The Useless Sites of the Useless Web

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One Square Minesweeper is one of those projects that have sat in my todo list for a long long time, something that would be almost in a sense the fastest easiest game that you can win, but also lose equally easy.

Why A Single Square?

Ultimately I never really took to the game minesweeper, I had won the smaller one a few times but really liked the idea of one huge square being a single conglomerate mine. Initially I had it large but in the end it almost felt more comical when I could shrink it down to a very un-threatening one square.

 
How did you build this?

Truly I had been procrastinating on this for a while, and predominantly because pulling all of the images together that would look good and be in the retro style just seemed like one of those boring tasks I never do very well at, but fortunately I stumbled upon a fully open source minesweeper, which had a full set of assets that I could use as well as some clear layouts… once I had that it was more a matter of stripping out the unwanted functionality.

 
What is the win to loss ratio?

Ahh, sadly (or happily) it’s not something I’ve been tracking, but based on a few tweets that I’ve observed it seems pretty clear that a lot of people are straight up clicking the mine square not really remembering that in minesweeper you need a right click to flag the mine.

 
Is there anything else special about this project?

There is! The project was built and launched as part of Netlify’s Dusty Domains project, where for each project built and launched on an old domain money was donated to charity! Ultimately over a hundred thousand dollars was raised for a variety of individual charities.

 
Is there anything more to it?

Haha, absolutely not. One Square Minesweeper is open sourced although I guess all in all I would consider it ‘complete’

Somehow in my searches I had missed this wonderful site until recently Tania reached out to me! It’s hard to believe that such a magnificent site had gone under my radar for so long.

What got you into web development?

Back in 2015, I started experiencing these unpredictable episodes of excruciating facial pain. Sleep was impossible and late one night I came across The Useless Web. I became strangely obsessed with this quirky genre of art. When my mysterious agony was diagnosed as trigeminal neuralgia I was like “fuck it, now I’m going to work on whatever project I want to.”

 
What came first, the domain, the code or the pictures?

Emoji Kittens was the body of work that followed that diagnosis. It playfully juxtaposed classic kitten photography with emojis against minimal pastel backdrops. One of my favourite images in the collection was of a kitten sitting in the Apple doughnut emoji.

The domain and the code came along after I was introduced to a developer at a roller derby game. I told him about my idea to create a delightfully distracting website featuring the kitten in the doughnut slowly filling your screen with infinite pastel rainbows. He was into it and I purchased the domain the next day.
 
More on the kitten itself! How did you get it to create these crazy poses?

To capture the final photos we 3D printed a doughnut shaped prop and built a set that locked it into place. It was amazing. There was even a space under the prop that hid a little pillow for maximum kitten comfort. We’d sit the kittens in the doughnut and attempt to get them to look at the camera with all kinds of toys, treats, and weird sounds.

 
What was the hardest part of building Doughnut Kitten?

Photographing kittens takes a ton of patience. During auditions the adorable models would drift off to sleep in the prop, dive into it headfirst, and photobomb each other. They really just did whatever they wanted!

 
The biggest challenge was getting the kittens to look into the centre of the camera lens. Capturing a gaze that had that Mona Lisa effect, where the eyes appear to follow you as you move around the image, was rare.

 
What are you working on now?

I’m currently creating a new body of work called “There Was No Vaccine” that uses histology to magnify my own cervical cells. The collection will illuminate the mesmerizing cellular landscapes of the human cervix and the vivid mutations that are a consequence of HPV infection.

When you’re staring into this beautiful pug in a rug the world fades away and nothing else matters… at least, that’s what it felt like building this beautiful time waster. A true homage to the beautiful world of pugs, as well as some of the most time-consuming sites in existence.

First things first, is this your pug?

It is not! The original photo was found on Unsplash and is by Matthew Henry, he also has a large array of pugs within rugs that are all insanely cute and that are generously available under the Unsplash license! It was this particular pug in a rug that lay the inspiration for this useless website!

 
How many levels ‘of pug’ are there in pug in a rug?

