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Extortion

Sunday, 15. September 2019 23:07

The subject matter of this post is a bit unusual. However, the topic is one that can impact anyone who works in the arts, whether commercially or not. In my experience, arts people, on the whole, are fairly honest and trusting. This can make them particularly vulnerable when it comes to the internet, where there are many people who are anything but honest and trusting. So, this cautionary tale; I hope you find it useful.

In addition to Unnatural Light, I have several other web sites. This week I received two emails in less than three hours through the contact form on one of those sites. The contact form is a favorite of spammers and phishing expeditions, but these were different. Both purported to be from content writers and demanded that I order some of their services. If I did not, they threatened to create thousands of backlinks from porn sites to my web site in order to hurt my rankings in search engines. One gave me two days to comply; the other vowed to remove the backlinks once I ordered their services. Interestingly, both had the same contact link although they allegedly came from different people. One, which Gmail had flagged as a probable phishing email, stated that it was the only way the writer had of getting work and asked me to not take it personally because it was “strictly business.” It was the first time that I have ever heard extortion referred to as “strictly business.”

These emails were, I think, delivered by bots. Evidently, these bots did not analyze the web site before posting their emails. Had they done so, they would have discovered that that particular web side uses no written content—it’s photos only. Thus there is no real market for written content, no matter who wrote it.

The second thing the extortionist(s) didn’t know is that this web site is not in competition with other web sites, so SEO (search engine optimization) is not a major concern. The web site was never intended to appear on page 1 of a Google search; it exists for people who already know it’s there. Thus the promise of dropping it in Google’s (or any search engine’s) rankings is not really a significant threat.

My first step was find the technology to prevent bots from sending me mail. Such technology exists, and does not seem all that difficult to implement. I am in the process of doing that; I suspect my volume of mail coming into that contact form will drop dramatically.

My second step was to learn something about malicious backlinks. Although I did not find mention of the sort of extortion I was facing, I found instances of unscrupulous site owners who used the technique against competitors. Evidently it is not terribly difficult or expensive—and it works. Some webmasters who depend upon search engine to drive traffic to their sites reported significant revenue loss after such attacks. Combine that with criminal intent and you have a virulent form of ransomware which targets your web site instead of your hard drive.

As of this writing I do not know whether the threat to my website was a bluff, a bit of phishing, or real. What I did discover is that Negative SEO is a thing and it impacts your search engine rankings. The good news is that there are tools to minimize the probability of such attacks and even ways of dealing with the situation if you have already been attacked. Just Google “malicious backlinks” or “negative SEO,” and you will find everything you need.

Well, everything except the time it takes to implement the tools. It turns out that website security is, in itself, almost a full-time job. You may not be able to protect your web site against all possibilities, but perhaps, armed with this information, you can at least improve the security of your web site.

Category:Technology | Comment (0) | Author:

Want Art? The Gallery Will Come to You

Monday, 2. January 2012 0:19

Not long ago, Jason Wilson sent me a link to an article on The Bygone Bureau that proclaimed 2011 as “the year the art world went online.” The writer of the article, Kyle Chayka, noted a number of online art world activities that occurred during the year, including a couple of very high profile ones.

One of the projects noted in the Chayka article was the online VIP Art Fair, founded by James Cohan. The Fair hosted its first interactive art show in January, 2011, and plans a second show , which will represent over 2000 artists from 115 “carefully selected” galleries worldwide, for February 3-8, 2012. This event brings together galleries and collectors from all over the globe and allows the collector to see many works of art and have conversations with the dealers without leaving home.

The second project is Art.sy, which is backed by Larry Gagosian, Dasha Zhukova and others. The website, currently in “private beta,” is essentially a search engine of fine art from over 250 galleries and museums in over 40 different countries which “will analyze users’ taste in art and show them other works and artists that they might like.”

Not only can you buy physical art pieces through the internet buy you can now buy signed, authenticated, limited edition digital art by some very famous artists. In addition to works by Shephard Fairey, Isaac Julien, and others, you can purchase an original Damien Hirst for $12.00. Prices range from £5 to £500 and increase as editions sell out. There are even plans for a secondary market—handled by the same site, of course.

