Imitation and flattery

A lot of people would say, “imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” And it sounds really great, knowing that people try to emulate you and your work. However, there are times when you end up grabbing too much of someone else’s ideas, and you don’t realize you’re already shouting another person’s creed.

In web design, the best get imitated. A lot. Look at Zeldman. Only God knows how many aspiring designers do File > Save Page As... on his site, every single day. If you go through Dave Shea’s CSS Zen Garden, and then browse through Scriv’s CSS Vault, you know that design ideas really do get around. But almost everyone knows how to expound inspirations, and somehow make it their own.

A few days ago, I got an email from someone in Malaysia asking if he could use the CSS producing the dots–and–arrows link styling on this site. But when I visited his site, it turns out he was already using them—colors, graphics, hover behavior and all. I promptly replied asking that he can use my work as an inspiration, but to please use different graphics and colors. And change them he did—he tinted them with another color.

And as I scanned around his site, it turns out this guy is one big fan of mine. Not that I’m good, maybe he’s just lazy and decided to copy a few details from a few good sites, mine included. I was thinking, “maybe I’m famous enough now so I’ll just let it pass.” But I changed my mind.

First of all, go read my about section, specifically the second paragraph of that page. Done? Now read this. I know my about section is now outdated, but that’s not the point, right? So, can he really do that? The following graphic illustrates my first point.

About pages.

And we’re just getting started. A few months ago, when I felt all in–love and mushy, I posted lyrics of Ric Segreto’s Loving You, with matching dedication. Of course it’s pretty clear that I don’t own the copyright to the words of the song, but do you really think he’d think of the same song one day after I posted them on my weblog? What are the chances that he knows a song made popular only here in the Philippines, and many years ago at that?

Loving you, twice?

Now let’s try diving deeper. Let’s say, stylesheet deep. rev2.css is my stylesheet, and kinki.css is his. I have another graphic below, with brief snippets of code. Similarities? Or copy–and–paste magic? Look at his comment form in the entry pages—familiar, right? And then my style rules for the increasing/decreasing textarea (made famous by Dunstan), what is it doing in his code when it’s not used at all?

CSS snippets.

It turns out, he’s also into photography. He even uses iPAP, and wrote to let us know. Too bad he changed the generator meta tag. But that code is GPL, so maybe I should let it pass.

I know that maybe in a few hours I’ll realize I’m overreacting, and we all go through this stage. Yes, I do save the best pages and study their code. But never to the point of uploading them to a webserver, and use it in a public environment, like in a weblog. Personally, I’m more offended about the grossly reused content than the design aspect of things. My friend, learn from this experience and move on. You are way much better than that.

38 Responses

  1. You’re so right — every site should be unique, even though some ideas can be used on thousands of websites. This guy’s site is just too much inspired by yours. Hell, he even just copied the about page and slightly modified it to make it match his life — imagine he wouldn’t have done that.
    Too bad he’s not hotlinking to your CSS files; that might’ve resulted in FUN.

    Don’t worry too much about it though, I think you’re famous enough on the internet — people will notice, even without reading this post.

    You’re dealing with this in a very calm way, which is good. I wouldn’t be able to do that, I’d just be too pissed I’m afraid. Actually, I’m being text-copied by this tw*t named BertHimselF (he wouldn’t even have that nickname if it wasn’t for my email address). He just keeps on posting senseless comments on my site, which sometimes cause me to visit his site. And then, when I read the about page (well, about all pages that contain English on that ass’s site), I experience about 10 deja vu’s a kilobyte.

    P.S.: The links “Dave Shea’s CSS Zen Garden” seem not to work (yet?).

  2. I gotta admit you have influenced me deeply as well. one look at my site and the amazing impact you have had on me is obvious (i’m kidding about the imitation part.)

    looks like you have your first psycho love child on your hands.

    i’m sorry. they suck.

    but can you feel the love in his wishing he was you? taking your wirl as his template completely? he’s obviously reading you daily, and feeling you deeply.

    perhaps he needs medical attention?

    then again, i pass by daily to see what’s going on. i was hurt for you when your heart was broken. i dig the lyrics you post. still, only iPAP has made it’s way from your site to mine.

    me wil zijn server roosteren?


  3. I particularly like the little message in his footer:

    Duplication of any material on this site without author’s consent and attribution is expressly prohibited.

    Granted—his blog’s attractive, but the similarities are almost unbearable. I wonder if Pirated Sites would say anything, if you presented them with your write-up.

  4. Hey, thanks guys. Yes, his blog looks quite good. Sadly, he chose to use some of my content instead of taking it from his heart, or brain, or whatever part of his body — I don’t really care. That is what really bothers me most.

    I’ve seen my site copied on other people’s domains, but obviously it appeared that they were keeping them to study the code, and not to publicize to the world. This, on the other hand, is a different thing.

