The Useless Sites of the Useless Web

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This project is one of my own, combining my love of generative art as well as useless websites, with the goal to create a small and simple place for you to click about and enjoy a little bit of art… Here’s a little Q/A of my own to answer any and all questions as to the what’s and why’s about this project.
 

So, how did this all come about?

What is the idea behind Mondrian and Me?

It’s always funny when you decide to build something with very little purpose, of course its not completely useless, but ultimately I wanted to create a space to appreciate Piet Mondrians artistic style, while also allowing people to interact with their artwork in progress, and try to understand the small stylistic choices that went into each individual piece of art.

You can’t really “undo” any lines or decisions you make, so as you decide to create more and more the artwork will get more complex, which itself is the fun.
 

Why Mondrian?

There’s a few reasons for this one, first and foremost I just straight up love the art. But secondly, I have already dabbled with creating some generative art in the Piet Mondrian style, with a tutorial system that I had built out, called “tutorial markdown”, whereby as you scroll through the tutorial some code will update and you will see a live version of what you’re working on. You can check out the tutorial here.
 

How was this site made, and why this url?

Mondrian and Me is completely static, meaning its sitting on a single html & js file, it was made in a 45ish minute period which I recorded as an experiment into making things on stream. The quality of the video is pretty bad, if I’m honest, and a few future video’s have got a lot better quality wise. That said, you can check out the video here.
 


 

There were a lot of small lessons recording this, primarily learning that keeping a stream of conciousness while still creating can be very tricky, especially if something goes wrong and you’re trying to figure it out while people are watching or asking questions.
 

Are there any more changes to come?

For this website, I don’t think so, it’s a nice clear cut build with a fun artsy back-story, that said, I’m working on a few more small “build in an hour” style sites, and also have a few little games in mind that could also be fun within this model… as with all things, it just takes time to get them out of my brain and onto the page. That said, you can follow my blog, which will be the first thing to get updates as they come.

On my first visit to Potato or Tomato I correctly answered the questions a few times in a row, then in my eagerness got it wrong. Honestly sometimes a site is so simple in its goal, and so perfect in its execution that it fills me with an overwhelming joy that it exists. This is definitely one of those sites!
 

Kevin Lesht ticks all my favorite boxes when it comes to a creator on the internet with projects covering the wierd, the practical, the confusing and the informative. Definitely worth a follow if you’re not already :)

How did Tomato or Potato come to life?

Hah - there’s this segment from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, where he goes into a classroom and asks kids if they can identify all sorts of different fruits and vegetables. He’s trying to prove that kids today are so disconnected from fresh food that they can’t even pick out the basics. Sure enough, at one point he holds up a tomato and a kid guesses potato.

I watched this video, and felt like it was my calling to clear up any of this misconception. Potato or Tomato was born as a game that individuals could play to test their knowledge of potatoes and tomatoes, and if wrong, come away with the difference.

Here’s that clip
 

Were there any particular challenges that popped up bringing it to life?

Oh yea. The first release of Potato or Tomato featured a wrong guess counter that sat on the win screen. When a player guessed correctly, they’d see a message like, “You’d be surprised, 728 have guessed wrong!”.

I debuted the game at a work event, and as we’re all playing through, the counter spikes up to the millions. I thought I had some bug in the code, and as I’m searching around for what it could be, one of my colleagues confesses that he just hacked the site.

I was using a database to manage the counter, and hadn’t locked down the access rights. He was able to write directly to my counter, and even delete the thing. I patched this up by removing the counter, but now that the site’s getting some added attention, I think it’s time to bring it back, and this time, in a secure fashion. Look for that feature on the horizon!
 

Do people get potato or tomato correct/incorrect the most often.

Well, Potato or Tomato is a data driven project, so I actually have some numbers for you! It’s kind of incredible how much traffic, and playthrough the game gets.

Over the last six months, Potato has been guessed 1,576,183 times, Tomato has been guessed 1,542,960 times, and there have been 520,893 incorrect guesses. That looks like almost 17% of all guesses being incorrect. Really hoping that’s mostly just individuals playing around.
 

What got you into web development?

When I was in college, I was really into skiing. If I wasn’t in the mountains, I was reading up on ski related news. I’d forward interesting articles I found to my friends, and figured I’d take that to the next level by putting together a roundup newsletter, because everyone would want to read that.

I created a little marketing site, and released the first newsletter, but never made it to the second. Building the site, I saw that as a developer you could take a raw idea and make something real out of it, and I had to have more of that.
I shifted my attention towards learning how to code, and later that year started freelancing. My first project was for a local business that could only barter, and paid with float tank sessions. From there, I was off to the races.
 

How long ago did you launch the site / what weirdness are you working on now?

I think Potato or Tomato came online around late 2017, and it might just be one of my oldest sites that’s still standing. There have been quite a few projects following that one, and if anyone out there is interested in keeping up, you can find me on Twitter, where I drop each release: .

