Moot point

Christopher Poole,aka ‘moot’,runs a hugely popular website. But he can’t find a job

Written by L A Times,Washington Post | Published:February 22, 2009 10:30 pm

So,the Internet walks into a bar. The bar is in New York’s Chinatown. There’s an audience of 425 at this conference—called ROFL Thing (ROFL,as in rolling on the floor laugh,but wait,do we really have to spell it out? OMG). Here,there are a few people who qualify as Internet celebs. But the guy everyone really hopes to meet is named “moot”.

Moot—and please lowercase the ‘m’—is the mysterious founder of 4chan.org,one of the weirdest,vast-est,most disgusting-est sites online. It’s a sprawling web of message boards on which users post images of everything from their favourite actors to their favourite bowel movements.

Over in a corner,a serious-looking 21-year-old wearing a gray hoodie chats with friends about how,after dinner and the after-party,he’ll be going home to his mom’s house in the suburbs. This is moot. His real name is Christopher Poole. He is responsible for the online lives of 5 million monthly 4chan visitors. Now—in debt,out of work—Poole just needs to figure out how to make that matter.

The site,divided into categories like anime and video games,is almost entirely user-generated. It receives 400,000 posts a day and some boards move so quickly that posts disappear in seconds. The site’s “random” board has been described as the place where the Internet goes to vomit after a late night.

Poole created 4chan at 15. There are two great ironies in his life. The first is the gaping chasm between his personality and the crassness of 4chan. Poole is considerate and measured,a dork who hasn’t realised that he’s also kind of cute. A guy who still takes children’s chewable vitamins,and talks in silly voices to his cats. The porn and potty humour on 4chan aren’t really Poole’s style though he lets them stay in the interest of letting the community grow organically.

The second irony is that he can’t get a job. Poole has been looking since last spring,and so far nothing has panned out. There was the company in Boston that was going to pay him $65 an hour to consult. He moved there for three months,but the company couldn’t figure out exactly what to do with him—he never got paid.

He’s actually losing money on 4chan by charging the site’s server costs on his credit cards. The crass content makes it difficult to find advertisers. He was working with a company that sells Web ads until about six months ago. He says the ads too easily diverted visitors to junky ad sites,ruining the user experience.

He’s $20,000 in debt,living with his mom and pouring money and hours into the dark heart of the Internet. “Theoretically,” says Poole. “I should be able to get some sort of job.” He’s not a programmer. His site doesn’t offer a specific service. What he does is foster community,making millions of people feel they have a safe space for creative discussion. “I have no idea how to translate my 4chan skills on paper,” Poole says.

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