    Sad, really sad.

  5. Oh dear. Even his comment thingie is a carbon copy of yours. What a loser!!! Sana bumangon si ric segreto sa libingan at hilahin ang paa niya… Hehehe! πŸ˜‰

  6. me wil zijn server roosteren

    → Me too.

    Let’s wait ’til that guy comes over and reads this post. (Maybe he already did, but just ignores it.) Maybe he’ll let us know his thoughts. After that, you can still report his site as “Pirated Material”.

    Again — you’re being very nice to this dude, which I couldn’t do.

  7. me wil zijn server roosteren

    fernando, MaThIbUs: Sorry but I don’t speak or recognize that language. What does that exactly mean? πŸ˜‰

    Monch, thanks for dropping by. Hilahin ni Ric Segreto papunta sa ilalim ng lupa? Hahaha. Nakita mo ba picture nya, mukhang ewan? πŸ˜‰

    I guess we’ll have to wait for the week to start before we hear from him, if he intends to get in touch at all. Anyway, I’ve done my part now, let’s just cool down and enjoy the better things in life — like sleep on a Sunday afternoon. πŸ™‚

  8. “Sorry but I donÒ€ℒt speak or recognize that language. What does that exactly mean? ;)”
    Iemands server roosteren: to roast/frie someone’s server. So they are saying that they really want to fry the dude’s server, to which I only can say: Amen!

    BTW, fernando. How do you know Dutch?

  9. i speak a number of languages. helps to be discrete from time to time, as dutch is an all but obsolete language. rarely identified, and poorly translated by machines.

    however, in this instance i wasn’t making any attempt at discretion.

    : )


  10. Ano ba yan nagmalaki pa na hindi siya nagtatago at nag-email pa daw siya? Hay ang ewan niya pramis. Sana man lang ay naglagay siya ng credit sa site mo, or kung may mga templates kang puwedeng icustomize (i.e. eris free ata [generator, the one I am using kasi wala akong alam sa CSS] saka yung sa sa alex king ata yun).

    Anyway ganda naman kasi ng template mo, ang linis linis kaya ayan… Hehe.

  11. Oh yeah! What a nice post. I admit, Im one of your fans…I like everything in your website even your website is on on my favourites list for me to learning about CSS from a few years ago and its make me more happy after you got something that i wanted before this..the IPAP, Yes i like it.. thanks.
    Well, maybe I admired the way you manage your site/journal/writing/photography too much.

    But the way you post about me/site, its like Im ripping 100% of your site? REALLY?…thats awesome and thats make me sad too. Maybe you can call me a ripper? Yeah do it πŸ™‚

    Okay, guys. you can blame me if you liked…as long its make you happy. PEACE!

  12. Faizal, I’m glad to hear that you’ve been one of my long–time visitors. Sadly, that is not the issue here. To hear that I’m one of your inspirations in learning CSS is truly a flattering feeling, no sarcasm or ill–meaning at all.

    There isn’t really much of an issue with iPAP, I’m even delighted how you managed to integrate it well with your site’s design. That app is released under the GPL, and we all respect that.

    If you read what I wrote, never did I call you a ripper, or suggest that you’re stealing my design as a whole. Unfortunately, I cannot dictate how other bloggers, designers, and friends should react. In fact, I’m quite amazed at myself not feeling too bad about this, me being such a volatile spirit. You owe it to everyone, not just me. My work is an integration of the best ideas out there, and I can proudly say I have contributed my own ideas as well.

    What really bothers me is that you’ve been taking my content and using it without permission. You could have written your about section in a much better way, I’m sure of that. And the fact that you re-posted “Loving You” a day after me is another sad, sad thing. I did not write the song, but I was expressing something I felt that very moment. I just hope you felt the same way, similar enough to justify re-blogging it on your site. To sum it up, you were taking things I wrote, and felt. It’s like cloning a heart, duplicating emotions, and you don’t want that.

    Faizal, stop feeling bad and do the right thing. You have a nice design going out there, work on it and change what must be changed. I know you’re good, just grab some direction. Next time you need something, don’t be afraid to ask.

