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Cartoon captioned “How to tell if your kid is going to be a public speaker”. It shows a child on a playground slide saying to a parent, “Can I have the next slide, please?”

Preschoolers at the podium

Preschoolers at the podium published on

Of course, the way you know you have a real budding speaker on your hands is when they arrive at the playground and head straight for the swings or climbing structure, telling you disdainfully, “I don’t really use slides.”

I’m in several groups on Facebook and LinkedIn dedicated to public speaking. One of them just had a spate of newly-minted parents, and today’s cartoon is in their honour. Mazel tov!

Two cars with bumper stickers: one says My child is an honor student at Central High School; the other says My kid's post got 30,000 reblogs on Tumblr

Proud parent

Proud parent published on

So your kid’s online, and suddenly they’re being exposed to all kinds of temptations — and you may not always be there to help them make the right choice. It’s time to have The Talk.

Sit them down and explain, “When someone likes like another person’s content very much, they sometimes Like or Favorite it. If it’s very special content, they may decide to reblog it.

“And when the time is right for you, that’s something you’ll probably want to explore for yourself.”

Make sure you talk about not pressuring others to like or reblog your content, and about how nobody should ever do that to them.

And then —tactfully— broach the subject of metrics. How getting a lot of likes, shares, retweets, notes and comments can feel really great… but that it’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing numbers instead of actual connections with other people. And how that can lead you to lose your sense of yourself and your own wonderful, invaluable voice.

“I don’t ever want you to feel your worth as a person depends on how many followers you have, or how many people are liking or sharing your content,” you could say. “Your voice is worthwhile in and of itself. Listen, maybe you’ll have five or ten or thousands of people who love what you have to say. Which is great. Just don’t ever confuse loving your content with loving you.

“That said” (and here a hug wouldn’t be out of place) “as long as I’m online, you’ll always be able to count on at least one like for everything you post.”

(frustrated parent to teen in kitchen) We've given you every opportunity a kid could want. But have you had even ONE breakout viral hit?"

Pull your weight, kid.

Pull your weight, kid. published on No Comments on Pull your weight, kid.

Let’s be honest. Kids are a pretty big drain economically for the first two decades or so of their lives. It’s the main reason to live well past the age of infirmity: recouping some of that investment.

Someday soon, I’m going to write a guide to the social-media-optimized family, the one geared to maximizing your revenue stream in today’s fast-moving online world. And I’ll spill all my tips: tying allowance to Klout scores, for instance, and how to gently tell an underperformer that they have to either meet this quarter’s targets or find a new family.

(child holding a stuffed bear) No hidden nanny camera, no voice synthesizer - in what way is this a teddy bear?

Maybe the rest comes via an in-app purchase

Maybe the rest comes via an in-app purchase published on No Comments on Maybe the rest comes via an in-app purchase

A cartoon for everyone who’s fighting the good fight against feature bloat and scope creep.

Previously on Noise to Signal: Candace’s last-minute change of heart has repercussions well beyond the blast radius, and triggers a free-for-all among the Qaos Quartet. Vasily sees an opening – but the Night Heron moves just as quickly to close it. Has the Crossroads Directorate really anticipated this all along, or is Adriana just a better improvisor than anyone suspected? Either way, it forces Ivana’s hand – the one holding the vial of Blue Epsilon. Akinyele has no choice but to activate the last five sleeper agents… and is as surprised as anyone when the voice at the other end of the comm link is Mayor Subramaniam’s.

Parent to kids: Classic Plus-level children will come to dinner now. Prestige Super Medallion and Executive Diamond-level children may have another five minutes of TV.

A few years ago, they had a “frequent cryer” program

A few years ago, they had a “frequent cryer” program published on No Comments on A few years ago, they had a “frequent cryer” program

Happy New Year, amigas and amigos!

It’s been a few weeks, but Noise to Signal has returned from mid-season hiatus. If you’re just joining us, here’s what you missed from last episode’s exciting cliff-hanger:

Dietrich revealed to Melanie that he, not Colin, stole the launch codes from The Dervish’s courier. The Cloaked Figure (or was it?!) overheard their conversation and repeated it to Central – where double agent Candace quietly shredded his report (or did she?!) so the extraction team would go in unaware of their true mission. That triggered Erin’s long-dreaded transformation, and as Mayor Subramaniam pondered a city-wide evacuation, the Violet and Yellow Teams suddenly changed course… and Codename Spanakopita’s final plan became apparent to all. Except he had one more trick up each of his three sleeves.

We pack a lot into one panel.



