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Former Reddit Executive Sees 'No Hope' For Reddit ( 177

An anonymous reader quotes former Reddit product head Dan McComas: I think, ultimately, the problem that Reddit has is the same as Twitter and Discord. By focusing on growth and growth only and ignoring the problems, they amassed a large set of cultural norms on their platforms. Their cultural norms are different for every community, but they tend to stem from harassment or abuse or bad behavior, and they have worked themselves into a position where they're completely defensive... I really don't believe it's possible for either of them to catch up on the problem. I think the best that they can do is figure out how to hide this behavior from an average user.

I don't see any way that it's going to improve. I have no hope for either of those platforms. I just think that the problems are too ingrained, in not only the site and the site's communities and users but in the general understanding and expectations of the public... I don't think that they're going to be able to turn these things around...

I fundamentally believe that my time at Reddit made the world a worse place. And that sucks, and it sucks to have to say that about myself... I've got a lot of advice for start-ups, and it's not very fucking complicated. It's just: Think about the impact that you want to have on your users and on the people consuming your content and do the right thing... Don't be idiots about it. You're people, you see what's going on, you see trends that are forming, just fucking do something. It's not that hard.

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Former Reddit Executive Sees 'No Hope' For Reddit

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  • Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quonset ( 4839537 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:40PM (#56479999)

    Now that Mr. McComas has said he is/was part of the problem, how much money was he raking in for being part of that problem, and is he returning any of it?

    I like these mea culpas, such as from Reddit or Facebook. "I was raking in the dough and living the high life, but yeah, we screwed you and probably society. Live and learn. Excuse me, my yacht awaits."

    • by mlyle ( 148697 )

      It's likely with subsequent transactions that he has no equity in Reddit, and probably made a low-side wage for his work during that era (reddit had approximately no people).

      You ever have some work you did end up going in a direction you didn't like? You'll pay back your wages back from that time, right?

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:41PM (#56480001)

    Whatever social norms that exist on Reddit, are the things that led Reddit to becoming the success that it is. Any attempt to "cure" it will kill the company, as it is killing Facebook and Twitter.

    I don't personally use Reddit much myself, but I read it from time to time and the "culture" seems board dependent and overall fine. I think instead some people with more and more fascist (read: liberal) bents are alarmed that the platforms they helped create sometimes host WrongThink, and thus they would rather see the platforms burn than allow heretics to continue to speak...

    • by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @07:01PM (#56480069)

      Same here, I rarely visit Reddit but when I do, I am looking for specific subjects and my overall experience was positive.
      I would add that Reddit has become so big that it has similar population layout (statistically, socially, etc) as the entire Internet. In other words, it's a representative subset of the Internet.
      So this guy's saying there's no hope for "The Internet".

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Tried reddit for a bit, weirdness in forums and control weirdness by reddit itself, just off putting. Each subreddit is it's own clown show of control freaks and or mostly dead, most of it seems mostly dead. In the end just deleted everything and cancelling reddit pretty convoluted, so just killed its scripts and cookies. Only time I ever go there now, is when it pops up in Duckduckgo searches. Some of the subreddits have good content but not really worth the bother of participating in ie if the answer to a

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      Reddit is mostly leftists in a giant circle jerk. I looked at voat and while entertaining it was full of the opposite, right leaning conspiracy nuts. Both sides equally dumb.

      • If only there was a site with roughly equal numbers of both. I for one would definitely go there!

        • No reason they couldn't exist on the same site and just allow you to moderate what comments you want to see.

          Some sort of Borda count [] mechanism where when you get mod points the site remembers how you moderated, how others that moderate the post and how they moderate other posts.

