Nick Denton: Blog Maven / Thief

Every once in a while someone you hear a story that makes your blood boil. Sometimes it happens to someone you know. Joe Clark has the complete details, but here’s a rundown of the events as I understand them:

  1. Noel Jackson redesigns Fleshbot using CSS and XHTML, all in perfectly compliant code. I talked with him for a bit of this, sent some screenshots. He worked really hard on it and the result was, if I may say so, gorgeous despite the questionable content.
  2. Joe contacts Nick Denton on behalf of Noel saying what a neat thing Noel had done and recommending they hire him. Joe can be a nice guy like that.
  3. Denton responds that they can’t really afford anything like that right now.
  4. Noel’s design shows up on Fleshbot, a few days later they remembered to credit him for it.
  5. Later Noel’s exact code, right down to an empty div he had to add to get the layout to work just right, shows up on Gawker and Gizmodo. Some colors are changed, and likely due to incompetence of the implementor the other new designs have numerous mistakes added.
  6. Noel steams quietly for a few days, then talks to Nick Denton. Denton doesn’t see what the big deal was using Noel’s copyrighted work on several other sites. It reminds me of people who rip off other’s designs and then don’t understand why you’re mad about it. The copies are not as high quality as the original, as well.

Smells rotten to me. Personally I was quite fond of Gizmodo, as it really is a high quality blog, but I’m not going to visit it anymore and I’ve delinked it because I don’t want to support a company with such low ethical standards. I encourage you to consider the situation and come to your own conclusions. All I can do at this point to support Noel at this point is let more people know about what’s happened to him, in the hope that possibly this could end on a more positive note.

Update: Denton has emailed me and is telling everyone that he has posted chat transcripts that clear everything up. I applaud him for putting more information out there, but it doesn’t seem to help his case much. I suppose anyone can claim ignorance as the reason for a mistake. Some will believe that, some won’t. What makes the difference is actions from here on out, now that everything is “clear.”

11 thoughts on “Nick Denton: Blog Maven / Thief

  1. Oh man. I know what you mean with the whole “rotten” part. There will always be common positioning rules especially with the pure-CSS design. My wrapper div’s positioning is flat-out the same as yours… You’re the one who helped me get it done.

    There is a point when CSS rules become so similar that they any semblance of copyright would be blurred, yes, but in this case the implementation was what reeked. I don’t like jumping to judgment too much, but it was the method, not the matter itself, that makes it dastardly.

  2. This sucks. There are laws against this. People should use them. That is how legal precedent is created to protect future designers in similar situations.

  3. Okay, well looks like from those chat transcripts there are some mixed messages going both ways. I don’t know what to think! It would be a shame if future business relationships were ruined because of a misunderstanding that could have been solved before the trash talking began.

  4. dissapointing. i shot off an email to nick denton ( about my dissapointment followed by a subsequent gizmodo favorites delete. I found it somewhat timely that from the instant the new gizmodo design went up, the ad factor shot up 4 times and the content receded by a factor of 4 — you can easily find gizmodo’s rehashing of rehashed news on a handful of other sites at least a day or two before gizmodo posts it, with the added benefit of just 1 or 2 ads instead of 5. And what’s with that annoying midpage ad? Whatever.

    It was fun while it lasted. vote with your clicks.

  5. Outright stealing is not ok. Recently came across this site at – which is direct rip off of our look and feel here at Firewhite Consulting, Inc. ( This is appalling for a variety of different reasons.

    First, our site was designed by Two Thirty Media ( out of Canada, one of our strategic partners. So, presumably Media Paradigm owes Paul Jarvis, President and CEO a design fee equal to what we paid for him to design our site.

    Second, media-paradigm claims that it offers services in content management and graphic design. Well, if you are a graphic designer you don’t need to steal. So I question whether media-paradigm offers any “real” services. Certainly, when it comes to coding, I’d have real doubt. Why? Because their rip off doesn’t take advantage of CSS and tableless-design so as to meet web standards; our site does and was designed to do so. I can only assume that the UK is an world of hurt. If – as MP claims – these guys are the “UK’s most established Web Development firm” be afraid, be very afraid. What this basically says is that no one in the UK – and by extension Europe – knows how to implement web standards.

  6. I don’t know the background around this situation, but I have to side with Nick Denton. I mean, isn’t sharing code the backbone of an open source philosophy? I’m not saying that what Denton did is fair or “cool” but, I think he should be legally allowed to do it.
    Take, for example, the progression of 20th century art (or music); Everything is built off of previous ideas, some instances more obvious than others- i.e. warhol’s prints that use images from films, or hip-hop and electronic music that samples beats or bass-lines….
    We can’t– as creative ‘cultural producers’– give the glory, ownership, or the bottom line, greater importance than ideas, concepts or advancement of thought. If we start putting rules on the use of code, then what’s next? Laws about what sites you can visit, or what you can write in emails? That’s how corporations think.
    I belive if we worry about the quality of what we are doing ourselves, then the “glory” that we seek will come…People aren’t stupid, they can tell what’s real!