saw were two cheap looking “demo” watches with nothing inside of them, and one very empty looking booth we were told to return to on the third day. Man-Geek’s hands were itching to try it out; the handbills looked slick for what it was supposed to do.
We went back twice. Nothing. #FAIL. If you’re going to launch something at Macworld, you should have something that is ready to go or has at least been beta tested for months, such as the File Transformer I mentioned in the previous post.
3. Brevity . It’s kind of hard for me to fault Macworld for being too short, but this year’s format was not only shorter, there were overall less offerings of sessions that wrapped up early on the only weekend day.
While the conference kicked in one day earlier than last year with the iPhonography track, it occurred mid-week when it’s less likely for fans to be able to take off work and attend. Man-Geek and I hung out Sunday in Chinatown and by the water. We were clued in Saturday night when we saw a mass exodus of attendees leave the Intercontinental Hotel for the airport; some appeared to be vendors.
4. I didn’t see that. If you didn’t attend Macworld knowing there was a full-on education track on Saturday, it wasn’t apparent in either prominent signage or on the app. In fact, the Macworld app user would not pull up those sessions as options unless you inadvertently clicked on a more hidden option on the app.
I understand if you’re not attending the IT track, an app that displays IT sessions that sound interesting to the iFan passholders might find it frustrating to sort through the remaining sessions that are available to your Pass level. But not even knowing there was a whole other group of sessions because they do not appear on the app easily is a UI issue for the app that I hope will be addressed by next year [and I'm really hoping that track grows exponentially].
While I knew there was an educator’s track (it was advertised), I was disappointed that it did not receive more attention. It’s my personal belief that both the educator’s track and the iPhonography/iFilm track will be Macworld’s most popular and fastest-growing tracks. The UI of the Macworld App gets a C minus in my book; just barely adequate to get the job done.
5. Crapple. I’m always a little embarrassed when I come across Crapple. For how much consumers spend on these iDevices, they deserve higher quality accessories, not things that will break, are poorly designed, or fail. I bought an iLid iPhone4 cover, which sports a nifty credit card holder and money clip inside a well-hinged door. The representative did not have any black iLid iPhone4S cases left, and he sold me a white one for $15 (reduced because it was his last one). I asked him directly, “Will the white case oxidize because it is cheap plastic?” His booth partner stepped in and showed me hers; she said it was one year old and looked good as new.
One week later, mine had already showed signs of oxidizing around the edges, and a little stain is already forming. The white iLid case, BTW, is no longer available for either the iPhone4 or the iPhone5. The reps simply failed to tell the truth about the product, and they didn’t mention that the company isn’t carrying it anymore [the black one has received good reviews, and that is what I wanted if was available at Macworld. I feel like I was sold a lemon].
Hmm. Um, #FAIL.
There was one booth near the front of the expo area that sold a vegan food product that worked great as a grilled fake cheese called Daiya. It gave the air a nice smell of cooking grease, and they were very busy handing out grilled fake cheese samples from morning to evening. Unfortunately, they failed to prominently display that their food has coconut oil in it, which at moderate amounts, I have an allergic reaction. I found that out after I popped a piece in my mouth after reading their abbreviated list of ingredients. One of their execs was there, and he apologized. I never got around to asking why Daiya was at Macworld, but I like cheese-y foods, so there was a certain amount of forgiveness extended.
While vending space may continue to shrink because the development of products slows in relation to Apple’s new product delivery, it will be up to the organizers of Macworld to help shape next year’s directions to entertain, educate, inspire, and entice new Apple users to become a part of a more active user fanbase and community. If we’re going to gather, give us a reason: I can only guess that the reason to gather is to CONNECT [hmm, iConnection... iConnect2U...something].
Apple already has a Developer’s conference. Macworld iWorld has the potential to be a more powerful consumer-driven conference in the few years it has been in recovery from Apple’s withdrawal, but it is missing something. It’s not missing the after-parties. It’s not missing a great location or adequate support in terms of places to stay and eating and drinking establishments nearby. It’s not missing places to hang out and talk. What’s missing? Something… and it’s so hard to put into words.
