Reddit Moderation; What you don’t see

With most larger subreddits, it seems the communities perception of the moderators changes almost daily between those two states, in a situation I will coin as the "Schrodinger's Snoo." Like Schrodinger's Cat - you can't tell if the moderator's are loved or hated until you open the box that is the comments on any sh*tpost or popular topic.

Here’s to responsibility, twice a week.

Stephenie Meyer, The Twilight Saga

Reddit Moderators have always been either; A) amazing and loved by their Community or B) condemned as Power Hungry Overlords not doing their job.

With most larger subreddits, it seems the communities perception of the moderators changes almost daily between those two states, in a situation I will coin as the “Schrodinger’s Snoo.” Like Schrodinger’s Cat – you can’t tell if the moderator’s are loved or hated until you open the box that is the comments on any sh*tpost or popular topic. Until that point – they are both. 

Take the moderators of /r/AppleWatch for example – they don’t have it easy, with 129 thousand current subscribers (Think a city the size of Berkeley in California), they have their work cut out for them.

Not only that, the subreddit itself gets on average over 1.5 million views a month, that’s a lot of people judging the content they see!

But what do they actually do?

A great summary was put forward by one of the Moderators of /r/Science in an interview with the Business Insider, in it she said

Her job as a moderator is to keep /r/science free of harassment and filled with quality content and discussions about the designated topic of the forum. […]

“I do a lot on the T [Boston’s transportation system] which is very convenient. It’s something I do in between things, like waiting for a class or a meeting to start,” she said. “It’s always in the background.” […]

Liz Crocker – Source, [Business Insider]

In short, Reddit Moderators are there to keep the conversation on point, troll free and positive – but are also expected to go unpaid and do it around their normal lives. 

Coming back to /r/AppleWatch, during the months of October – December, the moderation team carried out a review of the work they did. They found many intriguing results – some which the mod nay-sayers would be surprised to hear. 

Take for example, the number of removed posts in a month. 

Figure 1 – Number of Posts Removed and Why

It was no easy month – 500 posts removed by the team. For an active team of 6, that’s nearly 80 posts manually reviewed and removed within the month. Take into account their working lives – it’s still a lot of time spent on Reddit. 

But why were they removed?

As you can see – the majority of posts were removed due to Rule 3 – No Low Quality Posts – what on the sub is typically pictures of Hairy Wrists or “Joined the Club” posts. There’s also the “Perfect Month” and Achievement Posts which also come under Rule 3 – bringing these to a total of 399 posts alone. 399 Low Quality posts which were removed before being seen by the 129K subscribers. 

I hear you shouting, but Reddit has upvotes and downvotes, the crowd will decide what they want to see. I totally hear you – the site Admins themselves have tried to roll this out recently, community moderation, in /r/Libertarian, with well – disastrous results.

But then – if the Mods are enforcing the rules – surely everyone should be happy? Well – no. 

There are plenty of threads calling out the activities of the moderators at /r/AppleWatch, for example, when a user made a self-post stating they were about to unsubscribe due to low quality posts, many of the responses were:

I’ve never seen mods on this sub

This would be great. But we all know the mods wouldn’t do it

What was these comments in response to? A user asking for a megathread to capture all these posts – something the moderation team has had running for almost a year, yet these users don’t seem to see that?

So how could that be countered? Well, when removing a post the moderators could link to the relevant megathread. The moderation team has started doing just that – however the numbers don’t add up. With 129 posts being removed and directed to the Activity Megathread, you’d expect some traffic there – except there isn’t, the megathread got just under 30 comments – so was ignored by a majority of the users on the subreddit. 

Just to put that into perspective, with on average 10,000+ daily views, that’s only 0.3% of people actually commenting. Not great statistics.

So what is the actual problem?

Is there truly a problem in the quality of posts on the subreddit – or is there a vocal minority overpowering everyone else’s view of the sub?

Moderator /u/jackisaperson set out to answer that question.

Using Python, Jack pulled statistics of posts across the subreddit, breaking it down into the most commonly used flairs. 

These don’t look like much, but what came from this was very interesting indeed.

Jack discovered that, the posts people complained about, aka the hairy wrists accounted for a mere 19% of posts on the subreddit. 1/5 of all submissions.

Not only that, the shock factor was these posts accounted for 94% of the upvotes on the subreddit. They received on average, 28 times the number of upvotes on discussion posts, and 98 times that of question posts! (Questions posts themselves accounted for 64% of all posts).

So in fact – whilst the actions of the mods are considered not enough, the posts that people are asking to be removed, get the most upvotes.

So what next?

Whilst there is a vocal minority that seems to promote a more active moderation platform – the numbers show the majority say otherwise. The moderation that is done is substantial, and the posts most complained about are the most upvoted. Perhaps this is the very reason the minority is so vocal – they see more of these posts on their homepage than the types of posts they like all due to voting distribution. 

My takeaway from this is that the vocal minority needs to submit more thought out and original content – and in turn create a snowball effect. In subreddits of high volume, trends of “post type” come and go – if you want to see particular types of posts, you need to start that trend. Think /r/memeeconomy as an example – but with /r/AppleWatch – you want more app reviews, start doing some yourself, and see the floodgates open.

Or they get a shock when the reality is, no one cares for them and just want to see some hairy wrists.