Connect with us

Social Media

The Hydra that beheads itself. Reddit has a self-consuming existence

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Reddit was supposed to be the land of free ideas, but someone noticed something strange. The question is, are they reading too much into it?

Published

on

Reddit website subreddits

The year is 2020 and the new generation has grown up with the internet. For the most part this has created immense potential for progress in the world. People who would have had to travel miles either on foot or car to learn something, can get it at their fingertips. They can speak with someone on the other side of the globe in real time. The possibilities are limitless on its applications for the human existence, but where brightness exists, we must also deal with the darkness.

Social Media, originally a means of reaching across distance to stay in touch, has turned into the yellow journalism of this era. From 45s inflammatory tweets, and the everyday machinations of children exploring the world online to worldwide news, the internet can do just about anything. But as we see with just about everything with people in general, when we get a shortcut for something, we tend to not follow everything we’ve learned up until that point. Communication skills and the niceties of human interaction are completely stripped bare when people get into heated conversations online. This can be seen playing out in its entirety on Reddit through the last few months.

There was a situation that went from a flashy headline to shaking the entire platform of the site. Just to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, I want to go over the breakdown of Reddit’s personnel structure. The paid people for Reddit are referred to as the Admins. They have one job, making sure the rules of Reddit are followed. These rules are short, simple, and really only apply to the content that is posted, with a few additional topics. The real heavy lifters for Reddit are the Moderators (Mods). What they do will become important to the story in a moment. The last level are the Users, which are just the everyday people who post whatever they want, (within the rules) and can comment on any of the subreddits that they are involved with.

So, as we look at the construction of Reddit, it’s just a website platform. They allow their Users to create boards, called subreddits, which are their own little worlds to control. When you create a subreddit, using any available name you want and defined by an r/, you instantly become the lead Mod on it, and can set whatever rules you want for it. If you want a column of posts that only has intense technical discussions on the physical mechanics of “My Little Pony”, you do you boo! If you can only handle memes of kittens in your online existence, then prepare for cuteness.

Now those rules I mentioned, don’t stop people from posting but it gives you the power to actually remove things from your subreddit if you choose to. To help you, because some of these subreddits reach tens of millions of individuals daily, you can add as many Moderators as you want to your subreddit. There have even developed, what can be best described as, professional moderators. Individuals who are working on so many different subreddits that their experience is seen as invaluable for someone wanting to keep a good handle on their little section of the internet.

On March 16th a Reddit user took it upon himself to compile a list of popular subreddits in a column, and then next to it a list of some of the moderators from each of those subreddits. He then decided to name the article “92 of top 500 subreddits are controlled by just 4 people”. Just another attempt at click bait to get his name getting karma points, points you earn from posts and comments from other users. However, while this was a heavily misleading post on a few points, it hit the website hard because of the implication of users being controlled by a small group of “tyrants”. As the weeks continued this same article was seen in a number of other Reddit-hating subreddits, yes you read that correctly i.e r/subredditcancer etc. It may have eventually fallen into anonymity, but it was kicked back into the spotlight again a few weeks later.

A well-known user submitted the post to three subreddits, whose combined overall subscribers numbered well above 8 million. At that point it went viral, becoming for a short time, the most popular post on Reddit. Then the moderators made a mistake, in my humble opinion, they removed that users post without an explanation, and then they were banned from one of the subreddits that they were part of but hadn’t been active in for a number of months. After that the snowball started going, one subreddit after another started banning the aforementioned user. On May 12th the user was finally suspended from Reddit altogether. While this was to hopefully stem the blood flow, it actually didn’t. Other users took up the ‘cause’.

A rhythm starts happening all over reddit. The list gets posted and then taken down. The moderators would either give no cause for the deletion, or actually just give a half-hearted effort. Communications between moderators seemed to reveal a movement to keep this post down because of the lengthy and uncivil arguments that it would invoke in the majority of the subreddits that it cropped up in. It came to a point when moderators started getting death threats from users, and the Administrators finally stepped in and put a stop to things.

This event put into stark contrast how situations were handled and some people are learning to adjust. While others are making a different decision. One of the original 5 mentioned moderators opted to delete his entire profile. This is a person who has been building their brand for nine years, and the amount of hatred and vitriol that he had to go through caused him to abandon hundreds if not thousands of hours of work. Sounds like a giant waste of an experienced person to me, and it’s a little sad.

