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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.

(an alien minion speaks to a larger alien dressed in ornate ceremonial garb, holding a phone) "Your Excellency, you're wasting a lot of characters by starting every tweet with 'Hear me and tremble, people of Earth!'"

Ppl of 🌏

Ppl of 🌏 published on

There was a time when social media advice was pretty simple. Be authentic and honest. Try to provide something of value to your audience. Listen more than you speak, and aim for conversation, not broadcast.

And minimize your character count on Twitter.

Today, simple isn’t really the word for social media or the Internet as a whole any more. “Raging bonfire of complexity” comes to mind. (So does “algorithm-driven profit-motivated undermining of civil society,” but let’s set that one aside for now.)

Thing is, I’m still something of a social media idealist. So I still recommend authenticity and honesty; sharing something of your inner life with the world; providing value; listening and conversing. But I also recommend doing it strategically, with tangible, specific goals in mind. Maybe it’s to connect with people, to make them laugh, to entertain yourself, to promote your skills to potential clients or employers, or to change the world in some way. Without goals, it’s easy to spin your wheels on social media for hours on end, achieving very little other than a headache, a drop in self-esteem and a marginal increase in Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth.

And about that last part, changing the world in some way: Don’t sell it short. My latest podcast episode talks about this. In a time of massive existential threats to civil society and our own survival, speakers who can command audiences have a responsibility to take a stand on those issues. As much as we might like to leave it to the experts, the experts are being shouted down.

Same for social media, maybe even more so. If you can build an audience and command attention online, you have the opportunity to use it for good… and arguably more than just an opportunity. As I put it in the episode, with great platform comes great responsibility.

Maybe together, we can not only save the planet, but make it one worth conquering.

(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…

Woman to grump man: “I’d forgotten how pissy you get when one of your tweets gets ratioed.”

Twitter math

Twitter math published on

Ratioed (see also “the ratio”): When a tweet garners more comments than likes, suggesting it is unpopular.

Square rooted: When the number of comments on a tweet is the square of the number of retweets, suggesting your followers aren’t into sharing and probably didn’t watch Sesame Street.

Quadraticked: When the pace of likes on a tweet over time (t) = at^2 + bt + c. If a is a positive value, it suggests the tweet was popular, then overexposed, then became kind of retro-hip. If a is a negative value, it suggests people are messing with you. (Note that most of the time you will also have a negative number of likes. So, high school all over again.)

Logarithmicked: When the number of likes is the exponent to which a tweet’s character count must be raised to equal the total number of Twitter users, suggesting the advent of Gnarr the Destroyer is at hand.

Sudokued: When the digits in a tweet’s number of likes, retweets and comments, along with its character count, can be arranged in a grid to form a simple, diverting puzzle, suggesting the singularity has occurred and we all missed it.

Fibonaccied: When the number of likes on a tweet equals the character count, the number of retweets equals the character count plus the number of likes, the number of comments equals the character account plus the number of retweets, and the number of followers on the tweet’s account equals the number of comments plus the number of retweets, suggesting you’re reading too much into your metrics.

(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.

Twitter makeover

Twitter makeover published on No Comments on Twitter makeover

Quick public service announcement: upload a profile photo. Anything other than that default egg icon. Take a picture of an actual egg if you have to, and upload that — it’s still an improvement.

Thanks to my peeps* on Google+, who helped me sharpen the caption. (And Alex, for gently letting me know it might need it.)

* See what I did there? Eggs, Easter, peeps? This is the kind of multi-layered writing you won’t find on your newspaper’s comics page, bubeleh. (Then again, you won’t find too many cartoons there these days, either.)

Twitter scientist: At last - I've invented the carriage return!

Give Twitter a (line) break

Give Twitter a (line) break published on No Comments on Give Twitter a (line) break

Thanks to a Twitter feature update, you can now include line breaks in your tweets. Judging by some of the reaction out there, t may mean a monetization opportunity – “Read your Twitter stream: Free. Read your Twitter stream minus line breaks and animated GIFs: $50/month.

I for one like ’em. (And animated GIFs, actually.) Sure, we’re likely to see a lot of annoying uses. And let me be the first to predict that the phrase “Best. (Insert noun). EVER.” will soon become

(Insert noun).

But in a medium that gives us the Emoji character set, I don’t see this as the straw that line-breaks the camel’s back.

Many happy carriage returns, people.

