Saturday, April 30, 2011

Its Time to Nominate and Vote for Your Favourite Blogs

Singapore Blog Awards 2010
Do you have what it takes to be a winner like these guys?

Its Nomination and Election Fever - not just for the General Elections but also for Singapore's top blogs of the year. Let's get those flabby content generating muscles all warmed up for the Singapore Blog Awards 2011.

Organised by omy.sg, the Singapore Blog Awards "honours creative, hardworking and persistent "new age wordsmiths" who devote their time and energy to create and maintain informative and innovative blogs."

This year, a total of 10 updated categories are up for grabs. They include “Best Family Blog”, “Best Fashion Blog”, “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Social Media Integrated Blog” (which considers other social networking elements like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare).

That's not all...

Two additional celebrity categories determined entirely by your votes are also created. They are the "HTC Most Popular Local Celebrity Blog/Microblog" and the “HTC Most Popular Overseas Celebrity Blog/Microblog”. No prizes for guessing what you can possibly win there (hint: look at the category names).

Wait, there's more...

There are four more sponsored categories which you can participate in, namely “HTC Best Mobile Blog”, “Deal.com.sg Best Shopping Blog”, “Asus Best Tech Blog” and “Adonis Best Beauty Blog”.

With so many categories to participate in, the chances of winning something must be good. In fact, $30,000 worth of fabulous prizes are up for grabs, and they apply to both nominees and voters! They include a trip to Melbourne, Australia, inclusive of air tickets and accommodation!

Nomination and registration is now open till 22 May, followed by a voting and judging phase till end June. The winners will be crowned at an award ceremony held at the chic Shanghai Dolly in July.

Log on to the official site to nominate your favourite blogs. You can also participate directly by registering yourself for the Awards.

Oh yes, one more thing (and no, this is not a rally speech)....

I'm one of the judges for this year's awards! Thanks to Alvin, I've been graciously selected to help determine who should win amongst the growing pool of talented social media content producers in Singapore. Other judges include singers, radio DJs, technopreneurs, and well-known bloggers.

Before we go, here are the Award sponsors...

They are: HTC, Deal.com.sg, Asus, Asia Pacific Breweries’ Get Your Sexy Back, Domino’s Pizza, Tourism Victoria, Jetstar, Adonis and United International Pictures. Other sponsors include Fabrix, 1-Rochester Group, Get Singapore and Night Safari. Publicity partners are Stomp, ST701, Ping.sg, MyBloggerCon and Youth.sg. Venue partners are Shanghai Dolly and Tiger Beer.

Hurry go and nominate your favourite blogs - or your own blogs - NOW! This is one POLL where everybody who participates stands a chance to WIN!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Visitor Strategies @ V&A Museum

V&A Museum, Kensington

The V&A (formerly Victoria and Albert Museum) in the UK is one of the leading museum groups on the British isles and an international cultural brand. It comprises the V&A Museum at South Kensington, the V&A Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green, and its archives and stores at Blythe House, Kensington Olympia. Like many British museums, all V&A museums provide free entry to visitors.

First opened in 1852 and named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, the V&A has a massive permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. Its flagship museum at South Kensington has since grown to now cover 12.5 acres (51,000 m2) and 145 galleries, and is touted as the "world's greatest museum of art and design, with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity".  Visitors to V&A at South Kensington can uncover 3000 years of cultural treasures gleaned from many of the world's richest cultures. They include ceramics, furniture, fashion, glass, jewellery, metalwork, photographs, sculpture, textiles and paintings.

V&A Museum, Kensington
This plate is the oldest ceramic piece in the V&A's collection

Helmed by its charismatic director Sir Mark Jones (who incidentally had a stint at Singapore's National Museum way back in the past), the V&A drew some 2.3 million visitors a year and is the 7th most visited museum in the UK. To strengthen attendance figures, the V&A curates an exciting calendar of exhibitions, and organises targeted events appealing to different visitor groups such as its popular Fashion in Motion series.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Free admission is a great draw for tourists and locals alike, and this is proudly emblazoned on the V&A's outdoor banners.

V&A Museum, Kensington
This spectacular Chihuly crystal chandelier and ultra-chic information counter sets the mood at the lobby.

V&A Museum, Kensington
A knowledgeable docent pointing out the open-storage system at the V&A.  This allowed the museum to showcase as many of its artefacts as possible in a space-economical fashion.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Those who prefer to search for 'treasures' online can do so at these terminals.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Exhibits are thoughtfully displayed with sufficient space for visitors to walk around them. Oh yes, you can also take photographs of them (no flash of course).

