This is a silly little story of a silly little image. An image whose original conceptual source isn't me. Well, I made the image, I made it in PowerPoint with Smart Art in about 12 seconds over 4 years ago. But per my G+ friend James Saull, I know now that the concept is called "The Hedgehog Principle" or "The Hedgehog Concept" by Jim Collins. You'll find it everywhere but it started in 2001 with the book "Good to Great." I likely absorbed it at some past point and when I got the job I drew three cricles. It's one of those "duh, that's awesome" concepts. It's just a Venn Diagram with three circles with the intersection, the middle bit, being the most awesome ideal part. This isn't about the original of the concept, it's how one image is found everywhere on the internet, spreading like a virus. Once you put an image on the internet, you'll never be able to take it down.
I made the circles for a blog post when I took the gig at Microsoft in July of 2007. I haven't thought about them much since, although I've used them in some presentations a few times. They are unimpressive and rather pink.
Yesterday at lunch I was on Facebook and commented on a friends photo. Her friend "liked" my comment, and I clicked to see who that friend of a friend was. Then just scrolling down, I saw my circles on this stranger's wall. Cool! What an amazing coincidence.
This image was shared from another page within Facebook. I followed the rabbit. The photo had hundreds of likes and many shares.
I then started wondering how far this thing went. Well, it spread long before this funny Facebook coincidence. Kyaw Zaw suggested on Google+ that I put my original image into Google Image Search.
Googling with a custom date range shows the first instance of my image, on my blog in 2007. You can also search for images with images using TinEye Image Search.
I can't see how to reliably hotlink to Google Image Search results, so go to http://images.google.com/, click the little camera icon and paste in the URL to the image, like http://www.hanselman.com/blog/content/binary/WindowsLiveWriter/2dc61d7e4a66_13443/image.png
Widening the search dates to all dates, I can see there are 228 different places this image appears, mostly on career and inspirational/aspirational blogs.
Image search systems are a fascinating way to see how your images find their way around the web. If you had some intellectual property embedded within your images, presumably you could watermark your images but I suspect intuitively that heavily watermarked images might not spread as freely. There's just no easy way to "protect" (if you wanted to) your images these days. So they spread!
What images of yours have spread around the internet?
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Interesting that he's selling it as a poster though.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.