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Domain Incite turns 10 today. What the fuck have I done with my life?

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2020, 16:33:19 (UTC), Gossip

February 27, 2010. That was the day, 10 years ago today, I registered domainincite.com and posted my first post.

Seriously, what the fuck have I done with my life?

Back in 2009, during a hiatus from my previous life as an all-round Silicon Valley tech reporter, I was back in the UK as a budding comedy writer with his foot in the door at the BBC and a handful of broadcast credits.

I made about £1,000 that year. A BBC producer told me that, if I was lucky enough and good enough, my radio sitcom spec script might get commissioned, but that it would take a couple of years and I would probably only make about three grand.

I figured it was time to get a proper job, and do comedy in the evenings, so started doing some regular freelancing, for The Register at first and then something called Thinq (I think, the site doesn’t appear to exist any more).

Around the same time, a friend at a domain registry made me an unsolicited offer of work, ghost-writing white papers for a buck a word. I took it.

I think it was early January 2010 that I first started thinking about starting up my own blog. I was probably inspired by security reporter Brian Krebs, who I admired and who’d recently left the Washington Post to launch Krebs On Security.

Internet security and domain names were the two areas of tech where I calculated I had the knowledge and contacts to make a go of it as a solo enterprise. I’d always been slightly more drawn to the domain name side, and that was the area where it looked like I could find a niche.

I was of course already aware of Andrew Allemann’s excellent Domain Name Wire and a few other blogs, but it seemed to me there were very much focused on the domainer part of the industry and there was an opportunity to focus more on the the sell-side and ICANN-related news.

The good thing about ICANN was that, even if the organization was not interested in talking to a lowly blogger, its transparency regime would mean there would be no shortage of material for anyone prepared to trawl through a 200-page PDF for nuggets, I reckoned.

And, like the security beat, there would be no shortage of scumbags to write about.

I recall brainstorming branding ideas with my dad in his living room, 10 years ago today.

I wanted something that conveyed a certain cheekiness or snarkiness. I didn’t want DI to be a dry recounting of events. No doubt influenced by years of enjoying The Register, and my brief foray into the world of comedy, I wanted to be humorous without resorting to fabrication, satire, or parody.

My first domain preference was already registered by a domainer. I offered him $100 for it. He countered with $1,000, and that was the end of that negotiation. He still owns it.

When I settled upon the punny domainincite.com, I was fully aware that it failed the radio test, but I was not too concerned. I figured the chances of my ever having to spell it out on the radio were pretty slim (it only took a couple of years to be proven wrong about that) and it did not seem to affect my ability to get people to read the site.

A few months later, I showed up at ICANN’s public meeting in Brussels, my first in-person meeting for a few years.

I recall walking the streets near the venue and having to stop and shake hands with a familiar face every few minutes. It very much felt like I’d rediscovered a community I had never really considered myself a part of previously. Most of them were already enthusiastic DI readers.

It felt pretty good.

Almost a decade later, I’m a much more miserable person, and I find myself asking: what the fuck have I done with my life?

I write about domain names for a living.

Domain names.

Entries in a database.

I’ve spent a decade thinking about what most people will probably never consider spending 10 minutes thinking about.

Not only does my domain fail the radio test, but my career choice almost always fails the taxi driver test (or, less frequently, the Tinder date test).

I’m sure most people reading this post will know what I’m talking about. You’re stuck in traffic with a chatty cabby, and before long you’re attempting to explain what you do for a living.

His eyes glaze over.

“No, no,” you say. “Some of it’s really, really interesting.”

Then you roll out your top few anecdotes — probably about wedge issues like censorship, or big secondary market sales — and before you know it the driver has fallen unconscious and fucked the car through the window of a convenience store, seriously injuring an elderly woman.

You try to explain to the arriving police what happened, but when it gets to the bit about what you do for a living you’re very quickly arrested for wasting police time.

You now have a permanent criminal record and no chance of being employed by anyone else. The elderly woman eventually recovers, but you don’t. You’re stuck. Stuck!

It’s happened to all of us, I’m sure.

The ticking over of a decade is always a time for reflection, is what I’m getting at.

Having done a fair bit of that recently, I like to think I’ve made more friends than enemies writing DI, but I’m sure a lot of those people who shook my hand in Brussels now think I’m a utter prick.

This goes with the territory for any reporter, but it’s a lot harder to bear when you’re solo. The life of a blogger can be a lonely one. There’s no bustling newsroom banter, no editor to give you advice on tricky stories, no subs to catch your typoes, no lawyers to get your back when you screw up.

