This is a true story of a photo. Maybe not amazing, but it gave me pause, even a stop, to smile.

My own tiny little bit of internet self serendipity.

Yesterday I sat down at one of these WordPress screens to compose a post for the Creative Commons Certification site I’m working on. Like my stories project, I’m again trying to drum up response videos for the “What If? Certification” collection.

As usual, when I put out these calls, a number of people come through immediately. A few come in from people I’ve never met. And then I see a ****load of likes, retweets, mentions and spread the words messages from people who could have just done one.

Oh, I am whinging. Again.

But on it goes. I got in mind something like a CC Wants You! campaign, but as a humble contractor, I’m not really the person to be the voice of Creative Commons. And as I usually find that my writing flows more after finding the opening image, I went into Google Image Search (I use a search short cut that presets the results for ones licensed for re-use) on wants you.

Results? It’s what one would expect, a lot of Uncle Sams:


Its recognizable, but a bit cliché, and a stern looking old white guy. I kind of like the images of real people pointing, but again, I see either more white guys or women in skimpy tops. I scroll down, down down, getting into the weird fringe search result territory of increasing irrelevance, and stop.

pluto want

That image in the bottom left of the Pluto character pointing is perfect. Not only because it’s a dog, but it’s pretty neutral (I hope) on gender, race etc. Better yet– it’s a Disney character, the irony for the entity that keeps pushing copyright so far into the future it seems to extend until 10 years after the sun burns out.

I go to the flickr page for the photo, and note that it is licensed CC-BY which is good, because I want to remix it. I download a larger size so I can manipulate in photoshop, and leave the window open so I can come back later for the attribution.

In Photoshop I do some remixing, brushing out the PLUTO dog tag to overlay a CC logo, and then masking Pluto so I can insert a screen shot of the What If gallery behind. I’m rather pleased with my work… It has no words.


Then I sit down to write. I say this often– the process of searching for a metaphor image, or in this case remixing one, for maybe 10-45 minutes, helps me get in the space I like to be for doing the writing. I am thinking about my post idea in the background. In fact, I’d like to think I am drafting ideas as I work with the visuals.

So I get the post mostly done (published at, and I am at the bottom and want to provide a credit to the image source.

I return to that flickr page, zap it with my flickr cc attribution helper tool, copy the attribution text, paste into my post.

And I stop.

And laugh.

I recognize that the flickr user name in the URL.

It’s me.

I just used Google Images to find an open licensed image, downloaded it, remixed it, and completely missed that I was using my own photograph.

Woah, Neo.

Cluing into the photo then connects me to the time and place. This was June 2010 at what would turn out to be (unknown to me) my last time at and working for an NMC Summer Conference. This was at Disneyland, which was also my first time there a bit weird to be doing so as an adult. There are some other connections I’d rather just let slide on by.

Pluto’s photo (there was one other one, a tad too cute) is sandwiched between photos of people (hi Gardner) and events happening at the conference. I vaguely remember seeing this Pluto character on a path back to my hotel room, not even in a main area of the park. It was a photograph taken almost without too much thinking, but the pointing back at me was memorable — well for some length of time, it was my pick for my daily photo– but when I saw it in a Google Image search, I saw not my photo, but one that worked for my metaphor.

And for the 10 gazillionth time, in my post I attributed my own photo, although, according to the letter of the license, aka the bare minimum compliance, I do not have to do. And it’s not even like I would make a case for attribution being an expression of gratitude, I certainly do not need to be recursive about that.

Attribution is also a public expression of the way one operates, that ones gives credit even when credit is not required.

Way to go, me!

Oh no, I do NOT need that kind of recursion. Recursion needs an exit condition.


Top / Featured Image: I aimed my Google Images With Results Filtered for Open Licensed at the obvious word- recursion lots of math, and programming statements, of course. But this image, about 3 scrolls down, about where the results from google often go off rail, jumped out.

At first glance it looked like a series of carrots, but no silly, it’s the handle of a fondue pot, spun down the infinite hole. The photo is a flickr photo by gadl shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license.

And now that I am looking, this one would have worked too!

And oh! oh! oh! Mr Kotter! This recursive list of ingredients makes me smile:

But alas, one has been chosen.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Take it easy on we poor fools who know better than to make videos of themselves but are willing to spread the word for you!

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