Things I’ll never build – Part MCLIV – WordPress Instagram Liked Plugin

This idea was inspired by one of my favorite Instagram features: see what pics have been Liked by my friends. Although there are already a number of Instagram related WP plugins, all of them are about displaying galleries of my own pics on my blog.
This one would, once a given span, post to my WordPress blog the last X instagram pics I have taken or liked. To be precise, it would:
  • let me choose the number of max pics it could post
  • show only my pics or also the ones I’ve recently liked
  • display the account name and link to the original photo
  • not show the pics that are set to private
  • let me choose the size of the photos and layout
  • post a notification to Twitter or FB.
I think that it’s a great way to:
  • turn non-users to users by showing them the beauty of Instagram
  • find new people to follow (turn non-followers to followers)
  • see cool photos taken by people connected to my friends without having to follow new users
  • give a second life to pics that have been taken a few days ago and that already have all but disappeared into the ether by sending them back in the loop via a blog post.
Well, I guess that it could also work as a standalone service (Instaliked?), like the ones I have detailed in this post on Instagram web apps round-up.
Anyway, here are 5 Instapics I like!
Oh, and since you’re asking, yes, there is a Things I’ll never build – Part MCLIII

2 days at the Nakanojo Biennale of Art

Welcome to a lovely corner of Gunma Prefecture for the Nakanojo Biennale (Nakabi). In its 3rd edition, the festival can be compared to the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, Japan’s oldest and largest countryside art festival, for it borrows the same recipe: find a seldom visited corner of Japan, reopen long closed primary schools, old breweries, former factory and empty houses to display a select group of artists (Japanese-only in the case of Nakabi) for a crowd of locals and day-trip visitors from other corners of Japan and bigger cities. I visited the festival on its closing weekend early October for reasons I will mention later in this post, and had a total blast.

I want to share some of the features that make the festival a great 1~3-day trip opportunity and some of the aspects that I hope will be improved before their next edition in 2013.

The Best
The area has luckily been spared the all too usual straight, endless national road bordered by chain stores treatment. The main reason is that it is tucked in a little corner of Gunma Prefecture that you cannot actually go through for the roads end at big damns up in the mountain. Additionally, it is onsen wonderland with Kuni Onsen, Sawatari Onsen and the famous Shima Onsen areas; all of which you go through and stop by to catch some of the 160 artists showing in the festival.

Fairly compact the festival can be covered in 2 packed days of driving the roughly 80km of roads linking the 2 extremities and stopping by the 43 art locations. Most of the roads are small mountain paths limited to 40km/h that offer great opportunities for sporty driving to the seasoned tourer taking out his Lotus Elise for a cultural spin in the soft end-of-summer weather.

I spent 2 days in the area, visiting the West half on the first day on my own and the East part on day 2 with Tomomi who was joining for the day from Tokyo. A third day would have been required to visit all the locations but a quick study of the very nice and detailed Biennale guidebook allowed me discard about a quarter of the artworks that looked less appealing.

The first day I progressed slowly West to arrive in the Kuni Onsen area in the evening for a good night in a tiny and lovely onsen ryokan lost in the mountains. On day 2 Tomomi and I went straight to the Shima Onsen area and slowly worked our way back to the Nakanojo station. The Festival is really well-paced, with only between 5~10km between 2 locations and often a few artists to view at once.

Maybe it was because the festival was in its last weekend but most of the staff at each location seemed to be a local grandpa/ma types that had been recruited for days at a time. What they seemed to lack in knowledge of the artwork or curiosity in its visitors, they made up in kindness, local knowledge and tips to reach the next artwork. It also gave the festival a true local feel, just as if they’d set up the festival on their own without the help of any curator from the big city. We could sense their personal pride in the festival, full awareness of its positive impact on the area and its people.