V&A Museum, Kensington
Information panels written in simple, easily understood language educate visitors on the steps involved in pottery making.

V&A Museum, Kensington
I love this view of an old preserved wall of the museum. Its modern extension was thoughtfully built to allow good visibility and line-of-sight of its various spaces.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Corridor spaces are put to good use at the V&A.  With 4.5 million items, you do need every square feet to showcase your cultural wares!

V&A Museum, Kensington
One can also view the working spaces of the conservators at the museum, with its open working environment.  It helps that they're pretty neat in their work. :)

V&A Museum, Kensington
This lady was taking down the fine details of a pair of marble statues.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Handleable items like these allow visitors to touch and feel selected museum exhibits, while drawers provide spaces to keep and display artefacts.

V&A Museum, Kensington
As a huge museum covering 51,000 sq m in area, chairs like these provide much needed relief.

V&A Museum, Kensington
A view of a gallery space. The easy visibility and openness of the gallery spaces are a boon for visitors navigating its cavernous interior.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Cultural philanthropy is an important component of museum funding in the UK. I like how discrete these gallery namings were.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Want to know what's new? Check out its new aquisitions in this space. Great for repeat visitors.

V&A Museum, Kensington
For pricier items, glass showcases like these are important. I also like how the museum used natural light to supplement its artificial lighting systems.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Interactive information screens like this one here are a must in most modern museums.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Art education is a key priority for the V&A, as seen in this dedicated centre sponsored by the Sackler foundation. The place was buzzing with avid 'students' from all ages when I was there.

V&A Museum, Kensington
Grab a sandwich, coffee or a pasta at the museum restaurant, a necessity to replenish your mental juices after absorbing all that knowledge!

V&A Museum, Kensington
The V&A shop was a remarkable retail paradise, with goods ranging from clothes, handbags, jewellery and books. In fact, the V&A is the world's leading licensed museum brand.

V&A Museum, Kensington
As we were leaving the museum, this DJ was revving up the decks in preparation for the V&A's Friday Late nights. Apparently, they draw some 6,000 visitors from 6 pm to 10 pm alone. What a great way to chill out to culture!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lessons in Leadership from Jesus


Jesus displays servant leadership by washing his disciple's feet (courtesy of Turn Back To God)

Today is Good Friday, an important occasion in the Christian calendar of events. As Christians around the world commemorate this day, I thought it is timely to reflect on some of the leadership lessons from Jesus and how they apply to us in our personal, professional and social lives. Much of what I share below isn't new, but I thought its timely given the significance of this day.

What are some of these guiding principles?

Servant Leadership

Jesus always professed himself to be a servant rather than a master. This is best captured in the following Biblical verse:

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Mark 10, Verse 45

Through his life's work, He demonstrated that a true leader should always put his followers needs before him and not refrain from rolling up one's sleeves in doing the good work. This principle is most clearly demonstrated by the act of Jesus washing His disciple's feet (John 13), which demonstrated how leadership should be done.

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Jesus provides an excellent example of leading by doing. Throughout the gospels (which share the story of His life), one can read about how Jesus was always on the move, performing acts of mercy, kindness and healing as He shares lessons in life. Naturally, His miracles and other acts of mercy and love inspired many to believe in what He also shared verbally.

Sacrificial Leadership

The supreme act of His crucifixion on the cross was Jesus' example of how much He was willing to give up for what He believe in. This made Him one of the most significant of many other martyrs throughout history who chose to die for their cause. While this may be a rather extreme example, it could be interpreted in how people in leadership should stand up to "take the heat" and bear the responsibility of their subordinates' failure even when it clearly wasn't their own.

Community Building and Influence

Jesus did not work alone. Neither did He just broadcast his message or heal a faceless nameless mass audience in the thousands. Rather He worked through appointing leaders and managers, and allowing them to spread His influence to their own circles. To do so, much of His time and efforts were invested in two smaller circles of disciples and followers:

1) His group of 12 disciples (or apostles), out of which the inner circle of Peter, James and John were closest to Him.

2) A bigger group of 70 disciples who were assigned specific tasks to do good, heal and spread the word.

Obviously, the principles of community building, appointment of "senior" and "middle" management leaders, and grassroots oriented marketing has been a powerful organising force for Christianity (as it is for most major religions). As history has shown, the apostles and disciples played crucial roles in helping to disseminate the doctrines of Christ and to reach various communities. This brings us to the final and probably most well known point.