* * *

Previously on Noise to Signal: In a very special episode, Mayor Subramaniam finally asks Candace the question we’ve all been waiting for – but is it really Candace? Or has the long-predicted Multiplicity Convergence finally struck? That nagging doubt propels Adriana to strike prematurely against an old foe, winning her a new but unwelcome friend. As the Shadow Nations finally take notice, the dive team approaches the Misanthrope‘s wreckage in a desperate race against the Qaos Quartet. Time is the real rival, though, and nobody is expecting the answer Candace ultimately delivers… or the warhead it’s scotch-taped to.

(TV news anchor) I've just been handed some breaking news... or to those of you on Twitter, 'that thing we've already been talking about for days.'

Broken news

Broken news published on No Comments on Broken news

So, a cartoon about how digital technology is disrupting an older, established medium… drawn on my iPad.

I just got the iPad 3 (yes, I know, we don’t call it that… I do) with a much higher resolution, and drawing on it is everything I’d hoped for. It’s finally precise enough that I don’t feel I’m giving folks my second-best work when I’m using it.

But the thing I really liked is I could do this all as quickly as I did… right after seeing this tweet:

(I was going to point Katie to this cartoon, but it’s not quite what she’s looking for.)


Great moments of 2011: Thin-skinned

Great moments of 2011: Thin-skinned published on No Comments on Great moments of 2011: Thin-skinned

I’m going to guess that for the student in question, this wasn’t the tweet she’d have chosen to see broadcast around the world. And maybe if we all applied that test each time we posted something, we’d have a lot less meaningless fluff in our activity streams… but what we lose in fluff, we gain in blandness.

Today is our big 2011 blowout sale – everything must go, and the price of each cartoon has been slashed in half, from the already-reasonable zero to the insanely ruinous zero. (How do we do it? Volume.)

Next up is the last post. Hope you like it.

(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.

The i of the hurricane

The i of the hurricane published on 2 Comments on The i of the hurricane

This special bonus cartoon is for everyone out East who’s drying off, mopping up or wringing out. (I held off on posting it until it was clear this wasn’t going to be a Katrina-level disaster.)

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.

Alternate version of cartoon with @biz

Caption contest winner: congratulations, Abhiroop Basu!

Caption contest winner: congratulations, Abhiroop Basu! published on No Comments on Caption contest winner: congratulations, Abhiroop Basu!

Congratulations to Abhiroop Basu. It was a tough field, but he narrowly edged out Jon Seymour’s “The consequences of failing to switch your device to flight mode prior to take off.”

A few other great entries from Noise to Signal’s readers:

  • Jess Sloss lends a new urgency to rickrolling with “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.”
  • Mary Skiba-Lofy’s warning will probably resonate with Amazon S3 customers: “Who knew cloud computing could be so hazardous????!!?”
  • Tim McAlpine has a sinister take on Twitter’s recruitment strategy: “Twitter continues buying spree. This time going beyond apps with the recent acquisition of both @scobleizer and @guykawasaki. Is @ladygaga next?”
  • John Erle Mundle gives us LOTR 2.0 with “Ring destroyed. Mount Doom in ruins. Can’t wait to see the Shire. Strange urge for strawberries and cream. #hobbitsftw”
  • Speaking of literature, Boris Mann evokes the white fail whale with “Call me @Ishmael”.
  • And in a similar vein, Boyd Neil gives us a fervent “Don’t *Fail* me now”.
  • Tris Hussey has a little career advice: “To my friends who thought being a social media consultant was for the birds…”
  • Mike Fitzsimon offers “Mums are right. Who knew? RT @KathysMum: Kathy, you are getting so carried away by this Twitter thing”.

And finally, via email (because he – gasp! – isn’t on Facebook), Eric Andersen submitted four grin-inducing suggestions, including this one:

“Wait,” Bob tweeted, “The Twittersphere is *between* the stratosphere and troposphere?”

Thanks so much, everyone, for the entries! And my thanks to Jordan Behan and Strutta for letting me take their Facebook contest platform for a spin.

Updated: Abhiroop blogs, “perhaps I should have put @biz instead of ‘Biz Stone'”. POOF!

Alternate version of cartoon with @biz

Did I just say that out loud?

Did I just say that out loud? published on 1 Comment on Did I just say that out loud?

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

In a week where U.S. news coverage was dominated by an inappropriate tweet from a congressperson’s Twitter account, maybe it’s worth taking a moment or two to think about your own personal social media policy. (Alex has a great post about family social media policies, by the way.) What are you doing to avoid landing in the same soup that Rep. Anthony Weiner has been sloshing around in for the past several days?

For instance, do you consciously avoid tweeting or blogging after you’ve had a few drinks? (I’ve had an idea for a smartphone breathalyzer. Blow anything over 0.08%, and it wouldn’t let you tweet. Or, optionally, it switches you over to a special Twitter account you’ve created that consists only of drunk tweets.) Do you have a policy of running anything that seems iffy past a trusted colleague or a loved one?

