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June 28, 2010

Adventures on the Internets

Thursday was a big day for the comic on the internet, as these things go.

TwitterMaster Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) very kindly tweeted about a comic I did for the Village Voice in 2007, "Cormac McCarthy's Toy Story 3," and linked to an image of the comic.  This became an instant sensation (again, as these things go), with hundreds of retweets, RTs, etc.

Unfortunately (through no fault of his own), Ebert's link was to a strange low-res advertisement-free jpeg image hosted by the Village Voice, so I don't believe the surge in traffic did the Voice any good at all.  Further, Ebert did not refer to me or my twitter-me (@rubenbollilng) in his post, so it probably didn't do me any good at all either.  This is also no fault of Ebert -- he's limited to 140 characters, he tweets something like a hundred times a day, and he has no obligation at all, obviously, to discover whether I have a twitter account he can publicize before he links to an image he likes.  (When I found out about this going on, I tweeted about it, jokingly referring to his link as "unattributed," and he then jokingly made another tweet jokingly mentioning me twice, repeat, twice.)

Then I noticed that the Tom the Dancing Bug comic for this week (Nate, in "Risky Mangement") had climbed into the upper echelons of the reddit.com cover page Hot LIst, and this was also making it a hugely retweeted and referenced item on Twitter.  There were almost 300 comments about the comic on reddit.com alone!

Unfortunately, the link on the reddit.com site was not to the site that had published that comic on Wednesday, boingboing.net, but was to a site that had apparently stolen the image off the boingboing site and put it up on their own:  something called corporatecomplianceinsights.com

Now, how a site about corporate compliance with laws, rules and regulations can see a piece they think their readers would like and think it would be okay to violate copyright laws, copy the image and put it on their site is beyond me.  But this meant that all the considerable traffic generated by the reddit.com posting was not going to the site that paid me to host the strip, boingboing.net, but to the site that stole the image and put it on their own.

So for all the activity generated, not much happened to those who had a stake in it.  The Village Voice hosted the Toy Story 3 comic, but they get nothing from traffic passing over a jpeg image.  Boingboing.net hosted the Nate comic, but they got nothing from corporatecomplianceinsights.com's apparent theft of the comic.

This world of marketing on the internet, which I've only just begun to dip my toe in, is wild.  Sure, it's fun to get all the attention, but if the name of the game is attracting traffic, it's frustrating when you succeed in creating content that does so, but not to your sites.  Something can blow up for 24 hours, then disappear completely, often leaving its creator bewildered and unsure if there was any benefit from it whatsoever.

My friend Tom Tomorrow (@tomtomorrow, www.thismodernworld.com; see how great I am at attribution?) said it well in a twitter to me about the corporate compliance site and reddit: "traffic whoring off content created several layers down the line is American ingenuity at work, circa 21st century."

Note 1:  I did post a higher resolution version of the "Cormac McCarthy's Toy Story 3 comic" on this blog (below), and when I tweeted  a link to it, that link got almost as much attention and traffic as Ebert's did, so I ended up with nothing much to complain about there.

Note 2:  Someone from corporatecomplianceinsights.com did contact me Friday afternoon to very nicely apologize and offer to take the comic down. 

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