Evangelism and Word Of Mouth Marketing

Jesus is the original purveyor of the principles of evangelism, Word Of Mouth marketing, referral marketing, buzz marketing, and all other forms of word spreading marketing practices. Without the benefit of CNN, BBC, National radio, the Internet, or Mobile Apps, He still managed to get the message across to billions around the world. The way to do it is through spreading the word and encouraging one's followers to do so. This is best captured in Matthew 28:19 which says

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"

If you're interested, you can check out this book on "The Leadership Lessons of Jesus" for more valuable insights.  Meanwhile, let's all remember the significance of this day, and what it meant for Christians 2,000 years ago.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rebecca Black and the Ascend of the Anti-hero

If you haven't already heard Rebecca Black's "Friday" (more than 100 million views on Youtube and rising), you must have been hiding under a rock. The huge Internet sensation has been making waves while racking up an incredible number of 2 million dislikes on Youtube.

Here's that music video produced by Ark Music Factory for those of you fortunate/unfortunate enough to miss it.



By now of course, much of the online and mainstream media world has been talking incessantly about the Rebecca Black phenomenon.  There has been a huge number of parodies, and now GLEE is keen to do a cover of her infectiously unforgettable ditty.

I believe that this is symptomatic of a bigger socio-cultural change associated with the rise of the antihero.

According to Wikipedia,

"an antihero is generally considered to be a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of the archetypal hero, and is in some instances its antithesis"

There has been many antiheroes throughout history, particularly in films as seen from this list. Embellished with human flaws, antiheroes resonate with many of us because of their sheer humanity. What's interesting though is that most fictional antiheroes are still somewhat "cool", oozing with machismo and charisma despite their scarred pasts.

What I find fascinating about Rebecca Black as the new generation anti-hero - one created by Youtube and other social sharing sites - is this:

1) She is not as slick or polished as a pre-packaged pop star.  Instead, she exudes an awkward and gawky post-pubescent demeanour (compared to say Justin Bieber).

2) Her song is so bad that its considered "good", creating a negative buzz that somehow seemed to work in her favour.  Other than Youtube, her song "Friday' was no. 19 on iTunes top 100 downloads and her Twitter account has almost 160,000 followers.

3) She isn't backed by a huge commercial corporation but a rather niche company specialising in amateur acts.  This can be seen in the production qualities of the music video on Youtube.

4) Unlike some other Youtube stars, her meteoric rise to fame (or infamy) seemed purely a product of accidental happenstance rather than pre-meditated design.

Of course, the Rebecca Black phenomenon isn't totally new.  There were others like William Hung, an erstwhile contestant on American Idol, who catapulted to "stardom" with an acting and recording contract only to fade quickly away.

It'll be interesting to see if the huge spike in her popularity/notoriety will sustain her beyond just a momentary flicker of fame in the fickle world of online popularity.  It seems apparent that in this day and age, being awkward, gawky and geeky may actually win one more fans rather than being an ultra-cool, chic, stylish and plastic personality.  I suppose the "unique selling points" at play here are originality, interestingness, and counter-intuitiveness.

Let's hope that Rebecca will bask in her moment of glory while it lasts, and not let the negative detractors affect her too much.


Courtesy of Rebecca Black website

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Build a Great Association

ASA Exco Dinner
Association dinners and trips can be good bonding events (ASA Exco 2005)

Through the kind invitation of MCI, a global association management company, I had the privilege of diving more deeply into the world of associations at a recent conference at Suntec City Convention Centre. As the Sec-Gen of the Association of Singapore Attractions, I am always interested to learn about the best practices of running and managing an association.

According to a white paper published by the firm, there are 8 key strategies for associations (whether professional or trade) anywhere in the world to remain relevant in a fast changing future. Key findings from these paper hail from a survey of European associations conducted by MCI, but many of them are relevant to associations here in Singapore. They are:

1) Set up a sustainable framework

Ensuring the long-term survival of your association is a critical strategy. To do so, you need to look at your bottom-line and generate surpluses which can be reinvested in activities and programmes that add value to your members. In a sustainable business model, one should pay atention to the following issues:

GOVERNANCE - Vision and strategy, leadership and empowerment, objectives and metrics, accountability and performance, business ethics

TALENT - Engagement of employees, behaviours, health and safety, diversity and labour rights, human rights etc.

OFFICE OPERATIONS - Reduction of energy and water consumption, energy efficiency, reducing waste and recycling, use of sustainable materials, etc.

