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The Internet News Politics

Interviews: Fark Founder Drew Curtis Answers Your Questions 45

A week ago you had the chance to ask Fark Founder Drew Curtis about wasting hours at work reading stories about Florida, and his Kentucky gubernatorial campaign. We'll be checking back with Drew as the race proceeds, but for now you can read his answers to your questions below.
Culture Change
by eepok

There was a time when Fark Boobies links were mixed in with news links. Then it became its own tab. Then it was reborn as "Foobies"-- a wholly separate site. More recently, a strict "Anti-Misogyny" standard on Fark discussions was implemented which included the dis-allowance of the use of the word "rape" except in the academic sense, dis-allowing the use of demeaning terms in describing women, and suggesting that a female victim of a crime was somehow asking to be victimized.

Examples of dis-allowed uses include the meme "40 lbs. Box of Rape", references to the Whoopi Goldberg differentiation between "rape" and "rape rape", and Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" gaffe.

To say that the change was met with disdain would be an understatement. The ensuing threads were filled with battles back and forth between those who assert that such references and jocularity is proof a genuine hatred of women (misogyny) while others assert that lumping together edgy attempts at comedy with the genuine hatred of women is prejudicial and incredibly offensive.

Given Fark's historic culture of pushing/punching the boundaries of political correctness (see: "Welcome to Fark" memes) where almost nothing is so sacred that it cannot be joked about (see: "Window seat, please" memes), why was this decision made? Why were so many genuinely non-misogynistic actions/comments/memes lumped in with that term?

My partner and I have discussed the change at length. We're both fans of audacity humor, so we actually "get a kick out of the replies". Together, we came up with the following potential rationales. Which did we get right? Which didn't we?

  • 1. I got older and my tastes have changed. I don't want to run a site that goes counter to my own sensibilities.
  • 2. I received pressure from external organizations (other sites, special interests, advertisers).
  • 3. I want to grow the site to be more inclusive of people who would be offended by such jokes.
  • 4. I'm running for public office and Fark.com, if not cleaned up, would destroy my campaign.
  • 5. I've received overwhelming negative feedback regarding the state of Fark comments and the numbers supporting a change greatly outnumber those who didn't like the change.
  • 6. I actually believe that everyone who jokes about women hates women and they should be stopped.

Drew: It's a mix of several of these:

2. sort of - back in 2005 when we dipped our toes into direct ad sales we were told by media buyers they wouldn't touch us with a 10 ft pole with -links- to nudity. Which I still think is absurd. I argued like crazy that clearly-labeled links to nudity were no different in format than strip club advertisements in the phone book but made no headway whatsoever. So on the links note it was a business decision in 2005.

4. no impact whatsoever - in fact my instructions to the mods and admins were "change nothing". Part of my dislike for professional politicians is that they're manufactured people and we can all tell this is the case. I am a real person, I have flaws, and there is no way I'd be able to disguise my sense of humor from anyone paying attention.

5. this did happen - over the years stories rolled in about women being chased off the site by a very small percentage of men via behavior that we didn't expressly forbid. Our posting rules change was very slight and the vast majority of our community members had no problem adhering to it, probably because they were already in compliance anyhow.

It also fit with my general criteria for what makes taglines funny. I dislike rape jokes the same way I dislike puns - because as styles of humor go they're both too easy. I prefer more nuanced humor - especially slow burns.



Improving photoshop contests
by TWX

Fark used to have some of the best Photoshop contests, both in terms of what people came up with (thinking of the Lukket fake Rand Corporation computer as an example), and in the way that the in-line display and voting for the entries worked. What would you like to do with these going forward to get more involvement for these contests?

Drew: I'm open to suggestions here. P.S. contests evolved out of caption contest pretty early on - I hadn't intended to make them a feature but people really liked it so we kept it (much like caturday). I don't know what makes them tick - the main thing I did was not kill them off. Basically I have no idea what to do but I'd take a look at anything anyone suggested.



