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Gone g-URL

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They’re calling Tuesday, April 21, 2015 “mobilegeddon”: an update to Google’s search algorithm  that will give pride of place to mobile-friendly websites (and punish mobile-hostile ones).

This site is, ahh, not all that mobile-friendly. (Don’t take my word for it.) So it’s been nice knowing you; remember me fondly.

A combination of a webcomic plugin that isn’t upgrading as happily as it should be and a lack of time and (cough) MySQL savvy has kept me from making the changes that could give this that mobile oomph Google and I would like to see. I’ll aim to change that soon… but in the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how big a hit I take.

Then again, it’s not like I’ve been an SEO monster with Noise to Signal. I’ll happily choose a funny headline devoid of keywords over a pedestrian headline stuffed with them. And I’ll admit, I haven’t gone in much for clickbait, either. Which is why this cartoon isn’t headed “Six ways Google’s mobile-friendly search algorithm change will eat your site on Tuesday. Number four will make you cry.”

Updated: An important clarification from Search Engine Land: they say the changes affect mobile search results only. Which, given the number of searches coming from mobile these days, is  mighty big… but it’s not everything.

Further updated: Thanks to a dandy plugin called Duplicator, I decided to give upgrading this ol’ site – and in particular, the Webcomic plugin – one more try. And whaddaya know: Michael Sisk had just updated Webcomic with, among other things, “minor legacy upgrade fixes.” Whether one of those fixes did the job or the stars just happened to align properly, I’ve updated this site to the latest hotness… including mobile compatibility. Google, come and get me.

(Facilitator at a whiteboard where Google Apps for Getting Shit DONE is circled, speaking to a group. One woman has her hand raised.) So unless anyone has any suggestions, I think we have our new brand identit— yes, Megan?

We also considered “Momentary Apps in Judgement”

We also considered “Momentary Apps in Judgement” published on 2 Comments on We also considered “Momentary Apps in Judgement”

Google has just announced that “Google Apps for Business” are (is?) being renamed “Google Apps for Work“. And as someone who does a lot of work with the nonprofit and government sectors, I’m giving that branding a thumbs-up.

That said, it would make me happy to think that there were at least a few days when “Google Apps for Getting Shit Done” was a real contender.

 [emoji cheering megaphone]

Hey, there’s this thing where you tell jokes instead of drawing them. I believe the kids call it the standing-up comedy.

And I’m going to be doing it on Wednesday, October 15th at 7:00 pm, at the La Fontana Caffe. There’s no cover charge, and the venue (on Hastings Street at Boundary) gets a lot of love on Yelp. Come on down! More details here.

Open Mic Comedy at La Fontana Caffe

The hot new technology

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Mere hours after I posted last week’s Internet of Things cartoon, news broke that Google had acquired Nest, maker of truly nifty smart thermostats (and now smoke alarms). I’m now wondering how I ever lived without either of them.

At least, the techno-optimist side of my brain is. The techno-grump side (which is a much smaller, wizened little stump that dangles beside my amygdala like some kind of cerebral hemorrhoid) worries that connected devices and the Internet of Things are the first step in our inexorable conversion from customers to hostages.

That techno-grump was also deeply concerned that keying “r-o-b-o-p” into Google yields the autocomplete suggestion Robopocalypse, until Ryan Merkley intervened:

His point is well-taken, although maybe I might have been Googling “robopoop”. It’s only a matter of time before that’s a thing. (Actually, at nearly 4,000 Google hits, I’d argue it already is.)

One last mild FWIW to my inner techno-grump: Google may have taken a little time to implement Do Not Track, but it’s been supported in Chrome for quite a while now.

Meanwhile: my predictive algorithms suggest that:

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.

(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

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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.

Don’t make me come in there.

Don’t make me come in there. published on No Comments on Don’t make me come in there.

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

This one was prompted by a conversation in Google Circles about how certain people weren’t circling certain other people, and how scandalous that was.

Oh, for god’s sake. As Shortpacked! cartoonist David Willis would put it, this is so babies.

