Web Masters Episode #62: Joey Anuff


Suck.com » Encyclo » Nieman Journalism Lab

Joey Anuff:

There’s never been a PBS documentary. There’s no Ken Burns documentary on Kinkos, but there should be. Because Kinkos in and of itself is probably as radical in achievement, world-changing a development as the entire World Wide Web. Just like having a bunch of Kinkos copy centers. And that was a huge part of the lives of lots of people. People in bands, people in zines, people doing interesting things in culture, you would meet them at the Kinkos. They would work on their punk rock scene or whatever at a Kinkos or sub-Kinkos. Tons of people had voices. The difference when the Web came was attached to a viable buzzword.

Aaron Dinin:

Well, there’s a thought. Kinkos, the 1970s upstart network of photocopying centers that spread throughout the United States in the eighties and nineties, was as world-changing as the World Wide Web. Okay. So maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but regardless it highlights interesting point. Before sharing your thoughts with the world was as easy as pressing the post button on your social media platform of choice, people would haul themselves to a photocopy center and spend all night printing copies of their homemade magazines then mailing them out to readers around the world. What this tells us at least, is that long before the Web existed, people wanted to share information and connect with other members of like-minded communities. The Web just made things easier. But the transition wasn’t smooth in the earliest days. People weren’t particularly good at figuring out how to do those things on the Web. And as a result, well, the early Web really sucked. Or at least that’s what our guest on this episode of Web Masters believed. His name is Joey Anuff and he’s the co-founder of Suck.com. Are you ready to hear the story? Let’s get dialed in.

[INTRO]

Aaron Dinin:

Welcome to Web Masters. This is the podcast that teaches about entrepreneurship by talking with some of the Internet’s most impactful innovators. I am your host, Aaron Dinin. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I teach entrepreneurship at Duke University. And as you surely realized, because you’re listening to my podcast, I’m a digital content creator. That’s relevant to this episode of Web Masters, because we’re going to take a closer look at digital content creation by talking with Joey Anuff, creator of Suck.com, which was one of the earliest popular daily publications on the Web. Not to spoil things too much, but what you’re going to hear is that as much as things seem to change from generation to generation, in reality, everything really just stays the same. but gets put into new and different technological packaging. We’re going to talk about why that’s important to understand, especially for entrepreneurs. But first I’m going to tell you about something else important. I’m going to tell you about this podcast’s sponsor.

Web Masters is being brought to you thanks in part to the support of our partner. Latona’s. Latona’s is a boutique mergers and acquisitions broker that helps people buy and sell cash flow positive internet businesses and digital assets. That includes things like content websites, SAS apps, Shopify stores, Amazon FBAs, domain portfolios, and all sorts of other work from anywhere types of businesses. If you’ve got one of those and you’re thinking of selling it, take the moment to contact the team at Latona’s. They can help you understand the process of selling a business and when you’re ready, they can also help make that process much easier and smoother, thanks to their years of experience and huge network of interested buyers. Oh, and if you want to become one of those potential buyers, head on over to the Latona’s website, where you can see listings for all the businesses they’re currently selling as well as join their mailing list so you get updates about new listings as soon as they become available. That website is of course, Latonas.com.

Let’s be honest for a moment. Every generation thinks of itself as superior to the generations that came before it. And that sense of superiority is in large part, a byproduct of whatever new technologies exist that the younger generation has mastered and the older generations are slower to understand. Our guest on this episode of Web Masters, Joey Anuff, has some thoughts on why this pattern tends to happen.

Joey Anuff:

People are always wondering why it is that they struggle so much. And they want to believe that it’s just a new generation’s going to do things and they’re going to do it a lot more intuitively and it’s going to be easier for them. And that’s not true. What it is is that older people, very sensibly, don’t want to spend their lives with their books and training manuals, learning new technologies, learning new acronyms, learning all kinds of crazy things that sound like nonsense and sound way too complicated to ever be fathomable to any live human being. Like nobody wants to do that. But you know, at a certain point you’re like, “Okay, well I can do it, and plausibly get hired. So I guess I’ll punish myself.”

