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Cartoon headlined "Every conversation on a new social platform (if it was a party)". There are two people talking with each other: - "We're at the party!" - "It took forever to get invited, but here we are!" - "It's like other parties, but also unlike them!" - "Let's talk about their differences and similarities!" - "Some new people here aren't partying the right way!" - "They're ruining it! I like the way the party was when I first got here!" - "But enough about the party. Can I sell you something?" - "Welp, it's getting late..."

I’m at the party!

I’m at the party! published on

Oh, those awkward early weeks of a new social platform when so many of the conversations seem to be about the platform itself. This week, the new kid on the block is Threads, Meta’s answer to Twitter.

Scrolling through my feed on Threads, it seems three out of every four posts is either some variation on “So this is Threads,” advice for using Threads, reflections on the experience so far or predictions for Threads’ future.

Or a sardonic reflection on the fact that we all seem to be using Threads as a way to talk about Threads. Which is, let’s face it, kind of hilarious. (Hence the cartoon.)

Thing is, though? It’s also absolutely natural. If you and I were plunked down in unfamiliar surroundings, I’m guessing we’d be spending a lot of your early time there talking about those surroundings: observing, analyzing, speculating and even critiquing them.

One unavoidable topic when we’re talking about Threads: privacy. By now you’ve probably heard about just what a spectacular personal-data-land-grab Threads involves. It’s pretty much what the Facebook and Instagram apps already require you to fork over before you can start posting cat reels and such); a little more than Twitter; and a lot more than, say, BlueSky.

The privacy winner, though, is Mastodon. Here’s how they put it at Ars Technica:

Below is all the data collected by Mastodon that’s mentioned in the App Store.

*In the style of Taylor Swift.*

[Blank Space]

(And if you’re wondering whether you can find me on Mastodon, why yes, you very much can.)

As we’re adjusting to this latest meteor impact in our social media ecosystem, it’s worth considering that there may not be any one successor to Twitter. Maybe we should stop trying to figure out who will win that crown — because perhaps there shouldn’t be a crown in the first place.

Threads’ makers are promising they’ll be connecting it before long to the Fediverse, a group of intercommunicating servers and services connected through a common protocol (thanks again, Evan Prodromou!) So the successor to Twitter might be not be one service, but thousands. Let a million servers bloom.

That holds just the faintest shadow of a glimmer of a spark of hope for the revival of the open Internet heralded in the early years of Web 2.0 — blogs and wikis and services large and small all talking to each other, and users being able to communicate across platforms instead of within walled gardens.

That’s a party I’d love to go to. I’ll bring chips.

(couple walks down a highway with a gas can; one speaks to the other) Someday, we'll #throwbackthursday this and laugh.

Too soon?

Too soon? published on No Comments on Too soon?Purchase print

There’s a lot about memes that I don’t like, but #ThrowbackThursday has a real claim on my affection. It’s one of the first memes I ever participated in, and there’s something charming about people sharing artifacts and stories from their past.

For the same reason, I like seeing Timehop posts, too. And I get the impression that Facebook’s algorithm is getting just a bit better at not showing painful, traumatic moments from my past when it offers Facebook Memories, but things I might actually want to share with people—or at least spend a few moments remembering.

So often, these platforms try to get us to buy into other people’s (usually commercial) stories. It’s refreshing when they focus on helping us tell our own.

One woman holding another's hand, saying: And then it hit me: when I checked out who had liked, shared, retweeted or favourited my posts, it wasn’t Marcia’s name I was looking for. It was yours, Ava. It’s always been yours.

It had to be you, +1derful you

It had to be you, +1derful you published on No Comments on It had to be you, +1derful you

Cover of my upcoming book, I'm OK, You-re... wait, you're only a 27 on Klout so I'm afraid it's over.“Love doesn’t mean you retweet everything your significant other says. It means having the honesty to retweet only when you mean it. That’s the difference between love and Like.” From my forthcoming advice book on relationships and social media, I’m OK; You’re— Wait, You’re Only a 22 on Klout So I’m Afraid It’s Over.

Love was in the air this week. And in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision on marriage equality, I was struck by the celebratory mood online. (Well, outside of Bryan Fischer’s railing on Twitter, but even his hate had a kind of festive, rainbow lining to it. He brought his A game… where “A” stands for “absolutely unhinged.”)