  13. ok lang yun markku… tinginin mo naman yung welcome quote sa taas ng blog nya

    “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.” — Tim Hansel

    maybe he’s trying to see lang if you can also AVOID joy πŸ™‚

    and you need not call him a ripper (grim ripper would be bad trip) anyway… it’s enough that you pointed out the UNCANNY similarities in your blogs… who knows, this might prove that you’re channeling each other’s thoughts… and thereby pave the way to supernatural proof πŸ™‚


  14. Delish, deep nung analysis mo ah. Thanks for dropping by. πŸ™‚ Bakit pala hindi ka na pumunta dun sa metro badminton nung wednesday? Nandun ako, sumama ako kay Joey. Finally met some people from DMC, MTC. πŸ˜‰

  15. delish sis…haha inspired by griffin and sabine ba? haha

    markku..bad trip yan. pasalvage k o na? haha kiddin. ung skin ng blog ko hindi akin eh, nakuha ko sa…pero nakalagay naman kung sino tlga gumawa..

    mashado ka lng nyang idol. sali nga ko sa fans club mo…yahu. ayusin mo nga blgo ko. hahaha

    eniway..twas nice to finally meet u last wed. andaldal mo pla hehe

  16. Gaget, naayos ko na. πŸ™‚ Ako madaldal? Ano ba sinabi ko nun? Hahaha.

    Ganda naman blog mo ah, di ko nga lang nagsusulat. πŸ˜‰ Sige sali ka sa fans club ko, magpapa-raffle ako ng kotse. Saka hotdog sandwich galing dun sa 7-11. Wehehe πŸ™‚

  17. pre, anong gusto mong gawin ko? baka pede nating ipa-hmmm, bahala ka kung ano.. heheh joke lang.

    anyway, mas bilib naman ako sa lahat ng gawa mo. keep on doing a great job. hats off to you!!!

  18. “…it’s like cloning a heart, duplicating emotions…” naks πŸ™‚ i agree, duplicating content is creepy. i wonder kung may gf ba talaga siya…

  19. scary naman that guy! hehehe. it’s nice to know there are people who like and adore our works, right? pero pag ginaya na, ibang usapan na nga naman yun.

  20. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but ripping things off is just inexcusable. I’ve had to deal with this a few times and granted, I love the fact that decent people ask before they lift certain aspects of your design or content. However, it doesn’t mean just because you’ve asked you are automatically, by some grace of the almighty, allowed to use material protected by Creative Commons. Depending on the stipulations of the license, you most likely will always need to provide credit where credit is due and always consult with the designer (or creator) if you plan on deploying their work.

    It’s an insult to the designer when someone blatantly uses their work without permission or credit. It’s a slap in the face and as I stated before, inexcusable and above all indecent. There is a reason why copyright, trademark and licensing exists.

  21. Man, that sucks!

    Some people have no self-respect at all. Pati ba naman reference sa girlfriend kailangan pa kopyahin?

    Kaawa naman siya.

  22. kartooner, thanks for that nice insight. I just read your weblog today and saw that you’ve also encountered something like this recently. In my case, it is quite an unfortunate situation because I don’t have any of my content or design under the Creative Commons or similar licenses. Only iPAP and my WP plugins are distributed under the GPL.

    Everyone thanks for all your comments, it’s nice to hear from all of you, varied opinions and all. πŸ™‚

  23. Whoa! I was talking to Trebs last night about blogs and all and I mentioned that I visit your blog every once in a while. He told me of the person who has copied your design and content and I was shocked. Then again, your site design is great^_^ Malamang wish lang talaga nung guy na yun na template ng blogger or blogskins yung design ng site mo.

    But it gave me the creeps when I read the comment by Fernando “looks like you have your first psycho love child on your hands.” Baka nga ganun na yan…

    Ano yan? Stalker?

    Freaky… *shudders*

    By the way, I heard the mp3 of Nannette singing. Wow! Ang galing. It’s been a while since I heard her sing. I think it was the time na sumali ang SAVER sa Paskorus, este, Awitan, way back in 2001… I think.

  24. Hi Markku,

    I sent you an email yesterday, asking about your CSS. I was just worried that it may have been mistaken for spam, which you mentioned getting a lot of in your contact page, so I decided to leave you a comment here too, just to let you know.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!


  25. luma na itong topic na toh.. pero hihirit pa rin ako.. markku, ayon sa aking pagsusuri, crush ka nung gumagaya sayo!

    nakakaaliw nga eh! pero nakakairita pa rin. pati yung description about his gf, pareho sayo. baka naman pareho kayo ng gf at that time?

  26. first of all it’s my first time to visit your blog and i am fortunate to have been here..your layout and color scheme is excellent! sites like this inspire me to learn more and strive to be like you guys..i wish i had more time and talent..

    anyways, regarding the “copycat”..just by reading and comparing, i am enraged..i know how it feels coz i have experienced it too..not becoz im good but in my school..i have more skills than most students..hehe..anyways, the “copycat’s” a loser and he can go to web blogging hell..

    more power and more hits and posts to come! πŸ˜€

    P.S. Sali din ako sa fans club mo pwede? hehe

  27. Very interesting.. i just surfed on this site and even though the article was written several years ago it was funny to see is for sale and not copying anyone anymore.. hopefully the owner decided its time to move on.. unless he ripped some other peoples stuff and got caught now everyone knows he is a fake.

    good job!

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