But that mentality of just punishing yourself that knows no age. I just think for young people, they tend to be shut in more. For a 17 year old or 18 year old, if you’re really nerding out on something, it makes sense to spend hours and hours and hours doing it. And it can become as entertaining as some people binge on Netflix series. But you can also binge on tutorials and binge on instructional content and it’s not that different. Once you like it and once you get it, it starts becoming enjoyable.

Aaron Dinin:

In other words, according to Joey at least, at some point, younger generations need to do important things like get jobs and enter the workforce. The best ways to get those jobs is to master the new technologies that older generations haven’t bothered with because they’re more set in their ways. So naturally a younger generation is always going to be considered more “tech-savvy” than any generation that came before it. And I think I can buy that belief. It certainly seems to have some validity to it. And in fact, the story of Joey’s entry into a digital tech career fits the pattern pretty nicely.

Joey Anuff:

By the time the Web came around, I feel like I had already been through several generations of world-changing digital technology. My father was an electrical engineer at Bell Labs. So computers were something that we had in our household earlier than most houses did. My brother was particularly precocious computer programmer. He was the kind of person who the local papers would write stories about, “Kid releases software product”, or “Has code published in Byte Magazine.” I always was very comfortable with that. I definitely feel like in the seventies was the first generation I think that made a big deal of its young people growing up digital native. So those of us who were elementary school children in the seventies heard a lot of the nonsense rhetoric about the changing of the modern digital youngster, very early. So by the time it started to get semi-mature in the nineties…

Forget about what happened post-millennial, where they actually did convince a lot of young people that there was something fundamentally different about the relationship with technology, because of their immersion in social media and Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff, that they were sort of wired different, which is of course complete harsh (beep). But it was obvious that that was something not entirely correct or honest or expansively insightful about that line already in the nineties, because I knew that it was completely untethered from reality.

I had not thought of myself as being somebody who was doing a lot of technology probably until I graduated from college. And that was the only industry that was really very active in hiring around 1992 or 1993. So my entry into Web production was this very young person, I was 23 when I got hired at HotWired. So I was one of the youngest people there. And it was very easy to both be a young digital Wizkid, but more important to appear like a young digital Wizkid, in a way that would intimidate these older people, 30 something people, 40 something people. But of course it has nothing to do with age. My peers who were my same age were just as intimidated. Most young people are not technologically inclined. And just because you use the smartphone doesn’t mean that you’re good with technology.

Aaron Dinin:

So Joey claims it wasn’t so much a passion for technology that led him into the internet world, but that it was just the stuff he grew up with and where the jobs were when he needed to start working. It’s a bit of a different take than what we usually hear from our guests on Web Masters. Most of them seem to claim some early passion for digital technology. In contrast, Joey thinks it’s more a byproduct of when a lot of these people were born rather than some sort of innate interest. Whatever the case, for Joey, his early connection with computers and digital technology, led him to a job at Hotwired.com, the famed digital offshoot of Wired Magazine, and one of the first online publications.

Joey Anuff:

It was one of the first ones where you would actually want to tell a friend you worked there and think that they should be impressed. Not that they were, but they should have been.

Aaron Dinin:

We’ve already encountered HotWired numerous times on this podcast. Among others, Justin Hall worked there. He was the “world’s first blogger”. We featured him in Web Master episode number 31. And John Battelle was one of the founders of Wired, who we heard from in Web Masters episode number 48. It was clearly a nexus point for early Web innovators. And for good reason.

Joey Anuff:

When I went to work at HotWired, it was already over a year old, but one of the things that infamously had happened with HotWired is they had had a very prolonged launch sequence with some false starts and a lot of wasted money. So that there would be like a pre hoc Wired, where there was a very crunchy kind of maybe more inspired digital utopian crew that just spun their wheels and didn’t come up with anything, although that might be lure, chances are, but it could also be totally true. And then after that didn’t work, they hired some slightly more button-down, less LSD adult, wake and bake style people to come on and build HotWired. They were still essentially freaky people, but they just were not as burnt out or hard as maybe the first crew.