          You could have a slider to drag the same discussion from "leftist circle jerk" to "right leaning conspiracy nuts" and read the exact same discussion with the exact same people moderated an entirely different way. Let people decide ho

    • That's the thing, I don't see anything wrong with Reddit (twitter is another story). These people exist, and while society has managed to mostly marginalize if not entirely abjure this element in every day social context, the power of the internet does serve to remind us that they still exist. The solution should mostly be the same: moderated spaces should have the power to remove this element and maintain the sanitized social sphere that they desire. Unmoderated forums are ... buyer beware. Censorship will

    • by pots ( 5047349 )
      This is an abuse of the anthropic principle. The fact that I am typing this right now does not mean that I necessarily had to have had waffles for breakfast this morning. It would be entirely possible, even likely, for me to have eaten something else this morning and still be typing this.

      That fact that these social networks are big successful shitholes now, does not necessary mean that they were always destined to be shitholes. It wouldn't take a drastic change, at the right time, to alter the direction
  • commentsubject (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:47PM (#56480015)

    I think, ultimately, the problem that Reddit has is the same as Twitter and Discord: It's full of internet users.

    Every day, another surface dweller strays too far from the spawn zone on Tutorial Island and gasps.

    Every day, another 24 hours of Eternal September.

  • If your aim is to have a positive social impact you should be running a non-profit. A for-profit will always be conflicted between growth/profit and social aims, the investors and creditors, will put huge pressure to skew heavily towards the former
    • by Anonymous Coward


      Non-profit just means it doesn't distribute earnings.

      Non-profits are beholden to the contributors.

  • Members Volunteer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cahuenga ( 3493791 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:49PM (#56480023)
    Members of Reddit communities self select, they choose to be there. If things are bad for you at r/weiner_pretzels, move on.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      Yeah, I think Reddit is a lot better if you take a little time to choose your subreddit subscriptions. Like you said, if things are bad for you at /r/weiner_pretzels, move on. But also, if all you're interested in is /r/weiner_pretzels, subscribe to that and nothing else. You have that option.

      However, that doesn't quite answer all the of questions and fix all of the problems. For one thing, there's the incessant "free speech" debate that pops up every time reddit bans a subreddit. Where do you draw th

  • He used to work there, so he can see the future. If this theory worked, companies should temporarily fire people, see what they can divine about what will shortly pass, then re-employ them and fix the problem.

  • by devslash0 ( 4203435 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:50PM (#56480029)
    Guess what. That's how real people express and discuss their opinions. They speak out their beliefs (be it controversial or not), discuss, argue and shout. On rare occasions they jump to each other's throats. That's how we, human beings, behave when what we're hearing doesn't fit our vision of the world and that's normal. What's not normal is believing that political correctness should somehow be enforceable on the whole population. People use reddit because they value it for what it truly is - one of the few last places on the Internet where they can speak openly. If reddit execs try to take this freedom away, reddit will be as good as dead.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by onyxruby ( 118189 )

      Censorship on Reddit is alive and well. Freedom on Reddit only exists for politically correct opinions. This has been going on for a few years now... [] [] [] []

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        The devil's in the details. The Fox News link claims Reddit censored "Trump supporters". What if those supporters were also spewing racist comments. Would Fox tell you that detail?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >last places on the Internet where they can speak openly

      Says the guy who's clearly never tried to express an opinion on reddit that strongly contradicted the prevailing groupthink.

      The entire point (or at least the practical end result) of the karma system is to algorithmically suppress non-conformist thinking so that unpopular opinions are efficiently removed from the sight of anyone who doesn't go out of their way to find them. Overt censorship is redundant and unnecessary, allowing reddit to claim to

    • They speak out their beliefs (be it controversial or not), discuss, argue and shout. On rare occasions they jump to each other's throats.

      Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me why I don't like people. Add to that, "strongly believed opinion, zero research willingness" and you about summed it up.

    • That's how we, human beings, behave when what we're hearing doesn't fit our vision of the world and that's normal.

      No, that's a social construct.

      We live in a society that tolerates that behaviour. Other times and other places had/have different standards of what was tolerated.

