Reddit, Eternal September, and Climate Change
Kleinbl00 wrote an excellent synthesis of the phenomenon gripping Reddit right now.
(Explanation of what Reddit here.)
Here’s the link.
Here’s the quote for posterity:
“It isn’t a brain drain, it’s climate change.
Early Reddit was an environment friendly towards tech geeks who wanted something more indepth than slashdot or HN. As such, it attracted erudite geeks. Middle Reddit was an environment friendly towards thinkers and seekers who were looking for discussion beyond what was available on the archetypal PHPBBs, news outlet comment sections and, notably, Digg. As such, it attracted thinkers and seekers. Late Reddit is an environment friendly towards image macros and memes. As such, it attracts ineloquent teenagers.
Something Reddit did early on, under Alexis and Steve, was curate content. They very much seeded the site with the sorts of content they wished for it to have. Once the content took over for itself, they had a nice, successful little site that reflected their interests which they sold to Conde Nast. From that point forth they grew keenly disinterested in the site and established the current culture of “hands off at all costs.” You will certainly get a robust ecosystem if you do this, but it might not be what you’re looking for.
Australia had one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet prior to the arrival of Aborigines. Now it has dingos and kangaroos. New Zealand had an impossibly diverse ecosystem prior to the arrival of Europeans, who brought their cats. Kiwi can’t compete with cats. The American Southeast is a great environment for Kudzu. The Pacific Northwest is a great environment for English Ivy. Etc. Etc. Etc.
The bottom line is that if you want an herb garden with diversity, you need to keep the mint from taking over. If you want an herb garden that takes care of itself, don’t bother planting anything but mint because after a couple years it’ll be the only thing left.
I’m still making the same comments I used to. The difference is nobody notices anymore. Reddit has gone from a place where people said “OMFG Paul Lutus!” to a place where nobody notices when the actor in question comments on the photo taken of him. All the people you mention could be in the conversation, mixing it up to the best of their abilities, and never even be able to connect with each other because everyone’s busy saying “HURR DURR KURT RUSSELL”. In other words, Reddit is no longer a place that facilitates commentary beyond the basest, most immediately accessible platitudes one can regurgitate. Even if you catch something you know extremely well early early in its post life, if you don’t keep it under a sentence, make it universally acceptable, and directly appeal to the wants and needs of teenaged boys no one will even notice you said anything. Might as well save the effort of writing something up.
Go to /r/all. Set RES to block Imgur. Behold – you have eight posts on the front page. Six if you also block min.us and liveleak.com.
Caulerpa is beautiful unless you’re a reef.”
Subreddits are supposed to be a solution to Eternal September – the phenomenon of more users entering a community than can be educated – resulting in a shifting of community standards.
Some have put forward algorithmic functions to correct for this. The issue, in my view, isn’t the voting system. It’s the people. It’s regression to the mean.
Eternal September / Climate Change are the biggest problems in social right now. I don’t believe it’s intractable. I think there’s a solution. (I just don’t know what it is.)