Having visited a couple of much bigger art festivals in Japan, I was originally suspicious of the quality of the artworks I would find here despite a few great pieces introduced by Spoon & Tamago. Shame on me for imagining that such a lovely area could attract lesser curation or talent. Not only did all our visits made me regret my original doubts, the location themselves were art pieces in their own rights and Tomomi and I found ourselves often staying far longer than we’d imagined, studying every corner of the old houses, factories, and closed school frozen in time, still full of original furnitures and items much echoed by Masahiko Kiyooka’s “The cycle of things” installation in the Former Gotanda School.

The Rest

Let me now mention some of challenges I think the festival faces in the run up to the next edition:

  • Promotion was nearly inexistent from what I’ve heard. The fact that no one involved in TAB had heard of the festival until about mid September is truly regrettable.
  • No English description of the event or artworks on their website, booklet, road signs.
  • Clearly, the East half of the festival showcased much better artworks (which I easily worked out just flipping through their booklet on the morning of the first day and confirmed on the second.) This was probably by design, for 1-day trippers but a few high profile artworks on the West would have encouraged more people to stay overnight.
  • Moreover, a few higher profile Japanese or international artists would have gone a long way in helping with the festival’s promotion.
  • The area is full of great photo spots. I was able to find a lot without going out of my way much, but the landscape is so stunning it would have been nice to see recommended scenery spots on the festival map.
  • Lastly, I feel like there were too few opportunities for me to spend money in the area. Save for a few gift stores. I fail to see how the festival can be a viable project.

In any case, I am truly looking forward to the next edition in 2013, and so probably are the organizers who’ve announced they’ve doubled the previous attendance to 300,000. And I hope to have the opportunity to visit a few more of these lovely and unique art festivals around Japan. Next on my list is probably the Beppu Contemporary Art Festival 2012.

[More photos on Flickr]

 

Moving from Posterous to WordPress

Sounds like the easiest thing in the world?
Well, much like when I migrated from Movable Type to Posterous via WordPress, it took some work.

Since the Posterous Importer plugin for self-hosted WordPress wouldn’t stop coughing on my Posterous site, I first signed up to WordPress.com (for free) and used their native and better maintained Posterous import plugin to suck all my posts and media.
Then I immediately exported all of it using the Export menu and then imported it all back into the self-hosted WordPress installation before deleting the WP.com intermediary blog.
Ta-daa!

I’ll pass on the setup necessary to keep the nice blog.aka.me sub-domain but it’s all working nicely now.

So nearly 2 years ago I did:
MT → WP → Posterous
and just now:
Posterous → WP.com → WP

* Update 1
hehehe it was kinda too easy, right?!
Turns out I am missing half my posts and comments. Duh!
Looking into other solutions.
To be continued…

* Update 2
If you notice a discrepancy between the number of posts on Posterous and WP.com, you probably have character encoding issues in some of your Posterous posts (I did, from the original MT import years ago). After fixing them, I was able to import the remaining posts. All done!

Updated – Hooked On

The previous Hooked On section:


Music > De De Mouse


Anime > Level E


App > Instagram

For the 3 new ones, check aka.me‘s top page

Instagram web apps round-up

I’ve recently fallen in love with Instagram (I am @aka_me there), the photo-sharing tool. It’s managed to put me back in a mood I was last in in the early Flickr years:

  • the pleasure to take photo on a near daily basis
  • pay more attention to my surroundings in search of interesting snaps to share
  • care for my friends’ pics

This is quite an amazing feat for a very simple app with limited features compared to the competition.

But they have a recently-released API that has been used to create a series of interesting web-apps and mashups. The next months will probably see the release of many more services (going beyond the simple display of photo on a grid) but I thought I’d start by listing some of the best services of the moment.

Cookie points for the person releasing a map of Tokyo’s cherry blossom path overlaid with Instagram cherry blossom pics. 😉

Extragr.am

Extragram

Gramfeed

Gramfeed

Instagrid

Instagrid

InstaRamen

Instaramen

Inkstagram

Inkstagram

Webstagram

Webstagram

Instagreat

Instagreat

Special mention for Printstagram which allows you to print your photos on a poster or small stickers.

