You Know, for Spite!

November 11, 2007

This is the true story of how MarbleofDoom.com was born. Those of you with weak constitutions should look away now because it’s not going to be pretty. As any artist knows, the creative process can often be sparked by a number of things; a bit of music, a friend’s comment, a favorite photograph or even just the desire to fill an empty niche. However, in the case of the MOD, no such nobel pursuits came into play. Nope, what we have here is a good ‘ol fashion case of spite. Yes, spite.

Before I get into all that however, I should back up just a little bit. If you don’t know what MarbleofDoom.com is, go check it out. It’s basically a fun, website where Mac users can enter how much time they’ve collectively wasted waiting for the spinning beach ball of death cursor. Users enter time and the site reports on the total number of hours wasted. What’s the point? I’m glad you asked.

The spinning beach ball has been something that Mac users have been dealing with in one form or another since the platform was launched. Back in the early days, Mac users knew it as the dreaded wrist watch cursor that would spin until a process had finished loading. When Mac OS X came along, Apple decided to spruce it up. I guess they figured if you had to wait, why not wait in style? With the advent of the Adobe CS suite of apps, Mac users saw the frequency and duration of the beach ball increase dramatically. I know what you’re thinking. MOD was created to spite Adobe, right? Nope, not by a long shot cupcake. Now sit back down and let me finish the story.

Back in June, two of my long-time friends, Bob & Jiffy Burke, told me via Twitter that at Jiffy’s office, they referred to the beach ball as the “Marble of Doom”. The name really struck a chord with all of us at the Iconfactory and we started referring to it by its new name all the time. We loved the name so much that in September, I decided to add the lexicon to the official Wikipedia entry for the spinning beach ball of death. This is the part where the spite comes in. I was so proud of contributing to the mythos of the beach ball, that when my addition was removed a little over an hour later by a user named Sdfisher, I could hardly believe it. I mean, it was just another name for the cursor, what harm could there possibly be in adding it? According to Sdfisher:

“marble of doom” has 10 google hits, only one of which is Mac related. Removed.

Ask any one of my friends and they’ll tell you I’m not a vindictive person. I don’t fly into fits of anger or wish ill-will on anyone. But when I read that Wikipedia edit from Sdfisher, something inside me snapped. I immediately formed a geeky plan to leverage Mac users everywhere and get “Marble of Doom” back up on Wikipedia. After all, I owed Jiffy no less. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.

Months earlier, I had decided to actually record marble spin time using the excellent time tracking utility, On the Job. Every time I’d see the Marble of Doom, I’d immediately add the time to the fake MOD project. After one month of tracking the cursor, I was shocked to find that I was kept waiting a grand total of almost 1 hour. This experience gave me the brainchild for what would eventually become MarbleofDoom.com. All of the guys at work got excited about the project and I even enlisted the help of the talented Wolfgang Ante, our Frenzic and xScope partner, along with our own Craig Hockenberry, to help code the back end. The MOD website became a fun side project that we worked on in the down time between client work. We launched it on 10/19/07 and its popularity soared as Mac users everywhere could finally vent their frustrations with their glassy overlord.

“Marble of Doom” now has over 40,000 Google hits and has given more than a few people a good laugh while they wait for their Macs to return from la-la land. The best part however, was that on 10/30/07, a user named Rory O’Kane re-entered “marble of doom” as one of the names for the spinning beach ball cursor on Wikipedia. Take that Sdfisher! I told you this wasn’t going to be pretty, and now you know. God, I love the Internet :-)

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5 Responses to “You Know, for Spite!”

  1. Vonster Says:

    Being a FreeHand user for 17 years I only had issues with my drawing application during version 10. And that was one of just crashing completely. Now that I’ve moved over to illustrator I see the MOD far more often then I ever did using the other app.

    With my recent install of Leopard the frequency of the MOD making an appearance has once again increased to the point I see it at nearly every use of a tool in CS3.

    The new bane of my creative existence is Adobe and if the MOD web site holds them at least a little accountable to their user base then that is good enough for me.

    My only request is that you’d add larger time segments to choose from because I’ve had the marble start spinning and never stop thus my time exceeds your largest increment.

    PS: You should add “weasels” to your meta tags on the MOD site.

  2. Rock Says:

    I have to say, Ged, I had a feeling this was the real story, after I saw your Tweets. ;-)

    By the way, you really need to get Craig on a Dashboard widget for MOD.

  3. David Says:

    I pieced together most of the story, but didn’t know that Bob & Jiff had created the name. I still think you should add waiting for paint to dry as one of the choices :)


  4. […] Gedeon Maheux writes up how the ‘Marble of Doom’ website came to be. […]

  5. Mark Says:

    The Timesucker Proxy?


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