And not just my circle of friends and other individuals. Facebook, for instance, had its rainbow-hued profile generator (see image, right). And Twitter created custom emoji that appeared if you hashtagged a tweet “#lovewins” or “#pride”.

On their own, those were nice corporate gestures. But what brought them to life was the number of people who took that and ran with it. Those profile pics and icons served as beacons, as my streams lit up with shared joy.

We often shine the spotlight on the foul behaviour that the social web makes possible: public shaming, bullying, harassment, misinformation. But it also makes visible these moments of shared jubilation. And here’s to everyone who works to ensure more of those moments.

Ello isn’t Facebook. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.

Ello isn’t Facebook. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. published on 24 Comments on Ello isn’t Facebook. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.

A new social network has launc— WAIT! Don’t run away!

For quite a while, Alex and I were constantly hearing from people who wanted us to help them build “the Facebook of x“, where x was some industrial vertical, demographic or affinity group. Nearly all of those folks hadn’t taken into account the fact that, with a large and growing share of the population, Facebook was already the Facebook of x.

But now there’s Ello, which has no ambitions to be the Facebook of anything. They don’t want to be Facebook at all:

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

From everything else you’ve read here, you can guess that second-last paragraph is the kind of language that sets my heart a-flutter. All they’d have needed to get me selling my worldly possessions and hitch-hiking down to light candles outside the Berger & Föhr offices in Boulder were a few references to the open web and maybe a Tux.

Right now, Ello’s a very interesting platform, and I like what I’ve seen of their publishing mechanism; it’s a lot like the Storify editor crossed with Medium’s. There aren’t a lot of folks there I know yet (although hey, the day’s still young), but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. It’s nice to have a little space to stretch your legs before the crowd shows up.

If you’d like to have a look as well, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you an invitation. All out of invitations — but I’ll let you know if Ello coughs up some more.

Updated: Check out Alexandra Samuel’s take on all of this. Fly or flop, Ello’s sudden rise has a sobering message for brands, business and marketers: change the way you use social media, or risk losing your audience.

(Facebook rep at a boardroom table) Suppose, gentlemen, we could deliver to your pharmaceutical companies an audience of more than a billion inexplicably depressed people.

I love Facebook. It’s better than LOLcats. I want to use it again and again.

I love Facebook. It’s better than LOLcats. I want to use it again and again. published on 1 Comment on I love Facebook. It’s better than LOLcats. I want to use it again and again.

Odd: I get this weird blinding headache whenever I even think about criticizing Facebook for conducting a psychological experiment on unsuspecting users.

Okay, so arguably it’s not that much different from A/B testing. It’s still a little unnerving to think that Facebook might be able to tweak its algorithm with affect user emotions — perhaps opening it up to FDA regulation as a mood-altering drug.

It’s probably the most disturbing for those of us who read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Empire at an impressionable age:

The Mule is a fictional character from Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series. One of the greatest conquerors the galaxy has ever seen, he is a mentalic who has the ability to reach into the minds of others and “adjust” their emotions, individually or en masse, using this capability to conscript individuals to his cause. (From Wikipedia)

Fortunately, we’re a long ways from that. And even if we weren’t, I’m sure it would never occur to Facebook’s leadership that they could, say, subtly suppress voter motivation in a few key districts and thereby subvert entire elections. (You’re welcome, conspiracy theorists!)


You have been convicted of crimes against the algorithm.

You have been convicted of crimes against the algorithm. published on No Comments on You have been convicted of crimes against the algorithm.

And cue the Burn Notice theme music:

When you’re locked out, you’ve got nothing. No friends, no third-party apps, no timeline. You’re stuck on whatever social network you get dumped in. You rely on anyone who’s still connected to you. Your mouse-happy ex-boyfriends. An old friend who’s informing on you to the NSA. Google+…if you’re desperate.

Bottom line is, until you figure out who locked you out, your Klout isn’t going anywhere.

Until Michael Alex is reinstated, you can find her on Twitter and Google+.

(Yes, cheap shot on Google+. But it fits in so well there…)

Updated: She’s back!

Updated again: I just had to.