This whole situation is very indicative of how people act on social media. Someone either wants fame, actually believes it, or just wants to cause chaos. They push a trumped up, poorly made article, which doesn’t explore all the information available, into the faces of the populace at large. It’s a preposterous notion for anyone who actually thinks this situation through, but no one actually cares about that description. They only pay attention to the headline and picture. If it holds up to a shred of sense, then they will run with it. Then when the moderators started deleting posts, they unintentionally made it more real. At that point it becomes what my generation affectionately calls, a “dumpster fire.”

I believe that experiences like this are what shoves people away from social media, and gives it a bad name. You have people who have forgotten all the decorum of talking to someone in person. They somehow believe that death threats are what’s required when they don’t get to post the picture of an image they want. The hope from me at least is that people start remembering that every user on the end of a post is also a person. That they have feelings, emotions, and desires just like they do.

I’m not holding my breath for large amounts of change anytime soon, particularly on social media, but I will continue to hope that the hundreds of years we’ve put into communicating with each other in person, from cave paintings to smoke signals, gets adapted to the online world.

Robert Raney is a geoscientist whose been writing and painting for years to get his creative fix in. While working on his thesis in theoretical planetary physics he was also creating fantastical worlds on paper for fun. He's an at home Texan Houstonite who currently works slinging drinks at a local LGBTQ+ bar in the gayborhood, when not fielding oil & gas jobs that have taken him around the world.

Social Media

Facebook’s Hobbi app was a complete flop

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook seemingly has enough money to throw away projects and apps they know will fail. Hobbi is their most recent flop.

Published

on

Facebook failed Hobbi

Due to its abysmal underperformance on the App Store, Facebook is killing their new app, Hobbi, just months after its rollout in February.

Hobbi was the brainchild of Facebook’s New Product Experimentation Team, whose stated purpose is to rapidly ideate, build, and launch experimental new apps – then pull them if they aren’t successful.

Hobbi was designed to help users document their progress on their various personal projects and, well, hobbies. Complaints centered primarily on its threadbare feature offerings. Notably, Hobbi does not allow its users to browse the works of other creators through the app- it only packages media like photos and videos for sharing elsewhere.

A post on the Tech@Facebook blog states that they “expect many failures” from the NPE Team, suggesting that Hobbi was not necessarily intended to last. But you have to wonder… what is supposed to be the point of a tool like this?

Stories are a popular feature on most major social media websites, including Facebook itself. And Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) already allows its users to curate and group posts about whatever they want, including personal projects, hobbies and interests, through their story highlights.

So Facebook created a product that was already made redundant by their existing properties. What is experimental about that, exactly?

Hobbi originally drew comparisons to Pinterest. Both are like digital scrapbooks; Pinterest is a platform for content that inspires creativity, and Hobbi creates progress reports for creative undertakings.

One could also compare Hobbi to the underperforming video streaming platform, Quibi, which recently became infamous for its ostentatious ad campaign, aggressively flaunted celebrity cameos, and ultimately, its overwhelming failure.

Jeffery Katzenberg, Quibi cofounder of Disney and Dreamworks fame, blamed the coronavirus pandemic for Quibi’s flop – a questionable claim, considering just how much free time many have had to binge Netflix’s Tiger King during the lockdown.

The same could be said about Hobbi. People have been taking on projects like crazy in the time that has Hobbi been on the market. Quarantine cabin fever has us baking, crafting, painting, cleaning, and redecorating like never before. Yet Hobbi went nearly untouched.

Nobody used it because nobody needed it. Surely some cursory research would have demonstrated this?

One conclusion is that the app itself was the research – that Facebook’s NPE team isn’t really creating finished products, but rather testing the waters for potential new ones. (Could this framing be an elegant form of damage control, though? It’s easier to say “I meant to do that!” than it is to admit failure, especially in business.)

Still, creating throwaway apps in a bloated industry feels like cheating, whether it was meant for research purposes or not. There are plenty of indie app developers who create great tools with way less funding. Filling app marketplaces with lemons makes it harder for folks to find those gems.

Either way, hopefully we will see some original ideas coming from Facebook’s NPE Team moving forward, because this was clearly a disappointment.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Can Twitter ever secure data privacy, like even once?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter releases private information affecting already hurting businesses, should this even be a surprise anymore? They have a history of privacy breaches.