Four questions
by sandbagger

  • Discussions on Fark don't go to infinity and beyond anymore. Is the attempt to make Fark more PC a response to that or a consequence?
  • You're HTML 2.0 compliant, it seems. Ever planning on updating the back end?
  • A few times a year there's a post to TFD asking for ideas on how to improve things. Nothing changes: why?
  • The ethos of Fark used to be say anything --- smash any idols ---just be funny doing it. Has moving away from that basically made Fark no different from a lot of other discussion/aggregation sites?

Drew: There's no attempt to make Fark more PC. I think what happened is the rest of the Internet moved -far- past us on the anything-goes relative scale.

Backend: We're constantly updating things but we're very slow. I'm fine with that.

Nothing changes: What do you think we should have changed that was suggested?

The ethos of Fark was never say anything. Close though. My perfect Fark tagline is one that makes you initially gasp in horror, then on second reading you discover that the tagline hasn't actually crossed the line but damn it's right on the line and thinking about jumping.



Litigation
by bazmail

Hi Drew, what was the closest you ever came to shutting down FARK, due to litigation, threats from idiots you made famous, boredom, $$$ shortage etc?

Drew: We've almost been wiped out at least three times in the past 16 years. The worst was 2008-2009 when advertising all but dried up. I went without a salary for nearly two years. I was just about to pull the plug when all of the sudden right around xmas 2009 receivables skyrocketed out of nowhere.



Breaking Public Mindset
by Anonymous Coward

First off, thanks for Fark. Has killed many a hour of dull work! On to my question

For those of us techies immersed in the web, and those who have run across Fark on a given day, most of us will presumably know your background and to a point, your ideological leanings. How do you branch the divide with the public not versed on your background, with you being well versed on the tech. side of things, and translate that to Kentucky's highest elected position? And moreso, likely in the face of skeptics who might see you as an obscure 'Internet' site winner, and not someone who is versed in public policy, legalize, and politics in Kentucky?


Drew: It's correct that I'm not versed in public policy. However what's strange to me is that for some reason our elected officials, who should be far more well versed in publicly policy than I am, don't seem particularly intellectually curious about public policy ideas not backed by their own party. Democrats rarely budge from their set of talking points and neither do Republicans, but there's no way either side is 100% correct. campaign contributors impact this to a great degree.

But here's the thing - elected officials who belong to a political party are controlled by that party even while in office. Which means they can't (or won't) entertain the other party's public policy ideas while their own party is selling influence in the opposite direction.

This is ridiculous - if there's anything we all want it's the best solutions. Which have little to do with issues by the way - implementation matters far more than the issues. I haven't seen a candidate yet that can effectively separate the issues from the actual implementation.

For example, I'm all for smaller government but how's that going to work exactly? 20% off the top is a blunt implementation taken straight out of a late 1980s MBA textbook and it's a complete failure as a management strategy. Because meanwhile we still need roads, schools, and police that can function effectively. I'm not saying there isn't waste in government but let's go find it first before we cut blindly.

This is the crux of the problem - we are stuck with elected officials controlled by parties that sell influence to the highest bidder, usually in the form of ham-fisted solutions that have vast unintended (or intended) negative consequences.

So instead of doing the same thing we've always done, which no one thinks is actually working in the first place, how about we elect someone who's capable of investigating policy issues using data-driven analysis. And if the data can't tell us what to do, then let's just wait until we know for sure when more data arrives. Kentucky doesn't have to experiment - we can wait for other states to prove experimental ideas work. I want the legislature to send me exact copies of initiatives that have worked elsewhere.



Your biggest challenge to getting elected?
by gregorino

You and Ms. Curtis deserve tremendous credit for such a worthy effort. Thanks on behalf of US citizens eager for change -- or at least a demonstration that change is possible. Although some ambiguity remains, your site shows transparency, the application of sound business principles, a close examination of successful policies incorporated elsewhere, creativity, and an open ear for discussion from all sides. -- Which of the following is your greatest challenge to getting elected and how do you surmount it: (a) voter apathy, (b) lack of campaign funds, (c) misrepresentation or lack of presence in the media, (d) a self-described lack of political qualifications, (e) a lack of political experience, (f) lack of voter confidence, and (g) lack of voter advocacy?

