Bored at Butler, or B@B, or at times Bored at Columbia (with various capitalization schemes, a choice of "at" or "@", and various domain name suffixes) is an online hangout for bored people.
The website was considered to be Columbia's version of 4chan. For some people it was the last resort, when there's no one on gchat, no one on facebook, nothing new on the net. However, it has since evolved into more of an online community.
The website was set up by Jonathan Pappas CC '06, a Sigma Phi Epsilon brother from West Virginia. He said that the site "illustrates what many college students would say if they weren’t culturally pressured to be socially acceptable. That was the idea to it. Take a college student, strip them of their identity and see what they have to say." Pappas himself frequently posts under the pseudonym Jae Daemon.
Originally set up to entertain procrastinating students at Butler Library, the website soon spread to other universities. After Columbia asked Pappas to stop using its crown logo due to the controversial language that often appeared on the site, Pappas used it as an opportunity to transform what had become a growing "Boredat" empire. (In March of 2013, Dartmouth did the same thing.)
There are now boredat pages for various different schools, the most active other than Columbia and Dartmouth being Carleton College's iteration . The cultures on these boards vary, Dartmouth's often making headlines for being notably raunchier and more controversial than Columbia's. There is also a "Global Board", where students from different schools can troll each other about which one of their institutions of higher learning is objectively better than the others.
Under b@b's old system, pre version 8, anyone accessing the site from a Columbia I.P. address could post comments anonymously. The system has since been revamped to include email verification so that troublesome users can receive Jae's banhammer. Your account and email are never actually linked, except via a heavily encrypted key, or so Jae claims (just like the NSA aren't creating an archive of all those dick pics you snapchatted.) There seem to have been cases in the past on the Dartmouth board, where police investigations were involved, that forced Jae's hand, but for the most part, anonymity has been preserved.
Since the revamp to Version 8 and 9, in 2010, there have been hundreds of pseudonymous personalities and anonymous users over the years and there are on the order of about 50-100 unique user log ins on a given day. Columbia students from all walks of life frequent the site according to this Blue and White write up. Nonetheless, there are some observable trends:
- Many B@B visitors happen to be fucking idiots. And some aren't fucking idiots. They're just idiots themselves. Just good old, plain jane idiots. Damn straight.
- Many B@B visitors happen to be pretending to be fucking idiots for #thelongtrell , but they're probably actually not self aware enough to realize that pretending to be dumber than you are for the lulz is still pretty damn dumb. HAHA JK IT'S HILARIUS I TROL U
- Some large segment of B@B visitors are Columbia gay men, looking to hook up with each other in the stacks or equally sketchy areas. It seems that at least more than a few gay students have found temporary love thanks to the anonymous message board.
- Conversely, straight hook ups never happen on b@b.
- Since the b@b revamp there have been cases of b@b personalities dating, and the board has developed its own mythology, history, cliques, gossip and above all dank memes.
- As in all chat rooms, most of the "women" are men. And a few of the femanons are pretending to be men to avoid unwarranted attention.
- Campus media, like members of Spec and Bwog, frequently lurk b@b for the gossip and campus media discussion.
- There is frequently a sizeable GS population amongst the userbase, probably because their school lacks even the pretense of physical community (unlike some of the other undergraduate schools, who at least pretend to have community.)
Generally, b@b is a deluge of shitposting (low value content). But for the sake of having a longer list:
- >tfw no gf/bf
- Barnard girls are ugly/fat/lesbians vs. Columbia girls are ugly/fat/lesbians
- GS students (they're old, they smell, and they're annoying)
- Midterms (midterms are a bitch; I don't want to study for midterms; I'm going to fail all of my midterms)
- What's the average GPA?
- Is my GPA high or low? (answer: anything below a 4.2 makes you a failure at life)
- Manhattanville (Should Columbia buy all of Harlem and build a huge student center + park + new dorms there?)
- Greentext stories, both real and fictional or some combination
- actual student concerns about privilege and social justice.
- people trolling shitlibs.
- your jimmies have been rustled/my jimmies are rustled
- linking to things on campus media/discussing spec op eds.
- frats are stupid
- >Biology. >A Hard Science / Mowshowitz sucks!!!
- I have no life! / You have no life!
- Am I autistic?/ You're autistic! / Users on this board must suffer from autism.
