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4chan Founder “moot” to Speak at TED (gigaom.com)
110 points by Janteh on Dec 23, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

I'm very excited about this. Chris Anderson asked for an intro to moot (who I only barely know through ROFLCon[1]) earlier this year; when he said it was to have him speak at TED, I was floored.

The thought, "Chris Anderson reads 4chan?! Maybe even /b/?" crossed my mind only for a moment -- instead, it dawned on me just how obvious a speaker for a session on "provocation" he would be. I was impressed he'd be on the TED radar, frankly, which goes to show how ignorant I am.

The theme of the 2010 TED is "What the World Needs Now" -- for all of the garbage on 4chan, it represents the 'cost' of the free and open exchange of ideas that is the Internet.

I'm expecting a thoughtful talk from Chris. But even if he trolls TED, it'll still make for a great talk. And in a way, further underscore the importance of provocation (at least for some) in what the world needs now.

[1] http://breadpig.com/blog/category/rofldna-project/

it's not really surprising that he is on their radar, 4chan is pretty much synonymous with the underbelly of the internet + they are a pretty big site by traffic alone(Top 750 website)

I guess I'll be the first to speak up in defense of m♡♡tles speaking at TED.

It's clear that he's relevant to the HN community, given that 4chan is a startup begun from his mom's basement when he was just 15 years old. Despite misinformation about 4chan being run for a loss, he does make money and can afford to run the site without ads from time to time.

He took some available code (2chan's), which was initially very simple, and grew it into a profitable site that is ranked in the Top 1000 on Alexa and that has an outsized influence on internet culture. That's an extremely rare phenomenon, and one that most people here would ostensibly like to repeat.

I'm sure that even if his TED talk features inside jokes it has the potential to be really interesting, and certainly doesn't warrant the prima facie dismissiveness from the other commenters here.

The thing people don't really want to repeat is that he has essentially created the [I want to say Vegas] of the web, where everything is great in short bursts etc but if you end up staying you realize how scummy the place really is.

This is why his site has a hard time gaining revenue even though being in the top 1000 on Alexa, no reputable business is going to advertise where porn and violence are the norm.

If you are going to gain anything from what moot has done it is that the idea of anonymity is a very powerful thing.

4chan isn't /b/ alone. There are plenty of niche boards which are worth hanging out on if they're relevant to your interests, without being the toilet that is /b/.

The porn and violence started primarily as satire.

They didn't stay as satire.

This has led to the follow theorem of mine, which describes /b/ perfectly:

Any community that gets its laughs by pretending to be idiots will eventually be flooded by actual idiots who mistakenly believe that they're in good company.

I guess the community (i say this loosely) changed drastically right around the "down with Scientology" stage.

The influx of people interesting in fighting Scientology had little negative effect on the morals/behavior of the people hanging out on /b/. I think you're right that the community changed, but not for the worse in terms that non-/b/tards would recognize.

Actual /b/tards didn't like all the unsocialized newcomers arriving and parroting memes that they didn't understand ad nauseam. They also didn't like the moral crusading aspect of the newcomers. Neither of these behaviors is a negative change in the community from an outsider's perspective, but it was from an insider's perspective.

The Scientology campaign didn't change the (sometimes satirical) celebration of racism, porn, fascism, child porn, misogyny, and so on--all that pre-existed the influx of new people interested in fighting Scientology. If anything, the new people watered down the sociopathic culture of /b/.

Definitely. 4chan feels significant to me. The beginnings of large-scale ad-hoc self-organization?

(I, probably along with other people, suggested moot to TED.)

Channers do love their 'ghost in the shell' kind of apperance.

Personally, I just find it kind of shameful for anyone with credibility to lend some of it to 4chan. From where I'm standing, it seems like the primary exports of 4chan are the stifling of independent thought and social validation for antisocial teenagers.

In brief, I think people who participate in shaping 4chan are bad and they should feel bad.

