While perusing the Internet the other day, I was shocked to hear that “Victoria from Reddit” (/u/chooter), a paid employee of the company who has been an instrumental voice in assisting celebrities posting in the extremely popular /r/IAmA subreddit, has been fired suddenly.
In response to this, many of the main subreddits, including /r/IAmA, have gone dark in protest, and many are calling for the head of interim CEO, Ellen Pao, even going so far as to establish subreddits that are specifically aimed against her. Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian managed to make things even worse, with a glib quip about popcorn.
While I don’t think that firing the CEO of Reddit is going to solve anything, my viewpoint is that Reddit and its administrators need to make some serious changes to how they operate if they think that they could have fired Victoria without this sort of serious repercussion.
I think Jeff Atwood’s 2005 article about the downfall of Kuro5hin, appropriately titled “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy”, hit surprisingly close to the mark on this one.
As a community grows, these types of rules – neither social nor technical, but a hybrid of both – become critical to the survival of the community. If moderators fail to step in, the damage can be fatal […]
I’ve seen it play out exactly like this, with reluctant moderators whose hands are forced due to the outcry from the users.
Reddit is another good example of the type of social software that Jeff is talking about; despite a very strongly integrated relationship between administrators (employees) and moderators (volunteers), they’ve made some bad decisions in the past, and haven’t been the most forthcoming about fixing, or even apologizing for, their mistakes. However, the community response to this is limiting the exact sort of discourse that made Reddit what it was, and the site might be permanently scarred from this, unless some agreement is reached between Reddit’s operators and its community, and the locks on the major subreddits are lifted before too many people get tired and leave.
I’m not worried that this is the beginning of the end of Reddit, since the userbase is far too strong and loyal to quit, and they thrive on exactly this sort of drama (remember Unidan? Gamergate? Violentacrez?); however, one way or another, things are going to change for the site.
Just like they always do.