I know I’m right about this missing “thing” as I have watched the number of attendees shrink, and a few prominent vendors withdraw their participation. Even the Music Stage, a prominent area featuring all-day demonstrations of music creation, editing, and performance for the Apple user, was meagerly attended. I watched the Drum Circle people scramble to figure out which day was actually the last “large crowd” day to put on a performance. Last year it was Sunday; this year, it really was Saturday, or arguably Friday evening.
Oh, that’s it, isn’t it? It was as if the conference had no climax, no evening keynote inviting everyone to attend in one place to say, “Thank you for coming!” Yes, Apple fans are still convinced that they will keep using their Apple ecosystems to the fullest; that’s why they came. Yet they just attended a conference that was meant to give them that feeling of geeky cool and belonging, and it somehow fell a little flat towards the end because there was no rally point, no “group picture” moment, and few souvenirs (unless you bought something, like a t-shirt). There was no swag bag, just the usual free copy of Macworld.
True, we missed Ashton Kutcher’s Thursday morning keynote address. But frankly Kutcher is not Macworld. Maybe what I’m trying to get at is that Apple fans will continue to be fans of Apple, and we will continue to use our iDevices to make and shape extraordinary things: art, books, music, apps, lifestyles. But there was a lack of sparkle and excitement in this year’s rendering, and I’ll be curious to see what Macworld does next year to bring the magic back, hopefully sans Chinese massage chairs.
[the disco roller skate girls can stay. they were cool.]
P.S. The lack of pictures for this post is intentional. I don’t write these “worst of” posts to shame anyone specifically — ok, maybe that Chinese massage chair vendor! But I’ve kind of learned by observation that while a picture says one thousand words, it is also true that not rewarding someone by withholding pictures makes sure you’re not giving free advertising to someone or something you’re trying to change.
But if you feel deprived, write me at info @ hips for hire, request a picture, and I will personally send you a digital picture that I haven’t shared publicly, something from Macworld for your own edification. :)
On Feb. 21, 2013, I got around to writing the folks at iLid to complain about the oxidation problem with their white iLid iPhone4 case, and I sent them a picture of it one week after purchase. I didn’t bother to send the 2-weeks in photo — it is completely discolored. They have credited me $15 towards a black case, which I’ll be buying soon. The case itself is pretty cool, but the white plastic needs to go bye-bye.
Macworld|iWorld 2013 Sessions
I’ve attended Macworld|iWorld 2013 for the third year in a row, and each year brings new learning, new applications, IT implications, and new accessories to the Apple ecosphere. As opposed to two years ago when I focused primarily on music creation through companies like IKMultimedia, this year I’ve honed in primarily on two areas of personal interest: book publication alternatives and iPhonography. For those of you who are looking into publishing your work to a larger audience than the microblog or creating stunning photography without lugging around a ton of expensive, heavy equipment, Macworld’s seminars hosted a number of important and entertaining seminars for the Apple consumer that were not only worth attending, but served as inspirational points of intersection. Macworld is far more than the expo floor and the tech toys. It is also the seminars led by experts in the field who help make the tools understandable to the average consumer.
iBooks and ePublication
While I like playing around with the tech toys like Bowblade and the cool applications that make life simpler, Macworld exists for much more. When it comes down to it, I’m going to return to my little slice of the “iWorld” in Seattle, and the questions I will be seeking answers for are, “Is there any way to make X easier?” and “How can I make Y better?” One of the areas of the Apple ecosphere that needed to go through a big change quickly was iBooks. This change happened when the iPad was launched, and the expectation of Apple fans was to be able to read books on their iPads in a way that was more dynamic than a static scrolled PDF and devoid of formatting errors. During one of the Macworld Live sessions today, one panelist let it be known that early on the process of the creation of iBooks, files were being sent to India to be quickly converted into .mobi format (see below)! What a revelation!
