Kiernan Schmitt

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On November 18, 2016, Kiernan Schmitt commented on The Smithsonian: How a 170-year-old Museum Leverages Technology :

What a great topic, Estelle. Over the last decade, I have loved observing how museums are using digital technologies to enhance their visitor experiences and facilitate the study of great works of art and science.

The Smithsonian in particular deserves great praise for its use of blogs and social channels to support its mission to educate and inspire. The Smithsonian invested significant dollars in recruiting talented writers to produce fascinating, shareable, and entertaining content for its website. Often the writers would connect themes from the Institution to pop culture or news to demonstrate how museums are key to connecting seemingly unrelated areas of interest. My particular favorite was a 24-post blog series about how the cartoon “The Jetsons” influenced how we have innovated architecture, fashion, and transportation in the years since:

Further, the Smithsonian’s investment in digital scanning and archiving not only increases the public’s access to great works, it also acts as a sort of insurance that these works will be remembered and preserved even if they are for some reason destroyed or misplaced. While no simulation can quite capture the magic of seeing Abe Lincoln’s actual hat in-person, a record of its dimensions, fabric, color, and feel still has enormous historical value for future generations.

On November 18, 2016, Kiernan Schmitt commented on Saving the Physical Bookstore: Barnes & Noble Edition :

Great post, Kenzie. Poor Barnes & Noble. The Nook simply couldn’t catch on due to the superior marketing and functionality of the iPad and the Kindle, which expanded beyond books into music, web browsing, and movies. Further, the Nook always seemed like a side gig for Barnes and Noble—a little kiosk off in the corner, a “we had to” of sorts—and the company didn’t reorient to make the Nook a core part of the brand promise to consumers.

In my opinion, Barnes and Noble also missed a major opportunity in not acquiring Goodreads, the social network built around book reviews, reading lists, and literature recommendations. Amazon bought up Goodreads when it realized the power of seeing in real time how hardcore readers felt about content and what additional functionalities they would find useful in future reading innovation. Barnes and Noble certainly could have made the same move, but lacked Amazon’s foresight.

As for their “third place” strategy, I’m pessimistic. I love browsing a bookstore, but, by my count, local communities now have about ten different companies jockeying for “third place.”

On November 18, 2016, Kiernan Schmitt commented on Paddle8 is taking art auctions online :

What an interesting concept! I worry about Paddle8’s ability to scale, however, since in-person authentication has long been a central piece of the auction process. Indeed, in my opinion, even work from known artists can only really be experienced—and rightly valuated at thousands and thousands of dollars—if the buyers and the experts can stand with their noses nearly touching the surface, experiencing the texture of the paint, the bend of the sculpture, the composition in full. I question whether any online photograph or digital screen can truly replace the immediate thrill of seeing and judging great art.

Assuming that hi-def does indeed replace in-person viewing, however, I also worry about the famous auction houses simply swooping into the space and clobbering Paddle8. After all, the strength of the Sotheby’s name will make authenticated art only more valuable in the marketplace. What is it that Paddle8 has that is genuinely unique or ownable?

On November 18, 2016, Kiernan Schmitt commented on Burberry: Digitizing the Trench :

Fascinating post, Irene. It seems that Burberry has avoided the pitfall of so many retailers: seeing success on social media as an end in itself. After all, Likes, Retweets, and Comments don’t show up on a company’s balance sheet, and social buzz is great for brand awareness but does not always translate to booming sales. Most high fashion companies currently use digital communications channels primarily for brand building and little else, with varying levels of success.

For Burberry, the introduction of lower priced merchandise seems a necessity for the millennial audience you say they were targeting on social. I’d be interested in knowing if walking these customers up the price chain is going to be a successful strategy over the long-term, or whether it’s too hard for a high-fashion house to stay relevant over time. Further, the introduction of lower priced goods has the potential to undercut the brand’s “premium” image: a significant risk.

On November 6, 2016, Kiernan Schmitt commented on Will climate change spell disaster for FEMA? :

DJ Ritaroo: great post. I’m conflicted about whether FEMA should be in the preventative measures business. The obvious connection is that, yes, if there were more investment in floodwalls, updated sewer system, water-proof transportation and utility tunnels, et cetera, then FEMA could be more efficient in focusing on the work that needs to get done mid-disaster. Plus, the FEMA mission does include mitigation and preparation. However, I worry that FEMA reputation as “first responders,” rather than mitigators, could mean that the agency isn’t given the resources necessary to actually finance the large-scale projects that real mitigation would require.

While the shifting of this responsibility to the states is an interesting move—and in some ways acknowledges that the infrastructure construction requires closer on-the-ground actors than FEMA can provide—I believe the federal government should be playing a more central role in channeling federal funds to interstate projects, such as large-scale seawalls and the relocation of our most vulnerable citizens.

Wow! What a fascinating post, Irene, not least because I had no idea that water temperature influences the sex of fish.

I think that Nissui is smart to be getting into the farmed fish business, though it will be interesting to see if consumers are willing to accept farmed fish over wild fish. If not, Nissui might still find itself in, well, deep water.

Further, as we have seen with farmed animal operations in other food categories, Nissui will have to resist the temptation to maximize efficiency in producing fish at the cost of perverting nature. This has already been seen in fish farming to some extent, through the use of antibiotics and untraditional diets:

My guess is that the average Japanese consumer would not tolerate similar contamination, though absent regulations many companies would make this mistake.

Further, Nissui’s worldwide fishing operations are surely a necessary step as fish migration patterns continually adapt to warming oceans. The company would benefit from investment in fish-tracking and fish-tagging technology, as finding the schools is crucial to their entire supply chain.

Sadly, though, the acidification and warming of our oceans is inevitable (, and no company could possibly change the issue singlehandedly. I admire Nissui’s commitment to sustainability in their operations, but a wider, worldwide movement will be necessary to save our fish, along with most other species on earth.

On November 6, 2016, Kiernan Schmitt commented on How Vail Resorts Plans to Weather the Storm of Climate Change :

Nice post, Brian.

Your suggestion that Vail further diversify its offerings to cover both warm-weather and cold-weather activities is a solid strategy, though I’d like to raise one red flag. In the lead up to the UN Paris Agreement, I spent 2 years consulting with Al Gore to pressure overseas governments to make real commitments to fight climate change. Vice President Gore often repeated that one of the most unappreciated facts about climate change is that, while the planet as a whole will be warming, extreme weather at both ends of the scale—droughts and record highs, as well as tremendous snowfall and record lows—will become much more common. Some years Vail Mountain might be bare…and others its lodges might be literally buried under feet of snow.

Thus, while I agree that diversifying into a diversity of temperature-related recreational areas will be beneficial, Vail will need to become ever more expert in preparing for unpredictable swings, both hot and cold.

Neat post, Joanna. I had no idea that LAUSD has taken such a definitive stand against climate change: it’s heartening to see a school system stand-up on what can seem to some like a controversial issue.

Your post notes that LAUSD sees climate education as a keep part to making their students “global citizens.” I would love is LAUSD included as part of the curriculum political actions for students and their families to take to effect actions here at home. In my view, the massive scale of technological change that is going to be necessary to save the planet can only be financed through government action. Until American families write, protest, and pressure their local, state, and federal officials to take action at scale, meaningful change can’t be realized. After all, no amount of solar panels can make a dent if the American electrical grid remains outdated and overwhelmed.

In addition, to your thoughtful points about adaptation to more drastic weather, our government currently pours millions of dollars into relief efforts only after devastation occurs, rarely having the foresight to finance preventative measures. Here, too, a push from vulnerable citizens is a must.