      What's not normal is believing that political correctness should somehow be enforceable on the whole population

      It is possible to cause culture and society to change. To cause the public to examine their beliefs and to come to act in a different way. Prohibition in the US was a result of determined campaigning to try to curb the effects of excessive alcohol consumption. It created a raft of negative effects, but did alter alcohol use. The civil rights moveme

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:53PM (#56480041) Homepage
    Yeah, there are some pretty toxic subreddits, but for many niches or specific interests they are really good. /r/spacex is pretty much the best place to discuss SpaceX and a lot of other New Space things, /r/math is pretty good for mathematical discussion that's more relaxing and not has high level as Math Overflow, etc. One of the real problems that Reddit has which is really a problem not just with Reddit but in many other parts of the internet is the bubble problem: people self-organize into subreddits not just based on interests but on beliefs. So one has left-wing or right-wing subreddits for example who just reinforce their preexisting political viewpoints. This mixes in really badly with confirmation bias and other standard cognitive biases.
    • I honestly see no problem with bubble communities.

      If you sat alone by yourself you'll be in a bubble, right?

      Going online to discuss whatever with like minded people at the very least has you thinking about that issue, and I mean really thinking. In a forum with a lot of argument, it seems to me like there is NO thinking, only posturing, and certainly people's minds do not change... so how is THAT not also a form of bubble? It's re-enforcing and hardening opinion just like steel is re-enforced via a quench

  • Listen - I can empathize with the guy. I've made big complicated systems worth lots of money too. I also don't see much personal value in some of it either.

    But it's not anywhere near as 'hopeless' or 'worsening' than he'd put on it. Communities of 'bad' folks will form anywhere, and the open nature of the internet means that random encroachment into 'good' communities will scale with the number of folks entering the system, and the tools they are using.

    But that doesn't make it useless. Rome fell, and it

  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @06:58PM (#56480055)
    I tried reading the linked article but gave up after reading 3 paragraphs that contained many words without making any concise statement. Reads like the blabber of a literary critic.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, he was fired because of pissing off the users:
      > "You have to grow more." Ultimately, that is why Ellen and I were let go.
      Miss Pao and her team didn't understand the Internet and wanted control by means of opinion police. The user base revolted. So now it's revenge time with a bitter and wishful "there is no hope" argument thrown at what has grown to be the 6th most visited site on the Internet.

  • He's a shitbag for even thinking he has the right to steer public sentiment or discourse. If everyone wants to call each other a fuck tard what right does he have to even consider changing that? He's no more special than his shitty shitty users, he just had a ban hammer at his disposal which made him an arrogant fucking shitstain of Humanity.
    • This is what frustrates me the most about the web 2.0 idiots. They forgot we are supposed to be STEWARDS, not meddlers. They never learned actual Computer Science, they never learned why we wire up the world, or provide services. They saw 'MONEY!', and ran with it.
  • Reddit is just... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @07:14PM (#56480123)
    Reddit is just Usenet in 2018. It's a communication tool; I don't see a need for every community to be a comfortable space for everyone. Don't like a community? Start your own.
  • I guess ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @07:25PM (#56480155)

    ... if Reddit fails, this will leave only 4chan to carry on the high moral standards and intellectual discourse of the Internet.

  • ... And I'm not sure he's ever stated concisely hat what the problems are.

    I'm also really not impressed by the 'apologize for the internet thing', like the world would be better if everyone snarked for the New Yorker instead of building things. The

  • What I wonder is what Reddit, fark, *chan, many others (or /. for that matter) really have that wasn't present when USENET was the preeminent multi-topic/multi-cultural/worldwide community media. Other than browser interface that is.

    It is nice to take credit for polluting the world community and all but I haven't seen much of anything said that couldn't have been said about USENET 20-30 years ago. The only real difference was size -- I recall the O'Reilly book on USENET warned that an all-groups feed (no

    • The only thing Usenet lacked was decent moderation. Either extend NNTP with moderation bits or come up with a secondary protocol and application to support it.

  • by Chris Reeve ( 2962081 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @08:20PM (#56480407)

    The situation with Reddit is in some regards similar to what happens on Slashdot.

    Comments []

    Bad comments seem to be a harder problem than bad submissions. While the quality of links on the frontpage of [HackerNews] hasn't changed much, the quality of the median comment may have decreased somewhat.