Chasing numbers

Chasing numbers published on No Comments on Chasing numbers

I don’t believe in chasing metrics for their own sake. I really don’t.

But for the past month, Noise to Signal has hovered tantalizingly close to 2,000 fans on Facebook, and dammit, I really like it when the cartoon reaches more people. If an arbitrary number can help make that happen, then by god, I’ll embrace that arbitrary number and tickle it under its chin.

So I posted that if we can crack that 2,000-fan barrier tonight, I’ll post next week’s cartoon today:

I have a cartoon that I’m planning to post next week. But if you fine people can convince 18 more people to like the page and crack 2,000, it’ll go live RIGHT AWAY. (Why? Because I like round numbers and because my subconscious is convinced that more Likes mean I won’t die alone and unloved someday.)

And my old friend Kevin Marsh from my Queen’s Park days replied that he might be game for it if I post a cartoon about my subconscious. And here it is.

The offer still stands. Next week’s cartoon awaits just 18 more Facebook Likes.

(In case you’re wondering, yes: I went back and forth over whether to say “shitload”. I ultimately went with it because I think it’s funny as hell when a monk says “shitload.” In many ways, I never really stopped being 12.)

Hold your horses there, Zuckerberg

Hold your horses there, Zuckerberg published on No Comments on Hold your horses there, Zuckerberg

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

This is for every would-be Internet mogul who has yet to type </head> on their big project, but has already written the speech they’ll give when they ring the opening bell at the NYSE.

(I say this as someone who had very specific plans for putting the kids through university on the proceeds of our Second Life venture. Sigh.)

Not that there’s something wrong with dreaming of making it big when you read about the Facebook IPO or the Gurflr acquisition or whatever’s chewing up the trending topics in Silicon Valley this week. There’s a lot of pleasure in picturing yourself in the shoes of the latest tech gazillionaire.

But not nearly as much pleasure in walking in them. At least, not while they were treading the winding, rocky path you have to follow to get there: all that planning, building, reversing out of actual dead ends, plowing through the illusory ones, avoiding impending disaster, living through disasters that stop impending and start happening, nurturing a community of users, finding capital, running out of capital, getting hacked, making the wrong hire, losing the right hire to a better offer, finally gaining some traction and then promptly getting slapped with a patent suit, trying to decide when to hold back and when to scale…

…and knowing that for every Mark Zuckerberg, there are countless others who worked just as hard, were maybe just as smart, but who made just one wrong call, or had the dice come up snake-eyes at exactly the wrong time, or one month before coming out of stealth mode saw someone else launch with the same product.

It isn’t all or nothing, of course. It’s not like you either create Facebook or dress in a barrel for the rest of your life. Even when your web app dies a silent, unmourned death, you’ve learned something along the way, you’ve probably built relationships (and hopefully didn’t burn any), and if you have the appetite to set off on that path again, that’s capital you’ll be able to draw on.

Maybe more important is how you look at success. There’s room for a very few Facebooks in the world, and if that’s your definition of success, you’re almost certainly doomed to disappointment.

But if you see success in creating something brilliant or useful or entertaining that reaches – not multitudes – but enough people to make a real difference in the world, then you’ll see a lot more opportunity out there. And at least for me, letting go of creating everybody’s favourite thing creates the room to create nine people’s favourite thing.

Which, who knows? might well open up the creativity and experimentation it’ll take to create the Next Big Thing.


Great moments of 2011: Instagram was made for this

Great moments of 2011: Instagram was made for this published on No Comments on Great moments of 2011: Instagram was made for this

Can we all acknowledge a debt to Rep. Anthony Weiner for providing the kind of crisis management case study that will make PR instructors’ lives easier for generations to come?

That’s it for our 2011 retrospective, except for two cartoons that never made it beyond the really rough draft stage. Here’s one about Kenneth Cole’s ill-fated Arab Spring tweet (the caption would have made it clear that this is any CEO speaking, because this guy doesn’t look a thing like Cole):

(exec lecturing staff) THINK, people! The news cycle is almost over, and we still don't have a plan for making me look like an insensitive jackass!

And this one was going to be about Facebook’s new Timeline feature:

Oh, god! I just scrolled down and saw a video of my own conception!

