Your website is not the destination

July 30, 2011 | Leave a comment

I wrote a piece for the Australia Council of the Arts:

The web wasn’t designed to be made of pristine brochure pages. If you’ve ever tried to manage a web project, you’ll know that each version of each web browser displays pages just a little bit differently, making perfectly-rendered designs impossible. What’s less obvious is that the web’s style system was designed to be separable from the content on your website. Anyone can choose to view your site in the style of their choice. A website is not a publication: it’s living, breathing content.

To an arts professional or marketer used to the fineries of print publishing, these aspects to online life might sound scary. Instead, I’d argue that they’re an opportunity. The web, unlike any other communications medium, is endlessly remixable, reprogrammable and reshareable. There’s no doubt that your website should be the centre of your digital presence. But for your audience, it’s not the destination; it’s an information source that feeds into their notification stream. Users want to find, share, discover and remix your content – why fight them?

You can read the article here.

Patronism and monetizing the social web

July 19, 2011 | Leave a comment

This post is adapted from something I wrote on Google+. There are more comments over there; also see Evan Promodou’s riff on the same idea.

Google+’s combination of streams and circles works. So here’s something I’ve been mulling over for a while:

I really like Patronism‘s central idea. Rather than buying an album, you subscribe to an artist’s feed, and get access to songs, photos etc as they’re produced. That makes a lot more sense to me as a 21st century model for music.

I also follow a lot of writers that I admire, mostly over on Twitter. They don’t post their work there, of course, because there’s no revenue stream for it. But I do get to see what William Gibson, Margaret Atwood et al are thinking on a daily basis. Awesome.

What if I could pay a subscription to the writers & artists I admired, and see their latest content as part of my stream? Short stories to peruse offline, songs to pull to my iPod, and so on. Not to mention academic articles from journals, mini-games from indie developers and so on.

This works best on a decentralized web of nodes. The artist has their home base, eg at They then push out their content, and people can subscribe on Google+, Facebook, in their RSS reader, in a specialized app, from their WordPress dashboard, and so on.

And suddenly you have a monetized decentralized social web. Paid licenses are just one of many kinds of access controls on stream content; circles and access control groups are certainly another. And of course, content can be made available publicly too.

Open data in the arts

December 3, 2010 | Leave a comment

I’m in New York this week for a whirlwind series of meetings with Team Latakoo, but I wanted to draw a little attention to the introduction to open data in the arts I wrote over on the festivalslab blog before I got here:

Open data sounds like a much more techie concept than it really is. It’s really a way to let third parties plug into and spread your organization’s information, in a way that you control, and allows them to create publications, products and services that you don’t have the time, resources or inclination to develop or maintain. You become the centre of a creative ecosystem – something arts organizations, and especially festivals – are already brilliant at. It’s a perfect fit.

You can read the whole thing over here.

Edinburgh Festivals Lab Geek in Residence

September 3, 2010 | 1 comment

Edinburgh FestivalOn Wednesday, the Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab announced that I’m their inaugural Geek in Residence:

This is an exciting and experimental new role in which Ben will work with and across the festival set to spot and develop project opportunities and bring his expertise and experience to explore what it is to be a festival in the 21st century.

The Edinburgh Festivals include some of the world’s largest arts festivals – twelve in all – and I’m hugely excited to be part of the mix. Long-term readers will know that it’s not technology as such that excites me, but the human impact of technology – and what could be more human than a set of international arts events that spans the breadth of what global culture has to offer?

About the Lab itself:

The Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab is a new experiment and resource for the twelve Edinburgh festivals to explore how they can use digital technology to create new value for audiences, artists, the city and the festivals themselves.

Over the next two years, the twelve festivals will work together and with a wide range of partners to identify, develop and prototype high potential projects which use digital technology to improve the festival experience, for audiences, for artists, for the festivals themselves and for everyone.

We recorded a short interview on Wednesday that serves as an introduction to me and my background, but also why I’m so excited about working with the arts in this way.


Photo: Edinburgh Festival by Bex Ross, shared under a Creative Commons license.