    There are two main kinds of badness in comments: meanness and stupidity. There is a lot of overlap between the two—mean comments are disproportionately likely also to be dumb—but the strategies for dealing with them are different. Meanness is easier to control. You can have rules saying one shouldn't be mean, and if you enforce them it seems possible to keep a lid on meanness.

    Keeping a lid on stupidity is harder, perhaps because stupidity is not so easily distinguishable. Mean people are more likely to know they're being mean than stupid people are to know they're being stupid.

    The most dangerous form of stupid comment is not the long but mistaken argument, but the dumb joke. Long but mistaken arguments are actually quite rare. There is a strong correlation between comment quality and length; if you wanted to compare the quality of comments on community sites, average length would be a good predictor. Probably the cause is human nature rather than anything specific to comment threads. Probably it's simply that stupidity more often takes the form of having few ideas than wrong ones.

    Whatever the cause, stupid comments tend to be short. And since it's hard to write a short comment that's distinguished for the amount of information it conveys, people try to distinguish them instead by being funny. The most tempting format for stupid comments is the supposedly witty put-down, probably because put-downs are the easiest form of humor. [5] So one advantage of forbidding meanness is that it also cuts down on these.

    Bad comments are like kudzu: they take over rapidly. Comments have much more effect on new comments than submissions have on new submissions. If someone submits a lame article, the other submissions don't all become lame. But if someone posts a stupid comment on a thread, that sets the tone for the region around it. People reply to dumb jokes with dumb jokes.

    Maybe the solution is to add a delay before people can respond to a comment, and make the length of the delay inversely proportional to some prediction of its quality. Then dumb threads would grow slower. [6]

    And this ...

    It's pretty clear now that the broken windows theory applies to community sites as well. The theory is that minor forms of bad behavior encourage worse ones: that a neighborhood with lots of graffiti and broken windows becomes one where robberies occur. I was living in New York when Giuliani introduced the reforms that made the broken windows theory famous, and the transformation was miraculous. And I was a Reddit user when the opposite happened there, and the transformation was equally dramatic.

    It all sounds remarkably similar for me to what's happening here, honestly. Hopefully the Slashdot moderators are listening and thinking about ways to value contributors who introduce comments which inspire critical, independent thinking. My own personal experience has been that Slashdot's karma system is not at all rewarding people who introduce novel arguments. Arguments are generally rated according to whether or not they diverge from that which we've all been taught, and there is no emphasis upon the inherent value of critique which inspires thought -- and over time, change.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I post fairly regularly on soylent. I got into a rather heated argument over pretty much this. None agreed with me the mod system of slashdot is that it basically is either +5 or -1. That is basically the same system as reddit except slightly slower. People with lots of points can control the conversation. The assumption is that since they have had a lot to say in the past that they are worthy of moderating now. The SD system has 0-4 also yet you rarely see that on older conversations. Basically free

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Paul Graham is a person that isn't aware of any consequence of any action he takes.

      "You are submitting too fast, please slow down."

      Except someone with an immediate need is asking a question and apparently nobody in the thread except me (who can't post because apparently I'm posting 'too much') has the right answer.

      HN is useless for any sort of long and involved discussion, and quite often useless for short flippant ones. But Paul can't see that problem he created while trying to control how people communica

    • No one has to value someone's contribution in equal measure to the contributor. Not all comments on Slashdot are winners despite the opinion of the poster.

      I haven't found that the moderation follows some sort of orthodoxy bias. There's a pretty broad range of demographics on Slashdot and there's very few homogenous demographic blocs. So there's not really any one orthodoxy that all moderation regresses towards. There are circle jerks on some topics but that's less common than places like reddit where every

    • If you want to be rewarded for making "comments which inspire critical, independent thinking", you might want to take it easy with the pseudoscience going forward. Exhibit A: your "argument" that the large size of dinosaurs is evidence that gravity is fake and craters are caused by electric impulses rather than meteorites [].