Except that I realized it was actually just a take on this brilliant tweet from during Mark Zuckerberg’s demo back in September:

And that’s that, folks – now go do some funny stuff so I have things to draw this time next year.

(frustrated laptop user) Well, that was a total waste. I just thought of an idea that's too long for Twitter, too short for Google+ and too smart for Facebook

The beast must be fed

The beast must be fed published on No Comments on The beast must be fed

Originally published on ReadWriteWeb

Yes, yes, the Internet is killing old media companies. But every once in a while, they take their revenge. They put us through agony over the threats of god-awful legislation like SOPA, currently before the U.S. Congress. They cackle as Canucks and other non-Americans grind their molars to dust every time we click on a video, only to see those dreaded words, “This video is not available in your jurisdiction.”

But their sweetest vengeance, the schadiest of schadenfreudes has to be the moment when it dawns on each of us that, having created a blog, Twitter feed or YouTube channel, we have to feed the damn thing with content.

If you start taking this stuff seriously, then the voraciousness of the content beast can be all-consuming. That struck home in Larry Carlat’s essay in last week’s New York Times magazine, about how his Twitter addiction cost him everything.

None of his symptoms resonated until this one: “When I wasn’t on Twitter, I would compose faux aphorisms that I might use later.”

Gulp. Oh, god. Yeah, I’ve done that. Worse, I’ve been the jackass who stops after saying something in a conversation, and then says out loud that I should remember to tweet that.

Apparently offline conversations and relationships aren’t just fodder for online content streams, just as cats and accident-prone children aren’t just props for mad-viral YouTube videos. They serve other purposes as well.

And as soon as I find out what those purposes are, I’ll tweet them.

* * *

The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs blog is a terrific source of news and commentary on comics and cartooning. And they’re looking for nominations for your favourite webcomic.

If you have one in mind (cough, cough, modesty forbids), just leave a comment on their blog post.

Plus ça change, plus c’est différent

Plus ça change, plus c’est différent published on No Comments on Plus ça change, plus c’est différent

Another week, another massive change to Facebook. I’ve done the developer workaround to get Timeline added to my profile, and now I have to plow through several years of my life to remove hideously embarrassing incidents lend some coherence to it.

And listen, I’m all in favor of them innovating and offering amazing new features to their users. I haven’t decided whether I actually like Timeline yet, but I’m impressed as hell with what they’ve done with it.

That said, hold up, guys. Being a Facebook user these days is like being a hamster belonging to a five-year-old who lives on a diet of Froot Loops and espresso, and has a limitless supply of Habitrail parts: “What the hell… my water bottle was right herea second ago! And the food pellets… what do I click to get to the damn food pellets?!” Before you know it, you have to supplement their diet with Rativan.

Take a breath, Facebook, and let the community catch up.

Anonymously ever after

Anonymously ever after published on No Comments on Anonymously ever after

With all the recent discussion over identity and anonymity online, I suppose this is probably the right time to tell you that I am, in fact, not Rob Cottingham.

He and I met shortly after he completed his journalism studies in 1988. I was, at the time, being pursued by creditors who were in the, let’s say, unregulated financial sector.

Our paths crossed in a campus bar, where we remarked on our uncanny resemblance to each other. After a few drinks, I was able to persuade him it would be kind of a lark to switch identities just for a few days; I told him I was an audio hobbyist and could finish a radio piece he was working on in no time, and that he could take on my daytime job of reviewing luxury hotels.

He jumped at it, not realizing that my job was – of course – a complete fiction. The last I saw of him, he was leaping from the roof of one OC Transpo bus to another, pursued by three large men with crowbars. I understand he was living under an assumed name in Bucharest a few years after the fall of the Ceaușescu regime, but apart from that I have no idea how he made out.

I suppose that, from now on, you should call me by my real name, George Clooney.

Ahh. Feels good to get that off my chest.

The Sharaohs of Ancient Egypt

The Sharaohs of Ancient Egypt published on No Comments on The Sharaohs of Ancient Egypt

It isn’t hard to find people willing to make absolutely firm predictions about technology and social media, each one asserted with total certainty. Facebook will be around forever, and Google+ is doomed. Google+ is the future, not only of social networking but of human evolution. Google+, Facebook and Twitter are all doomed, and within a year we’ll all be communicating exclusively through Ping.

