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Gathering to embrace the power of the Fark Side

Fans of the snarky Web site Fark.com, a home for wacky news, aren't content to just meet in cyberspace.

By JAY CRIDLIN
Published June 3, 2005


Drew Curtis isn't sure how much control his team of moderators has over his once personal, now highly public Web site.

"We're like the people that patrol the outside of the game preserve," says Curtis, 32, the founder of Fark.com. "We don't have much to do with what's going on inside; we just keep it from spewing everywhere else."

Given Fark's rabid fan base, that job seems to be getting tougher by the day.

The site is a clearinghouse for as many weird and wacky news items as Web surfers can dig up in the course of a day, particularly those involving stupid criminals, useless studies and bizarre controversies.

Contributors stick each item with a humorous tagline, such as, "Newsweek changes policy on anonymous sources. Probably just a coincidence." Or "Investigators close case on 1969 Altamont stabbing, set their sights on '80s "Where's the beef?' mystery."

The site has posted more than 1.5-million links; last year alone, Fark.com drew 400-million unique page views.

On Saturday, a group of Curtis' most rabid local followers will gather for a Fark party at a Howard Johnson hotel in Tampa.

Just what, exactly, does that mean? We'll let Curtis explain. Here are excerpts from a recent conversation with the St. Petersburg Times:

What is a Fark Party? What goes on?

Fark started in 1999, and back then, I was doing some database consulting in Spartanburg, S.C. I would go down there and work, and it was incredibly boring, staying in a hotel, not doing anything. So I put a little note up on the site that said if anybody who lives in the area wants to go grab a beer, give me an e-mail. Two people wrote me. The last time I did it was probably last October. At 4 p.m., I posted a link on Fark saying I'll be at this bar in two hours. Fifty people showed up.

Basically, it's just a bunch of people standing around and drinking who live in the area and have something in common - which is, they like Fark. It's like walking into a room with 25 people you've heard of before. I'd say about half the people are from some kind of a tech-related field, but we've had doctors, lawyers, the whole gamut. Baptist ministers show up at these things.

Do you get it if you don't regularly read Fark?

Oh yeah. Anybody can show up who just happens to see it. In general, most people who like Fark have in common the concept that everybody else in the world is stupid. It's not a conceit, necessarily. I think most people probably think that.

Six years in, are you surprised by how well Fark has done?

Oh yeah, I'm completely shocked. It's absolutely unthinkable. Fark started out as my personal Web site, and kind of took off from there. That'd be like anybody who's got a Web log becoming a major columnist within five years or so.

You've got to be surprised that so many news-media types check your site on a daily basis, or two or three times a day.

That's been amazing, too. I have a feeling it's what most people in the media would like to be able to say, but they can't. A good example of that is a line we popped out the other day. NASA had been doing research that concluded that female astronauts would do better than male astronauts in space. The tagline we attached to the end of it was, "They're still trying to work out how to fit the tiny kitchen into the space cabin." That is so far beyond what any mainstream newspaper could ever possibly get away with. We're not serious about it, we're kidding, but I can imagine the letter-writing campaign that would follow if the St. Pete Times ran a tagline like that.

Do you have an all-time favorite headline?

There are two. After the U.S. had gone to Afghanistan and confiscated Taliban computers, they found some bizarre e-mail conversations between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, discussing this problem they'd been having attempting to buy a nuclear weapon from the Russian mafia. The Russian mafia said, send us $50-million, and we'll give it to you. So they sent $50-million, and the Russian mafia sent them some stuff that was basically just garbage. These guys were apparently super-gullible, according to these e-mail conversations. They actually tried to buy one three times, and all three times, the Russian mafia sent in crap. One of the packages they sent was a junked-out Volkswagen full of auto parts. You can imagine being in the Russian mafia, talking over a vodka in some bar in Moscow, laughing as the checks roll in.

The other one was submitted simultaneously from two TV stations in central Missouri. They sent in a link to the NOAA.gov Web site, which has all these little teletype-text weather bulletins. They'd sent one that started out pretty normal, then said, "Today, in central Missouri, temperatures will be unusually high because" - and then it switches into all caps - "THE EARTH HAS FALLEN OUT OF ITS ORBIT AND IS HURLING TOWARD THE SUN!" It was great. What happened was, somebody over there sent a test message, but it went out over the wire. Two guys caught it and picked it up. We ran it as a news flash.

Tell me about the decision to include a separate label just for Florida stories.

The ground swell started showing up after the 2000 election, with all the brouhaha going on down there. Everybody from Florida, it seemed like, was e-mailing me insisting that Florida was the most messed-up state anywhere, and it deserved its own tag. So finally, I caved and said, fine, I'll put one up, but I really don't think we're going to use it all that much. I was shocked. I mean, I'm from Kentucky, and there's enough stupid crap going on there. But I guess you guys have got everybody licked.

Do you think this interview will end up on Fark.com?

Oh, probably, without a doubt.

- Jay Cridlin can be reached at 727 893-8336 or cridlin@sptimes.com

HERE COMES THE SCIENCE: The Tampa Fark party is scheduled for Saturday at the Howard Johnson at 2520 N 50th St. Farkers will meet by the pool; the hotel bar opens at 6 p.m. with live entertainment at 9 p.m. If you can't make it, just Photoshop yourself into someone else's pictures. For more information, visit http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=1496178

[Last modified June 2, 2005, 19:13:55]


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