The major reason I won’t continue Flickr a Day for a second year is my new project, which rapidly is evolving; your input could help shape its development—and would be hugely appreciated. I’ll start with some background.
Seven months ago, fellow journalist Randall Kennedy unexpectedly emailed asking if I had any start-up ideas. He lived with his family on an island paradise off the East Coast of Africa, running a school, which had closed. He wondered about returning to journalism, or being a trade analyst—like me, both roles he had filled in the past. What he really wanted to know: Is writing a viable profession in what I call the Google free economy?
mea i muri
I didn’t immediately respond, not out of disinterest but neglect; I let my inbox overfill. In late August 2015, we started discussing working together on a project. Looking at the Fourth Estate’s sorry state, we conceived a plan to launch an analyst firm together. Randall ran a successful consulting and software development business before moving overseas to be close to his wife’s family.
But what the Hell do you call a new business and in process secure useful domain name and social media handles? All the good choices are taken or squatted.
I got the idea of using a word or phrase from another language. I made several suggestions, but Randall came up with the one that felt right, and was available to use everywhere: mea i muri, which, according to Google Translate is the “next thing” in Maori. I grabbed the domain(s) and set up webhosting; the first of three efforts.
“Next thing” perfectly fit our objectives. Problem: Progress slogged along. Something about building an analyst business from scratch overwhelmed and didn’t look like much fun. So in a soul-searching Skype call we discussed where we were going. We both felt journalism fit our personalities better, but how to make a viable business when the Fourth Estate is in chaos?
I Hate Tech
Randall is an engaging, witty talker who reminds me of a cross between Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, both whom past coworkers subjected me to. My colleague blends stream of consciousness with clever and comedic jabs. I had wondered if we could do a podcast, which would produce original content not as easily aggregated (e.g., plagiarized) and more viably monetized through paid sponsorships.
Our discussion moved to the idea of doing a podcast, with Randall proposing “I Hate Tech”, where we could rant about the absurdities of the tech industry, of which there are too many. We also discussed a long-term plan, which I won’t disclose at this juncture, to later build up mea i muri analyst operations from the media endeavor. But domain “ihatetech.com” wasn’t available, and we had to make do with i-hate-tech—also for the Twitter handle. Someone claimed @ihatetech in August 2009 and abandoned it. There is no activity. Maddening.
I cancelled webhosting for meaimuri.com and started over with i-hate-tech.com, which I registered in mid-October 2015. But progress slogged along; my time is split with other projects.
Meanwhile, Randall started producing tweetable “rants” in clever style, essentially giving a Jeopardy-like question to a headline or content from tech news of the day. The site remained dark, even while lit with fresh “Randall’s Rants”.
By mid-November, I began to wonder if tech focus would confine our endeavor. Then one night, while Randall and I talked an idea burst out of my synapses. I may have muttered “Frak that!” I don’t recall what inspired the idea but do remember checking if frakthat.com was available. Unbelievably, it was! I grabbed the domain and later frakme.com, too. We refined our strategy once more, days later.
Once again I terminated hosting, after exporting content from i-hate-tech.com, and established a new account for frakthat.com. But the ease of obtaining the domain, which felt so much like destiny at the time (and still does), was overshadowed by our inability to get @frakthat on Twitter. Déjà vu! Someone claimed the handle in June 2009 and used for a single tweet. It’s another orphaned account.
We delayed moving ahead while I attempted to contact the gent who has @frakthat. He never responded, and as mid-December approached it became clear that I wouldn’t likely reach him. We reluctantly settled for @frak_that instead.
I am dismayed and frustrated by the number of orphaned handles discovered across social media sites. They’re claimed and the majority were never used, like Twitter alternatives: @frakked (February 2009; zero tweets) or @frakme (July 2008; one tweet).
The word frak originated on TV series Battlestar Galactica during the 1970s but got its big bang during the Syfy remake last decade. Frak is euphemism for fuck to which television network censors and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission don’t object. I often mutter “frak that” and even used the two words to title a September 2005 post about BSG during its first run.
The phrase as name for our forthcoming podcast and website should be familiar to the geek set, while opening our topical range beyond just tech. Hell, with the crazy election year ahead there should be plenty of opportunities for “Randall’s Rants” and “Joe’s Jabs”.
Everything about this project is work-in-progress as we go along. The first version of the website will go live in a few days, with refinements to follow. We haven’t yet decided when to start podcasting but that won’t be too far future.
The initial showcase is the Twitter feed and Randall’s Jeopardy-like tweets. Tip: These are best appreciated by clicking “view summary” rather than link to the references site (sorry, we do want to send them traffic but our audience’s experience is priority). The screenshot above is example of what you will see.
Biddle and Taibbi
Randall and I are still trying to find our combined voice, and we probably won’t until after the podcast starts. We will be frank, sarcastic, clever—or he will. I frequently refer to him as “the talent”, which he is. My writing role models for Frak That! are Sam Biddle and Matt Taibbi. If Randall has any role models, he can discard them; none are necessary.
If you wonder about that photo of the pug, which represents Frak That! on Twitter and elsewhere, we needed something to substitute for a logo, which we will get in the future. I captured the pic using HTC One M8 at my former family physician’s office in mid-June 2013. It’s not a Photoshop-job. I caught the dog’s tongue sticking out.
Wrapping up, commenting will be essential to Frack That! storytelling. Trolls are welcome and even encouraged. Why should Randall and I monopolize the snark? For now, while I tidy up the website before beta launch, please follow Frak That! on Twitter.
We’d love your suggestions, too, which you can leave here, on Twitter, at the website (when live) or by email (fu at frakthat dot com).