Robyn's Secret Passage

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© 2003
Robyn Gallagher

Interface7

In December, 2000, Interface7 interviewed me as part of a series of interviews with interesting people who do interesting stuff on the web.

Why did you start your site, what are you trying to achieve with secret-passage?

When I made the first version of my site, it was mainly because I was teaching myself HTML and wanted to do something with my new skill. Friends of mine had web pages so I wanted one too.

But as it's evolved it's turned from a typical personal web page into a site where I put stuff I've done, mostly writing, up on the Internet for all to see.

Would you consider your site a humouris site?

I definately consider some of it to be humourous. There's some stuff on it that made me laugh out loud at the time I wrote it, so I'm not going to deny that there's humour there. However, some stuff isn't funny. Sometimes I get introspective and will write a serious rant, but most of the time I guess to try to keep things amusing.

Have you attracted the ire of anyone you have taken the piss out of?

The only instance I can think of where someone was offended by anything on my web page was when on the very first version of my site I had something about how scrolling java "hello to my cat" things were bad, and a guy I know who had one of those on his site was angered that I was hassling it.

And the various Garbage fans who took offense to the comments I made on the Garbage song in the Romeo and Juliet movie.

Dr Kraw gets a few angry emails from people who miss the joke and think he's serious. But I don't really get much negative feedback, so if anyone is offended, they're keeping quiet about it.

Why have you done a take off of Aardvark?

A few weeks before I started on the first edition of [email protected], Danny De Hek had done a really bad parody of Aardvark which just involved him changing a few images around. I think a friend of mine said something like "Someone should do a proper parody of Aardvark, it's just asking for it." and that gave me the idea. I didn't actually read Aardvark all that much, so I started reading it, became acquainted with its style then created [email protected]

How much of yourself is revealed on your site, in terms of personality and your daily life?

I'm selective about what I write about. I don't really go into deep, personal details, like online journallers often do. I don't have a bio page or anything like that. There's information about me, but it's not right out front. I also sometimes throw in a few pieces of false information just to keep things interesting.

Who are your influences?

I'm not sure influence is the right word (sounds a bit cult mind-control-ish), but writers who have inspired me include Kaz Cooke (Australian writer), Bill Bryson (popular funny travel writer), Heather Havrilesky (of Suck.com), and closer to home Dean Gray (Waste of Bandwidth), and my friend Mike. They're all good writers whose different styles and techniques have inspired me in different ways.

This interview was done with an old version of ICQ that had a 450 character limit so I didn't elaborate much. Here is where I would have liked to have elaborated.

Kaz Cooke: It's mainly her work as a columnist that I like. She's often called a humourist, but often I don't find her to be all that funny, but that doesn't mean what she's written isn't good. She has a very broad, mainstream appeal, and was part of the "celebrities read their favourite Harry Potter stories" at the Melbourne Writer's Festival, and I'm not sure that can be forgiven.

Bill Bryson: The dude gets paid to write column about his everyday life. He gets paid to travel and write books about him. He gets paid to do bloody stupid stuff and write about it. He also has very broad, mainstream appeal, and has also spoken at the Melbourne Writer's Festival, but he gets paid for writing about cool stuff he's done.

Does hitcounts/popularity of your site matter to you?

I pay attention to the hits my site gets, but I'm more interested in who is visiting, rather than how many. I get hits from people who are searching for porn and somehow end up at my site. I'd rather not get visitors like that. I'd rather have people who want to be visiting my site for what it is. I'd prefer to have one person who has a really good look around my site and enjoys it, than 100 people who just look at a couple of pages then leave

Do you think the netguide awards/top 500 are representative of the .nz webspace?

I think the Netguide awards should be taken with a grain of salt. They're not run by a non-profit organisation doing it solely for the good of the industry, they're run by a magazine whose main task is to make money. I don't like how they have only one category for personal web pages. There are so many different kinds of personal web sites out there, yet they get all lumped in the one category.

Do you think that there should be a non-profit "netguide type organisation" doing it solely for the good of the industry?

I don't know if there's an actual need for such an organisation, but it would be interesting to have some New Zealand web site awards that weren't sponsored by web sites that were also nominees.

What do you think is lacking in.nz?

I think what's lacking is really good original content. There are some really good web sites out there, but there are also a lot of crap ones. Most of the sites I visit daily are American-based because there just aren't good New Zealand equivalents. .nz doesn't need another yellow and blue portal.

What excites you about the web?

I like really good writing. It doesn't have to be funny, or be on a good-looking web page. I like it when I read something and think, "Wow!". I also like really bad web sites.

The kind of mental stuff that people put up in all seriousness, but something goes horribly wrong and it ends up being funny.

What are your top 3 sites at the moment?

As of today (and these will probably change tomorrow) and in no particular order:

1. https://www.girlhero.org/ The site of Andrea Spencer. She writes really good stuff about her life.
2. https://www.nzmusic.com/ I watched a bunch of old MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave videos.
3. https://www.suntimes.com/ebert/ It seems dorky, but the film geek in me likes Roger Eberts reviews.