Newsflash: Time Magazine still doesn’t get 4chan

moot at re:publica '09, photo by christian.pier
moot at re:publica '09, photo by christian.pier

So, moot (founder of won Time magazine’s audience poll for most influential person. He got over 16 million votes, with an average rating of 90 out of 100 (the next highest rating anyone got was 47). If you’ve never heard of moot, you’re probably wondering how somoene you’ve never heard of can get such a high ranking and so many votes. If you know who he is, or you’re familiar with 4chan, you know that his community is huge, internet savvy and very, very active when it comes to causes they care about. An internet poll is just the place for them to show up in force and make their opinion known.

If you’ve met moot, you know that he tends to be quiet and unassuming, but he’s tremendoulsy insightful. He’s young, but he’s seen things that most of us could probably never imagine. He’s charming, but experience has led him to be a little reserved with people.  He’s also got a streak of dark humor, tempered with genuine friendliness. Last time I saw him in person, he expressed condolences that my mother had recently passed away, and then he quietly told me that he had read through her blog and thought it was really well written. 

Beyond all that, his Time-Poll-Winning influence stems primarily from the fact that he started 4chan, now one of the biggest online communities, when he was 14 years old. He’s been running it ever since, creating a forum that has spawned or germinated nearly every internet meme you’ve ever heard of (Rickrolling and LOLcats are the two that are usually referenced). It’s a community that’s purile on some levels, but also lets people address some serious issues related to online anonomity and identity. As I mentioned, they’re a pretty active crowd, and sometimes that action leads to goofy pranks, and sometimes those pranks are about serious political and social issues. You may not agree with everything they’ve done, but you have to respect their ability to express their point of view. 

Last month I went to the IA Summit, where Michael Wesch gave an Opening Keynote about the influence of user generated media and online culture. He devoted a good chunk of his talk to the activites of the members of the 4chan community. You can listen to the podcast on Boxes & Arrows.

So, how did Time Magazine describe this fascinating young man who won their audience poll, and whose influence far surpasses the number of people who have actually heard of him, or know anything substantial about him? Well first of all, the profile was written by Rick Astley. It’s primarily about Rick Astley. In the 330-word piece, the only things you will learn about moot or 4chan are:

  • moot is 21
  • moot is mysterious
  • moot created 4chan
  • moot won the poll

At the end of the piece, they throw in a fun fact that “ gets 13 million page views a day and 5.6 million visitors a month”. There, I’ve just saved you the trouble of reading it!

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