September 20, 2000
8:51 AM   Subscribe

I like this site, but it looks an awful lot like this other site. Have you no respect for the property of others, Stewart? Must you steal to make yourself feel good?
posted by ericost (29 comments total)
Please don't miss Stewart's related essay: Why does this site look like Google?
posted by ericost at 8:54 AM on September 20, 2000

oh you wacky stewart. oh you wacky eric. i'll get the obligatory "Word imitated Yahoo last year" reference out of the way, so folks can focus on what stewart has done.
posted by Zeldman at 9:07 AM on September 20, 2000

for a long time now, I've been wanting to do a whole page to look like Windows bluescreens.

I'd coded a couple before realizing that I was slowly starting to go insane at the thought of my PC constantly looking as if it'd crashed while previewing my site.

besides, I'd figured it'd be too annoying to stand, so I stopped. odd, the things that come to you near three in the morning.
posted by SentientAI at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2000

To continue on your tangent, SentientAI, I point you to this 404 blog.

posted by ericost at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2000

A few years ago there was a site that used javascript to bring up a full-screen Windows-like bluescreen. Anyone remember the name that site? I know it's probably been done on numerous sites, but the site I'm remembering did the whole crash thing in a clever way. Sorry, but I don't remember specifics at the moment.
posted by gluechunk at 10:01 AM on September 20, 2000

Try doing a search, it's interesting to see the "conent" change, while most of the layout remians the same. Virtually seamless transistion, this could be helpful as visitors do not have to learn a new interface. Jacob Neilsen/Microsoft.NET would be happy, all sites look the same, only the content changes...
posted by riffola at 10:12 AM on September 20, 2000

A couple of points:

1) I applaud Stewart for what he is doing. I think it is noble, enlightened, interesting, and otherwise cool to be so free with one's own creations, and the google prank is a good way to bring attention to these issues. Likewise, I appreciate the extent to which Zeldman and others like him have been free with their time and knowledge, sharing freely with others who want to learn from them. But,

2) I wonder if the level of success a person has attained has a direct correlation to the degree to which that person is willing (able?) to be free with his/her creations and time. If you are a recognized leader in your field, it is actually easier to loose the reigns; you have less to lose by giving away your work and knowledge, as recognition for each individual piece of work becomes less valuable in relation to the overall reputation of the person. On the other hand, a young unproven designer has a long, tough road ahead, and recognition for their work is much more valuable as they struggle to build that reputation.

3) Successful people who cling greedily to their position and creative work may suck, but successful people who are free with their time, knowledge and creations are a blessing, and should not be taken for granted.
posted by ericost at 10:35 AM on September 20, 2000

taking off stewart's idea, the question here for me is, is this the "correct" design for a home page? I am all for satire and using good design where applicable, but is the output of a search engine the best design for a personal home page? the layout is confusing here.
posted by bison at 10:52 AM on September 20, 2000

Stewart's point number 9:

"Jouke Kleerebezem got me thinking about designing for searchers. This little exercise does nothing towards advancing on that idea, but it has been in my mind for quite a while now: 'Now we know how to compose for a listener, how to write for a reader, how to build an interface for a user and how to cater to a client; but how will we author for a searcher?'"

is brilliant.

The other reasons bring up some interesting questions. Stewart alludes to "found objects" on the net, a concept I've never heard mentioned before. I suppose the whole thing is an exercise in what is and is not inspiration and/or theft.
posted by mathowie at 11:01 AM on September 20, 2000

ericost - lighten up - the guy's just goofing around with his personal site. It's not like he's hijacking Google's design for a commercial venture. Many people have done the same with Yahoo!'s design. It's like the t-shirts with a Coca-Cola logo, which if you look closely, says "Como-Caca." It's about sampling commercial art as pop art.

Besides, his very first article addresses the "theft" question. Did you bother to read anything on the site before condemning his character?
posted by Tubes at 11:15 AM on September 20, 2000

Did you bother to read anything on the site before condemning his character?
Actually, I thought that Eric was praising Stewart.
successful people who are free with their time, knowledge and creations are a blessing, and should not be taken for granted.
posted by Avogadro at 11:35 AM on September 20, 2000

Tubes, you can't be serious, can you?

