Bored at Baker returns to campus

by Noah Goldstein | 7/7/16 6:29pm

Anonymous social forum Bored at Baker is being revamped after being shut down in October of 2015 by founder Jonathan Pappas — known online as Jae Daemon. A Columbia University student, Pappas launched Bored at Butler, named after the university’s main library, in 2006 and later expanded the brand to other colleges and universities.

A group of student-based moderators ran the Dartmouth site from late 2006 through late 2015, with a two-year hiatus starting on October of 2007 due to attempts by Daemon to redirect traffic to a different website.

Pappas announced the website’s shut down on his blog in October of 2015, writing that he would “re-evaluate enabling a private space for Dartmouth” in June of this year.

Pappas shut down Bored at Baker because the website took up too much of his time. It was the only website of the BoredAt, Inc. series to be shut down.

Pappas did not respond to requests for comment.

Former moderator Aaron Pellowski ’15 said that he thinks Bored at Baker has the potential to contribute to Dartmouth culture by providing a centralized forum for student discourse about political and cultural issues at Dartmouth and nationwide. However, he is unsure whether the website will ever reach that state.

“The foundation is there, but as for the triad of energy, organization and direction, I don’t know whether things are ever going to get restored to their glory days,” he said. “A large part of that is the intrusion of a mainstream tween kid-brother Yik Yak.”

In prior years, the website has been home to personal attacks on students.

After the 2013 Dimensions protest, several users posted rape and death threats directed at the protestors. In winter 2014, a user posted a guide on how to rape a specific member of the Class of 2017.

Andrew Wolff ’18 said that he does not think that bringing back the website is a good idea because the forum often served as an excuse for people to bully each other, either implicitly or explicitly.

Pellowski said that there will always be people who disapprove of bringing back the website due to the belief that the platform exists to perpetuate cyber-bullying, sexism and “general trash-culture.”

While he noted that some terrible conversations have occurred on Bored at Baker, he does not think that such conversations are indicative of Bored at Baker as a whole. He added that a lot of criticism of the website is not solution-oriented.

He said it is hard to say how Bored at Baker affects campus discussions, as the website itself is a part of Dartmouth culture and thus serves as a forum to share similar values that are indicative of feelings on campus.

“[Bored at Baker] is not some third-party program that affects culture,” Pellowski said. “It is culture.”

Before Pappas shut it down, Bored at Baker saw declined usage, but Pellowski thinks that it still offers its own benefits as opposed to Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app whose popularity Pellowski attributed to its ease of use and access. The app first became popular at Dartmouth in the fall of 2014 and continues to be used by students. He said that the advantage of Bored at Baker is the ability to have larger posts, branching conversations and creating longer lasting conversations. While posts on Yik Yak disappear within 24 hours, posts on Bored at Baker are archived and thus can be accessed at a later time, so trends in social conversations can be seen and analyzed over a longer period of time.

“People have been saying ‘nobody rages anymore’ every year for eight years,” Pellowski said. “I thought people started saying that during my freshman year.”

He noted that he does not think that the website will ever reach the same popularity level that it once had, but he foresees a spike of reinterest among the student body, as well as its revival resulting in something new for the website — although he is unsure as to what that would be.

A former moderator, who requested anonymity due to not wanting to be associated with the message board post graduation, said they were not sure at all how the website’s return will affect campus discussions or how popular the website will be upon its return.

They said that because the website is a platform, it does not have a morality of its own. It is also totally dependent on its users, they added, meaning that the type of content that shows up on the website can reflect campus thoughts.

“It offers a reflection, not an accurate or proportionate one, but a reflection of what a lot of campus may be thinking,” they said.

The website often had a bad reputation in the past as a result of these said reflections, but the moderator said that they did not think that all of the posts were indicative of campus mindset, as they were not sure how many posts were attempts at humor versus people actually posting their beliefs.

The former moderator felt the forum does not add much value to campus because all the issues brought up on Bored at Baker were inevitably brought up in other ways during its absence.

They added that while Bored at Baker can have a negative impact on campus so too can almost any aspect of life, such as alcohol, drugs or even Facebook, and that the impact largely depends on those who use it and how they use it.

The moderator said that they hope people build better relationships through the website, because they themselves made some of their closest friends through it. However, they are interested to see how the website will be used going forward.

Avid Yik Yak user Angela Zhang ’19 is excited for the website to come back. As opposed to Yik Yak, which Zhang said does not allow for long term discussion, Bored at Baker’s archives will allow discussions to permanently remain on the internet.

However, she said that the website’s return could be frustrating, as traffic could split between the website and Yik Yak, as opposed to being centralized in one location.

Zhang also said that she was unsure as to why the website is coming back, as Yik Yak already seems to be doing what the website was created to do.

Cristina Curcelli ’18 first heard about Bored at Baker from conversations with her friends. However, Curcelli said that she will probably not be using it, as it would only serve as an additional distraction to her everyday life.

Aaron Pellowski ’15 is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.

Correction appended (July 8, 2016):

The original version of this article incorrectly quoted Aaron Pellowski '15. The article quoted him as saying, “A large part of that is the intrusion of a mainstream tween kid-brother Bored at Baker.” In fact, the "tween kid-brother" is Yik Yak.