Do you ensure all of your social media profiles are protected by secure, complex passwords? Disable all post-by-email functionality? Require background checks and kill-chip implants for anyone who ever touches your logged-in devices?

Or is the occasional I-can’t-believe-my-elected-representative-just-tweeted-that (or I-can’t-believe-my-favorite-clothing-designer-just-tweeted-that) the price we pay for a free-wheeling, spontaneous Web?

Get thee behind me, Twitalyzer

Get thee behind me, Twitalyzer published on No Comments on Get thee behind me, Twitalyzer

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

I’m a numbers junkie.

Oh, I talk a good line about how it’s the quality of the conversation that matters, and the connections you make… but you won’t see a day go by when I’m not checking on stats. Twitter followers, Klout score, blog traffic: if I can measure it, I’m counting.

And it’s not like those numbers aren’t important… so long as they’re measuring something that ultimately represents some kind of impact I can have on the world, or vice versa.

But that doesn’t explain why it’s such a compulsion for me – and, let’s face it, for an awful lot of people. I’ve subscribed to a number of theories over the years, most of them variants on “It’s all about making up for not being cool in high school.”

That still makes some sense to me. Yet it doesn’t seem to capture something even more primal: the innate attraction of just plain measuring. Especially when it’s measuring, comparing, and passing milestones.

For instance, this cartoon came about because one of the people I follow on Twitter mentioned on Friday that he was a single follower away from 3,000, and wouldn’t that be a nice way to start the weekend? I and a few others retweeted his request; he crossed the threshold; and then someone else tweeted to remind us both that what’s important is content, and not the number of people following you.

She’s completely right. But it’s also true that it’s human nature to watch as the odometer turns over, to commemorate 40th birthdays, or to take quiet notice when we ram-lap. (Ram-lapping? That’s when you finally get a computer that has the same amount of RAM as your first computer’s hard drive size.) And when my Twitter follower count passes its next round number, I fully intend to mark the occasion. (Not with anything royal-wedding in scale, but something more than just a cupcake with blue icing.)

Of course, as part of an online strategy, measurement should lead to actionable insights. But it can be a pleasure to measure. And maybe recognizing that is the under-appreciated first step in keeping metrics in perspective.


Oh, well – I can always go back to working on that MyBlogLog app

Oh, well – I can always go back to working on that MyBlogLog app published on No Comments on Oh, well – I can always go back to working on that MyBlogLog app

This cartoon originally appeared in Alex’s blog post on the Harvard Business Review site, and rather than try to say something wise about it myself, I’ll just suggest you head on over and check it out there.

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: 140 characters, without possibility of parole

2010 in review: 140 characters, without possibility of parole published on No Comments on 2010 in review: 140 characters, without possibility of parole

Here’s the next cartoon in my ret­ro­spective of 2010 in social media. (You may remember a sneak preview of this one from the weekend.)

I’ll be posting the last of the individual cartoons today – but meanwhile, here’s the whole thing in video. (Hey – did you check out the free 2011 calendar yet?)

2010 in review: World Cup

2010 in review: World Cup published on No Comments on 2010 in review: World Cup

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.

2010 in review: Palination

2010 in review: Palination published on No Comments on 2010 in review: Palination

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.

140 characters without possibility of parole

140 characters without possibility of parole published on No Comments on 140 characters without possibility of parole

As 2010 dies down, a lot of us are looking back over the past year. This cartoon was inspired – indirectly – by one of the year’s less-reported stories: the collision between the informal, off-the-cuff culture of Twitter and the rigid world of law. That conflict runs the gamut from totalitarian regimes to liberal democracies:

True, China has long repressed dissent – often brutally – and airports around the world are notorious for frowning on even casual jokes about explosives, violence or hijacking. But Twitter brings a new combination of persistence, reach and spontaneity that we haven’t really grappled with yet.

No matter which you think needs to adapt more – the law, or the way we use social media – we enter 2011 facing a new level of accountability for our spontaneous comments. And the kind of idle conversation that could pass without comment in a pub is now part of the permanent, searchable record.

By the way, this cartoon is part of a 2010 year-in-review I’m putting together. Look for it later this week… and in the meantime, remember to get your Noise to Signal 2011 wall calendar, free for the downloading. Happy holidays!

