Post #65

Shhh, it’s a secret

28th November 2003, late at night | Comments (16)

A woman shhhing, with her finger to her lips

So, I had an idea. I don’t know if anyone else has had the same idea, but then (as you’ll see) I wouldn’t. That’s the point.

I was lying in bed thinking about 404 pages (Quick Quiz: Does Dunstan have a girlfriend? Yes or No?) and how they could be improved. I think I have most aspects covered in mine (except for spell checking), but they’re still pretty boring, run-of-the-mill error pages.

You can make 404s well, you can make them badly, you can make them funny, or you can make them and then forget to link to them, but I was thinking of something a bit more interesting, something that would provide users with a novel experience when they got lost and slipped between the cracks in the sidewalk.

What I had in mind was a whole other site, a whole other blog, but one you could only access if you were 404. A site with a wee note saying Please don’t tell anyone about this — it’s a secret. Good idea, I thought as I drifted off to sleep, I'll just knock that together in the AM before breakfast…

But this morning, when I woke up and came downstairs with slitty eyes, crazy hair and breath that could drop a badger at forty paces, I found I just couldn’t be bothered. So, rather than let the idea go to waste I’m giving it to you. Here, it’s yours, set up your own secret garden, just don’t tell anyone, OK?

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Comments (16)

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  1. Zach:

    I'm lost on what this secret blog is supposed to have for content? Why keep it updated if people only find it in error, and that does not happen often for me?

    Just a little confused on the point...

    Posted 1 hour, 57 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ David House, ↓ Dunstan
  2. David House:

    You're asking 'why?' when the real question should be 'why not?'.

    Posted 10 hours, 22 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Zach
  3. Dunstan:

    There's no practical reason Zach, you'd be doing it for the same reason people put hidden extras in computer games - just for the doing, and for the pleasure people would get in finding it, in being 'in' on the secret.

    As to content, well, it could be anything - another little blog of random thoughts, or it could be interactive, with the 404 people writing about the last thing they lost in the real world. Whatever.

    It's not an idea for everyone - shown by the fact that I can't be bothered to do it - but I can see it appealing to some people, and that's why I thought it worth mentioning.

    Posted 11 hours, 5 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Zach
    Inspired: ↓ Ben Meadowcroft, ↓ Marq
  4. Ben Meadowcroft:

    I had a similar ideas ages ago, but rather than 404 pages i was interested in robots.txt files.

    One advantage of posting content there is that it won't get indexed by search engines so it will only be discovered by people really looking for it. BTW I have a wife now so maintaining it has taken a back seat (as have adding comments and other "innovations" to my blog). ;-)

    Posted 13 hours, 55 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
    Inspired: ↓ Adam Bramwell
  5. Tony Crockford:

    Been there done that:

    hint: find and click images with doors.

    Also find the about Peter page and see him wink...

    Have fun


    Posted 1 day after the fact
  6. Tony Crockford:

    (actually hugobia doesn't have a 404 secret garden, just an ordinary secret garden)

    I like the 404 idea though, perhaps that's where the newby FAQ should live ;o)

    or maybe links to other 404 pages - join the 404 webring anyone?

    Posted 1 day, 9 hours after the fact
  7. Dan B.:

    To be honest, I like your 404 page now &8212; very informative and full of options. covers many aspects of page not found errors, and could lead the end user to where he/she wants to go.

    Posted 2 days, 13 hours after the fact
  8. Jonathan Hicks:

    I love the idea of having a secret garden on my website - but just upkeeping the unhidden part can take all your 'spare' time. Maybe it could be a secret beer garden, with the reward of a pint of finest for those who got lost...

    Posted 2 days, 15 hours after the fact
  9. Adam Bramwell:

    I also like the idea of a 404 secret garden, and it would have to be excluded via robots.txt to really work.

    mmm, serendipidous goodness!

    Posted 3 days, 5 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Ben Meadowcroft
    Inspired: ↓ Marq
  10. Marq:

    Funny you should mention that, because we have a secret garden of our own...

    And I never quite thought about it, but I guess the really geeky people who check the robots.txt file on every site would have discovered it via that method.

    Posted 5 days, 12 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan, ↑ Adam Bramwell
  11. Dunstan:

    I have to say: I hope that the 73 people who have so far submitted a 404 error report to me from this post are just testing the system, and aren't thinking "Hmm, I clicked on that link to his 404 page and it says Page Not Found, I better report that."

    It's a link _to_ the 404 page.
    That's what you're meant to see.

    But then, I'm sure that _you_ knew that :o)

    Posted 5 days, 13 hours after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Filip Salomonsson
  12. Filip Salomonsson:

    I just submitted one _after_ reading your comment. Why? Because I was curious whether I would be given a chance to add a comment or something, or if it was just a one-click deal. It wasn't entirely obvious.

    Posted 5 days, 17 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  13. Dunstan:

    I know Filip, I just saw how many of the things were coming in and it just made me laugh to think someone might be saying "Hmm, damn, 404, I really wanted to see that errror page".

    But that's a good point - I'll try and alter the 404 page so it's clearer what'll happen when you click the quick report button - thanks.

    Posted 5 days, 18 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Filip Salomonsson
  14. Marc Broad:

    Well it's a great idea.. one that isn't new. if you would like to see a link pool with some of the better ones out there...Check the games out.

    Posted 5 days, 20 hours after the fact
  15. Pintu Sharma:

    Yes what a nice idea, I wish i have one secret garden on my website too.

    Posted 1 month, 3 weeks after the fact
  16. MaThIbUs:

    Hmmm, is this a 404 secret garden or just an ordinary secret garden?

    [ as mentioned over at ]

    Posted 9 months, 2 weeks after the fact

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