Tag: efficiency

Why use an RSS Feed Reader?

What’s an RSS Feed Reader used for?

RSS is a tool for getting information from people without having to keep visiting their website to get it and is a fantastic digital marketing tool. You can subscribe to their information, have it sent to you and read it whenever you like. Once you have set up your subscriptions, you can then choose from a list of them all in the one place.

company bulletins – news bulletins – arts launches – performance updates – weather updates 

personal blogs – podcasts – club updates – sporting fixtures – fan newsletters – special offers

Use an RSS Feed Reader to subscribe to blogs, news &  podcasts
  1. Install an RSS feed reader:

An RSS  feed reader is basically a storage space for your subscriptions so you can read through all your items without having to visit each website. It really is as simple as that – the feed reader searches for the latest updates to your subscriptions and downloads them to your computer.

There are two types of feed readers you can utilise. We used to have to install a dedicated feed reader program to manage our subscriptions, and this is still a great method – though you need to run the program to get it to update your subscriptions. This used to be a concern with older computers (another program to use up thinking space!) but these days our computers easily handle the additional program. And as the RSS reader downloads the content to your computer, you can read your feeds anytime you want without having to be connected to the internet.

The other type of feed reader being used more frequently these days are web browser-based readers. These take up less space and don’t require an extra program to be installed, but reading your feeds offline can be a hassle – in fact, it’s recommended that a separate program is installed to synchronise with your browser-based reader if you want to read feeds offline. In this age of constant connectivity via mobile devices browser-based readers are becoming more popular.

  1. Finding RSS feeds you are interested in:

First thing is to visit your favourite websites and look for the RSS symbol . Clicking on this symbol on a website triggers your feed reader to set up a subscription and you’ll be able to keep in touch with all their latest news directly from your reader.

A great place to start looking for feeds you might be interested in is an RSS Feed Syndicate. This is a website that collates feeds and sorts multiple RSS Feeds by categories, so you don’t need to go trawling around the internet searching for new feeds to read. There are a few comprehensive general syndicates, as well as some specific topic-based syndicates – check out your favourite search engine for a list.

  1. Podcasts using an RSS Feed:

Audio and video podcasts can be collected in a very similar way, though you will need a media player to play them in. Most computers will have a media player installed already, though if you have problems make sure you have the correct codec installed for the type of file you are trying to play – check out your media player’s help.

Many RSS feed readers will be able to subscribe to podcasts as well as text. And newer media players will be able to subscribe to podcasts. So you can really treat podcasts and feeds as the same thing, these days.

In these days of an over abundance of information using an RSS Feed can really help you stay on top of what you want to know, whilst not wasting your time on things that don’t interest you.

 

How to use Excel in your art business

Using Excel in your arts administration:

Arts Administration – for many artists it’s the side of their practice they’d rather not think about, but in our economic culture it’s an integral aspect of any successful Art Business. Luckily with the advent of technology, we have tools at our disposal that can help us manage this side quickly and easily.

Spreadsheet applications like Excel are my favourite way to manage the administration of art – in fact I consider it an artform in itself. The beauty of Excel for me is the simplicity of its function, and its ability to be manipulated to perform various tasks.

How to use Excel: The Basic Theory

Quite simply, Excel is a sheet of rectangles, or cells, into which information can be entered. This information can be two types:

  • Data
    • Words
    • Numbers
  • Instructions involving other cells
    • Total the list above
    • Calculate the total price times the number of items
    • Add up the total hours worked for each day

So it can be used either as a database or a spreadsheet. What do these terms mean?

A database is a record of information that can be maintained and sorted through easily. Some examples of how artists could use a database are:

  • Using Excel as a Contact list
    • A mailing list of people to invite to exhibitions or performances
    • A list of contact people in the industry
    • A list of possible venues to stage events in
    • A list of galleries that can be sorted by the area they are in or the styles they show
    • A list of annual competitions that can be sorted by area or genre
  • Catalogues of works
  • Timetables for events

For example, here’s a database for galleries you may approach for exhibitions:

 

Galleries in Melbourne

name

suburb

painting

sculpture

photography

contact

email

Star Gallery Sunshine

x

x

Bill a@b.com
Moon Gallery Blackburn

x

x

Sam c@d.com
Ocean Gallery Fitzroy

x

x

Judy e@f.com

Using this database we can then use Excel to sort a list of all the galleries in a certain suburb, or which medium they exhibit. And you have the contact details recorded for easy retrieval. And as you discover new galleries, you can add them to the list as you go and have a comprehensive list to draw from.

