April 05, 2005

We are such stuff as memes are made on

Herewith, for anyone who may be interested, a brief history of BoringBoring.

As regular readers know, I am a wordplay dork, and constantly notice little word-related things (like the sign on the way to the Church Street F station that reads "Deval's" -- which is "slaved" backwards). So I noticed (or perhaps "re-noticed" is more correct) that "Boing" changes to "Boring" reeeally easily, and I thought I'd make a little fake Boring Boring logo in Photoshop. All the letters for "dull" were used in the word "wonderful" at the bottom of the logo, so changing that text was easy to do as well.

I hadn't really thought much about whether there was anything else to do with this idea. I vaguely thought it might be fun to do a parody site filled with links to deathly boring webpages, but I felt low on the requisite technical know-how. Then, in March, I was at a party at Jim and Alexandra's apartment, and I mentioned my half-formed idea to Jim, who immediately lit up. "That's a great idea," he said. "Have you registered the domain yet?" I hadn't, but he did (at least the one that was available), and suddenly the project was on.

It has always been the case that I work better when I am under deadline. So once the concept turned into something I was actually doing, I started cranking out material. I tidied up my half-finished logo, and e-mailed it to Jim. Rose suggested I recruit a Web designer friend of ours, Debby, into the project. I knew she'd be an asset, but it hadn't occurred to me how much of an asset she would be until I told her, "Yeah, I don't really know what to do with the jackhammer girl" and she turned around and made her a sleeping girl, complete with animated snoring.

I learned a lot about Photoshop last month. Many of the ad parodies were mine, and making some of them required me to learn new skills (like, I had to make most of the background of the Slep ad transparent when dropping in a new background image, so I wouldn't need to worry about the logo alignment changing; this is something I would not have had any clue about a month ago, so I felt pret-ty smooth about it). It took me several tries to tweak the Suicide Girls logo into something sufficiently studious. Using the logo from the actual BoingBoing ad didn't work, because it was too small for me to modify well enough. So I took the logo from the main Suicide Girls page instead, cropping the hair and adding glasses and a shirt, and left the logo a little larger than usual in the finished ad, the better for people to see the modifications.

A lot of people, once the site went live, wondered who was behind it. This guy checked to see who had registered the domain name (Jim, under a pseudonym) but was still, as of his last post on the subject, "looking for clues" as to who was behind the site. I guess his investigations didn't extend as far as, oh, clicking on all the "thanks" links on the page to see who they linked to, which might have given him some idea, especially after Jim and I confessed our involvement on both our blogs. And honestly, it was barely a secret in the first place. The folks at BoingBoing were onto us right away.

Of course, the fact that about 20 minutes after we got BoingBoinged in the first place, our server died a sad, choking death also had something to do with it. Jim speedily set up a mirror on his webpage and Xeni, savvy Internet person that she is, suspected that perhaps he might have something to do with the site, writing, "That, sir, is a brilliant piece of work. If you were involved in it -- man, our hats are off to you." At that point he rightly assumed that we would all rather bask in praise than maintain our semi-anonymity, and fessed up on all our behalfs, also pointing out the sekrit message hidden in the metadata, right after all the keywords:

[meta name="Keywords" content="arid, bomb, bromidic, bummer, characterless, cloying, colorless, commonplace, dead, drab, drag, drudging, dull, flat, ho hum, humdrum, insipid, interminable, irksome, lifeless, monotonous, moth-eaten, platitudinous, plebeian, prosaic, repetitious, routine, spiritless, stale, stereotyped, stodgy, stuffy, stupid, tame, tedious, threadbare, tiresome, tiring, trite, unexciting, unvaried, vapid, wearisome, well-worn, zero"] [meta name="Greetings" content="Hi Mark, Cory, David, Xeni and John. We kid because we love. But Josh, we're serious. Mod-u-late."]

When things were still going a bit haywire on the tech end of things, an entirely-unrelated-to-us fellow stepped in to take some of the heat off our server by setting up a mirror (which lacked some graphics, like the Studious Girls rollover). The thing I found most interesting about his mirror is that while most people posted his link as an adjunct to the regular boringboring,org address, quite a few people linked to it as if it were the real page. Odd. Sloppy.

I don't so much care that he posted the mirror -- it's not like he tried to claim authorship in any way -- but as a control freak, it bugs me that the copy of the page is imperfect. Also, his page doesn't include the update about "Cory's" (really Ernest Miller's) DMCA takedown notice -- which, incidentally, we could not have been more delighted to hear about, because it had actually been our plan from day one to add a post sometime on the afternoon of April 1 reporting that we'd been served with a cease-and-desist letter. Jim was going to write it, but then a real lawyer went and wrote it for us! Awesome.

Quite a few people got fooled by Ernest's follow-up joke, including this person. iZ Reloaded reader Roy was helpful enough to point out exactly one of the three people responsible for the site, apparently being too averse to research to read anything.

Anyway, the whole thing was lots of fun to do, and the collaboration went very smoothly. Big ups to Jim for getting slashdotted on his own blog (for uncovering the "toothing" hoax), thus keeping our BoringBoring hits alive -- almost up to 50,000 so far. Dude, that's already more than half as many total hits as my blog has gotten since it debuted a year and a half ago. Damn.

(Small update on the above over at Jim's blog.)

Posted by Francis at 12:30 PM

Haha. I was fooled, juz a lil. I did write in the posting if it was a april fool's joke. Needed Cory to write me an email to confirm it is.

Posted by: IZ Reloaded at April 6, 2005 12:19 AM

Just to clarify -- *I* didn't write the takedown. That act of genius came from Ernest Miller; I just linked to it.

Posted by: Cory Doctorow at April 6, 2005 06:01 PM

Thanks for the clarification. This is what happens when one hastily writes blog entries in between work-related tasks; vagueness creeps in. I did manage to imply that Cory didn't write the letter (since CINAL -- Cory is not a lawyer), but I should have been clearer. Have gone back and reedited.

Posted by: Francis at April 6, 2005 06:06 PM

The thing is? Now I really want a website where I can look at pictures of Studious Girls. It sounds great. It wouldn't even be porn, just nice geeky girls with glasses reading books and coding and stuff ... sigh ...

Posted by: john at April 6, 2005 08:16 PM

john: You have given me a good idea!!! LOL

Posted by: IZ Reloaded at April 6, 2005 10:34 PM

I wouldn't mind seeing the Studious Girls webpage, myself. ;-)

Posted by: Ralph at April 7, 2005 09:14 AM

And thus a fetish was born.

Posted by: Francis at April 7, 2005 09:35 AM

Yeah, cause, you know, it would be too much trouble to just head down to, say, the LIBRARY to look at studious girls.

Posted by: dave munger at April 7, 2005 10:25 AM