Bored at Baker founder shuts down the site

by Daniel Kim | 11/8/15 9:05pm

In a short blog post, Bored at Baker founder Jonathan Pappas — known online as Jae Daemon — announced that the anonymous social forum will no longer be available at Dartmouth.

Pappas runs a number of similar sites through BoredAt, Inc. Pappas will consider relaunching Bored at Baker in 2016, he wrote in the Oct. 30 blog post.

Pappas’s rationale for shuttering Bored at Baker focused on its time-consuming nature. All other BoredAt websites, such as those at Columbia University and Carleton College, will continue to be active.

Since late 2006, Bored at Baker has provided an online space for Dartmouth students to post and interact anonymously. Pappas originally launched Bored at Butler — named for the main library at Columbia — as an undergraduate at the University and continued to expand BoredAt to other colleges and universities after graduating.

At Dartmouth, the website maintained a large following prior to its declining usage in recent years.

Of 21 students interviewed by The Dartmouth, four students said that they have used Bored at Baker before, but have not been using it for an extended period of time. Nine students said they have heard about the website, but never used it. Eight did not know what the website was.

Some students engaged with Bored at Baker for a specific reason while others said they have made an account and never used it.

“I’ve known about Bored at Baker, but I only went on it once because I heard that [Sigma Delta sorority] was hacked, and that the hacker was on the website,” Jingya Qiu ’16 said. “Yik Yak seems different from Bored at Baker because mean things just get shut down on Yik Yak.”

Cameron White ’19 said he learned about Bored at Baker from his Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips leader. He made an account but has not utilized the account since.

The site’s content was overseen by a group of moderators — consisting of active users of the site — who had the power to remove posts that were deemed offensive. Aaron Pellowski ’15, a former Bored at Baker moderator, said that while Pappas is a “passionate guy” and a “man with a vision,” Pappas also has a career and BoredAt is a side project that consumes his time.

“Bored at Baker is one of the more active sites and one of the more controversial sites. It’s possible that he’s just had a lot of work, but it’s also possible that Bored at Baker ceased to be any good,” Pellowski said. “He has shut down a site before in reaction to things that have been posted, and he is very personally concerned about making sure that Bored at Baker is a versatile platform for sustaining a certain kind of community.”

Bored at Baker saw several controversial events in the past few years related to the offensive nature of some of the content posted. When members of Real Talk — a social justice group at Dartmouth — protested homophobia, sexual assault and racism during the 2013 Dimensions of Dartmouth program, several users posted rape and death threats against the students who protested. In winter 2014, a user posted a guide on how to rape a specific member of the Class of 2017.

“Anonymity has a double-edged sword effect in that anonymity permits people to speak freely and authentically and without having what they say measured against their identity,” Pellowski said. “And of course, the other edge to that sword is that when you are not held accountable for what you say, not only is the incentive to lie removed, you are motivated to be truthful, regardless of the consequence.”

Former moderator Blaine Ponto ’14 said that these kinds of conflicts led to polarizing opinions that began to dominate the board. The group of people who disliked the content on the board clashed with the group of people who disliked what they saw as the policing of free speech, and both groups were very vocal about their opinions.

“The extreme groups basically shut out a lot of the other content and conversations that were going on because people without an opinion on the issue — or people who didn’t have a polarizing opinion — could not connect as well,” she said.

The people with extreme views on free speech focused mainly on their own debate until Bored at Baker’s usage began to decline, with those who were uninterested in the ongoing debate leaving, Ponto said.

“People just got tired of posting, so the website was left to just the extremist trolls,” she said. “When curious or moderate people would log on, they would just see posts from the trolls.”

All 21 students interviewed said they know about the anonymous social media sharing app Yik Yak, a competitor to Bored at Baker in the past two years. Of those students, 10 said that they have an account and read the app’s main feed anywhere from multiple times a day to once a month.

“I don’t have a Yik Yak account, but I read it on my friend’s phone,” Alexa Escalona ’18 said.

That Yik Yak, which launched in 2013, effectively replaced Bored at Baker as an anonymous outlet could be one of the several reasons that the website did not regain the popularity it enjoyed a few years ago, Ponto said.

“I knew a lot of people who used Bored at Baker to get help and get support and talk to people about things they cared about but couldn’t really talk about in real life,” she said. “Now that there’s a more commonly used forum for it with a much stricter form of community policing, there was never enough need for Bored at Baker to get popular resurgence.”

Pappas did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Pellowski is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.