#1Jul 14th, 2014
Google plugin plays clown music if searching Rob Ford
A McGill University computer science student has written a plugin for the Google Chrome web browser that plays an iconic circus theme song when it finds references to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
The goofy trick has caught on, spawning legions of tweets and attention from leading tech websites.
Sheldon Andrews, a 33-year-old PhD candidate from Newfoundland, says he wrote the code as a lark, but heavy play on social networking sites like Reddit and Twitter suggest that the "inside joke" struck a nerve.
"I didn't expect it to get any attention," said Andrews from his home in Ottawa. "What prompted me to write it is that earlier in the week, I needed to change gears and do something different."
So, naturally, he taught himself to write a Chrome plugin and picked Rob Ford as his guinea pig.
Titled "Entrance of the RoFo," it can be downloaded for free. The bundle of code scans web pages for Ford's name and, when it finds the telltale words, begins blaring the song "Entrance of the Gladiators," which is ubiquitous at circuses.
Andrews says his inspiration came not only from Ford's often antic behaviour, long the source of material for late-night comics, but from the "media circus" surrounding the mayor.
Like most of the world, Andrews has been inundated with Ford news since Gawker and the Toronto Star reported last May that the mayor had been caught on video appearing to smoke crack cocaine.
And while Andrews says there is no political agenda behind the snarky web program — "I'm not particularly politically active" — he does disagree with the mayor about a range of issues, from light-rail transit (which the mayor scorns) to applauding World Pride organizers (which Ford declined to do last week).
"I certainly dislike him and what he's done," Andrews said Sunday. "Acts like a clown, talks like a clown . . ."
The plugin — which becomes grating after a while — has only been installed about 150 times. But its online reach has been much broader than that figure would suggest, spurred by social media and popular tech sites like Mashable.
For a rudimentary bit of code scraped together over lunch, it has showed remarkable viral pluck.
"I'm not especially proud of it," said Andrews. "It's just simple code. I'd say I'm more amused than proud."
Google plugin plays clown music if searching Rob Ford (external - login to view)