Scott Hanselman

Your images are a virus. They are EVERYWHERE on the Internet

November 05, 2011 Comment on this post [13] Posted in Blogging | Musings
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Stuff you love to do, Stuff you're good at, Stuff someone will pay you to do.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.

Dream Job on FB

This image was shared from another page within Facebook. I followed the rabbit. The photo had hundreds of likes and many shares.

Dream Job on FB

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, click the little camera icon and paste in the URL to the image, like

Googling for Dream Job with Google Image Search

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.

Lots of Dream Job on the second page

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?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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November 05, 2011 2:23
Bud Caddell created a strikingly similar business-related diagram that I must assume shares its inspirational source with yours:

I like its focus on "we."
November 05, 2011 2:33
If you want to watermark the image, do it in the palette using the unused colors, then nobody can see it but you can prove the image is yours because the palette has a copyright message in it copyrighted to you.
November 05, 2011 2:47
Derek - Interesting that he's selling it as a poster though.
November 05, 2011 3:04
Unsurprisingly, none of the images I've created are to be found anywhere other than where I've posted them.

What IS amazing in many cases is the completely dissimilar images that are considered visually similar to some of mine. LOL
November 05, 2011 3:04
I've had original photos/images from my site "borrowed" - both with and without permission - quite a bit over time, for both online and print use. Just played with the image search stuff, that was kind of fun. Lots of examples of people borrowing and even some cool landmark recognition in a couple of photo searches. This one's not the best example, but good thing there's also Google site translation available :)
November 05, 2011 3:27
A defense attorney lifted one of my 'all rights reserved' photos, a Montana Roadside Marker, off Flickr without permission or acknowledgement for his DUI business website. No surprise, I couldn't get a hold of him.

I find that if I post a photo on the Internet that is really worth posting, it will likely be lifted by someone. To their credit, I generally get emails from presenters or bloggers who use some of my better photos asking permission or thanking me.
November 05, 2011 3:38
Interesting that he's selling it as a poster though.

I rather thought so as well, but it seems to have been in demand. I'm not familiar enough with where the form of the idea comes from to judge that either way.
November 05, 2011 12:36
Interesting how some images spread so much on the 'net!

FYI, a trick to making google images searching easier:

Assuming you have an image visible on a webpage in your browser, open up second browser window, go to, then from the first browser window, just click and drag the image, and drop it onto the search text box in the second browser window.
November 07, 2011 10:04
This picture I took at work 5 years ago has cropped up in countless blog posts and presentation slideshows on the web. It's great to see it reused! :)

Also check out the Src Img bookmarklet for another easy way of searching for the uses of images.
November 08, 2011 18:49
I searched for "Dream Job" and guess what, some pornographic pictures also loaded. According to your circles thus, that job is what a person is good at, loves to do, and is paid to do. Great job ;). I love your diagram man. I'm a mechanical engineering, but I always wanted to become a web developer (or a DJ), and now I am a web developer.
November 08, 2011 20:06
I took this photo of a collection of mobile phones, as part of a picture-a-day effort a few years ago.

I attached it to the Wikipedia article on the history of mobile phones and then over the years it has made its way elsewhere.
November 08, 2011 22:55
This clearly shows that with the spread of laziness due to internet the choice is most probably to use someone's creative work rather than you spend some time doing anything creative. Then call it "Sharing" to hide the embarrasment and feel proud.
December 13, 2011 13:00
Can someone explain in more detail what @PRMan was talking about in his comment where he mentions 'do it in the palette using the unused colors'. I'm interested to learn what this means.
An interesting article, I have had to write a couple of 'cease and desist' letters in my time but equally I have been able to agree licensing terms with a few people that used my images and earned a small amount of unexpected income.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.