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the original web addiction.
June 26, 2005 6:35 PM   Subscribe

"A fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun" -- ground zero of Web irony, Blog 1.0, the Picassos of the deflating hyperlink, Suck.com rocked. This is their history, as told by the promisingly named Matt Sharkey at keepgoing.org. (Suck's ex-editrix Cox is Wonkette and Terry Colon's art is everywhere. And God knows we could use a good Suck right about now.)
posted by digaman (61 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Suck was previously discussed here.
posted by digaman at 6:37 PM on June 26, 2005


digaman: that's EXACTLY what I thought until just for grins i clicked through to the first link and found a really interesting piece on the actual formation and history of Hotwired and Suck.com. The rest is derivative but that first link is pretty cool IMO.
posted by photoslob at 7:13 PM on June 26, 2005


Let's not forget Joey Anuff is (last I heard) running Plastic, the site that makes IndyMedia look conservative. And good ol' Polly is Rabbit... mmmm, heather havrilesky...

I miss Suck.
posted by keswick at 7:20 PM on June 26, 2005


I miss suck

So do I - it used to be a daily ritual. What I don't miss is explaining to several IT managers that 'no, it's not a porn site' and attempting to get the domain un-banned by our firewall.

Years ahead of its time.
posted by tim_in_oz at 7:30 PM on June 26, 2005


keswick: how can i ever repay you for directing me to polly esther's new incarnation?

or old incarnation, as the case may be.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:45 PM on June 26, 2005


Suck, Feed, Word. Early days of Web publishing, why have you forsaken us?

Ah, well. Ever since salon1999.com moved to salon.com, this whole "Internet" thing has been going downhill.
posted by aaronetc at 7:45 PM on June 26, 2005


UbuRoivas: Standard contract is your first born.
posted by keswick at 7:51 PM on June 26, 2005


I loved suck.com. I think I was in high school when it was really good, actually; I know the letter I got published (what was the letters column called? fish barrel? Fresh fish? Really need to check the internet archive) was from when I was 17 or so. Maybe that tells you something about the overall low/high-browness of it all, but suck.com was absolutely the bee's knees of the Internet when I was a kid. They were saying "this Internet thing is all bullshit" way way way before it was cool, when people were still pouring money into it hand over fist.

UbuRoivas: keswick beat me to the Heather Havrilesky ID (surprised Digaman missed that one in the FPP); glad to have you back in the fold, though. Unfortunately her primary paying gig seems to be "I like to watch" over at salon.com, though the rabbit blog is still pretty funny (and still apparently illustrated by terry colon?!).

Thanks for the link digaman; this is the only "back in the old days" sentimentality I really engage in and I'm going to read this story like 5 times.
posted by rkent at 8:20 PM on June 26, 2005


(photoslob, I wasn't suggesting it was a double-post, just pointing to a previous thread. The Suck history was my main link.)
posted by digaman at 8:25 PM on June 26, 2005


Somebody should sneak this into one of Tufte's presentations.
posted by gimonca at 8:35 PM on June 26, 2005


Where are the NetMoguls now?
posted by digaman at 8:39 PM on June 26, 2005


The writer I've missed most is "Ambrose Beers", Chris Bray. Pretty damn gutsy to join the military just to find out how it works. He had a couple of pieces at Reason a few years back, and entered a history doctoral program.

Huzzah, he's findable again! Oh dear. He remained in the Reserve, and is indeed going to Iraq.
posted by Aknaton at 8:46 PM on June 26, 2005


I've found my way to the Suck: Filler Archive. I'm back in heaven again. I'm glad that I can revisit it. I wasn't really old enough to fully understand it when it was ongoing.



Metafilter: *hearts* Suck.
posted by Jon-o at 9:07 PM on June 26, 2005


Let's not forget Joey Anuff is (last I heard) running Plastic

Uh, no. Anuff was there at Plastic's founding, but for the majority of Plastic's history, there has only been Carl.

Geez, the old MetaFilter, like, knew this stuff.
posted by dhartung at 9:09 PM on June 26, 2005


attempting to get the domain un-banned by our firewall.

/me remembers reading the short-lived but great-while-it-lasted fucker.com at the office. (Don't bother, there's nothing there now.)

smug.com was great too. Unlike fucker it's still archived online.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:13 PM on June 26, 2005


That's right, my bad.

I've tried to block out Plastic's devolution from my mind. I joined 2/22/01, and watching it devolve from an interactive Suck to Mayor Bob's reactionary cult of personality was a drag.
posted by keswick at 9:17 PM on June 26, 2005


keswick: Standard contract is your first born

have already eaten her; not planning any more, sorry.

hm...Heather Havrilesky?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:21 PM on June 26, 2005


so dreamy...
posted by keswick at 9:36 PM on June 26, 2005


Suck's Tim Cavanaugh is running The Simpleton.
posted by Termite at 9:40 PM on June 26, 2005


Those were the days of unlimited possibility. No instant web millionaires from running a single site now.

/remembers installing mosaic for the first time and trying to explain it to other grad students.
posted by craniac at 9:45 PM on June 26, 2005


Thanks for the link to Ambrose Beers blog.
Anybody know what Joey Anuff is up to?
posted by Termite at 9:48 PM on June 26, 2005


Suck: Now, More Than Ever
posted by newton at 10:21 PM on June 26, 2005


You can find the pals from Suck.com all over. Mr. Greg Beato does a lot of work at Wonkette (along with O.G. Wonkette Ana Marie Cox), Tim Cavanaugh is the Web editor at the excellent libertarian magazine Reason, Terry Colon's artwork can be found everywhere from Time Magazine to your favorite Web sites, Havrilesky is at Salon & her own site (as mentioned), and etc.

It was a fine site with fine writers & lovely illustrations.
posted by kenlayne at 11:50 PM on June 26, 2005


I thought I'd mention here, because it'll look really bad on my weblog if I just start going off on articles and to-the-moment punditry instead of focusing on my core competency (being a dork)....

But that article is a great example of 'great subject, as long as you don't stray from the path'. I, like many others, was blown away by Suck, by the clever writing, the insightful links around the web, by all the rest of it...

But instead of just admiring the site for what it was and using the interviews with Hotwired insiders to give a sense of how it functioned as its own creation, the author goes WAY far afield and starts implying that Suck created the earth, moon, and heavens. It was NOT the first site to do links that went somewhere neat that were a commentary on the words in the link. They were NOT a site that showed you how daily content could be achieved on a website... first. They were really good. In a field of webpages, they were one of the top ones, totally worth the daily checkup to see the clever writing. But damn, he implies that every webpage was a dull, monotonous hum until Suck showed us the light. Fuck that.

The author could have stayed his hand and totally nailed the greatness of suck.com, but no, he had to ride the pony too far in the rain and ruin it.
posted by jscott at 12:52 AM on June 27, 2005


“He would get sick of me,” says Havrilesky, “because I would send him descriptions that would say, ‘An obese squirrel that looks slightly drunk and confused but regretful is sitting at a bar with an emaciated rabbit.’ He would always say, ‘You only get two emotions. It can be regretful and drunk, or regretful and excited, but it cannot be more than two things at once.’ Also, I would say, ‘This emaciated rabbit isn’t cute enough.’ He’d say, ‘You said emaciated. Emaciated is rarely cute.’”
Oh, Suck, we hardly knew ye... But, what jscott said.
posted by grouse at 12:57 AM on June 27, 2005


jscott and grouse, citations to popular websites that did those things before Suck did would be welcome. "Fuck that" implies that it's obvious or something -- yet no links or cites? Let the Wayback Machine help you prove your case.
posted by digaman at 2:39 AM on June 27, 2005


I agree with jscott: what made Suck good (apart from Polly & Terry which were not just good, but seriously addictive) was the writing. I don't know how many times I've heard people say that writing for the web is different: keep it short, keep it dumb. And, oh yeah, make sure it's interactive.
posted by Termite at 3:45 AM on June 27, 2005


... just back from reading Ambrose Beers' blog. He's still good. Why the F.com is that guy going to Iraq instead of getting published somewhere and getting paid for his writing?
posted by Termite at 4:01 AM on June 27, 2005


digaman: The Wayback Machine isn't old enough to do what you suggest—it only started in 1996.
posted by grouse at 6:18 AM on June 27, 2005


i got so excited the day one of my letters to suck was posted. Then saddened because I got roundly mocked. Then excited again, because I was mocked by the best!

..then suddenly I lost interest.

But really, Suck is what I used to point to when people said the internet was destroying intelligent writing. Whereas now I just shrug and say "So waht? You are teh stupid."

I miss suck because I was constantly in awe of it. Nothing I have ever looked at replaces it. But thanks for all the links, people. I'm going to try and catch up with all the old sucky crowd.
posted by lumpenprole at 6:36 AM on June 27, 2005


Suck was founded on August 28, 1995. (From the article). The wayback machine started archiving some web pages in 1996. So, no, that would be a problem.

One look at your webpage shows you should know this. Drink the Flavor-aid all you want, but that article is simply wrong, sir. It hypes Suck.com beyond where it should be. It is a classic case of taking the "celebrity" and thinking the "celebrity" invented all the neat stuff they did, instead of knowing they simply had good observational skills (and it's obvious that Steadman & co. had excellent skills and were browsing a fuck of a ton).

Again, we're arguing about the size of the elephant and I'm telling you it was definitely large but not the size of the moon.
posted by jscott at 7:54 AM on June 27, 2005


grouse, I know the Wayback Machine is only that old, but I thought it might contain older pages than that.

Anyway, I certainly agree that Suck was great writing. While Terry Colon's art was and is charming and funny, what made Suck for me was the sour wit that acted as the perfect cover for its enthusiasm about the newly emerging medium. Suck was bitter because it cared.
posted by digaman at 7:58 AM on June 27, 2005


jscott, I'm earnestly interested in your hypothesis that the article is "simply wrong," just waiting for the first suggestion of evidence beside pronouncements that the article is a hype.

I'm sure somebody somewhere made an ironic hyperlink or ten before Suck did; but they certainly popularized the form, at a time when popular websites could be counted on four hands. I'm sure there were a few other websites that updated frequently -- I recall Julie Petersen's awaken.org as having a "bloggy" journal component, for one -- but I remember how radical the daily updating seemed at the time, and since I was working at HotWired in a room with over 100 people whose job it was to surf around for cool new websites, as well as to create their own, we were pretty aware of what was going on out there.

Another very early and fine site that's still going: Levi Asher's Literary Kicks.
posted by digaman at 8:12 AM on June 27, 2005


But really, Suck is what I used to point to when people said the internet was destroying intelligent writing. Whereas now I just shrug and say "So waht? You are teh stupid."

Hilarious.
posted by digaman at 8:18 AM on June 27, 2005


jscott- Why the hate? OK, it's maybe possible that someone was doing what suck.com did before them, but let's be honest, Suck was the site that got read. Yeah, we all knew about Word and Feed, but Suck suddenly made those sites look like the pretentious garbage they were. People "knew" about Word, but everyone Just Had To Tell You about Suck.

Suck didn't start out with advertising. Or even graphics, except the logo, and how scandalous was it when the Suck.com logo suddenly became one of those whiz-bang animated .gifs? If there was a link on their site, it was never in some kind of gratuitous "sites we like" kind of way, it always had some tie to the content. It was brilliant in its simplicity.
posted by mkultra at 8:31 AM on June 27, 2005


...how scandalous was it when the Suck.com logo suddenly became one of those whiz-bang animated .gifs?

Oh God. I remember that. I was convinced it was The End of the Internet.
posted by keswick at 8:41 AM on June 27, 2005


I recall a piece of junk mail that Joey Anuff tacked up on his wall, addressed to 'MR. AND MRS. SUCK.'
posted by digaman at 9:13 AM on June 27, 2005


mkultra, the "hate" is simply disgust when an article is hype. Difference there.

digaman, deep in the bowels of Hotwired, is posting an article that portrays Hotwired as being, if not the genesis of all good things web, the genesis of the genesis of the good things web. The article comes close to revisionism about how things were and I don't like that.

Again, I'm saying that suck was definitely an 10 out of 10, but the article is calling it an "11!!!!!!!!!".

I prefer to spend my time with BBS History but I can rail on early web history too, if you'd like. It just seems like you're missing the point.

Oh, wait, you worked for Wired.
posted by jscott at 10:41 AM on June 27, 2005


Still no cites, but now an ad hominem attack. Forgive me if I disengage.
posted by digaman at 10:54 AM on June 27, 2005


Oh I get it now, Jason -- I looked at textfiles.com, your fine site, which preserves and investigates pre-Web ASCII culture. I can see how someone who was deeply rooted in that culture would chafe over an article that might make it seem like Suck invented online irony or something, not "Web irony," as I put it.

Well -- good job. BBS culture deserves more attention, and I can see where you're coming from now.
posted by digaman at 11:04 AM on June 27, 2005


Oh, wait, you worked for Wired.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
posted by keswick at 11:11 AM on June 27, 2005


Work for Wired, actually, which is no big secret around here.
posted by digaman at 11:17 AM on June 27, 2005


I appreciate the compliment, but no, I am specifically taking on the implication that Suck invented all sorts of things, web-wise that it did not. It merely (if "merely" can really be applied to the achievement) wrapped up a lot of skills into a single place that got it a lot of attention.

On a side note, Wired suffers from this problem with regards to the Well, for example, painting it as the be-all end-all of BBSdom, the place where the "on-line digerati" hung (and hang) out, the BBS that defined what it was to use a BBS. This is, ultimately, a lie, a lie of hype. It is... I will state again: not true.

But no, I am specifically stating: suck.com was great, but the article goes too far and attempts to paint it as an inventor of things it improved upon. It's a common trick, used by reporters and journalists to increase the self-worth of their articles.
posted by jscott at 11:38 AM on June 27, 2005


You know, not that I think about it, Suck was responsible for me first seeking alternate browsers. When I heard about this 'tabbed browsing' thing, my first thought was "Wow! At last I can succumb to that maddening urge to click those links in suck articles right away, but still finish the article!"

So there you go. Firefox, thank suck.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:58 AM on June 27, 2005


It merely (if "merely" can really be applied to the achievement) wrapped up a lot of skills into a single place that got it a lot of attention.

So did Elvis Presley and the Beatles. That's practically a definition of how something becomes popular and influential, and doesn't depend on Elvis inventing R&B or the Beatles inventing Indian music or backwards guitar to make the claim of being really, really important.

Did the original "race record" R&B artists deserve more attention than the white boy who ripped off their best shit and put it on TV? Certainly. Should everyone listen to classical Indian music? Well, I certainly do. But Elvis was Elvis, the Beatles were the Beatles, and Suck was Suck.

There are always going to be people who are more interested in tracing the history of the truly original, edgy, oft-ignored, genius sources -- and I happen to be one of them, as is evident in my work for Wired. That's practically my MO as a journalist. But I think Sharkey did a very fine job in telling a story that has never been told in such depth.
posted by digaman at 12:13 PM on June 27, 2005


And AGAIN. The article claims they INVENTED things they did NOT. That's all. We're officially in a circle. All hail suck.
posted by jscott at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2005


I heard Carl invented the blog. Confirm/deny?
posted by keswick at 12:49 PM on June 27, 2005


I would hand the blog/linklog award to the NCSA "What's New" page, assuming that you mean 'web-based list of links'. It was started in June of 1993. Here's the archive page:

http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Software/Mosaic/Docs/whats-new.html

My own webpage joined up in June of 1994, which was created by a cohort of mine, Mark Shoulson of the Klingon Language Institute, and which I added graphics and some text to. It still exists at www.tim.org.

By the way, those pages can be used to kick suck's ass in terms of earlier citations.
posted by jscott at 12:57 PM on June 27, 2005


And AGAIN. The article claims they INVENTED things they did NOT.

I appreciate your urge not to succumb to sacred cow syndrome, but what does the article claim suck invented? Somebody says the consider it to be one of the first blogs, but that's about it.

The most attractive/frustrating thing about suck was it's sense of being an exclusive in crowd. The article mentions that they did that intentionally, and maybe that's what you're responding to, I don't know.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:01 PM on June 27, 2005


I was trolling, Jason. :)

I remember that page. I don't think my site ever made it on there, despite starting in November of 1994. Humbug.
posted by keswick at 1:06 PM on June 27, 2005


We had to send it in, keswick.

We got 10,000 viewers in a week when we were on what's new, by the way.
posted by jscott at 1:50 PM on June 27, 2005


At the time, the typical website had some sort of entry page, like HotWired’s registration screen, or more commonly, a title page or cover, with links to individual internal pages—or to a separate table of contents, leaving the real content of the site twice removed from the point of entry.

...false.

Many sites took their cue from HotWired, employing garish color schemes and dizzy background images.

...false.

“It’s important to understand that up until then, to the best of my knowledge, people had just used hyperlinks in a strictly informational sense, simply as online footnotes,” says Mark Dery, author of Escape Velocity.