One project I’d call out though would be my omelette blog. Near every day I eat an omelette, and take a picture of my work. To keep the blog up to date, I’ve just finished developing an automation that runs each morning and parses my recent photos for omelettes. If any are found, they’re uploaded to the blog, so that my fans never miss a meal.

I had to think long and hard whether or not to include both heeeeeeeey.com & hooooooooo.com into the useless web. When I first visited the site it took me a good triple take before I realized what was actually going on… and endless wonderful loop.
 

Creative Technologist Mike Bodge produces some really incredible stuff, and has a unique way of utilizing different services and tools and turning them into something completely new to the world!

How many Heeeeey Hooooo’s do you think the world has seen and heard?

The site has gotten around 50m unique visitors, and you have to assume they’ve been redirected a few times back and forth…so, god….a bazillion? I’ve made some really big websites for clients like Google and Apple and I will guarantee more people have gone to Heeeey-hoooo.
 

What were the circumstances behind creating heeeeeey Hoooooo?

Sometimes “creative” people need a kick in the ass and some structure to stop being lazy. I decided to do one of those 30 days of creativity where you try to make a project every day for a month. This stupid site was one of the things I made.

I remember the first version had some poorly illustrated hands-in-the-air images that looked like the glove from the Hamburger Helper commercials. Once I got rid of those terrible illustrations the site got a lot more traffic.
 

What was the hardest part of building it?

Technically the site is pretty basic…it is just a javascript redirect back and forth between two domains. The first version of the site would play a mp3 of the “hey…hooo” part of Naughty by Nature’s Hip hop hooray.

Thanks to everyone’s horrible spammy sites chrome and safari have disabled auto-playing audio so I had to take the music out. It’s obviously way better with the music, so that’s a bit sad.

I get at least one message a week from someone being really pissed off the site doesn’t make sound anymore. I’m sorry, it’s not my fault!
 

What came first, the domain or the code?

I had to register the domains first for the idea to work. I tried to get domain names that had the least amount of e’s an o’s possible and I guess I’m an idiot because i registered heeeeeeeey.com which has 8 e’s and hooooooooo.com which has 9 o’s. This has caused a lot of confusion for me because I always forget the URLs.
 

What is the weirdest thing that has come from owning/running such a unique-not-really-having-a-purpose site?

I get a lot of terrible ad salesmen that want to buy the site or plaster ads on it. Real vile people.

Someone told me they put the site up on all of the computers at any Apple Store they go to.
 

What got you into web development?

I wanted to make a fansite for the Smashing Pumpkins when I was like 11 years old. I learned HTML and all of that and have been literally doing that all day every since (for clients and myself, not the Smashing Pumpkins)
 

How long ago did you launch the site / what are you working on now?

I launched this way back in 2013. Now I’m working on what feels like everything. I’m lucky to be busy during this insane quarantine and collapse of the world, but wish I was making more useless stuff.
 

What is your favorite site on the internet?

If i were honest it would be Twitter…I like to just scroll through it and be mad all day.

RGB

By Ewoudt Boonstra Visit RGB

I found rrrgggbbb.com when I was looking for the original set of useless websites in 2012, it’s simplicity and quirkiness immediately made me smile, as well as the thought that someone could love the color space enough to build a tribute to it. Back then, it was built in flash, but as with much of the internet, it’s received a flashy HTML5 update down the line!  

It’s creator, Ewoudt Boonstra now runs his own studio, showcasing an amazing depth of creativity and artistic flair.

What were the circumstances behind creating your site?

Initially I didn’t have the intention to create a site. It all started with a spontaneous design that I made for the RGB letters. After designing it I thought that it would be nice to add some animation to the letters and then, for the full immersive experience, I asked Rimer London to create the sound.

What started as a useless design became a useless website.
 

What came first, the domain or the code & settle on the domain?

Once I had figured out that I wanted to make a homage to the colours red green and blue, the domain and the code came simultaneously.

I wanted the domain to visually mimic the sound of the site so I settled for rrrgggbbb.com.

Long enough to stand out, short enough to remember.
 

What is the weirdest thing that has come from owning & running such a “unique not really having a purpose” site?

The site hes been incredibly popular (mainly because of it being featured on The Useless Web), but out of the millions of visitors, there was only one person ever emailed me. She was asking me to recreate the same thing but she wanted me to replace RGB with her first name. I politely declined.
 

Was there anything surprising you learned while building rrrgggbbb?

rrrgggbbb.com is a homage to RGB (Red, Green, Blue) the colours used by screens to show us the internet.

I got a lot of questions from people asking me if I was working on a CMYK version but Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black are colours used for print, they do not come across on screens. I talked about this with my friend and graphic designer Anthony Burrill and he suggested to make a poster instead.

People that purchased the poster got a free link to cccmmmyyykkk.com, the digital version of the poster.

What I learned is that people like useless stuff and that people are willing to hang posters of useless stuff on their walls.