- I'm fucked! / You're fucked!
- I hate my life! (there's a good chance I'll jump under a moving car next week)/What's the best way to kill yourself? There have been cases of students on b@b literally talking other students off the ledge, so it has served a similar function to a less qualified version of nightline. Since the introduction of personalities, after the reboot, the community has often been very supportive in such cases.
- Should I go to CPS/Is CPS helpful?/Go to CPS!!
- How do I get laid?
- Should I ask the girl opposite from me out?
- Talking to girls (has anyone tried yet?)
- Who wants to have sex in the stacks (answer: nobody, ever)
- Relationship advice (why do you guys always go for the boobs first?)
- Should I shave? How?
- Should I trim? Oh shit I accidentally cut off my balls!
- Does anyone want to hang out at 1020/Tom's/my dorm? B@b parties and hangouts have been known to happen, generally bringing the entire board community closer together.
- People gossiping about specific personalities/b@b celebrities, or trolling them.
The anonymous format lends itself to a posting style that is usually layered in irony and self-awareness, as well as playful--and occasionally more malicious--trolling, but at the end of the day the concerns and topics include the usual sorts of concerns you might imagine a college student to have.
Boredat has existed in some form since 2006. By version 1.3 in 2006, Disagree and Agree buttons had already been implemented and by late 2006/early 2007 boredat was at the height of its popularity with iterations at various other universities.  The site went through many updates and versions, eventually losing popularity and being taken offline by end of 2008 due to the high maintenance costs of the most recent version, version 7.
Late October 2009 The original "retro" Boredat version 1.4 was allowed to exist in its original form at low cost. The activity there proved that people still wanted some form of Boredat. Nonetheless, many of the pains of the original version 1.4 had not been addressed and it was difficult to control the damage un-moderated anonymity can cause. Complaints as well as threats of lawsuits emerged. As a result, on December 2009, the entire Boredat Empire was shut down. In an open letter, Pappas explained that a recent slew of racist and homophobic comments pushed the content on the website beyond tolerable. Pappas hinted that he would like to "build" the empire again with the help of coders from various Ivy League schools, and although he believed the shutdown was "temporary", he offered no guarantees.
Boredat went back online in 2010 as version 8. Version 9 followed soon after, which is still the version in use now. Version 8 and 9 introduced a slew of new features including personalities, or pseudonyms, as well as required email registration. The site gained a devoted core of 20 or so personalities, plus anonymous users. It also remained popular at Dartmouth. Eventually, a global board was also introduced, where students from boards at other schools could communicate with one another. Another change enabled by registration was that your account would now track your post history as well as gather points for all the Agree, Disagrees, Profile Views and link clicks you received. Week leaders and all time leaders in points are tracked and visible on the site, presuming they use a personality. In order to address previous problems of inappropriate posts, and the subjectivity of what constitutes an inappropriate post versus what constitutes free speech, Jae decided to grant some trusted users moderator privileges, so that egregious posts could be put up for a vote for removal amongst the mods. If a post is put up for a vote, three affirmative votes can save it or remove it. Moderator status is a closely guarded secret LIKE THAT FIGHT CLUB RULE LOL. How one becomes a moderator is not transparent.
As people graduate and new students enter Columbia, the core group of personalities continues to rotate. New power users emerge, and the board culture continues to evolve and shift. Ultimately it's the users that determine the culture of the board and community. There have been various power users in the past who have gained fame (or notoriety...or a bit of both) who are still on occasion a topic of discussion or influential on the board. The board has developed its own history and mythology over the years, as well as its own secrets which the anonymous format lends itself to naturally.
- The New Yorker, "The New Bathroom Wall"
- The Blue and White on the new b@b
- The Columbia Lion's guide to b@b
- Harvard Crimson, "He Was Pretty Bored, Too"
- Harvard Crimson, "Bored at Lamont"
- IvyGateBlog.com, "Students United by Internet, Soul-Crippling Boredom"
- A history of b@b, on the site's devblog
- See also, John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, as expressed in "Green Blackboards (And Other Anomalies)", Penny Arcade, 19 March 2004. For the more academically inclined, see John Suler, "The Online Disinhibition Effect", CyberPsychology & Behavior, Volume: 7 Issue 3, pgs. 321-326 (July 28, 2004), Revised, August 2004