Empty Met, Empty Promise

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I recently went on the EmptyMet tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and it was a real disappointment. The tour was a Christmas gift from my nephew, a college student who could hardly afford to part with the $125 the museum charges for this experience.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the Met, live within walking distance of the museum, and visit it frequently. In fact, over the past two years, I’ve literally seen everything they’ve put on display. Plus, being a freelancer, I am often able to visit the museum during off-peak hours, when the galleries are less crowded.

mtmet2The EmptyMet tour gives you access to the Metropolitan Museum before it opens to the public. The draw is the opportunity to wander through empty galleries and view the art as if it were in someone’s private collection. The reality, however, is far from that ideal scenario.

We had 25 people on my “private” tour, along with three staff members. Having taken numerous tours of the museum over the past two years, I know that they are more suited to informing and educating attendees rather than providing a chance to truly appreciate each artwork showcased along the way. Being in a large group like that, you have to wait your turn to get a close-up view and then are quickly shuffled off to the next gallery, so you don’t get much of a chance to examine and enjoy the artwork that was just discussed.

What drew me to the unique experience of an EmptyMet tour (beyond it being a very generous gift) was the opportunity to photograph the museum’s picturesque galleries without the crowds of people that frequent them. I love taking photographs, and the chance to snap some pictures of the interior of such a grand space was one I could not pass up.

As with most great museums, the Met is a fascinating structure. It’s actually a collection of different buildings cobbled together over the years. Plus, it’s filled with treasures. And while I can see those art treasures any time I choose, I cannot photograph most of them, and certainly not an entire gallery, without also likely capturing some slovenly oaf in a Green Bay Packers jersey and backwards baseball cap standing around looking bored shitless because he came all the way to New York to see the rectal spectacle of Times Square and then was dragged off to this giant old museum that doesn’t even have a painting of dogs playing cards.

mtmetquoteThe problem with the EmptyMet tour is that, while the museum is indeed empty, whatever gallery you happen to be in is crowded. Wherever we went, whatever artwork we looked at, I had 25 other people vying to see it – and to photograph it. That’s about as many people as you’ll have in a gallery during regular hours. And when I visit the Met at off-peak hours, rarely will I see that many people in a gallery – let alone huddled around a specific piece of art at any given time.

I tried to make the best of it, trailing behind the crowd in hopes of snatching a photo of an empty gallery when the crowd moved on to the next. It wasn’t easy, though, as our guide had a tendency to ramble, so we were always in a rush (frankly, I’ve been on shorter tours that showed more of the museum).

Fortunately, our “crowd” didn’t have a slovenly oaf in a Green Bay Packers jersey and backwards baseball cap standing around looking bored shitless because he came all the way to New York to see the rectal spectacle of Times Square and then was dragged off to this giant old museum that doesn’t even have a painting of dogs playing cards. But we did have this German guy who kept wandering off, causing much concern among our handlers. And, much to my frustration, he had a tendency to wander off into whatever gallery I was trying to photograph.

So what I’m trying to say is don’t waste your time and money on the EmptyMet tour. You can see more of the museum, and with less crowds, simply by wandering the museum during regular hours (ideally during the week). And if you do want to snap some photos of empty – or nearly empty – galleries, then arrive early, before the museum opens. The Great Hall is open before the museum itself, so you can check your coat and purchase your ticket. That way you can head straight into the galleries the moment they’re open, though it certainly helps to already know your way around and have a plan of which galleries you want to photograph before they fill up. In fact, that is how I took the photos accompanying this piece, by rushing around after my EmptyMet tour, before the galleries became filled with the day’s regular visitors.

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Thought of the Day: Bloggers Can Be A Sketchy Lot

WpressFirst of all, thanks to all the genuine folks out there in the blogosphere, especially for those kind enough to follow Nipple Monkey or like one of our posts. I know we are an acquired taste, and all over the board with our content, so we genuinely appreciate the love.

The catch is that it’s not easy to tell who those genuine folks really are. And I fear there’s something about hosting your blog on WordPress.com that generates some pretty sketchy “likes” and “follows.”

This isn’t our first walk through the blogosphere. We’ve run blogs on and off WordPress.com long enough to know that, for example, the traffic data they provide is far more “generous” than the industry-standard data you will get from Google Analytics.

But we’ve noticed something slightly insidious in these early days of Nipple Monkey, our least-focused blog to date. Several of the “likes” and “follows” we’ve received are from blogs and bloggers who appear to have absolutely no common interest in the topic of the post – or our entire blog, for that matter.

In fact, we’ve noticed that we get a lot these from people who either blog about religion or blog about how to make money blogging. In other words, people trying to sell you feel-good fantasies. Why on earth would any of these people like one of our posts, or opt to follow a blog such as ours?

OK, even those blogs presumably have real people behind them. And maybe, just maybe, one of them thought something we wrote was interesting and/or funny. Maybe.

But it seems far more likely that this is part of a marketing scheme in which bloggers like and follow other blogs in hopes of driving traffic back to their own blogs, either through our curiosity (to click and see who gave us the false love) or by landing pingbacks that could drive our readers to visit their blogs.

It may seem a little far-fetched, but blogging is a numbers game, and people seem willing to try anything to trawl for traffic. And keep in mind that a lot of bloggers are looking for nothing but numbers. They want to inflate their traffic to inflate the perceived value of their blog. Big numbers can lead to better ad sales.

MuffenAnd speaking of numbers, we long ago gave up on WordPress.com traffic data. Anyone who has worked with Goggle Analytics will understand why. But I do find it interesting that there have been times when we’d get likes and follows with no discernible traffic for the post in question. Yes, there might be some sort of lag time for traffic data, but there appears to be no related lag time for the other data – the likes and follows.

Which makes me wonder if people are searching WordPress.com tags and liking and following blogs and posts based simply on those, rather than actually reading a post and exploring a blog. That would certainly explain all these abnormalities.

But why like or follow a blog simply because of a tag, without actually reading the post or looking at the blog? That strikes me as a little shallow and insincere.

Of course I’m not going to lose any sleep over this. We’re working to migrate our blog over to WordPress.org, so this should be a forgotten annoyance soon enough. And we really do appreciate the genuine love we have received from our legitimate followers (and they will surely appreciate the humor in all this speculation).

But in the interest of honest blogging, I thought we’d try a little experiment. We’re going to tag this post with words like camera and photography. We’re also going to toss things like muffin, baking, and recipe into the mix. And let’s see if we get any likes and follows from photography and/or baking bloggers.

We haven’t written about either of these subjects so far, and this post clearly isn’t about either topic. So such traffic should indicate that they have “blindly” liked or followed us, confirming our suspicion that bloggers are trawling through WordPress.com tags in hopes of driving traffic back to their sites.

[Update: It took less than five minutes before a photography blog “liked” this post, which 30 minutes later still hadn’t received any traffic according to WordPress. Clearly they liked it without even reading it. And four hours after that I got my first like from a baking blog. It’s so disheartening.]