I am more than comfortablly qssured that no generative AI can really hallucinate my writing. See those trademarked typos? Me. See a quirky nonsensical title? Me.

I digress, as usual.

Here is a typical small tale of unexpected adventure of one thing leading to another, like a neural path, but none one that can be predicted even with your vectorizing databases. A morning coffee ritual is a quick attempt at the current DS106 Daily Create and maybe, if an idea pops up, submitting a new one into the queue.

I cannot not do ds106.

And I have to write this post tonight, because the fruits of this labor gets published as tomorrow’s Daily Create, TDC 4334 (look ma, a palindrome number)!

For this idea, I needed an image of an every day object. Ahhh, the perfect antithesis to modern technology is the lowly toilet plunger, though it may have use for dealing with problematic CEOs.

I reach into my handy dandy tricks for searching google images forcing it to return only Creative Commons licensed results. The result that jumps out looks perfect, but from a source I have never seen before– CCnull– but here it is in full glory, Ausgussreiniger + Saugglocke + Pümpel (German word creation can be so lyrical).

Photo display of a a typical toilet plunger from the German language ccnull site. on the right are the typical meta data information one expects, license, author, view count, download count.
ccnull image display for what I deduce is German for “pluinger” with all info one might expext from a photo catalogue

I come across a fair number of shady reference sites in Google Images but this one, with the help of Google translate, covers all the bases, plus some curious bits

  • We see all the info needed for a good TASL of attribution, Title, author, a direct link to source, and clear listing of cc license
  • What’s above most other sites, and I’ve never seen, is  Lizenzurkunde anzeigen or View License Certificate). It leads to a rather detailed page outlining the author, license, and more legal looking stuff. Woah.
  • CCnull is advertising supported with those bottom links to stock imagery… though there is something awry in results for “Aktuelle Vorschläge zum Thema Ausgussreiniger von iStock by Getty Images” or “Latest sink cleaner suggestions from iStock by Getty Images”. Those images (likely having tags like “plunge”) are not like any backed up sink/toilet I have plunged. But what do I know about the stock photo biz? I foolishly give all mine away under CC0.

Now one bell that rings is that as good as this site is, and it goes way beyond the usual listing, is for me to assemble a recommended form of attribution, it’s at least a four time round trip of copy paste between this source and wherever I might use it. I have inklings of ideas that might come from some kind of bookmarklet tool, and also wondering about the connecting to Nate Angell’s Bulk Open Attribution Tool (BOAT). And it nudges me that it’s really time for me to redo my own Flickr CC Attribution Helper, which I use almost every day, but is a bit dated and could be done much more flexibly.

I digress with ideas.

So I got my plunger picture, yay. I make my modifications in Photoshop. I use no generative AI features.

And on writing this up as a Daily create, I get the idea to add a historical reference, to which I ask The Google- When was the plunger invented? to which, first answer indicates 1874 but I gotta read the Wikipedia linked result (do others notice this google feature which returns as part of the URL highlighted text?).

I could just link to the article as the historical reference, but note in the Wikipedia article, citation 5 is to the patent entry by John Hawley himself (the dude who invented the plunger!).

Except I notice that the link for the patent is a bad link, no results https://worldwide.espacenet.com/textdoc?DB=EPODOC&IDX=USUS158937A

Weird because I can find it my poking around at a slightly different URL

But I am looking again at the URL Wikipedia is providing, and it looks suspicious. That last part of the parameter string, IDX= is th epatent idea, but it seems to have a duplicate “US” in the string.

Ahah! Maybe I can edit and fix the Wikipedia article. I login in to my seldom used account, hit the button, and yeah, the reference list is not exactly editable, its a placeholder

Wikipedia edit screen portion reading 


I dust off my memory, and recall that this is the layered way Wikipedia creates reference list, this is where the references we see are generated, but the data for a citation references sits inside the source as a content inside <ref>....</ref> tags, where the footnote is added.

