09/02/2011 04:36 pm ET Updated Nov 02, 2011

4chan 101: Message Boards For Non-Hacktivists

It's that infamous little corner of the Internet known for attracting hacktivists and trolls, but there's more to online imageboard 4chan than Anonymous and rickrolling. For the final word on actual 4chan communities you can be a part of, we went to Cole Stryker, former Urlbot and author of "Epic Win for Anonymous: How 4chan’s Army Conquered the Web." He gave us some advice for those days when you just haven't got the chops to peruse /b/.

Urlesque: So Cole, why 4chan?

Cole Stryker: There's more to the site than the Anonymous hacktivism that dominates the headlines. 4chan is home to several dozen other boards, dedicated to niche topics like cooking, music, sports and news. These boards receive less traffic combined than what /b/ (the anarchic no-rules board that receives most of the media attention) receives, but they're are still quite dynamic and fast-paced compared to most message boards on the web. Even in these hobby-oriented boards, delighting the other browsers with offensive humor is often the primary reason people hang out on 4chan.

But why hang out here to talk about music when you could do so at the hundreds of other boards that aren't home to malicious trolls?


Everyone on 4chan is anonymous by default.
Nothing on 4chan is archived.
The most compelling content rises to the top of the page.

4chan is a place where content that otherwise has no appropriate venue thrives. I often give the example of a guy who robbed a jewelery store who posted a photo of his gun and his loot. There's no way to prove the legitimacy of his claim, but you're not going to see that kind of thing anywhere but 4chan. It's a place for people to be as unpredictable as possible, which keeps people coming back for more weird, funny or shocking content.

Url: You've got our attention. What can we find on 4chan if we want to flex our artistic muscles?

CS: Say you're a graphic artist. There's /3/, a board dedicated to 3d Modeling, or /ic/ a forum where you can upload your own drawings and field critiques from the rest of the people who happen to be hanging out on the board at the time. Some of the art submitted is pretty cool, like this sketch that was just posted a minute ago, as of this writing.

Url: And what about nerds?

CS: Gadget geeks may be interested in /g/, 4chan's Technology board. Right now a debate rages about the merits of DVORAK vs QWERTY keyboard layouts. Science nerds can talk abstract physics at /sci/, the Science and Math. Here a surprisingly elevated discussion ensues about deep oceanic exploration with hundreds of replies arguing about the best way to increase public awareness.

What the NOAA needs is a cultural phenomenon like Star Wars or Star Trek, but in the ocean.

Url:Is there a place on 4chan for baking and cooking enthusiasts?

CS: Foodies hang out at /ck/ one of my personal favorite boards, a place to share recipes, recommend pairings and show off knives. Of course, the dark humor of 4chan is present here too. The following is a post I stumbled on just now (for real), in a post titled "Recipes by Veterans."

Take 6 free range eggs, put in medium pan and bring to boil. Boil for three minutes then remove eggs, retaining pan of water. Chill eggs under cold tap. I once saw a man torn apart.

When eggs are cold, gently tap the shell all over with the back of a tea spoon. Don't tap too hard, or you will break them like fragile skulls of children.

Leave the 'crinkled' eggs to rest on a towel for ten minutes, like corpses.
While the eggs are resting add to the water you boiled the eggs in 3/4 cup soy sauce, 2 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 tablespoons of black tea, a dash of sugar, and 4 peppercorns. If you are unable to stop crying slightly reduce the amount of soy sauce.

Replace the eggs make into this mixture, bring to the boil, then put on low heat for half an hour. The dogs, they were starving, trained for defence. They were stopping to eat the ones who fell, so I was able to shoot them down before they got to me.

When it's time, take off the heat and let the eggs steep in the mixture overnight.

Url: Yum! Bookmarked. One last question, Cole. Newbies: what should they know about 4chan netiquette?

Never use your actual name or give out any info that could be linked back to you IRL or even any of your social network profiles.
"Lurk Moar" is what longtime 4chan users will tell inexperienced users who can't
pick up on the slang or recognize an obvious troll, so spend some time just browsing the site before you actually post and
you can avoid being unmasked as a total noob.
Spend some time just browsing the site before you actually post and you can avoid being spotted as a noob.

Unless you're authoring a book, NEVER talk about 4chan outside of 4chan.

Editor's note: The 4chan Science board was mistakenly called out as /s/ instead of /sci/ before corrected.