Exclusive interview: Fark founder Drew Curtis

TR: How have you seen the Fark community change over the years?

DC: What's interesting is that we are in a weird spot being ten years old, so we've got people that were 18-22 ten years ago at one end, and at the other end we're still picking people up right around 22.

They come out of college and they get to their first boring, horrible job and they're sitting around in the cafeteria going 'god, how do I keep myself sane?' and somebody clues them in on Fark.

It's really funny, watching that demographic spike at 22. It's like clockwork. Our biggest months of the year are October and January – we think January because that's when the semesters change and the kids are sitting around talking about their favourites sites.

But when you're ten years' old you start looking at how you continue to make sure this happens, how we continue to stay relevant to these guys. With us it's not really humour but it has more to do with 22-year-olds and 18-year-olds have this base level of features that they expect to see when they hit a site and they get a little bit confused then they don't have it.

The stuff we're getting emailed for that we're putting in is stuff like private messaging, friends lists, and email prompts. So we're going to put all that stuff in.

I mentioned that in a local newspaper interview and a bunch of Total Farkers got all up in arms – they were like "don't turn Fark into Facebook!" so I said "we're not going to turn Fark into Facebook, you dumbasses! We're adding some shit and if you don't want to use it, you'll never see it. But if you're expecting it to be there, then you'll find it."

I'm a big fan of not forcing people to use functionality that they don't want to, and not changing a good thing – like Facebook has done."

TR: Is this new functionality just for Total Farkers?

DC: No, it's for everybody. The Total Farkers ended up catching hold of it and complaining. But I believe that about 20% of our audience is anal retentive. They're the guys that if you go to their house and you turn their little miniature cats around backwards they freak the fuck out when they walk into the room.

TR: That's most of the people on the internet…

DC: Think about what that means when you are designing a site. Even if it's the best idea in the world, those people are still going to wig out because you turned their little cats around backwards.

They get used to it eventually, so what we do is for the first couple of weeks we ignore most of the complaints, but the valid ones, like for example when we redesigned Fark back in 2007 one of the complaints that came in initially, aside from people hating it, was that the background white was too bright.

We hadn't ever noticed this so our design guy contacted the guy and said 'what do you mean?' and he said 'it's just too bright' so we said 'OK' and started turning it down a couple of clicks. And it was literally like 10 points off pure white and the guy was like 'perfect!'

The funny thing was all these other people wrote in said 'thank god you guys turned that white off'. So we pay attention to stuff like that, if it's easy to fix.

TR: So to sum up – new functions for Fark include private messaging, friends lists...

DC: Just basic stuff that kids think should be there. We're also redesigning the comments: if you're average Joe who'd never heard of Fark and you landed on one our comments pages could you figure out, without anybody telling you what to do, what the hell you're supposed to do? Currently the answer is no, it doesn't make any sense to people who don't use the site. So we're changing it round a bit, just making things a little clearer, so it doesn't significantly impact the layout.

And also we're adding running voting contests along the side... If you come to the main comments page the comments will still look exactly the same, but you can vote on all of them. And there will be three tabs out to the right of the main page – we're running three contests all the time – best, funniest and crap. So you can vote comments up.

It will not change anything on the main comments page at all - but we're saying here's something else you can do if you guys care, because people really do like to give props when they see something that's hilarious.

We don't expect people to look at every single comment and vote – that's not the point. If you don't want to participate in that you don't have to because we're not shoving it in your face, but if you do, it's something extra to do.

TR: Do you have a schedule for rolling these new features out?

DC: Within the next month probably. It depends, though, since as we're not venture funded we're not really in a hurry. We don't have any quotas to hit! So whenever we get around to it, basically, but I think within the next month.

Global Editor-in-Chief

After watching War Games and Tron more times that is healthy, Paul (Twitter, Google+) took his first steps online via a BBC Micro and acoustic coupler back in 1985, and has been finding excuses to spend the day online ever since. This includes roles editing .net magazine, launching the Official Windows Magazine, and now as Global EiC of TechRadar.