By Вen Li
"Any interest in a Calgary (Alberta, Canada) Fark Party? Come for the Beef, stay for the Fark."
– twotontim on Fark.com, September 14, 2003
As one of the few participatory Internet sites that survived both the dot-com bust and the economic turmoil blamed on terrorism, Fark.com has been staple for oddball news junkies (well, junkies of oddball news, mostly) for several years. Twenty-four hours a day, thousands from around the world sign on to read and discuss the strangest, funniest, stupidest and most newsworthy news items of the hour, or to simply modify images in the daily Photoshop contests. Also, it has boobies and weeners.
Calgarians, being fairly computer literate, well-connected and information-hungry, naturally flocked to Fark and the Fark party, held at Brewsters at Eau Clare, not only for a chance to put non-Photoshopped faces to screen names, but to engage other Farkers in human to human contact.
France surrendered as party day started at 4:51 in the morning of September 19, which was also Talk Like A Pirate Day (though not more than 20 words were uttered in that manner at the party). A Farker recovering from some "good times" posted an early-morning link to the Gauntlet‘s review of Brewsters, which filtered onto the front page of Fark.com. The link generated nearly 800 hits that day. Luckily, some Windows e-mail viruses and some technician working in an undocumented wiring closet had farked the Gauntlet‘s web host before we got seriously farked by farkers.
About 60 people in and near Calgary posted that they would or would not attend the party with some concerned about having to wear pants. With a bit of trepidation, about 30 people took over the second-floor balcony of Brewsters, a good turnout in comparison with simultaneous Fark parties around the world.
The 20-40 year-old crowd came from all walks of life, representing many occupations and professions, though there was an unsurprising slant toward IT. No one would admit to staying at the suggested near-by Sheraton, but some did come in from nearby communities outside Calgary.
Among the Farkers present were: the major petroleum company worker-bee guy who just flew in from Texas earlier that day, the guy who installs overhead projectors at the University of Calgary, one fellow who moves and installs pipes for LeFarge and wants in to the IT part of his company (he is about to get hitched, so there is hope), the guy who works in corporate IT translating between technology and English, the actor/waiter/philosopher from Toronto, the maritime guy with a teaching degree whose parents and sister are all teachers, the homebrew beer guy who is the assistant manager of a Wal-Mart, one guy from just out of town and his friend the DeVry hopeful, and finally twotontim, the organizer and one of four Tims at the party. One Farker remarked that of the four females in attendance, three were brought to the party by their partners, and one was there to write about it for a competing Calgary weekly. Attendees took photos "so that they’ll believe us when we say that girls showed up" and possibly for use as source material for future Photoshop contests.
According to the former Torontonian, online communities rarely translate successfully into real-life in that city, with up to four people attending stunning Fark-like parties in the past. Calgary Farkers are more communal than most, according to another Farker and this showed as the group whose members had only met online through the quirky beast that is Fark turned into a real life community. The jumble of screen names, e-mail addresses and interesting witticisms yielded to real-life personalities and names (which saved the participants from having to pronounce screen names that look great but have no aural equivalent).
Unsurprisingly among this group of information-hungry people, the conversation revolved around the usual party fare, including talk about football, politics, computers, beers, work, school and television. But unlike most parties, one can say "+1, Insightful" in response to another’s well-timed obscure Simpsons quote and everyone understands. ("+1, Insightful" is used to denote a praiseworthy comment on news sites such as slashdot.org).
The Farkers took pride in their uniqueness and were confident in poking it.
"The only thing worse than being a Farker is pretending to be a Farker," said one Farker when another said he forgot his screen name.
Once the beer sampler and several jugs had been consumed, the conversation loosened up a bit to include various bits of science fiction, hatred of clueless pointy-hared bosses, some not-safe-for-work topics and the virtues of online dating. The Photoshoppers were revered momentarily and twotontim (of U of C computer science TAing fame) repeatedly denied having done anything special by picking a time and place for people to meet.
When Brewsters closed, people didn’t know if they received any Fark, or beef for that matter, but as with most parties they had fun. Tim declared "I want to be the last one out," but was disappointed when I pointed out "The [Brewster’s staff] guy in the blue shirt will be the last one out."
No kittens were harmed at the Fark party.