Boing Boing

Boing Boing
Type of site
Group blog
Owner Happy Mutants
Editor Mark Frauenfelder, Cory Doctorow, David Pescovitz, Xeni Jardin, Rob Beschizza
Alexa rank Negative increase 3,722 (August 2016)[1]
Commercial Yes
Launched 1988 (zine)
1995 (website)
2000 (blog)

Boing Boing is a website, first established as a zine in 1988, later becoming a group blog. Common themes include technology, futurism, science fiction, gadgets, intellectual property, Disney and left-wing politics. It twice won the Bloggies for Weblog of the Year, in 2004 and 2005. The editors are Mark Frauenfelder, Cory Doctorow, David Pescovitz, Xeni Jardin, and Rob Beschizza,[2] and the publisher is Jason Weisberger.


Boing Boing (originally bOING bOING) started as a zine in 1988 by married duo Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair.[3] Issues were subtitled "The World's Greatest Neurozine". Associate editors included Gareth Branwyn, Jon Lebkowsky, and Paco Nathan. Along with Mondo 2000, Boing Boing was an influence in the development of the cyberpunk subculture. It reached a maximum circulation of 17,500 copies.[3] The last issue of the zine was #15.

1990 Boing Boing logo, from a T-shirt

Boing Boing was established as a Web site in 1995[4] and one year later was a web-only publication.[3] While researching for an article about blogs in 1999, Frauenfelder became acquainted with the Blogger software. He relaunched Boing Boing as a weblog on 21 January 2000, describing it as a "directory of wonderful things."[3] Over time, Frauenfelder was joined by four co-editors: Doctorow, Pescovitz, Jardin and Beschizza, who previously contributed to Wired magazine. Maggie Koerth-Baker, after a run as a guest blogger in 2009,[5] joined the site as its Science Editor.

In September 2003, Boing Boing removed their Quicktopics user-comment feature without warning or explanation. Bloggers commenting on the change at the time speculated that it stemmed from "identity impersonators and idiot flamers" pretending to be co-editors.[6] Xeni Jardin was a guest on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer to discuss the Washington Post's decision to remove its Comments section on its website, and she spoke from her experience at Boing Boing.[7] In August 2007, Boing Boing staff launched a redesigned site, which included a restored comment facility, moderated by Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

In 2004, the project incorporated as Happy Mutants LLC, and John Battelle became the blog's business manager.[8][9] Boing Boing, by the mid-2000s, "had become one of the most-read and linked-to blogs in the world" according to Fast Company.[3]

The site added advertising over the course of late 2004, placed above and to the left and right of material, and, in 2005, in the site's RSS feed as well. Editor Cory Doctorow noted that "John [Battelle] said it's going to be harder to make a little money to pay your bandwidth bills than it will be to make a lot of money and have a real source of income from this."[10] The advertising income during the first quarter was already $27,000, and as of 2010, Boing Boing still "makes a nice living for its founders and a handful of contract employees," but it is no longer a member of Battelle's blog network Federated Media Publishing, Inc.[3]

Boing Boing featured a "guest blogger" sidebar, then stopped the series in summer of 2004. In 2008, the "guest blogger" series was resumed, with guests posting in the main blog for two-week periods. Guests have included Charles Platt, John Shirley, Mark Dery, Tiffany Lee Brown, Karen Marcelo of Survival Research Laboratories, Johannes Grenzfurthner of monochrom, Rudy Rucker, Gareth Branwyn, Wiley Wiggins, Jason Scott of, Jessamyn West of, journalists Danny O'Brien and Quinn Norton and comedian John Hodgman.

In September 2006, Boing Boing introduced a weekly podcast, "Boing Boing Boing", intended to cover the week's posts and upcoming projects. The show's cast consists of the Boing Boing editors, accompanied by a weekly guest. In the same month, Boing Boing introduced a second podcast called "Get Illuminated", which features interviews with writers, artists, and other creatives.

The site's own original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license, as of August 2008.[11]

In September 2009, Boing Boing refused to comply with a demand from Polo Ralph Lauren's lawyers to remove a post concerning a heavily manipulated image of model Filippa Hamilton, originally published by the Photoshop Disasters blog. The latter was forced to comply with the company's demand by its hosting provider.[12] Ralph Lauren issued DMCA takedown notices to BoingBoing's ISP and Blogspot, which hosts Photoshop Disasters, claiming their use of the image infringed copyright. Blogspot complied, but Boing Boing's ISP consulted with Boing Boing and agreed that the image was fair use. As a result, Boing Boing issued a mocking rebuttal,[13] using the same image again and posting the takedown notice.

