using cellphones and taking pictures is forbidden signs

No photography

using cellphones and taking pictures is forbidden signs

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

When you visit a museum or a library, often you will get these signs: “No photography” and “No cell phones”. Let’s take a look at their pertinence one by one.

Some museums, won’t let their visitors take pictures and they come up with various reasons: people stopping to take pictures might hinder the flow of visitors, the flash could damage the exhibits, or because of copyright constraints. Probably there are other arguments too, but these are the main ones I heard about.

As long as people are reasonable and behave in a manner to let others enjoy the exhibition, taking pictures should not be forbidden. By taking a photo, the visitor interacts with the exhibit, that photo will help to process and remember the big quantity of information that she will hopefully get by being there.

When it comes to using flash, I totally understand and aprove to tell people to cancel it; the high intensity of the flash light can have negative effects on certain exhibits. To a certain extent, I would also support forbidding photography in certain areas where highly photo sensitive objects are showcased and where organizers don’t want to take the risk that someone will forget to close his flash. For the rest let’s go for it! After all, there are experts that question the danger linked to sporadic use of flash in a gallery.

Copyright! Come on… I still have to understand, who seriously thinks that a picture taken by a visitor, will compete with the official image that was taken by a professional in a studio. Let people take pictures, let them share these images with their relatives and friends, because they are doing free publicity for the exhibition and in the end, the organizers and the owner of the artifacts will be glad to have more visitors and more profit if you like.

Let’s now enter a library where there is a sign forbidding the use of cell phones. I can imagine the first librarian who got fed up to listening all day long to the Nokia ring tones and she printed out a “No cell phones” sign.

In the mean time, phones evolved and I don’t mean that their ringtones are nicer than before, but they can connect to the Internet and help a reader, or why not, the librarian, find more information about a book, or find a library code, on the spot, just by using a smart phone.  On top of this, smart phones are also ebook readers. Librarians who use these signs should wake up and better focus on deploying free WiFi in their library and make sure their library has a good collection of ebooks.


Colours of India, stereotypes on steroids

Colours of India: View of the exhibition room. Photo by Alain Vandal ©Pointe-à-Callière

Yesterday I went to visit the Colours of India at Pointe-à-Callière. Since I had a meeting at 6:30 in the Old Port, I thought I will just go and make a small incursion into India. I arrived at 3:30 hopping that the museum will be open till 6, but sorry I was to discover that only during the Summer they are open till 6 and normally they close at 5. Would they be open during the week at least one evening till at least 7, if not till 9PM, then people who work downtown could go see an exhibition from time to time, after work. I hope the new management will fix this among other problems.

Other problems?

Although I thought, and I was even warned at the entrance, that one hour and a half won’t be enough to see the exhibition, my next disappointment came when I got inside. A small room with a few artifacts of recent date: most of them from 20th century, with a few 19th century items and exceptionally here and there some 18th century exhibits; considering the long history of India, nothing to be impressed of.

I could immediately sense that the exhibition was constructed around the photos of Suzanne Held and the rest of the artifacts were added just to have an excuse for showing these images in a museum. Beautiful photos, I have to admit, but that’s it.

There is very little information offered for the visitors, and even that is confusing. You have to be an expert in India’s geography to know where an image was taken, or where those shoes come from.

Instead of educating the visitors, the exhibition is reinforcing stereotypes that Westerners have about this country. India, the holly land, where everyone and their grandfather is a sadhu, where Hinduism is the main religion, let’s not mention Islam and we should be OK with ignoring Sikhism.

The exhibition fails to explore the history and the cultural diversity  of India. The guide told me that the focus of the exhibition was more artistic, but as an art exhibition, it’s more than shallow. I would have been much more interested to see photos taken by Indian photographers, and not by a European lady on vacation.

Would this exhibition been organized by the Indian Ministry of Tourism, I would have had nothing to complain about, but from a museum of archeology and history, I’m expecting more.

Immigrants, the proudest Canadians

OK, so today is Flag Day in Canada!  CBC, together with other partners, commissioned a survey to see what Canadians think are the characteristics of a good citizen. The result shows that immigrants are just as good citizens as those born here (sic.). They also tend to be more proud to be Canadians, 88% of immigrants vs. 81% of those born here, which is not a huge difference, but it’s still a difference.

Although the poll is not specifying it, let me guess, the lion share of those that are not proud Canadians, are from Quebec and this percentage can only get worst with the Harper Government.

Yesterday, the English language media got overly excited, because Justin Trudeau declared Sunday on Radio-Canada that he can understand the desire of Quebec to separate from Steven Harper’s Canada.

Trudeau’s opinion resonates well with how I feel about Canada. It was yesterday that we celebrated with my wife February 14th, which besides  being Valentine’s day, it is also the anniversary of us becoming Canadian citizens. I still remember how proud we were to take the oath of citizenship, how proud we were to cast our first vote and how proud we were to see our picture in a Canadian passport.