Conspicuous Me

Conspicuous Me published on 2 Comments on Conspicuous Me

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

I can directly thank two people for today’s cartoon. One is Deb Ngwho tweeted this a few days ago:

If I were to propose a day where no one tweeted links to their own stuff, would you laugh at me, or think “hmmm. That’s a good idea?”

And the other is my wife and Social Signal partner, Alexandra Samuel, whose take on those tweetswas:

I’m in an exotic location, contributing brilliant, world-changing insights to a conversation among important, influential people.

No question, there’s a lot of “Look at me, look at me!” on Twitter. It ranges from the routine status updates that are the meat-and-potatoes of dismissive media coverage of Twitter (“That last burrito isn’t sitting too well”), to the kind of self-promotion that can land you a front-page slot on Tweeting Too Hard.

But take a closer look at Tweeting Too Hard. Most of the tweets on the front page aren’t just expressions of self-absorbed vanity – they’re over-the-top parodies of self-absorbed vanity. They’re deliberately produced entertainment.

And while I see a lot of tweets that read like cries for help from people who couldn’t get their parents’ attention when they were kids, I also see plenty that alert me to the fact that the writer actually has created or shared something brilliant. Or wonderful. Or just worthwhile.

Sometimes self-aggrandizing is in the eye of the beholder. I certainly hope so; I do more than my share of come-look-at-the-thing-I-just-posted tweeting. And Alex ultimately revisited the scolding tone of some of her tweets.

Maybe what’s really in order is a penetrating emotional inventory of the needs and motivations behind our self-focused conversations, about once every month or so. (Those of you who meditate regularly may increase the dosage.) Are we aiming to share something worthwhile, or just bask in a little adulation? And at the end of the day, have we contributed something meaningful to the conversation?

That said, I think Deb’s prescription is worth considering. A regular break from linking to our own stuff could be a healthy way to step back from the brink of becoming the Me Channel… not to mention an impetus to finding other voices and creations worth sharing. Or even reaching for the “@” key now and again.

I’m just a 34 dressed up as a 68

I’m just a 34 dressed up as a 68 published on No Comments on I’m just a 34 dressed up as a 68

Klout is an intriguing service, one that aims to measure your influence on Twitter (and now on Facebook). It’s admittedly far from perfect; “I can get people to retweet things” is pretty minor influence compared to “I can get people to consider certain ideas” or “I can sway people’s voting habits”. But until the Twitter API is hooked up to some of the machinery from Inception – or unless you’re willing to pay for some far more intensive and probably more manual analysis – we work with what we have.

And if you take “influence” to mean “reach of voice” or “ability to direct others’ attention at least for a moment”, then Klout (and cousins like Twinfluence, Twitalyzer, Tweetlevel and my very own Influ-a-rama-matic – what it lacks in reliability it makes up for in ego-boosting) can be pretty useful. Just remember it’s a starting point… and that the raw Klout score is a pretty blunt instrument. (“How influential are you?” “64.”) Diving in and looking at some of the more detailed metrics can take you further, and tell you, for instance, that person x has a lot of followers but doesn’t often engage them, while person y has a smaller audience but much more vigorous engagement.

Even then, though, you’ll need to figure out for yourself what subjects they’re most “influential” on, and with whom. (Klout takes a stab at it with a topic summary at the bottom of each profile, and it’s not a bad starting point. Also, I had no idea that Alex was so influential about the Vancouver Canucks.)

So why, then, do I check Klout obsessively?

  1. Badges. They have badges.
  2. To make up for what happened in high school. (Yes, I know.) Dammit, people do love me, and I can quantify it.
  3. Badges and personal validation… do I really need a third reason?

Endangered species and @unmarketing

Endangered species and @unmarketing published on 1 Comment on Endangered species and @unmarketing

This is the part of my toonblog from Scott Stratten’s BlogWorld keynote that keeps getting mentioned by people, so I thought I’d offer it on its own after seeing Scott’s tweet yesterday.

Updated: A few thoughts about poor, maligned and misused ROI. Or, Seven Things (Off the Top Of My Head) That I Believe:

  1. I believe in measuring, benchmarking, testing, comparing and assessing. I believe in doing your best to surface the tangible financial results from an organization’s investments in any field, including social media. But…
  2. I believe it’s easy to confuse that which can be measured with that which matters… and that, when you’re dealing with human relationships, there’s a lot that both matters tremendously and resists simple measurement. (See also “Schools, Standardized testing”.) But…
  3. I believe that Belief #2 isn’t a reason not to try. Social media isn’t free, and any responsible communicator wants to use their organization’s resources to maximum effect. But…
  4. It is a reason to keep your attempts to measure outcomes in some perspective. And…
  5. It’s a reason not to get so hung up on quantitative data that you miss out on the qualitative benefits of having decent, respectful relationships with people – online and offline. Or that you wind up sounding less like a human being than a not-terribly-clever marketing algorithm.
  6. I believe there are very smart people who’ve thought about this more than I have.
  7. I believe it’s time for tea.

