On Pitchers and Plagiarism

OK, let’s try this again.

Last night I put up a big long post about my website Name My Bar and the strangely similar hipsterbusiness.name. I was making the case that they had copied me. I had gone through the code of the second site and found many similarities; both sites work by picking words from one-syllable and two-syllable groupings, both have one main reload link (AGAIN vs ANOTHER!), both have a pithy comment (mine is a joke, theirs is a link where you can purchase domain names)…hell, even the javascript function that kicks off their code has the same name as my function.


My site appeared to have been live roughly five months before the “imposter” site. Slam dunk, right? They copied me, and I was really annoyed.

The hipster site had been covered on Adweek, and I had contacted the author asking if I could be named in the article as inspiration, but I was rebuffed. So I did some googling around for the site’s creator, who, as it turns it, had kind of an interesting set of search results for other reasons entirely. I’m not going to get into it here, but still. I typed up the crazy saga of how and why I thought my site had been copied, and I hit publish.

And then one of my coworkers sent me this: what appears to be an abandoned github account bearing the name of the site’s creator, and the bones of what eventually became hipsterbusiness.name. It’s a simpler version — the logo generator isn’t there yet, nor is the link where you can buy domains — but most of what I thought was suspicious is there. The two groups of words divided out by syllables are there. The function name is there. And it predates my site.

Do you listen to Radiolab? Do you know the story of Laura Buxton, the girl who once released a balloon that traveled 140 miles away and made it into the hands of another girl whose name was also Laura Buxton? I feel like I just got Buxtoned.

I don’t really know how to explain such a remarkable series of coincidences. When I was building my site, I wasn’t on github yet (and let’s be honest, I’m still pretty terrible at navigating it), and I don’t think I could have possibly googled my way to her hipster/index.html file. What would I even have searched for? And if I had found it…well, I wouldn’t have copied her code. I probably wouldn’t have made a site at all. I would have laughed that someone beat me to the concept, posted about it on Facebook, and called it a day.

My best guess at this point is this: we actually did come up with very similar versions of the idea independently. Hers seems to have languished for a year or so, and so I published my version first. Perhaps she saw its success and decided to dust off her own code. But I don’t know. Perhaps not. Maybe she really has no idea I exist.

When I started posting about hipsterbusiness.name on twitter, Darius Kazemi (who is something of a mentor to those of us working in this space) wrote up a little post about a time something similar happened to him; he launched a generator that turned out to be much like a project that predated his. When he found out, he tweeted about it and linked to their work. I think that’s the right thing to do, and so I am doing it. I still wish Adweek would have done it, honestly — it couldn’t have hurt their story to point out related work.

So that’s it. I’m calling this case closed. Now let’s all head down to the Wattle & Plug for a good stiff drink.

Fundraising Auction

I had a contractor come out to the house on Friday, and he worked up a plan for fixing my bedroom ceiling. To raise money for this project, I’m auctioning off all of the weird stuff I’ve found during demolition and basement cleanup. Bid confidently, my friends, knowing that you can own an authentic piece of Crap from Lauren’s House.

First up, one brick. Decent condition. Surprisingly red. Very much affected by the law of gravity.

Next, this pretty little lady who was found in a closet wall:

She has a personalized inscription on the back and was probably a gift from a high school friend of the woman who lived in the house before me. I guess I shouldn’t accept bids on this one. I’ll probably try to return it to her.

But this! This is worth bidding on!

C’mon, I know someone out there still has a carburetor. And couldn’t we all use a little brushing up on our grille identification skills?

Personally, I won’t date a man who can’t tell the difference between a ’67 Comet and a ’66 Fairlane.

And now we come to the weirdest, most disturbing Piece of Crap:

When I first saw this, I thought “Oh cool, vintage frame to steal.” Then I saw “hair lip.” And now I just don’t know what to think.

This is a reprinting of one of Benjamin Franklin’s records of patients admitted to the Pennsylvania Hospital in the 1750s. Which certainly sounds cool, but do you really want to walk past this thing in your hallway every day and ponder 18th century treatments for ulcers? (Maybe you do. If so, bid!)

Also, does that say “Palsy of the Bladder?” And prolapse of the — oh God, never mind. If I write the full phrase out, my blog will get traffic for all the wrong reasons.

Their cancer cure rate was quite remarkable, though.

So leave a comment and tell me what it’s all worth to you, readers! Construction starts on Monday.