While these projects involve the most famous artists and the most prestigious galleries, there is art for the rest of us online. A number of artists, of course, maintain their own websites; on some of these, the art is displayed and the viewer directed to gallery representation for sales, and on others, the work can be purchased online. Then there are the online galleries that are not as new or exclusive as those discussed above. For example, both Zatista and 20×200 sell only original and limited edition art. Other sites, such as Art Gallery Worldwide, sell originals and open edition prints. Others sell only prints, although some deal in limited editions. Then there are the print-on-demand sites, which reproduce digital images in a number of media, ranging from “art prints” to tee shirts.

And we have not yet touched on the educational use of digital media in the art world. For example, there are a number of initiatives by museums to allow patrons to use their smartphones or computers to get more information about the artwork. There are already virtual tours of museums available online through various portals. The Google Art Project provides virtual access to 17 museums and expects to add many more. Gagosian Gallery has published an iPad app which is essentially a free digital version of a quarterly art magazine; there are also a number of other apps which provide art reference, generally for no monetary investment.

There are some of us, however, who have reservations about the digital rendering of visual art. The digitization of art is on the increase , even though color calibration is known only to artists who used digital production methods. From an educational and a sales point of view, digitization of physical art or original digital art itself makes a great deal of sense. Still, because of the differences between color rendition on various devices, you never know whether you are looking at what the artist intended or not. Because of economic and marketing requirements, art digitization is no longer optional; still, I wonder, aside from sales potential, what artists think about having their work represented in such an uncontrollable way.

 

Category:Audience, Education, Marketing, Technology | Comments (1) | Author:

Art and the Potential of Technology

Monday, 31. October 2011 0:26

Make no mistake, I love traditional art forms—not necessarily traditional content—but the forms themselves: live theatre, dance, poetry, fiction, painting, film. And like everyone in the arts I have, for a long time, been aware of the impact of technology in the arts. Who can be involved in photography and not be aware of that? Most photography, however, just uses new technology to arrive at the same old place: a print on paper that can be put into an album or framed and hung on a wall. Much the same thing happens with other current uses of technology.

Our acceptance of technology is evolutionary. We adapt in order to do our jobs or our art and don’t think much about it. I sit here typing on one in a long line of successive keyboards; the hardware has changed, the operating systems have changed, the software has changed, but the keyboard is still the old qwerty design, albeit in a far more (for me) ergonomic package. So I don’t notice the changes so much.

We also don’t notice the evolution in publishing. Technology is what makes it possible for you to be reading this. Most of us don’t think what a recent innovation this is; we sit down at the keyboard, go online, read what we want, publish what we want. One of the ongoing themes of Seth Godin’s The Domino Project is the impact that technology can and is having on writing and publishing.

Despite our love for the feel of paper and page-turning and the physicality of books, many of us now read on mobile devices of some kind or another. It’s easier, more convenient, and (in most cases) cheaper. It also works better for publishers: same income, less investment, no inventory. So we download ebooks into our Kindles or Nooks or apps and read away.

None of this is big news. At least that’s what I thought until I was this week introduced to a “book” called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Moonbot Studios. It is really an iPad app that is designed to “revive a love of story in all.” The creators have used animation, words, voice, music and genuine interactivity to produce a work that is “old-fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.” It’s an amazing piece of work.

Then, all of a sudden, the capabilities of this technology hit me.

Now I have seen video and film in art exhibits and museums. I have played with “interactive” art pieces. Usually those pieces are unsatisfying. In many cases it is an issue of production or presentation values, a lack of understanding of interaction, or editing. Such work often engages one or two senses, but is not fully absorbing. This was the first instance where I have seen technology really used to its fullest. Morris not only engages all of the senses (except smell), but also activates the intellect and the imagination.

And it is not just the book, although it is truly delightful. What is really exciting the potential. This is finally immersive computer technology with a use other than gaming. This is technology used to create and present art, art which fully engages the viewer and is distributed via the internet. The possibilities are astounding.

At present, most, but not all, animated book apps seem to be geared toward children, and certainly they are appropriate to the young, but the implications of the technology are much bigger than that. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see how this technology could be used to create all sorts of art projects. Yes, it requires a different sort of thinking: it is not applying paint to canvas, or even digital manipulation of captured images, or text-only story-telling. But it does allow artists to leap into what has become the mainstream of communication in this century.

Category:Creativity, Originality, Technology | Comment (0) | Author: