from the john-oliver-beats-spez dept
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman really seems to underestimate the kinds of people who sign up to be Reddit mods, and their willingness to go to extreme lengths if you start pushing them. We’ve discussed the nonsensical nature of Huffman’s new API efforts, as well as his stupid response to the subreddit blackout which caused many subreddits to remain on strike. We also discussed his incredibly entitled position about how third party apps that made his site more valuable owe him money.
But, incredibly, Huffman seems unable to stop digging.
After initially suggesting that he would create policies to allow Reddit users to “vote out” moderators who were striking (in the mistaken belief that “ordinary” Reddit users didn’t support the strike), Reddit sent out a not very subtle threat letter to moderators of the still striking communities.
The whole letter stinks of traditional union-busting practices, starting off with an attempt to divide the striking mods to see if the company can peel some away from the strikes:
We are also aware that some members of your mod team have expressed that they want to close your community indefinitely. We are reaching out to find out if this is the consensus reached by the mod team.
Subreddits exist for the benefit of the community of users who come to them for support and belonging and in the end, moderators are stewards of these spaces and in a position of trust. Your users rely on your community for information, support, entertainment, and finding connection with others who have similar interests. Ensuring that communities are able to remain stable and actively moderated is incredibly important to the people seeking out these spaces to make and foster connections.
Then the threat, worded in a way such that Reddit could later pretend it wasn’t actually a threat:
If there are mods here who are willing to work towards reopening this community, we are willing to work with you to process a Top Mod Removal request or reorder the mod team to achieve this goal if mods higher up the list are hindering reopening. We would handle this request and any retaliation attempts here in this modmail chain immediately.
Our goal is to work with the existing mod team to find a path forward and make sure your subreddit is made available for the community which makes its home here. If you are not able or willing to reopen and maintain the community, please let us know.
And, of course, after this letter became public, Reddit pretended there was nothing at all threatening about it:
“We have not threatened anyone,” Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt said in a statement to The Verge. “That’s not how we operate. Pressuring people is not our goal. We’re communicating expectations and how things work. Redditors want to reddit and mods want to mod. We want mods who want to mod to be able to do so.”
Come on, Tim. None of us were born yesterday. Everyone knows it was a threat to remove striking mods.
And, of course, all any of this does is continue to erode trust in the platform. As Scharon Harding over at Ars Technica rightly notes:
Reddit’s battle with devs, mods, and users is just the most recent version of the struggle. Reddit felt like something that the community built with the company, but while Reddit was happy to offload the responsibility for content creation, moderation, and (until recently) app development to third parties, it wasn’t willing to hand over real power.
Sudden, unaffordable API pricing (Reddit will charge $12,000 for 50 million API requests) and Reddit’s obstinacy are also harsh warnings to devs about the risks of building something totally reliant on a platform they don’t own. Many devs thought Reddit would always allow reasonable pricing for its API and have put in years of work based on that assumption. In the future, devs should think twice about building products based on properties they can’t control, assuming a company will always be supportive and reasonable (or even agreeing with them about what “supportive” and “reasonable” mean). That could mean a future where devs are far less incentivized to create innovations.
But hell hath no fury like a Redditor being jacked around by clueless pointy-haired bosses, and the mods struck back. Given the clear (yes, Tim Rathschmidt) threat of replacing of striking mods, possibly through a sketchy “voting” process to remove, as Huffman ridiculously called them, “the landed gentry, two of the biggest striking subreddits held a vote, just like Huffman wanted. Okay, well maybe not “just like” he wanted. Instead, r/GIFs and r/pics held a poll on whether they should “return to normal” or “only allow images featuring John Oliver.”
Let’s just say that Huffman’s belief that the average Redditor just wanted things to return to normal showed a profound misunderstanding of the average Redditor’s desire for funny chaos over helping a company make money. Here’s how the vote on r/GIFs went:
Yes, that shows “return to normal’“ receiving NEGATIVE 1,851 votes, while the John Oliver solution received 13,696 votes. Other subreddits joined in the fun and the results were even more extreme. r/pics voted for John Oliver pics with a vote of 37,331 against negative 2,329. Of course, r/pics went beyond the r/GIFs requirement of just being pics of John Oliver to them having to be sexy.
Then r/aww joined in as well, with its community voting in favor of only “adorable” pics of John Oliver (or his adorable Japanese mascot Chiijohn), with the Oliver pics winning by an even larger vote: 48,506 in favor and negative 2,691 voting to return to normal:
Oliver took to Twitter (unfortunately…) to support the Reddit protests, saying “have at it”:
He then included 10 photos of himself that would aid the cause. Here are a few:
And, of course, other subreddits are joining in as well, including r/Piracy, which has said that “only sexy pirate John Oliver artwork” may be posted.
Scrolling through the various subreddits, all you see are pics of John Oliver, including some that are arguably not entirely safe for work (depending on where you work, of course).
Meanwhile, Steve “this will pass” Huffman may have even more pressing matters at hand as a ransomware group has said that it will release a bunch of leaked Reddit data if the company doesn’t roll back its API policy changes (and pay the hackers $4.5 million).
Not to condone the hacking/ransom demands, but seems like the company might have been better off not pissing off its most active users?