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Two people wearing lots of winter clothing are walking side by side. One tells the other "I've compared thee to a summer's day. No offence, but you finished a distant second."

It’s hard to write a sonnet with frostbite.

It’s hard to write a sonnet with frostbite. published on

While much of North America is locked in the embrace of an overly amorous polar vortex, Noise to Signal is thawing out of its deep freeze for a cartoon or two. We’ll see how things go.

In the meantime, stay warm. (I have vivid Ottawa memories of my dad explaining that -40º was the point where the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales converge, and that cross-country skiing was maybe not such a great idea today.) And just a reminder that viciously cold weather doesn’t mean climate change isn’t happening — it’s actually one effect of warmer Arctic air weakening the jet stream, and letting polar air wander down to lower latitudes now and then.

(A robot speaking to a heartbroken robot) I am sorry that my leaving causes you pain. But the algorithm wants what the algorithm wants.

Paging Dan Mangan

Paging Dan Mangan published on

What “the cheque is in the mail” was to the 20th century, and “it must have been spam-filtered” was to the first 15 years of the 21st, “it’s the algorithm’s fault” will be for the foreseeable future: the perfect all-purpose excuse.

Of course, excuses only work if they ring true. Plenty of cheques were delayed by postal services. Spam filters (which are themselves based on algorithms) still sometimes trap urgent emails from your nearest and dearest. And an algorithm can do a lot of damage, from reinforcing extremist beliefs and misinformation to imposing severe and baffling prison sentences. So it’ll be tempting to blame them for, say, tardiness. “So sorry to keep you waiting — I have no idea what my self-driving car was thinking, taking the route it did.”

(By the way, you haven’t really heard the song “Robots” until you’ve heard it played by your pre-teen kid on their ukulele.)

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.


Metrics published on No Comments on Metrics

Key Performance Indicator, in case you’re wondering.

Something old, something new, something that will CHANGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT MARRIAGE FOREVER

Something old, something new, something that will CHANGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT MARRIAGE FOREVER published on No Comments on Something old, something new, something that will CHANGE THE WAY YOU LOOK AT MARRIAGE FOREVER

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a page of cartoons about love. (I’ve tried to balance it pro and con, but I’m kind of a softie.)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Upworthy gets a lot of grief for its headlines, but one reason they work is that they very often deliver — or come close enough that I’m okay with it.

I really did tear up at 3:12 of that video, even if I didn’t actually cry. I am thinking about poverty a little differently. And I was surprised and impressed, even if I wasn’t shocked and amazed.

It helps that I’m part of Upworthy’s target audience: politically progressive and prone to clicking on things. But as I wrote a year ago or so, a link is a promise to your audience. So far, Upworthy’s been keeping theirs.

And they’re going to try to do even better, with a new algorithm geared to measuring engagement with a lot more subtlety. (Please, please, please tell me this will help to kill slideshows-that-ought-to-be-lists-but-aren’t-because-we-want-to-pump-up-pageviews.)



10. How many hectares is that relationship?

10. How many hectares is that relationship? published on No Comments on 10. How many hectares is that relationship?

Over the next several days, I’m posting cartoons I drew for Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine. I blogged about the book a while ago on Social Signal, explaining why I love it and why I think you should go buy a copy right now.

<3 <3 <3

Chapter 10 takes you into advanced measurement, starting with how you measure relationships. Relationships are at the heart of social media; they’re the nucleus around which all else revolves. You can’t make the piñata of change without the papier maché of relationships – and yes, that metaphor is available for re-use under a Creative Commons license. You’re welcome.

But how do you measure relationships, and the value they offer? The book points to the surprisingly straightforward approach pioneered by professors James and Larissa Grunig, and how organizations can apply it to their own relationships. And as for value…

“Make a friend before you need one,” my communications mentor Dennis McGann used to tell me, and two anecdotes from the book bear his wisdom out: one, the online conversation that ensued after the accidental death of a SeaWorld trainer, and two, the way the American Red Cross was able to turn a Twitter misfire into a fundraising opportunity.

The latter incident saw a staffer tweet about getting drunk on Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer. Normally, that would be fine, except the employee used the official Red Cross account, which usually uses hashtags like #hurricane or #relief, and not – let me just check the spelling – #gettngslizzerd.

The organization responded swiftly, deleting the tweet but also explaining it wittily. Dogfish Head, meanwhile, encouraged its followers to donate to the Red Cross. They raised nearly $10,000, briefly crashing the Red Cross server and helping #gettngslizzerd to trend on Twitter.

The lesson is clear: when life gives you lemons, make beer.

2010 in review: Think of it as a raw club sandwich

2010 in review: Think of it as a raw club sandwich published on No Comments on 2010 in review: Think of it as a raw club sandwich

And that’s the final cartoon in my ret­ro­spective of 2010 in social media! I hope you’ve enjoyed it – and if you want, you can catch the whole thing in video. (Hey – did you check out the free 2011 calendar yet?)

Custody battle

Custody battle published on No Comments on Custody battle

I originally posted this on the BlogWorld Expo blog. And while that’s usually something I italicize at the top of the post, today – my first day back from holidays, hurrah! – I’m going to encourage you to give them a look-see.

Not only is it a great-looking conference (for which I am their official cartoon-blogger – and if I had a “.full-disclosure” CSS class, I’d be tagging that phrase), but the blog has some great advice on blogging including case studies, primers and discussions of the issues, challenges and rewards faced by bloggers.


Mayor-iage published on 3 Comments on Mayor-iage

(I originally posted this on ReadWriteWeb.)

I’d like to think that becoming a Foursquare mayor means something. And something more than just the achievement itself (which is, let’s face it, a grade based 100% on attendance).

Let’s give the Foursquare mayors real power. Not mamby-pampby discounts or free bellinis, but something meaty, like – I don’t know – say, search and seizure. Or union certification.

(By the way, I drew this at a branch of my local coffee chain, Blenz. And unlike some coffee chains that think a $1 discount on the cost of a Frappuccino is worthy compensation for their mayors, Blenz has the decency to award a $15 gift card to one mayor every week. Which is only fair: If you’re going to have mayors, you’d better pony up respectable bribes.)

So what powers would you grant to the office of Foursquare mayor? Pulling their own espresso shots? Free hits of nitrous at any participating dentist’s office?

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.

The law of unintended consequences, Cupid edition

The law of unintended consequences, Cupid edition published on No Comments on The law of unintended consequences, Cupid edition

Nobody said all the cartoons would be geeky. But if it helps, there’s an Apple tablet under Gary’s body.

I’ve always loved the Law of Unintended Consequences, mainly because just saying the name of the law tells you what it is.

By the by, while we’re on the topic of love, Alex has created an amazing site making the case for our Shorty Awards bid as the most ah-DOR-able couple on Twitter.

(woman in bed to man) I'm glad you enjoyed that. People who liked that technique also enjoyed these other sexual techniques...

Feel free to leave a Yelp review

Feel free to leave a Yelp review published on No Comments on Feel free to leave a Yelp review

In twitness and in health

In twitness and in health published on No Comments on In twitness and in health

The only reason Alex and I didn’t look like this at our wedding is that Twitter hadn’t been invented yet.



2009-01-22-breakup published on No Comments on 2009-01-22-breakup

(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!

(man holding woman's hand) I'm so glad you agreed to meet in person. There are some things that just can't be said in 140 characters.


Longform published on No Comments on Longform


2007-05-27-so-web-10 published on No Comments on 2007-05-27-so-web-10