Blog Posts

Boomerang!

I have some exciting news to share. After 8 years of being away I will be re-joining the team at the San Jose Museum of Art in a role I previously held and helped create over 10 years ago – Manager of Interactive Technology. I’m still surprised and very excited! This opportunity came out of no where!

A few months ago the Knight Foundation awarded the San Jose Museum of Art, along with several other museums, a grant “to hire technology talent, to expand audience engagement” – Art museums across the country to hire technology talent, expand audience engagement efforts with nearly $1 million from Knight Foundation.  From my understanding, the grant was awarded based on the work we had done when I held the position before. It was an exciting time back then with the emergence of YouTube, Podcasting, and the launch of the the iPhone/iPod Touch, all which we were at the forefront of.

There are some new things that I would really like to explore in my role there. I’ve always been fascinated by e-ink technology and I would really like to see if it could be used to create interactive wall labels in a beautiful way. Also, there have been a lot of museums working on digital publications, which I hope to contribute to as well. I think that the web is still a place that has more potential for rich, interactive experiences around museum collections, as well as programs. And of course I want to continue adding to the digital library of content that we started back then and SJMA has been continuing to add to over the years.

My decision to go back to SJMA was not an easy one. In fact, I considered it for weeks from the time contact was made to the time I accepted. The fact of the matter was that I liked Gallery Systems – quite a bit. The company is on an amazing trajectory with it’s new web applications and there are incredibly talented people there. If you are considering a new collections management system for your organization, I would highly recommend them.

I have never felt as comfortable in a position as I did in the role of Manager of Interactive Technology at SJMA years ago. I know that it will be different, with new processes and a lot of great new people, but hopefully it will still have a lot of similarities. I really look forward to returning and contributing again to a museum that I have missed so much over the years.

P.S. This website just seems to be a place to announce new jobs. I want to make that change. In the coming months you can expect to see a refresh of the design, as well as more activity in sharing ideas and projects. Stay tuned!

Image: Art in America. https://www.artguide.pro/listings/san-jose-museum-of-art/

Stanford Bound

Photo of the Cantor Art Center at Stanford

Photo by Thomas Hawk (https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/5759987938)

As I get older, and I see my life progressing, the years literally seem to go by in a blink of the eye. One year ago, almost exactly, I posted about a new job I was starting at a company called zetcom. What a difference a year makes. The position there, while satisfying from an knowledge gaining perspective, always left me wanting more. The reason for this? – I have always longed to be back at a museum – especially an art museum.

In San Jose, where I live, there are NOT a lot of options for art museum work. In fact it’s only the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA) where I used to work years ago. San Francisco is relatively close (50 miles away) and there have been many great possibilities in “the city”, but the commute has made it difficult to apply for any jobs there. People in big cities outside of California, with great transit systems, don’t understand that a commute to SF would easily be 3-4 hours daily roundtrip. Maybe that is normal for some, but I want to see my family every now and then, if I can.

For years I have been watching another relatively close art museum (21 miles in Palo Alto) for the right position to be posted, and recently it finally was… and, I was hired for it. Today I am pleased to announce that I will be returning to museum life at the Cantor Art Center, located at Stanford University, in the role of Digital Media Manager. The position closely resembles the one which I had at the San Jose Museum of Art which I loved so much, with one exception – this job has Stanford University and all the incredible resources  it provides. I am thrilled to be working with the staff there, along with the students, instructors, departments, etc.

Initially, my big focus will be on a redesign of their website with close integration of their permanent collection archive. I’ll also be overseeing their social media channels along with cross department and interdisciplinary digital projects. There will also be some opportunities with in-gallery interactives.

Years ago after I had conceived of my position at SJMA and presented it to the director, I felt a tremendous amount of satisfaction that I had found my career in life, or my life’s “calling”. I worked hard at that job and did a lot of work to raise awareness of the museum among it’s peers. My time there was cut too short, however, due to the economic crash of 2008 and a new director that had to make some quick decisions.  My sense of purpose and meaning was very strong in my role as Manager of Interactive Technology at SJMA and it made life great. I know there will be some big differences at Stanford, but I’m hoping I can regain some of this “purpose and meaning” again. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities my job at SJMA provided over the years – most notably my time with the amazing people at Toura (now defunct).