I think you underestimate the cultural influence of 4Chan.

- The Times, the UK's largest and most well known conservative newspaper, now has a regular column on 'lolpets'

- Oprah dedicated an entire show to the 'rainbow parties' hoax

- 4Chan have raised awareness of Scientology beliefs with protests that have been memorable, interesting and fun enough to be covered wherever Tom Cruise goes.

Ummm - pretty sure that the rainbow parties myth pre-dates 4chan. Wiki tells me the oprah special was oct 2003 - the same mont. 4chan launched.

stifling of independent thought

O rly.

In brief, I think people who participate in shaping 4chan are bad and they should feel bad.

No, I'm not, I shouldn't and I don't. I see and encourage many excellent things at 4chan. I also see a lot of BS and pathetic nonsense....as I'd expect from adolescents. Your argument amounts to 'I hate people because some of them are bad', which is to say not very much at all.

Perhaps you could elaborate on your ideas, possibly providing some examples. For someone reading this thread, it could be difficult to discern precisely what you are trying to articulate. Fulling expressing what you are trying to say, without simply calling the participants of a website antisocial teenagers, would allow someone else to form reply a to your post without simply calling you a jackass.


By "stifling independent thought", I meant creating an environment where an acceptable level of contribution is repeating a catchphrase or recycling a picture, and where you tend to adopt the most hostile posture possible toward people and things that you think are no good.

By "antisocial" I meant that most users don't seem to have much respect for other people in a general sense, and that the majority of content seems aimed to entertain peers instead of being independently interesting outside of the 4chan bubble. "Teenagers" (and college students) is pretty much a fact, but I figure it helps explain the rest; I cared a lot more about being cool and popular when I was a teenager, too.

Also, I'm not trying to characterize, for example, the 4chan photography board; I'm mainly talking about /b/ and other more chatty parts. For all I know 4chan has fine topical boards, but that's not why people are interested in talking about it.

Your argument fails in two ways. First, 4chan does not operate any kind of Karma system (although theoretically, it could) so considerations of what is acceptable are moot; justbecause you can post something obnoxious and tired there doesn't mean you'll get a positive response.

To me, the main metric of acceptability at 4can is whether something gets a lot of positive feedback, which will only happen if it's funny in the temporary context in which it exists (and everything is potentially funny in the right context; yes, everything).

The second point of failure is not recognizing the significance of anonymous posting. In one sense it allows vandals and the irresponsible to shelter behind the 4chan Guy Fawkes mask, but in another it means that there is no particular gain for posting - whether it's outrageous, intelligent, or funny.

A post there succeeds or fails on its own merits, such as they are and such as the audience is at any given time. Sure, you can post cliche or offensive stuff of the form 'niggers CP niggers', but the only response you'll get is from other people who think along those lines, and you'll quickly fall off the end of page 10 (or 15 or whatever it now). Post something outrageous like a naughty comic nobody has seen before, and you'll get some feedback...but that won't help you tomorrow. Or indeed, 10 minutes later. Your critiques of people posting outrageous material to be cool and popular would make sense if there were persistent identities on 4chan, but the vast majority of participants choose to embrace the disposable nature of 'anonymous'.

I'm not arguing that it's particularly deep, although it can be. Rather, I am arguing that your criticisms of its shallowness are meaningless in a context where identity is not commoditized. People talk a lot of shit there, as we all know, but they also discuss things that they wouldn't if it weren't so easy do so anonymously.

I heard him speak at a media arts festival here in Vienna a few months ago.

I'm pretty sure he won't be trolling TED or throwing around in-joke references: He actually seemed pretty sick of all the mindless repetition of memes (and how could he not be?).

He's a smart and thoughtful guy, was very humble, self-deprecating and sarcastic, and had a bunch of interesting anecdotes to tell -- although it did appear that he fairly randomly stumbled into the situation and doesn't have many deep, original insights on online communities/social software/the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

Then again, I believe he same may be said of Jimmy Wales, for example...