2) Position your association as a thought leader

Establishing one self as an authority in a field is critical for associations, in order to gain credibility, respect and leadership. To do so, associations could look at conducting studies or surveys to better inform the industry on key business trends, or to be seen as a news maker.

3) Demonstrate value and relevance to members

This is key for any association, especially when members pay annual fees or invest both time and energy in the association's activities. Some possible areas of contribution include organising top class educational and training programmes, playing a key role in influencing policy and regulatory environments, or providing business intelligence.

4) Develop new initiatives and revenue streams

Revenue provides the lifeblood for associations to survive and thrive. Associations can organise trade fairs, conferences, business missions, consumer festivals and events, or joint marketing platforms to generate income. In addition, they could also look at other areas like publications, research or provision of online services (eg a Business to Business Marketplace) to assist their members in key business areas.

5) Constantly innovate

Like any organisation in the knowledge era, associations need to go beyond what its providing to constantly increase their value add to members. Beyond creating new platforms for members to improve their professionalism or marketing channels, associations could also seek new business ventures that provide greenfield opportunities for their members.

6) Extend your outreach through partnerships and
alliances


Forging of strategic alliances and partnerships is key to any association, and these relationships would be useful to help them reach out beyond their industry to other value chain partners. By doing so, they could reach out to a wider audience, build community, and improve business ties. Collective bargaining also improves when more industry associations join hands.

However, associations should also watch out for competition either amongst their members or with other similar associations. Depending on the size of the industry and the market, competing associations could reduce your share of the market as well as your influence.

7) Communicate, communicate, communicate

In the age of social media and an "always on" sensibility, associations must look at ways to communicate, network, and seek feedback from their members. Other than publishing content on interactive social media channels (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Forums), associations can also conduct polls, rapid surveys, and online votes to seek members' views on policy issues. With younger members joining associations, they should also renew their methods of outreach.

8) Invest in future leaders

To be sustainable, associations need to look at succession planning and renewal within the sector. One way to do so is to talent scout members of the younger generation and co-opt them into committees in the association to assist in key areas. This is important in order for asociations to renew their base while attracting a younger membership.

From my own experience as an office bearer in an association, I tend to agree with most of the points above. Many trade associations are constantly faced with financial challenges and the need to remain agile, relevant and nimble in an ever changing economic environment. They also need to provide a continuously stream of value to their members in order to stay afloat, while balancing between the sometimes competing needs of their members' interests.

Staying ahead of the curve requires associations to be willing to rethink current governance models, renew their value proposition to members and think long-term for the good of their members. It requires charisma and personality amongst its leadership to convince members to take certain difficult positions if necessary, and to gain the all-important consensus. Associations also need to be one step ahead of their members in order to lead - rather than be led - in an increasingly hypercompetitive marketplace for customers and talents.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Importance of Closing the Loop


Courtesy of Computer Technology Review

One of the most fundamental lessons in any professional, personal or social endeavour is to close the loop. Don't leave things hanging in mid-air or wait until they're forgotten (and forgiven). Chances are that they might come back again to haunt you if you don't hit that nail on the head until its well and truly level.

Now closing the loop doesn't mean that you should try to go for quick and easy wins all the time. Occasionally, one needs to consider if closing a small loop may result in tearing open a larger issue in the long-run. However, the key principle is that you should not leave issues or projects in limbo as far as you can help it.

Closing the loop means considering feedback, measurements, responses, complaints and directions, and feeding them back into the system. It means moving a particular case or project forward while bringing it to the next step. It may also mean killing an undertaking if its deemed to be time and energy wasting for all involved.

In the area of customer service, closing the loop is critical. Nobody likes to be kept in la-la land while awaiting an organisation's inefficient bureaucracy to resolve a service failure. In emergency services and crisis management, closing the loop is absolutely necessary. Nobody likes to be stranded in a fiery building for too long!

Naturally, there are reasons why issues are kept open. Often, it is a combination between the lack of political will to see something through, the lack of understanding of how to resolve thorny issues, as well as the lack of organisational or individual prioritisation.

There will also be times when your bosses will tell you not to waste your time on a specific issue. Should you bother putting your heart and soul into an endeavour that isn't going to bask in the limelight? And yet, like a mosquito buzzing into your ear, it is there.

Ignoring a nagging issue isn't going to make it disappear. Rather, one should take positive steps to highlight it (perhaps when the coast and timing is clear), suggest solutions to resolve it, and quickly file it away.

