Face to Face With Farkers
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Jessica Brede is a Total Farker. A member of a quirky community built around the funkified Fark.com.
The Web site piles up real news stories. Real strange stories. Real asinine stories. Slaps an ID tag on each one. And an irreverent headline, a discussion page and a link to the primary source. Recurring IDs include: Weird, Scary, Ironic, Spiffy and Florida.
Fark is for: fans of "The Daily Show," "News of the Weird." Fark is not for: the squeamish.
It's for: skeptics, cynics, droll trolls. It's not for: everybody.
Some recent headlines: "Today's semi-hot teacher gettin' it on with a student brought to you by Chaska, Minnesota" . . . and "Natalee Holloway's parents file suit against ex-suspects in daughter's disappearance, right after ex-suspects file suit against Dr. Phil. Merry Christmas, everybody." The first headline links to a Minneapolis TV station, the second an Associated Press story.
Online yarns, yuks, oddities -- ferreted out by Farkers -- are posted every few minutes around the clock. So are Photoshop contests. And the occasional party invitation. Fark parties pop up all over. In the first half of December alone, devotees soireed in London, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, the Silicon Valley and St. Louis. In Washington -- a Fark stronghold -- three parties. Not large blowouts. Small gatherings. It is first, foremost, an online community.
A recent weeknight. Brede shares beers and cheese fries with a long table full of Washington area Farkers. They hobnob in the backroom of Whitlow's on Wilson, a Clarendon brew parlor. They hold up human foibles -- including their own -- for ridicule; they guffaw at goofy goings-on around the globe.
Black hair, wicked laugh. Brede, 27, says Fark has not made her a better person: "I was an awesome person to begin with." She's an economist. Lives near Logan Circle. Screen name: Stars at Night.
She swaps jokes with Mike Stearns, 37, a software designer for the Army. Screen name: Abdullah the Destroyer. This is his first Fark party. He puts faces with screen names.
That guy in the light blue shirt and shell necklace is Scott Foster. He's 26. Screen name: The Mail Demon. Some Farkers don't want their names in the newspaper. Foster doesn't mind. In Fark parlance, he says, "I'm an attention whore."
Fark has its own language, predisposed toward puns and puerility. "Boobies" is a fave Farkism. Members turn obscene phrases into familiar acronyms. The name itself is a euphemism.
Put up in 1999, the site is the brainchild of Drew Curtis, 33, who runs the whole irreverent endeavor from Lexington, Ky. Overseeing Fark, he says on a cellphone somewhere in Kentucky, "takes as much time as I've got."
It requires "a lot of flexibility and a lot of work."
Recent story with a Stupid tag: "Attempt to rob store, get bat jammed in register -- bad; clerk escapes -- worse; clerk then locks you in the store while police come to get you -- [vulgar slang deleted]. you then fall through the ceiling while attempting to escape -- Welcome to Fark.com."
Business 2.0 reports that the site receives 40 million page views per month.
John Battelle, founding editor of Wired magazine: "Fark has two things in abundance: traffic . . . and young men. That's a group advertisers covet." He has a media company that works with Curtis on the business side.
It's possible that Fark may be the first go-it-alone blog-type site to make $1 million a year in profit, Battelle says. A TV show is in the works; book due out in June.
The site's got nearly 320,000 registered viewers. Roughly 1 percent, including Brede and Foster, are Total Farkers. They send Curtis $5 a month, which enables them to see more stories, delve into more discussions than those who just lurk, and enables Curtis to feed his wife and two kids. And travel to some parties.
Though Washington has one of the strongest Farking communities, Curtis has never been to a D.C. Fark party. "I've never met him," says Brede. She's been to a few.
Curtis says he's coming to one in March. "I have to be in town anyway."
Brede will probably be there. Unless she's watching a hockey game.
Her fiance, Philip Stone, 32 -- not a Farker. An industry analyst for the feds, Stone says he doesn't have the time. "I don't do it."
He doesn't like to watch hockey either. He plays Game Boy.
Wedding's in May.