I don't really see any good from him speaking, at worst he will pull off a giant troll and his whole speech will be a flop, and at best he will be talking about 4chan's culture.

He's spoken before at a conference at Harvard, and at least had some things interesting to say. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E_bYRZT5-E (part 1)

Don't ask him how to make money though

It's interesting, all up, the money making idea. Even though /b/ contains the best and worst of the net, the other boards are quite reasonable (as long a /b/ stays up to keep the trolls from wandering). Is the sites image so bad that advertisers can overlook such an opportunity for targeted ads? (ie. its unlikely anyone would be in the anime board if they weren't quite interested in anime)

+1 (as long a /b/ stays up to keep the trolls from wandering)

Exactly what can Moot offer, in terms of discourse? Moot's fame was very much a matter of happenstance and ungodly luck - the whims of the internet, rather than anything innately genius about his approach or handling. It'd be like asking a kid that's, by chance, made a paper airplane with an unusually long flight time about aerodynamics.

I would rather listen to Moot's rambling thoughts on emerging culture than than those of a small army of academic sociologists. While I think the study of sociology has value, Moot's opinions are those of someone with a million troubled siblings. I'll take experience over theory anyday.

Considering the amount of failed *chans that showed up both before and after 4chan - world2ch, 5chan, etc, I wouldn't count Moot as merely lucky. At the very least, he kept the site sane by continuing to run it -- in contrast with, say, the constantly fluctuating staff at 7chan.

4chan survived out of his sheer stubbornness to run the site at a loss for a long period of time and refusing to sell it to some porn network (possibly on multiple occasions?) It's impressive he was willing to spend the past 6 years running; 4chan clearly means a lot to him, god knows why.

4chan clearly means a lot to him, god knows why

Forgive me if I presume too much, but it sounds to me like you've never had a wildly successful project of your own.

I was just making light of the... dubious content that springs forth from 4chan. I do understand how he could be quite proud of the fact he created such an incredibly popular site.

There's something in the 4chan's community. For some reason 4chan survives, even if admins decide that for a week the whole site will be pink text on pink background (or was it some other colour) and will have an annoying song playing in the background -- exactly with the intent of driving some people away. Maybe it just crossed the critical mass and luck or inconvenience doesn't matter anymore?

> will have an annoying song playing in the background -- exactly with the intent of driving some people away

I never realized that these were attempts to drive people away. I always saw them as hilarious. I would just mute the page if it was too annoying.

I was more excited to hear Bill Gates was going to speak.

He already did. Released misquotes into the audience while talking about malaria: http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_unplugged.html

Haha, misquotes is a funny misspelling, given the context. I believe you mean 'mosquitos'.

Wow, what a horrific (but funny, yes) spelling error. Must have mistyped, as I (think) I'd know how to type it if someone were to ask...

In all fairness, as much as you may not be a Bill Gates fan, it's pretty difficult to suggest that he's as unimpressive as the founder of 4chan. All the 4chan guy did was make an unmoderated message board.

Umm 4chan is moderated thats why it doesn't get raided by the FBI, you obviously have never been there

It's unmoderated in the sense that the bare minimum amount of moderation happens. (to remove illegal content to avoid getting shut down/raided)

here is a question...was 4chan the first image board, or did it just use the main image board script?

Better question- How does 4chan keep itself from getting raided for the endless amount of CP that gets posted there?

Because it's mostly a non-issue on 4Chan.

What's CP?



Also, CP stands for Christopher Poole. It is quite likely that Christopher Poole is a fake name, chosen becase of the CP meme.

I'm pretty sure it's a fake name. 4+ years ago I mailed something to him and the name he gave with the mailing address was completely different (no I don't still have the mailing address, I'm not that organized) and I've heard that same name bandied about elsewhere (at least the same first name). But who knows it could also be fake.

Thanks. I was being dense. I assumed it was Copyright Protection.

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