He's a punk ass thief, and that's all there is to it. And you're as bad as he is for defending him. You just don't get it do you?
posted by ericost at 11:36 AM on September 20, 2000

I should point out a few things:
  • When I was falling asleep last night I all of a sudden thought: "Oh - what if I take a picture of a friend and someone uses it in an ad for guns or communism or something else horrible?" Seriously, now I'd be afraid of putting pictures of friends on there; these issues are really complicated. I'm just encouraging thought about them is all.
  • I don't want to come off as (reverse) holier-than-thou: I support other creators' (reasonable) actions to profit from, protect or otherwise control the use others make of their creations as well as businesses' (reasonable) measures to the same effect. For example, I think Zeldman here is being perfectly reasonable here and I don't think it is morally permissible to mislead or deceive through lack of attribution, etc. (though I don't think we need laws against all things which are immoral).
  • The thought that Matt thought was interesting was Jouke's, not mine.
  • People tend to lump all kinds of things that under the heading of copyright which aren't, and fail to distinguish between art, design, discursive writing and lots of other things which need to be distinguished to make any progress in discusssing intellectual property. Most of the analogies I hear are terrible.
  • I loved it when Word did it (Word is underrecognized, btw) and I loved that we never really found out why. Note that the idea (copying another site's design for satirical/humorous purposes) is itesef unoriginal.
posted by sylloge at 12:11 PM on September 20, 2000

sylloge: of course there was a part of it which was unoriginal. If an idea were wholly new, the rest of us would be unable to understand it until we'd experienced the same numinous flash that created the idea. Don't diminish the creative effort involved...

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:26 PM on September 20, 2000

I consider this perhaps the most brilliant weblog design I've seen all year. Certainly it's a lark; I don't see it as being a useable format for a weblog ... necessarily. Certainly not for my weblog. But there's a lot of room for variant style. Often an artist finds that by constraining himself in some way, he can -- or is forced to -- more effectively communicate his ideas.

For long-term use I would certainly replace most of the google links and buttons with appropriate site-specific analogues. As a design exercise, though ...
posted by dhartung at 12:53 PM on September 20, 2000

gluechunk, I think it was the Cult of the Dead Cow site from a while ago. Think they used a java applet.
posted by dithered at 1:17 PM on September 20, 2000

I don't really see what the commotion is about.

But it's cute. Very cute. Maybe I'll do my site up like Ask Jeeves next. Or maybe Persian Kitty.
posted by Succa at 2:21 PM on September 20, 2000

Very clever, that Stewart. It takes a lot of love and care – a lot of craft, en effet – to sculpt an effective satire from a putrefying mound of butter or a brick of ice. (Anyone remember the National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody? I said Sunday Newspaper, not High School Yearbook.) Despite Stewart's dressing it up in copyright circumlocutions, his googlification is merely a publicity stunt. While I don't mean that as a strong criticism (I swear), 5K this ain't. One readily imagines his Eudora snatchbox overflowing with new luncheon invitations.
posted by joeclark at 5:12 PM on September 20, 2000

> luncheon invitations

Stewart, you big publicity whore. How dare you publish things on the Web. (will you have lunch with me? how's next thursday look?)

But really, what's wrong with that? I mean, the guy's gotta eat, doesn't he?

And don't most people do what they do on the Web for luncheon invitations? Hell, the whole Web revolves around lunch.

Oops, gotta go. My snatchbox is calling...
posted by jkottke at 5:53 PM on September 20, 2000

Actually, the greatest thing about having a personal site is all to interesting people one gets to have lunch with, since "hey, want to have lunch?", addressed to someone who would —pre-net— be considered a stranger is perfectly reasonable if they also maintain a website. We're all brethen in tcp/ip.

But jesus Joe, the 5k was a good idea; I don't have to better myself all the time. This isn't art or a statement about anything. In the middle of the night, I thought it was funny. Once it was finished, it made me think about some things which I wrote down. Just, as they say, "fucking around". (Anyway, it's all publicity stunts.)
posted by sylloge at 6:54 PM on September 20, 2000

Are my eyes deceiving me??? ericost developed a sense of humor? And being the straightman for Syllogue???

Good one guys... I LMAO!!!!!! :0)

PS: I don't see the resemblance.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 7:49 PM on September 20, 2000

I want to get back to a point raised by Mr Glish:

I wonder if the level of success a person has attained has a direct correlation to the degree to which that person is willing (able?) to be free with his/her creations and time.

I would say, instead, that the degree to which a person is willing to be free with his/her creations and time is the degree to which he/she will attain success in this medium.

Some people are famous for being famous. Some are famous for being good. But many attain some kind of stature simply by being free with their creations and their time.

Would Blogger be as loved as it were sold for cash money? It would still be as good, but it might not be as popular nor as beloved. The GESTURE of giving it away is recognized as generosity, and generosity breeds friendship and respect.

Many of the people we recognize now began in complete obscurity, like the hypothetical "young designer in need of recognition" to whom you allude.