Some predictions are extrapolated from data, drawn from careful observations of long-term trends, and inferred from past patterns and outcomes. Those, though, aren’t the ones that get the blood pumping and the retweets flying; the predictions that really get arguments going are the ones grounded in sheer opinion.

In the interests of provoking traffic discussion, I’m trying to get better at pulling vast sweeping predictions out of thin air, and delivering them with unshakeable confidence. But it’s been a while, and I’m still feeling a little burned over my forecast that 2008 would be the Year of Everyone Speaking Esperanto in Second Life.

Baby steps, then: I hereby predict that I’m going to keep working on improving my drawings of pith helmets.

Google, plus or minus

Google, plus or minus published on No Comments on Google, plus or minus

Cartoon originally posted to ReadWriteWeb.

In the words of anyone in a suspense film or TV show who’s ever broken into a computer system, “All right, I’m in.”

In this case, “in” means I have a Google+ account. The windows for creating one keep flicking open and then slamming shut; you have to leap with cat-like reflexes and then do one of those cool shoulder-roll-into-a-crouch moves when you land. (Fine, I’ll stop with the action tropes.)

Some quick impressions:

  • Part of the genius of Google+ is the way it acts, not as a walled garden, but as connective tissue for services you may well be using already. (And one of its chief limitations, at least so far, is the way it doesn’t do all that much to connect whatever non-Google services you’re also using.)
  • It’s not immediately clear how the +1 button interacts with your activity stream. Why is there a +1 button on my own posts? Why isn’t there one on items in Sparks?
  • I love how focused it is on creating circles of friends and contacts. And it makes me think folks may want to revisit Alex’s post on using Twitter lists to keep you connected to the people who matter most before they dive into Circles.

Are you in yet? Any thoughts?

My brand, my BFF

My brand, my BFF published on No Comments on My brand, my BFF

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb. For the record, I’m happy to be their friend.

There’s nothing like air travel to drive home just how broadly social media has permeated the marketing psyche. I drew this on my way to NTC last week in DC. At every turn on the trip, I saw Twitter and Facebook icons: littered throughout the in-flight magazine, plastered on the now-ubiquitous illuminated billboards in the terminals, on the cash registers at newsstands and restaurants.

I visited a few of those Facebook Pages and Twitter feeds, and most of them actually do have an active presence: tweets, updates and content designed to engage me.

What they lacked, with one or two exceptions, is people – a name, a photo, a human face to attach to all that Content™ and Engagement®. I had no idea who I was dealing with.

Absent a personal identity to relate to, I have to assume that I’m talking to The Brand: a mix of carefully-crafted informality and meticulously-planned spontaneity. And maybe I’m an outlier, but I don’t want to be friends with a brand.



2010 in review: Facebook without Facebook

2010 in review: Facebook without Facebook published on No Comments on 2010 in review: Facebook without Facebook

Here’s the next cartoon in my ret­ro­spective of 2010 in social media. I’ll be posting the individual cartoons all week – but meanwhile, here’s the whole thing in video.

Turns on a dime. Whether you want it to or not.

Turns on a dime. Whether you want it to or not. published on 4 Comments on Turns on a dime. Whether you want it to or not.

Also, it would yell loudly about who you were, where you were going and who you were going to meet there. There’d be a switch to turn that off. It would be located behind the catalytic converter on the underside of the car, and would be functional only when the car was moving at freeway speeds.

* * *

An interesting conversation unfolded after this first appeared on ReadWriteWeb. Here’s what I wrote there:

For those of us who develop apps or manage engagement strategy, is there any platform more infuriating, any terrain less stable, any regime more prone to arbitrary and capricious rule changes than Facebook?

Goodbye “fans”; hello “like”. Goodbye boxes; hello profile tabs. Goodbye contests-with-dairy-products-as-a-prize; hello you-can’t-have-contests-with-dairy-products-as-a-prize.

I’ll say this much: My work in Facebook has allowed me to better embrace the impermanence of all things.

