How good is ChatGPT at (re)writing my blog post?

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a prototype Artificial Intelligence chatbot that allows you to have human-like conversations. The tool is built upon a large language model, fine-tuned with supervised and reinforcement machine learning techniques.

To test the computer program’s writing skills, I’ve asked it to rewrite the article I published two days ago by giving it the simple instruction to “write a blog about Joshua Bell’s Washington metro concert”. Below the image you can read the account of Joshua’s performance again, but this time it’s told by a virtuoso machine. I didn’t change a single word of it. You may judge for yourself if the article is well and graphically written or not. Also note that the AI bot’s moral of the story is a bit different (but not less appropriate) than the conclusion of my original post.

“Robot playing a violin”, image generated by starryai

[Start of ChatGPT-generated text]

On a cold and dreary January morning in 2007, commuters rushing through the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C. were treated to a surprise performance by none other than Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists. Bell, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and playing a Stradivarius violin worth $3.5 million, performed six classical pieces for approximately 45 minutes to an unsuspecting and mostly indifferent crowd.

The performance was part of an experiment conducted by The Washington Post to see if people would recognize and appreciate beauty in unexpected places. The Post recruited Bell to play incognito in the Metro station as a social experiment, and only a handful of people stopped to listen to his performance. Most of the people rushing by ignored him, with many not even giving him a second glance.

Despite the lack of attention, Bell’s performance was a triumph. His virtuosity and passion shone through even in this unlikely setting, and his music filled the bustling Metro station with a sense of beauty and wonder. It was a reminder that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places, if we only take the time to notice it.

Bell’s Metro performance has since become the stuff of legend, and it has been featured in numerous articles and even a book. It serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of taking a moment to appreciate the beauty and art in our everyday lives, no matter where we are or what we are doing.

[End of ChatGPT-generated text]

Read my original post about Joshua Bell’s concert:

More reading about ChatGPT:

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Why being good may not be good enough

Sometimes working hard and being good at what you do is not good enough. Unfortunately, sometimes you must also be famous and people need to recognize your face to get their recognition.

Time: a cold Friday morning in January 2007; place: a busy metro station in Washington DC. A young musician opens his violin case and starts playing classical masterpieces from Bach and Schubert. Since it’s rush hour, more than a thousand people pass by. But during the 43 minutes the busker plays, only 27 commuters give him money and no more than seven of them stop for listening. He collects 32 dollars and when he finishes no one applauds…

The violin player was called Joshua Bell, and the DC performance was part of a social experiment from The Washington Post.  What Bell’s casual audience didn’t know was that the soloist was an internationally acclaimed classical music virtuoso and that the instrument he played was a Stradivarius from 1713 worth 3.5 million dollar. Just a few days before he played his incognito subway concerto, Joshua Bell sold out the Boston Symphony Hall at an average seat price of 100 dollar.

Image: Le Brun Stradivarius by Vicente Assensio (CC BY-SA 4.0)

As a visitor of my blog, you may be a music lover, but you probably don’t have the ambition to become a famous musician like Joshua Bell. Still there are some good lessons to be learned from the hero of this story.

First, stay ahead of the curve and do what you can to become a virtuoso in your specific area – whatever it may be. As I wrote in an old post, just wearing a blazer and have glasses won’t make you a thought leader. And having something interesting to tell won’t make you a top-notch presenter.

Then, develop a personal brand and make yourself visible to the outside world. Craft your story, write about your expertise, publish, present, and reach out on social media.

And finally, never stop earning your audience’s attention, recognition and respect. Always stay your humble self. No matter if you’re performing for 7 commuters in a metro station or in front of an audience of 700 connoisseurs in a concert hall!

You may read The Washington Post article here and watch the video of Bell’s metro performance here.

Related posts:

Sometimes beauty beats value

In an old blog post I wrote about the perceived value of value. The conclusion of my musing was that hard value doesn’t exist. In business and in sales, value is in the perception of the beholder. It’s a subjective concept that lies squarely in the minds of your customers and it’s always related to the context of their business, working or living environments.