The next time you think about launching a new initiative, consider if you've got any prior ones still wafting about. Seek to bring closure to outstanding issues before you unveil the next bright-eyed bushy-tailed idea. In the long run, the organisation - and your career - will be the better for it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Voting for a Social Nation - Book Review



How does one leverage on the power of social communities? What does it mean to build a "Social Nation"?

I found out the answers to these and more after reading Barry Libert's breezy volume Social Nation. The CEO of Mzinga, Libert declares in his book that organisational success lies with tapping on the collective power of employees, stakeholders, partners, and customers - both online and offline. To do so, one needs to develop social skills to complement one's other strengths (physical, informational, and emotional).

According to Social Nation, four major forces drive the shift towards a social business world:

1) The shift towards an increasingly social workforce who are highly connected.

2) The prevalence of open business models where companies leverage on their communities for innovation, marketing and customer service.

3) The role of emerging technologies and Web 2.0 tools like social networks, blogs, discussion forums and chat.

4) The availability of social monitoring and measurement tools making it easier to garner social intellience.

To build your own social businesses (or social nations as highlighted in the book), you're advised to adhere to seven guiding principles as follows:

1) Develop Your Social Skills - Social leaders are expected to follow more than they lead, while continuing to facilitate, provide structure and support the work of their communities. Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV is cited as a leader in demonstrating social skills. To find out where you stand here, do take this social quotient test by Mzinga.

2) Let Culture Lead Your Way - When creating and building one's "Social Nation", one should remember that corporate and community culture is critical. As far as possible, one should adhere to an open and honest environment. Examples in this area include Zappos.com and Google.

3) Mind Your Online and Offline Manners - This pertains to how one communicates something (how you say it versus what you're saying). Consistency is important both online and offline, and such behaviours make a big difference in how one engages fans, friends and followers. Emily Post is a good purveyor of both social etiquette and netiquette.

4) Monitor, Measure, and Adapt to Your Community's Needs - Through a variety of social intelligence appplications and tools, one should monitor, measure and act upon what's happening around you. Important elements include the number of conversations by one's communities and their sentiments. Ganz Toys and Webkinz is a good example of a company that is intently listening to their communities and acting on that information.

5) Include Others in Everything You Do - As an organisation looking to build a "Social Nation", one should rely on the contributions of one's stakeholders in every segment of one's company. This may entail involving them in product development, service delivery, word-of-mouth, communication, and other areas. Ducati and its skillful integration of fan events, online platforms and product launches provides a good case study here.

6) Rely on Others for Growth and Innovation - Companies plugged into the social manifesto knows that friends, fans and followers are vital in helping one to achieve significant growth in today's hyper-connected world. Engaging one's constituents and involving them in creating the next big hit does matter too. PepsiCo's Mountain Dew and its "online nation" DEWmocracy.com is an example of fans helping to power product development.

7) Reward Others and You Will Be Rewarded - This principle of reciprocity is key. As organisations make more connections and build relationships, they should look at both tangible (financial) and intangible (emotional) rewards for their partners. Successful businesses should meet both needs. Apple's close engagement of its iPhone and iPad application developers is a case in point.

To get started on building one's "social nation", Libert suggests that one should look at five key processes: delivering customer support via one's community, building one's brand through friends and followers, conducting marketing research via fans and followers, using peers to train and develop one's employees, and developing new products through employees, customers and prospects. He also provides a list of 10 pitfalls to avoid.

While the book is written in an easy to read conversational style - I finished reading it all in one day - it provides more of a general framework than a step by step guide.

What struck me as perhaps the most important lesson of all is the need to closely engage and empower one's employees in any social business strategy. Getting the buy-in, involvement and belief of one's team is critical to winning in this game. Only when they are aligned to one's vision would one enjoy the multiplier and network effects associated with building and leveraging on one's social nation.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Revisiting Ethan's Gift of a Lifetime

Slightly more than three years (or 40 months) ago, my wife Tina and I gave our son Ethan a Christmas gift of a Marang tree as part of NParks' Plant a Tree Programme. Over the months, we've always made it a point to revisit our tree every now and then, just to see how healthy it has grown. Occasionally, I will also jog to the trail area where the tree grows just to see how well the sapling is doing.

On a recent trip to the Marang Trail at the foot of Mount Faber, we're glad to see that our tree is still doing well and growing both tall and lush. To me, this tree is especially meaningful when I make the connection between how my son Ethan grows and how the tree increases in size and girth. Let's hope that it will continue to spring forth and grow, just as my son Ethan continues to mature and grow as a young boy every day of his life.

