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.

comparison

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.