Q&A with Josh Weinberg of The Website is Down

Categories: Tech

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If you spend a lot of time surfing the Internets for lulz or work in any sort of IT-related field, you've probably come across the Webby-award winning web series The Website is Down. It's a hilarious look at the point where the people who understand technology and make it work interface with those who do not understand it, but rely on it to do their jobs. This eternal struggle is eloquently captured in the premiere episode, "Sales Guy vs. Web Dude," wherein poor communication and a misunderstanding by Sales Guy of the technology's uses not only has wide repercussions for his company, but also interrupts Web Dude's Halo match.

Regardless of which side of the tech divide you live on, you're sure to identify with someone in The Website is Down. After the jump, Colorado-based creator Josh Weinberg (pictured) shares the origins of the series and reveals where it's going and how it got to be so popular. And if you haven't seen it already, scroll down to the end and watch the first episode, embedded for your convenience.

Westword (Cory Casciato): Who are the principal players behind The Website is Down? How do you all know each other?

Josh Weinberg: The Website is Down was created by me with lots of help from Casey Cochran. I play the Web Dude and "Laszlo in the Datacenter." Casey plays Chip the Sales Guy. Other parts in the series are by Jesse Johnson (Trevor from Arvada and Pissed off Customer), Josh Childs (Irving Whitefellow -- The Boss) and of course my wife Ruth (aka Nancy the evil sales manager). We've all been friends for years and have made a few other projects together. This one is definitely the most popular by a long shot.

WW: How did the idea come about? Can I assume most or all of you have terrible, shitty IT jobs like those depicted? Don't worry, I used to do that, too, so I empathize.

JW: The idea for the first video developed because I was addicted to Halo 1. I do freelance IT work and at one point I found myself on the phone trying to help someone with a problem while still trying to play Halo at the same time. I figured screwing around when you are supposed to be working is a pretty universal human experience, so I decided to make a video out of it. Many of the situations and personality types shown in the videos are based on real situations and while I have obviously embellished them the characters and their attitudes are fairly realistic.

WW: The response seems to have been pretty huge. It's all over the 'Nets and you won a Webby. So, now what? TV pilot? More episodes? Selling the IP to News Corp?

JW: Don't expect a feature version anytime soon, but we have had some interest from the industry asking us what we're up to and where we are going with it. "Web Series" is the latest buzzword in digital media, and so I think we're getting some attention because of that. We'd all love to quit our day jobs and do this full time, but we're not quite at that point yet. Certainly more episodes and more fun gadgets and l00t on the website.

I should mention that in addition to this show, we are also working on a totally different live-action web series, which we hope to start shooting in spring of next year and start releasing next summer. Can I cuss in this interview? I hope so, because it's going to be fucking hilarious.

WW: What kind of technology did you use to put this together?

JW: I make these using both a Mac and PC. The Mac is Web Dude's desktop, which he uses to connect to various other systems. The PC is running Vmware with four different virtual hosts running Windows 98, Windows XP, Suse Linux and Solaris x86. The first video was recorded to a DV deck using the external video interface off the Mac. The second was captured directly on the PC using Camtasia screecapture software. The third was live-action and recorded onto the DV deck. All were edited in Final Cut Pro.

WW: What kind of tech did you use to get the word out? Social media stuff? What got the best results?

JW: The first video I sent out to all my friends who I thought might appreciate it. It pretty much took on a life of it's own after that. A lot of people forwarded it to the tech-support department where they worked and those guys (I'd say 'and girls,' but who are we kidding?) forwarded it like crazy. I also posted it to StumbleUpon and Digg, both of which helped drive traffic to my site. The real turning point came when it got posted on fark.com. It's called getting farked.... We got so much traffic, my ethernet connection was completely saturated and it took down the server. At that point, I had to move the video to a content delivery network (Bitgravity), and that's where it's stayed ever since.

WW: Do you guys use a lot of tech/social media stuff for your day jobs? For fun?

JW: We do have jobs and hobbies, which are tech related. I am currently the lead software developer for a local startup called Zonit. Casey works for NewsGator in Denver doing PC administration. Honestly I'm completely out of the loop when it comes to social networking, though. I just got a Twitter account like a week ago. I think Casey knows how to spell "Twitter."

WW: What can we expect from future episodes of The Website is Down? You better not say there aren't any coming. We are very excited.

JW: Oh, there will be more. Right now, we are working on one based on a real life story from Casey's life, where he accidentally (and permanently) deleted the entire ruleset from his company's Firewall. Web Dude's response is a less rational than Casey's. The humor for all the videos stems from what happens when things go wrong. So I don't think we'll have any shortage of material.

WW: Finally, anything else you want to say about pretty much anything?

JW: You forgot to ask me how you can get a copy of the original "FU" desktop. Lots of people were very interested in that when the first video came out, so we put it up on the website. Of course, you have to find all the other "L00T" before you get it. So go have fun: www.thewebsiteisdown.com.

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