With Amazon.com’s Kindle Direct Services being the most popular online eBook publisher in the world, I have to take a moment and answer one very important question: why write your book on Pages for Apple or publish to iBooks at all? Kindle books are readily available through a free reader app on the iPad, and you would think that writers would want to use the easiest applications to get their books supported in the ePub format for Kindle, like a one-step “press publish” process.
Well, it turns out that if you want to make beautiful text and image books through Apple iBooks, iBooks is an easy way to publish eBooks — especially interactive, multimedia books — and get a nicely finished product in the hands of people accessing your book on an iPad. It is still a little bit more complicated if you want to publish across other eBook formats. Dot mobi (.mobi) is an Amazon Kindle proprietary format. You can’t just open a .mobi file and edit seamlessly; it’s a bit of a more trial and error process, according to Macworld expert Serenity Caldwell.
The big tip of the day on ePublishing, whether with a Mac or with a PC, is to consider the process of ePublishing before you finish your book files for traditional book publishing; even better yet, you should be thinking about this as you’re creating your traditional hard copy book, rather than waiting until the end of the writing process. A writer needs to think about how the book will look for the customer no matter what device s/he is viewing it on (tablet, smartphone, laptop). Caldwell showed a few disaster examples of blank pages, blocks, and dashes — the remains of poorly converted data after the publisher attempted to upload a file for publication.
The good news is that for iBooks (an Apple proprietary format), the format is great for “animations and fancy things” (I lifted this quote from Caldwell’s public notes). If you have a book that contains a lot of detailed photographs, sketched images, or video, you’re going to love the iBooks Author publication route. Part of the reason is that ePub (Amazon, Sony, Nook) does not have support for a few things that iBooks does. To be clear, iBooks is great if you have a Mac; it does not work on other formats.
For those of you creating for multiple formats, you’ll have to edit each file for each format, carefully proofreading and making sure you don’t have empty pages, blocks of black in your images, or dashes and blocks along the side of the page. If you have ever seen this in someone else’s file that you purchased, you were, along with the author, a victim of the learning curve in ePublishing [insert slap of hand to the forehead].
Compared to just five years ago, 2013 is a fantastic time to get into eBook publishing. iBooks just made it a little easier.
iPhonography: A Editing and Post-Production World in Your Back Pocket
I got my first iPhone in 2010, when improvements to the camera were significant enough to catch my eye. On a limited budget, I didn’t want to have to choose between a phone and a camera for quality Point and Shoot. Very early on, I saw the possibilities for photography and post-production on the phone itself, and as soon as I could, I ditched my Android phone and purchased an iPhone 4. Later I upgraded to the 4S, and I’ve never looked back.
Why is iPhonography so enchanting? The act of capturing the beauty within the mundane does not usually inspire people to haul twenty pounds of equipment around, or to fish out your lenses and an SLR camera. If the subject is ordinary, the ability to pull something out of your pocket and be ready to shoot quickly and painlessly has made iPhonography one of the fastest growing aspects of Apple consumer use. With increased resolution in the 4S model, people with very little photography skills could learn how to frame shots and apply post-production work to create new works of art. Additionally, apps and hardware for iPhone are generally soft on the wallet.
In the sample above, I shot a simple photo on the iPhone4S with natural light coming through the windows of the Moscone Center. Cropping the photo in iPhoto for iOS, I then applied one filter to help extend the contrast and convert the photo to a vintage or grainy black and white photo. By sitting in a couple of different seminars on iPhonography (including Dan Marcolina’s iPhone Obsessed seminar), I saw demonstrations of filters and drawing apps applied to simple photos like my own, giving me inspiration of how I can continue to manipulate and alter photos into new pieces of art. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking the same photo and running it through several different processes, documenting my favorite end results. Who knows? I might produce something I really like!