I think it would be a huge mistake by Canada’s Government (a.k.a. Harper’s Conservatives) to take these feelings granted. They should keep in mind, that not every immigrant that comes to Canada is desperate to come here. Moving to a new country, is a big thing and people shop around before taking a decision. Before deciding to come Canada, we had the choice to apply to other countries too, but we chose Canada, because of its reputation and its values, that we felt it would make us proud to be part of.

Unfortunately, day after day, when I look at the news coming from Ottawa, I feel that the reputation of Canada and its values that we cherish, are slowly eroded and replaced with a far right ideology imposed onto all of us, by a 40% minority (percentage that won’t reach 18% if we take in account the entire population of Canada).

I still have hope. I hope that next time, people will take more seriously their duty, to go out and vote and won’t let Canada sink into this swamp of backwardness.

About Startup Weekend Montreal and why I left after the first day

Yesterday, was the first day of the first Startup Weekend organized in Montreal .

Startup Weekends are events where people come together from different areas: developers, designers, marketing, investors, etc. and spend together a weekend to build startups from scratch, it’s a bit like a matchmaking orgy for entrepreneurs. The way it works is that Friday night, people come up on the stage, one after the other, and they have one minute to present their idea, then it’s the voting period. Those who get more votes will go to the next phase, where they have to recruit people to get the project started and take it as far as possible by Sunday when a jury will decide who the winners are.

It’s a great concept, especially for those that would like dive into the world of entrepreneurship head first and all they need is a partner or some expertise that would make a difference.

Since lately, with my friends, we were bouncing around ideas of project we could do for fun on weekends, we said, let see grab this opportunity and pick an idea to pitch at SWMontreal. Who knows, maybe people will like it, and than we could get useful feedback and mentoring to get it started.

Before the pitch fire, there was a panel of VC from Quebec, there was JS Cournoyer from Real Ventures, Yona Shtern founder of Beyound the Rack, Chris Arsenault from iNovia and François Gilbert from Anges Québec. It was a very interesting discussion about how to get founded when you have a startup that has potential and all it needs if money. There were so many great advises given in such a short time, that I really hope someone was filming it and it will end up on Youtube to benefit as many people as possible.

Here are a few ideas I retained:

  • Before approaching a VC make sure it is in the right league, don’t go with a something that needs seed money to someone that is giving minimum 250k and goes up to millions.
  • VCs don’t necessarily look for amazing ideas, they invest in people, in their skills and their determination to go beyond their limits.
  • Be ready to pitch an idea many times and if you got a number in your mind when you hear the word many, multiply that by at least ten, that is how many time you will be refused and you have to be ready to continue.
  • Related to the previous point, if you know you’ll have a chance with a VC, don’t start with that one, because pitching is an art that needs to be developed over time, you need exercise. When you presented something 30 times, it sounds a way better than on the 10th time and on the 50th time is way better than on the 30th, so don’t rush it because you risk to burn some bridges.
  • Be honest, don’t lie.
  • If you don’t like the VC, be ready to refuse the offer, just as VCs look for great opportunities that fit their vision, you also have to make sure the VC you are approaching is someone from who you would accept advices. Be informed, talk to people that got funding from them.
  • Yes, VCs are giving more than just money, be ready to accept advices, usually they know better than you.
  • People are afraid to give up control, to accept advices and are stubborn, VCs don’t like people that are not flexible. Not because they want to run your company, no they don’t; these people are wealthy, they don’t want to work shit hours like you have to, they just want to make sure that the direction of the company is the right one. Mr Gilbert even paraphrased another investor, by saying the VCs are like grandparents, they like to give the candy, but they are not the ones to administer spanks.
  • Be ready to commit heart and soul to the project, several of the presenters were bragging about how little time they spend with their kids and I could feel that they would look for people that would put as a number one priority on their life the advancement of the company. Of course, this is what every shareholder wants, that their investment would return one day multiplied by many, many times.

As the average age of the room was in the early twenties and I was wondering about this last point. Is it really the only way to succeed in this field, by committing 110% and sacrificing everything else? It’s nice and dandy to push forward success stories, of people that did not care about their family and than by hard work they ended up to become millionaires. But what about the others, those that screwed up their personal life and went bankrupt? I don’t have hard numbers to back this, but something tells me that the wast majority ends up screwing up everything for nothing.

With my friend, we knew that if our idea won’t get enough votes to go further we would leave and not because we wanted to break the party, but rather we knew that our life is wired differently and we won’t be able to commit to other people’s projects on a full time basis.

Yesterday there were more than 50 ideas presented, and out of these 50, 18 ideas where selected. There were a few really great ideas, that I hope will go further to become real products one day.

It was good to see so many bright people gathered in one place, fuelled by their ambition to do something in life and I know that a handfull of them will end up as successful entrepreneurs. I wish all of them good luck!