ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Freedom, Justice and a Disturbingly Gaping Ass —


Everyone gone? OK, good.

I mentioned in a previous entry about the happy-go-lucky adventure of the massive downloading of a single image on, one of a cheery Grim Reaper holding a glowing hourglass. It was quite popular, and I talked about the situation where I had seen downloading of this image go from nothing before April 2006 and it had quickly unseated all other comers by a factor of 100 to become the most downloaded file out of the millions in the family of websites. This was, I mused, some sort of payback for when I was a youth and a leech, and so I let it go. Incredulity was the order of the day in the comments, with a few people speculating that since my website doesn’t know where the source of my files always are, I might in fact be considered compelled to do this sort of charity work to atone. Others thought that I was brave to allow hotlinking at all.

Both, it turned out, were wrong. Idly sitting around during the holiday season, I went to go check how that popular ol’ Grim Reaper image was doing. The answer: very very well for Mr. Reaper. Not so well for Jason’s bandwidth.

I said that in September of 2006 he was downloaded 212,000 times. For the month of December, he was downloaded 401,000 times. This was going to get a lot worse, I could see that immediately.

The problem wasn’t just academic anymore, either. You see, I’ve been lucky enough to host with a number of good providers over the years, who have treated me well, and eventually I have outgrown them. When that happens, there’s a mad scramble to find new hosting and I have to often host it locally, to the detriment of everyone. Additionally, I am scrambling for the privilege of spending lots of my own money. While this is all fine with me, the “service” I am doing by allowing the hot-linking of images by Myspace is really no service at all.

Myspace is roughly the 4th most visited English language website, according to reports. It is owned by News Corporation. News Corporation is fucking huge. My dad used to work for News Corporation, so I am very appreciative of that but not to the point of happily whistling a tune while they bleed my generous hosting company’s connection dry. Everything, you see, has limits. I hope it’s not like hearing there’s scant evidence of Tooth Fairies to know that I have some of my own.

So, sleepy with egg nog and considering what to do next, I decided I would replace the image.

Initially, I thought an ad for Notacon or Blockparty or the documentary would be good. But the fact is, the vectors just don’t line up. People who are on Myspace are hardly going to be swayed by an ad for something one way or another, and it felt icky.

So I goatse’d them.

If you don’t know what I mean by “Goatse”, then let me go on the record, right now, as saying this is just what Wikipedia is good for. You can go and read up on the history of what “Goatse” is. If you don’t have the time or patience and yet still don’t know what I mean, let me say that it is a disturbing image of a gentleman (it is clear he is a fellow) using almost yoga-like skills to display the eye-watering sight of the inside of his own rectum. If that sounds horrible, it is. It is truly, truly horrible.

This is interesting on its own levels; I don’t know why we didn’t think this through in the early stages of Internet, but the fact is so obvious that to hear it makes you think you always knew it: the pipes can back up sewage. The same open door that gives you a world of knowledge and communication is also a piping hot shit-gun of horror. Like looking to see if a rifle is loaded by peering down the barrel, your screen can turn from a breathtaking visage of insight into a Gatling Gun of mind-scarring infinity-pain within the literal blink of an eye.


If you are truly fine with this, then go ahead: See what I replaced the Grim Reaper with.

Anyway, on with the show.

Assuming you find the idea of some errant myspace numbnut faced with a gaping ass entertaining, then you will become first giggly, and then fall aside laughing to know that within an hour I had “goatse’d” 400 people.

Within two days it was 25,000. Twenty five thousand.

We are now up to nearly a hundred thousand viewings of this file in its new ass-o-rama version. I am sure that through libraries, schools, colleges, cubicles, offices, warehouses, the sound of someone’s throat reflexively making a sound not unlike “Uuuuaaaaaghhhghh” has filled the air. The amount of time lost in horrified stares and frantic jabs at the keyboard and mouse to get away, far away must be into the realm of hours by now. Maybe days! Days of slack-jawed horrified faces staring into a big square eyeball. I don’t know, that gets a chortle out of me. I’m easily entertained.

But after the initial thought of this Towering Tidal Wave of Tweener Terror, I started to consider how it had gotten to be so bad in the first place.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Any entity interested in what is called “market share” must eventually expand out into regions of people far outside those would normally patronize that entity. Not to ensure survival, but to ensure growth – which eventually supplants survival as a metric of health. An excellent example of this is air travel: whereas the original passengers on a plane in the first decade of air travel had a reasonably good chance of knowing how to operate that plane (the pilot and his passenger, two air enthusasts trying out a new machine), we are now at the point that we can have 300 individuals inside a jet and less than a handful could possibly operate the thing. That is, less than 1% of the people inside a machine, whose lives depend on that machine and who are paying to use that machine, have any idea how to make it work. This is, ultimately, fine: air travel is very safe and we have lots of safeguards in place so that generally the whole shebang doesn’t explode. Still, you cross a line and the trends will be for even more people packed into an airplane, not less.

This isn’t evil, per se… it’s just how this whole growth thing works. And eventually, this came to the Internet. As college students were dumped onto Internet connections, they faced, essentially, a sea of pilots; people trained to operate the craft who followed some levels of lore and rulesets to keep things running smoothly, if jarringly Libertarian. As these college students flooded the gates around the month of September, they would eventually get assimilated into the Way of Things by a month or two, or sulk away and watch things from afar. Either way, it kind of worked.

And then America On-Line dumped everybody onto the Internet at once. This phenomenon was so marked in Internet history that it even has a name: The September that Never Ended.

There’s a story from that time, which I love to tell, which will have meaning in this entry shortly. Someone put up a webpage about America Online, criticizing the company and the service it provided. It advocated untoward behavior on AOL and generally represented a typical “slam site”, which I myself have been known to take part in from time to time. After the time that AOL was fully loosed on the Internet and sending people willy-nilly around, this site got a letter that I think really underlines the problem with this sort of culture class. An AOL moderator, that is, a guy whose job is to look for troublemakers on the AOL service, contacted this webmastrer, and told him he was violating the AOL terms of service and to cease his website immediately. As far as this mop-head was concerned, AOL now “owned” the Internet and anyone on it, even someone running a site not in any way connected with the AOL service (except in discussing them) was under its jurisdiction. The webmaster did the logical thing: he posted the letter for all to see, garnering ridicule and some thoughtful chuckles.

Myspace, and sites like it, also have to take a tactic similar to the airlines. The somewhat large barrier-to-entry of hosting a website has already been reduced a great deal, but social websites remove it entirely; you only need an e-mail address to be able to host and provide content. And now the whole part where you have to learn enough HTML to be able to make it render in a browser is wiped clean. It is possible, very possible, to go from Tweener at Hot Topic to Webmistress of the Dark and Foreboding Webpage of Sin without ever using a single bracket.

Is this bad? On the one hand, people who would never have had a voice before are given one. On the other, that voice is occasionally droning, illiterate, and borderline schizophrenic. And multiplied by tens of thousands. However, Myspace (and News Corporation) has market share, and that’s the primary goal of the whole activity.

Part of hosting a website is providing the content. While it’s possible to use the internal templates to at least indicate what hobbies you have and whether you like to smoke. folks are naturally inclined to upload pictures, change the color of the background, and add design schemes that make Holly Hobbie look like Prada. To help them, a little cottage industry of templates are now around so that instead of making that huge step into markup languages, patrons can simply copy and paste designs into their own pages.

Here, then is the source of this sudden interest in my website’s artscene section; someone created a “design” that directly hotlinked to the website and used the image as the background. The design, by the way, is absolutely horrible, and I don’t know how anyone ever found it readable in the first place; the default font color was red, with a line through the text! This said, I’m sure I have a number of pieces of clothing that call into question my qualifications for a fashion police badge.

Soon after I converted the image from Grim Reaper to Grim Ripper, one of the thousands of people getting eye-lashed by the image saw the “” mention at the bottom, figured out how to mail me, and did so:

Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2006 21:45:40 EST
Subject: myspace hacking

Hello. Someone is hacking into myspace profiles and claiming to be
"textfiles".com.If you are unaware of this, they are using your
web-name to be quite offensive. I thought you might like to know.
It's a pretty childish, sophmoric stunt {easily cleaned up,} but
annoying.If it happens to actually be you doing it, You should really
hope we never meet- you will end up looking worse than the photo you
have been posting-

This is a fascinating character study on several levels. First of all, there’s the immediate assumption that someone “hacked” myspace. The fact that I used the deadly spell “mv” to shift a few things around on a machine I own is not a possibility as far as Motorjames1 is concerned. Next, just to make sure all bases are covered, he threatens me. Ostensibly he is indicating he will punish me by doing something traumatic to my ass. Perhaps, however, he merely means he will do something to my face so that it will be as horrifyingly offensive as the Goatse ass. Either way, I question his diplomatic skills.

Communiques were quiet on my side for days, and I assumed that people were figuring out how to remove the image and replace it with something else, which is the “cleaning up” that motorjames1 had indicated. Nobody, it seems, was inspired to seek me out. So, I went on a little fact-finding mission of my own. Checking the referrer logs of my webserver, I found places where people were writing helpful notes to their friends to perhaps figure out how they too had been “hacked”. Granted, a lot were in the form of “WHAT T FUK WITH U BACKGROUND??????”, but the essence was clear.

Hotlinking in itself is not so bad, in my book. I certainly get people hotlinking to my textfiles and directories, skipping over my introductions and context to provide others with information that I’m hosting. I even have people link directly to images on the DIGITIZE sub-site to prove a point about catalogs or old computers or so on. But in all these cases, the hotlinking is in the course of providing knowledge. Someone is trying to inform others about a subject and my library is being utilized to share. I feel like this is right and good, and I encourage it.

But what is being done by myspace is that this data is not being used for knowledge. It’s being used as decoration. Beyond that, it’s being used for inefficient, meaningless, taste-lacking decoration, just to give someone’s poorly-written “website” a “dark feeling” by putting a visage of death on it. Maybe that’s an odd, arbitrary line to draw, but after being at the ass-end of that line, if you will, I think I have to consider drawing it.

I was idly wondering today where to go with this, whether to simply refuse to allow myspace pages to hotlink to any images whatsoever, when I received this in my inbox:

Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2007 20:46:11 -0800
From: HotFreeLayouts COM 
Subject: hardcore porn pic - take down asap please

hi, you really should take down ASAP
somebody is flodding our server with that / posting it on myspace
-- Abuse Team

And here we are, back full circle. “Hotfreelayouts” is one of the sites that offers up these design templates for downloads (along with ads, of course), and these fellows, the pilots of the current generation if you will, were utterly unable to do anything about my “flod”. Or my flodding.

Consider, then, what was going on here. Myspace, a site which is being used by people who don’t know how to host or design, ends up with a gaping ass provided by a design firm which can’t understand the nature of hotlinking (or of spelling), who have written to someone who can host, design and spell but are doing so with a demand that this person take action.

And this, my friends, is ass.

2008 Update: Since this weblog entry was first written, it has easily become the most popular entry in the weblog’s history, with hundreds visiting it years later. If this is the first time you’ve read it, be sure to read the related postings:

The Ass-Termath
Goatse II: The Widening
The February Goat Update
Goatse Metrics

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  1. Mia says:

    Hahah, good for you for doing that! I can’t believe what idiots those people are, who emailed you. Geez! By the way, your writing and sense of humor is great, I love the way you wrote this up. 😀

  2. reeses says:

    I first started making custom images for each deep-linker with context-appropriate text like,”Bob sucks underaged monkey shlong,” but I got lazy and started using Mr. Goatse.

    It’s tremendously gratifying to look at goatse referrers after the switch and seeing people’s comments.

  3. Daft says:

    Dude, at least use some BMEzine stuff to really shock them, goatse is tame.

  4. Iain Norman says:

    What a fantastic goatse-ing. Over a hundred thousand people, t’is a sight to behold no less.

    “OMG I’ve ben hacked!!!111”


    I loved the airplane analogy.

    For a really disturbing goatse experience try printing it out on an inkjet. We did that once to send to someone that kept spamming us with invoices we hadn’t put orders in for. I thought I’d got used to Goatse by that time and no longer found it shocking, that’s until I saw it in the full glory of shining wet inkjet!

  5. Leon says:

    Great post. The responses you published certainly say a lot about the users and distributors of content at places like MySpace.

  6. Phil McClure says:

    For all of you people weeping over kids seeing the goatse’d image, it’s HotFreeLayouts fault NOT textfiles fault. These kids got their layout from HotFreeLayouts NOT textfiles.

    If you bought stolen merchandise from a retailer who knew it was stolen, is it the retailers fault, or is it the fault of the guy from whom the merchandise was stolen?

    Continuing in this vein, could he have linked to a more tame version, or redirected the hotlinked image to an article on the social mores of such a practice? Yeah, he could’ve. Would it have been as effective, no it wouldn’t.

    If you swap out an image with something morally reprehensible and it appears right next to the posters handle, if they care *anything* about their social standing in that forum, they’ll change it quick. Similarly, if they don’t want mom and dad to kick their ass, they’ll also figure out how to change it quick.

    Broken images, ads, and cutesy little “don’t steal my bandwidth” images all sound like good deterrent methods, but they’re not. I can say that with some authority from all of the hotlinked images from livejournal, xanga and their ilk.

    Let’s see how many of you people that want to lay the responsibility down at this man’s feet, have the testicular fortitude to cough up the coin to pay for his bandwidth overage fees.

  7. Maan Ashgar says:

    A great story, I was pointed to it by one of my friends. I totally agree on the pilots concept. I was thinking of linking this story but the image link ….. well, you know 😛

    Thank you for a great read.

  8. Julia says:

    I find this to be very funny. I’ve learned a lot today…not only about how the internet works (as a relative noobie myself) but…ahem…what goatse and tubgirl look like. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Mike G says:

    Carl Brewer had it exactly right: You are The BOFH! Your article read like a BOFH story, but with the added wonderment that it was for real!

    Praise the interwebian space lords for Jason Scott.

  10. AustinTX says:

    Hilarious! I did something similar when a certain twat in a discussion board hotlinked my avatar to annoy me. After changing the address of my own avatar, I replaced the original file with that animated graphic of the fat, laughing retarded girl wobbling around. =P

  11. AustinTX says:

    I forgot to mention that, coincidently, my avatar is “goatse inspired” (though safe for work). Click my name to see it on my blog page. 😉

  12. Wah says:

    May I be the third and deciding comment to confer upon you the status of “Living, Breathing, BOFH”.

    Congrats. Good story, great metaphors, and more educated newbies.

    If you keep this up, we might someday make it to October.

    /for the whiners…hush…take a lesson…learn how to fly.

  13. Vince says:

    This made me smile all day, but it would have been interesting to set up a cron job that replaced the image periodically and increased the duration gradually and then watch how it either all blows up or traffic changes.

    For example, this week, for exactly one minute of every hour, it’s mr goatse. Next week, it’s mr goatse for two minutes per hour, then three, etc.

    Alternately, I’m sure theres some apache module that could rotate based on number of page views, or a log watcher that could watch your access.log and rotate the pic every x views…

  14. Echilon says:

    You sir, have inspired me. I decided to take a little myspace revenge myself:

  15. Sonley says:

    The use of the Internet by children should equate to the use of guns by children; the parents should know what the kids have in their hands…

  16. Lazlo Nibble says:

    Congratulations, Jason, on passing up the opportunity to solve this problem through some silent invisible nerdy magic (.htaccess, etc.) and instead using it to implement Consequences. I’m a *big* fan of Consequences.

    “Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can’t help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime: the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.” (Robert A. Heinlein)

  17. Shii says:

    Vince, that’s just cruel.

    Everyone who’s been complaining about goatse: go back to 1996.

