Geekin’ It: /b/ and Online Communities

4Chan, Reddit, and thousands of other online communities are the backbone of Internet culture. This week, we’re going to take a look at what compromises these sites and how to start getting involved.

Banner by Colin McGann.

4Chan is described by its users as an “Internet Hate Machine.” 4Chan is a Chan-type message board—a term that comes from the shortened “channel” where users can post images. The big draw of the community is that the user’s identification is anonymous and its archives are deleted periodically. This anonymity leads to the board’s users posting images that could be gory, pornographic, or just plain random. Most of these posts are centralized in the random /b/ board (X-Rated, NSFW). This combination of anonymity and shock culture leads to the rise of absurdity that isn’t matched anywhere else on the Internet. Almost all of the major memes, like RickRolls, Mudkips, and Lolcats, started on 4Chan and spread to other participatory culture sites.

The users of 4Chan have even created two wikis to chronicle the memes and history of the site, as well as to parody everything else. Uncylopedia and Encylopedia Dramatica show the rise and falls of Internet memes as well as their status as old memes.  The decentralized vigilante group “Anonymous” has its roots in 4Chan and other chan image boards. Even the term “Doing it for the lulz” started in these forums.

Banner by Colin McGann.

Reddit is a link aggregator akin to the website Digg. Reddit takes the absurdity of 4Chan and filters it through the collective hive mind via a voting process. Theoretically, the best content will bubble to the top, which, if you are a fan of things like bacon cookies and rage guy faces, works splendidly. Another factor of Reddit is the karma score. A user’s karma score is based off of votes to their links and comments. If you want to take a look at the top karma scores, visit Karmawhores.net.

Reddit is also split into a limitless number of Subreddits. The topics range from Minecraft to Advice Animals and you can always create a new one. My top pick for the best subreddit is IAmA board, which lets users ask questions to interesting folks. Some of the best IAmA’s are I’ve Been in a Cult for Seven Years, I’m A Reddit CoFounder, or I’m a Crohn’s Disease Patients Who Made it to 20.

While Reddit and 4Chan are two of the biggest online communities, with a worldwide Alexa ranking of 144 and 562 respectively, there are hundreds out there. Remember that if you want to be a member of a community, you need to be an active participant and not just a lurker. Get out there and start posting, geeks.