Marang Tree - 30 Mar 11
Ethan gazing at the map of Mount Faber park at the foot of the hill.

Marang Tree - 30 Mar 11
Tina and Ethan walking to the plot where our green multi-lobed leafed friend grew. You can see how much taller the sapling is (on the right) compared to both of them.

Marang Tree - 30 Mar 11
Moving closer to inspect our long time family friend.

Marang Tree - 30 Mar 11
My my my, what big leaves you have!

Marang Tree - 30 Mar 11
Tina pointing out that a little snail is happily roosting on the now fairly sizable sapling.

Marang Tree - 30 Mar 11
One for the camera. I can't quite get the top of the young plant into my camera lenses.

P1070033
Compare this to when we first planted the little tree back on 15 December 2007...

P1120605
...and about 8 months later on 8 July 2008.

Stay tuned to this blog as I try to capture the progress of our plant through the years.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Touring and Learning from the Tate Modern

Tate Modern

Occupying a disused power station in the heart of London beside the River Thames, Tate Modern is one of the world's leading modern art museum. With an impressive display of art from 1900 to the present, Tate Modern attracts some five million visitors annually, and is one of a family of four Tate galleries in the UK (which includes Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives).

Collectively, the Tates cover the national collection of British art from the year 1500 to the present day, and of international modern art. All their collections are accessible online, and the Tate Group embraces an extensive social media engagement strategy encompassing Facebook, Twitter, Youtube videos, photos on Flickr, a Video Channel, and a Blog.

The Tate Collection of modern and contemporary art represents all the major movements from Fauvism on. It includes important masterpieces by both Picasso and Matisse and one of the world's finest museum collections of Surrealism, including works by Dalí, Ernst, Magritte and Mirò. Other notable artists in its holdings include Abstract Expressionism by Jackson Pollock and Pop art from Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.

Tate Modern
Changing video displays above the Information counter highlights key exhibitions during the period. Brochures, maps and guides are also readily available to assist visitors.

Tate Modern
A view of the cavernous Turbine Hall.

Tate Modern
The extensive museum shop at level one of Tate Modern seemed to be doing a roaring business, attracting lots of shoppers with its line-up of gifts, books, toys, clothes, and all manner of museum merchandise.

Tate Modern
Huge art installations like this from leading Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei stirs the imagination in the gargantuan spaces. Want to know what that grey patch is?

Tate Modern
Well, on closer look, this work (sponsored by Unilever) is made up of 100 million (or so) porcelain hand-crafted Sunflower seeds!

Tate Modern
Apparently, you can record your responses via video after viewing the work...

Tate Modern
...or 'interact' with the artist by answering a question from him.

Tate Modern
The roll of honour is an important way of acknowledging the many donors and sponsors contributing to the Gallery.

Tate Modern
At the entrance to each gallery, a clear signage tells you the chronological order in which the history of art is depicted. These are supplemented by easily understood captions.

Tate Modern
Going green is a nice touch here, and foldable stools are available for those who wish to rest or to sketch while walking through the galleries.

Tate Modern
The timeline chart above is a popular reference point for anybody keen to follow the different "-isms" while tracing the history of modern and contemporary art.

Tate Modern
The fire-engine red interactive zones provide a space for drawing, sketching of just resting amongst friends.

Tate Modern
Some of them function as mini theatrettes for video shows (this one's sponsored by Bloomberg).

Tate Modern
They also provide 'gaming zones' for young adults and youths...

Tate Modern
...while not neglecting the need for kids to slide down and play.

Tate Modern
In the galleries themselves, its great to see people sketching the artworks on display, emulating the strokes of the masters...

Tate Modern
...or just huddling around to listen to a guided tour, complete with pens and notebooks.

Tate Modern
Installation artworks like these act as props for performance art that periodically helps to spice things up a little.

Tate Modern
Artworks displayed at the galleries cover a wide range, from industrial looking installations like these...

Tate Modern
...photographic displays like these (incidentally these were from Singapore born artist Simryn Gill)...

Tate Modern
...to iconic pieces like this Pop Art work by Andy Warhol himself.

Tate Modern
Over at the top level, a chic and happening restaurant cum bar seemed to be enjoying good business. What was its secret?

Tate Modern
Other than the menu, I'm sure the pristine view of the River Thames and St Paul's Cathedral across the bank helped.