Drew: Voter apathy. Everyone agrees the system doesn't work but no one thinks they can change it. There are 3.2 million registered voters in KY. Last gubernatorial election, 880k people voted. In a three way race it takes 300k-400k to win. Surely there are that many voters willing to try something different.

It's not apathy per se though - I've come to the conclusion that the parties actively don't want voters involved (other than ones loyal to their cause). It threatens their duopoly on selling influence.

Ask any party supporter in Kentucky and they'll tell you the same thing: that I can't win. What they're actually saying to you is don't vote. Give up. You're powerless to change -our- system.

Here are some interesting numbers however:

Last election, 9% of the electorate voted for an Independent whose positions aren't significantly different from my own.

At least 25% of democrats are voting against the main candidate as a protest vote. I don't believe he'll convince them to vote for him over me. Call that another 12%-15% of all voters (I'm fudging because 25% of Democrats are also undecided and he won't get all of them either).

Whoever wins the GOP will win with barely 30% of the vote if that. And it's been ugly. I don't know what percentage is available here but I'm easily sitting at 21%-24% in a race where I need 34%.

Which is 88,000-100,000 votes.

Those can come from any of the following pools:

  • the ~100k undecided democrats who vote. I will get some of these.
  • the remaining ~280k republicans who vote. I will get some of these.
  • the 800k voters that number voted in the 2012 presidential election and did not vote in the 2011 gubernatorial election. I will get some of these - and the other candidates will not get many. These people were planning on staying home otherwise.
  • anyone else who decides to jump in from the remaining 1.6m registered voter pool. I will get some of these - and the other candidates will not.

So we'll see.



Prevent Party Rollup
by Scottingham

Say your political campaign is successful. Do you have a plan in place to stop one of the "two" parties from co-opting your message and claiming to be a part of the same movement? I'm thinking Tea Party -> GOP and 'Occupy' -> Democrats. Both only 'sorta' worked (TheTea Party was much more successfully assimilated IMO), yet ultimately were co-opted.

Drew: This is why I'm running independent - so that doesn't happen. I'm wanting to encourage other independent candidates to run as well. The only thing we should all have in common is that our votes can't be bought and we'll take a look at any solution presented to us. Sharing a common ideology isn't a requirement.

And if they actually did co-opt the message because they implemented it, well good.



closet skeletons
by Anonymous Coward

Drew, what is the worst possible thing that a political opponent could dig up on you - what don't you want people to know?

Drew: Well in Kentucky it's probably the fact that I attended Duke's Talent Identification Program as a teenager for four years. I'm hoping my undying hatred of Duke's basketball team will help people over look that indiscretion.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Interviews: Fark Founder Drew Curtis Answers Your Questions

Comments Filter:
  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Monday May 11, 2015 @03:03PM (#49666987) Homepage
    In the interests of being self-referential, Drew needs to post on his website :
    "Fark discussion of Slashdot discussion about Fark"
    • Now, with more boobies.

      (Honestly, the only thing I know bout Fark is the "Fark and Boobies" meme)

  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Monday May 11, 2015 @03:06PM (#49667019)
    PS contest quality is diluted by the number of contests. Multiple contest in day? Try to get more selective subject matter and give more time for creative entries and I think you'll see some good quality return. 1 per day max.
    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      If Drew reads this, since I asked the question about the Photoshop contests, if there were a way to make it easier for regular Farkers to know what was coming or a reduction in the amount of time that the Photoshop contests were exclusive to TotalFark members before being released to everyone else, it might help increase the participation.

      Other suggestions are probably impractical. I wish that Fark had room to store the photos that people post, instead of relying on third-party imagehosts (which would a
      • by henni16 ( 586412 )

        I don't know when you last posted a picture on Fark, but Fark has been rehosting posted images on their servers for some time now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    > I dislike rape jokes the same way I dislike puns - because as styles of humor go they're both too easy.

    Really? You can't think of any other reason to dislike rape jokes?

  • Contradiction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2015 @03:33PM (#49667203)

    > Drew: There's no attempt to make Fark more PC. I think what happened is the rest of the Internet moved -far- past us on the anything-goes relative scale.

