User Friendly tells the story of Columbia Internet, "the friendliest, hardest-working, and most neurotic little Internet Service Provider in the world." Take three techs, two salespeople, a designer, two executives, a couple of administrative staff, mix in a mischievous Artificial Intelligence and a "dust puppy" born from the innards of a mega server, put them all together in a crowded little office, and you have the makings of one of the most off-beat, original, and funny comic strips to come along in years.User Friendly reads like Dilbert for the open-source community. Already in syndication in The National Post, one of Canada's leading national newspapers, and with a massive online following, it provides outsiders a lighthearted look at the world of the hard- core geek, and allows those who make their living dwelling in this world a chance to laugh at themselves.
|Publisher:||O'Reilly Media, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||8.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.36(d)|
About the Author
J.D. "Illiad" Frazer is the CIO and Creative Director for userfriendly.org, the leading IT-oriented cartoon site on the Web today. J.D. is a frustrated elk-herder who fell into cartooning because nobody else is brave enough to make fun of some of the most intelligent, devious, and powerful people in the world. He is a member of the National Cartoonists Society and continues to fly all over hell's half-acre delivering keynote speeches and half-baked opinions to bewildered audiences at conferences. He is an advocate of open source computing, an opponent of anything that legislates what people should think, and gets into a lot of trouble when he's left alone in nuclear power stations.
I'm not entirely certain what motivated me to pick up that pen and start scrawling the first User Friendly cartoon at work. I had been watching and participating in the office antics for years, and had never before felt any urge whatsoever to draw pictures of my coworkers in compromising positions. Suddenly, it just seemed to be the thing to do, and away I went. All of the characters fell into place, because they all existed in real life. The dynamics were there, the personalities were obvious, and all of a sudden I had a fullblown cast.
The stories and jokes came readily. We were a happy bunch playing games like Quake in the office those days anyway, so I found the humor right in front of my face. Stef's complaints about Greg's priorities vaguely mirror what happened in reality, and Stef's conversion to playing Quake also took place for real. Of course, not all of what has developed in User Friendly is exactly based on reality; I felt I had to inject some creativity into it to justify my involvement.
For instance, Pitr's real-life analog actually has an Estonian heritage (Estonian isn't at all Slavic, it's closest to Finnish), but the blatantly fake Slavic accent affected by Pitr was too campy to pass up.The Smiling Man's analog doesn't really smile all day, he just smiles when he wants to get your panties in a knot. And Erwin and the Dust Puppy . . . well, I won't get into how much reality is involved with them, for reasons of national security.
I had originally drawn the Dust Puppy in the late 70s, when I was just a kid. In the mid-80s, I actually drewabout two dozen cartoons for a strip that I simply called "Dust Puppies;' which was about an eight-year-old boy named Timmy and the strange fuzzy creature born from the dust balls under his bed. I submitted my cartoons to about half a dozen syndicates, and of course all I got back were rejection slips. I shelved the cartoons and resigned myself to a life of corporate servitude.
It's now more than a decade later, and here I am with my first book and a huge audience of fans without the help of the syndicates. And all of it came from some strange conceptual seed in my head that decided to sprout at that particular moment.
Many people consider the seed from which ideas spring to be a rare and valuable item. I suppose at some level it is, but for the most part, I believe ideas come easily-it's their execution (in terms of time, equity, money, or effort) that is the hard part.
Someone once told me that working as a cartoonist must be a really cushy gig. "Draw funny pictures all day? You have it easy." I took the time to explain that what was involved was a production deadline once a day, every day, 365 days a year. He gave me a glassy-eyed stare, then started laughing. "Man, it sucks to be you:"
But you know, I'm not complaining! Doing this cartoon strip is immensely rewarding and tons of fun. I take great pleasure in making people laugh, from quiet smiles to hysterical screaming belly howls.Taking jabs at large, arrogant corporations and idiotic governments also has its own rewards. But the best payback, the one that has emerged out of left field and ambushed me, is the tremendous support of a very large and very loyal community.
This community is, thanks to the Internet, truly global. For example, there are regular readers in Israel, Brazil, Iceland, New Zealand, Romania, Qatar, and Greece, to name just a few. At one point, the site was getting several daily hits from Antarctica! One of the most rewarding aspects is the number of different kinds of people who seem drawn to the strip-everybody from an 81 year-old woman ("Finally, something on the Internet I can relate to!") to a nine year-old girl ("Dear Mr. [Iliad, please send me a real-life Dust Puppy.Thank you.").
Ultimately, it's comments like the ones above that make drawing User Friendly so worthwhile. One letter I get over and over goes something like:"Illiad, thanks for the cartoons. You make me smile on Monday mornings." I've received thousands of versions of that sentiment, and I never get tired of reading them.
Making people smile is the greatest reward I could ever have-and I want to thank you all for your letters, for reading my book, and for laughing at my drawings.