Friday, October 29, 2010

The New Yorker's Cartoon Kit Judging on "Hiatus"

If you've been reading my posts labeled "Humour" you know I've been creating cartoons over at The New Yorker Magazine Online - in their Cartoon Kit widget - and publishing screen shots of my entries here.

Tal Almog, another contributor at The New Yorker Cartoon Kit series, and a commenter here, gave me the heads up on this "Ask The Author" webcast with The New Yorker's cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff that happened on October 27th 2010. Below is a screen shot of the top of the webcast where Tal Almog is first up, and asks The Question we've been asking around here for a couple of months...

Tal Almog
"Are the entries to the cartoon kit still being judged?"

Robert Mankoff:
"We have a temporary hiatus on the cartoon kit so for now they are not being judged. I feel there were some flaws in it that led to a lot random fooling around with the images which often got people into incongruity cul de sacs they couldn't get out of."

So for now... no judging. But the Cartoon Kit continues!

Looking through the online pages of The New Yorker today I see a New Cartoon Kit is highlighted in a promo on the photocontests/cartoonkit page! (The link to the new Cartoon Kit isn't up yet, but I assume it will be soon.)

Social Media is a leading edge idea still. The Cartoon Kit, and this blog for that matter, are a part of a great experiment that will determine what the future will look like in media. 'Doers' at times like these create reality - create law, and convention - more often now than at few other times in history.

As such, I was thinking that a group of us might choose the Cartoon Kits submissions we liked and publish them via screen shots anywhere we saw fit - with links back to the original submissions. Secondly, by linking all these places where we published, we would automatically create a group of 'finalists' - simply by the act of choosing, publishing and linking cartoons we felt were good. The idea is based on the 'echelons' in a wiki, like Wikipedia. The 'doers', the people who submit, discuss, edit, over time are eventually 'trusted' by a small but growing embryo in a higher echelon of the wiki; who then give more responsibility to newer 'doers' - because there so much work to do!

The hub of all this would have to be The New Yorker, where Cartoon Kit submitters who wished, would click on a "Be Judged by your Peers" button, that would provide the 'doers' with a customized link to include at the top of every cartoon re-published. Through a search engine those links would then be turned into the 'finalists' list, and then published by The New Yorker.

Then I could see The New Yorker's cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff being asked to judge from this much smaller group of 'finalists' towards a "Winners slide show" in The New Yorker Online.

Sound like win, win, win to me.

What do you think? Should we usurp the power? Seize the means of Cartoon Production and re-publish towards the people's good humour?



  1. Hi Michael, Your suggestion is very good. Note that not all of the webcast participants' statements/questions were actually posted, and in fact one of my "unposted" comments was mentioning the idea that users could be limited to maybe one cartoon a day---but that a user could "earn" the right to increase the number of daily entries if his/her cartoons are consistently judged to be of a certain quality. This could be done by peers (as you suggest) or perhaps by the NYker, given that they'd have fewer cartoons to worry about "filtering". It sounded from Bob's responses as if they want to also limit the ability to manipulate/distort the objects. It is true that the three of mine which they picked involved no manipulation of the props. But I thought there were a few good cartoons that did have prop-manipulation. In any event, I think it would be great if there were people who could filter out the chaff. There have been much more than 10,000 entries to the contest so far, but I think there are at least a hundred good cartoons in there [maybe even enough for a small book... :-)] The problem is sifting through all the junk! In theory, we could do this ourselves using nothing but links, but it's a big job!

  2. BTW, would you mind if I post a link to this on the the NYker's cartoon facebook page?

  3. Tal Almog,

    Facebook page, good idea. Go right ahead.

    I'll head over there an join up as well.

    On Friday I emailed an excerpt and links to one of the assistant cartoon editors. Hoping for some feed back this week.

    Prop manipulation - even with out the highly creative experiments I've seen - is key to creating perspective; I hope they leave it as is. People love the technology, let them play - a large enough crew of peer/editors is the key.

