Saturday, April 26, 2008

Internet Cult Leaders

This session focuses on leaders' take on leadership. Panelists are:

xkcd talks about minds meeting minds as part of what the appeal of his comic. That is, people would react by saying "That's just like me!". moot talks about 4chan being just about images and text and he feels his role is about providing a forum for people within which to express themselves.

The panel is asked to comment on the extent to which their material or work is taken from real life. Randall talked about how it's a mixed lot. Ryan talks bout how people seem to automatically assume everything he writes and draws about is taken from his own life (which became really tricky the time he wrote about a threesome...). Ryan is next asked about how much of his material is based on past girlfriends. Ryan says that sometimes events happen that find their way into his comics and that's not always a good thing. Randall also points out that when you're in a real relationship and your write about a relationship issue that didn't really occur, then that cn be problematic, too. Randall talk about how people *do* take things on the internet seriously. He talks about a time he wrote a tongue-in-cheek "angry" letter to Reddit and it caused such a stir that he wasn't expecting and it's since caused him to perhaps reflect a little mroe on things he posts and does online.

Moot is asked about when he has most been afraid of what he's created and the consequences thereof. He responds, "Right now!"

At this point, the talk is crashed by Anonymous, crowd dancing in the aisles....

The next question that can actually be heard by the audience is to do with what the panelists do about the reception of their work. Randall talks about avoiding the feedback threads and trying not to make what other people say to seriously. Ryan talk about how one time his work was being over-interpreted and he stepped into the discussion, only to be told that the author's position isn't the only interpretation etc.

Randall was next asked if the woman in his comics is a real-life girlfriend. He explains that the woman is more an amalgamation of people. Of course, he also meets people who are so *exactly* like his character.

The panelists are asked what their zombie defense plan is. Randall says that he spends more time on his raptor defence plan, which includes working out where all the exits are and how many people lie between him and exits etc. Ryan talks about how important what kinds of zombies they are and how that shapes his plan.

The next question focusses on Randall's brilliance, and asks if there's anything he'd like everyone in the room to do. he asks us to do a barrel roll, and we do, then he makes a side comment about cults...

Ryan is asked about his recent thesis which was in computational linguistics . Randall gives computational linguists a hard time in his comic...

Ryan is asked what he thinks today is a beautiful day for. He says he's tempted to say "toplessness" but after seeing the barrel roll, he's gonna abstain. Ryan and Randall speak cryptically about something that happened last night.

The Tron Guy weighs in nd explains that he spends an inordinate amount of time cleaning up a section of the 4chan Wikipedia entry, and what does moot think of this. moot talks about how community members exercise free will and there's nothing he would do to intervene in what they choose to do.

Randall points out that by Tron Guy bringing this issue up that he's just made his Wikipedia job twenty times harder.

A question from the floor asks about the most bizarre thing they've been asked to do. this includes being asked to sign all sorts of body parts; Randall was asked today to sign a "friendship" (in this case, two people's clasped hands). He's also been asked to sign a picture of monkeys having sex...

moot is asked about how he deals with the authorities and the real world. He replies about how he hasn't had much to do with the real world, but quite a bit with the authorities. He lks about the case of one poster who posted a bomb threat to 4chan, along with posting to a bunch of other sites, and looks set to go to jail.

Randall is asked about whether he's stolen his comics (i.e., after finding them in a dumpster). He explains that they're in a binder and are due to run out in 2012, when he'll give his comic over to Randall.

The next question talks about how people are sometimes trivialised for what they do on the internet. Randall talks about how his dad were worried that he was wasting time, until he began to make money selling t-shirts, and everything was all right.

moot is sked if he'd like to apologise to everyone for starting 4chan. He said he's sometimes thought about it, but that he's not sure there's anything to apologise for. He's then asked if there's anything he'd like to take responsibility for. after a long pause, he replies, "No." He's then asked by someone else if his parents know what he does. He explains that 4chan isn't exactly dinner-table conversation. He never told them about it, and then only learned about 4chan four eyars after he started it, and like, parents having sex, it's just something that's never talked about. Randall explains how his parents are generally supportive about what he does. He describes how he never locked his livejournal page and knew that his parents rad it every now and then, but also knew they would never talk about it which took a lot of pressure off for him.