And so that’s the HotWired that I joined. So it was more like year two of HotWired. It was slightly more… Well, it was probably a lot more organized. It was a real business, and there were probably as many as 50 people. They were hiring a lot. And one of the things that they did was they encouraged all the employees to use as much as they wanted the server closet, where miles and miles of hot pink ethernet cable converge in on this hot server closet where anybody could go, put their PC or whatever and surf to the web and piggyback off of HotWired’s bandwidth, so on and so forth. So that was part of the values of the company. So we encourage everybody to do whatever they want to publish. So, yeah.

Aaron Dinin:

And what was your job at HotWired? Were you on the editorial team?

Joey Anuff:

I wasn’t editorial at all. I was a production assistant writing Perl scripts. My responsibility was to take every month’s issue of Wired Magazine and reformat it for three different platforms. I had to run a bunch of scripts to generate Web templates. I had to do a bunch of scripts to output like a CompuServ version and then do another whole set of crazy technological transformations to format it for delivery to AOL. So parsing and text preparation was my specialty. I wasn’t hired to write at all. Actually, partly the reason why I did write was because I wasn’t hired to write.

Aaron Dinin:

Okay. So you weren’t writing for HotWired and you, I guess, decided to write on your own. How did that happen?

Joey Anuff:

Yeah, well, we were doing our jobs and I have to tell you, a lot of that transformation of Wired’s magazine into these digital formats was something that I would say probably within my first 60 days of work, between me and Carl and John, it was all turned into basically two days of work. So that wasn’t taking a huge amount of time, nor were we running to tell, “Hey, I don’t have more work to do. I automated my job.” So my manager who was Carl Steadman, who you should definitely talk to, because he’ll have five times more to say about everything that I will, he was very fine stealing company time to work on our own things.

Aaron Dinin:

Carl Steadman, by the way, would become Joey’s Suck.com co-founder.

Joey Anuff:

He took advantage of my resentment that the editorial side of HotWired was to not printing whatever my little editorial contributions were, to agree me that it’s preposterous to ask for permission from anybody, even your employer, to publish something on the Web. If you wrote it, you just put it up and you should write it, Joey, and I’ll write it too. Although really, I ended up writing most of it. And we will use everything we know about a website and formatting it the way we think it should be formatted and using a voice that we think should be used and explaining things they’re not explaining them to the degree that we thought they should or should not be explained and do it ourselves. It was fun. And it was very much in keeping with a prankster ethos. We wanted to do absurdist things and blow people’s minds and make them laugh. We were kids, it wasn’t that serious, but we wanted to do hijinks. That was big value for us.

Aaron Dinin:

The wise-cracking and pranksterish writing they were publishing was of course Suck.com and it placed a very different editorial lens on the digital revolution in the World Wide Web than the one being given to it by Wired, the company whose bandwidth Suck was using.

Joey Anuff:

I’m not going to be able to give you a really good pressy describing Suck in its context. Suck in its context, put briefly, was a very smart-alecky, snide, sometimes profane, but also really well-informed technologically daily take on Web propaganda and Web hype. It came out at a time when there was very few venues that were doing regular publishing, very few people committed to a regular schedule so that when we did an essay a day, that in and of itself was an innovation because people published when they wanted to publish. Nobody thought, “Oh, well, if we published it every day, much less would be published every hour,” which then became a normal thing in the decades after. But one of the things that we wanted to do was speak against a lot of the commentators who were very obviously setting themselves up to be expert authorities on this new world, who were a lot of people who were setting themselves up as gurus of the new digital space. And that was their brand, and that’s what they would write.

If it wasn’t for Wired, they would be writing about some new technology for Time or Newsweek or whoever. And the stuff that they had to say was really trite. It was obvious that the people writing were, in a lot of ways, novices, but they were positioning themselves as experts. And they started to bring a measure of supercilious overbearing rule-making authority to the whole digital world, which was even more infuriating because can you imagine people trying to lay down the rules to the road like it’s 1995, 1996? Obviously they didn’t know. We didn’t know. We knew we didn’t know. So for people trying to position themselves that way, it just seemed totally absurd. And especially since at that point I was working as a production person at HotWired, which was just adjacent to Wired. So I was meeting a lot of the same people who were making these cases. I knew firsthand that they couldn’t even set up their own Web browser.

Aaron Dinin:

So were you saying Suck.com was almost like a response to what you saw as misrepresentations or misunderstandings of the emerging digital age?

Joey Anuff:

A lot of the skepticism toward the digital world drove us at Sucked. Even though a lot of the boosterism and the hype and propaganda, which was really business propaganda, around information technologies that was going on in the nineties, for however in name that hyperbole was, the skepticism that was directed toward the internet and the Web was even moronic. It was really, really shockingly stupid stuff. And an interesting thing that I had to get comfortable with, which is a big difference between the nineties and today, back in the nineties, there was an attitude toward technology that I hated. That’s why I would say probably a lot of the big motivation that drove us in Suck days is probably spite.

Spite is one of the strongest forces in the universe. Find somebody who outrages you with their success. Somebody who is like you can’t believe people love, and let that be your guide toward creating what you really think should exist. Because it really does drive you. That sometimes is the only thing that does drive you, just the thought of it, like the world is fundamentally out of line. Something is wrong in the world. And then you think, “But wait a minute, if they did it this way, it would be so much better.” If you can do it that different way, do it. That’s a really good motivation. Just because you feel petty doesn’t mean you don’t have a good insight. You can be petty and super insightful. These things happen.

Aaron Dinin:

And what do you think was so unique or compelling about how you in the form of Suck.com responded? Why were so many people tuning in?

Joey Anuff:

So the first thing that we did on Suck was we didn’t use our names. We actually went through elaborate precautions to keep our identities secret and untraceable. We used remailers and anonymizers because just the idea that we weren’t doing it to build a byline felt like a step in the right direction. Just the idea that whatever we were going to say, if it was important enough for us to say it, it was important for us to not take the credit for saying, meant something.

We were deliberately not trying to build brand equity, because we wanted to encourage people to say things that you weren’t saying, because you were going to get any money or you were going to get invited onto a panel as an expert or anything. You were saying it because you thought it was true. You thought it was important. And you had this great big whiteboard in front of you that you could do anything and say anything on. And it was nobody stopping you from doing it. So if you didn’t call bull (beep) on all the things that struck you as bull (beep), whose fault was that really? The tagline of Suck, we admit it. We knew we weren’t doing something revolutionary, but at least we weren’t trying to claim we were doing something revolutionary.

Aaron Dinin:

While Joey didn’t necessarily think they were doing something revolutionary with Suck.com, audiences seemed to think otherwise. In fact, their commentary on the web and the world at large would soon outdraw the much more polished Hotwired.com website that Joey and Carl were working for.

Joey Anuff:

Carl, my partner in Suck, I believe one of his day-to-day responsibilities was putting together an artisanally crafted traffic report that had broken out domain refers… Had a lot of stuff. And we put that to use on Suck immediately. So anybody linked to us, we had the link. We knew exactly where our traffic was coming from, where every single hit came from. We knew when a university had found us. It also gave us some perspective on our numbers versus their numbers. And it gave us an appreciation for how so much of the official sanctions produced, edited, and art directed content actually was underperforming. We had a really good apples to apples comparison, and we were able to tell really quickly that the imprimatur of official content was not a big multiplier toward your traffic. You could look like crap, get a bunch of traffic. You could look great, and get no traffic.

Aaron Dinin:

In other words, you know that phenomenon on social media where the TikTok dancer who looks like she just rolled out of bed, gets orders of magnitudes more views and likes than a professional dancer with all sorts of expert filmography behind her? Yeah, that’s not actually a new phenomenon. If anything, this, what we might call amateur style, is itself a key strategy for successful content creation on the internet. Just know that amateur style content isn’t necessarily easier to create. It’s actually an aesthetic. And mastering that aesthetic takes lots of time, practice and expertise in its own right.

Joey Anuff:

Today’s world really requires a lot of inference. You really have to put yourself in lots of other people’s shoes to work backwards and deduce because until you think about it, you won’t remember that of course, everybody took a 100 takes. You think, “Oh, it’s just me, I take 100…” No, everybody took a 100 takes assume that everybody took a 100 takes. There’s this gray literature that nobody ever sees, that everybody has to work out for themselves of just common sense rules of thumb that if you just stop and think to yourself, “Okay, what should I do?” But if you spent a long time trying to find somebody who is going to find you a really great laundry list of things you got to keep in mind if you want to create successful video content, you’re just going to be doomed. You’ll never find the end of it. It’ll just go on and on and on forever.