    Big job yes; but not if enough peer/editors become active. The great thing about user generated content structures is that network effects are exponential in nature - it's like the shampoo ad, and she told two friends... . People want to have there opinions counted, have some effect; among aspiring cartoonists I expect that characteristic will be magnified. If the NYker is on board with the "button" and an explanation - I sure we'll easily cover every entry in the early months of the experiment.

    How many then publish their favorites and thus create the finalists list, is the great unknown for me.


  4. Tal Almog

    Couldn't find the Facebook page you refer to. Could you leave a link?

  5. Sure, Here's the link directly from Facebook, below (It's called "The New Yorker Cartoons"). I think then it's best if you just join and link it yourself since its your own blog. I do agree that it would be better keep the freedom and just improve the system for getting the NYker cartoon editors only the "best" entries so they don't waste their time. Let me know how it goes and I will post here if I get any further feedback...-Thanks!/pages/The-New-Yorker-Cartoons/155328717825748

  6. Hi Michael, Just saw your link on facebook. It will be interesting to see what happens. In the webcast discussion with Mankoff, I agreed with him that the "freedom" of the cartoon kit was responsible for many people creating elaborate drawings and then trying to "justify" them with unworkable captions, rather than focusing (in Mankoff's words) "on the joke". In essence, I agreed with him that there needs to be a "restriction on freedom" to get better results. However, if given the choice, I would much prefer to keep the creative freedom and just strengthen the filter used to eliminate poor entries (mine included!). Good luck and hopefully something positive will come of this. I should ask my secretary to sort through all of the existing entries so that we can compile an online book! But I don't want here to strangle me while I'm asleep at my desk...

  7. BTW, I also posted this as a discussion topic here:!/topic.php?uid=155328717825748&topic=385

  8. I really like your suggestion.It's great to just join and link it yourself as its your own blog....Nice post buddy..You included very informative stuff...

  9. Tal Almog

    "..strangle me while I'm asleep at my desk... "

    Good one.

    Baseball is over so I'm desperately looking for something that distracts me well as it does; perhaps I'll just dive in and start publishing good cartoons, suggest a possible template, see where it goes...

    I saw the discussion group, good idea; see what we can do there, it could become the blog for the wiki.

  10. Sounds great. BTW, you picked one of the more difficult cartoon kits (the tennis one---I didn't even try entering it!). You might want to create a "backup" of your selection links somewhere (like your site) since you can't control what happens on Facebook. On the other hand, one can only hope that the NYker will keep the cartoon kit site "alive and linkable" too... -Regards

  11. Tonight I finally read the entire web-cast and it seems they are tending towards reintroducing it with limitations, as you said above.

    I'm hoping this attempt at expanding the role of the users - rather than placing more limitations on them - will win the day.

    I'm hoping that by seeing it in action they will morph the Cartoon Kit pages to enable it. Having it there at their Facebook page my scare them less that they're losing control of one of their key brands 'The New Yorker Cartoon'.

    Whatever happens, the links and all the 'work' (I had fun doing it) will be useless if they don't leave the other end of the thing up.

    The thing that has value to me, is the application of Web 2.0 theory in the 'real', virtual world. :)

    I might write an article about the attempt, and screen shots of the work in progress would be good. Good idea to get those sooner rather than later.


  12. Michael and Tal. Thanks for the discussion and effort to figure out the future of The New Yorker Cartoon Kit Contest. I look forward to the results as a contributor and viewer of the cartoons. Guilty of distortion and sometimes enjoying it. S.Kiesel

  13. Hi Scott. Yes, it will be interesting to see what they do in the end, i.e. how much freedom they'll give you (I know you were especially fond of it). In the meantime, I've started submitting cartoons directly to the New Yorker again, since I have no kit to keep me occupied! -Best

  14. Hi Scott and welcome!

    I totally missed these last two comments, now almost a month old, sorry.

    Some of the egregiously distorted images make for good cartoons imho. At The NYer's Facebook page, in the peer nominations I chose a couple, the steroid reference one comes to mind (just the sneakers of the for-ground player in the frame) was one (

    I think that the more latitude the widget allows, the more likely it is that a new form of cartooning will emerge in this new digital world.