Floppy & Cow: Making the internet safe again

Screen shot from Floppy and Cow video
Floppy and Cow

Meet Floppy and Cow, a couple of characters at UC Davis. One has an uncanny ability to misuse technology, sometimes in spectacular fashion. The other understands how tech works.

Together, they’ll appear this month in five short video comedies of woe and redemption that illustrate basic tech skills and/or good tech habits. Two were posted Oct. 10 on the IT Express Facebook page, with the rest to follow by the end of the month (YouTube versions here).

One video underscores the value of backing up your data. Another rebuts Floppy’s misplaced confidence that nothing could go wrong when he uses public Wi-Fi in a coffee shop to access his loan account.

Graphic designer/illustrator Mark Deamer and senior writer/editor Bill Buchanan created the videos this summer to promote information security, the IT Express Service Desk, the campus IT Knowledge Base, or some mix of these services and messages, to students. Deamer and Buchanan work for Information and Educational Technology.

Finding Cow

The real Floppy is a desktop-sized, battery-powered version of the inflatable, flapping, arm-waving spectacle you might see at a tire store, and Cow is a stress-relief squeeze toy. The toy cows have been a periodic campus giveaway—you might find one in a nearby desk or drawer at your office.

“That’s how we found Cow,” Deamer says. “We already had Floppy, which I had bought because it was so fun and ridiculous. But we needed a friend who could keep Floppy from haplessly destroying the internet. We wandered around the office, saw Cow on a cubicle desktop, and thought, ‘this should work.’ “

The videos look cheap and thrown together, by design. Deamer and Buchanan hope the technique amplifies the humor, but they also wanted to work quickly at no cost. They used tools and software they already had. Deamer did put considerable thought into the direction, details and pacing, drawing on his visual and design expertise and background in theater (he has won regional awards for stage design).   

Sharing for Cybersecurity Awareness Month

The Information Security Office is using the videos in its Cybersecurity Awareness Month campaign during October. Student Affairs Marketing and Communications, and other colleagues and friends on campus, will help share the videos to audiences much larger than IET would reach on its own.

Deamer provided the photography, visual direction, and the editing, recording, and production. Buchanan wrote the scripts. They developed the ideas and videos together, and each contributed a voice: Buchanan is Cow, Deamer is Floppy. They hope you enjoy the videos, and take the messages to heart. They’re confident that Floppy will. Eventually.