Given a nudge by Pete’s link I’ve been looking at the last post and wondering what to make of it all.
My original thoughts were basically a sheet of A4 covered in lists and bullet points that I’d originally thought I might be able to write up into a decent response to these discussions on CiB. Inevitably though, I never seemed to manage to mould them into any sort of coherent argument and it never happened. [so, as to accusations of making heads hurt, I reply "you started it!"]
Yesterday I rediscovered the sheet of notes and decided there was nothing linear to try and latch onto. So I tried mapping it out to see what shape it did have.
In doing so I roughly grouped what I wanted from events listings into 3 different aspects: going to see stuff (consuming/whatever you want to call it); knowing about stuff (for general background awareness or specific research); and me showing stuff (a sort of producer role). Wow, look how point-heavy the showing stuff area of the diagram is (top right-hand corner).
I’m not going to pretend I’m constantly putting on exhibitions or organising events, but on the occasions that I have done so so far, this has been a real sticking point. Idally I suppose I need to see about a month into the future.
Anyway, leaving that particular can of worms for now…
So, I now have some sort of checklist of the sort of information and resources the three of me want to be able to tap into. I also made a quick list of the places I tend to use most to try and get these. It was clear that no one source provided everything I want… and quite possibly that’s the way it should be.
What I’ve done today is thought about 4 of the places I listed and looked at what aspects of my wish-list they provide for. I opted for a really quick, intuitive approach because it’s a bit of an apples and oranges situation and I’m not really sure how you’d start to make a rigorous comparison. What follows is probably more useful if you regard the 4 as different models rather than as specific instances. As ever this post comes with the warning that I’m just writing as things occur to me because this site is basically my sketchbook. Don’t anyone else get too bogged-down by the details either.
It seems fair to look at Created in Birmingham first:
Pretty much got the community aspect of it nailed I’d say. Pete’s posts cover a wide range of things and there’s usually some discussion on hand to add more details and/or opinions. Probably should have highlighted the “knowledge in” point there too.
I don’t really know who these people are, but I get the feeling that the people who comment are often “industry specific” if I can call it that. At this stage I don’t know how to define that industry/community (creative practitioners? bloggers? people interested in Birmingham?). Whatever. Just that it feels like a well-defined undefined community and that’s a) why it works and b) why the “normal people” point didn’t get marked up.
Great for knowing what’s happening now in a breaking news kind of way; not the sort of thing you can use to plan ahead (just ‘cos it’s simply not that sort of thing).
Next comes Midwest: the other Midlands-centric resource.
Another resource with a strong community aspect. Events calendar, articles, message board, profile pages for the members and an active programme of events in the real world. I knew a core group of regular contributors and a fair few of the people who added occasional posts. There was a time when loads of stuff was being posted to the calendar, ranging from independent events to exhibitions from larger organisations. This was the first place I’d come to if I was organizing stuff: both for the planning and the marketing stages.
Past tense not because it doesn’t exist any more (it does, at least for a few more months) but because activity on the message board and calendar has gradually dropped off to the point where it’s no longer as useful as it was. The diagram above is marked up for my perception of the Midwest site from about a year ago.
Again, I think this is another closed community type affair. Probably communities bearing in mind the nature of the Birmingham art scene(s). Bonus marks for encompassing a wide range of art people, and I don’t feel that the non-marking-up of the normal people point is a negative thing. (There’s another can of worms about whether all art activity should be directed at, or inclusive of, a non-art audience. Moving swiftly on…)
What else do I want to say about the Midwest model? Nice range of local, regional and international stuff but a nightmare to try and search for stuff not near the top of the pile. Some useful implementations of syndication feeds for a few things, but not all.
Ostensibly a UK-wide listings site, but I eventually had to unsubscribe to the rss because each morning I’d have at least 20 listings for galleries in London I had no chance of getting to. There’s patchy representation for stuff in the Midlands, so I’m not sure how much use a region-specific rss feed would be right now but I did email them and request it as a feature. For me, it’s probably more use to use as a sort of magazine to browse through before a trip down to the capital.
The front page does some filtering based on date and popularity. There’s commenting and favouriting going on which is useful, but I’m too distanced to properly regard this as a community because I’m not part of it. There’s quite a few gaps in the showing stuff area of the diagram, but I accept this is probably in part due to my own ignorance.
Searching looks good on the diagram, but I actually find this aspect of the site quite frustrating. Doesn’t quite work for me and that’s a problem because I need to filter stuff to find what’s relevant to me.
How would this model work if it was region specific outside of London. Would there be enough events and community to support it? Would this strengthen the community that used it?
Last, but by no means least Tokyo Art Beat.
I love this site but it’s on the wrong damn continent.
Here’s how they introduce themselves:
TAB is Tokyo’s bilingual art & design events guide.
Offering event listings, reviews and creative jobs, the site is updated daily and lists more than 350 current & upcoming art events, at any moment.
Easy to use for all type of users, neophytes, casual art-goers or art professionals.
Smart data organisation with events sorted by media, schedules, and location, as well as event lists like Closing soon, Most popular, Open late, and Free.
Available via any PC or mobile phone.
User-generated reviews and recommendations and much more
If I was charged with having to build a listings site, this is the model I’d look at first. So far I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can offer, but look how many of my wish-list points it’s hitting.
I’d love to go into lots more detail, but if you’ve read this far I’ll assume you’re interested enough to have a poke around and have a look for yourself.
Some general points to take away though…
Look at the staff list. There must be some sort of revenue being generated here – there’s no Arts Council in Japan.
Kansai Art Beat has appeared at some stage over the last year. Someone else must think this model works and now they’re applying it to the Kansai region.
The only gripe I have so far with TAB is that I sometimes find the classification for art forms a bit limiting. Maybe that’s just because the sort of stuff I’m into isn’t very mainstream in Japan though. I’m not sure if a sculptor would come up with the same problem. Maybe a tagging system for keywords would help?
On the other hand, look at the range of syndication feeds you can choose from. Perhaps pigeonhole-ing has its benefits.
A nice blend of functional listings, community and hugely customizable so I can tailor it to my own needs. You can also easily hop from one listing to others that are related by medium or location and it goes without saying that each entry is fully linked-up to the relevant websites and maps. Priceless.
Posting an event seems to involve first emailing the organisers. I don’t know if there are hoops to jump through after that or what percentage of submissions are accepted. Does some sort of relationship develop between venues and TAB over time? Can you set up an account or something so you can be responsible for your own listings later? Is moderation a good thing or are there hidden agendas at work? Who knows – maybe I’ll find out for myself one day.
So, there you go. 4 different approaches and and introduction to what aspects of them work for me.
What can we learn from this?
update: In the absence of comments here, Pete’s offered a space for discussion over on CiB.