There will be a lot of adjustments I have to make with this new position versus my last two. For instance, I’ll be commuting for the first time in years. In fact, I’ll be commuting by train which I have never done before, but I admit – I’m kind of looking forward to. I’ll also be away from home where I have worked for the last 5 years – so no more being home for the boys when they arrive home, no more easy pickups (sorry Jen), and not as much cooking, which I love to do. Additionally, while working at home has its benefits, not having direct contact with humans can start taking it’s toll. I’m definitely looking forward to being in a room with people for meetings.

Over the coming weeks I’m sure I’ll be directing a lot of questions toward the museum community. I hope you’ll take the time to get back to me on what your museum does or anecdotes you have from your work with museums. I’m looking forward to everything that lies ahead!

Bee in the Yard

Bee on our Watercolor Rose.

A video posted by Chris Alexander (@cmalexander) on

New Horizons…

Figure looking over landscape

Today I’m pleased to announce that I will be joining the team at Zetcom as their Manager of Projects and Implementation in North America and will be working closely with Marcia Finkelstein, their Director of Business Development. Zetcom creates a robust collections management system for museums of all types – from art to archeology to history. I will be fortunate to continue working with many great museums, providing them with incredible customer service, as I was doing in my previous position at Toura. I’m very much looking forward to working with Zetcom and doing some great things. I’m also looking forward to attending conferences again as a Zetcom representative and seeing the many friends I’ve made over the years and lost touch with.

This position arrived after several stressful months of unemployment peppered with a lot of reflection, both personal and professional. As some of you may or may not know, Toura ceased operation as of November 2013. It’s intellectual property was acquired in October 2012 by a company in the UK and I was fortunate enough to stay on board to continue with client management. As is sometimes the case in the business world, the company that acquired Toura, was acquired by another company and the new owners shut Toura down rather than put resources into it. So, for the latter half of 2013 I had to work at dismantling everything Toura had built over the prior few years. It was an extremely difficult time for me and I told many people that it felt like committing slow, painful career-suicide.

Having just worked for a startup (Toura), I figured I had two career routes I could take – working in a Silicon Valley company or finding something again in the museum world. Initially I opted for focusing on startups and bigger Silicon Valley companies, which proved to be an eye opening experience. I had interviews at Flipboard, TuneIn, Box, Shopkick, Hightail, Bitcasa, Guidebook, Apple, and Facebook. I had discussions with people at Groupon, Apigee, Quixey, Lab126, SurveyMonkey. I had initial phone interviews, onsite interviews and managed to get to several 2nd interviews – I was even told I was the runner up for a few positions. A lot of these positions involved user support and client relations – similar to what I had been doing at Toura. I had great experience, outstanding comments from previous clients on LinkedIn, great references, great interviews that got me to runner up status, but couldn’t turn it into a job despite generating a lot of interest. It was frustrating.

Ultimately, I came around…

What I failed to see was how I had positioned myself over the last 10 years – as a professional in the museum world. Perhaps I had lost touch since Toura had started moving away from it’s focus on museums into other areas. I thought initially that there may be more opportunities with  local tech companies, but in the end my marketability was in what could be considered a niche market – the museum tech space. I ultimately learned that this is where my heart was anyway.

As a participant in the museum tech community, I am a subscriber to the MCN Listserv. One day, while checking emails, I noticed that sandwiched in the very middle of a long MCN thread was a job listing for a full-time teaching position in the San Francisco State Museum Studies department. They were looking for a candidate that had a very diverse technology background and I thought that I fit the bill. The application process was extensive – 3 letters of reference, Letter of Interest, Teaching Philosophy, complete CV (it ended up being 8 pages) and two writing samples. The time-consuming application process made me reflect on my entire experience in art and museums over the last 15 years. I spoke with museum people I hadn’t talked to in a while, I had to find every article I’ve been mentioned or involved in, I tracked down every project I was a part of – all of which made me long for continuing my work in this world I loved so much. I completely shifted my job search. While the job opportunities became much more limited, I knew that it was the right direction and I felt much more in my element. Working in a museum, or with museums, was absolutely what I wanted again!

I came close to the San Francisco State position, being one of four interviewed out of 80+ applicants (from what I hear). I applied for a few registration positions at local museums, but they had been filled already. Then, as luck would have it, LinkedIn (of which I have a love/hate relationship with) ultimately came through, as Marcia from Zetcom noticed I was looking for work. After reaching out to me, the conversations began with Zetcom. Coincidentally, at the same time, I was speaking with another company in the collections management business about a sales position. After months of unemployment I had two job offers in hand. I had been pulling for Zetcom and feel very fortunate to have been made an offer. Obviously, I happily accepted.

zetcom logoSo, Monday June 16th (today) is my first day working for Zetcom and I am so excited to get back to working again. Job hunting is a painful experience and one I do not want to visit again anytime soon. I’d much rather be putting my life toward something more fulfilling. As mentioned, I’m very much looking forward to getting actively involved again with conferences, presenting, offering my opinions, working on great projects and hopefully start posting entries to my site again.

Hope to see you soon! Drop me a note if you’d like!

Considering App Reviews

Originally posted on the Toura Blog at
http://toura.tumblr.com/post/9139814769/app-reviews

You’ve spent a great amount of time building an app, thinking through what will make it good and useful. It’s finally time to release it. It gets submitted, goes through the review process (in the case of Apple), and finally goes live. You may think that your work is over, but it doesn’t end there.

App Store Logo

Invariably, your app is going to receive user reviews. While the hope is they will always be good reviews, you will undoubtedly receive some bad ones along the way. Reviews, in and of themselves are good. You can find out what people like and/or dislike about your application allowing you to make adjustments. However, when you receive a review, especially a bad one, the app markets make it surprisingly difficult to deal with. If your first review is a negative one it can immediately impact sales.

It would be great, in a perfect world, to reply directly to the reviewer through the store. In many cases a quick and easy explanation would be all that is needed. However, both the Apple App Store and the Android Market do not allow for two-way communication. If there is a negative review, the app creator is at the mercy of the reviewers. You could login in as yourself with your personal account and give a reply as a review, but you are limited to one review per app.

So, what can you do?
Well, the Android Market does not offer much recourse, but Apple does have some services and policies you can employ.

First, you should consider the review and what the reviewer meant. Perhaps the reasons they are stating are valid and you should look at your app and make adjustments based on the review. It’s never wise though to let one person sway you in one direction so look for common similarities between multiple reviews to help inform your decisions to make changes.

If the the review is clearly out of touch with the application – let’s say someone states “Not what I was expecting. Only a handful of images.” – Apple offers a “Report a Concern” link. Selecting this link allows you to send a note to Apple to express your disagreement with the comment. You may write something like, “User did not read the description thoroughly. The app contains over 100 images. This review gives a false impression of our app”. While this note goes into the mysterious void known as Apple, it has worked on numerous occasions with a successful removal of the comment. Android, unfortunately does not offer a similar feature.

Additionally, Apple offers another feature along with “Report a Concern” – the “Was this review helpful” option. This gives you the choice of “Yes” or “No”. The more “Yes” selections the review receives the higher in the list of reviews it appears being the first ones seen by interested purchasers. The more “No” replies will push the review toward the bottom of the list. Again, the Android Market does not offer a similar functionality.

If you want your app to have a clean slate of reviews you can alway resubmit a new and improved version to the Apple App Store. This basically gives you a fresh start since reviews are tied to versions. Android keeps all the reviews for all versions not allowing you to distinguish one from another.

So what can you do about Android? There are a few things.

On both app markets you can quickly and easily change the application description. You can utilize this to broadcast messages about the app and to clarify certain misunderstandings about it. Since both stores utilize plain text in their descriptions you may need to broadcast the message in special ways:

YOU CAN DO IT IN ALL CAPS.

***Or, you can do it with asterisks.***

——-Additionally you can use hyphens——

Both app markets also have the ability to link to a support site of some kind or another and include a link to send an email to you for help. You can create a page on your website that offers troubleshooting tips and suggestions then point the support link to that page.

When your app launches It is always a good idea to get the message out to all of your colleagues and friends. Let’s face it, your friends and family are going to be much kinder to you than people you don’t know. It’s also a great opportunity to have them write a favorable review of the application to help with the star ratings average. Additionally, you can solicit reviews via Facebook and Twitter Channels. These followers believe in you and what you are offering. They will certainly let you know what you are doing right.

As app creators let’s hope that one day the tools will be there to allow us to immediately respond to reviewers of the apps. Ebay and Yelp have allowed this functionality to give  a voice to sellers and business owners. Until that time comes we’ll just have to keep building great apps!