Aaron Dinin:

Of course the same thing was true back in the early days of the web, when Joey and Carl were creating Suck. They were doing it on their downtime while working for another company. But despite the amateurish style, compared with something like Hotwiried.com, Suck’s rapidly, increasing popularity made it difficult to do both jobs well. And despite their disdain for the mainstream conversations about tech and digital culture, the business opportunity behind what they created was clear.

Joey Anuff:

In my recollection, there was less than a year between when the Web came of age and became a social phenomenon that a lot of people knew about and the web becoming fully [inaudible 00:23:47] commercialized with IPOs and crazy Mozillian era of style, paydays and wealth. And by the middle of 1995, there was already a Netscape IPO, which was probably the biggest IPO in years. So the reality that there was going to be a new business, an industrial space that was going to support all kinds of editorial media, visual media, and what have you, all kinds of different digital forms of media, that by the end of 1995 was clear that there were opportunities. There was money rushing in. It wasn’t hard to get something funded. So it’s not like when we started Suck, we thought, “Okay, this is going to start a business.” But before we had published it for 90 days, it was clear that there was a business there if we wanted it.

There was enough traffic, there was enough attention, and there was enough impact, that if all we wanted to do was write Suck and do a column every day, it would be very easy for us to do that. We could start advertising [inaudible 00:24:48]. We could sell ourselves to Microsoft or Starwave or HotWired or to whoever. It was certainly a seller’s market for digital IP. And there was no way for us to convince ourselves that that wasn’t something that we wanted to do. There’s no way you’re going to be so anti-establishment that you’re are going to be like, “Okay, will you not sell your stall for a six figure paycheck?” Of course.

Aaron Dinin:

That opportunity came when Joey’s employer at Wired decided to make an offer to buy and operate Suck.com, which allowed Joey to turn it into a bigger and more successful business.

Joey Anuff:

When the idea came, “Okay, why don’t we just quit our production jobs? And we’ll just become like an independent editorial entity that could be owned by HotWired, by Wired ventures. And we wouldn’t even be working for HotWired. We’d be working in the same space as them, but would just be like another brand. We wouldn’t have to move our servers. We wouldn’t even have to move our desks if we didn’t to. And our paychecks would basically double,” we had to do it. We had to do it. And I’m glad we did because that very same pecuniary impulse is, in retrospect, I feel like the best thing about Suck was that it went for five years. I wasn’t able to write it myself past the first four months, but we had to such a good budget that I was able to pay tons of great writers, some of my favorite cartoonists, some of my favorite talent to do work for us and to probably get them more financial stability than they might have ever had in their lives.

That was miraculous. And I’m glad that II did that, even though it didn’t make me any kind of internet millionaire. We didn’t hold on to it. Virtually any other way that we went probably would’ve been better for our bottom-line. But what we did do is create a business where we could pay writers at least a dollar a word. It’s like all those Suck coms. Somebody got a thousand bucks for every single one of those, at least. We would get Pete Bagge to draw cartoon on a Friday, a multi-page. We pay them like 5,000 bucks for people who are not working in Silicon Valley. That’s really good money. It’s great money today. It would be good money today. If I could get paid a thousand bucks to write a piece, I would probably still be a writer. If I could do it at some kind of regularity, I might actually think writing is still a career.

But it was for all our writers back then. And I loved reading Suck when it was running. I was a big consumer of it. And I think it published a bunch of really profound, really great work. I feel like people had something to say and they couldn’t believe that somebody was willing to pay them really decent rates to say it. And they went for it. We got great, great, great output from some really talented, creative, and off-filter thinkers. We got some great stuff from people.

Aaron Dinin:

What was it like running Suck as a sister brand of HotWired rather than working for HotWired?