Demolition, Day 3

Today started off well enough, save for the fact that I’m fiercely allergic to the drywall dust I’m kicking up in this here row home. Avoid dust and cats, my doctor tells me, which he must realize is completely impractical advice for anyone who isn’t living in a hermetically sealed chamber with no friends. If you have friends, they are cat people. I call this Mittens’ Law.

Anyway, my strategy for today was to don a dust mask and then wrap my face with a silk bandanna. It looked about as sexy as you think it did.

I finished removing the craft room closets this morning. Look at all the extra space I have! “Doesn’t look like much,” you’re probably thinking, but keep in mind that I took this shot while pressed up against the opposite wall. A few extra feet makes a difference in a space this small. The room could now accommodate a full size bed instead of just a twin, which I will remind myself is good for resale value as I repetitively flush out my nasal cavities with saline over the next week.

Eventually, when the drywall is patched and painted, I’ll reassemble my cheapo Ikea ANEDOBA wardrobe (created by the Ikea designer with the winning-est name, Tord Bjorklund) and use that for storage. In the extra space I’d love to include one of these convertible ottomans by Hollandia:

I’d use it as a dressing bench, but it also folds out to make a little bed! That’s about as close to a guest room setup as I’ll ever get. Unfortunately, it’s way out of my price range. A girl can dream…

While I was still swathed in bandanna I decided to tackle the drop ceiling in the master bedroom. This is where things got a little hairy.

I suppose I thought that the blue and poo ceiling was so ugly, whatever was lurking behind it couldn’t be that bad. But as I started pulling down the drywall boards I got a series of fun surprises.

Picture 085

The original ceiling is in really rough shape. It sags dramatically towards the middle of the room, and I fear that I (or my Dad and I, or a contractor and I) will have to remove it completely and start from scratch.

Additionally, the second ceiling was constructed… questionably. Is “questionably” is a good word to encompass the fact this beam appears to be suspended from a screw with florist wire? Also, as I yanked one of the panels down, the brick pictured above went sailing past my head. Perhaps the florist wire was necessary to counteract the weight of the brick booby trap. It all makes sense. If you’re a Collyer brother.

To avoid sleeping under that terrifying sagging disaster and to stay as far away from the dust as possible, I have set up camp in the dining room. The booze is practically an arms-length away! And I’m going to need it!

If you appreciate science…

…you should be listening to Radiolab. Which is something like a science-themed This American Life.

I have learned so many bizarre things from randomly downloading old podcasts of this show. Like, did you know that female ducks evolved a vagina with four re-positionable dead ends? It helps them ward off impregnation by boy ducks the ladies deem unworthy of reproducing.

The show on Emergence just explained both how a group of organisms can be collectively smarter than the smartest member of the group, and also why spamming certain websites with links to cheap Viagra is more profitable than you’d imagine. Yesterday, the show taught me that most of the connections from your ear to your brain actually run in the opposite direction. So if your ear is lacking a stimulus to transmit to your brain — like if you’ve gone deaf — it’s possible for your brain to send your ear hallucinations of music it remembers.

Crazy stuff, but every show I’ve heard so far has been fascinating. Check it out if you catch a free minute!

New timekill: the YouTube page of Seattle-based Salon of Shame, where writers get on stage and read aloud selections from their middle or high school compositions. There’s lots of diary entries, but also cringe-worthy poetry, creative writing, and “standup routines.” Personal fave: a woman reads from her journal about her High School nemesis, Anna. Her reading features the line “I still feel terrible, though. I feel like God took a mellon baller and scooped me out.”

All the twisted, emotional things you wrote as a kid and now feel totally weird about? Yeah. Everyone else was just as weird, if not weirder.

Sorry for the blogging silence. I don’t technically have an internet connection of my own (or cable, or a phone line — sorry Comcast!) . At home, I’m surfing on the free Wireless Philadelphia network, which connects me to my beloved interwebs at the blistering speed of 24Mbps. Actually, it’s only 24 when I sit up. If I lie down on the bed to write, it plummets to 2Mbps. Whatever — as long as it loads the Benjamin Moore color selector application, I’m golden.

Speaking of which, I’ve been messing around on the Benjamin Moore site for days as I try to come up with a color combination for my dining room. It’s a tough thing to do; the room has a chair rail, so I can pick two different wall colors, but it also had very bright orangey-blond cabinetry, a blue slate floor, and an awkward green countertop. Fitting all of that into one harmonious color family is, uh… challenging.

Luckily, Benjamin Moore has so many pre-loaded color combinations on their website to help me decide! Here’s a great one:

Thanks, painting experts! I’ve always wondered how I could make Halloween last all year.