      I will give you this much: it is certainly not a short stupid comment. Paul Graham would be proud. :)
      • Re: "Exhibit A: your "argument" that the large size of dinosaurs is evidence that gravity is fake"

        The argument that has been put forward is that dinosaurs violate Galileo's square-cube law, by analogy with human powerlifters. The divergence is not small: Galileo's square-cube law, parameterized by very generous values adopted from observations of human powerlifters, suggests a maximum weight for land-walking animals of around 21,000 lbs. Galileo's square-cube law works for all current land-walking animals

        • You're making handwavy arguments without references and then saying it shows that the gravitational constant has varied significantly over a fairly short time (in astronomical or even geological scales). Have you considered what other things a changing gravitational constant might affect?

          A quick Google search finds references that say that some dinosaurs were actually at the size limits for their particular shape, but not over. I don't see any backing for it, but I don't see any reference to support in

    • by waspleg ( 316038 )

      People are mostly not rational even when they think they are. The comments system here is just censorship in the form of a popularity contest most of the time.

      Hackernews is far worse because of the Silicon Valley navel gazing and hive mindedness.I generally only log in there to up vote someone who got down voted in to oblivion for having a different, or even worse, contrarian opinion. Their founder cult worship among other things is creepy as fuck too.

    • When reading the above comment, please bear in mind that the poster is a known Electric Universe® nutter.

      • Message to moderators:

        Your system should not be designed to favor particular truths. Your rewards system should be designed to favor rational, coherent, concise discussion that is devoid of bad behaviors (e.g., calling somebody a "nutter").

        In science education circles, this debate is known as the positivist/constructivist debate. People who design social networks where science is discussed should never design their system in such a way that it favors establishment science over competing claims, for the si

        • Boldfacing an argument doesn't actually make it stronger.

          There are claims that have evidence, and claims that don't. There are claims with lots of evidence, and claims with very little. There are claims that stand up to tests, and claims that are made sometimes and always refuted in the same way. Establishment science is usually pretty much right. It's possible to challenge it, but to do so usefully takes evidence. There have been corrections in establishment science, but they almost all came from p

  • by Jarwulf ( 530523 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @08:38PM (#56480519)
    Reddit has a problem. I'm going to handwave a lot about it, but if you cut through all the bullshit its people saying mean things I don't like (free speech) and helping Donald Trump. Reddit banned it but I'm so butthurt over it we need find someway to stop it before it even happens. There, I just saved you guys 5 minutes out of your life.
    • I think your comment is a great example of the kinds of posts that have diminished Slashdot.

      Reddit banned it but I'm so butthurt over it we need find someway to stop it before it even happens.

      Yes, the old; they want to censor me because they are Social Justice Warriors gambit. The "mean things is free speech". The things that get censored are; off topic, race baiting, personal insults, threats to violence, and things of that nature. Few are getting banned or silenced, not that a blog has to have any rationa

      • by stdarg ( 456557 )

        Yes, the old; they want to censor me because they are Social Justice Warriors gambit. The "mean things is free speech". The things that get censored are; off topic, race baiting, personal insults, threats to violence, and things of that nature.

        There are a lot of SJW's on reddit. Mean things are free speech. Race baiting and personal insults and threats to violence are free speech. (note: it's "credible" threats of violence that aren't protected)

        The thing that annoys me about people like you is that you say "oh race baiting and personal insults are obviously bad, why should we allow that." And that's reasonable on the face of it. But it turns into an environment, mainly due to the SJW's alluded to, where stuff like "I'm against affirmative action

  • In one respect, toxicity is the canary in the coal mine; in another, toxicity is what stops certain "right-thinking" opinions from taking over and being accepted; in yet another, "toxic" expression has a powerful ability to teach valuable life lessons to everyone from the reader to the participant. Banning toxicity is denial of human nature and causes such ideas to ferment in private rather than in public. The ban will be seen as unfair, and because there is no example to prove otherwise (because it's fucki
    • All of them "do something about the toxicity" and that's exactly what kills them.