As of writing, there are 19 different “levels of pug”, starting as a jr assistant, and quickly rising through the ranks you can eventually achieve hermit, lord, or even king of pug! That said, I’m not stuck to the 19, and have considered adding more layers of complication to your rise. But yes, for now: 19 levels.
 

Is there any special sauce in this site? How was it made?

Hmmm, special sauce. There are a few little nuances that were accidental that have had some surprising effects. At the moment when you’re sitting on the page accumulating your… I don’t know what I’d call them, “honoring pug points” you can grow levels. The thing is though if you’ve got the tab open but unfocused in another screen the counter will still continue to increase, but the browser will do some tricky business to make sure the tab isn’t taking up too many resources, which means the counter may miss its exact seconds counted to level you up… this results in lots of seconds without as many levels. A happy accident.
 

You can watch me make the pug in a rug here:

 

There’s also a second video where I make the whole experience a little more interactive! If you prowl through the videos or the code, you’ll be able to see some of the hidden levels of pug too!

 
So we have a horse, a pug, a pigeon, and cats… what animals are next on The Useless Web?

That is a good point, The Useless Web is a veritable zoo, often with these animal-based sites being some of the most popular out there. I guess at the end of the day these cute and weird animals are just catchy, funny, and memorable. There’s about animals that can really inspire people’s weird creativity as well!

If I were to say anything is missing, I’d say it’s frogs or turtles. I’ve got a couple of turtle ideas come to think of it, especially considering they’re known to be slow they’ll fit perfectly in my great desire of time-wastey simple fun. So I guess watch this space!

 
Any plans for the future of pug in a rug?

I’ve had a few ideas, potentially incorporating some different pugs in different rugs, or even branching out into different breeds of dog, but for now, I am loyal to the pug in a rug! I wouldn’t mind having some kind of tool to increase your count legitimately, but perhaps that energy is better spent on something new. Either way, watch this space I guess!

When I was building this site, I wanted to combine the idea of complete uselessness with the idea of absolute and complete time-wasting, as in, you could play this challenge for 3 hours and get into a tangle of a mess and come up none the wealthier, wiser or really anything positive… outside of bragging rights of course.

So, what were you thinking?

Not a whole lot if I’m to be honest. I wanted doge, as doge is eternal, but I’ll admit I looked at a bunch of other ASCII art before that. It’s not too tricky to tell that the site is modeled off and inspired by The Endless Horse (though not nearly as cool of a domain) which is one of my useless web favorites – As well as one of the first people I interviewed when creating this series. I also wanted some slight gamification, as though you’re going to drag on and on forever. Also a true challenge. It’s a good grab bag of motivations.
 

So how long does this challenge take?

A long long time. There are multiple steps that are easy to mess up, though I’ve made it a little easier recently, first and foremost you need to get 10-15 large “wows”, which appear very randomly (a very small chance for every regular “wow” you get)… After that, you’ll need to click specific wow’s (prime numbers starting from the top) to make them rainbow wows.

If you’ve rainbowed every prime number, you’ll unlock the next stage. I’ve seen a lot of videos of people collecting wows, but honestly never anyone past this part. I’m going to put together a video of how to complete the challenge… Will link it here if anyone gets past the prime section! The instructions are definitely a little obtuse, but with a little trial and error you can definitely figure them out!
 

How did you make it?

This one is straight-up static html, js and css… I recorded the initial build on Twitch and YouTube, so you can see the initial structure of the infinitely long head… or I guess neck in this case. I opted for infinite because there’s no really good ASCII body. Someone has sent a few from other dogs being converted into the style, but it doesn’t fit.

That said, after the video, I spent another 5-6 hours making a complicated and confusing maze of troubles to complete. It got so tricky at a time that I needed to make a few shortcuts for myself so I could test that it could actually be completed!
 


 

Truly it’s hard and long. If you’re VERY careful it can be quick.

 
Any future plans for the site?

It’s tricky to see, honestly, I’d love to build a leaderboard and things like that, but I really need people to finish the challenge first. And I’m not willing to compromise on the length and pain of the challenge. I guess there are some tips that I’d offer off, of course, if you make your screen smaller you’ll have a clearer more visible area to see the individual “wows”.