Christopher Poole - 4chan Founder - Talk at SXSWi


Christopher Poole
4chan founder
  • Founded in 2003 as an image sharing site for sharing japanese anime
    • 12M people visit the site monthly
    • all organic growth
  • /b/ is the dark beating heart of the internet
    • new internet memes are born from this board
    • there are about 15,000 people browsing the index page for random all day, just looking for what is coming up
  • 4chan is anonymous, no registration
    • no structural barriers to prevent you from contribution
  • there is no archive
    • posts created on the random board fall off in minutes
    • it’s survival of the fittest: what manages to stay on the board is what survives, and the other stuff falls of
  • the community is very dynamic: people coming and coming, it’s not the same 12M every month
  • see threads change as the day goes by and different time zones: here are the americans, the japanese, the europeans as the day goes by
  • many different parts of site from origami to anime to the adult stuff. (don’t go clicking around if you don’t know what you are clicking on.)
  • Starting thinking last year: what could we be doing better?
    • the message board hasn’t really changed in the last 10 years.
    • the form, functionality, and asthetic, it’s all the same
    • If you look at where it came from usenet, bbs... it’s all the same.
  • 4chan is special in that people come together and collaborate en mass.
    • the way content is created: many participates coming together, being squeezed together in one space.
    • the product is a meme.
    • the process itself is fascinating to watch how it unfolds.
  • 4 things i’ve learned from 4chan
    • fluid identity: 
      • after TED last year, August Hill came up to him and said he liked that people could chat anonymously. 
      • there’s a loss of the innocence of youth if your identify is tracked across the internet. you get stuck in who you are. the cost of failure is very high when you are contributing as yourself. the mistakes are attributed with who you are.
      • when you have the ability to choose to be identified, to be able to experiment, to poke and prod, then 
      • Mark Zuckerboard equates anonymity with a lack of authenticity. But in reality, it’s the exact opposite: you can more fully be exactly yourself without the concern of people’s opinion.
    • people are all judged the same way: by what their contribution is.
      • when you have identity, then you start to judge by their reputation. “oh this is from so and so, and therefore it must be good.”
    • recaptcha
      • we added recaptcha a few years ago to deal with spam
      • users hated this
      • up until this point there had been no structural barriers
      • people made the best of the situation: they started to make captcha art, saving really funny captcha
    • in the beginning the internet was like a letterpress. you could only contribute text.
      • now it’s more malleabe: you can draw something, push it up, someone else can download it, then draw on up, push it back up.
      • pictochart as an example
      • people are now using pictochat to do animations
    • refrigerator magnet game
      • it’s been around for 10 or more years
      • when describing 4chan, for years he had been saying that the content is fleeting. but realized that actually about 90% of the content was reposted.
      • but what is special, fleeting is the experience: the experience of using it at 9pm on a Sunday night will never be recaptured.
      • it’s like going to a drive-in movie: there’s something special about the shared experience.
      • the refrigerator magnet game...
        • allows you to drag to magnets around
        • some people spell their name
        • some people swear
        • hoard the letters
        • steal away the letter at the last minute
      • 4chan is place where people go to hang out
        • sometimes people forget how important it is to have a place and a community to hang out with
    • canvas
      • people had described it as 4chan 2.0. that’s not it at all.
      • it’s a great site to build, share, create, and hang out - based on the lessons of 8 years of 4chan
      • we started using facebook connect
        • people were asking “how can the 4chan people be using facebook connect?”
        • we were sort of forced to.
        • we don’t disclose any information, we still allow people to post anonymously, but because the user knows that we know, it’s filters out some of the worst behavior.
      • HTML5 canvas editor
        • reduce the amount of steps and friction for someone to take an image and edit it.
          • eliminate the download, save, edit in photoshop, upload.
        • It’s leveled the playing field by giving people a common set of tools.
          • by comparison, in an photoshop community, if you came with an MS Paint image, you’d be laughed out of the community.
      • certain threads are really popular: they start with an image seed, which then gets edited into a bunch of somethings by other people.
      • almost everyone who joins the site goes in and plays with the image editing tools at some point.
        • this was surprising, as they thought that only a small part of the community would use artistic tools.
    • in canvas, like all other communities, a small percentage of users create all the content. 
      • they wanted to create a new middle ground
      • they made stickers which could be dragged and put onto other posts.
      • 100,000 stickers placed in a few weeks
    • they wanted to design a product at the intersection of chat and commenting.
      • chat: synchronous but fleeting
      • commenting: asynchronous but lasting
      • reading a chat log is not interesting. chat is just not lasting.
      • it’s like improv comedy: it’s really fun to be in the audience, be live, and feel the tension. it’s not the same watching taped improv.
      • they started it to be very chatty, but then slide back over to commenting.
    • 4chan was not an overnight success. it’s been a slow steady build over 8 years. there was no hockey stick.
      • you want the core community to form over time.
      • with canvas, concern about the culture growing: if we let 10,000 people into the site tomorrow, it would destroy the fragile culture that is developing.
      • people focus on scaling - as an architecture problem. the real problem is not scaling, it’s building a community worth scaling.
    • sign up using link: canv.as/sxsw

Post a Comment