Though the premises and the context are different, the same is often true in the world of art. I can get a ‘beautiful’ painting by an unknown artist for little or no money at a flea market, while an ‘ugly’ picture by a famous painter would be auctioned at Sotheby’s for a ridiculous high price.

But sometimes beauty may trump monetary value. The  S.M.A.K. museum in Ghent, Belgium currently runs an exhibition, “No-Go Over 18”, at which contemporary artists (also some very famous ones, like Luc Tuymans) exhibit their lithographs. What’s so interesting about the initiative, however, is that admission to the museum is exclusively restricted to a young audience of under 18; ‘old’ people like me aren’t welcome. And that these youngsters can buy one or more prints at the affordable price of 45 euros each.

When making a purchase, the young art lovers won’t be influenced by adults. They won’t know the names of the artists. Or the market value of the pictures. They will make a choice based upon the artworks’ aesthetic appeal rather than on the creators’ reputation and his or her perceived market value. They will prioritize beauty over value. And only when they receive the litho in their mailbox after the exhibition, these kids – as well as their sponsoring parents – will find out who made the work they purchased. And if they possibly made a bargain investment.

It is said that real art is priceless and that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. I’m sure those young collectors will agree…

The swan lake (re)visited

(photo: Pixabay)

A lot has been said and written about millennials, the way they think, and the way they communicate.  For marketers and recruiters there seems to be one simple rule: “if you want to attract millennials, speak their language.” A 2015 survey conducted by Fraclt and BuzzStream concluded that many Generation Y’ers are looking for short and concise content that is presented in a way that makes it easy for them to find the main takeaways and messages, and that they prefer entertainment over any other genre.

Well, I have never believed in categorizing people based upon their age, race, or gender. But today, I stumbled upon an amazing proof point of millennial storytelling skills when UK-based millennial Thomas Ryalls announced that he was going to watch a ballet performance for the first time in his life: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famous Swan Lake.

And here’s the amazing report of the guy’s first ballet experience, that tells the story of the Black Swan in a personal, funny, and authentic way. With less than 1,000 followers on Twitter this young adult is neither an influencer or a celebrity – but IMHO he may become one soon!

(please, read the whole thread below if you want to know why the audience applauded at the beginning…)

 

 

Five stories of art


This is a compilation post that brings together my views on closely related topics, collating articles that I published earlier on this blog. It doesn’t contain new content, although part of it may have been slightly reworked. Knowing that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts, I hope this update provides you with a bigger picture, a more complete list of good practices, or a better grounded opinion.


The attentive reader of this blog may have noticed that I love travelling. At frequent times, my wife and I take off on a city trip. These short holidays often provide a great occasion to visit the world’s most renowned museums and discover some of the stunning art collections they hold. A number of our excursions inspired me to write blog posts about the masterpieces themselves, the emotions they evoked, or an adjacent topic. Here’s a selection of 5 (plus 1 bonus) articles I published on this blog about a famous (or infamous) work of art.

1. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

When my spouse and I spent a long weekend in Paris, we explored the Louvre museum, the City of Light’s gargantuan temple of arts.

It is said that all roads lead to Rome, but inside the Louvre all signs seem to direct you to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. And what’s more, a significant part of the visitors inside the museum look as if they have come in (only) to follow these signposts and troop together in front of the famous portrait.

monalisa

As there are about 35,000 other art treasures exhibited in other (and less frequented) parts of the 60,000 square meters large museum, I have often wondered why exactly this Mona Lisa painting is the most attracting object for so many tourists. Have they been inspired by perception or by suggestion?

My guess is that it is the story that is guiding them. The secret behind Lisa Gherardini’s mysterious smile. The lady’s eyes that seem to follow your around. The quest for the model’s real identity. The fascination for Leonardo’s intriguing personality.

In business it’s often the same. People just love stories. They like to be guided towards products and services that are interesting, compelling, intriguing… But as in the Louvre, there may also be lots of other hidden treasures to be discovered by the audience (and promoted by you). Each of them with its own story that’s waiting to be told…

2. Rembrandt van Rijn’s Night Watch

Another day we went visiting Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, and the Night Watch.

For the unhappy few who are not familiar with the world’s art heritage: the Night Watch (or de Nachtwacht in Dutch) is a group portrait of a local shooting company, painted by Rembrandt in 1642.

nachtwacht

Our youngest son, who had been on a school excursion to the Dutch capital a few months ago, complained afterwards that the time they could spend at the Rijksmuseum was “barely enough for a meet and greet with Rembrandt’s famous painting”. So, he absolutely wanted to get back to the museum and spend more quality time with the works of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and his Golden Age fellows. A good reason to return to the city of Amsterdam, isn’t it?

It may come as a surprise to you, but Rembrandt’s world renowned painting is competing for the spot of the number one tourist attraction in Amsterdam with… a modest terraced house. The Anne Frank House is frequented by more than one million people each year. When we got there (following our visit to the Rijksmuseum), the waiting queue at the front door had already grown to over 100 meters long.

Now, ask me what makes all these visitors come to visit the Anne Frank House and wait in line for more than one hour, and I will tell you that it’s her story. A story that appeals to people’s emotion. A true story told by a 15-year-old girl. A story about war, suffering and human courage. A story that is still relevant today, 70 years after the end of World War II. And – although the young girl’s history did not have a happy ending – possibly also a story of hope for millions of refugees all over the world. Each of them may be looking for a 21st century Achterhuis (aka Secret Annexe) where they can find a safe shelter from all sorts of persecution, terrorist aggression, separatist unrest, missile attacks, air strikes and ground offensives…

3. Hendrick van Anthonissen’s View of Scheveningen Sands

The online conversation following my “Moore’s law… and beyond” blog post revealed a fundamental discussion about data visualization: when we create and deliver a presentation, should we stick to the hard facts and figures, or is a presenter allowed to “filter”, “frame” or “massage” certain data?

Here’s my opinion. First of all, you should never, never lie to your audience or present them with facts and figures when you definitely know they are incorrect. There is nothing wrong, however, with omitting unnecessary details, or framing the content to better align with the message you’re trying to convey.

A good example of this is the use of (financial or industry) analyst data in your slides. Although most of these analyst guys are to be considered trustworthy sources, in my blog post about “the incredible lightness of numbers” I illustrated that the figures they give may sometimes vary by a large factor. Of course, as a presenter, you’re allowed to quote only the sources that ― depending on what you want to show or prove ― mention the smallest of the largest numbers.

As a presenter you can also influence the audience’s perception of objective data. The case (by Garr Reynolds) I have outlined in my post “the duck and the rabbit” shows how a table may be (mis)used as an alternative to a bar chart to display hard numbers in a less dramatic or emotional way.

And, finally, sometimes you may assume that a theory or statement is true, until somebody proves you it’s not. Take the anecdote of the 17th-century Dutch painting “View of Scheveningen Sands,” created by Hendrick van Anthonissen (hanging in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, UK.)

Until recently, the whole world assumed that the people on the painting were actually staring at a deserted seascape… and then the restoration of the artwork revealed a beached whale on the beach!

scheveningensands

4. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica

Last November we visited the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, renowned as the home of Picasso’s Guernica. The famous mural-sized, black-and-white painting was created in 1937 after the devastating bombing on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, and is considered one of the most powerful visual political statements ever made by an artists.

guernica

The painting was impressive indeed. Its visual message overwhelming. Undoubtedly the work of a genius.

After intensively and extensively admiring the masterpiece, a series of small black-and-white photographs caught my attention. Posted on the wall opposite the canvas, they depict the making of Guernica. The snapshots were taken by Dora Maar, Picasso’s muse in those days, and show the consecutive development stages of the artwork.

Thanks to these historical pictures I could witness how some key components of the composition, like the bull, the horse, and the (light bulb) sun, were created, destructed and recreated by the Spanish painter.

While observing the metamorphosis of Guernica, I had to think of Dale Carnegie’s quote about delivering a presentation:

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

Just like Picasso’s masterpiece evolved during its inception, conception and creation, your presentation’s messaging, storytelling, and visualization may change over time – although an act of destruction is seldom required.

5. Giacomo  Puccini’s Tosca

Of course, there are other forms of art besides painting, such as theater and opera.

In my past posts I have written many times about ethos, pathos and logos. The three persuasive appeals, as described by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. If you think about it, ethos, pathos and logos are present in almost every area of our daily lives. And more than we realize, they determine how we experience situations, interact with people and make decisions.

I witnessed this recently myself on a trip to Budapest, where my wife and I spent a night at the opera, watching and listening to Puccini’s Tosca. I am not that frequent opera visitor nor a lifelong opera lover, but this performance really hit my sweet spot, thanks to ― what I interpreted afterwards as a ― perfect mix of ethos, pathos and logos.

tosca

  • Ethos: a more than a century old institution that opened in 1884, the Hungarian State Opera House has a very good reputation. The operaház’ acoustics are considered to be among the best in the world. From the moment we entered the venue, we were impressed by its gold-decorated interior and its red velvet seats.
  • Pathos: written by the late 19th century romantic Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, the opera Tosca is filled with emotion. With love, lust and jealousy. A review review by a Washington City Paper describes Tosca’s antagonist Scarpia as “the 19th century’s Darth Vader.” Almost two months after our night at the opera, Scarpia’s words “Beware: this is a place of tears!” (in Italian, “Questo è luogo di lagrime! Badate!”) still echo in my mind.
  • Logos: apart from the wonderful setting and the touching story, my wife and I enjoyed an outstanding interpretation of Tosca. The orchestra and the lead singers delivered a rousing performance. This music would have sounded great on my iPod too!

Lesson learned: as for so many other things in life, the whole of Aristotle’s rhetoric is greater than the sum of its three parts. It’s neither about ethos OR pathos OR logos, but all about ethos AND pathos AND logos

Bonus. Cecilia Giménez’ Potato Jesus

And finally, there was the story of the elderly Spanish lady who made the news by restoring a fresco in her own unique way? She did such a remarkable job that the mural painting by Elías García Martínez, originally known as Ecce Homo (“Here’s the Man”), got nicknamed Ecce Mono (“Here’s the Monkey”) and Potato Jesus.

But in the meantime her infamous artwork in a church near Zaragoza has turned out to be quite lucrative…

eccemono

After one year, the bespoke restoration had attracted 40,000 visitors and raised more than 50,000 euro for charity. Cecilia Giménez, the 81-year-old artist, has even had her own art exhibition and signed a deal with a local council to share profits from merchandising the image.

A somewhat unexpected conclusion from this fait divers: even questionable graphic material may (sometimes) generate good business — or yield good presentations. Take for example Tom Peters, a bestselling author who is known as a great business person and an inspiring public speaker. Even though the PowerPoint slides he creates are often overcrowded, with an eye-hurting mix of exotic fonts and striking primary colors (see e.g. one of his “Excellence Now” presentations on SlideShare) most of his presentations are simply excellent…

The making of Guernica

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction” – Pablo Picasso

Last week I visited the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, renowned as the home of Picasso’s Guernica. The famous mural-sized, black-and-white painting was created in 1937 after the devastating bombing on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, and is considered one of the most powerful visual political statements ever made by an artists.

The painting was impressive indeed. Its visual message overwhelming. Undoubtedly the work of a genius.

Guernica

After intensively and extensively admiring the masterpiece, a series of small black-and-white photographs caught my attention. Posted on the wall opposite the canvas, they depict the making of Guernica. The snapshots were taken by Dora Maar, Picasso’s muse in those days, and show the consecutive development stages of the artwork.

Thanks to these historical pictures I could witness how some key components of the composition, like the bull, the horse, and the (light bulb) sun, were created, destructed and recreated by the Spanish painter.

While observing the metamorphosis of Guernica, I had to think of Dale Carnegie’s quote about delivering a presentation:

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

Just like Picasso’s masterpiece evolved during its inception, conception and creation, your presentation’s messaging, storytelling, and visualization may change over time – although an act of destruction is seldom required.

More reading: