Q’s First Appearance: An Explanation of the 4chan Messageboard “/pol/”

The anonymous person (or persons) who would later come to be known simply as “Q” first appeared on the “/pol/” messageboard on the website “4chan” in late October of 2017. 4chan was/is what’s known as an “image board” type website, a style of internet forum that hosts multiple sub-forums (messageboards) which are then broken into individual threads (referred to by users as “breads”) that run for a finite number of posts before being archived (this number would later come to be set at 750 posts per bread.) The conversation then moves over to the next “bread” which is prepared by a volunteer known as a “baker” who gathers notable comments and information from the previous bread (“notables”) as well as any board-wide anouncements (“globals”), into a post known as a “dough” which sits at the top of the next bread.

Early on in Q’s history on the image boards, these administrative practices and terminology were less well-defined, and varied a great degree depending on who was in charge of each individual board or thread that day. Over time however, and as Q’s posts transtioned from 4chan’s “/pol/” over to his own dedicated boards on 8chan and later 8kun, the structure of the “breads,” the “bakers,” and the “dough” became standardized, as well as the slang terminology used to describe them.

Started in late 2011 and continuing into the second term of President Barack Obama, /pol/ had become a popular place for online debate about politics due to the anonymous nature of the board. 4chan and other image boards such as 8chan featured a unique structure that allowed users to remain almost completely anonymous while posting. Each user was/is only identified by a temporary ID code; this ID code only lasts for the duration of one thread and is reset and randomized at the beginning of the next; as a result, identities are temporary and do not carry over as the conversation continues, putting each user and their comments on an equal footing, as well as masking the record of who said what to whom and when. Because of this structure, it had become common for users of the board to refer to each other simply as “Anon,” because the “name” field of each user’s posts simply read “Anonymous” followed by their temporary ID code.

It was still possible to use the provided “name” field to identify oneself, and also to enter a unique password which would generate a permanent ID code known as a “tripcode” which could then be carried over to the next thread, however due to the unique advantages presented by being able to speak about controversial political topics completely anonymously, it had become common practice for most users (other than the baker or the board administrators) to not utilize these features at all, with users who chose to enter names and passwords (usually those new to the board and unfamiliar with it’s culture) then being called out for “namefagging” (attention seeking) and told that they should “lurk moar” (learn how the boards work before posting.)


How the Name “Q” Originated and How Q’s Earlier Unsigned Posts were Identified

When Q first began posting in October of 2017, he did so as just another anonymous user. He did not use a name or a tripcode to identify himself. Because of this, Q’s earliest posts were mixed in among all of the other posts being made to the board, and subsequently it wasn’t until late November 2017 that it was fully established which of the earlier posts from the month of October were made by Q.

It was not uncommon at the time for anonymous users to post to /pol/ claiming that they were highly placed whistleblowers within some government organization and that they possessed some as-yet undisclosed information about future events which would unfold in the news, one of the most notable of these being a user who came to be known as “FBI Anon,” who claimed to have inside information about the inner workings of the FBI’s investigations into Hillary Clinton during the lead-up to the 2016 election. The story of this incident is not covered fully here. The reader can find more information about this incident simply by running a web search for the terms “FBI Anon 4chan July 2, 2016.”

On October 31, 2017, in what would later come to be marked as Q post #14, Q baked his first personalized bread on the /pol/ messageboard titled “Bread Crumbs – Q Clearance Patriot” (prior to this Q had only posted in breads started by other Anons.) 

*NOTE: This image has been cropped and does not include the full text.

https://archive.4plebs.org/pol//thread/147433975/#147433975

This would also be the first time Q made reference to “Q Clearance” (a top-secret security clearance issued by the Department of Energy typically held by United States civil and military service members whose work involves classified nuclear programs.) At this point Q was still not signing his posts in any way nor using a tripcode. However, because of his unique vocabulary and authoritative way of speaking, many Anons had already become adept at recognizing Q’s posts when he would show up on the board. In addition to this, the board administrator (known as the “board owner” or simply “BO” for short) and their designated board volunteers (BVs) had the ability to view the unique IP (Internet Protocol) address records associated with each post (a string of numbers assigned by the user’s internet service provider which allows websites to route traffic back to the user’s computer) and were now able to see which earlier posts to the board were made by the same IP address as the newer posts.