    Goatse is Internet culture. It is the universal symbol for “fuck you” among actual Netizens, perhaps as opposed to Digg users. Jason’s was the perfect goatse: done for an appropriate reason, and pulled off with style, on the correct audience (clueless and unsuspecting kids), to achieve a perfectly legitimate result. Maybe now these kids on MySpace will think twice about taking random pictures from people’s websites. An advertisement, like the kind Imageshack or Photobucket send you when you’re out of bandwidth, would have been a crass bow to commerce. A blinking GIF might have been slightly annoying but would not have gotten the proper message across: bandwidth costs money, so host it yourself.

  18. Mithyus says:


  19. the quizza says:

    Agree 100% dude, well done.

  20. Stacia says:

    NoxiousGas, it was a photo on his own website. It’s not even a photo he uses for design, IIRC, it’s in an archived list. He changed HIS OWN content on HIS OWN site and did not distribute it. That HotFreeLayouts place did the distributing, and they were apparently making money off of using others’ images without permission, and hotlinking as well.

    Further, the entirety of humanity that is on the ‘net should not be forced to put only G-rated materials on their site because some poor unsupervised 10 year old might stumble across it. That’s ludicrous. If anyone complained, they’re probably complaining to MySpace, because they don’t understand that this image isn’t really part of the MySpace “website”.

    But, yeah, other than that, I totally believe your massive lawyerly knowledge, dude.

  21. Bill says:

    The problem I have is that it punishes the wrong people. People viewing the site (including a high number of minors) are the main ones hit, followed by those who used the design. The real people you want to punish are at the design company.

    Also, if this was a goth layout, an image from KittenWar could have been just as effective in embarrassing those who used the design.

  22. shar says:

    gah… I had not seen goaste or tubgirl before. Goatse is gross but tubgirl is indescribably uk! surely she’s poisoned herself & died? God I hope so.
    On the other hand, I found your article extremely interesting Jason (although I wish I’d not ‘click’ed or become curious about tubgirl). I like the dry sarcasm that permeates your rant, and I especially love the revenge being exacted. Serves the buggers right!

  23. Maaatt says:

    Good read! I enjoyed it very much. I’d love to see the Grim Reaper image that got so much attention, though – No big deal, however.

    “I haven’t laughed that hard since i was a little girl, thank you” – Dr. Evil

  24. Matt Sharpe says:

    really excellent story, well done.

  25. diamond_star says:

    Beautiful…just beautiful. Keep up the good work! Kinda reminds me when a friend of mine renamed a bunch of Slayer songs as Gospel songs and made them readily available for download on LimeWire, Napster, BearShare, etc…
    Outstanding 🙂

  26. Greg says:

    Lovely post. Maybe intelligence has won a battle after all.

  27. Afshin says:

    I’m glad you took the time to document this – just traumatizing the MySpace crowd (and the “design” firm that used your original image) would have been sufficient, perhaps, but the public explanation is important. Too funny.

  28. Giorgia says:

    I feel like the point needs to be brought up that Myspace is not actually open to 10-year-olds, or really anyone under the age of something like 14. If someone younger is lying about their age to use the site, then maybe this will simply teach them a lesson about why there are age limits on things at all.

  29. now imagine how we could change myspace, get the 10 top 50 hotlinked sites to change images, just about every myspace generated page would be effected and it wouldn’t even have to be goatse or porn, they could just put an interesting graphic about how the user is leaving myspace and moving to facebook or some other site. I wonder how long before myspace took action as there traffic goes down as people move to other sites because of the recommendation of the hotlinked files.

  30. wayfinder says:

    Good going! I was in a similar position a while ago: I am the author of hitlermelon.gif and people were causing EXTRAORDINARY amounts of traffic by hotlinking it from my hosting (I think the most hits came from a guy who was a very prolific poster on empornium and had chosen hitlermelon as his avatar). My hosting is provided by a friend who understandably got a little fidgety. I did not end up substituting a porn image for it, just a huge epilepsy-inducing red and green HI! which took up very little disk space even at 800×600 px. No reactions from disgruntled leechers so far 🙂

  31. Great job, Jason! I had originally also a slighly offensive replacement image on my site (see, but changed that after I received too many hate mails from concerned parents who said that I exposed their children to pornography.

