The Juried Art Services (JAS) system crashed in mid-January. Apparently as far back as December 24, 2008 problems developed with payments and lost data for several artists who submitted applications through the system. After following information concerning issues with JAS from several sources (the NAIA forum, the AFSB forum, a contact letter, complaints from our members, etc.) it has became abundantly clear to the NAIA Board that there were a host of problems with the integrity of the JAS system. The time commitment and costs by artists in providing information and preparing images, then having to duplicate that information due to system failures was considerable.The application process requires two partners, each responsible to the interests of other. While Paul Fischer of JAS chose not to contact NAIA directly, in our effort to represent NAIA members the Board followed up by contacting him with a list of questions about the integrity of the JAS system. The text of the Boards letter of February 23, 2009 is published below; as of the publication of this issue of the Independent Artist, JAS has yet to respond to this letter, despite the NAIA Boards polite request.
Artists are glad to hear you have fixed your recent system failures and hope the repairs have brought the integrity of the system up to at least the basic standards necessary to protect your customers and end users. However, this huge failure was a serious and substantial disruption of a critical service that is the lifeblood of your users: artists, show drectors and image professionals whose support was needed to repeat image upload tasks. Accordingly, questions need to be answered to assure the thousands of businesses that depend on your system, that protections and procedures are in place to prevent a future similar incident. NAIA is concerned about this system failure and wants you to know that you have our support in restoring its integrity. We are not asking you to divulge proprietary information - the questions can be answered without doing that. We do, however, ask that you answer them completely so that artists can be reassured that the integrity of your system has been upgraded. Following is a list of questions we have compiled for you and would appreciate your prompt reply in this matter. We do appreciate your efforts to bring your system up to a secure and stable standard. We are all in this business together and the more we all work together to achieve stability, the more we all benefit.
How much redundancy is built into your current back up procedure and how often are all the data backed up? Industry standards are to back-up to more than one location including an offsite location at the very least every 24 hours. It appears from your January 26 letter that there was no back-up done between Dec. 24 and January 12 when the system crashed. Even non-technical artists know they should have frequent back up of their hard drives. From the statement in your letter we have the impression that this basic fail-safe standard was not in place. What are your current back-up procedures?
Age of equipment:
From your letter dated January 26, it appears your equipment was 8 years old. Industry standards for a system of the apparent size as JAS is to replace all equipment and migrate the data every 3 or at most 4 years. Again from your January 26 letter: We had been replicating data to a second hard drive .... Before this crisis it appears all data was stored on only one machine. Also from the same letter, it appears you have finished replacing and increasing all of your equipment. NAIA applauds this action. Amount of equipment:
A server is just a computer like any personal computer minus the monitor, keyboard and mouse; a $2,000 - $3,000 investment. Following industry standards, a business the apparent size of JAS would have 3 servers: two to balance the ordinary workload and a third to automatically take over if one should fail. From your letter: We had been replicating data to a second hard drive to provide both backup and disaster recovery
abilities it appears you had only one server. How many servers comprise your system now, after the post-crash upgrades? You wrote: We have now brought a new server system online to ensure future security. We have switched hosting companies, upgraded our services, added load balancing services to address both traffic fluctuations and hardware failures and now have an offsite backup server in place. We are glad to read you have taken steps toward security with load balancing and now have an offsite back-up server in place. NAIA applauds the new equipment and host upgrades.
We do not understand why you were surprised that Amy Amdur received a large number of applications near the deadline. Being prepared for a huge influx of activity for any show should be of utmost importance. Action increases exponentially as a deadline gets closer, for all populations, not just artists applying to shows. We are glad to hear you have increased the systems capacity, but would like to know that you understand processes and flows of the business well enough so that, as your business increases, you will know if you need to upgrade capacity. Can you advise what systems are now in place for sufficient capability demands?
Why did it take days to inform artists of the problem? January 17 was almost three weeks after December 24. I have also heard from show directors that use JAS that they were never directly informed of the problem. All artists and show directors registered with JAS should have been informed immediately of any problems. From your January 26 letter: All applicants who had paid their applications were notified quickly by JAS and/or the respective shows to alert them to check if their application was affected and information had to be re-entered. What about the artists whose applications and payments were completely lost from the system? Why were all artists registered with JAS not informed of the problem?
Also according to the letter, a notice was put on the JAS website homepage January 17. Artists have no reason to check your home page on a regular basis to see if there happen to be any changes or special notices. This message was helpful for those who tried to apply to other shows, but not particularly helpful to those who were not informed they needed to check their profiles to make sure information had not been lost. Artists need to know of any changes long before new requirements or policies are implemented in order to have sufficient time to prepare before they logon to apply. Can you please reassure us that a comprehensive communications policy has been established should a future incident arise or any part of the system that affects artists is changed?
If you do not yet have an email blast service we suggest you consider looking into iContact.com or ConstantContact.com. NAIA has used iContact for 2 years. We are extremely satisfied with the service, the price and the tech support.