Since shooting without editing is still one of the most important aspects of photography, it’s still important to talk about lenses. While SLR camera lenses can go for a thousand or more, it just blows my mind that there are lenses for the iPhone that are so much more affordable — and they are lightweight and portable. One is the Olioclip, with fisheye, wide-angle and macro lenses that slip right over the camera of the iPhone corner. The drawback of all these lens systems is that they are dependent on the width of the phone, so each time you upgrade to a new phone, you’ll need to buy a new set of lenses to fit. My recommendation is that you find a buyer for you phone who likes photography, and sell the entire thing as a package deal.
There is a newer seven-lens package with a price tag under $100. My mistake was to not write down the name of the company that makes this seven lens package, but I’m pretty sure I can get that information from Google once it becomes a bit more popular. Almost all the iPhonography oriented seminars had some time to discuss favorite apps and lenses, but the bare minimum seems to be the three types of lenses mentioned above. On Marcolina’s iPhone, I noticed a full-sized macro lens with a special custom piece pimped out to hold it against the iPhone camera lens at just the right spot. That’s the exception, not the rule.
About one bajillion apps were introduced by author and photographer Dan Marcolina in his very fervent presentation, and he quickly answered my question about why he titled his book, “Iphone Obsessed” . His presentation was filled with every photo app under the sun that he could squeeze in under forty-five minutes. Audience members who are new to this part of the Apple ecosphere will leave feeling exhausted. Better to buy a copy of his book and check out the website of Mobile Masters (now available through iTunes since Jan. 28, 2013). While the presentation was frenetic, the obvious take-away is that he knows his stuff when it comes to every possible thing you can do with iPhone photo manipulation. My mistake was to not write down the name of the company that makes this seven lens package, but I’m pretty sure I can get that information from Google.
The addition of a iPhonography track (one full day before the conference began) was a smart move for the conference, but it also makes me wonder if that could have been a single track concurrent with the conference; that is, running simultaneously, rather than running mid-week before weekend visitors could access the track. The cost was also prohibitive for casual users.
Additionally, Macworld hosted the IPFF for the third year in a row, including a contest for films shot solely with the iPhone. The festival showing was 90 minutes, although I did not stay for the entire festival. This year’s winner was a South Korean filmmaker Vio Kim, a music video using a mini-helicopter, with the iPhone clipped in. Some of the shots were taken over the ocean. Check out this link if the video does not work. http://www.iphoneff.com/?p=5806
The iPhoneFF director mentioned that audio is the most significant challenge of using the iPhone for film, especially when international collaboration and multiple users are involved. Sound quality is a challenge regardless of what recording device is being used, but I think this challenge is going to inspire more people to pay attention to audio quality in the future. That, or we’re going to see far more offerings of film with dubbing, music, and text rather than sound shot on location. It was no coincidence that there were significantly more booths at Macworld this year focused on sound quality, either through the end-user listening experience (Polk), or the recording experience (Blue microphones).
Whatever you’re interested in regarding publication, photography, or film, Macworld covered the consumer experience end to end. It took several attempts at looking at all the offerings on the expo floor as well as the seminars to get a sense of the massive amount of content available to turn average users into savvy producers. Even the New York Times, who had one of the quietest booths in 2012′s Macworld Expo, came up with a clever piece of framed art to help market one of the nation’s most popular newspapers:
1. Take a photo of yourself with an iPhone or iPad 2. Select a section of the NYTimes that you like (I chose Psychology) 3. Use an application similar to WordFoto that traces the dark areas of the photo with words from that section of the paper 4. Print
I have to hand it to them: the NYTimes finally understood their consumer and produced a free item that combined the fans love of iPhone photography and wedded it into a new piece of art you can hang in your home or office.
Specifically for my mental health care practice, I have some ideas of how I’ll be using photography in my iWorld. What about you? Are there ways that publication and phone photography can enhance your life and artistic offerings in 2013?