Please retweet me, let me know

Please retweet me, let me know published on 5 Comments on Please retweet me, let me know

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

The etiquette around Twitter is hotly disputed. Questions range from “Do you have to follow everyone who follows you?” to “Do you automatically DM people when they follow you?” to “Were my tweet’s from last night’s food-poisoning incident TMI?”

But I’ve seen near-fist-fights break out over this one: “When is it appropriate to ask for a retweet?”

I’ve heard answers including:

  • Never. It’s too needy. High-quality content doesn’t have to ask to be retweeted.
  • Whenever you want. You’re just being open and transparent.
  • Only occasionally. You’re drawing down your relationship capital, so ask prudently.

Where do you come down?

Oh, and if you see a tweet about this cartoon, would you mind… um… that is, if it isn’t too much… oh, never mind.

Book cover: The Networked Nonprofit

Toonblog: Networked nonprofits and Twitter

Toonblog: Networked nonprofits and Twitter published on No Comments on Toonblog: Networked nonprofits and Twitter

Originally posted on BlogWorld

Book cover: The Networked NonprofitI’ve learned that you can never go wrong by going to a Beth Kanter panel. The co-author ofThe Networked Nonprofit (I’m halfway through it on my iPad, and it’s terrific) has a gift for bringing out the audience’s shared wisdom and experience while keeping the panel conversation lively and valuable.

Not that panellists Danielle Brigida, social media outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, and Claire Williams, who leads social innovation at Twitter, needed any prodding. Each could have easily filled the hour with anecdotes, advice and recommendations. (Thanks to Williams, my new Twitter mantra is “WWKD: What Would Kanye Do?”)

Here are notes from Brigida’s and Williams’ presentations.

Toonblog: Behind the wristband with Doug Ulman and Rohit Bhargava

Toonblog: Behind the wristband with Doug Ulman and Rohit Bhargava published on No Comments on Toonblog: Behind the wristband with Doug Ulman and Rohit Bhargava

It was an emotional and fascinating hour, starting with Rohit Bhargava‘s call for everyone in the audience whose lives had been touched by cancer to stand. Livestrong CEO  Doug Ulman touched on how Twitter can sometimes be less daunting than blogging, how transparency and authenticity are transforming non-profits, when a logo can take away from an organization’s efforts, and why Livestrong focuses more on supporting families living with cancer than on research.

And it ended with the announcement that PayPal and Swagg would sponsor a 5-cent-per-tag bounty for every use of the hashtag #beatcancer for 24 hours – plus a $1 contribution for every pledge to download Swagg’s free iPhone app when it’s released. See for details.

Fly the friend-me skies

Fly the friend-me skies published on 1 Comment on Fly the friend-me skies

Originally published on ReadWriteWeb

Okay, maybe this isn’t such a hot idea from a security standpoint. But don’t you think a little social profile vetting is in order before they seat people on an aircraft?

Show me a passenger whose Twitter profile is larded up with multi-level marketing come-ons, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to pester their seat mate about exciting affiliate opportunities in the exotic berry juice industry. Check someone’s Facebook profile for a deluge of Farmville notifications and invitations, and you’ll have a pretty good idea if they’re likely to natter non-stop from LAX to LGA.

And I challenge you to find a better technique than looking through someone’s commenting record on Disqus or IntenseDebate for telling whether they’re likely to hog both armrests and kick the seat of the person in front of them.

At the very least, let’s get a few smart people together to develop an algorithm that can quickly sift through the information in your profile and match you with seatmates you’re going to find – if not riveting – then at least tolerable company. (Unless the airlines are already doing that, only to match you with people you’ll find so annoying that you’ll order more drinks. It would explain a lot.)

By the way, I’ll be in the air next week heading to BlogWorld in Las Vegas, sketchpad in hand. See you there?

P.S. – Here’s a version just for you OAuth fans.

(gate agent to passenger) I'll need to see your passport. Unless you'd like to authenticate using OAuth.

But do tell my agent

But do tell my agent published on No Comments on But do tell my agent

First published on ReadWriteWeb

So it’s happened again: another Twitter feed is making its way to network television. And props to Steve Roommate for getting the green light for Shh, Don’t Tell Steve.