How did these people attain recognition? By writing tutorials and giving them away online. (Project Cool, Webmonkey, etc.) By creating tileable desktop patterns and giving them away free (Heather Champ, Doc Ozone, etc.).

By giving away DHTML source ( and Flash source (Praystation).

etc. etc. I'm not saying these things weren't good to begin with. Nor that they wouldn't be just as good if they hadn't given away resources and time.

But because they WERE giving things away, and because new Internet users and beginning homepage builders are always searching for free graphics, snippets of source code, tutorials, and so on, the people who gave those things away became known via search engines, word of mouth, and gratitude links on personal sites.

And it still works. Not that anybody does these things to attain fame or fortune; they do these things because it's fun. It's kind of karmic, really. You make stuff to amuse yourself or teach yourself; you give it away in hopes of helping someone else; and it flows back to you as linkage and respect.

::: And yeah, the lunch thing is cool too.

::: And besides seeing Glish play straight man, it's nice to see Joe doing likewise. Of course, the problem with online conversations is not everybody knows when your tongue's in your cheek.
posted by Zeldman at 1:42 AM on September 21, 2000

I think you are right Jeffrey. But I'd say people aren't often recognized just for being generous. What you're giving away has to have some merit. You have to be free AND good. Blogger is not only a generous gift to the community, it is a great tool; Glassdog not only provides free tutorials, it provides extremely intelligent, helpful commentary and information.

But your point is well taken.

posted by ericost at 7:53 AM on September 21, 2000

Free AND GOOD. I think I mentioned that. In the case of Blogger, Lance's tutorial, Heather and Kitty's images, etc., that's definitely true. It's good AND it's free.

Though it's amazing, the fan base you can also build up by giving away crap.

Remember the NSCA "background tiles" page? Basically, somebody ran KPT filters for a couple of days, thus generating skrillions of perfectly hideous background tiles resembling "fire" and other popular visual memes. It was impossible to use these images as backgrounds and expect your text to be readable. Nonetheless, the site was immensely popular, and these background tiles were all over the web in the mid-90s.

... which may be what inspired Heather and Kitty to create mo' betta background tiles. It certainly inspired me to create the Disturbing Patterns I gave away for years. (That section of has since been closed. 'Cause, jeez, it was lame. But in spite of its lameness, it too was quite popular.)

Giving away good work is the best idea; but giving away crapola seems to work, too. No accounting for taste, and all that rot, eh, Eric old bean?

When giving away dogfood, it helps to be first. In "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again," the point is made that in Hollywood, if you can't be best, you can win by being first. Seems to apply to this realm as well.
posted by Zeldman at 11:31 AM on September 22, 2000

Hey, Ericost?

Nice troll, there, man. :-)
posted by baylink at 1:14 PM on September 22, 2000

Baylink: OUCH! Was that a troll? I was trying to be droll.

Zeldman: Agreed. Free crap is actually quite popular in other realms also. What do they call it in the sales promotion biz? Trinkets and trash?
posted by ericost at 11:32 PM on September 22, 2000

The karmic difference is:

When marketers do it and KNOW it's crap, they're treating the rest of humanity as a demographic to be talked down to. It's an elitist perspective.

Whereas, when web folks create ugly background tiles, free beveled HOME PAGE buttons, and such, they usually don't realize their work is ugly. They're not talking down to their audience, they're talking TO their audience.

What I've just said sounds elitist, too. But I've done ugly work myself (probably still do). And I also did my time in advertising. I've looked at clouds from both sides now.

Uh, as to your actual question about the name marketers give this: if I ever knew it, I've blocked it.
posted by Zeldman at 12:44 AM on September 23, 2000

If you want to enter one of those other realms, try perusing People live to get free stuff, no matter what it is. If you're really interested in this psychology, take a look at their discussion boards (the "Look What I've Found" board is a good place to start).

A free gift we were offering on our museum site was posted by someone on this board. We were DELUGED with requests.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:25 AM on September 23, 2000

Isn't it fun and revealing to watch one A-list blogger d00d, Jason Kottke, race to the defense of another A-list blogger d00d, Stewart Butterfield? The pecking order of the bloggeur demimonde remains in full effect. (I write this having read Backup Brain's recollections of Fray 4, and her brave act of outing the naked elephant plunked amidships in “the Weblog community.” This in itself should be a SXSW topic. Sharpen your pencils, everybody, and shine up that "There are no barriers to entry and all Webloggers are equal" platitude/diversionary tactic.) ObFree-n-Good: I am very big on giving shit away. Occasionally, however, I like to be paid for my work. It's important to respect both imperatives.
posted by joeclark at 5:48 PM on September 26, 2000

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