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(woman consoling her partner) Try to remember, sweetheart: your users are rating your app. They aren't rating you.

Like this cartoon? How about rating it on the App Store?

Like this cartoon? How about rating it on the App Store? published on

A while ago, I tweeted “Is there anything as emotionally needy as a ‘Please rate this in the App Store’ notification?”

The wise and talented Leslie Ehm responded with a dry — and accurate — “Spoken as someone who clearly doesn’t have an app ;)” I am indeed someone who doesn’t have an app. I am, however, someone who has had to manage a few Facebook applications over the years… and I can attest it’s kind of nightmarish.

When you’re building on someone else’s platform, you’re entirely subject to their whims. Your priorities don’t just take a back seat; they cling to the rear bumper for dear life. With Facebook, that meant having to completely rethink our strategy around an application when they changed the rules around promotion without notice — two days before we launched.

And with Apple’s iOS App Store, it means your app probably lives and dies by the ratings and reviews users give it. Which is why developers, whether they want to or not, have a very strong incentive to keep reminding you to please rate their app on the App Store. Please. Have you rated it yet? How about now? Hey, is this a good time?

So don’t judge your favourite app’s developers too harshly; the not-so-invisible hand of the Apple market is shaping their behaviour.

By the way, Leslie’s app is the fascinating ThinkLab Brainstorming Tool, which offers prompts and exercises to kickstart your creativity, from her company Combustion. Do check it out… and if you like it, well…

(Child speaking into mobile device) Hey, Siri, remind me in 50 years that I meant to do so much more with my life.

“Okay. I’ll remind you.”

“Okay. I’ll remind you.” published on

It struck me a few weeks ago that the odds of my ever being an astronaut are now pretty low.

I can’t think of a single space agency that has any reason to want to launch me into orbit. (There’s a reason Jodie Foster’s line in Contact didn’t read “We should have sent a speechwriter.”) And at this point, I’m probably not destined to pick up any of the scientific credentials that might qualify me.

The sad truth is, “ten-year-old me really wanted to” isn’t going to pass muster with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA, ESA, SpaceX or really anyone except the people pushing that one-way trip to Mars …and even then I suspect it would be as a tasty snack for the other colonists around week 3 when the supplies run out. (Spoiler alert!)

Life, as John Lennon sang, is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. But maybe a lot of what we dreamed of as children still comes to us as adults—just wrapped differently. Parenting has provided its share of exploration and discovery (and some similar G-forces, I’m prepared to bet). Helping people tell stories and make change offers excitement and satisfaction.

And one childhood dream has come true: I cartoon professionally, alongside my communications consulting.

Which is fantastic, and delightful, and marvellous. Ten-year-old me would be psyched.

I just kinda wish I was doing it from space.

Extreme mute

Extreme mute published on No Comments on Extreme mute

A public service message to people who use transit: if your mobile device is going to be peppered with inbound notifications, kindly. switch. off. the. audio. tone.

That helps reduce the stress of folks around you. What it doesn’t address is the stress that a constant stream of notifications can do to your blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Especially because it seems like every app wants to be able to get hold of you day and night. And most of the time it’s just to whine at you that you haven’t been using the app enough. (“It’s been three hours since you last posted a Fleg on the Flegmar App! Your Fleg score is falling! Your friendships are withering! You will die alone and unloved!”)

And it isn’t just apps. Now web sites get to prompt your browser to ask permission to notify you. (And usually they don’t say why. Just “Gary’s Hedgehog Fetish Site Wants You At His Beck and Call. Click here.”)

Paying attention to how our use of technology (and vice versa) affects our well-being brings us to The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, the new book by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman. (Return visitors to Noise to Signal will know THHNP is replete with fresh new cartoons by yours truly.) As the book’s publisher describes it,

The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit presents realistic strategies for leaders looking to optimize organizational achievement while avoiding the common nonprofit burnout. With a uniquely holistic approach to nonprofit leadership strategy, this book functions as a handbook to help leaders examine their existing organization, identify trouble spots, and resolve issues with attention to all aspects of operations and culture. The expert author team walks you through the process of building a happier, healthier organization from the ground up, with a balanced approach that considers more than just quantitative results. Employee wellbeing takes a front seat next to organizational performance, with clear guidance on establishing optimal systems and processes that bring about better results while allowing a healthier work-life balance. By improving attitudes and personal habits at all levels, you’ll implement a positive cultural change with sustainable impact.

Sound good? It’s actually great, and I dearly hope it helps to transform the nonprofit sector. Plus, you know, cartoons. Get your copy here.


Ding! published on No Comments on Ding!Purchase print

I’ve railed against notifications before. Some aren’t so bad; I usually want to know about incoming text messages (unless it’s my son demanding clarification and amendment of the household Minecraft rules). But most of them are so awful it’s an affront that the apps have the audacity to ask permission to send them.

I’m happy to report the situation has become incrementally better on my devices. That’s mainly because I’ve developed the habit of automatically refusing any app’s request to deliver the little time-and-attention vampires.

And I don’t just tap “No” when Super Beer Pong Ultra Pro demands the right to get my attention at any time. (God forbid I should miss “Daily challenge! Tap repeatedly on something and get a small piece of imaginary currency! This is certainly not a behavioural experiment being conducted on humanity by aliens!”). I stab at that button with the Index Finger of Righteousness while bellowing “No, screw you!”

This, on reflection, is probably why they won’t let me bring my phone into my daughter’s performances at school concerts any more.

Set vibrate to ON

Set vibrate to ON published on No Comments on Set vibrate to ON

GTD, baby. GTD.

After drawing this, my inner Beavis and Butthead have reared their heads, and everything I say about my iPhone suddenly seems filled with innuendo. “Multi-touch.” “Pinch to zoom.” “Mind if I… plug in to charge?” “71:40 aspect ratio.” Uh, huh huh. Huh huh huh.

In barely related news, I finished reading Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse a little while ago. I recommend it: it’s highly entertaining, and for days after reading it, you’ll be acutely aware of just how many microprocessor-controlled gizmos surround you… and the damage they could do if the silicon chips inside their head got set to overload.

I have to think Siri in particular could cause some havoc. Enough misunderstood phrases and mistranscribed messages (“‘Have socks tonight?’ What the hell?”) and humanity could probably be pushed over the brink.

Oh — once you’ve read Robopocalypse, watch this video. Maybe just before bed. Good luck sleeping.

While I’m recommending things, the kids and I have been hugely enjoying Noelle Stevenson’s webcomic Nimona. The eponymous 14-year-old shapeshifting girl with anger management issues signs on as a sidekick to supervillain Ballister Blackheart. In a medieval world where dragons, magic and plasma rifles coexist, Nimona and Ballister plot to thwart the evil Institution — pitting them against Blackheart’s nemesis and one-time bestie Ambrosius Goldenloin.

That description can’t begin to do the comic justice. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, except for Nimona’s anger and pain. That, Stevenson treats with great care and respect. Her cartooning, humour and storytelling chops started strong and have been growing by leaps and bounds since the cartoon debuted in the summer of last year. If anything in that description triggered even a tiny endorphin surge, go check it out — I hope you enjoy it.

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