And yet I can’t be the only one who’s starting to feel a little inadequate. If the social web has a shortage of anything, it sure isn’t ways to keep score – from site metrics to Alexa to PageRank to Facebook likes to Feedburner subscribers to the gazillion Web apps offering to measure your influence. (Say, have you tried mine lately?)

But once you add And just how many book deals did your site close today? to Google Analytics, it gets a little demoralizing.

If this keeps up, I may have to go back to blogging for the sheer pleasure of it.

So THAT’S why you have all those words after the headline

So THAT’S why you have all those words after the headline published on No Comments on So THAT’S why you have all those words after the headline

(Cartoon first appeared yesterday on Blogworld)

Yes, I’ve done it too. Always with the best of intentions. Here’s a sample of my internal monologue: “Gosh, that looks like an interesting headline. I’ll retweet it… [Click!] And now to go read the po-… Hey! Liza Donnelly just posted another cartoon!”

You may have noticed this happening with your own posts (in which case, I swear I’ll get around to reading them). If you’re using an URL-shortener like, you can track statistics… and from time to time, you’ll see the number of retweets substantially outstrip the number of clickthroughs.

I haven’t done any real study of the issue (to some lucky doctoral student reading this: you’ve just found the topic for your thesis) but I have a few guesses about underlying causes: distraction, a headline that seems to say it all, posts that people don’t want to read themselves but figure would be good for their users. (This is how I feel about eating vegan.) And maybe I just write better tweets than blog posts.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld would like to be your friend

Ernst Stavro Blofeld would like to be your friend published on 5 Comments on Ernst Stavro Blofeld would like to be your friend

Metrics. They’re so tempting to chase, because you can so easily see your progress: this many Likes. This many friends. This many retweets. This many uniques.

But very few metrics have ultimate meaning; they’re mostly means to an end. Maybe that end is profit. Maybe it’s social change. Maybe it’s finding love in an uncertain world. (And for the record, “two hearts beating as one” is too a measurable outcome.)

Don’t just obsess about metrics. Interrogate them. Skeptically. “Yeah? So what?” is a solid opening question. Once you get that answer, so is “Since when?” Sometimes “Says who?” isn’t a bad one either.

Otherwise, we end up chasing metrics instead of goals. We follow tactics instead of strategy. And instead of focusing on that one thing we truly want to achieve, we settle for being a hundred people’s ninth favourite thing.

I will grasp at any straw, no matter how thin, to do a Bond cartoon. This probably wasn’t my most technically proficient cartoon ever… but it was fun as hell to draw.

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.

Just between you and me (and the entire Internet)

Just between you and me (and the entire Internet) published on 5 Comments on Just between you and me (and the entire Internet)

Are you finding the same thing I am? Where you’re having a casual conversation with a friend, and you’re in the middle of saying something… well, not exactly secret, but not the sort of thing you want shared with the world… and you stop dead, suddenly worried that it might end up in their Twitter stream?

When I’m talking to someone with a blog, a Twitter feed or even a Facebook account (which, these days, means nearly everyone), I’m often just a little guarded. I have my own guidelines and boundaries when I’m dealing with other people’s information – basically, if there’s any ambiguity, I ask permission before I share – but I know other people draw the line differently.

Sometimes they’ll reveal a confidence but change a few details to protect identities. Or maybe they’d never do that, but they’ll readily tag an embarrassing party photo of you on Facebook.

While some people lay down hard and fast rules about the new online etiquette, the reality is things are still a lot more fluid than many of us realize. You’ve just had lunch with a potential client; do you tweet that? You shot a hilarious video at the company picnic; do you upload it? And do we all just assume we’re all on the record, 24-7, until and unless we agree otherwise?

Several years into the social media revolution, we’re still only making baby steps toward some kind of shared understanding of the terrain we’re walking on together. And in some ways, netiquette seems as nebulous a concept as ever.

No comment.

No comment. published on 11 Comments on No comment.

Not that long ago, you’d write a blog post and a handful of people might comment on it. Some of those comments might be one-line approval or disagreement, but others would go some length to engage with what you’d said.

These days, though, I’m finding you’re more likely to get a retweet: “RT”, title of your blog post, and link.

Don’t get me wrong: I love seeing those. Love, love, love them. By all means, retweet away.

But what blog comments give you that retweets can’t (unless the retweeter opts out of Twitter’s retweeting feature to add a few words of their own) is conversation. I love to hear what people thought of what I said. I love for them to agree, disagree, point me to new ideas, or take an idea and run with it. And while we can do that to some degree on Twitter, the 140-character wall is pretty limiting.