    Um... Anti misogamy posting guidelines, covered two questions above, exposes this answer for a complete lie. Banning them is a PC move. It doesn't matter that your fake reason for doing so is "they aren't funny." Meow Said The Dog isn't funny, but no one's banned her for that yet either. So saying "we're not trying to be PC" while enacting a very large, sweeping PC oriented change is just... politician levels of lying, Drew.

    • > Drew: There's no attempt to make Fark more PC. I think what happened is the rest of the Internet moved -far- past us on the anything-goes relative scale.

      Um... Anti misogamy posting guidelines, covered two questions above, exposes this answer for a complete lie. Banning them is a PC move. It doesn't matter that your fake reason for doing so is "they aren't funny." Meow Said The Dog isn't funny, but no one's banned her for that yet either. So saying "we're not trying to be PC" while enacting a very large, sweeping PC oriented change is just... politician levels of lying, Drew.

      The good thing is that it's Fark and no one gives a shit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Anyone who disagrees either keeps it to himself or gets banned. The Fark echo chamber is deafening.

        • Re:Contradiction (Score:4, Interesting)

          by henni16 ( 586412 ) on Monday May 11, 2015 @11:07PM (#49670199)
          I've stopped commenting in certain threads and just use them to add people to my ignore list.
          My problem isn't even with that PC policy, but with the posters who applauded its introduction and felt it was necessary - I recognized a lot of names whose level of "discourse" and reaction to well-reasoned arguments I've come to associate with "lalala-I-can't-hear-you-lalalala"

          Among them there are some of the most intentionally(?) obtuse, hypocritical people on the internet.
          They don't even realize that they act exactly like people they complain or make fun of in other threads.
          On certain issues they seem to switch off their brains, argue purely from emotion, apparently misinterpret everything to fit their views or emotional state and blindly attack everyone who doesn't echo their sentiments.

          They made it impossible to have actual, reasonable discussions because they're e.g. apparently incapable of differentiating between trying to understand why some bad thing happened and endorsing it.
          They also give the impression that showing the correct amount of outrage about a problem and the correct distribution of blame is much more important than actually fixing problems or preventing shit from happening again.
          I gave up on Fark when I clicked on the profile of one of the densest, most hypocritical, most vocal, personal attacks launching, reasonable discussion killing douchebags - and saw that someone thought it a good idea to make this massive all-around asshole a moderator.

          If 9/11 had happened with todays Fark, the first comment would be "in before some victim blaming terrorism apologist explains why the people in the WTC deserved it" and then you can watch how the first poor sod posting something like "I wonder what reaction Osama was hoping for" or "how do you brainwash 20 people to commit those acts" gets assigned the aforementioned "in before.." role and torn to pieces for shit that was never said or even remotely implied.
        • This is mostly why my participation dropped. I didn't care about the misogyny rules for the most part, I only ran afoul of them once when I said women were just as mean and nasty as men. I quit participating because the left-wing compliance echo chamber was so deafeningly loud and had mod powers. I happen to know a lot of us libertarian types love Fark otherwise.

      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        Yeah, I kinda felt like Drew's response to #4 was a wonderful specimen of political doublespeak. He is ready!

        Yes, we understand that "the appearance of motive or conflict" is more important than whether there's stated or actual intent. But most people that politicians make their statements to totally don't work that way. It's all about the sound bite.

        I think Fark is ... coping with the changes. People always find a way to speak their minds, even if they have to bend to fit the limitations set forth by t

  • Drew: There's no attempt to make Fark more PC. I think what happened is the rest of the Internet moved -far- past us on the anything-goes relative scale.

    This really isn't the case, but it's not necessarily bad. Ironically, the recent "PC" changes have been less offensive than previous ones. Fark has removed a number of "extreme" posters over the years- Gorgor and Rugbyjock are two of the most obvious. IMHO, that really hurt- they both added a lot of substance to the site, and since everything they did

    • Of course, if you go back to the very early days, Fark didn't have the 'boobies' and 'wieners' topics -- those didn't happen until after they got mentioned in Playboy. (in 2000? 2001?)