A spreadsheet like a blackboard with rows and columns marked to create rectangles where they intersect. You choose what the rows and columns mean, whether they are some data or an instruction. Some examples of how artists could use a spreadsheet are:

Using Excel to keep track of costs of a project:

  • the budget for a project
  • time slot calculations for events
  • ticket pricing for events

For example, you may want to work out the budget for an art project. You would make the columns represent the cost of an item and the rows represent each item:

Arts project budget

projected cost

actual cost

materials

paint

cost

cost

brushes

cost

cost

spray compressor hire

cost

cost

total materials

total above

total above

admin

wages

cost

cost

contractors

cost

cost

studio rent

cost

cost

transport costs

cost

cost

total admin

total above

total above

total budget

materials plus admin

materials plus admin

 

We can use this for the projected budget and then the actual budget on the same page, so we can compare how accurate the projections are. You can see that we also have two sections, materials and admin. This could be any number of sections, depending on how complicated your project is – an arts festival might have sections on venue hire, technical services, equipment hire, admin, volunteer expenses, commissions…

The purple boxes are where you would enter the data, as mentioned at the start. The green squares are where you would enter instructions, in this case the sum of all the costs in the list above. The orange squares would also contain an instruction, but this time it would be the sum of the two green squares above, to add up the cost of the materials plus the cost of the admin.

 

 

Arts project budget

projected cost

actual cost

materials

paint

10

20

brushes

20

15

spray compressor hire

180

180

total materials

210

215

admin

wages

180

270

contractors

400

400

studio rent

360

360

transport costs

40

75

total admin

980

1105

total budget

1190

1320

 

The beauty of using a spreadsheet to calculate budgets is that once you have all the cells programmed, any changes you make to the cost of an item will automatically alter the total figures. The project can be planned with a budget limit in mind, making the job of projecting a budget quicker and easier – you can see the effect of the changes in the total immediately.

These are just a couple of simple examples of how to use Excel to make the process of managing your art quicker and easier. I’ve also used it in events to create colour-coded timetables, in corporate administration to extract accounting information from reports and even in classical music composition to calculate musical pitches from manipulations of formulas.

It can be a really useful tool and well worth a small effort to familiarise yourself with it.

If you don’t want to go to the extent of purchasing Excel there is a wonderful Open Source Program called Calc that is part of the Libre Office Suite.

Clicking on the logos below will take  you to their respective official websites so you can download the program.

 

 

For more great resources on running a successful Art Business see our resources page here….

Productivity Software

5 Awesome Free Productivity Software

Once you have organised your studio in the way you like there are many tools that will aid productivity. Some of my favourites are listed below.  These tools are all free for small usage and generally speaking will be enough for a small organization, however as you grow there are paid upgrades that are very affordable.

Productivity Software #1 – Drop Box

Overview: Drop Box is a great way to share and store information in the cloud.  It runs on the same principals as Hotmail or Gmail. You set up an account with a password and upload the information into this account. You are then able to view those items on another computer with a password.

It is perfect for designers to share large files. Collaborating on projects, especially design oriented ones means HUGE files and that means clogged up email addresses. That’s one of the great things about Dropbox.  Instead of emailing back and forth just upload the latest images or documents to your Dropbox account and invite your collaborator to share that particular folder. They will have access only to the folder you want them to, not the rest of your DropBox account.

http://www.dropbox.com/

Productivity Software #2 – KeePass

Overview: KeePass is a free password manager. These days most people must have at least 2 dozen passwords. It’s little wonder that people use really obvious passwords  like  abc1967. Either that or they write them down in places they shouldn’t.

With a password manager you keep all your passwords in a central database, encrypt this with one master key file and then you can access all passwords with only having to remember the one.

KeePass is not the most pretty program to use but works tremendously at keeping prying eyes away.