I’ve been pretty lucky, actually; since I launched the cartoon, I’ve been attracting a small but growing number of deeply-appreciated comments. I have a few tools that let me import related tweets into the comment stream. And Twitter brings a lot of people here.

I’m hoping that continues… but I have a feeling that bloggers everywhere have to adjust to a world where Twitter means blog comments, and the rich conversation that can come with them, are the exception.

What do you think? Have you seen comments drop off on your blog? And if so, is Twitter the issue, or is something else at work? Comment below… or tweet me.

(P.S. – Was I clear enough about liking the retweets? No? I LIKE THE RETWEETS.)


Tweaty published on 2 Comments on Tweaty

There’s a lot about Twitter that I find annoying: Auto DMs from people when I follow them (“Thanks for the follow! And please check out my acai berry multi-level marketing site!”). Random, Inspiration Lite™ quotations, stripped of all context. People who invent rules like “you have to follow everyone who follows you.” (No, you don’t. And you don’t have to eavesdrop on an intelligence agency just because they tap your phone line – in fact, they discourage it.)

But just when I get crotchety enough to start shopping for a shawl and rocking chair, along comes what may be the one meme on Twitter that actually warms the cockles of my heart: Follow Friday.

(I’ll pause here to let the derisive laughter die down.)

Let me stipulate: a lot of #ff tweets aren’t much use. Some are just a random string of accounts; too many others recommend folks like @aplusk, @cnnbrk and @barackobama – not exactly out-of-the-box discoveries.

But I’m finding more and more #ff tweets that put recommendations into context, saying these people are funny, or inspirational, or smart. And I’m seeing others that use Follow Friday to offer thanks, express love or suggest that people reach out and offer some comfort or attention. And when people use it that way, I’ve found I actually do find interesting new folks to follow.

For all its faults and misuse, Follow Friday is adding a little to Twitter’s growing pool of social capital. So TGIFF… and let’s try to bring that spirit of generosity and gratitude to the other six days of the week.

If they won’t rise up and smite your enemies when you ask them to, are they really “followers”?

If they won’t rise up and smite your enemies when you ask them to, are they really “followers”? published on No Comments on If they won’t rise up and smite your enemies when you ask them to, are they really “followers”?

For a few brief, glorious moments on Monday, as Twitter responded to a security issue by reverting all follower counts to zero, we were all equals. The neoest of neophytes had as many followers as Oprah or Ashton. (Hell, I had as many followers as @awsamuel. When was the last time that happened?)

Now the old order has been restored, and metrics-obsessed mavens can go back to human-bean-counting (I’ll admit it, I’m one of them). But I would have liked to see how things might have worked out if the follower-count-outage had lasted a few days instead of a few minutes. How would it have changed how we interact? Would we have resorted to deciding whether to engage with someone based on the quality of their conversation, or would we have found some other proxy for their capital-I Importance?

Beating a hasty retweet

Beating a hasty retweet published on 6 Comments on Beating a hasty retweet

In the spirit of Twitter, I’ll make this brief. If you’re running a Twitter contest or promotion, then please – I beg you – have entrants do something more useful, more conversational, more interesting than just retweeting a link to your latest sale item or a message about how fabulous you are.

I thank you. Your participants’ followers thank you. And at the end of the day, your brand reputation will thank you.

(prosecutor to accused) To quote further from people’s exhibit A, your Twitter feed, “@holdupguy I’m in the getaway vehicle with the money and hostages. Where RU?”

Twitter: To invoke your right to remain silent, use #miranda

Twitter: To invoke your right to remain silent, use #miranda published on 3 Comments on Twitter: To invoke your right to remain silent, use #miranda

From our vaults, another Twitter cartoon that inexplicably failed to make the transition to the new site.

Actually, I’m always tickled to find another one of these – especially if it’s one that I’m particularly happy with. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the defendant’s expression here strikes me as just right. </bragging>

Now, if I was drawing this today, it would probably have the bank robbery in progress, with the head of the gang snarling at one of his underlings, “What have I told you? Don’t check into the bank on FourSquare!” (Update: On second thought, let’s stick with Twitter.)

(updatier) Prescience alert.

Mommy, where do hashtags come from?

Mommy, where do hashtags come from? published on 5 Comments on Mommy, where do hashtags come from?

You know those time-lapse videos that compress days, weeks or years into minutes? The ones with flowers budding, blooming and then withering in seconds? Or late-1990s Silicon Valley startups getting venture capital, blowing it on espresso bathtubs and Dr. Pepper fountains, and vanishing into receivership?

I think Twitter may be the same thing, except for language. In spoken English, it can take decades – even centuries – for new words to emerge, become part of common parlance, and then fade into disuse.

