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).

Meet “Things of the Internet”… the first Noise to Signal collection!

Things of the Internet coverSo you know that thing where you take the very best of the six-hundred-plus cartoons you’ve drawn over the past eight years and put them in a book?

That’s what I’ve done.

Things of the Internet is the first-ever Noise to Signal collection. In fact, this is more like a prototype, created in a tiny, tiny batch for the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. Really, you’re getting in on the beta. And because there are only a handful of copies left, it’s like getting into a closed, invitation-only beta.

It includes over 77 cartoons! (“Soooo… 78 cartoons?” “That would be correct.”) An emotionally evocative conclusion! A highly educational (mostly fictitious) colophon!

I also have a few prints left over from the festival, which are also on sale at the festival price of $10. I’ll be putting the remainder up over the next few days, but you can check them out now at the brand-spankin’-new Noise to Signal store.

• • •

I built the new store using Shopify, which was both pretty easy and surprisingly fun to configure. Plus it’s headquartered in my hometown of Ottawa.

I believe crash reports should be worth reading (12)

Every morning, I pray I'll wake up in my own bed. But no: I'm back in that forest, pelted by rain, condemned to live the same day over and over until I can atone for my sin. Behind me a beast snarls; to my right, a twig snaps. And I'm running. On cue, the rumble of thunder—but this time, I whirl and swing up, and catch the beast between its armoured plates. I'm winning, oh god, at last, winning, and my world shimmers almost into reality before my eyes... and the dialog box pops up: "OnePassword Helper Unexpectedly Quit." Blackness... and then rain, wet leaves, and the forest again.Every morning, I pray I’ll wake up in my own bed. But no: I’m back in that forest, pelted by rain, condemned to live the same day over and over until I can atone for my sin. Behind me a beast snarls; to my right, a twig snaps. And I’m running. On cue, the rumble of thunder—but this time, I whirl and swing up, and catch the beast between its armoured plates. I’m winning, oh god, at last, winning, and my world shimmers almost into reality before my eyes… and the dialog box pops up: “OnePassword Helper Unexpectedly Quit.” Blackness… and then rain, wet leaves, and the forest again.

Tangles, the movie

I’m really excited about this:

I kind of reel every time I read even a little of Tangles. Sarah Leavitt‘s graphic memoir of her relationship with her mother in the growing shadow of Alzheimer’s Disease never fails to slide past my defences.

So the news that Giant Ant is working with Sarah to turn Tangles into a feature film is just thrilling. The trailer looks really promising, and I can’t wait to see it brought to the screen. I think Sarah’s the cat’s (or small dog’s) pyjamas, of course. And I’ve long thought her illustrations want to move—and now they’re going to.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Self-promotion for comic artists: insights from the VanCAF panel

Last weekend’s Vancouver Comic Arts Festival was pretty much everything I’d hoped for, with one predictable exception: getting to exhibit for the first time meant missing a lot of terrific panels.

But thanks to some terrific and talented neighbours (Nikkie and Cam Woo, Alex Steacy and Patrick Wong), I was able to leave my patch of table to catch one panel I’d found particularly interesting: Best Foot Forward: Promoting Your Comics and Yourself.

Animated by Lucy Bellwood, the session offered advice and insight from Kel McDonald, Shannon LeClerc and Ken Steacy (Alex’s dad, as it turns out!)

Lucy has posted the session online, which is terrific – not only for comic artists, but for anybody thinking about how to better promote themselves and their work.

And if you’re the kind of person who needs something to look at while they listen, well, my friend, have I got the sketchnotes for you:

And speaking of self-promotion… there’s still a little merchandise left over from the festival! I’ll be posting shortly about a few STAGGERING DEALS that could be yours at STARTLINGLY LOW PRICES. (Cartoonists hate him! Vancouver man’s weird trick puts humorous cartoons right into your hands!!)

Vancouver Comic Arts Festival

See you at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival!

Big news: Noise to Signal is going to be one of the exhibitors at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival next weekend, May 23-24 at Yaletown’s Roundhouse. I’ll have prints, stickers and other goodies for sale, so swing on by!

The festival is the best thing ever. The panel sessions are great, the exhibitors are tremendously varied, and the whole thing is free. Not free-to-get-onto-the-exhibit-floor-but-you-pay-extra-for-the-good-stuff free, but actually free. It’s welcoming to kids, while offering lots of more mature content.

If the draft floor map holds true, I’ll be sharing the table with Nikkie and Cameron Woo and Alex Steacy. They’re talented folks and I’m looking forward to talking with them. You can find us at table H2:

VanCAF floor map - table H2

I can’t wait. Really. Six more sleeps.


Illustration: WordPress logo in motion

In praise of laziness… and Duplicator, a free plugin for moving WordPress sites around

Everyone cheers a robust work ethic. But laziness deserves a little time in the sun, too.

The desire to duck drudgery drives countless innovations. If necessity is the mother of invention, then laziness is the sperm donor.

Life lesson: if you find yourself doing a common repetitive task that’s amenable to automation, then find out if someone has done just that. Or, if you have the chops, automate it yourself. (And share or sell it.)

Which brings me to my new Favourite Thing in the World: Duplicator, a free plugin for WordPress.

If you’ve ever had to move a WordPress installation from one server to another, you’ll be familiar with the potential headaches and pitfalls. For veteran sysadmins, it can be straightforward (if tedious); for self-taught civilians, it can be daunting.

And for both, it can definitely be drudgery.

Since I’m basically lazy, I spent a minute or two looking for a drudgery-avoiding solution.

Enter Duplicator. All that work of packaging up your files, exporting your database, changing server paths and temporary URLs—it handles it all admirably. With a few clicks, you can download your WordPress site and work on it on your local computer, then redeploy it back to the server. Or change hosts. Or create a mirror for your site.

I used this week it to bring Noise to Signal (which had been stubbornly refusing to upgrade a critical plugin) down to my MacBook. (A free utility called MAMP allows me to easily administer a web server on my laptop that’s very similar to the Linode server the site runs on.) I worked with a version of my site that included all the bells and whistles of the live version except one: an audience watching over my shoulder.

Downloading the site and getting it running was a piece of cake, thanks to some pretty decent documentation and video walkthroughs on the Duplicator website. And getting it back up and running again was almost as easy; Duplicator caught the few glitches that arose, and told me how to fix them. (One last tenacious little glitch that Duplicator couldn’t have anticipated was actually a conflict between two other plugins.)

Was it as easy as telling Siri to download my site and put it back again? No. You need to have some idea of what you’re doing, how to navigate your servers and upload and download files, and how to handle some basic troubleshooting (say, for file permissions).

But Duplicator took a big chunk of work out of my hands, and I’ll be a lot less apprehensive the next time I have to move a WordPress site around. A little laziness saved me a lot of time this week… thanks, ironically enough, to a hard-working developer.

(There’s a pro version of Duplicator, by the way, offering support, Dropbox integration and more features. Overkill for my needs, but you may find it’s just the ticket.)