I’m watching the clock tick by as a slip one notch down the hole. I could just let this go, but isn’t this the way Wikipedia should work? If I don’t fix this minor error now, who will? Does it matter in the scheme of things.

Hell yes.

So now I am looking at this patent reference, where the relevant information is highlighted below

A chunk of the edit for the Wikipedia page under History header with this section highlighted

<ref>{{cite patent|country=US|number=US186206A|status=patent|title=Improvement in vent-clearers for wash-bowls|gdate=1877-01-16|fdate=1876-06-06|inventor=John S. Hawley}}</ref>

Now what I find interesting, or what I am guessing, is that Wikipedia has a spoecific data structure for patent references. So rather than rely on a single URL, it provides data to which the proper link is built when the page is published (maybe it can use a different patent site for say a different language version of wikpedia? Or exchange sources if the patent site goes south?

I am looking at this citation and have a hunch. It has variables like the country, th epatent number, dates, inventor names

Does the possible error in the patent number leap out? The country code is already entered, but there is an extra US in the value for number=US186206A…. my guess is it should be changed to be number=186206A

What can I lose? I make a 2 letter deletion, pass a captcha, and boom, I edit the page.

And win! The patent link now works. Everyone can now link to and read the full 1874 patent details for this transformative invention:

The figure is a longitudinal section of my improved vent-clearer.

My invention has for its object to furnish a simple, convenient, and inexpensive device for clearing the vents or discharge-pipes of washbowls, stationary wash-tabs, &c., should they become accidentally stopped.

The invention consists in an improved ventclearer, formed by attaching a rubber cup to a handle, as hereinafter fully described.


And my wiki contribution to the world is done.

For today.

What’s th ebig deal? Why a fascination with plungers?

It’s not the plunger.

It’s that the real power of Wikipedia are the humans behind the edit screens and inside the Talk discussions. An ecosystem 99% of the world never even sees is there, making Wikipedia better, one edit at a time.

I discovered something a few weeks ago, not even worth adding to this blog, where a group of people who use WIkimedia tools to batch add photos to Wikimedia commons, mining ones that are licensed the flavors Wikipedia ingests.

What I discovered reading a batch of discussions years old, is that a back and forth discussion over a number of my flickr photos, which honestly, I had no case marking as CC BY. I gaffed. I’ll spare the details, but I had made a rookie mistake long ago. And some folks inside te editing space, had sorted it out, in back and forth, but not antagonistic, discussion (I’ve since adjusted my licenses, but as it goes, I cannot revoked the past ones done wrong).

All of this sets te stage that I am finally keen to devote time and effort where I can, be it as small as fixing a link, to stepping in more as a Wikipedian, one who makes it better by editing.

Even if it’s just fixing a bad link for a toilet plunger patent link.

Today in 2023, I cant really tinker or do anything with the innards of the Generative AI obelisks except maybe toss my bone tools at it.

But I can create my own web sites and I can make contributions to the public spaces like Wikipedia. Because I can see inside of it, and see the hands and signs of other humans there.

One bit at a time.

Now… I challenge you to look for that CC BY licensed plunger image in tomorrow’s DS106 daily create and maybe just come up with a response of your own.

This again is the internet I came for, where an inkling of an idea leads me to editing a Wikipedia page for a toilet plunger, certainly, not listed in my daily objectives.

Plunge into the open web, break away from the owned spaces, paywalls, popup ads, and crap infested poopification much of it has become.

But not all of it, as long as my hands can click Edit.

Featured Image: Ausgussreiniger + Saugglocke + Pümpel ccnull image by Tim Reckmann licensed CC-BY 2.0 modified by placing behind it a screen shot of the edit screen of the Wikipedia article for Plunger

A toilet plunger sits atop an image of a Wikipedia edit screen
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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com 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. Is it a typo that the patent number reference you are changing is the same and still contains US?

    I assume it obviously is but I feel the irony magnified and couldn’t let it pass without comment

    1. Yes that was my sloppy typo in composing the post! The number it was changed to should not have had the “US”.

      No irony at all— but thanks for reading and catching the gaffe.

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