Earlier today I spoke to Reddit General Manager Erik Martin about the process of demoting subreddits as a form of punishment for mismanagement. Side note: I know Martin from back in the day when Reddit had only one developer. It now has 12.
Martin tells me that the consensus decision to demote the subreddit happened after the volunteer moderators used the AutoModerator program to filter out the huge volume of submissions by keyword, leading to an effective suppression of certain topics like Tesla, bitcoin and startup. He called the strategy “hamfisted.”
Martin told me that before it was demoted, the /r/Technology subreddit brought in 15 million pageviews a month and 4 million uniques a month. To most of us, these numbers are impressive, but in the context of Reddit traffic, /r/Technology was not a top subreddit. Reddit as a whole sees 114 million uniques a month and 5.4 billion pageviews a month, with 500 subreddits created each day. It sees 1 million comments and 22 million votes per day on average. Sixty percent of its traffic comes from inside the U.S.
As odd as it might sound, this isn’t the first time a subreddit has been booted from the Reddit homepage. The company removed /r/Politics last summer after similar moderation issues, such as the banning of specific domains like the Huffington Post’s. The traffic on the /r/Politics subreddit fell by half after it was demoted.
(Note: The subreddit /r/WTF chose to remove itself after it had issues with the limit on the number of moderators. And subreddits have been removed completely for other reasons that weren’t as mundane as moderation, like what happened with /r/Jailbait.)
While they comprise some of the most contentious topics online, Martin tells me that /r/Politics and /r/technology weren’t even in the top three top subreddits in terms of popularity when they were pulled. By comparison, the League of Legends subreddit got 200 million pageviews last month. Perhaps we should start LeagueofLegendsCrunch?
Martin said that subreddit controversy is nothing new, and that there is a possibility that another tech-related subreddit like /r/Tech might eventually overwhelm /r/Technology in appeal, similar to how /r/Trees grew larger than /r/Marijuana and how /R/ainbow grew larger than /r/LGBT after their respective moderation controversies.
He said that the one thing that hasn’t yet been conveyed thus far in the press coverage of /r/Technology incident is the difficulty of moderating a subreddit. “You can ask 20 people what should belong in there and get 10 different answers,” he said.
Martin also said that Reddit’s team of 40 was working on better tools to help the moderators manage their formidable task and better options than filtering things by keyword. Hundreds, if not thousands, of links are submitted to a given subreddit daily.
Martin revealed that the Reddit’s return to the homepage was “certainly possible.” When I mentioned to him that it was a shame that there’s currently a tech-shaped hole on Reddit.com, he replied, “We share that view.”
Center image via SocialNewsDaily
Update: /r/politics moderator @theredditpope had this to say about why the /r/politics subreddit was demoted, “We cannot be certain why the /r/politics subreddit was removed from the default set, the Reddit administrators made an announcement at the time and specifically said the that /r/politics and /r/atheism “just weren’t up to snuff.” So you can interpret that however you’d like.”