      No, the toxicity is what kills them, attempting to do something about it is a symptom not a cause. the reason the toxicity kills them is everyone who isn't a shithead has better things to do than hand around with a bunch of shitheads.

      End result if you do nothing is most people leave and your audience becomes limited to the relatively small and unprofitable segment of humanity who are shitheads.

  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Saturday April 21, 2018 @09:00PM (#56480659) Homepage Journal
    The search engine is the saving grace of Reddit, Twitter, etc. It doesn't matter how much traffic or crap is generated, to me, because I'm there for the search box. If I use booleans correctly, I usually find someone intelligent sending some information I needed.
  • I don't see any way that it's going to improve. I have no hope for either of those platforms.

    We had nice, distributed, open source discussion platforms before companies like Reddit and Twitter swept in and tried to monetize everybody's discussions. So, good riddance to you. Hopefully, when your companies are history, we can return to more sane infrastructure. Unfortunately, you still will have your ill-gotten millions, Mr. McComas.

  • Seriously. Instead of trying to play PreCrime and Thought Police, why not simply do the following?

    Give users all the tools they need to block any content they find "offensive" FOR THEMSELVES?
    And hey, give them the ability to share these sorts of filters amongst themselves!

    Then these companies don't have to expend the capital required for meatspace moderation, since everyone is their own moderator.
    And they don't run into problems like overzealous or biased moderators.

    End of discussion!

    Seriously. Allow adul

    • what, and lose control of the narrative?
    • Because a bunch of people don't want to block content they find offensive for themselves, they want to bock it for everyone.

      And the government also requires some arbitrary things need to be blocked - for example, copyrighted materials that the copyright owner doesn't want there and things like child porn.

    • Because most people like getting filtered content. They don't want to have to go around and block every source of hate speech individually. If a social media site is to keep enough people to monetize successfully, they have to provide something a large number of people will want.

      However, because people whose ideas you like are crap at expressing them in a generally acceptable manner, you want to regulate private companies into bankruptcy.

      • by Chas ( 5144 )

        And who gets to decide "acceptable"?


        Nowadays, we have people trying to shut up even POLITE speakers. Many times, not even having the first clue about what they're saying.
        All because someone "told them this person was "bad"".

        • And who gets to decide "acceptable"?

          The free market, basically. Different sites will have different standards, and those will give the companies more or less profit. The companies will normally go in the direction of more profit.

          I don't see what's so hard about this. Sites that give their consumers what they want will have more consumers they can sell to actual customers. Most people don't want what you want. That doesn't mean you're wrong, of course; lots of us have unusual preferences.

          • by Chas ( 5144 )

            Why do *I* need a *market* to tell me what *I* want to see?

            • You always did. You didn't see anything unless it was published in a newspaper, a magazine, or a book, or transmitted on TV or radio. When I was young, all of those were controlled by corporations. Now, you have much more freedom to look for things on the net.

  • The friendliest online forums i find are for more niche interests, like hobbies and arts. Users tend to be a little older as well. I wouldn't say I find Reddit oppressive, at least the subs I visit, but the platform does suffer from loose moderating which means most threads degenerate into memes and rubbish - but I can't blame the platform really - it's what happens when you get a crowd. Niche forums are smaller and nicer...
  • I deleted my account months ago after ridiculous vitriol directed at me over a couple videos I linked. No, not that type of video, just some minimally technical stuff relating, of all things, to 3D printer print cooling fans. Yeah, I couldn't believe it either...

    What have we become?

  • The summary is way too vague, making references to a "problem" that it doesn't explain.

    Anyway, I made myself keep rading, and at one point in I finally spotted this, which I suspect is the entirety of Reddit's actual problem:

    Why, then, do they care so much about growth? Revenue?

    From the inside, I can tell you that the board is never asking about revenue. They honestly donâ(TM)t care, and they said as much.

    And that's pretty much that. Reddit's problem is that it isn't profitable. Not surprising, co

  • Serious question.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser