Just Let Reddit Be

By @zachfeldman
Written on Jul 17, 2015

I’ve been closely following the debate that’s been happening on Reddit. It boils down to issues of “censorship” and “free speech”. People are extremely passionate about the different sides of these issues and have taken fairly drastic actions (for the internet at least) like getting a petition signed by 200,000 users to remove Ellen Pao as CEO*, in addition to a ton of harassment and hate speech, which is terrible. While I personally don’t think Pao was the best person to lead Reddit, I’m of the opinion that all of this arguing about what Reddit can and can’t be and the endless dissatisfaction with leadership is childlike, and should end for now.

Simply put, reddit.com or really any website cannot be all things to all people. I believe the original fight here was with cause, since the users and moderators believed the rules were not clear, that they weren’t being supported by the company, and that nobody really seemed to care about them. But I’m of the opinion that as soon as Ellen Pao posted that she heard their concerns, the community should have laid off and given the company another chance. Instead, there has been endless bickering that serves no purpose but to indulge the users in their fantasies that Reddit is not on their side and all they care about is making a ton of money. Clearly not. Even if that was their goal, couldn’t the goal of creating a great community live hand in hand with that goal too?

What does the community want? When will they be happy with how things are going or what is being done? The answer seems to be “pretty much never” - this is the hivemind so it’s not like that would ever be possible.

In the most recent AMA, Steve Huffman, the new CEO of Reddit, is asked for endless clarification on the rules that he posted. It seems like the community will never cease berating him to get a 100% clear content policy in place. A 100% clear content policy that satisfies everyone with its specificity will pretty much never be possible on a site as large as reddit.com. If any of these users think otherwise, they’re fooling themselves.

How about instead of that…we can just commit to be decent to each other on this website as other human beings, and hope the admins can help enforce that, with rules that are a little more specific due to the size of the community? Also, let’s hope for better communication between the company and its users (already happening) and better mod tools (eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later). I think that’s much closer to reality.

I’m all for a bit of debate on the rules, but I think at this point, we’ve given the Reddit team more than enough to think about and work through. Does anyone else agree that it’s time (or was time a few weeks ago) to just let them be, and have them try to make the improvements they’re promising, at least for a few months? Because I think it’s high time to let Reddit be.

* Regarding Pao, my reasoning is not because of a “glass cliff” (I’m not 100% sure what that means to be perfectly honest) or because she was a women in any way, shape, or form, although some of the harassment leveled against her was disgusting and very unfortunately related to that. Instead, I think it’s strange that she was put in charge of Reddit because according to her former employer she was “not partner material” (read the deposition/report from them in her court case). So someone fails at the thing they were supposed to do and you…make them CEO of a portfolio company? Sure, that employer was being sued by her so who knows how much they meant what they said, maybe this is why this makes so little sense. But that’s not what this article is about.

Sign up for our e-mail list to hear about new posts.