The rebuttal was widely reported, including on frequently viewed websites such as The Huffington Post[14] and ABC News.[15]

Boing Boing co-editors, 2008. Left to right: David Pescovitz, Xeni Jardin, Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder.

On the evening of 27 October 2010,[16] a hacker attacked the Boing Boing website. About one hour later, it was down, but then returned.

On 3 May 2011, the first podcast of "Gweek" was released. Gweek is a podcast in which the editors and friends of Boing Boing talk about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, TV shows, music, movies, tools, gadgets, apps, and other "neat" stuff. In the first episode of Gweek, Rob Beschizza and Mark Frauenfelder discussed subjects such as the video game "Portal 2", graphic novels, upcoming science fiction books, and recommendations of some of their favorite adventure games for mobile platforms. Boing Boing has since added several other podcasts.[17]

In 2013, Boing Boing switched from the proprietary Disqus comment system to Discourse, an open-source internet forum developed by Jeff Atwood, Robin Ward and Sam Saffron.[18]

Unicorn chaser

A "unicorn chaser" is a concept created by Boing Boing editors as an antidote to blog postings linking to sites containing disgusting or shocking images. The shocking post would be immediately followed by another post containing a picture of a unicorn. Xeni Jardin posted the first one (titled "And now, we pause for a Unicorn Moment.") in August 2003 as a reply to a picture of a rash posted by editor Mark Frauenfelder in an attempt to get readers to diagnose it for him.[19] It has also been used as an antidote for posts containing photos of a brain tumor, a man who pumped up the skin of his face with saline solution, many different ways to clean one's earwax, and a lengthy discussion of the Internet video "2 Girls 1 Cup".

On 18 May 2007, Boing Boing announced that Virgin America, as part of its "Name Our Planes!" campaign, would be naming one of its new aircraft "Unicorn Chaser," after having asked Boing Boing to suggest a name.[20]

Boing Boing Gadgets and Offworld

In August 2007, Boing Boing introduced a gadgets-focused companion site headed by former Gizmodo editor Joel Johnson. Johnson left in July 2009, to be replaced by Rob Beschizza,[21] formerly of Wired News. Other writers include Steven Leckart and Lisa Katayama.[22] Offworld, a blog covering video games edited by Brandon Boyer, was added in November 2008.[23] These sites were incorporated into Boing Boing itself around 2010. Plans to revive the Offworld site were announced in 2015, with Leigh Alexander as Editor-in-Chief and Laura Hudson as Editor.[24]

Boing Boing TV

In October 2007, Boing Boing started a new component, Boing Boing TV, that consists of video segments including SPAMasterpiece Theater (2008) with John Hodgman, produced by its co-editors in conjunction with DECA, the Digital Entertainment Corporation of America. The episodes appear online, as well as on Virgin America flights.[25]


Boing Boing has been described as an "outspoken critic of censorship elsewhere",[26] and operates a high speed, high quality Tor exit node,[27] yet it has been accused of practicing forms of censorship itself. For example, the act of "disemvoweling" was popularized by the site—literally stripping out the vowels of any comment a moderator had taken exception to.[28][29] More recently it has opted to drop comments completely, and ban commentators without warning, especially those expressing conservative views;[30][31][32] As an example of increasingly stringent censorship, Boing Boing deleted the first 8 or 9 comments on a software piracy related article with no explanation.[33]

Violet Blue controversy

Sex blogger Violet Blue has been mentioned, interviewed and once contributed at Boing Boing. On 23 June 2008, Blue posted on her blog, Tiny Nibbles,[34] that all posts related to her had been deleted from Boing Boing, without explanation.[35] The Los Angeles Times featured an interview that cast the silence on the part of Boing Boing on the matter as "inexplicable", causing a controversy as Boing Boing "has often presented itself as a stalwart of cultural openness".[36][37] A heated debate ensued after a brief statement on the Boing Boing site regarding this action stated: "Violet behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her. It's our blog and so we made an editorial decision, like we do every single day".[38] In commentary attached to that blog entry, "many commenters surmised that they had something to do with Blue's suing to stop a porn star from also using the name Violet Blue," and many commenters found the removal troubling, but Xeni Jardin said that she hoped she would not have to make the reasons public.[39][40]

