SXSW – Christopher Poole

  • founder of 4chan. founded in 2003 as an image sharing community, for Japanese comics.cartoons/anime. A chatroom with 20. Now 12m visitors monthly.
  • no registration. no archive. ideas – it’s about survival of the fittest. what resonates, stays on the board. Community flows over a day; the culture changes. to start a topic you need to provide an image still to start a topic. But it is more than the random board, about 50 topics – photography, origame, adult stuff. Media think the audience is just young, white, males..but not completely accurate
  • Last year, started to think about what could be done better…what a message board could be. Leanrt things from 4chan to share, that define it
  • Fluid identity. Site is anonymous; people can chat as anyone; moving towards persistant identity, you lose some of the innocence of youth – you can’t make mistakes, you can’t learn, you can’t start again. Cost of failing is high, if only one identity, as yourself. Anonymity is authenticity in this environment
  • believe in content over community. it’s not just your history; people can assume by history not by contribution. so site just judges you on most recent contribution. Content gets riffed on, changed, moved.
  • Added recaptcha last year (spam problem) and got a lot of backlash immediately. But people started to create art around them, adding images. Community takes a situation and turns it into something creative
  • A lot of 4chan is copy/paste, has been there before. a lot of the content is the same. It is not all ephemeral, the content is often there – but the experience is ephemeral, it cannot be repeated. It’s a community experience, a different way to share things. The refrigerator magnet game becomes a shared experience for 4chan people. It’s a place where people go to hang out
  • All of these things combine into a new thing called Canvas, building a site for people to share, play, collaborate and hangout
  • you can post anonymously, but using facebook connect during the beta period to register, to weed out more casual trolls
    built fun tools to people to use, to allow it to be easy to modify on the site. don;t need to use photoshop. has levelled the playing field. Finish the drawing are fun, get very popular. Making it easy, reducing fear of failure, has worked well
  • Wanted to focus also on contributors. On 4chan, because it is anon, you get a few more users, but lurker is still high. so on canvas, looks to encourage contributions. created stickers, you could tag content. to sort and categorise, help popular things to bubble up; had 100k in a few weeks.
  • Found that chat does not build durable conversations. Interesting to be in conversation, but not if you want to re-read. It’s like improv – funny to be there live, but not to rewatch/taped. First product was built to be chatty, but have gone back to comments, as people are putting stuff on that is worth going back and reading.
  • We are also looking at growing slowly. 4chan was not overnight, it was a slow growth. you have to allow for a culture and an identity to grow on the site. wnat to integrate users as they come into the site. Scaling is not just architecture, but building a community that is worth scaling.

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