Published

on

twitter privacy

Dear Twitter,

I don’t know if you’ve seen the news within the past two years, but Facebook’s been under continuous scrutiny for privacy malpractices that affected millions of its users, so unless your goal is to be the next social network to infringe upon our first amendment right to privacy, I suggest you GET IT TOGETHER!

Over the weekend, users, specifically businesses, realized their billing information was being stored in their browsers cache. This is devastating news for business owners who rely on Twitter to promote their product, or stay in touch with their customers, who over the recent months have already faced monumental challenges. It is hard as a business owner to not feel this is an intentional overreach of privacy.

In an age where we have actual robots to vacuum our floors, and 3D printing, I speak for the people when I say this is unacceptable.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has been caught privacy breaching. A little over a year ago, Twitter announced that they were fixing a bug, many weren’t even aware of, that released phone numbers, location, and other personal data. AND GET THIS, even those who selected the option to keep their information private were affected, so what the hell is the point of asking us our preference in the first place?!!!

What about the time that Twitter accounts could be highjacked by ISIS and used to spread propaganda? All because Twitter didn’t require an email confirmation for account access. Or what about when Twitter stored your passwords in plaintext instead of something easily more secure. Flaws like these show a distinct ability of Twitter to just half ass things; to make it work, but not think about how to keep the users safe.

Like I said in the beginning, get it together Twitter.

Continue Reading

Social Media

Facebook’s Forecast wants ‘qualified’ predictions, but no one’s asking why

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is asking a bunch of so-called experts to chime in on what the future holds, but can we trust them with the information we’re giving them?

Published

on

Forecast app

These days, trolls don’t necessarily lurk beneath bridges in order to ensnare unsuspecting travelers. Instead, they hide out in the comment sections on social media posts, ready to incite wrath and stir up controversy with their incendiary remarks. Because Facebook knows how quickly reasonable discourse can quickly devolve thanks in part to these online trolls, they’ve made a move to establish intelligent discussions through their new “Forecast” app.

The premise of Forecast is fairly straightforward. Facebook has invited an assortment of so-called experts (whether they work in the medical field or academia, or some other field) to cast their vote on predictions about the future. Not only will they share their vote, though, they’ll also pitch in their own two cents about these predictions, sparking what is expected to be insightful and reasonable conversation about the topics.

However, while the premise is exciting (smart people! not basement dwellers! talking about serious stuff!), there’s more than a small amount of risk associated with Forecast. For starters, what exactly is Facebook planning on doing with all of this information that is being volunteered on their app? And secondly, are they going to take precautions to help prevent the spread of misinformation when these results are eventually published?

The fact is, Facebook is notorious for propagating and spreading misinformation. Now, I’m not blaming Facebook itself for this issue. Rather, the sheer volume of its user base inevitably leads to flame wars and dishonesty. You can’t spell “Fake News” with at least a couple of the same letters used in Facebook. Or something like that. The problem arises when people see the results of these polls, recognize that the information is being presented by these hand-picked experts, and then immediately takes them at face value.

It’s not so much that most people are simple minded or unable to think for themselves; rather, they’re primed to believe that the admittedly educated guesses from these experts are somehow better, smarter, than what would be presented to them by the average layperson. The bias is inherent in the selection process of who is and isn’t allowed to vote. By excluding everyday folks like you and me (I certainly wasn’t given an invite!), undue prestige may be attributed to these projections.

At the moment, many of these projections are silly bits of fluff. One question asks, “Will Tiger King on Netflix get a spinoff season?” Another one wonders, “Will Mulan debut on Disney+ at the same time as or instead of a theatrical release?” But other questions? Well, they’re a little more serious than that. And speculating on serious issues (such as COVID-19, or the presidential election) can lead to the spread of serious — and potentially dangerous — misinformation.

Facebook has implemented very strict guidelines about what types of questions are allowed and which ones are forbidden. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. It’s no secret that expectation can actually lead to the predicted outcomes, directly influencing actions and behaviors. While it’s too early to tell if Forecast will ever gain that much power, it undoubtedly puts us in a position of wondering if and when intervention may be necessary.

But I’ll be honest with you: I don’t exactly trust Facebook’s ability to put this cultivated information to good use. Sometimes a troll doesn’t have to be overtly provocative in order to be effective, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see someone in a position of power exploit the results of these polls to influence the public. It’ll be interesting to see if Forecast is still around in the next few years, but alas, there’s no option for me to submit my vote on that to find out.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Our Great Partners

The
American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!