...wrong!

“Whereas every other Web site conceived hypertext as a way of augmenting the reading experience,” wrote Steven Johnson in Interface Culture, “Suck saw it as an opportunity to withhold information, to keep the reader at bay.”

Every other web site? EVERY OTHER WEB SITE? Except suck?
posted by jscott at 1:54 PM on June 27, 2005


...false.

"Typical websites" didn't have entry pages? Can you back this up? I remember them being quite common.

...false.

"Many sites" didn't have garish color schemes and dizzy background images? Can you back this up?

...wrong!

To the best of Mark Dery's knowledge, people had just used hyperlinks in a strictly informational sense. Given, as has already been argued, that suck.com brought ideas like this to the mainstream, I find it entirely believable that Mark Dery, whoever he is, had never seen ironic hyperlinks before.

Every other web site? EVERY OTHER WEB SITE? Except suck?

You're right, there probably were other sites, but don't see how it helps, given that this quote is obviously hyperbole. Again, it is suck.com that brings the idea to the mainstream.
posted by event at 2:26 PM on June 27, 2005


The "mainstream" of websites when Suck launched was a trickle, other than scholarly pages with gray backgrounds, a few very cool personalized homepages by some very early adopters, and brave pioneering cultural sites like Word and Feed and Literary Kicks. Personally, I'd rather see jscott pointing us to cool archived sites that he liked rather than focusing so much on how the article is "false!" and "wrong!", because then we'd have a prayer of getting something out of this other than possibly being persuaded that jscott possesses a knowledge of Web history that Matt Sharkey does not.
posted by digaman at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2005


I stand on one set of pages: The Geek Houses of Santa Cruz.
posted by jscott at 4:42 PM on June 27, 2005


Well, what's left of that does seem cool in high-geek fashion, which is a sincere compliment.

I should amend my previous post: by August of 1995, monochromatic backgrounds were taking over, frames (ugh!) were poised to become the Next Big Thing, and in addition to Word, Feed, Literary Kicks, HotWired, Suck, and early-adopter sites like Justin Hall's Links from the Underground, the first generation of mainstream sites -- places like Playboy.com and other commercial operations -- were getting underway. Other than the sites I mentioned, however, there were very few places on the Web that offered sharp cultural commentary targeted at a wider audience than the friends of the person who built the site. While the remnants of "Geek Houses of Santa Cruz" definitely look smart and funny and interesting, it doesn't seem like the sort of thing that college students all over the world would start reading every day -- which Suck was. Suck came along at the right time to skewer the first lumbering steps of the corporate world into the new-media landscape, and I remember being amazed that kids in Africa and Sweden were emailing about what was posted there.
posted by digaman at 5:00 PM on June 27, 2005 [1 favorite]


.
posted by mwhybark at 5:12 PM on June 27, 2005


also

...suck.com was absolutely the bee's knees of the Internet when I was a kid...

/rushes to mirror, notes plentiful grey hairs, bursts into tears for lost youth
posted by mwhybark at 5:19 PM on June 27, 2005


I stand on one set of pages: The Geek Houses of Santa Cruz.

A good citation, that, and what's left isn't really a. And jscott makes a valid point: the 94/95 web (as in, the Netscape 1.1 web) was finding a character and sense of self-knowledge that wasn't quite there in the Mosaic/Netscape 1.0 web. You had Stim, Urban Desires et al as the first push to add magazine aesthetics (and David Siegal crypto-aesthetics) to an environment that was loose, baggy and tended to praise Bob. And it's that slicker, not slacker segment which Suck launched into and against.

If anything, I'd say that Suck in its earliest incarnation was about bashing the new breed of sites around the head with the values and sensibilities of the sites that went beforehand. But in truth, you're arguing from subjective positions, and it's all a bit pointless and sad.
posted by holgate at 2:58 AM on June 28, 2005


...ugh. Let's finish that sentence. What's left of the Armory pages isn't really reflective of what was once there. Same with the stuff that was put out on the GALCIT server.

Anyway, I'm still pissed off that I accidentally left my Suck t-shirt in a Holiday Inn in Petersburg, VA back in 1999.
posted by holgate at 3:10 AM on June 28, 2005


Brilliant post, holgate.
posted by digaman at 9:49 AM on June 28, 2005


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