Reddit is in an online service that, at its core, allows users to submit content for others to comment on. Its overall moderation is through a democratic function consisting of ‘upvotes’ and ‘downvotes’, allowing users to vote up or down content and comments that they believe properly contribute to the ‘subreddit’ (sections of the site divided into topics) that they are in.
Being a regular user of Reddit does not necessarily involve being an active contributor in terms of posting or commenting. The vast majority of the community are users known as ‘lurkers’ – those who choose to contribute solely through the anonymous voting system rather than voicing an opinion. While not as vocal as the minority, it is these users who are the reason the community functions the way it does.
As a long time Reddit user myself, I’ve come to learn exactly what kind of posts and comments are likely to be well-received, and which ones are ‘downvoted into oblivion’. The Internet as a whole is largely unforgiving, and Reddit is no exception, with the users in most non-default subreddits heavily opposing posts and comments that are of low effort, are not insightful, or are otherwise simply not up to scratch. Even if you think you are submitting an interesting comment there is every chance you will receive a negative reaction, which can be partly attributed to the way in which “written word… can never be completely tied to a single, determinate meaning” (Douglas, 1999).
Rather than commenting and submitting posts for the sake of ‘contributing’ and thus hindering the experience of others (and my ‘karma’ score), I instead chose to look into how the users of different subreddits interacted in comparison to those in the subreddits I frequent.
As a rule it can be said that the fewer number of users in a subreddit, the nicer they generally are. While there are a number of reasons for this, the prevalent one is that smaller, more niche communities are filled with members who share a common interest, such as a particular video game, for example. Prime examples of this include /r/rocketleague, /r/cricket, and as I discovered in my research, /r/wordavalanches.
The subject matter also helps to determine the kind of community interaction you are likely to have on Reddit, with opinionated topics drawing both heavy agreement and criticism depending on your point of view. /r/askreddit is the perfect example of this, where users are asked to respond to a particular question with wildly varying results. Users who show hold a particular opinion have been known to become the victim of ‘witch hunts’, whose severity ranges from having all of their posts downvoted to receiving abusive messages. It is clear that, like in many online communities, the user experience is influenced more by the users than any other factor.
(500 words really isn’t enough to properly explore the way Reddit functions on a community and sub-community level, in addition to the role of moderators as a separate entity from general users and addressing all of the suggested inclusions in the assessment criteria sheet; so apologies for the vagueness in parts.)
Douglas, J. Yellowlees. “Books without Pages—Novels without Endings.” The end of books or books without end? : reading interactive narratives. University of Michigan Press ; University Presses Marketing, 1999. 11-36