Gifted published on 1 Comment on Gifted

With such a narrow finish, I couldn’t just leave the other caption in the closet, never to see the light of day again. (Especially if it might be useful for someone’s blog post or PowerPoint presentation.) So here’s the alternate version; it also happens to be the one I was thinking of when I first drew the cartoon.

Bet she’ll be the only “Replica Rolex” in her class

Bet she’ll be the only “Replica Rolex” in her class published on No Comments on Bet she’ll be the only “Replica Rolex” in her class

Torn between two captions,
feeling like a fool…

The people of the Internet have spoken, and by the absolute narrowest of margins – 43 votes to 42 – you’ve chosen this caption for the cartoon. (Should this caption be unable for any reason to fulfill its duties, the other caption will serve in its place.)

This cartoon ran on ReadWriteWeb on the weekend, where I wrote this:

There seem to be two poles of opinion in the SEO world around content. At one pole, you optimize everything you do within an inch of its life: writing headlines and structuring copy to engage search engine algorithms rather than human imaginations. You frame your content and choose your topics with a view to linkbait instead of what really charges your passions, and you track metrics and prune away less productive activity ruthlessly.

On the other pole, you may be no less attuned to metrics than your counterparts at the other end of the spectrum, but you direct your focus to creating great, engaging content and building a community around it. Here, you’re counting less on talking directly to search engines and more on creating the kind of traffic and organic linking activity that will drive up your rankings.

And then, of course, there are points in between where you do some of each. But there’s no question that there’s a tension between writing for search engines and creating a distinctive, authentic voice of your own.

Now, I can find advice anywhere along that spectrum with no difficulty. (It’s no surprise that people who do SEO for a living don’t find it hard to make their content visible.) And I can find vocal, often heated arguments and very strong opinions.

What I can’t find is hard data on which approach works better, and where the sweet spot lies. I imagine apples-to-apples comparisons would be hard to do, but that information would be pretty valuable. I have my preferences – I like a Web of communities and genuine voices, and I’d find pushing the ruthless-linkbait-and-keyword approach soul-destroying – and my instincts about what I’d like to believe works better, but that’s just me.

Anyone out there find anything tangible?

Acquired tastes

Acquired tastes published on No Comments on Acquired tastes

This is to commemorate the newest addition to Google’s family: a company named Metaweb that produces a product called Freebase, and whose technology holds out the prospect of richer, more nuanced search informed by a massive, free and open database.

I’m in Portland, Oregon this week for OSCON. If you’re here too, give me a wave (I’ll be the guy drawing madly on his iPad, as I’m cartoon-blogging the event). Or drop by my sessionon Wednesday.

Or just acquire me. That seems to be the new “hello!”

A is for audience

A is for audience published on 1 Comment on A is for audience

Or the people formerly known as the audience, anyway.

Some news: in the run-up to BlogWorld and New Media Expo 2010, I’ll be cartoon-blogging on their site (and at the event itself). This is the first cartoon there – do drop by and let them know if you like it!

Oh, and one more thing… this is cartoon number 300. Everyone gets the day off to celebrate.

Go straight to your chat room, young lady!

Go straight to your chat room, young lady! published on No Comments on Go straight to your chat room, young lady!

As a parent, I’m dazzled by the range of entertainment options my kids and I have. From the educational (I swear!) shows we have loaded up on PVR, to the educational (really!) kids’ apps on our iPhones, to the not-even-a-little-educational clips we watch on YouTube, we could easily while away every hour in a digital haze.

But there’s this whole other world out there of face-to-face interaction, fresh air, exercise and – loath though our children’s parents are to admit it – sleep. And when the time comes to power down the Wii and say goodbye to MySims Agents for another day, tantrums sometimes ensue… and the almighty power of parental discipline has to come into play.

Sometimes just counting sternly to five will do the job. Sometimes something more stringent is called for – like shelving a game for a few days. And sometimes, well, sometimes we’re groping for solutions, like generations of parents before us.

At least for the next few years, Alex and I are in the enviable position of knowing the tech better than our kids do. (We’re reasonably sure than when our then-two-year-old son locked Alex out of her iPhone, and created a ghost partition on our home server, it was random button-pressing at work.) Ask me in another decade, and you may hear a much different story.

With that, let me wish a very happy first birthday to my favourite budding little pair-coding team in the world, and to their parents who could single-handedly make geeky look cool (to me, anyway) all over again.

Know your rights!

Know your rights! published on 1 Comment on Know your rights!

Maybe I was lucky enough to fall into some demographic trough, but I was usually the only “Rob” in my classes at school.