A commenter suggested this is a radical field, change is to be expected, and (to paraphrase) roll with it, dude. I replied (grumpily) that “constant incremental Agile-style change, I can cope with. More significant change based on some kind of rationale or, better yet, roadmap, I can embrace. But for years, Facebook has been notorious for dropping bombshells from out of the blue, and making unannounced or poorly document under-the-hood changes that break apps and make developers’ lives hell.”

Can you tell I carry a grudge from the promotion guidelines fiasco?

Anyway, what do you think? Do I need to lighten up and embrace Facebook’s turbulence, even when clients’ budgets are on the line? Or is that just giving in to (quote from that same reply) to “disregard for customer, user and developer communities”?

We are all in Witness Protection

We are all in Witness Protection published on 1 Comment on We are all in Witness Protection

It’s not just that some social networking platforms make it almost ridiculously hard to find the “delete” button on your profile. (Enough people are searching Google for how they can delete their Facebook account that it’s actually making news headlines. I want you to think about that for a second: the popularity of a search engine query is now newsworthy. Truly, we live in the future.)

It’s that they make it emotionally painful, too. Facebook throws up faces of your nearest and dearest on its confirmation screen, asking, “Are you sure you want to do that? Really? YOU WILL NEVER SEE THESE PEOPLE AGAIN.” (I’m paraphrasing. Facebook’s language is far more manipulative.)

Here’s one clue that your platform may not be delivering the value to your users that it ought to: you need to take hostages to get them to stay.

Your friend just sniffed you! Sniff back? (y/n)

Your friend just sniffed you! Sniff back? (y/n) published on 7 Comments on Your friend just sniffed you! Sniff back? (y/n)

This cartoon is an updated look at my original Facebook dogs, who kicked off Noise to Signal as the first cartoon under that name. And they are, of course, a reference/homage to Peter Steiner‘s iconic New Yorker cartoon.

This hasn’t been a good past few weeks for Facebook. Growing concerns over what Facebook’s deliberately doing to your privacy collided with news about what Facebook’s doing accidentally with your data.

There are two upcoming ways you can protest: by not logging in on June 6, or – if you’re ready to finally cut the umbilical cord – quitting altogether on May 31. So far, while they’re getting press attention, neither initiative is showing signs of snowballing yet, with registered followers numbering only in the hundreds.

That’s not to say the discontent is limited to net activists and privacy advocates. “How do I delete my Facebook account” is suddenly a very popular search on Google.

Which I actually find encouraging, and not because of hostility toward Facebook. (Not that I’m happy with its privacy practices, or its approach to the open Web, by which it seems to mainly mean a Web that’s open to driving data into Facebook. And not that I side with the “your-privacy’s-dead-anyway-so-shut-up” crowd, either.) If so many people are at least thinking of voting with their feet, then maybe there’s at least some awareness among regular users that our privacy, attention and data are all worth something. And maybe, just maybe, that awareness could coalesce into a market force that rewards openness and accountability, and punishes arbitrary, high-handed behaviour.

Otherwise, well, I likely won’t quit this year. But there’s always May 31, 2011.

It’s not like we play Farmville together, for instance

It’s not like we play Farmville together, for instance published on 2 Comments on It’s not like we play Farmville together, for instance

This iPad doodle came from a conversation we had a few nights ago with our friends Aaron and Sarah, about the complexities of updating your relationship status on Facebook. Honestly, it can seem like more of a commitment there than in front of a justice of the peace.

This user has been suspended

This user has been suspended published on 3 Comments on This user has been suspended

Facebook has become an 800-pound online gorilla… or, actually, a 400-million-active-user gorilla. And with half of those users logging in on any given day, Facebook claims a massive share of the English-speaking web population, and recently outpaced Google itself in traffic.

The problem is, they operate with neither accountability nor transparency. I’m finding stories like this are becoming way too common:

The folks at Social Media Today have an active Facebook presence, using a Fan Page. And they’ve recently been posting a link to that page twice a day. A few days ago, when they tried to post a link, they received a message from Facebook:

Block! You are engaging in behavior that may be considered annoying or abusive by other users.

You have been blocked from sharing web addresses (URLs) because you repeatedly misused this feature. This block will last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. When you are allowed to reuse this feature, please proceed with caution. Further misuse may result in your account being permanently disabled. For further information, please visit our FAQ page.

The problem, apparently, was they were posting links too often.

