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goshdurnit583 karma

Look, I'd really appreciate it if we could keep this discussion focused on my new book. That's what I'm hear to talk about. :)

goshdurnit227 karma

To state the obvious, it's not ideal. I think a lot of Reddit's structure evolved in an ad-hoc way, and when Reddit was smaller, questions about concentration and arbitrarity of authority were less salient. Having said that, I think people will resent any attempt to limit their abilities to say what they want, so even if there were more mods who had term limits and were elected, I think most of the people who currently vocally resent them would still resent them.

One last thought: it's worth thinking about how much variance there is among subreddits in terms of how mods are appointed. And I know that you asked about popular subreddits, and to be honest, I don't know if they are all the same in that regard (r/AskScience is popular, but I assume it doesn't have the same mods as r/pics). But my point is that the variety of ways in which mods are appointed, limited, voted for, etc. suggests that change is possible, that a popular subreddit could adopt a new way of appointing mods. Does anyone have an ideal way that they'd like to see this done?

goshdurnit224 karma

Great question, and to be honest, I don't have hard data, but I could venture a guess.

I don't know of any research that tries to estimate the % of bots on Reddit. There's research on the utility of bots and bots in certain contexts (e.g., political discussions, covid, etc.), but not a straight-up estimate that I'm aware of. This paper (Varol et al., 2017) from 2017 tries to estimate the % of bots on Twitter and puts it at 9-15%. I don't think there is any sort of mechanism for removing bots from Twitter for advertising or spamming, whereas many mods of subreddits at least try to ban such bots from their subreddits. Both platforms would have trouble detecting and removing astroturfers. But this figure of 9-15% accounts for ALL types of bots, not just spambots or astroturfers. On Twitter and Reddit, there are plenty of benign bots that provide useful info and that many users would like to see more of.

Also, after having waded through tens of thousands of comments from a wide variety of subreddits from the past decade, the vast majority of what I see appear to be people, not bots. So, my guess would be between 1% and 5% of all users, that they are highly concentrated in popular, loosely moderated subreddits.

goshdurnit177 karma

I think the main thing it's gotten right is modularity. Allowing subreddits to have their own set of rules and their own moderators allows different 'cultures' with different sets of norms to develop over time. You'll never have one policy or set of mods or norms that fits all. Reddit allows interest groups to splinter and still stay within the platform. Twitter 'atomizes' its users - it doesn't really have hubs or destinations for particular interest groups to congregate. Yes, there are hashtags, but I don't think those have the relative permanence of subreddits.

In terms of what it's gotten wrong, I think the front/default page has kept it from having far more users, and a more diverse array of contributors. It's tough to keep a handful of people from spontaneously behaving badly (e.g. The Fappening, Boston Marathon bomber, etc.), but the admins control the design of the default/front page. Of course, it's a tough balancing act - you want to try to reflect the values and preferences of the die-hard users, but not turn off new entrants.

goshdurnit131 karma

One thing that struck me was how few users post or comment, how dominated the discourse is by a relatively small proportion of users. Also, the votes that a post or comment gets in its first hour seem to be predictive of its subsequent score (a bandwagon or herding voting effect). Both of these 'trends' have shown me that what we think of as the voice of Reddit isn't really the voice of all of it's users. It's more like the voice of 1% or 2% of its users. So, it's like 98% of us are watching what 2% are doing and saying. That's not very different than other popular platforms like Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube, but it's just something that I was struck by in my research.

I also found the variety of subreddit rules to be fascinating. In the book, I bring up the example of r/IndiaSpeaks, but there are many others that I find fascinating. That's what I'm hoping to do next: analyze the impact that changes in rules had on subreddits over time.