Notes and references

  1. " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  2. "About Us".
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Walker, Rob (30 November 2010). "Inside the Wild, Wacky, Profitable World of Boing Boing". Fast Company. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  4. Lanxon, Nate (25 September 2008). "The 50 most significant moments of Internet history". CNET. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  5. "Boing Boing guest blogger".
  6. Carnell, Brian (18 September 2003). "To Offer Discussion Groups Or Not". Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  7. "Post Web Site Halts Comments Section". NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. PBS. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  8. Arrington, Michael (1 July 2005). "Profile: BoingBoing". TechCrunch. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  9. "Who owns Web 2.0?". 26 May 2006. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  10. Creamer, Matthew (1 July 2006). "The Innovators: John Battelle". AdAge. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  11. "Policies". Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  12. Jardin, Xeni (29 September 2009). "Ralph Lauren opens new outlet store in the Uncanny Valley". Boing Boing. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  13. Doctorow, Cory (6 October 2009). "The criticism that Ralph Lauren doesn't want you to see!". Boing Boing. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  14. Shapiro, Lila (18 March 2010). "Ralph Lauren Apologizes For Image Of Emaciated Model: "We Are Responsible"". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  15. Heussner, Ki Mae (8 October 2009). "11 Photo-Editing Flubs: Ralph Lauren Ad Sparks Controversy". ABC News. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  16. Tsotsis, Alexia (27 October 2010). "Looks Like BoingBoing Got Hacked". TechCrunch. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  17. "Podcast Boing Boing".
  18. "Introducing Boing Boing BBS".
  19. Jardin, Xeni (18 August 2003). "And now, we pause for a Unicorn Moment". Boing Boing. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  20. Jardin, Xeni (18 May 2007). "BoingBoing names a Virgin America plane: Unicorn Chaser". Boing Boing. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  21. Pescovitz, David (6 July 2009). "Farewell, Joel Johnson". Boing Boing. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  22. Johnson, Joel (6 April 2009). "Welcome Lisa Katayama and Steven Leckart to BBG". Boing Boing Gadgets. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  23. Terdiman, Daniel (17 November 2008). "Boing Boing launches game blog Offworld". CNET. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  24. "Games return to Boing Boing".
  25. Gannes, Liz (5 October 2007). "Boing Boing To Fly On Virgin America". GigaOM. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  26. Wagner, Mitch (9 July 2008). "Boing Boing Fends Off Censorship Charges". InformationWeek. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  28. Jardin, Xeni (2008). "Online Communities Rot Without Daily Tending By Human Hands". The Edge Annual Question 2008. Edge. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  29. Doctorow, Cory (14 May 2007). "How To Keep Hostile Jerks From Taking Over Your Online Community". InformationWeek. TechWeb Business Technology Network. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
  30. JR (12 December 2010). "Banned by Boing Boing". Just Right. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  31. zosima (10 July 2008). "China, Tibet, & Amnesty International". JREF Forums. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  32. Ken (9 October 2012). "Frankly, I Don't Care How Due Process Makes You Feel". Pope Hat. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  33. "Filippa Hamilton, Ralph Lauren, Copyright, And Censorship". Atomicboy Software. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  34. "Tiny Nibbles". Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  35. "William Gibson Completely Deleted from BoingBoing Archives". Tomorrow Museum. Archived from the original on Dec 10, 2010.
  36. David Sarno (30 June 2008). "Violet Blue scratches her head over BoingBoing purge". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 1 July 2008.
  37. Thomas, Owen (2 July 2008). "How Xeni and Violet's Boing Boing affair went sour". Gawker. Archived from the original on 7 May 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  38. Hayden, Teresa Nielsen (1 July 2008). "That Violet Blue thing". Boing Boing.
  39. Johnson, Steve (9 July 2008). "Blog hits nerve in excising some old posts". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  40. Grant, Melissa Gira (1 July 2008). "Did the Internet's free-speech guardians try to hush up a girl-on-girl love affair?". Gawker. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2009.

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