So how often is too often? Facebook won’t tell them. How do they need to change their behaviour to get link-sharing reinstated? Facebook won’t tell them.

Now, I understand that Facebook is a private company, not a public utility. They’ve built an enormous user base because they’ve built a compelling platform, and because they’re run by savvy businesspeople.

They’re also spectacularly unaccountable: a closed organization given to apparently capricious decisions. And that’s not a great fit with the Cluetrain era that Facebook is supposedly helping to usher in.

There’s an arguably even deeper issue. With so many people engaged with each other on Facebook, it starts to take on the role of civic space… where a lack of accountability and a Star Chamber mentality have larger social ramifications.

Whether that begins to make the case for some form of regulation – maybe along the lines of consumer protection legislation – is up for debate. But if Facebook’s lack of openness becomes an irritant for the broader user community, and not just social media professionals, then government intervention would be the least of the site’s concerns.

“Be my friend… Godfather.”

“Be my friend… Godfather.” published on No Comments on “Be my friend… Godfather.”

What is it about the mob that makes me think “social media”? Is it the opening scene of The Godfather, where Don Corleone forces Bonasera to ask him to be his friend? Is it the resemblance of most Terms of Service to loan shark agreements? Is it just that the incessant torrent of Mafia Wars advertising has finally taken its toll?

Whatever the reason, here y’go. For the first time in a while, this one was drawn with an actual pen on genuine used-to-be-a-tree paper. And then shot on an iPhone.

Closing on 500…

Closing on 500… published on No Comments on Closing on 500…

The Noise to Signal Facebook fan page has nearly 500 fans. And while I try not to be a metrics junkie, well, that’s a pretty fundamental part of who I am. (How many now? Reload. How many now? Reload.)

Therefore, and notwithstanding the generality of the foregoing, I make you this promise: the day we top 500, I’ll be celebrating with a rare, almost-unheard-of triple update. That’s right: three N2S cartoons inside of 24 hours.

So if you haven’t joined already, how about becoming a fan?

Update: So… you people did that in UNDER FIVE HOURS?! (Tod Maffin was number 500, sometime around 9 pm last night.)

Okay, then… triple update coming today. Meanwhile, uh, I’ll do a quadruple update if you convince the military junta in Burma to step aside. #worthashot

Relationship status

Relationship status published on 7 Comments on Relationship status

By now, you’ve probably had the same experience I have of learning about a close friend’s marriage breaking up because their status changed on Facebook. There’s something a little alienating about the fact that a server somewhere in Facebook’s infrastructure had the goods before I had even an inkling of trouble in paradise.

But then, the whole relationship thing in Facebook is fraught. I have to imagine there have been screaming, tear-filled fights because one partner clicked “In a relationship” while the other clicked “Hey, let’s not rush things.” Or, maybe worse for some people, “Sweetheart, what are you putting down for ‘relationship status’?” “I’m glad you asked, because I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”

No matter which checkbox you’ve been ticking – no, that’s not a smutty double-entendre – have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Seen Alex‘s and my 2010 Valentine to you from Social Signal? Here ya go!

A video Valentine

A video Valentine published on 2 Comments on A video Valentine

From your friends at Social Signal and Noise to Signal, our social media valentine to you!

My love Alex conceived and wrote the text, created the video and suggested two of the cartoon ideas… I got to focus on the doodling. Enjoy!

Social Signal’s 2010 Valentine is a celebration of how the Internet can help you find love and keep it alive.

Ho ho homigod am I sick of Facebook notifications

Ho ho homigod am I sick of Facebook notifications published on No Comments on Ho ho homigod am I sick of Facebook notifications

(woman looking at computer while partner sneaks out the door, carrying luggage) Heh... check out this Facebook bug. It just changed my relationship status to 'single'.

Hah, Facebook did it on your profile, too!

Hah, Facebook did it on your profile, too! published on No Comments on Hah, Facebook did it on your profile, too!

(two women talking) He's the kind of guy you'd like as a Facebook friend, but not as a friend friend

Friend friend

Friend friend published on No Comments on Friend friend


Cyberdog published on No Comments on Cyberdog

This, of course, is an homage to this.


2007-06-05-facebook-election published on No Comments on 2007-06-05-facebook-election