Fark failed?

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Almost three years ago, a Language Log sequence about an obscure point of typographical history got featured on fark.com. And as I explained in "The Gray Lady goes up against fark.com", 6/20/2006, the result was about 10,000 extra LL readers on June 14, 2006:

(The spike on 6/20/2006 was due to a piece in the NYT.)
As Geoff Pullum told us yesterday ("Fark Off", 4/12/2009), his discussion of The Elements of Style was also farked. In this case, however, the result was bupkis:

It's possible that the 17th-century suppression of taboo words is intrinsically much more interesting to farkoids than Stunk & White is. But perhaps the energy once concentrated on sites like fark is now off on Facebook and Twitter, leaving behind just a few pathetic addicts without the energy to click a link, or to do much of anything else except register a feeble and stereotyped snark?

[OK, I don't have the hit counts for Geoff's article at the Chronicle of Higher Education. But still.]


  1. acilius said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 7:48 am

    That's all the more reason to ignore fark and its trollish commenters.

  2. Dan T. said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 8:19 am

    Why is this and the preceding post filed under "animal communication"? Are you regarding Fark's users as "animals" for the purpose of this site's categorization?

    [Oh, Dan, I'm so glad you noticed. I thought maybe no one ever would, and my little joke, with its allusion back to the dog pound and the pig wrestling, would just die out there. But then Mark noticed, and picked up my classification, deadpan, without a word. I didn't know if Language Log readers at large (I'm assuming you are at large, Dan) would spot it, until you asked this question. All I could do was hope that there had been some private giggles and explosive involuntary spraying out of coffee… —GKP]

  3. Yuval said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 8:28 am

    I think the failure to have an effect is because this time the Fark link wasn't to The Log, but rather to the Chronicle piece. Language Log wasn't mentioned in this Fark thread at all.

  4. Hannah said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 9:41 am

    Actually, it's because the Fark link was sent to the Fark Publicity area, which gets a lot less exposure than the front page, which most people only look at.

    But please, continue whining about how Farkers be dum.

  5. Faldone said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 9:48 am

    GKP: "I thought maybe no one would ever notice my little joke"

    I caught it and LLedOL. Unfortunately I didn't have any massive amounts of liquid in my mouth so I couldn't sue the LL deep pockets for millions of dollars to assuage my emotional distress from destroying my $10 keyboard.

  6. CJ said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 10:20 am

    Geoff, I'm another who caught the joke and snickered happily. Reading comments on Fark (and many other places) is like watching a trainwreck, or rubbernecking at an accident. It's hard to look away. Though the winner for worst comments still seems to be You Tube. I'd definitely count those comments as "animal communication"!

  7. Andrew said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 10:32 am

    As a linguist and a regular poster on Fark, I'm a bit surprised by all the attention the site has gotten here lately. (It should be pointed out that a number of linguists post on Fark.)

    Yes, the level of discourse on Fark can be pretty low, even depressingly so. That shouldn't come as a shock; you're talking about a website that began as a photograph of a well-endowed squirrel. Yes, it's frequently got the atmosphere of a frat party in full roar, and yes, it often has all the social graces of an unflushed toilet. (Redundancy, I suppose.) If it's learned discourse on aesthetic matters that you're seeking, you're going to the wrong place by visiting Fark.

    However, sites like Fark can be a useful barometer of public opinions. Because it represents a fairly wide demographic (skewed toward male computer users, certainly), it's a good sample of both cyberculture and current vox populi. When it carries articles relevant to linguistics, Fark allows us to gauge what (and how much) the general public may know about our field, and the prevailing attitudes toward what we study. As someone who works with endangered languages, I'm always interested in seeing how non-linguists view language preservation efforts. Fark has shown me that, while we have a lot of work to do convincing people that this is a worthwhile endeavor, there is hope that we can get the public to see the value in keeping minority languages alive. There *is* value in knowing the public's mind on some of our issues, even if we have to suffer through a lot of jingoistic and ethnocentric brachiating or displays of utter vapidity to do so. And after reading through fifteen diatribes against minority languages ("Speak English or die!" being a common theme), it's refreshing to read a post from a non-linguist who understands that Evenki reindeer-breeding terminology is something worth preserving.

  8. Catanea said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 11:14 am

    I'd never heard of Fark and only went there to see what it was when it was cited here. Did Fark's readership spike with Language Log readers' sudden curiousity?
    Yes, of course: "Animal communication" was the first thing I noticed. I wondered why? Until I got there. The idea of a "rival book to flog" was worth an actual laugh.

  9. dd said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

    You've gotten awfully agitated by Fark folks. I know that, because of its subject matter, Language Log is generally shielded from the types of comments most sites get.. but most people with popular blogs do get irritating, childish comments on a regular basis.

    Think of it as the difference between teaching linguistics at the graduate level and teaching grammar at the middle school level. Totally different audience, but getting riled up when they visit your blog is probably pointless. They're already on to their next target; talking about them for a week is giving the matter way more attention than it deserves. Calling them animals is like wagging your tongue at the school bully once his back is turned.

    [(myl) I would have used the word "amused" rather than "agitated". And for "a week" please substitute "12 hours" — Geoff noted ithe discussion on fark yesterday, when it happened, and during my daily blogging period at breakfast this morning, I noted the last time I posted about fark, three years ago. ]

  10. Picky said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

    mmm. Let's just be a little careful about how we disparage these common Fark-folk who have the nerve to comment. Commenters on LL are on the whole a degree more sophisticated, but they have their moments of stupidity and bigotry, too, I assure you. Calling Fark-folk animals (not, I think, that anyone actually has, really) is not like wagging your tongue at the school bully, it's like being foul mouthed.

    Easy does it, O mightily privileged LL professorial ones.

    [(myl) I'm a fan of fark and similar forums for discussion on the web. Pick a topic at random, and there'll be a few good jokes, as well as some people who have worthwhile knowledge, experiences, and ideas to share — and then a lot of other stuff. In my opinion, Geoff responded in an appropriate way, matching the spirit of the farkites, who are not exactly a brittle bunch. ]

  11. David said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

    Fark is basically a news aggregator and a lightweight social media application. I imagine it probably balkanized in the same way a lot of sites like it did when RSS became a content publishing standard. I never read fark, but I stopped reading several weblogs (slashdot, wired news, kuro5hin, aldaily) when google reader allowed me to fine tune the signal to noise ratio for my tastes.

  12. W. Kiernan said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

    Yuval: Language Log wasn't mentioned in this Fark thread at all.

    Not quite true, actually I mentioned Language Log in those comments.

  13. Reinhold Aman said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

    @Mark: It's possible that the 17th-century suppression of taboo words is intrinsically much more interesting to farkoids than Stunk & White is.

    "Stunk": typo or Freudian slip?

    [(myl) Typo. ]

  14. Orbis P. said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

    Are you using two different stats packages for the new site and the old?
    [(myl) No, Sitemeter just changed their graphics. I liked the old color scheme better…]

  15. Bathos said,

    April 15, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

    You ought to give Fark a fair shake. It's a little like Manhattan–everybody is there. And, like Manhattan, it wouldn't be what it is without, well, everybody–a set which includes those who will label you a pusillanimous ninny when you're being a pusillanimous ninny.

  16. Mayson Lancaster said,

    April 15, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

    I'm curious: did you get any significant traffic from Hacker News? [aka news.ycombinator.com ]
    where the comments on the Chronicle article were rather more intelligent, nuanced, and, ultimately, convincing.

    see: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=557618

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