Why set up DeepFreeze to begin with?
Back in 2014, I had been doing a series of infographs called 'Ethic Fail,' where I wrote about individual problems in game journalism. I wanted to focus a little more on all issues of gaming journalism present and past-nothing against political discussion, but this was what I thought and think was more important-and contextualize the issues of the present with the issues of the past. 'Ethic Fail' too included old scandals, such as the firing of Jeff Gerstmann from Gamespot and so on, but also the more recent ones like the then newly-discovered conflicts of interest at Kotaku. These morsel-sized infographs would keep this information neat and clear, in one place, easy to read and share over social media; but they eventually evolved into longer articles, and eventually a lot of them started to become connected... the same names with the same examples. I kinda threw out there the idea of making a website cataloguing these issues on 8chan, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. My post got screencapped and tweeted by a major GamerGate account that was apparently lurking the thread, and this was retweeted by the likes of Oliver Campbell, who originally came up with 'Operation DeepFreeze' as a way to catalogue these issues with journalists, and my personal hero William Usher. This response made me decide to actually put the effort in, that this could work and something that could be a nice exercise in my skills with PHP. Since 'Ethic Fail' I was already devoting a lot of my time to these projects, so I made the site with the idea of turning this hobby of mine into work. I changed my mind before starting the project, which has been running for a year with no ads and no income, but I eventually changed my mind and recently started accepting donations, mostly because the site's development keeps stretching. Neither choice was easy."
Am I right in saying that this was set up as quietly as possible?
Well, yes and no. The whole process of developing DeepFreeze was documented daily on the GamerGate thread on 8chan's /v/ board. Every night I would go on there with a few screen caps to show the progress I was making and ask for input, feedback, ideas and so on. Everything I did was public and is still in the thread archives, including some pretty ridiculous mistakes that /v/ prevented me from doing. There was no intent to be sneaky about it."
Roughly how long did it take to track down the relevant information for each journalist involved?
About three months, but I was working on the shoulders of those before me. A Plant's precious list gave me most of the information about the journalists (with Plant himself keeping me up to date on changes), and of course most of the data came from Usher, the digs by the great BoogiePopRobin and the unsung heroes of the GamerGate wiki. DeepFreeze has been relying on external sources most of the time; only recently we've been making more original content for the site such as the Metal Gear Solid 5 review camp scenario -- which I researched myself -- or the tips that our very valuable diggers send me... information that is often first published on DeepFreeze. Not an optimal platform for that, but eh."
The site certainly got some reactions when it went up. For example Brendan Keogh referred to it as a "hit list." Stephen Totilo accused you of "smearing good journalists" and Jonathon Holmes even mocked the site and his featuring in it for a piece in Destructoid. How did you find some of these reactions?
I don't have any issue with anyone criticizing the site. Legitimate criticism is always welcomed even when it is not positive. I do not feel mad at Totilo or Holmes for what they have written. In fact, I'm quite grateful for what they have said and I have had peaceful conversations with both of them. Totilo lashed out at me at first, but then apologized and was reasonable in the end. So you could say water under the bridge. I have a reasonable degree of respect for him and even for Holmes who is one of the top 'scorers' on the site. When I contacted Holmes, he was very helpful to me, and even offered some pointers as to how journalism works. The kind of criticism I don't appreciate and the one that I get a lot of is trolling, as that is basically white noise and not even worth considering. The biggest reaction to DeepFreeze, in my opinion, is silence. If you look at the tweet Keogh put out, he was telling people not to talk about the site, and that's what happened. Journalists wouldn't reply to me when I contacted them on social media. I'm pretty sure it got to a point where the journalists would put themselves in a headlock, because the moment they would criticize the site they were basically promoting it, which is a pity in case they have legitimate gripes. When I have contacted journalists, especially after the Totilo incident -- which could've been avoided had I not approached him publicly -- I have always been very careful to not put them under the spotlight, especially lately, as it is also a learning process for me. Lots of room for improvement."