inspiration & news

In the News 02.11.15 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

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How Auction Houses Orchestrate Sales for Maximum Drama

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The frenzy begins in days. Between Wednesday, Nov. 4, and Friday, Nov. 13, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips will auction hundreds of Impressionist, Modern and contemporary artworks worth — they hope — nearly $2.8 billion, each one in a matter of a minute or two, sometimes in seconds. Dozens of people labor for months to put together and pull off these twice­a­year bellwether auctions. “The buzz in the sale room is a high point,” said Patti Wong, chairwoman of Sotheby’s Asia, “but a lot goes on before the auction that leads to the evening.” In recent years, however, a troubling element of this meticulous planning has emerged. Frequently, it involves rounding up specific artworks to meet collectors’ particular demands. To attract sellers, the auction houses promise them a guaranteed, undisclosed minimum price; then, to hedge their risk, they line up clients who agree to buy those works at guaranteed, undisclosed floor prices, a practice known as a third­party guarantee. Thus the evening’s results are increasingly predetermined.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

The Decay of Twitter

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On Tuesday, Twitter Inc. announced another dreary set of quarterly earnings. While the company beat investor expectations, it’s still running at a loss of $132 million after taxes. Its fourth-quarter projections seem low. Worst of all, its namesake product has essentially failed to add any active American users in 2015.

Twitter stock fell more than 10 percent after the announcement.

Since it went public two years ago, investors have rarely considered Twitter’s prospects rosy. The sliver of Twitter’s users who are interested in how it fares as a corporation have gotten used to this, I think: There’s an idea you see floating around that, beyond avoiding bankruptcy, Twitter’s financial success has little bearing on its social utility. Maybe there are only 320 million humans interested in seeing 140-character updates from their friends every day after all. If you make a website that 4 percent of the world’s population finds interesting enough to peek at every month, you shouldn’t exactly feel embarrassed.

Yet the two entities that are called “Twitter”—the San Francisco-based corporation and the character-delimited social network—are not entirely disconnected. And similarly, no matter how many features Twitter-the-company tacks on to draw in new people, it’s still captive to the whims of Twitter-the-network. Recently, I’ve started to wonder if the corporation is trapped in more than a nominal way. What if the network is one of the company’s greatest obstacles, especially when it comes to growth?

Talking about Twitter the Network is hard. I’ve tried it once before, when my colleague Adrienne LaFrance and I tried to describe how English-language, U.S. Twitter of April 2014 differed from the equivalent Twitter of two years prior. Eighteen months on, I think our effort missed a lot. But I do think we noticed that the social network was slipping into something like midlife. It sometimes feels like Instagram, for instance, is the only social network that people actually still love to use.

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic

Can Detroit Beat Google to the Self-Driving Car?

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“I like to drive cars,” says Mark Reuss, product development chief at General Motors, “so this is a little funny.”

Not funny-ha-ha, Reuss clarifies, but funny-odd. He’s sitting in the driver’s seat, with his hands on his thighs and his feet on the floor of a big Cadillac that’s driving itself around a banked oval.

Reuss is at GM’s 4,000-acre proving ground in rural Michigan, hidden from the public behind locked gates, tall trees, and security befitting a prison. The company’s been debugging its cars here since 1924. It’s a brilliant, sunny autumn afternoon—a nice day for being driven. Dozens of tests are going on, though it appears that his is the only one where no one’s holding the wheel.

Reuss is on edge. He forces a nervous laugh as the car takes itself up to 70 miles per hour. If he has any fast-twitch impulses rocketing across the synapses of his brain—Take the wheel, damn it!—he doesn’t give in.

“This is the cat’s meow,” he says.

Read the rest of this article at Bloomberg Business

Famed Designer Rosanne Somerson on Innovation and Failure

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LAST MONTH ROSANNE SOMERSON became the 17th president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The esteemed furniture designer and educator has earned two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; and has had her work exhibited at the Louvre, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and, appropriately, the RISD Museum.

She is also the first alumna to lead the college, and has strong, enduring ties with the institution. In addition to studying there as an undergraduate (she received her Industrial Design BFA in 1976), she has worked at the college as an Industrial Design professor, as the co-founder and first department head of its Furniture Design department, and as its interim associate provost and provost.

We sat down with Somerson to talk about how she plans to prepare the school for challenges that have yet to emerge, and about RISD’s growing relevance in tech—an industry increasingly devoted to the school’s fundamental tenets of creativity, disruption, and human-centered design.

Read the rest of this article at Wired

Blood Ties

Two brilliant college lovers were convicted of a brutal slaying. All these years later, why has the case become a cause?

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The door was locked but the light outside was burning bright, and when the three women arrived for bridge with Mr. Haysom they were puzzled to find no one answering the bell. The cars were in the driveway. Though it was daytime, the porch lamp by the door had been left on. It was April 3, 1985, and the neighborhood was quiet. The women called Annie Massie, a friend who had a spare key, in case something had befallen their bridge partner or his wife.

Holcomb Rock Road, where Derek and Nancy Haysom lived, snaked through central Virginia and into the hilly deep woods around Lynchburg. Derek, seventy-two, was a South African engineer. He had met Nancy, an American, known as Cita, in Johannesburg when they were both divorced. They’d joined their families, and, in 1964, they had their only child together, Elizabeth, raised in Nova Scotia, where Derek ran a steel mill. The house on Holcomb Rock Road, which they’d bought a few years earlier for retirement, was modest, but it had a tennis court, a swimming pool, and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nancy dubbed the place Loose Chippings, after a British phrase for scattered gravel on the road.

When Massie entered the house, she found the Haysoms sprawled on the ground, caked in gore. Derek Haysom was on his side near a doorway, an arm stretched out before him. Nancy Haysom was in the kitchen, traced in crimson whirls, as if someone had wiped the blood around her like Windex on glass. Both bodies were ragged with stab wounds, and their necks had been cut nearly from ear to ear.

Officers soon swarmed the scene. Loose Chippings had a Lynchburg mailing address but sat in Bedford County, outside town. Though the crimes were in the jurisdiction of the county sheriff’s office, a task force from central Virginia joined the case. Chuck Reid and Ricky Gardner, investigators from Bedford, set out to discover what the neighbors knew. Gardner, then twenty-nine, had never worked a homicide before.

Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.