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

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2020, 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.

Domain Incite is five years old today

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2015, Gossip

Five years ago Domain Incite published its first story, with the introductory line “Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?”

I went on to describe how I’d registered the name domainincite.com and thrown up a live, resolving web site in less than one hour.

But that wasn’t quite the beginning.

What I neglected to mention were the eight hours I spent sitting with my father that weekend, brainstorming domains that captured the slightly acerbic tone I expected to use and which were also available at a reasonable price.

That was also when we came up with the tag line “domainincite.com n. because all the good domains were taken”, which has sat at the top of DI’s “About” page since day one.

Dad died last October, and I’d be lying if I said I’ve had an easy time getting over it.

Watching somebody you love dying of cancer is, needless to say, traumatic. Many readers will understand this all too well.

It can leave you with their final weeks indelibly at the forefront of your memories, whereas you should be remembering the enjoyable times you spent together.

I wouldn’t dream of blaming Dad for my eventual choice of domain, but we had fun collaborating on its conception.

That was something we did together, which gives DI’s birthday this year a bittersweet flavor for me.