Updated – Hooked On

The previous Hooked On section:


Music > Arcade Fire


Anime > Kuragehime


App > Carcassonne

For the 3 new ones, check aka.me‘s top page

“VIP Art Fair” Website Review

The Viewing In Private (VIP) Art Fair (Jan. 22 – Jan. 30) is the first major online art fair in years, and part of a growing worldwide trend to move art trading activities online. To the casual museum-goer, the idea of a limited time online art fair may seem puzzling, or even pointless. But to collectors, this event is a rare opportunity to browse and purchase a large collection of artworks (often too big to show at art fairs) from world-renowned and emerging galleries, from the comfort of their own home.

The event has attracted 137 galleries from 30 countries (4 from Japan), each paying between $5,000 and $20,000 for their virtual booth, totalling 2248 “hung” works. It has also managed to attract an impressive amount of press coverage, and judging by recent apologies for the speed of the site, traffic as well.

This casual review of the design and interaction of the site, follows an earlier article on my company’s blog about the Monet2010 website, and serves as an opportunity to highlight what similar future ventures and galleries might do to enhance their visitors’ experience and encourage them to fall in love with art.

Home

Welcome Screen

the first screen you see when logged in is far from the Grand Entrance Hall I’d be expecting from a fair touting itself as a world-class event. The overall design is bland and reflects badly on the efforts put in by its organizers. It could have been more ambitious and created a stylish atmosphere to help define the VIP Art Fair as more than a novel technical platform.

Content-wise, an excellent way to kickstart my visit would have been a short welcome video by the Fair Director with links to the exhibition halls, to the galleries seeing the most activity and a few interesting Tours.

Gallery

Galleries

The bare minimum you’d expect to find at an art fair: a slideshow with 20 artworks, artist info, artworks details, and a few features unique to an online fair: a chat window for paid users to talk with the dealers, different views for each artwork, a zoom, bookmarks and unique URLs. Unfortunately, it seems to have been designed with little consideration to visitors. The Wall is too small and loses a lot of vertical space to the interface resulting in smaller artworks on your screen, the chat feature was so slow it was closed 3 days into the fair, the links to artist, artwork info and bookmarks are nearly too small to click on, and the unique URLs change every time the gallery adds a new artwork in the mix.

One thing I really enjoyed though was the Human Silhouette overlay that gives a sense of the scale of the artworks. Leave it on and watch it change size as you scroll from one artwork to the next. For extra fun, go into your preferences where you can choose between 6 different silhouettes. I would have pushed as far as inviting famous curators and collectors to contribute their silhouettes, rather than the generic Mr. VIP I and Ms. VIP II.

Map

Maps

The map gives access to the various galleries and is articulated around 3 groups: Premier, Emerging, and Focus. Although it indicates which galleries I have visited, I would have liked more hints of visitor activity to help guide my visit: perhaps highlighting which galleries are getting the most views via a little popularity gauge or icon, something that is helpful during real-world art fairs to judge where the buzz is at.

Favourites

Search

Visitors can search artworks by Gallery Level, Price and Medium, which is all pretty basic. More engaging ways to browse artworks: themes, size, year, country.

Favorites

a list of the artworks I have saved. Pretty useless actually since I couldn’t click on any of the artworks to go back to individual artwork pages. Additionally, I would have liked bigger images of the artworks.

Tours

Reserved to paid users, the tours are visitor-generated. While I found the idea smart and the interface to create them simple enough, I think the incentive to create quality tours was too low and of the few tours created (10 in the VIP lounge), very few had clear themes or descriptions. I would have liked the organizers to seed the section with a selection of interesting tours by popular curators or academics around engaging themes. One good example is Miwako Tezuka’s tour of Contemporary Asian Artists, a smart tour with interesting notes from the author. And this is the tour I made: A Selection of Big Artworks.

