Author Archives: Rob Cottingham

About Rob Cottingham

Political speechwriter for national leaders, provincial premiers and Vancouver mayors. Cartoonist behind Noise to Signal. Online engagement strategist since the days of dial-up modems. F2F humorist ("stand-up comic" for you old farts).

I believe crash reports should be worth reading

My crash report to Mozilla (includes text below)

I was switching to a stalled tab when Firefox quit — but I don’t know if that was the cause. Maybe it’s me. You put so many of your dreams on hold when you become an adult, and every choice you make seems to slaughter a million other possibilities. Click this, and not that; study this, and not that; work at this, and not that. Opportunity cost is the profound, unavoidable tragedy of the human condition; sensing that, perhaps Firefox chose to take some of those choices off my menu, freeing me t

There’s a character limit. Pity — I think I was on the brink of a revelation there.

From my upcoming police procedural screenplay

“So we have no closed-circuit footage of the traffic at that intersection from that day?”

“Fraid not.”

“Wait… Wasn’t that early September?”

“Yeah, it was. Why?”

“Wasn’t that when Instagram rolled out Hyperlapse?”

“Sure, but I don’t see what – oh, I get it!”

“All those iPhones shooting all of that time lapse footage of traffic? Somebody had to be shooting this intersection.”

“I’m on it, lieutenant.”

You are cordially invited to come see me make jokes

Open_Mic_at_LaFontanaComedy sensei David Granirer has teamed with Vancouver comic Al Hassam to launch a new open mic night Wednesdays at La Fontana Caffe. It debuts tonight at 7:00 pm.

And I’ll be hitting their stage for a set at their October 15th show, to which you are cordially invited. There’s no cover charge, and the venue (on Hastings Street at Boundary) gets a lot of love on Yelp.

See you there! Continue reading

Lauren Bacon can help you ask the right questions.

Lauren BaconI’m going to plug a friend’s services here because a) they’re terrific, b) she’s terrific and c) I think she can help you be more terrific.

Some of the most valuable conversations I’ve ever had have been with Lauren Bacon. She’s a superb listener, offers excellent advice and is relentlessly curious about the world.

Looking back on it, most of that advice didn’t come with a period at the end. Lauren has a gift for asking questions (that’s the curiousity coming into play) — and she’s put it to work helping a lot of people: leaders, creative professionals, companies and non-profits.

And now maybe you. Her newly relaunched website has a wide range of offerings, including the short-but-profoundly-useful e-book Curious for a Living and its free companion workbook, Essential Questions for Purposeful Projects. Continue reading

Robin Williams

Alex and I saw Robin Williams perform in Vancouver several years ago.

A lot of touring comics start with a few thinly localized jokes to win the crowd over, and then launch into their main routine. I expected he’d do the same — and sure enough, he did a Vancouver joke.

And then another. And then an extended riff. And another one.

There must have been twenty minutes of genuine Vancouver material: not boilerplate insert-name-of-city here stuff, but joke after joke that felt organically, authentically of this place. And his material was savvy and current, not just land-of-pot-and-Birkenstocks stuff.

I once read an article about his USO work: how he would usually eschew VIP treatment and official tours in favour of just sitting down and talking to soldiers for hours. When he finally did perform, he’d draw extensively on those conversations.

That’s a precious gift to give to an audience: using your talent as a prism for their own lives and experiences. It requires some real courage — far safer to rely on tested material that reliably delivers the laughs. But in the hands of someone as talented as Mr. Williams, it was powerful.

I’m sorry I won’t have the chance to see it again, and sorrier still for the pain that led him to end his life. There will be plenty of chances to reflect on his work in the weeks to come, but for now, I’m remembering a performer who did far, far more than just meet expectations.

Meet Localty, Vancity’s local-shopping mobile site for Victoria

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Alex and I got to work with William Azaroff eight years ago (good lord! eight?!) on Vancity‘s ChangeEverything. We became friends, and I became a fan of William’s impressive online smarts. So when he announces an online project for Vancity, my ears prick up so fast it makes my chin hurt:

Recently, a project I’ve been working on for the past few months with some brilliant and capable colleagues launched as a test and learn pilot in Victoria, BC. The project is called Localty, because what else are you gonna name a loyalty program focused on local purchasing?

Localty is a mobile web platform connecting our members and the public to discover Vancity business members, and encourage them to promote these local businesses via social media and to shop locally. We want to encourage more people to steer some of their purchases away from multi-national chains and big box stores to small, local businesses.

Continue reading

I’ve been watching The Amazing Race reruns with the kids….



I’ve been watching The Amazing Race reruns with the kids. I’m proud of the way they’re able to spot the often-patronizing (and that’s being charitable) attitude the show takes to the countries and cultures it encounters. It’s the ultimate whirlwind, see-the-sites, reduce-a-nation-to-a-simple-caricature vacation.

But I also enjoy the shit out of it, partly as I imagine myself conquering the challenges that trigger my own phobias (heights heights heights heights heights oh god the heights) and partly because of the chance to see people react to heavy pressure.

It isn’t the casual, tossed-off cruelty of, say, American Idol judges sneering at some poor shmuck with a dream that exceeds her or his talents. It’s character revealed under pressure, Robert McKee-style… and often revealed not just to the viewers, but to the players themselves. Moments of self-revelation are surprisingly rare in American TV, and I’ve been surprised at how many I’ve seen in TAR.