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Why The Founder Of The Notorious Bored@Baker Finally Shut The Site Down

Despite the cesspool of a website at one campus, he thinks there's a way to build positive communities elsewhere.

Bored@Baker was notorious and obnoxious, and now it's dead.

The anonymous online forum, restricted to those with Dartmouth College emails, was just a stream of text submissions that people could leave positive or negative votes on, much like JuicyCampus, College ACB and Yik Yak. But Bored@Baker was used to spout racist messages, threaten to lynch student protesters, and once had a "rape guide" posted on it about a specific female student, who later came forward to say she was actually sexually assaulted. Dartmouth administrators apologized last year to a female reporter who Bored@Baker users suggested "running a train" on when she came to campus. 

After nearly a decade of trolling, Bored@Baker was shut down on Oct. 30. Its founder, known publicly as Jae Daemon, didn't explain why, but said he'd reevaluate whether to bring the platform back in June.

"It had just been a distraction for me," Daemon told The Huffington Post about what prompted him to shut down the site. "I don't think the Dartmouth community is a requirement for the future of Bored@. We're really in the business of building communities."

Bored@ originally launched in 2006 at Columbia University, where Daemon went to school. He subsequently launched a Dartmouth version, and in 2013, started one at a small liberal arts school in Minnesota called Carleton College. The Carleton version is what gives him hope he can make Bored@ work, despite constant reminders from apps and sites like Yik Yak that anonymous forums are popular places to host offensive opinions.

"I can say in 2016 we're going to make a strong effort to start expanding at other schools," Daemon said. "I don't have the full plan yet, but I'm working with my team here, putting a strategy together -- not doing anything huge though. I'm not trying to make a quick buck off of this, clearly."

Daemon said he left the three Bored@ communities, plus a global version of the site, alone as "petri dishes." Bored@Butler, the Columbia version, is a bit of a mixed bag, but Daemon considers it healthy. At Dartmouth, "post volume was down, and the quality of the content was awful -- there was no sense of community there," he explained. However, Carleton has been a much more positive experience. 

Carleton students who use Bored@ have created "personalities" -- screen names they elect to keep using to take some ownership of their posts -- and have even hosted "P-At" events, or parties for users to meet in person. The daily active user count is much higher proportionally to the student body size at Carleton, Daemon said. He added that when he visited the campus, he remembers multiple people saying, "Jae, I don't know if you realize how important it is to my college experience."

So even though Bored@ is over for now at Dartmouth, Daemon has put together a small team to develop smartphone apps and get ready to expand to three new partner schools in 2016.

"We have to put together a strategy on the right way to expand and see if we can grow some healthy communities," Daemon said. "If I can't get three healthy communities, I'm not going to try to scale too fast. I want to make sure something we've got is providing value."

For one Carleton user with the screen name "Matilda," the forum works well as a "subculture" on campus. Bored@Carleton, Matilda said, is "a combination of Yik Yak and Facebook just for Carleton students," where they can vent about campus-specific issues without parents seeing anything. Regardless of the anonymity aspect, Facebook is too general to post about specific Carleton issues, Matilda said, and the Bored@ forum fills that space.

"It's an extremely effective social news feed -- like a vein straight from the heart of Carleton," said "Dead Bird," a student user who's currently studying abroad. "I almost always have it as an open tab on either my phone or laptop. I'm not super proud of how dependent on it I've become, but it is as integral a part of my Carleton social life as anything -- even more now that I'm away from campus."

Both Matilda and Dead Bird asked to be referred to by their screen names in order to preserve their anonymity on the forum. 

There might still be "interpersonal drama and antagonism" from time to time on Bored@Carleton, Dead Bird said, but it's "shockingly civil" compared to other anonymous forums. One Bored@Carleton user, who doesn't have a screen name and asked to remain anonymous, said they once logged into Bored@Baker and couldn't believe the stream at the time was just people comparing penis sizes. 

Daemon hasn't yet said which campuses he's going to expand to, but noted his in-person visit to Carleton cemented his vision of at least trying to create more positive communities. 

"It really was inspiring what kind of culture and community has been built for Carleton," Daemon said. "That is the focus now."

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Tyler Kingkade covers higher education and is based in New York. You can contact him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or find him on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.

 

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