The panelists are asked bout material they've posted or seen posted to their site that they're surprised didn't turn out to be more controversial than it did. Randall talks about a comic about the mathematics of cunnilingis and only got thank-you notes in return. Moot talked about a spate of posts against scientology and was described in the broadcast media as an "internet hate machine." Ryan talked bout how he had father write and complain bout T-Rex swearing in one comic, which the father explained he read with his 6-year-old child. this was even though the whole week the comic had been focussing on transexuality and the like. He also talks about how the time he got the lyrics to the theme song to the Teenage Mutant Ninjas wrong and that generated an enormous barrage of emails correcting his mistake.

The panel is asked bout gender issues. They all seem to agree that it's difficult to address causal issues in their own work. Randall talks about how he sometimes uses his comic to be deliberately provocative by having T-Rex keep stepping on a female dinosaur and has found that no-one responds to this kind of visually misogynist stuff. Randall talks about how incredibly complex gender and race issues etc. are.

Ryan talks about the trickiness of the fan relationship and how meeting someone who already know your work and like you already, and how difficult that can be. Moot talks about how someone drve past him once and asked him to do a barrel roll. The panelists then began talking about issues to do with including internet jokes in their work (e.g., rick-rolling) and finding the balance between making sure as many readers as possible understand the jokes while not alienating internet culture savvy users for whom the joke is already old.

Moot is asked if he posts to 4chan. He explained that he does, but posts as "anonymous". In fact, he says he's a big fan of "anonymous" posts because they even out the playing field.

A question from the floor asks whether they feel that if they hadn't developed their sites, whether other people would have. Moot talks about how 4chan is based directly on 2chan--the Japanese image board--and how it's highly likely that if he hadn't done 4chan, then someone else would've done something similar.

The panelists are asked where they're likely to be in ten years' time. Ryan and Randall agree that they'll keep doing what they do while they still enjoy it. Moor points out that his site doesn't/can't make money, so he's unlikely to still be doing it in 10 years' time.

Ryan is asked if the same six panels of drawings that he uses for his comic are constraining. He explains how these panels actually help him to keep writing because when he sits down in th morning he knows at some stage he needs to rite words for T-Rex to say. He talks about how he's also been involved in another project (Project Wonderful) whether artists draw a comic panel and then he--and a few others--fill in the text and then it's posted.

Another question focusses on why anime manga and role-play games resonate with so many geeks. Moot talks about how in Japan so many cool things happen. Randall identifies himself as an outsider to anime culture, but thinks the attraction is like that attraction to sci-fi and live action role-play: an interesting world with its own set of rules that you can operate in.

moot spends most of his times on the internet, rather than playing video games. He spends most of his time reading the news; for him, it's very important to be connected to your world, including reading local community news which can offer important insights into everyday life. Randall wishes there was a better set of websites that review professionals--like doctors. Ryan recommends You're the Man Now. what he likes about this site is how quickly in-jokes develop nd re shared, then replaced by new in-jokes, and so on.

The panelists are asked about open source software etc. Ryan talks about how he uses Opera as his web browser and creates his comic in Microsoft Paint. Randall talks about how 4chan has become a foundational introduction to internet geek culture and a network of people for many young people, rather than other more traditional avenues through software programming etc. Randall talks about how copyright laws are a major issue. Moot tlks about how they took free software and made it propriety which isn't a good example in terms of the free software movement. One of the reasons for not making their interface software free is that it's a mess. But others are developing 4chan-like software that's open source and good idea. Randall adds that not sharing software, but using it for good ends is also worthy.

The panelists are asked about their ideal girlfriend, and Randall comments on how "heteronormative" the question is, much to the audience's delight!


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