“And, when ’tis cowardly knave. What mortality is!
            Posthumus, thy wrongful suit,
            And by me go:
            And, with a tenderness,
            Scruple, and the day! O thou canst love to me. Once a man and praise so.”

~Schmipsum Shakespeare

Gibberish is useful to a digital agency. I don’t mean the kind of gibberish you might hear between two developers talking about variable scoping considerations for lambda functions. Or when a designer tells you about proper proportional kerning. Or when a system administrator talks about basically anything. I mean true and proper gibberish. Sentences and paragraphs can be distracting when you’re trying to review a design or test a new web site feature, so we use words and letters that don’t make sense. Nonsense makes a great placeholder because it isn’t distracting. It sits in the background, allowing you to focus on other parts of the design.

The typical solution

Traditionally, whenever the need arises for a few lines of nonsense, people turn to the classic: Lorem Ipsum. It looks a little like Latin, but the words are all weird and meaningless. It’s a classic that has been around since at least the 1960s. But there’s a problem. It’s boring. Lorem Ipsum is the beige vinyl siding of the digital world.

A few have jumped into the fray to help. Alternatives such as Hipster Ipsum, Gangsta Ipsum, and Samuel L. Ipsum can fill your pages with cool-sounding balderdash. Food-themed twaddle, like Veggie, Vegan, Cupcake, Beer, and Bacon Ipsum are out there, too. In fact, there’s a web site out there dedicated solely to the challenge of choosing your ipsum.

The Clockwork solution

Still, some of us at Clockwork felt we needed more. We wanted an ipsum that could learn from some of the best minds of all time, like Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, college essayists and United States Patent writers. We wanted a smart ipsum. Thus, Schmipsum.com was born.

How Schmipsum works

Schmipsum isn’t exactly smart, but it does use a simple means of artificial intelligence to generate its text. We used Markov Chains. 

As Merriam Webster puts it, a Markov Chain is “a usually discrete stochastic process (as a random walk) in which the probabilities of occurrence of various future states depend only on the present state of the system or on the immediately preceding state and not on the path by which the present state was achieved.” Unless you’re a mathematician or an engineer, that might seem like even more gibberish. 

Let me see if an analogy can help. Imagine someone with great long-term memory but very poor short-term memory. This person can remember huge tomes in their entirety, like the Bible or the text of all of Jane Austen’s books. Now, let’s say this person wants to recite the Bible back to you, word for word. But, here’s a problem: she can only remember the last word she said. She constantly loses her place, and thus needs to guess where she last left off by looking for the last word she said. Since there are many instances of that same word throughout the text, she just picks one randomly and continues from there. By the time she says the next word, though, she’s forgotten all but the last word she said again. This continues until you’ve had enough and you tell her to stop.

In a nutshell, that’s what schmipsum.com can do for you. The results are actually quite surprising. Some of it even seems to almost make sense in a mysterious, foreign language kind of way.

Let us know what you think!

Give it a try yourself, and suggest new sources for our forgetful ipsum to use by tweeting @Clockwork_Tweet and using the hash tag #schmipsum.