Q&A with Fredrick Brennan of 8chan

Q&A with Fredrick Brennan of 8chan



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redrick Brennan, a 20-year-old, self-taught computer programmer living in New York City, has never had an easy life. Born with brittle bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta), Brennan grew up in foster care and has suffered more than 120 bone fractures over the course of his life. Since then, he has moved to Brooklyn to work as a freelance computer programmer, and by October last year, he had even started his own imageboard site called 8chan. But little did Brennan know, at the time, that his pet project was going to turn his life upside-down. It all began last month in September, during the early onset of the Quinnspiracy, when he noticed a sudden influx of traffic to his website 8chan, a Futaba Channel-style imageboard that is unique for allowing users to create their own sub-level forums. The massive surge in visitors was a result of 4chan founder Chris Poole's controversial decision to ban all discussions relating to GamerGate on the site, prompting many users to migrate to Brennan's 8chan instead. And now, Brennan is about to start a new chapter after recently quitting his freelance position to focus on the website full-time.

Interview

Q: How were you introduced to 4chan? How old were you?

A: I was introduced to 4chan in the year 2006 at the age of 12. A video game that I had played at the time, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, had a link to an official now closed BBS where players could post tips about the virtual pets in the game. 4chan /b/ users raided the BBS, but forgot rules 1 & 2, namely not to mention that they were from 4chan /b/. This is how I found 4chan, and I've used it ever since.

Q: I've heard you used to frequent Wizardchan. What was your involvement in the community? Were you there to witness the dramatic showdown between Zoe Quinn & members of the community as it happened?

A: I first became involved in Wizardchan when I saw it linked from 4chon.net in December of 2012. I was a regular poster until the original administrator of the site, mr_pacific, wanted to sell it. He was tired of the site and needed money. The community was very small then but I decided to buy it from him and I was the administrator from March 2013 to September 2013. I resigned from the site because the main rule of the site is that only male virgins are allowed to post, and I lost this status.

I was friends with the subsequent admin of Wizardchan, Glaive, who was in charge during the Zoë drama. The way it was described in the media is not the way that it happened at all. Many Wizardchan users are very depressed and have trouble even ordering pizza over the telephone, muchless calling someone they don't know and making threats. The threatening posts made on Wizardchan were made by Zoë herself for attention and by trolls from other websites, as was confirmed by IP checks. Some media outlets recanted their story, but by then the damage was already done.

Q: How were you involved in Encyclopedia Dramatica's recovery when it was suddenly switched over to OhInternet?

A: I remember the day that DeGrippo shut down ED quite well actually. A few of us gathered in IRC and started mirroring what content we could find from Google Archive. At first we just copied and pasted it into articles, but we soon were able to write scripts to mirror the wikitext and the media assets. We first started uploading it to encyclopediadramatica.ch, but the domain has changed a few times since then. I was only active in the first few days of the switchover, I lost interest after we had most of the content mirrored. However, I am a big fan of ED and have been since 2008 at least.

Unsurprisingly, Oh Internet didn't last and was quietly shut down while ED is still going strong.

Q: What inspired you to create ∞chan (8chan)? How did you come up with the logo?

A: I came up with the original concept of ∞chan while on a psychedelic mushroom trip. I was past the peak and was on the tail end of the trip, and I just decided to browse 4chan because that's what I did when sober. I was still tripping pretty bad though so I kept seeing these fractal patterns and I wrote down the words "infinite chan" to remember for later.

The next day, I was able to put into words more of what the site would be like. I was inspired partly by the admin of 4chon.net, savetheinternet, who routinely refused to make requested boards for users. I wondered what it would be like if there were a Reddit-style imageboard where anyone could make a board without express admin approval, and began hacking on the imageboard engine I knew best to make it a reality: vichan. I decided to expire boards after inactivity so that it didn't get full of dead boards like Reddit does with dead subreddits, and released version 1 of 8chan two days later.

The logo is a highly simplified ouroboros in the shape of the infinity sign.


chan

Q: What boards do you frequent the most on ∞chan?