Do you currently have an Artist Advisory Committee? A committee of working, exhibiting artists can help with planning and design from a different vantage than your staff because we are the actual end users of application systems with centuries of combined experience. In short, Artist Advisors would be the perfect Beta Testing team. You of course would make the final decisions but artist advisors could warn you of artist user incompatibilities as well as possible and probable backlash from artist users on proposed upgrades.
Did anything ever come of the Artist Advisory Committee you asked me to be on three years ago? I gave up contacting you about it after receiving no response to several inquiries. (Sally)
Artists are glad JAS has upgraded equipment, back-up procedures, security and hosting services. We want JAS to succeed. We want more than one online application system to succeed, as long as the image size requirements are standard and we are assured our images are presented to show jurors correctly through properly calibrated systems. We value competition between systems, as we do between shows, and we look forward to the upcoming release of new features and innovations mentioned in your letter of January 26. It may take a long time and much proof of credibility before artists will once again have faith in JAS, but if JAS does not prove it can be trusted to act with integrity, artists will stop applyin to shows that use this system.
The problem itself and the way it was handled has caused the users: artists, show directors and image professionals, enormous grief, expense and hardship during the most difficult era in the history of the art show industry. It negated trust in JAS. How can JAS assure us that it can be trusted with our intellectual property in this vital process? Show applications are not just a $20 - $50 internet game. Our very livelihoods - meaning income - depend first on the validity of show juries and the systems shows hire to assist in that endeavor. How can artists be assured our applications are safe and how can we work together to reestablish that trust? One way is to provide honest answers to the above questions. NAIA will publish this letter on our website and in our newspaper The Independent Artist with the response from JAS or lack thereof. Please send your reply to [email protected] by March 6 to have your response included in our publications.
We want JAS to be successful. We look forward to hearing from you and getting beyond this crisis.
Sally J. Bright, NAIA Board Chair
Jon Hecker, NAIA Interim Executive Director
continued from page 7 ....
To further accommodate the needs of required sizes and add a more artistic flair to the process, Jon began building boxes for me. The cherry boxes hes building are the remnants of the wood we use for the frames from my other body of work. These handcrafted shapely boxes are a wonderful addition. Nothing wasted here!
Before I knew it, my TattooDreams were selling to people in Germany, Canada, Australia, and across the United States. Appreciative notes and feedback accompanied sales as buyers received their purchases, sent friends to my site, and bought more. None of this hurts ones self esteem in a flailing art market.
These sales and comments from fellow artists led me to believe that this creative endeavor had found its own niche market. I applied and got into a few holiday shows, have taken Tattoo Dreams to our local farmers market, and had a solo exhibit with this work. Ive learned a great deal from this experience, especially to have faith in your instincts, your work, and yourself!
Last winter I began writing a blog. A blog is an online diary, if you will. Mine began shortly after I set up my Etsy shop. I began the blog as an avenue for creative writing. What it has become is a portal to advertise both bodies of work, chronicle our travels to shows, share recipes, and open a window into the life of our artistic endeavors. Ive come to learn that collectors read my blog. They love peering into this window. With well over 14,000 visits to my site, I have 48 followers who have subscribed to this journal from all over the world.
What began as a creative release has turned into another body of work I can sell in the right market. Ive met some amazing collectors who have embraced my work and allowed me to create custom tables, mirrors, and boxes for them. The global marketplace has its arms wide open to artists. As the dollar twists and turns, overseas spending can add to online sales. There are other online sites available to artists. I have tried a few others but have come to love the ease and exposure of Etsy.com
In January Jon and I presented a 90-minute workshop on the finer points of using Etsy at our local art center. This presentation was made to 77 local artists who felt it was a hit! This positive response fueled us to plan more and has grown into yet another money stream, as weve given four workshops since this initial one. We charge $20.00 for each participant. The classes fill quickly and were planning more workshops throughout the year. We utilize art centers and craigslist.org for gathering an audience. So a small stream overflows, forging additional streams along the way. In this ripple effect, we move forward and are open to the possibilities of new ideas and how they can spring forth. Were grateful for these unexpected income opportunities!
In a difficult economy, I hope youll find the time to explore alternate methods of showing your work. Never could I have driven the wide array of traffic to a personal web site or garnered the global sales Ive had, had it not been for exploring Etsy.com. I feed the site daily by utilizing its forumsthis helps generate exposure. Without that effort, little would sell. Etsy success is fed by exposure. As well we know, selling your work is all about getting people to see your work, be it in your art fair booth or online.
So my addiction with rubber stamps continues and my boxes find homes around the world. Im not getting incredibly rich using Etsy, however 173 sales, the good will it generates, and the exposure make me feel there is hope. I know that sales will get stronger as the economy does and I will be ready with an on line market presence. I have two bodies of work fueling my need to keep my hands and mind busy!
Feeding the fire of creativity with a bit of fuel,
Tatto Dreams on Etsy