    The fun thing is: the hot-linker still has the “good” image in his cache and the page looks correct to him, however others see the replaced version 🙂

  32. Wank says:

    “The problem I have is that it punishes the wrong people. People viewing the site (including a high number of minors) are the main ones hit, followed by those who used the design. The real people you want to punish are at the design company.”

    Except that the design company was also hotlinking the image so it hit them at some point. Notice their email to him.

    Kudos to Jason for utilizing an effective method for educating people about the dangers of hotlinking.

  33. Me says:

    You should put a 401 authenticate header on it and see how much myspace accounts you can hijack!

  34. Me says:

    You should put a 401 authenticate header on it and see how much myspace accounts you can hijack!

  35. hairmare says:

    history is being written here 😉 mass goatseing on a global scale!

  36. Frederik says:

    good move 🙂 you are right i laughed my ass off 😀

    they call that total pwn@ge hahahahahahahahaha

    and yes you are complletely right don’t hotlink that what is not yours ask permission to use the image on your own space with a credit to the maker often gets the full granting of the use and it is nice to have some feedback through this

    i laughed really big time lol

  37. Fogey1965 says:

    A) Fabulous.
    B) Where is “see figure one”? I expect to find these things at a place called “”

  38. Leech says:

    Reminds me of what some guy did to a ZDNet reporter who he caught hotlinking a couple years back:

  39. iconoclast_tm says:

    Beautiful. As a veteran dating back to the BBS days, I too am disappointed at what the ‘net has become. People like you, however, make it worth wading through all the bullshit. I’d like to nominate you for the next Jesus. By the way, check out, somewhere on there is an article about that site’s webmaster doing something similiar (although his revenge is not nearly as sweet or hilarious as yours).

  40. Patrick Legacy says:

    Jason Scott is my hero.

  41. Tiny says:

    “why is taking technology for grated bad?”

    Why? Because of things like this! Computers have been so dumbed-down so that retards who have no idea what they are doing can play with e-mail and chat rooms. And blogs… can’t forget the blogs. (Trust me, i’m the dial-up/e-mail tech *read: newest guy gets the bitch work* at the isp i work at) and if anyone out there has ever worked tech support, you know why idiots should not have computers. I advocate a return to command-line! Then there will be no pretty pictures to attract the dumb ones!

  42. Richard says:

    Nice pwnage mate.

  43. Jessica says:

    You, sir, are a bonafide genius. Thanks for making the internet just a bit safer for those of us with brains. *applause*

  44. Derik Price says:

    All our anus are belong to you!
    Fricken genius dude!

  45. Thaily says:

    I also replace images which are being hotlinked from my server, usually with explicit (and gross) sexual images.
    Then I contact the service provider for the blog and complain about the explicit sexual image being reposted publically and the hotlinker’s blog is deleted.
    End of problem :3

  46. I had the problem first with some wannabe internet-stalker linking to my images. Fixed that with an apache referrercheck. A while later, the same thing happened in a different location and I wrote a generic rule replacing images with ‘foreign’ referrers with a ‘stealing bandwidth is lame’ image. This resulted in flames and stupid discussions on fark. Nowadays I point to a page where I kindly thank people for their interest in linking to one of my images but would they be so kind to get in touch first about the rates to cover for bandwidth costs. Nobody has flamed me, annoyed me .. or asked for the rates. Yet.

  47. hegglar says:

    3 tons of respect!

  48. Lev Lafayette says:

    I second the suggestion of a 401 authentication on technical grounds.

    I also applaud Thaily’s social engineering skills.

  49. Davisrei says:

    Wow, those pirates really are stupid. I though that possibly they were using a full code download to the customer, in which case they would have had to force everyone to download a “fixed” version, but they are simply using a redirected STYLE tag. That should be an ammazingly easy fix.

  50. Trash says:

    I believe you also needed to execute chown us:us -R ./base along with the MV spell ;).
    I hate hotlinkers too so I download the image and host it on my own PC