A: The boards I use most on ∞chan are /tech/, /a/ and /b/. I mostly post as Anonymous, so users have no idea they're talking to me.

Q: What do you think of 4chan's decision to ban all GamerGate threads? What do you think about GamerGate in general?

A: I think 4chan's decision to ban #GamerGate was very hamhanded and misinformed. It would have been okay for them to rule that it be kept to one thread, but the outright ban really helped me notice how much 4chan has changed over the years. Gone are the days where mods are gods, and the rules keep getting more and more strict on 4chan even though there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

It's important to note that ∞chan was not opened for #GamerGate, however. ∞chan was opened in October 2013 as a place where anyone who wanted to could make their own board, and it was a small, but vibrant community before GamerGate with boards on many topics.

Personally, I don't consider myself much of a gamer these days though as a child and teen I enjoyed video games a lot. But, I believe #GamerGate is at its core a positive movement that fights against obvious corruption in journalism and the tech industry. The fact that the anti-GG people got to moot of 4chan speaks volumes about how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Q: What kind of support or feedback have you been getting from people? How did the 2ch partnership come about? What exactly does the partnership entail?

A: Almost all feedback I've gotten has been positive.

The 2channel partnership came about randomly, the curator of 2channel contacted me in a private IRC message and said that he was impressed with how ∞chan works and that he was interested in partnering with me. The rest is history from there.

What 2channel gets out of it is a version of the ∞chan software in Japanese (already accessible at 8ch.net, most boards only allow Japanese posters) and the ability to put their ads on the English version once they have them. What we get out of it are the legal and technical expertise of the biggest champions of free speech in Japan since 1999. It's a great win-win situation for us!

Q: What are your plans for the future of ∞chan?

A: My plans for the future are adding even more features for board owners! The ability to add subaccounts under them so they don't have to trust people with their main account password to delete content on their board is forthcoming. Also, complete asset management like spoiler images and custom flags are in the works.

Q: ∞chan is a unique imageboard that allows users to create their own boards. What are some of the more interesting boards that have been created?

A: I think that the most interesting boards created so far are /fringe/, a board for modern day magicians, /ebola/, a board where all the users worship a cartoon that represents the ebola virus in West Africa and /secretrule/, a board where ownership is transfered to people who guess the secret rule of the board using other posts to determine what the rule is. I don't really use any of them but they are certainly interesting uses of the software that I didn't anticipate.

Q: In the last five years or so, 4chan and other imageboards have gone through several different phases in terms of public perception and portrayal in the mainstream media, from being labeled as "underground" internet meme hubs to being hailed as beacons of online vigilantism and hacktivism with the rise of Anonymous, and now, after getting tangled up in a series of scandals this year (ex: Gamergate, Celebgate), it seems that imageboards in general have fallen out of favor in the public's eyes as a safe haven for nihilism, misanthropy and perhaps most contentiously, misogyny. Would you agree that this is actually the case for most imageboards you visit? Any thoughts or concerns on the current state of the imageboard subculture?

A: Imageboards are the most important medium for free speech on the internet. Even though fringe groups often come out due to anonymity and spread opinions that the vast majority don't agree with, they absolutely should still have the ability to.

Imageboards are a haven for all of the terrible things you listed, and that's exactly what makes them such wonderful places. I wouldn't change a thing.

As always, the content of the posts is the responsibility of the posters. It is humanly impossible for us to monitor everything, and fortunately under the Communications Decency Act § 230 we don't have to.

Fredrick Brennan is a computer programmer living in Brooklyn, New York. This interview was conducted over email on October 9th, 2014. If you'd like to support 8chan, Brennan accepts donations through the crowdfunding site Patreon.



Top Comments

Wisehowl
Wisehowl

"The community was very small then but I decided to buy it from him and I was the administrator from March 2013 to September 2013. I resigned from the site because the main rule of the site is that only male virgins are allowed to post, and I lost this status."

Tfw a man born with dwarfism and the inability to use his legs gets more action than you

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