It was not until post #61 that Q began signing his posts with a capital letter “Q.” He would continue doing this (though not for every post) until it became the standard format to end each post this way. It was in post #61 that Q makes his first request for the Anons to identify and gather all of his previous messages (crumbs) together. In the next post, #62, Q also requests that the Anons compile his crumbs into a “massive dump” that can be shared as a “single shot.”

As a result of these requests, Anons began the process of compiling Q’s previous posts into one giant image file, at first doing so blindly without the help of the IP addresses which were accessible only to the BO (board owner) and BVs (board volunteers.) Two days later the first version of this image was confirmed as being accurate by Q in post #79. At the time the image only documented Q’s posts as far back as post #14 on October 31 (the first post of the thread titled “Bread Crumbs – Q Clearance Patriot.”)

*NOTE: Due to the excessive vertical length of the image and it’s illegibility in this format, it has been cropped at the bottom to better fit the page. The full-size version is still currently available through the archive link for post #79:

https://archive.4plebs.org/pol//thread/148016618/#148016876

Despite the fact that Q had already begun signing his posts, at this time he still continued to post without a tripcode password. This meant that at the beginning of every new bread, any random user had the opportunity to try to imitate Q by posting in his style, and it became common for each new bread to be filled with many such imitation Q posts. Because of this, the BVs had finally begun using Q’s IP address to reconfirm his identity on each subsequent bread after his ID code would reset. This also allowed the BVs to beginning slowly identifying the unsigned posts that Q had made prior to post #14. Over time these posts began being incorporated into each new graphic. (Q would later begin referring to these graphics as the “map,” and as a result the Anons then began referring to them as the “Q Map.”)


Q’s First Use of a Tripcode

It was not until post #128 that Q used a tripcode password for the first time. This was also the first post that Q would sign using the “name” field at the top of the post as well as in the actual body of the post. Subsequently, it became much easier for Anons to identify which new posts were from Q. Independent websites would also begin appearing soon after (in response to Q’s request in post #128 for a “Guide to reading the crumbs . . .”) with the sole purpose of maintaining searchable archives of the previous posts and to make new posts made with Q’s tripcode available to everyone as soon as they appeared on the board through the use of an automatic “board scraper” program. The first of these Q “scrapers” (or “aggregators”) was qcodefag.github.io (now defunct) located on the coding website “Github.” This scraper program was subsequently transitioned to an independent website after being kicked off of Github (the reason given being that they were generating too much traffic) which showed up some time on or before December 14. qcodefag.github.io later became the website qanonposts.com (now defunct) which eventually became qanon.pub, followed shortly thereafter by qmap.pub (now defunct.) Several more such sites, including qposts.onlineqagg.news, and qalerts.net, would appear as time went on.

*NOTE: This is an excerpted portion of post #128 and does not include the full text. Q’s first tripcode “!ITPb.qbhqo” can be seen directly next to the letter Q in the “name” field at the top of the post alongside the usual randomized ID code.

Due to the rise of the various Q aggregator sites, and the fact that the size of the image files was getting excessively large, the convention of using graphical files to record the history of the Q posts faded out over time, with the last confirmation of the accuracy of the “QMAP” coming in posts #162 and #163 on November 20, 2017. By the time these posts were made it had become common practice to include links to the most current Q Map graphics in the first post for each new thread. As a result, Q no longer bothered to include the most current accurate image with his confirmation posts, and simply confirmed whether or not the image (so large by this point that it had been split into two seperate images) posted at the top of the most recent thread were accurate.

Links to the two most current images at the time of Q’s final confirmation of their accuracy in Q posts #162 and #163 are provided here:

FINAL QMAP image 1: 

https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/149080733/#q149083850

FINAL QMAP image 2: 

https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/149920858/#149922836

Prior to this final confirmation, the Q Map had only been traced as far back as post #3 from October 30, 2017 (this confirmation occured in Q post #132 on November 10.) In this final confirmed set of Q Map images, the Anons had finally managed to track down all of Q’s unsigned posts going all the way back to October 28, 2017, with posts #1 and #2 being added as an addendum at the bottom right corner of image 1. At this point the Q Map was essentially complete, and with the tripcode in place for the identification of future posts, the job of keeping track of each new Q post was transitioned primarily to the off-board aggregator websites, as well as to Anons on the various social media platforms who would comment about each new post as it arrived.


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https://archiveanon.substack.com/p/how-q-first-arrived-on-4chan