      (disclaimer : I used to work for Drew, and was the one who added the original topics, back when they all had strong 'S' sounds (and I still thing that 'wierd' and 'cool' weren't needed because of 'strange' and 'spiffy'))

    • Because women are fragile snowflakes who never like anything like bondage, ever. Gotcha. Better go tell all my female friends that are S&M freaks they need to stop finding whips and ropes so sexy.

    • by mrex ( 25183 )

      The more recent changes aren't anywhere near as bad as people think.

      Drew's failure to reign in moderator agendas is what's so bad, and it is clearly never going to get better there. He's encouraging it and thinks he's on the side of right and justice with making rules about it being fine to say "i hope you die in a fire" but HORRIBLE and BANWORTHY to say "rape rape". If you're cool with that kind of twisted, identity-based morality, maybe Fark is still the site for you.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday May 11, 2015 @04:15PM (#49667457) Homepage

    gubernational

    Hah. Guber.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nobody cares Mr Curtis. To quote your father. Get over yourself son.

  • Mr. Curtis, the entire point of your website was to steer young kids to your paid porn websites. Aren't you ashamed?
  • I wrote this question. Thanks for the response, Drew. Insight always helps to quell the rage.

    I happily accept that it's your site and your own preferences ("I dislike rape jokes...") and my confidence in you is renewed because you didn't choose option #6 ("I actually believe that everyone who jokes about women hates women and they should be stopped.").

    Misogyny, sexism, chauvinism, crassness-- these are all different words with different meanings, so when the "Anti-Misogyny" policy falsely attributes HATE as

    • by henni16 ( 586412 )
      Pretty much this.
      And IMHO a lot of the perceived hostility was people getting treated like they treated others by making the crime fit the punishment or simply holding up a mirror:
      If you're by definition the tolerant, "aware", good person fighting bigotry for the greater good, you can't possibly behave like a bigot yourself and people pointing this out must be haters attacking you.
      Most telling were the complaints about how Fark "has recently become" more hostile.
      "Mommy Drew, the kid whose hair I've be
  • " The ethos of Fark used to be say anything --- smash any idols ---just be funny doing it. Has moving away from that basically made Fark no different from a lot of other discussion/aggregation sites?

    Drew: There's no attempt to make Fark more PC. I think what happened is the rest of the Internet moved -far- past us on the anything-goes relative scale."

    That is absolutely and categorically FALSE. Ever since the bringing onboard of a couple of SJW mods, there's been a HUGE attempt at controlling speech, jokes, and more. Mysogyny is NO GO but misandry is A-okay.

    Slashdot, if you had ANY integrity, you would never run a piece on this lying sack of shit known as Drew Curtis, ever again.

    • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Monday May 11, 2015 @08:50PM (#49669443)

      Same. I was a farker almost from the very beginning and it's blatantly obvious that a handful of toxic individuals treat their moderator position as a means of enforcing cultural diktat that would make even Jezebel staff blush. When the "anti-mysoggyknees" rule was enacted there was enormous outcry, most loudly from female posters who were offended at being treated like children. Guess who left or got banned first.

      • by mrex ( 25183 )

        This, so much this. The problem started with mod Genevieve Marie and all her trolling alts, targeting anyone reasonably well-spoken that she didn't consider to exemplify sufficiently feminist opinions. If you look at my username, you'll probably be able to figure out which Farker I was. Drew circled the wagons instead of fixing his shit. Now we have a forum torn between "anything goes" humor when it targets certain groups and safe spaces with eggshells on the floor for other groups. Who is who? Never fear,

  • Drew needs to print up some "Govern or GTFO" T-Shirts to put the fear of FSM in his political opponents.
  • by mrex ( 25183 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2015 @08:09AM (#49671919)

    There's no attempt to make Fark more PC. I think what happened is the rest of the Internet moved -far- past us on the anything-goes relative scale.

    Really, Drew? You're playing the "fair and balanced" game with us? Anyone can look at Fark.com headlines or comments from 2006 as compared to today and see that Fark simply lost its edge. I'm not a huge fan of rape jokes, either, but I'm less a fan of sacred cows. Remember when Fark didn't have those?

  • Fark you and your non-answers, you political hack.

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