The Origins of the 'Anonymous Animals' in Your Google Docs

Justin Sullivan/Getty Image
Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

Every time you open up a Google Doc with the setting “anyone with a link can view,” the contents of that document probably aren't the only thing you scan. Your eyes likely also check for the icon on the right hand corner to see whether you’re a wombat, an aurochs, a chupacabra, or any of the other 70 animal icons that are currently available to be assigned to each anonymous user.

All shared Google Docs feature a row of these animal icons. The images are assigned to every user currently viewing the file who wasn't directly invited to view it. That means if you share a document via a "sharable link" rather than specifically typing in someone's email address to invite them, the viewer will show up as an anonymous animal—even if you have their contact information.

Those animals go back further than you think, according to Google spokeswoman Kyree Harmon. In 2012, Google employees simply wanted to make the company's straightforward Docs feature—which was rebranded from "Google Documents" and included as part of the new Google Drive suite—more fun. “At the time, the proposal for anonymous viewers was to show them as a unique but lengthy number sequence, e.g. Anonymous35123512425,” Harmon tells Mental Floss. “[Then] the team wanted to see if they could come up with something more friendly and more human—and during a brainstorm, the alliteration Anonymous Animals came up. From there, the visual design team got involved to build out icons.”

According to Harmon, nobody remembers which creatures started it all, but “they were all fairly typical animals.” Eventually, the list expanded to critters that were a little more playful—not to mention mythical and even non-animal. (And in case you were wondering, no, you can’t choose your animal or check which icon you've been given without having another user in the Doc tell you. That’s part of the fun!) That explains why the capybara, the world’s largest rodent, is on the list, along with the axolotl, a “smiling” baby-faced salamander; Nyan Cat, a viral meme from 2011 featuring a pixelated flying feline with a Pop-Tart for a body; and the kraken, a giant, squid-like sea monster from Scandinavian legends.

Gradually, Harmon says, the engineers got even more creative and began to include those on the endangered and extinct list, like the quagga, an animal related to the modern zebra that went extinct in 1883. (Since then, there have been attempts to “revive” the species by breeding zebras that shared the quagga’s distinctive pattern, in order to create herds that resembled the original quaggas.)

The list grew quickly, and by 2016, it had reportedly expanded to include 68 animals. Moose, tiger, and llama had yet to show up at that point, and neither had the jackalope, a half-rabbit half-deer creature whose taxidermied remains appear mounted on walls throughout the American west. Those animals were added later, and according to Harmon, there are no plans to expand the current catalog of 73 creatures.

So what happens if there are more anonymous users actively using a Google doc than available animals? It doesn't happen often enough to be a concern. "If Docs were consistently receiving more than 73 simultaneous anonymous viewers," she says, "we certainly wouldn’t want to double up on any animal and cause confusion.”

For now, here's the complete roll call:

Chart of all the animals available in Google Docs
iStock, except for Nyan Cat, which is courtesy of http://www.nyan.cat/, prguitarman (LOL-Comics by Christopher Torres)

Playing Jeopardy! While You Drive Is the Best Way to Deal With Your Boring Commute

Ben Hider, Getty Images
Ben Hider, Getty Images

More than 55 years after making its television debut, Jeopardy! continues to hold a prominent place in popular culture. Last spring, James Holzhauer went on a 32-game winning streak, coming just $58,484 short of beating all-time champion (and Mental Floss contributor) Ken Jennings' $2.52 million winnings.

If only Holzhauer had an app to practice with during the drive to the studio. Now, thanks to Drivetime, future contestants and general trivia enthusiasts have that opportunity. The service just launched a Jeopardy! add-on that allows players to answer questions from the first 35 seasons of the show using Drivetime’s voice-based, hands-free interface. A new show will be available to Drivetime users daily. If they subscribe for $9.99 monthly, they can choose any show from past seasons. Questions are read by host Alex Trebek in both archival and recently taped audio.

The game offers one tweak for civilians: As each clue is read, the app offers three possible responses, turning it into a multiple-choice quiz. Money is still accrued and you can still wager on Final Jeopardy to walk away with a victory.

[h/t Engadget]

Need Help Cleaning Up the Dog Poop in Your Yard? There’s an App for That

schulzie/iStock via Getty Images
schulzie/iStock via Getty Images

You love your dog, but you surely don't love what they behind in the yard for you to clean up. In most cases, scooping up poop is an unpleasant but unavoidable part of pet parenthood. Now, as WGN9 reports, there's a way to keep your yard looking pristine without breaking out the waste disposal bags. A business called Plowz & Mowz will come to your home and scoop the poop for you.

Plowz & Mowz is like Taskrabbit for outdoor chores. The app was built around services like plowing driveways, mowing lawns, and mulching gardens, and it recently added pet waste removal to its list.

If you want to get rid of the dog poop on your lawn without getting your hands dirty, download the Plowz & Mowz app and request a poop-scooper to come to your home. After answering a few questions about your property, you'll receive a free quote with the option to set up a date for the service. A contractor will come to your house, update you throughout the process, and send a photo of your poop-free yard once they've finished the task.

Plowz & Mowz is currently operating in more than 40 metro areas, including, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta. To see if the app's poop-removal service is available in your area, you can enter your ZIP code on the website.

Cleaning up waste isn't necessarily time-consuming work, but it's something many pet owners avoid doing at all costs. Some apartment complexes have even started using DNA testing to identify the culprits behind unattended pet poo.

[h/t WGN9]

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