Download it at Cnet-  KeePass:

Productivity Software #3 – MyLockBox

My LockBox is a similar password protector that is easier to use for non-technical users. The advantage of My LockBox is that it password protects any folder you wish on your computer with one universal key. You can ensure your kids, work mates or partners can’t access the folder.

Their website can be found at   http://www.fspro.net/

Or download it at Cnet- MyLockBox

How is this efficient- being able to find your passwords within seconds when you ring the telephone company saves you time and headaches.

Productivity Software #4 – Glary Utilities

Glary is a great program that helps keep your computer running smoothly. It improves your system performance by cleaning unwanted junk files, redundant (empty) folders, finds duplicate files, fully uninstalls programs and defrags (reduces data access time). This will free up valuable disk space speedy up your computer so you can be more productive.

http://www.glaryutilities.com/

Or download it at Cnet- GlaryUtilities

Productivity Software #5 – Gmail

Most people would have either a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo account as well as their main one through their internet provider. Now that i’m on an ever increasing list of email blasts from so many different companies I was finding it difficult to get to my normal work emails instead of the emails i have signed up for.

Simple solution- use a Gmail account for your subscriptions and an ISP based email account for your important work/ private emails. In that way you’re not wasting half a day finding out the latest deals, beautiful photos, and all the rest that seem to be flowing into your inbox every ten minutes.

 

Great online collaboration example

Stop Press: mathematicians being social?

online-collaboration

People forget that the internet was invented in the early 1960s as a tool for sharing information on research at universities. C.R. Licklider of MIT and Leonard Kleinrock of UCLA began experimenting with connecting two computers over a standard telephone line.

These days all the talk about the internet is Rock Star programmers making it rich, companies worth billions without ever turning a profit, big brother watching over us and all the other headline grabbing news.

However real research and real collaboration is happening amongst the people who the internet was initially designed for. Chancing upon a copy of  New Scientist Issue #2811- I came across a great article on an online collaboration project called Polymath.

It is a project set up by two mathematicians whereby complex mathematical problems are placed on their website and anyone interested can try and solve the mathematical stumbling block. Many of these people are professors in mathematics but also enthusiastic amateurs can contribute to the project.

The first analysis is in, and the speed and efficiency to which some problems were solved has been exceptionally positive.

Just goes to show many minds make problem solving easy.

This is a direct quote from the article- its too good to paraphrase;

‘The rise of a global mathematical brain may even help redefine what it means to be clever. As Luca Trevisan of Stanford University has remarked, genius “could just be in the union of many minds, each doing nothing more than saying what is obvious to them”.
 
 

Say No to a Messy Office

Organising your office

Making sure your studio space is organised will not only save time wasted looking for that piece of paper but you will be able to think clearer as well. admin-ajax

As someone who isn’t naturally a neat, it became essential that I kept a tidy studio/office. The number one thing I needed in order to do this was to get a filing cabinet. Even if you are just a startup and feel you don’t need one, having everything organised from the start will save you time once business picks up. Besides, if you’re like most start-ups you’re probably doing everything yourself so wasting 30 minutes per day chasing your tail is 30 minutes of lost productivity.

  • Do your filing at least once a week. Much like cleaning your house – if you leave it a week its manageable – leave it a month and its a nightmare.
  • The next step that is just as vital, is to organise your computer files in some sort of order. Only you know who your clients are, whether you use word documents mostly, just email, or images; whatever the files- keep everything where they are easy to find. Regularly clean up redundant files, move old files to an archive so you don’t confused them with current files. Separate all your business files from your personal ones.
  • When downloading a file, save it under its relevant file position not just the last place you downloaded a file to. This saves plenty of time when a client rings you requesting a copy of the pdf you were discussing earlier. For documents that get referred to constantly, save them as a desktop icon or in two different folders so you can find them quickly.
  • This is going to be a little naff but do as the yellow pages do. Your local plumber calls himself AAAPlumbing, so she is the first plumber in the Yellow Pages. Do the same with the file you use the most. The file I use the most – I call AAAExplainafide, that way its always at the top of the folder.

Who said the yellow pages was redundant?

This is just the bare basics of keeping an organised office, and where I consistently see clients still suffering office disorganisation.