Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Why this might become a Reddit-free zone

It is possible that the Reddit buttons might disappear from this blog.  I honestly haven't decided, but I think you might be interested to know why I am considering it.  Reddit has been quite a good source of traffic over the last few months, but on balance its annoying quirks and capricious inconsistencies probably outweigh its benefits.

Once upon a time, self-publicity was permitted freely on Reddit, even if not actually encouraged.  At that time the community was thought to be able to sift the wheat from the chaff.  Posts that were of good enough quality would rise to the top, and those that were inferior would not, independent of the identity of the person who submitted them.

But now - without warning - you might find yourself banned from one sub-reddit for posting just 3 or 4 of your own blog posts over a period of months.  The /r/humour moderators did at least have enough of a sense of humour to rescind the ban once they had been contacted.  They also had the decency to tell me about it - albeit hidden behind a red envelope symbol that I didn't notice for a while.  I felt that I had been treated fairly at the time.  However, at least three friends have found themselves banned from other sub-reddits with no notification at all, and the whole thing is bewildering to new users trying to work out what they are now doing wrong.

Subsequently, I was posting regularly to the /r/atheism sub-reddit as I noticed was common with a few other atheist friends.  Clearly the /r/atheism moderators were not bothered by this, and with a rising karma figure one might assume that the community was benefiting in some way.  Again, I was very happy with the way that this sub-community spoke its mind about links that I provided to various other sites and to my own Something Surprising blog.

I have even blogged about the benefits of the slightly quirky Reddit community.

But then - some obnoxious and abusive b*****d who turns out to be the moderator of another sub-reddit (which I will not name) decided to indulge in a campaign of reporting contributors who posted things that offend him.  If his name was not 'iesvs' I might be tempted to think that he was an islamist terrorist.  I suppose that is still not totally out of the question.  I say 'he' rather than 'she' because his abusive comments are of a style that make it perfectly clear that he is a 'total-prick', and his obsession with potentially illegal Kindle hacking activities seem to be geekishly male. (I'm being narrow minded and judgemental here!)

Instead of indulging in intelligent and reasonable debate, this character uses his knowledge of the Reddit system to silence views that he does not like.  By repeatedly flagging a huge number of users - ten or more per day - as 'blogspot spammers', on Reddits that he does not moderate, the Reddit admins are persuaded to administer a sneaky and silent sentence.

They use a duplicitous technique known as 'shadow-banning'.  To the user, Reddit appears to work perfectly normally with the one exception that nobody at all seems to follow the links that you provide.  It takes a bit of research - all wasted time - to discover that there is one sure way to find out whether you are in this state.  You visit the[your name] web page, and you find that you get a 404 error.  (There is a lot more information at this excellent link, from which the following image is ethically sourced.)

Shadow-banned - or ghost-banned!  And proud of it!
There must be another weapon in the armoury.  I and other users believe that it is possible to post things from other computers on other networks and be treated differently.  This cannot be as simple as an 'IP address ban' as my own home IP address is not static.  Every time I reboot my rooter it gets a new address.  Maybe Reddit uses the MAC address of my PC(s) or of the router itself - or maybe this is just anecdote and confirmation bias.  One way or another - posts from different places get treated differently, and I feel that there is no way that I want to waste time building a reputation for myself in the Reddit community when it can be terminated so easily and malevolently.

The Reddit admins do not seem to respond to messages.  Why should they bother?  There are plenty of other users and their time is limited.  They are not attributable to anyone and don't have to justify themselves.  Fair enough, but in my opinion they are a disgrace to the sub-reddit communities who live under an online 'sword of Damocles' unable to retain regular users who have enriched their world. This isn't just me but many other regular contributors.

Many disgruntled users will set up new accounts every time this happens and find ways to continue to patronise Reddit.  However - those who refuse to be silenced impolitely like this - like me - will just go to Twitter and other networking sites instead.  We might even write critical blog posts too!

I, for one, will not be looking to maintain a strong presence on Reddit.  That is not to say that I don't want my loyal and interesting readers to post items that they particularly like - I just won't be doing it myself.

Minus one vote for Reddit.


RosaRubicondior said...

As a victim of this absurd system I have to say that my new persona there has not had any problem so far. It looks to me now that they have some automated system intended to detect genuine spam (if that's not an oxymoron) which looks for contributors who promote overwhelmingly their own site and who contribute little to the discussions. I must confess I tended to fall into that category but I stopped bothering with the discussions because they almost invariably seemed to consist of infantile abuse, as though Reddit is catering primarily for people who sit at hope posting obscenities to strangers to get a reaction. I assumed 'iesus' was one such. I am frankly astounded to be told he is a moderator.

If you've no objection, I will submit this blog to Reddit. Might be interesting to see what other's there think, if it gets any coherent responses.

Derby Sceptic said...

I have now had two rediit accounts banned, the second being banned by this ghost method. With my first account I was perhaps guilty of posting too many of my own pages so I was much more careful with the second.

Despite this it appears that I am blocked again. I too will be looking at dropping the reddit link from my blog and relying on Twitter and Facebook to reference my posts.

RosaRubicondior said...

Actually, I thought better of it, not wanting my new persona there to earn an instant ban.

Jimmy Swill said...

You might want to give a go.

Anonymous said...

Let me guess, the guy who reported you was a guy by the name of davidreiss666?

Plasma Engineer said...

Actually, no it was someone who goes by the name iesvs I think. I think there are some reddit users who just delete in stopping people sharing their own work, and rather than let the community bury bad stuff they have their own agenda.

Schaleh said...

this happened to me after gradually pissing off /u/luster for "blog-spam". basically, i'd use links from my blog and in a lot of my very long posts i would include a link to my blog (in addition to other more specific links). basically, the guy was a shill who felt threatened by my content, and wanted to find excuses to seek revenge (and the admins were all too willing to comply).

i also pissed of a lot of shills in a 'debate' about monsanto, where i used some critical evidence from the documentary "the world according to monsanto". and of course all those comments got deleted b/c of the shills flooding the mods with bullshit complaints.

that entire site isn't for identifying with other people. it's just bullshit entertainment. they recognize the potential for reddit to change people, and they don't take it seriously. it's mostly just there to piss off people like me and to waste my time, while pandering to people who are deluded into thinking they're "the front page of the web". they're not. reddit is nothing. NOBODY should take it seriously.

this planet's overflowing with psychotic, superficial bigots. figures.

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