In these waning days of internet humor, new entrants into the ever-controversial "Q&A site" genre are appearing less and less often. Perhaps because of this, recent arrivals into the field are increasingly greeted with a so-so reaction, a reflexive "Is this all there is?" reaction we cannot help but feel.
While innovations appear from time to time, the basic feature set of internet Q&A has been essentially standardized, especially among the Conversatron descended sites. There is the list of current threads on the front page, optional user accounts, ratings on threads, archives, and so forth. Forum 2000 descended pages tend towards a slightly different organization, with the thread list one link away from the main (submission) page, but even they have recently shown more standardization.
So what is one to expect of a new Q&A site? Perhaps they will bring new features to the genre, but more often the approach they take is to feature a new, fresh set of characters that have yet to make appearances on the other major sites. In fact this is quite often the spark that drives the creation of new sites; the perceived gap in character coverage.
Jerk Squad has made some wise choices with its initial characters. Milk and Cheese, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and the complete panoply of Lord of the Rings characters have been conspicuously absent from the field thus far. Unfortunately, there are also some “red flag” characters, such as the kittens and self-referential “friends of the founder” characters that will either drag the site down or slowly fade as the author finds her voice and hits a comedic stride. This is always a matter of time, highlighting the difficulty of evaluating a humor site that is less than 2 or 3 months old.
Perhaps the most intriguing member of the Jerk Squad is the founder herself, Maggie. Like most new Q&A sites, she has chosen to include herself in the cast of characters, and has even endowed her avatar with several real-life pictures of herself. However, she wisely stopped just short of “baring her all”, so to speak, and leaves her audience without her full name or links to her personal contact information. (Although on the internet, no one is truly anonymous, of course.) Yet even in the absence of details, there is the single underlying element that cannot be ignored; Jerk Squad is the first known Q&A site to be founded and operated by a woman.
It is often said that the internet is the great equalizer, allowing both men and women to interact as they choose, without preconceived gender associations casting their long, old shadows upon things. But the fact remains, most stupid, insulting, waste of time sites on the web are created and run by bored men. Imagine if we only read novels written by male authors, or if all movie roles, male and female, were played by male actors. A tragedy! It is therefore a relief to welcome Jerk Squad to the genre, and hopefully a sign of things to come.
In closing, Jerk Squad has yet to find its stride, but the jerks behind the scenes seem up to the challenge, and Maggie is pretty cute.