Tours

In conclusion

A few tips I can extract from the above review for all event organizers:

  • For online events based on offline events, think outside the box. Old gimmicks are not what your users need to feel comfortable and in-the-know.
  • An impressive technical platform needs an impressive visual identity to create long-lasting traction and taste for your project.
  • Offer various ways to browse your content to fit the main audience groups of your site (collectors + casual browsers? wannabe collectors?).
  • Displaying user activity helps create anticipation and motivates navigation through large data sets and even maybe purchase.
  • Maximize visibility of the primary focus of your users visits. (Maximize virtual wall surface and size of artworks)
  • Design repetitive tasks (zooming-in, closing, view info) to be effortless.

Silhouettes

Selling our Wooden Igloo Bookshelf

Own a unique piece of furniture created by 2 Tokyo architects in 2007.

Called the Uroko-ya (“uroko”: “fish scale” referring to the felt tiles covering it and “ko-ya”: small room) it has been used as a bed “igloo” in our studio for the past 3 years and featured in countless design mags and websites.

We now have a little kid who loves to run around and needs more floor space for his toys, so we are selling it.

It includes a lot of shelf space for books or items (more than 24m over 6 shelves), a wardrobe area and an entrance.
It would also make a perfect small kid’s sleep/play room, a shop display, a study or a quiet reading room.

It fits a queen-size bed (w160) with room to walk around it.
The 4 bottom shelves are 36~33cm tall and easily fit big art books (higher shelves are shorter).
The wardrobe area has 4 doors on the outside and can also be accessed from the inside (175 tall, 180 wide including 2 hanging rails)
The entrance is 175 tall and 60 wide.
It includes a little side table, 76.5 high and a seating area close to the entrance.

It’s all made in smooth and light-colored “Shina” plywood. 15mm thick. Treated with a light coat of clear matt varnish. Nice and soft to the touch.

Price: JP¥ 500,000 includes delivery and the re-building of the igloo in your own space.
You can have the felt tiles too, but as you can see from the photos below is it a very adaptive structure that would be happy to be dressed differently.

More photos on Flickr
The world talking about it: http://www.google.com/search?q=uroko+bed

Updated – Hooked On

The previous Hooked On section:


Music > Lady Gaga


Anime > Durarara!!


App > Instapaper

For the 3 new ones, check aka.me‘s top page

URGENT ET TRES IMPORTANT

je t’apprends que j’ai accompagné en Afrique un aumônier  pour un projet
j’ai des soucis car l’aumônier moi et le guide avons étés agressé dans la nuit d’hier par une bande armée, vraisemblablement en provenance du nord de la Cote d’Ivoire.
l’aumônier a reçu plusieurs coups de poignards au ventre et le guide a de grave blessures de balle a l’abdomen en voulant me défendre il se trouve actuellement dans un hôpital a 15 km d’Abidjan , j’ai également reçu des blessures superficielles a la tête et au pied car j’ai du m’en fuir pour chercher du secours.
nous avons besoin d’aide c’est une urgence Marc le guide est père de deux filles j’ai une responsabilité financière vis-à-vis de sa famille.
j’aurai besoin d’un prêt de 1500 € ou ce que tu as et cela dans le plus bref délai je te rembourse dès mon retour. je me suis renseigné a savoir comment est ce que je pourrais recevoir la somme étant ici au plus vite et le médecin de garde ma dit par mandat express alors tu dois te rendre a la poste et faire un mandat express via western union je te laisse les coordonnées.
nom et prénom :
pays et ville : COTE D’IVOIRE  / ABIDJAN
adresse c’est bien celle du médecin: rue plateau 12 Abidjan 01
comprend que je suis en Afrique et j’ai un accès internet limité
pour l’instant ma vie n’est plus en jeu mais celui de mon guide oui
je pourrais t’en dire plus a mon arrivée voici en quelques mots mon calvaire
merci de me répondre en toute franchis

  • Aka.me

    Based in Paris & Tokyo, Paul Baron is a senior product manager for hire. Ex-@AQworks. Co-founder of cultural platform Tokyo Art Beat.
    Service design, interaction design, startups, user research.
    Posts a few times a decade since 2003.

    Visit Aka.me for the full site.


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