Joey Anuff:

There were a lot of people in Wired in the executive ranks, especially on the magazine side, that I loved then and I love now. As a matter of fact, I would say probably a lot of the people there. I probably would’ve worked with the people at Wired and HotWired. I would’ve gladly worked with them for my whole life. There were a lot of really great people there. And then there were some people there who were… They took more villain roles and they drove me up the wall. And it’s after a couple of years they were the ones who were more in charge and I didn’t want to be there as much.

Aaron Dinin:

Seems like a very diplomatic answer. And eventually all that stuff got acquired by Lycos anyway, is that right? What was that like?

Joey Anuff:

Lycos was not a hip corporation. It’s like you’re working on something, something really cool. And then you’re owned by the home shopping network. Even if you have the most open, welcoming mindset, it’s not going to be a bright thing and a great fit. But the one place where we did have a meeting of minds with the people at Lycos was their feeling like, “Okay, well, maybe there’s even a better structure if we were to spin you guys out into a new corporation.” Because they, like many other big dot coms around 2000, 1999, 2001, had their own investment group. They were doing their own M&A, they were doing their own ventures, and it was very easy to talk to them and be like, “Why not just think of us as a new venture? And we’ll find a whole new group of shareholders including you guys, and start something new where it’s still related, but it wouldn’t be an editorial property.”

Aaron Dinin:

So Suck.com got spun out of Lycos. Lycos by the way, is a company we heard all about in Web Masters episode number 52, featuring Fuzzy Mauldin. Anyway it’s at this time that Joey and Suck.com partnered up with another popular early Web publication. It was called Feed Magazine. And remember we learned about Feed Magazine when we spoke with Feed’s founders, Stephanie Simons, in Web Masters episode number 40. On the surface, it seemed like a good match between Feed and Suck. They created a new company called Automatic Media to help share resources and cut costs, but other factors would influence the merged company’s ultimate success, or you might say, lack thereof.

Joey Anuff:

I don’t think we were doing anything wrong. I think our timing was fine. Our execution was great. It’s just… We ran out of money at a time when you didn’t want to run out of money. You didn’t want to run out of money in summer of 2001.

Aaron Dinin:

That definitely was not a good time to run out of money. Suck.com published its last piece in June of 2001. But Joey actually doesn’t have too many regrets about that. You see, according to Joey, the internet doesn’t need a site like Suck.com anymore.

Joey Anuff:

A lot of what we did with Suck that we wouldn’t need to do now, was just being one place that was willing to, even at the cost of your career or your interpersonal reputation, to just call something that was truly stupid and worthless, stupid and worthless. That’s not so much necessary now. I think that all of the things that I personally would notice, other people notice and they talk about, and of course they go too far. So the Web is not something that needs anything like Suck today.

Aaron Dinin:

So what’s doing the job of Suck.com today? Is it social media, I assume?

Joey Anuff:

I find it almost axiomatic that anytime there is a widely disdained new media phenomenon, that it’s almost always something just inherently kickass and great. I don’t participate. I don’t go volunteer content. I don’t author tweets, but I read a lot of Twitter and I love it. And what I find on Twitter is that there’s a lot of people speaking back in a way that if they weren’t, I would feel existential angst. I would feel really upset if there weren’t so many women speaking back to men on Twitter, I would feel like the digital space was absolutely worthless. The whole point, it seems to me, of a lot of these networks is to have a place where angry people get to have their say, and people who are just not here for it and who have heard certain things too many thousands of times, finally are able to craft really devastating pushbacks.

I think the reason why people hate Twitter is because some of the people who speak back to the blue checks are really good and are making really devastating, tough mortal blows. And I love to see that. I love to see that. I feel like there’s more non-toxic affirmational pushback from disenfranchised people on Twitter than there is railroading of mainstream opinions on them. And to the degree that people that probably do Twitter, I feel like, “Okay, it’s definitely doing something right.”

This is something that I noticed actually back around 2009, 2010. And I remember talking to my brother just being like, “I finally figured out how to use Twitter. You just find the people you hate and then read the replies.” People are saying all the things that you wish you could say, but you knew for you to say it, it would require so many calories. Not real calories, but emotional calories to find your words, pace around and to calm your blood pressure. Because when you want to talk about these things, these things really upset you. They are triggering. To de-trigger, find your words and say something really clever, that’s a lot. And that other people have gone and done that already… Oh, bless you. Thank you. There is some consensus. Thank you for giving voice to that.

