The History Of

As 2010 is wrapping up, I decided to take some time to chronicle the history of one of my biggest web development milestones of the year.

In December of 2006, I started my first real job out of college as a frontend developer at My first big project was to turn a new site design from a collection of Photoshop documents into functioning HTML and CSS code. I had to slice up dummy images to put into the layouts. As the redesign process wore on, sizes of elements changed ever so slightly meaning I needed to make new images with each iteration. I had wished there was a way to conjure up these placeholder images on the fly. I ended up tucking that idea away in the back of mind.

For whatever reason I decided to purchase the domain on the 20th of July, 2007. I can’t remember if I had some early prototype version working by then but I had made up my mind that I was going to do something with this idea. Like most tinkering web devs, I have a stable of domains for other ideas sitting around until one day when I can get around to them. was not like those other ideas.

Fast forward to August 11th, 2007, when I attended my first Bar Camp in Washington DC. I had mentioned my dummy image idea to Jason Garber and Jeremy Carbaugh in passing. They said it was a cool idea and should be pretty easy to do.

From then on, I was determined to figure out how to make my idea work. Aside from toying around in WordPress (which resulted in this blog you’re reading now) I had zero experience with PHP. I was quite comfortable with JavaScript however and found PHP easy to pickup. On August 26th, 2007, I had launched my first version of

The first release was as simple as could be. The only thing you could change were the dimensions of the images. Everything was a gray background with the size of the image in centered black Arial text. I released the source code via a no-frills zip archive for anyone to take it and do what they wanted. I didn’t even bother with a design for the site itself thinking only a handful of people would even see it.

Around December of 2009 I began toying with some new capabilities for The biggest request I got was for the ability to change the colors of the background and text. I didn’t really see the point so I sat around on the new changes. Then on January 25th, 2010. My friend Charlie Park (whom I met at the first DC Bar Camp in 2007) tweeted out a link mentioning My site made its way through the developer community like wildfire thanks to HackerNews, and Twitter. Suddenly I felt the need to get working on new features and a redesign for based on the feedback that was pouring in.

On March 10th, 2010, (Chuck Norris’ Birthday & International Day of Awesomeness) I launched version 2 of added color options, the ability to customize the text displayed on the image, and a simple form on the homepage to make generating custom dummy images easier. I switched the typeface from Arial to a completely free and open font called M+. I also released the source code under the liberal MIT license based on feedback I had gotten.

I wanted the new look to be a little rebellious. Most sites are centered align in relation to the browser. I deliberately made the homepage align to the right. You can really notice this the larger your monitor’s resolution is. One person even sent me an e-mail providing a CSS tweak to make it center align. He thought I had made a mistake.

Since other people were doing other things with the dummyimage idea like making plugins for text editors and different platforms, I decided to curate those and link to them from I was happy to see my idea taking hold with the community, even spreading to non-english areas of the web. I guess the simplicity of my little project transcends language barriers. gets about 10,000 unique visits to it’s one and only page. It’s single largest day of traffic was January 26th, 2010, with 15,766 unique visits. Of course most of the traffic comes from people embedding images into their pages. I get about 5.8 million requests (pageviews essentially) for a total of 11.4 gigabytes of bandwidth in a typical month. I have gigs and gigs of server logs to analyze if I really wanted specifics but I leave’s server stats open for anyone to take a look at.

With the redesign I aimed to make a little extra change by placing 3 ad units to the left. They probably bring in a couple dollars a month via referrals. I don’t really pay attention to that stuff.

So all in all I’m happy with where has come and it makes for a great milestone in 2010. Hopefully in 2011 I can manage to launch even bigger projects I have in mind. Gets New Features

Ever since the surge of interest in my pet project I’ve been meaning to add some new features. Today is the International Day of Awesomeness (which coincides with Chuck Norris’ birthday) and I couldn’t think of a better time to unveil‘s new functionality to the public.

a 600x200 Dummy Image

Here is a run down of the changes:

Specify Custom Colors

You can choose the background and foreground colors of the dummy image right in the url using a 6,3,2, or even 1 character hexcode. Don’t worry if you forget to do this as dummy image will default to gray and black.

Add Your Own Text

A lot of people wanted to be able to add their own text to a dummy image to better communicate what it is representing. Now using the &text= parameter you can.

A Better Typeface

Arial be damned! Font geeks cringed at my basic choice of a font. Some seemed worried about my distribution of the most popular font on Earth. Now both camps can be happy as I’m now using the completely free and open M+ Font. I also changed the X in the middle of the images to a multiplication sign × as pointed out by Erinah and Dave Cortright.

Standard Image Sizes is a useful prototyping tool and a lot of prototypes and wireframes have ad positions. Instead of memorizing dimensions you can now bring up ad sizes by their industry-standard name like largerectangle, skyscraper, and fullbanner. You can even customize the colors, text, and formats of theses sizes as well.

Pick Your Format

Before you could add any image format extension to the url but my script would still generate a GIF image everytime. Now you can generate proper PNG, JPG, and GIF images and drag them into another app trouble free.

Happy Birthday Chuck Norris

And with these new features I figured it was time to give the site a proper, though still simple, design. Rather than bury how these features work in long, boring text I made a little tool that shows you everything you need to know with minimal fuss.

Not a fan of change? Don’t worry, you can still use to generate place holder images exactly the same way you have always been doing it.

So thank you to everyone who has e-mailed me, tweeted me, left a comment on a post somewhere or otherwise provided feedback on I’m glad so many people found it as useful as I think it is. Keep the ideas and dummyimage variations coming. I’m sure this thing could be better.

XBMC Recruiting For Mac Port

The clever hackers that brought a media center platform to the original Xbox are at it again. Last May the group announced they were porting the Xbox media center platform to Linux and needed some help from other Linux developers. Now they are putting out a call for OS X developers to help port the software to the Apple operating system.

The original XBMC project brought photos, music, and videos from the PC to the TV. While not the easiest to set-up, I found XBMC to be the most flexible media center software I have ever dealt with. Since September of 2005, I have been watching all of my downloadable content like podcasts and webisodes from the comfort of my couch. Using a hacked Xbox and my home network I could easily stream standard definition content to my TV. Remember, there wasn’t a big boon of HD content available back then like there is now, not that the old Xbox hardware could handle the demand of even 720P video.

XBMC Windows Media Center Skin

So if you know a Mac geek that can do some C/C++ programming send them over to the XBMC guys. The more open-source media projects that are available to compete against Windows Media Center and Apple Tv/Front Row the better it will be for digital media as a whole. And this time around XBMC won’t need to be hacked together to get it working though a name change for the project might be necessary. Just imagine this thing running on an Apple Mini in your living room connected to an HDTV. Sweet!