Last Sunday, I was looking for images online for a Digi2000 listicle that would be entitled 10 Weirdest Game Controllers (or something).
I was specifically looking for bizarre computer interfaces - which led me to a handful of images of people putting their hands inside simulated rectums; trainee vets up to their elbows inside horse bottoms and cow holes, and a trainee proctologist giving a prostate examination to a fake bum. Three pictures does not a listicle make, so I thought there might instead be something in medical trainee dummies. I struck gold - particularly with the hideous dummies used by dental trainees.
I figured they were too good/horrifying not to share immediately, and quickly whipped up a montage of four of the best, to shove up on Twitter. From beginning to end, the process took no more than ten minutes.
Here we are on Wednesday, and that image has been shared or liked - at a conservative estimate - by upwards of 100,000 people around the world.
Oddly, the dummies pic seemed to start going viral when certain people in the US comics community started sharing it - DC Comics artists like Phil Jiminez and Kevin Maguire. After they passed it on, I began to lose track of who else had done so. I had to switch off my phone, because the notifications were becoming too much.
Only around 4,000 of those people saw the image on my own Twitter feed - the rest were on Buzzfeed Australia, Gizmodo, Imgur, Metro newspaper's website, Reddit, a website called Viral Links, or The Poke.
Only three of those sites correctly credited me - Buzzfeed, Gizmodo and The Poke (though when the latter shared it on their Twitter feed, they sort of grudgingly gave me a "Via @mrbiffo" tag, rather than retweet the original message). Metro put it up without mentioning the original source, but did - to be fair - wrongly attribute the image to some Reddit user, who'd passed it off as his own.
Thing is, this was the second time in a week that such a thing had happened.
UP ABOVE THE STREETS AND HOUSES
A week ago I had a flash of inspiration that came out of nowhere. I realised - this is how my brain works - that Bungle in the old kids TV show Rainbow looked a bit like Chewbacca. It took about three minutes to find a picture of Bungle with his lover Geoffrey that resembled the famous Han/Chewie still from The Force Awakens trailer. It took barely any time at all to stick them together. And it proved popular.
The picture went viral after being shared by the actor Colin Baker - an actual Doctor Who - and movie director Duncan Jones (who made the brilliant Moon, and is currently directing World of Warcraft, and who has a really famous dad). Which was particularly nice for me, as it was my birthday that day, and I follow them both on Twitter.
Admittedly, the pic proved less popular than the dental mannequins one - it's only going to be got by those of a certain age who grew up in the UK after all - but it has been shared nearly 1,000 times. And then it turned up on Digital Spy's Facebook page, without credit.
To be fair, once I whinged about it, Digital Spy apologised and gave me acknowledgement. But by that time, it had been seen by a lot of people who just figured it was another anonymous meme, or something DS had come up with itself.
Now, before you get me wrong, this article isn't some rant about people pinching my work - anything I put up on Twitter is meant to be shared, and I was dumb enough not to realise the potential popularity of the two images in question that I didn't watermark them with the Digi2000 address (which would've at least driven some people to this site). Plus, I've probably wrongly used lots of photos on this without credit. I'm glad people were as amused/appalled as I was by those two pics.
The only bit that really rankles in that Digi2000 is a small site - our budget, such as it is, is only what our donors provide us with, we don't get anywhere near as much traffic as any of the aforementioned websites, and we're effectively a one-and-a-half-man operation. Surely, the least we deserve is a bit of a leg-up in the form of a credit?
Or maybe that's not how the Internet works. Maybe everything that is out there online is fair game to be used, and reused, and take on a life of its own, with nobody really caring where it came from. Everything is free, everything is there to be taken without so much as a thank you, and I shouldn't be surprised.
So with that in mind, that's all this is. As someone who loves a good meme, or funny pic or video, I just wanted to document my own moment.
If, in decades to come, the Internet is still standing, and you stumble across a picture of four horrific dental mannequins, or a pic linking Star Wars to Rainbow - know that this is where it started. I was the flashpoint: dental mannequins and Bungle as Chewbacca were, in one unexpectedly inspirational week, my own little contribution to the fabric of the Internet. Don't forget me.
I was Patient Zero.