Aaron Dinin:

In a way, it sounds like you’re saying social media is an escape valve of sorts for culture. Is that right?

Joey Anuff:

I think that once you get a mass audience, you find very quickly that it has its own tendency and that to fight that tendency too much, it’s suicidal. You won’t even go out in a blaze of glory. You’ll go out in a blaze of idiocy because you will have known better. You’ll have the evidence in front of your eyes. And I think that that is probably a lot of what happens if you were to go to YouTube, if you go to Twitter, if you go to Facebook. I think that you would be surprised. Everybody would be surprised at how much more reactive the executives are than anybody would ever guess. People would think of them as very volitional, a lot of agency, and a lot of programming cloud to make us do or not do. And I think that that’s probably not true. I think it’s seat of the pants, just trying to adapt to very unpredictable mass movements that they have a very deliberate way to them. And you can’t route them. You can’t move them. They’re like forces of nature. That’s how big traffic is.

Aaron Dinin:

Is that basically the same phenomenon that Suck was responding to in its day as well? Is that the purpose you were proud to be serving?

Joey Anuff:

I’m glad we figured out a productive way to complain about things that we didn’t like. That’s always a challenge. You always feel bad when you look at the world and it drives you up the wall, it makes you feel like partly the problem is you. Because it’s your problem. If you’re getting angered by things, whatever it is and it’s throwing you out of whack, it’s not good for you. Social media can do that to you. And all media can do that to you. And figuring out a way to engage with it in a way that actually does justice to the pebble in your shoe, that like actually gives voice to the thing that’s the problem, without just telling yourself, Joe, just be cool and shut up, which you have to do a lot of times, but sometimes you do have to have an opinion and that’s tough because it’s like, okay, nobody wants to engage and volunteer the free time to some online debate or flame war or anything. But sometimes you just have to express yourself about. And that’s what we got on the best days of Suck.

Aaron Dinin:

And this to me is the key entrepreneurial takeaway of the Suck.com story. It’s that people are people and culture is culture. Those things don’t change very quickly, but the technologies we use do. In its day, Suck.com served an important role for the internet. It was a necessary cultural venting mechanism. That’s why it was hugely popular. Before Suck people vented in magazines and newspapers. And before that people vented in public debates and in theater and in poetry. And after Suck.com, of course, people have started using social media as a venting mechanism. But here’s the thing. It won’t end at social media either. So am I saying you should be looking for the next great technology people can leverage to vent their frustration and anger, maybe with blockchain or machine learning or augmented reality? Actually yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. But remember, it’s not just that we use technologies to vent our frustrations.

We also use technologies for things like shopping and communicating with family and learning and on and on and on. Those are all core societal functions that are augmented by new technologies. So if you’re looking for a new entrepreneurial opportunity, a new company to build, find one of those core societal functions and figure out a better way of helping people accomplish it using a new technology. That’s how innovation happens. That’s why Suck.com was in its day, revolutionary. And it’s why whatever you build can be revolutionary too. And when you do build that revolutionary new thing, well, I hope you’ll take a moment to thank a story you heard on Web Master for inspiring you. Better yet, why wait? You can thank us right now by leaving a great review on your favorite podcasting app and be sure to tell your friends about Web Masters too.

I’d like to thank Joey Anuff for taking the time to share his story and the story of Suck.com.

I also want to thank Ryan Higgs, our audio engineer, for helping pull together this episode. And a thanks to our sponsor Latona’s for all their support. Don’t forget to check out Latonas.com if you’re interested in buying or selling an internet business.

If you’re are interested in sharing your thoughts about this episode, you can find us on Twitter. We are @WebMastersPod and I’m on Twitter too @AaronDinin. You can also find lots more entrepreneurship content on my website and subscribe to my newsletter over on Aarondinin.com.

We’ll be back soon with another episode of Web Masters, make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss it. Until then, well, it’s time for me to sign off.