It’s easy in that situation to become soft.

While I treat every company, organization or individual I write about as fairly as I can, I’ve started to wonder whether sometimes I’m too quick to default to believing the party line, particularly but not exclusively when it comes to ICANN.

I’ve genuinely written a 3,000-word article Devil’s-advocating in favor of the forthcoming .com price increases. I may or may not publish it.

I’ve come to realize in recent weeks that ICANN is not the soft and cuddly community I found in Brussels, and it probably deserves a much more critical eye than I’ve been providing lately.

So, faced with the existential crises of a 10-year anniversary, a critical reevaluation of your life choices, and accidentally putting a wholly fictional elderly woman in hospital, you’re faced with a stark choice: throw in your cards, or double-down.

I’m doubling down.

I was never a fan of the sunk-cost fallacy anyway.

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Comments (20)

  1. Acro says:

    Thank you for churning out quality material for the past decade. I feel your pain!

  2. Jeffrey Sass says:

    Congrats on the milestone and the revelations. I look forward to your continued insights and incites!

  3. Frank Michlick says:

    Thank you, Kevin, for the countless articles and research that went them.

  4. Zak Muscovitch says:

    Congratulations on ten years, Kevin! I always look forward to reading your articles.

  5. Francois says:

    Happy decade Mr Registry News!
    And thanks for the coverage.

  6. Happy tenth anniversary mate! One of these days I hope to finally meet you in person and buy you a pint. Keep up the great work shining a light on some of the dark corners of this industry and pissing off the shifty powers-that-be!

  7. Fight the good fight, Kevin! I am a fan of your work and humor, and I look forward to shaking hands with you at an ICANN event in the future. 🙂

  8. Keep hosing down the PR flacks, ya miserable old bastard. Luvya Kev! Happy anni.

  9. Adam says:

    10 years is a tough slog as anything in the domain space, let alone a writer. You gotta give up the facts on your “first choice” domain. Don’t tease.

  10. Lori Anne Wardi says:

    Happy Tenth Murphy! Cheers to the next 10!

  11. Andrea Glorioso says:

    Thanks for your coverage of the industry and ICANN. I always found it more interesting for the insights on the “new” governance model that ICANN was supposed to spearhead (and which it failed to do, in many ways) than for the industry itself, which is frankly not as relevant in the big scheme of things as its members often seem to believe.

    (Sorry, nothing personal, I just look at the numbers.)

    I think you should write a book about your ten years in that environment: what were your expectations and assumptions, which proved to be right, which proved to be wrong, a couple of sex gossips here and there (I’m sure ten years of ICANN meetings and domain industry conferences have provided you that, and more).

    You are a gifted writer, if a bit rough around the edges, and it would be a shame to let all that experience not be crystallized in something more than blog archives.

  12. Thank you Kevin, we want another 10 years and an option for another 10 years, same as registry contract with ICANN. Keep on the good work.

  13. Claudio says:

    Definitely the funniest domain article I’ve ever read. At least you have the comedy career to fall back on!

    Fairness is in the eye of the (stake)holder. You can only try your best and let the chips fall where they may. All things considered, I think you’ve done a pretty good job.

    cheers

  14. Bob Hawkes says:

    Congratulations on the 10 years and thank you for your research and clear and insightful writing. And also for this delightful look at the journey. I particularly loved the line about the taxi driver test and “I’ve spent a decade thinking about what most people will probably never consider spending 10 minutes thinking about.”

  15. Hey Kevin,

    Tell the distracted taxi driver that at least you don’t make a living by suggesting domains. Most of my drivers follow up with “what would you suggest for me”?

    10 more years please!

  16. There was a tech writer from Londonish
    Whose domain portfolio was admittedly amateurish.
    His readers’ joy increased
    When he stepped up to the crease
    To cover the industry in all its vaingloriousness.

    Happy 10th anniversary Kevin!

  17. Christa Taylor says:

    You, dry? LOL 😉

    Happy 10th Anniversary and a big thank-you for always keeping it humorously real.

  18. 168 says:

    Happy Anniversary !

    Thoroughly enjoy the cheeky
    Keen “incite”,
    Greatly appreciate the balanced commentary you put effort into.
    Your sitcom is waiting……
    The domain industry would be even better than the SV sitcom
    Cheers!

  19. Andrew Merriam says:

    It’s happened/happening to most of us in the industry. I think you’re truly part of the club now?! Cheers!

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