This 2011 blog post from Steve Pavlina is excellent, and a lot of it parallels my own experience managing 4chan for the past 10 years. I’m not too familiar with Steve’s work, but he is an excellent writer and I hope I’m one day able to express myself as clearly and eloquently as he does in his post.
Steve’s situation and my own aren’t exactly the same—his forums were auxiliary to his main focus of writing—but this particular excerpt resonated with me, and is one of the primary reasons I wrote my "Full House" news post back in September:
There was way too much of a sense of entitlement in the place, whereby a number of members felt they could nudge the rules aside and get away with it, if only because they had the support of their friends within the community. Perhaps they perceived a certain strength in numbers.
But my vision wasn’t to provide a social hangout for some friends who wanted to chat each other in circles. I wanted a community with high standards for interaction and a core focus on [personal] growth. If people want to chat with their friends on my site, that’s okay to some extent, but not if it interferes with the overall vision. I felt that over time, they were interfering with that vision, and the forums became more of a social hangout for them and less of a place where people were really helping to support each other with serious [personal] growth in mind.
Something that’s always surprised me is how often people seem to forget how large the overall 4chan community is outside of their own respective interaction with it. Some simply don’t care, but I think others plain don’t realize they’re just one of millions of people who post and browse 4chan on a monthly basis.
I’ve made changes in the past where some individuals or groups have felt unfairly targeted or impacted. Some changes are meant to curb a specific problem, but for the most part I’ve tried to paint in broad strokes and act in the best interests of the overall community. This sentiment was captured in my news post a few months ago: “Using 4chan should be enjoyable—but your enjoyment of the site shouldn’t come at the expense of your fellow 4channers.”
People also tend to misinterpret my desire to please the overall community as pandering to outsiders (Reddit and Tumblr being the common boogiemen) in an effort to give the site more mainstream appeal—but that isn’t true either. The funny thing is, it’d benefit me more if people left the site since 4chan continues to be a terrible business and has historically struggled to make ends meet. And before you start thinking that’s been my intention, you wouldn’t be correct either.
My view is that it simply isn’t possible nor prudent to attempt to please everyone, and so I don’t. This can be misinterpreted as not caring, but it’s far from it—it’s just a reflection of my belief that the needs of the community outweigh the needs of individuals. Which is an ideal I think most would agree with, but when emotions run wild and tensions run high, we often lose sight of it.
4chan means as much—if not more—to me as it does anyone else, but if you’ve ever sought my rationale for making a decision you don’t agree with, I hope this helps explain it.
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