But on Twitter, hashtags can live that entire lifecycle in the course of a day or two. A news story breaks, and competing hashtags vie for dominance. Then a few influential folks adopt the same one. Suddenly the conversation coalesces around it, the term trends, the spammers start using it, and then the conversation peters out as we move on to the next topic.

Is that the pattern? And how closely does it map onto the ways that words and phrases earworm their way into spoken language?

Maybe some up-and-coming linguistics student is already mapping the ways hashtags rise and decay, and getting ready to publish a dissertation… in 140-character increments.

Meanwhile, people, seriously – “snowicane“?

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

Think we can get Ellen Page to play the actress in the movie version of the cartoon?

Think we can get Ellen Page to play the actress in the movie version of the cartoon? published on No Comments on Think we can get Ellen Page to play the actress in the movie version of the cartoon?

Ok, did we all get it out of our system yet? The sly digs, the guffaws, the skeptical snorts? CBS is turning a Twitter feed, a Twitter feed, for crying out loud, into a comedy series, and there’s been a collective rolling-of-the-eyes out there in medialand.

The news that William Shatner has been tapped for the lead role – the “dad” of “Shit My Dad Says” – is icing on the cake for anyone who wants to pooh-pooh CBS’s programming savvy. (Yes, I said “pooh-pooh” in a post about “Shit My Dad Says”. Moving on.)

Well, here are three reasons I think this thing has a hope in hell – with the caveat that the vast majority of pilots self-destruct before they make it to air, let alone without ever becoming a successful series.

  1. There’s an audience. No, SMDS’ million-plus Twitter followers won’t automatically translate into a faithful TV audience. But those followers represent a big chunk of people primed to at least consider giving the pilot a look-see – and that’s quite a hurdle to jump. What’s more, many of them are die-hard fans… and if they like what they see, they’ll work tirelessly to promote the show to friends and family.
  2. Justin Halpern is legitimately funny. SMDS isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it takes real craft to crank out laugh-out-loud jokes that fit into Twitter’s 140-character limit, and he clearly has an ear for dialogue. Granted, doing that once every day or so is a long way from hitting the sitcom pace of three or four jokes per minute – but he isn’t alone in writing for the show. Andthat brings us to…
  3. The producers know how to walk the line without crossing it. SMDS is being produced by the creators of Will and Grace, a show that often flirted with transgressive humor and pushed the boundaries of good taste – often gave them a good, hard shove, actually. But they had an instinct for their audience’s comfort level. If anyone can pull off the balancing act that SMDS is going to demand, they’ll do it.

To everyone who says you can’t turn a Twitter feed into a TV series, of course you can’t. But can you take the talent, passion and spirit behind that feed, and channel that into another medium? Absolutely.

Will it work? I guess we’ll find out.

Meanwhile, my agent awaits your calls.

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.


Tweulogy published on 1 Comment on Tweulogy

Probably no need to mention that this cartoon was inspired by the Web 2.0 Expo debacle involving danah boyd, a Twitter backchannel projected onto a giant screen behind her, a speech that faced an uphill battle from the get-go, and a few audience members with some impulse control (and other) issues.

There’s a fascinating renegotiation going on between audiences and speakers. Twitter and backchannels are part of it, but I suspect something deeper is afoot. There’s a revolution sweeping all forms of communication – ask anyone who works for a newspaper or a record company – and maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that even something as seemingly timeless as public speaking would be affected.

But that doesn’t mean we have to be jerks about it.

Maybe your daycare can hold a tweetup

Maybe your daycare can hold a tweetup published on No Comments on Maybe your daycare can hold a tweetup

I suspect there’s more than a little of this guy in me.

Dammit – Skype’s down, too

Dammit – Skype’s down, too published on 1 Comment on Dammit – Skype’s down, too

Performance review

Performance review published on No Comments on Performance review

Not that you have to follow people back on Twitter. You don’t. You really don’t. It’s the stupidest etiquette rule in history, right up there with the way you’re supposed to stab the person next to you with your lobster fork between the sorbet course and the port.

Not want

Not want published on No Comments on Not want

(woman using laptop, to man) I can't talk to you right now. I'm catching up on your tweets.

Catching up with you

Catching up with you published on 1 Comment on Catching up with you

The difference

The difference published on No Comments on The difference

(man using mobile phone in hospital, to partner who is in labor) Check it out, honey! Twitter 'replies' now include 'mentions'!

The real reason they don’t allow cell phones in hospitals

The real reason they don’t allow cell phones in hospitals published on No Comments on The real reason they don’t allow cell phones in hospitals