If a friend of yours hasn’t circled you, and it’s bothering you, how about asking them why? Write an email, pick up the phone, ask them to coffee.

Apart from “They don’t really like me, and are just pretending they do, and oh, Christ, it’s high school all over again,” here are five reasons people you know might not have circled, followed, friended or buddied you yet:

  • They’re just getting started, and haven’t systematically added their friends yet. Including you.
  • They’re being very systematic, and they’re only adding their closest friends so far. Or a few folks from work.
  • They’re using this network for a specific purpose, like keeping in touch with family, or colleagues.
  • They did follow you, but the network dropped you from their list. Twitter’s notorious for this.
  • Your posts on this network have put them off for some reason. Hey, it happens; you can’t please everyone. (See comment threads on ReadWriteWeb for confirmation.)

Points one and two just need you to have a little patience. Point three, acceptance. Point four, a polite (private) inquiry can do the trick.

For point five, look back at your last several posts to be sure they really do reflect the kind of value you want to offer your friends and followers; if not, adjust as necessary.

And if you’ve never considered what kind of value you’re offering people, get used to wondering why they aren’t following you.

Anonymously ever after

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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

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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

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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?

2010 in review: Google Instant

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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.

Analyze this… repeatedly.

Analyze this… repeatedly. published on No Comments on Analyze this… repeatedly.

Originally published on ReadWriteWeb.

Google has just released a new feature for Analytics, replacing Site Overlay with In-Page Analytics.

And I think I have a terrific pitch for the media outlets that like to run huge social-media-is-killing-us-all headlines. Here’s how it goes:

When you’re playing Minesweeper, Solitaire or Angry Birds, it’s a little difficult to convince yourself that you’re being productive. But when you’re tinkering with Google Analytics, it’s a much easier sell.

And when Google comes along and makes Analytics that much more visual, then the combination becomes near-lethal. You can tweak away for hours, while one part of your brain is pumping out the isn’t-this-fun endorphins, and another is rationalizing that you’re doing something useful.

In other words, it’s only a matter of time before we hear the first reports of starvation deaths among Analytics users.

I am available for media interviews.

Acquired tastes

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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!”

Just venting

Just venting published on 3 Comments on Just venting

By the time you read this today, the BP/Transocean/Halliburton oil hemorrhage may finally be on its way to a resolution. Or it may still be burbling away, happily coating wildlife, habitat and the region’s tourism and fishing industries with a viscous sheen of Game Over.

A lot of us have taken to our networks to fulminate over this without a lot of focus or hope of affecting things – me included. Of course, sometimes you just have to vent (as a certain large, gaping opening in a BP oil pipe could tell you). And raising awareness is a Good Thing.

But some folks are taking it beyond just a few retweets, and using online tools to genuinely contribute to our understanding of the disaster. Take Paul Rademacher’s use of Google Earth to map the extent of the oil spill onto any location on Earth – say, your own hometown – and gain a sense of the geographical scope of the situation. (It’s possible, in turn, because of Google’s impressive crisis response page for the spill, which has a collection of mapping layers and resources.)

Or look at Oil Reporter, an open-source app for the iPhone and Android that lets ordinary people log individual instances of oil spill impacts they discover – crowdsourcing the documentation of the spill’s effects, Ushahidi-style. It’s created by the good people at CrisisCommons, which has partnered with the San Diego State University Visualization Center to manage the data collected through the app – which is available through an open API.

That hasn’t meant one less drop of oil has come out of that pipe. But these two initiatives, and others like them, can help buttress support for spending the billions that will be needed to do what can be done to clean up the aftermath, and in the case of Oil Reporter, help point out places some of those resources should go.

And with any luck, it could spur some people like me who’ve confined our activism to subscribing to the BPGlobalPR Twitter feed (which is often funny as all hell) to do something a little more meaningful.

By the way, not to knock hashtags: there have been some great awareness-raising campaigns based around them, events have made marvellous use of them, and I love the way they bring conversations together.

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.

Also, they think you should floss more

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2009-01-28-compensation published on No Comments on 2009-01-28-compensation